May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I was inspired to write about mindfulness and mental health. Talking about mental health is unfortunately a highly taboo topic that people shy away from talking about, let alone reaching out if they need help. While it may be uncomfortable at first, being aware of your mental health can help improve or manage mental state. A great way to be aware of your mental state is to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness can be defined as
- the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
- a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Practicing mindfulness comes with many positive benefits including: reducing anxiety, raising self love, improved emotional reactions, better mood, and the list can go on. By being in tune with your body, even if for a small time you will begin to feel the benefits that come with this practice. There are many different ways to do this.
Here are some examples of mindful practices.
- Breath Work Also known as Pranayama or controlled breathing techniques. I’ll share my two favorite and others I’ve learned:
- Connecting the breath with the word and thinking “In” on the inhale and “Out” with the exhale. The inhales and exhales should be equal in length with nice deep breaths. Repeat 10 times
- Taking 7 deep breaths, and focus on any sensations, sights, or sounds that are happening at the moment
- Ujjayi Breathing, click here to learn how.
These are very similar to meditation but if that’s not your thing you can do these breathing techniques without feeling like you have to meditate. It’s all about paying attention to the breath, I feel so grounded and aware after doing any of these. Performing these during high stress times can be very beneficial because taking the focus off of what is causing you stress will help you to better assess the situation. You may even have a new perspective.
- Yoga Another favorite of mine. I love yoga so much I just started my yoga teacher training a few weeks ago. The art of matching movement with the breath is a great feeling because you are taking care of mind and body. There are many types of yoga and if you know of a class I say go for it. If you can’t make it and you’re looking for a quick way to clear your mind, turn on YouTube and start beginners yoga. They have videos for all levels and are free! 10 minutes a day can make a difference in how you feel.
- Meditation Very similar to breath work, there are many ways to do this. Click here to learn more. In this case a mindfulness mediation is sitting in a comfortable place, and giving attention to your breath and how your body reacts and feels.
- Self Check In If none of the other methods work, a simple daily check in with yourself can help prevent things from spiraling out of control. Have you ever experienced something that shocked you when it happened and you were subconsciously aware of the signs leading to it but not being mindful about them as they progressed? Taking a few minutes out of your day to calm the mind is another technique to be more mindful.
I often wish I practiced being mindful when I experienced postpartum depression, but as I read more stories similar to mine, I had no idea I was going through it until I was out of it. Lack of sleep played a huge deal, but I’m sure hormones and not taking care of myself didn’t help either. I am happy that there is progress in bringing light to mental health awareness. Mental illness comes in all names, shapes, and sizes but some of the top that can benefit from practicing mindfulness are: depression, PTSD, and bi polar disorder. This is in no way a replacement for medicine or support like therapy but a wonderful supplement to what works for you now.
Being mindful ties into our mental health in so many ways. It’s not meant to only be done to keeps things positive, it’s here to let us know when something is wrong. And that when something is wrong and an illness maybe present we can work through it by being mindful. It’s also important to remember that even if you need more help than self treatment, you are still a person who deserves love and happiness. Mental illness does not define who you are and there are people that care. You are not alone if you do experience it. Here is a resource all about mindfulness, why it’s great, and how to practice it.
Please share this post to bring awareness to mental health this May. You never know who this will help. Also comment below your favorite ways to practice mindfulness.