How to use mindfulness to help your mental health

Mental health is something that’s become a lot more visible recently. There are now numerous campaigns and initiatives focusing on bringing mental health to the forefront of public attention. There’s also been an increase in people speaking about their own experiences, whether that be through social media or other platforms, which has helped many begin to understand it in a much more personal way.

Whether you suffer from mental health problems yourself or know someone who does, it can be useful to know some ways you can use mindfulness to help your mental health. This practice has been shown to have numerous benefits on our state of mind and general well-being. In this article we look at what these practices are as well as how you can use them to help your mental health and wellbeing.

What is mindfulness?

The word ‘mindfulness’ has its roots in Buddhism, but mental health professionals have been increasingly using it in their work over the past few decades. Researchers have found that it can help with a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, stress, and addiction.

Being mindful means being aware of what is going on in the present moment, rather than letting our thoughts take us elsewhere. When we’re mindful, we can observe our thoughts and feelings without getting too caught up in them.

It’s a way of staying connected to the here and now, rather than getting swept away by negative thoughts

It’s also about being aware of our surroundings, experiencing things as they happen, and focusing on our senses. The practice of mindfulness includes meditation, although not all meditation practices are considered to be mindfulness. When people hear the word “meditation,” they may think of an image of someone sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed, which is one form of meditation. It can look different for everyone, and there are many different types of meditation.

What is meditation?

Meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness, as it’s a daily activity that allows you to practice this skill. It’s a type of mental training that can help you with many aspects of your life. It’s a great way to improve your mental health. It’s important to note that there are many different types of meditation. The type you choose to do will depend on your own goals, what you find enjoyable, and your current lifestyle.

Concentrative meditation – With this type of meditation, you focus on one thing while you meditate, such as your breathing. This is a great way to start your meditation practice if you have never done it before, or if you struggle with anxiety.

Mindfulness meditation – This type of meditation involves focusing on your thoughts and feelings without judging them. You might focus on your breathing, but without trying to control it.

Transcendental meditation – This type of meditation involves focusing on a sound, such as a “mantra,” which is a sound that is said out loud or silently to help you meditate.

Links to reliable information, free support, audio and videos about mindfulness

The Free Mindfulness Project has mindfulness exercises that you can download, including:    

  • Mindfulness of breath
  • Brief mindfulness practices
  • Body scan
  • Sitting meditations 
  • Guided imagery 
  • Self guided mindfulness exercises  

The mental health charity Mind provides information on mindfulness which includes introductory courses, taster, group sessions and formal mindfulness courses. 

Oxford Mindfulness Foundation website have resources and free audio practices.

5 ways that mindfulness can help your mental health

– Helps you get in touch with your emotions: If you’ve ever experienced mental health problems, you’ll know that sometimes certain emotions can be difficult to deal with. Mindfulness can help you to be more in touch with your emotions, and be able to deal with them more healthily

– Improve your relationships: There is research suggesting that mindfulness can improve relationships, particularly romantic ones. If you feel you have a good relationship with your partner, if you suffer from mental health problems, it can be helpful to have someone around to support you, and vice versa

– Help you to manage your anxiety: Many people who suffer from anxiety say that mindfulness has helped them to manage their anxiety better. They have reported feeling less anxious and being able to manage their symptoms better – Help you to feel less depressed: There have been studies that have shown mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to be helpful for people with depression. It helps you to challenge the unhelpful thoughts that often come with depression, as well as improve your mood

– Help you to manage insomnia: If you find that you have difficulty sleeping, you may want to consider adding a mindfulness practice, like meditation, to your day. There have been studies that show meditation can help people to sleep better.

Mindfulness and feeling less anxious

When you practice mindfulness you may find it helps in several different ways, including;

– Helping you to slow down: Anxiety often involves feeling as though you have to rush. You may feel as though you have to rush to get to work, rush to meet friends, or rush through your day in general, and this can have an impact on your mental health

– Notice what’s happening right now: When you’re anxious, you may find that you’re constantly thinking about the future, or regretting something in the past. Mindfulness and meditation help you to stay in the present moment, and focus on what’s happening right now

– Help you to be less critical of yourself: When you’re struggling with anxiety, it’s easy to be critical of yourself. You may find that you’re constantly beating yourself up for certain things you’ve done, or how you think you should be

– Help you to challenge your unhelpful thoughts: All types of anxiety come with a range of unhelpful thoughts, such as “I’ll never get this done,” or “I’m going to fail.” Mindfulness helps you to challenge these thoughts, and find ways to deal with them

– Help you to appreciate what you have: When you’re depressed, it can be easy to focus on what you don’t have. It can be easy to envy other people or wish you had certain things in your life. Mindfulness helps you to appreciate what you have, and what you have achieved

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