One day, in a room of strangers, I was told about the benefits of Mindfulness for those suffering with mental health problems. I was sceptical at first, I’d known the term only as a common practise in Buddhism and was wary of it as though it were some kind of witchcraft at first. This was naive, but for someone who had frequently seen a little boy wearing an orange coat hiding in her wardrobe, it’s not so crazy as it may seem.
They told us to close our eyes. I didn’t. I’ve never been one to let my guard down when surrounded by the unknown. After a few weeks of congregating in the room with the now not-so-strangers I settled enough to give it a go. We learnt the art of focusing on something in the moment, disregarding our thoughts. Whether it was a stone, candle or even our breath we were taught to push thoughts away and simply experience the moment.
My skills progressed throughout the course until I was able to be mindful of almost every moment. I became aware of routines which I hadn’t noticed before, such as putting my trousers onto my right leg first, and brushing my teeth with my right hand. By changing some of these routines I gained control over them. By focusing my thoughts, I gained control over them. I learnt grounding techniques, focusing on what is real right now. I learnt to accept my emotions and thoughts as they were, while acknowledging their possible unreliability and bias.
Over the course of 8 weeks I had learnt more than I expected – not disregarding the fact that mindfulness is not some strange art of witchcraft. By being more aware of the feelings within my body, and the surroundings outside of it I was able to control my reactions to situations and calm myself much more effectively. In my opinion, being mindful enables you to gain power over your brain and emotions, and is a really useful method for anyone to practise, regardless of whether you’re suffering with mental health problems or not. Everyone gets stressed or upset sometimes!
That’s why I’ll be focusing my Friday sessions on a month of mindfulness. I’ll be practising a number of exercises each day and giving feedback on which I find most useful. I’ll give some details of one for you to try if you’re interested at the bottom of each week’s post. So I’d encourage you to try this month of mindfulness with me and share your experiences in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!