October marked Mental Health Month, a month that encourages all of us to think about and understand the importance of mental health in our everyday lives, regardless if we have a lived experience of mental illness or not. This month as an opportunity to raise awareness and shift our community to be safer and more supportive of people experiencing difficulties with their mental health.
As part of MWA’s continued support to the community, we are excited to welcome you all to a mindfulness challenge. This challenge involves 8 different mindfulness practices that you can implement at home or work and encourage you to implement these healthy habits into your daily routine. Try and take note of which practice or technique works best for you!
Think about the triggers that cause you to feel stress. How do your body and mind react to stress? How do you use mindfulness to prevent it from getting worse? Try to intervene in the trigger with a deep breathing exercise:
- Stop what you’re doing and turn your focus to your breathing.
- Leave your eyes open and breathe normally.
- Breathe in for 5 seconds Notice how it feels to breathe in through the nostrils and feel your rib cage expand.
- Hold your breath for 5 seconds. Contemplate this in-between stage.
- Release your breath for 5 seconds. Exhale through your mouth.
Have a mindful meal with your family or friends. This means removing all distractions – including your phone! Pay attention to the people around you and your surroundings. Discuss the sensory experiences you all feel during the meal. What do you see? Touch? Smell? Sense? Recognise the taste of your food. What flavours and textures do they have? How are they different to other foods?
All in all, you should thoroughly enjoy the foods you eat every day and savour them well! Don’t forget to follow each meal with a smile when you’re done!
How often do we practice being mindful of our surroundings? Put away your phone and spend a few moments observing what’s going on around you. Tune into your senses to see how the trees sway in the wind and listen to the sounds of birds chirping and the cars driving past your street.
It’s also important to show mindfulness towards your close friends and family! Pay attention to how your friend or family member laughs. Notice how attentive they are when completing a certain task, a hobby or their favourite series and be proactive in learning more about these things to show them you care.
You should keep all these positive moments in mind and continue to stay in touch with those around you and your surroundings. It’s okay to not be in constant contact with the wider world all the time.
Take some time to slow down and be more present. Use your senses. Listen more carefully in your conversations with loved ones. Tune into your emotions and find out why you feel this way.
With this in mind, try to let go of your anxiety about the past and future and focus on what’s happening now. Slow down and tune into your physical sensations in this 3-minute method:
- Sitting comfortably, take a deep breath in through the nose, and out through the mouth.
- As you breathe out, close your eyes and notice how your body feels.
- Starting at the top of the head, gently scan down through the body, all the way down to the toes, seeing what feels comfortable and what feels uncomfortable.
Mindful breathing helps soothe anxieties and allows you to be more present. Practice mindful breathing with these simple tips:
- Lower your eyes and notice how the air is going in and out at your nostrils and the rise and fall of your chest.
- If you find this difficult, place your hand on your stomach and notice how your hand rises and falls with your breath.
- When your find your mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breath and try focusing on your breath for two minutes to help you be present in the moment.
Let Go of Your Phone
Have you ever been bored and found yourself opening an app on your phone without thinking about it? How much time did you think you lost during your phone scrolling adventure?
Now it’s time to put down our phones and be mindful of our phone use! Use these tips to help:
- Leave your phone in another room for a few hours or put your phone in another room while you’re asleep.
- Utilise the ‘Do not Disturb’ features on your phone.
- Have a conversation with someone in place of scrolling through social media.
- Do something for yourself and your health – go outside for a walk, read a book or reflect on what you have been able to accomplish today!
Give your brain an opportunity to pause and look back on your experiences through reflection. Reflect on the past few challenges and think about how much progress you’ve made. Consider these questions:
- Which mindfulness challenge has been most helpful to you?
- Which challenge has been the most significant?
- What goals are you working toward with these challenges and how do they require you to be more present?
- What big changes you’ve made in your daily life because of these challenges?
How Do You Look at Stress?
Whenever you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or even feel like life is moving too fast, try to incorporate at least one of the techniques you’ve tried during this mindfulness initiative. Keep a note of your stress responses and regulate them using what you’ve learnt. By practising mindfulness and having a positive attitude about stress, you can respond to your stress creatively and help you better reach your goals.
As we reach the last practice of the this challenge, we hope that this mindfulness intiative has been helpful in supporting you through your mental health journey this month and in the future to come. Even beyond Mental Health Month, MWA will continue to advocate for and implement intiatives that help our community better understand mental health and its importance in our daily lives and encourage help seeking behaviours when needed.
Learn more about Mental Health Month from the WayAhead website.