If you’ve ever experienced stress, anxiety or low mood chances are that your GP, support worker or therapist have suggested you give Mindfulness a go.
But why is Mindfulness considered such a helpful tool for looking after your mental wellbeing?
Below I outline three key skills you’ll gain with regular Mindfulness practice that will help you feel more resilient, positive and in control of your mental wellbeing.
- Get better at responding to your physical needs
Your body is sending you useful information all the time about how you’re feeling but many people are so stuck in their heads that they don’t even notice it.
Mindfulness helps you become more aware of the sensations you’re experiencing in your body, as they happen. This means you’re more likely to notice when your body is asking for attention or flagging up that something is wrong.
Why is this good for your mental health?
Well, the more in touch you are with your body, the more likely you’ll respond to its needs and look after yourself. For example, if you are aware that your jaw feels tight and your shoulders are getting stiff that gives you a clue that you might be getting stressed or tense. With this information you can then choose how you want to respond – will you just plough on with work, getting more and more frazzled, or do you need to take a quick break, have a stretch or prioritise getting an early night?
The more skilful you get at picking up these physical cues the better chance you have of taking conscious, wise action to look after yourself before stress, tension or worry become chronic.
2. Learn that thoughts are not facts
Are you someone who worries a lot, or overthinks everything?
You’re not alone! One of the first things you’ll notice when you start meditating is how busy your mind is, how many thoughts are whizzing around, and how easy it is to get sucked into them.
Contrary to popular belief, Mindfulness isn’t about stopping your thoughts or making your mind go blank – as long as you’re alive you will be thinking! Instead it’s about learning how to observe your thoughts rather than believe them.
With regular Mindfulness practice you’ll realise that your thoughts are not necessarily facts, and that you don’t have to buy into them. It’s incredibly liberating to realise that your thoughts are just mental events that come and go, especially if you’re someone that has a lot of harsh or negative thoughts about yourself.
3. Stop adding to your own struggles
Many of us have harsh inner critics that pile on the judgment and shame when we’re struggling. Even if you’re kind and caring towards others you may notice that the way you talk to yourself is unnecessarily severe.
It’s absolutely the last thing you need if you’re feeling a little wobbly, and for some people that negative self-talk can fuel what might just be a fleeting period of stress, low mood or anxiety into a longer-lasting, entrenched battle.
For example, imagine you’re feeling worried about an upcoming task at work. Many of us will almost automatically add shame and judgement onto that feeling of worry. Thoughts may start to proliferate as we blame ourselves for feeling this way, or catastrophise about what might happen;
- ‘I shouldn’t be so worried about this, I should be able to cope’
- ‘So-and-so never seems to worry about stuff like this so why do I?’
- ‘I’ll mess it up and look ridiculous’
- ‘I’m completely inept and I should just give up and quit’
What started as a fleeting emotion can end up snowballing so much that it feels completely overwhelming.
Mindfulness trains us to stop adding all those unnecessary layers of judgement onto our experience, which can make things feel a lot more manageable. From a mindfulness perspective there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be, so there is no need to judge yourself for what you’re going through.
With practice Mindfulness will you to yourself gently and warmly and to give yourself compassion rather than harshness at difficult times.
Going through a big life event or experiencing an acute period of mental illness? Then it’s probably best to wait until you’re feeling more settled before starting to learn Mindfulness, and focus on finding other ways to support your wellbeing in the meantime.