Unfortunately, many are affected by mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. These conditions can be debilitating and make it hard for anyone to go about their normal life.
If you suffer from any of these disorders, or symptoms of common mental health illnesses, there are many approaches you can take to help you cope with mental issues. Most turn to medication and counseling but completely overlook self-practiced mindfulness.
“Most of us get addicted to drugs, alcohol or unhealthy behaviors because we don’t know healthier ways to process our stress. In this regard, one key thing that helped me become sober was meditation which is surely one of the most beneficial stress management techniques.” – Michael Dadashi, Founder of Infinite Recovery
How Mindfulness Will Help You Cope with Mental Illness
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply a way to be more aware of yourself and your surroundings.
By focusing on the present, you can become in tune with your thoughts and feelings.
A common misconception about mindfulness is that you have to be religious to participate in it.
This is likely due to the practice’s association with techniques such as meditation.
Know that anyone, religious or not, can utilize and benefit from mindfulness.
How Mindfulness Can Help You Cope
When someone suffers from mental illness, it can be hard for them to be aware of the present.
Anxiety and troubling thoughts can cloud our sense of reality and make it hard to pay attention to ourselves.
Mindfulness is intended to help us become aware of ourselves, emotions, and thoughts.
With this newfound insight, we can better manage our mental health.
Basics of Mindfulness
Mindfulness begins by becoming aware.
You will start to notice things you previously hadn’t before they rise to the surface.
By detecting thoughts and feelings early on, you’ll be more prepared to deal with them effectively.
When it comes to mindfulness, it is also important to adopt an open attitude.
Some tips to keep in mind include:
Allow yourself to feel what you feel.
Your emotions are normal and valid.
Suppressing your problems is very unhealthy and will lead to even more issues.
What’s bottled up always comes back stronger, and with more impact.
When you accept your feelings and aren’t dealing with internal conflict, you have more energy to work on yourself.
Techniques You Can Try
Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga are all techniques that you can use to practice mindfulness.
Some more specific exercises include:
Five Senses Exercise.
Pick an object, carefully focus and observe it, and describe it using the five senses.
This will get you use to being aware of your surroundings.
This can include sensory play- carry your favorite relaxing scent or a picture you love on your phone.
Mindfulness is a gradual process, much like a train coming to a stop.
Process your thoughts slowly and deliberately so that you become a master at bringing the train into the station, rather than speeding out of control.
Take Long Walks.
Rather than binge-watch a new series, take a walk and place your attention on the outside world.
This reminds you that you’re part of something larger than your uncontrollable thoughts.
Sometimes awareness of what’s around us makes us more mindful of what’s bothering us within.
Practice Mindful Breathing.
Draw your shoulders back.
Listen as you take a slow deep breath through your nose.
Listen as you slowly exhale through your relaxed mouth.
Repeat for a total of five deep breaths, although in a pinch, three will do.
Mindful breathing offers a multitude of health benefits, such as:
It moves your lymph through your lymphatic system (which only moves when you do).
It massages your organs.
It adds more oxygen to your blood.
It increases your blood flow to your brain, which—let’s face it—can always use some extra oxygen.
It leads to yawning, an indication your energy level has changed.
Practicing mindful breathing five or more times daily can do wonders for reducing stress levels.
Practice mindful breathing whenever you feel tension, and whenever you think of it.
Make this part of your daily routine and watch the stress melt away.
Using Mindfulness in Combination with Clinical Treatments
Among the treatment options available to those suffering from mental health issues include clinical approaches.
When looking at cases where patients receive medical treatment, we find that successful ones often include adherence to overall mindfulness.
For instance, Neuro Wellness Spa is one of the leading providers of IV ketamine therapy.
Patients are administered antidepressants, but doctors also apply a comprehensive approach that focuses on the well-being of the mind and body.
Their success reveals how effective mindfulness can be, especially when paired with medical treatment.
Seeking Further Professional Help
The tips we’ve discussed mindfulness might sound reminiscent of a therapy session.
This isn’t too far from reality; many therapists and psychologists help their patients by teaching them how to be mindful.
You can certainly practice these tips on your own, but seeking a therapist or psychologist might help you better handle your problems.
A professional will be able to uncover the root of your problems, talk you through exercises, and determine the best coping mechanisms.
Regardless of the course of action you take, know that you have options when it comes to dealing with your mental health.
Dr. Gail Gazelle MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Master Certified Coach for physicians provides a few of the many benefits of meditation and mindfulness:
Benefit #1: Meditation builds calmness
Life is full of stress.
To survive, we need tools to build moments of calm into our day.
Mindfulness teaches us how to do this in an effective and meaningful way that helps cultivate not just calmness and quiet in the mind, but gratitude and joy as well.
Benefit #2: Meditation builds focus
We learn next to nothing in school about how to focus.
A day is typically full of distractions: urgent problems, callbacks, busy schedules.
Even brief periods of meditation build the ability to hold attention exactly where we want and need it to be.
Benefit #3: Meditation builds positivity’
We criticize ourselves.
Comparing ourselves to others and looking at how we are coming up short, believing we are an imposter, and focusing on what’s going wrong and not what we’ve done well.
With mindfulness and meditation practices, we build our ability to focus on all the good we do, each and every day, and learn to let go of that inner self-critic.
Benefit #4: Mindfulness builds resilience
It’s easy to get worn down by sickness, all the responsibility we bear, and the very long hours we have to work.
This is even more true now, during the pandemic.
Mindfulness helps us build resilience to all the demands and difficulties of our careers, making us more agile, capable, and even more compassionate to our colleagues and family.
Benefit #5: Mindfulness builds mastery over their mind
Our minds are busy places, full of worries, fears, anxieties, and more.
With mindfulness, we learn how to work with our minds.
Give mindfulness a try to see if it’s right for you.