Health and Well-Being Month: Week One – Mental Health

Week One – Day One

Mental Health

A calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, and that’s very important for good health. – Dalai Lama

Maintenance of a healthy mind is key to feeling confident, rejuvenated and it allows us to approach life’s stresses in a more calmer, mindful way. It stops our minds from being overly active which, in turn (if you’re anything like me), soothes our tendency to overthink.

So what exactly is a healthy mind?

A healthy mind is one that has developed a mindful approach to managing stress in a way that minimises the mind and body becoming fatigued. We often channel stress inappropriately by hoarding it inside us until it builds to a seemingly insurmountable level. This puts enormous stress on our bodies and it’s not until we reach breaking point that we begin to take an active interest in how to cope with it.

Day One

Time: 10-30 minutes

Today is about learning to calm and relax your mind. I thought a gentle introduction would be fitting. I don’t want to be throwing you – or myself – off with massive tasks. Take this time to find some quietness in your day and begin to learn to relax.

Relaxation and meditation has many benefits including:

  • Increased energy and self-awareness
  • You will find it easier to cope with various situations and stresses that may arise
  • Your immune system will become stronger. Stress lowers our immune systems ability to fight off illnesses such as colds and flu, and in chronic cases it can contribute to autoimmune diseases.
  • Chronic pain and muscle tension is significantly reduced
  • Your confidence increases
  • You will sleep better and more deeply
  • Anxiety, depression and panic attacks decrease with long-term meditation and relaxation
  • Memory and concentration improves

Don’t worry if at first you feel you’re unable to relax completely. It took me a few tries before I relaxed and I ended up so relaxed I fell asleep!

If this worked for you then make it a daily practice. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Personally I don’t believe in sitting in particular positions – the ‘right’ way really hurts my back so I have to sit against a wall. However you feel comfortable is absolutely fine. This is all about you relaxing and learning what calms your mind. You don’t need the added stress of worrying if you’re sat the right way!

Below I’ve linked some meditations from The Honest Guys that I find really helpful. You can use these, or you can use your own.

The Honest Guys:

I have also provided a step-by-step guided meditation that I use frequently for myself that I find works. Feel free to use it. If it works for you – fantastic! If it doesn’t, that’s ok too!

Meditation

1. Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Ensure that you won’t be disturbed, so turn off any phones and distractions.

2. Focus on your breath. Breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold for three, then release that breath to the count of four. Do this until you settle yourself into a natural breathing rhythm.

3. Once you feel settled, I’d like you to imagine that you’re walking down a pathway. This can be any pathway you feel comfortable with. It could be a country path, a path in a Mediterranean village, a path through a woodland etc.

4. Walk down the path and observe your surroundings. What colours do you see? How do you feel? Are you rushing or taking your time? Keep walking until you notice a river bank. In front of you, you see a tree resting on the bank. Its roots go deep into the ground. The roots take on the shape of a chair that supports your body perfectly. Sit in your chair and let your body relax knowing it is supported.

5. Allow the sound of a gentle breeze to carry you into a state of peace. Allow your thoughts to arise and let them go with the wind.

6. Sit here for as long as you like letting the sounds lull you and letting the peace radiate through you.

7. When you’re ready to come back, walk back down the path and focus on your breathing. Gently open your eyes.

If you’re a beginner at meditation I would try this for 10-15 minutes at first, then over time – if you choose to make this a daily practice for yourself – you’ll find that the time naturally increases. Don’t put pressure on yourself. It may feel like it’s not working at first (I always want immediate results), but I can assure you that persistence pays off here.

This is about finding what feels good for you.

Be happy. Be you.

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