Another popular term floating around these days that advertises incredible life change. But what is mindfulness and how can it really change your life? Let’s start with the basics.
Mindfulness is a state of being present and aware in the moment. With all of the chaos that life tends to bring, this idea of being still enough to even notice what’s around you may seem out of reach. Maybe you have kids running around or you’re running a business or you’re trying to survive finals week. If so, you’re probably thinking, “Lady, I don’t know about you but I don’t have the time to sit and be still for 20 minutes. And even if I did have that time, why would I spend it just being mindful when I could be productive?”
I hear you. It seems that everywhere you look, mindfulness is being shown as individuals meditating and focusing on their breath, which is a typical formal practice of mindfulness. What often isn’t shown are all the ways to be present without dedicating 20 minutes to sitting cross-legged on the floor with your essential oil diffuser going in the background (which is totally A-Okay and has a beautiful effect if you have the time and are not being interrupted every 5 seconds).
My hope is for this skill to be accessible to everyone though and so I’d like to introduce some less formal but fully effective practices of mindfulness that will give you the mental clarity and balance you crave. Before I give you some ideas, its important to note what is so great about mindfulness.
Research has shown that a regular mindfulness practice lowers psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, anger and worry. Not only is the negative stuff decreased over time, the good stuff (like greater emotional awareness, joy, gratitude, acceptance and improved emotion regulation skills) increases too! Anyone else want to have less anxiety, more joy and an improved ability to get yourself out of bad moods? Here are some simple practices to get you started.
Giving credit where credit is due:
As we near the end of May, I'd like to note how special the month of May is for the mental health community. In May, we make a point of talking about mental health even more openly in order to gain momentum to break the stigma. Even as this topic has become less taboo over the years, there certainly is still a negative connotation when we hear others talk about their pain. The reality though is that we all have pain. Research has shown that 1 in 5 of us in the U.S experience a serious mental illness every. single. year. So why is it that pain is so difficult to talk about? Especially when some pain is so deep that it leads to suicidal thoughts and actions.
I saw a recent news article about a high school in the Cincinnati area. In the last week, this high school has had 2 students take their own lives.
Let the gravity of this sink in for a moment.
The stigma of mental illness is still strong today, despite the fight going on for decades.
How heartbreaking it is to realize that there are people in this world who are hurting and believe they have nowhere to turn - that help is unattainable. Maybe its your neighbor down the street. Or a classmate you sit next to every day in chemistry. Perhaps you are feeling alone in your own struggle...whatever it may be. I could go on and on about the dirty details that come from mental illness in hopes that others might understand a bit more that it is very real and very much an issue in the world we live in...but really I have only one goal from writing these words today.
I want YOU to know that you are not alone. Whatever it is you are going through right now, you have the strength to make it through. However you came to stumble across this post - it was meant for YOU. If you have even half of a desire to reach out and talk, please do. There are professionals and volunteers who are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You are not alone and your story is not over.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-(800) 273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741
Cincinnati Crisis Care Center: (513) 281-2273
Counseling seems to be this foreign concept that has been gaining momentum over the last decade or so as more information comes out. Mental health has become less of a taboo topic in recent years (thank goodness!) and more people are opening up about their stories and struggles with mental illness. A common route to dealing with mental illness is counseling - this is where you sit in a room with a licensed counselor and talk about your stuff. Now, this could very well be a frightening experience for some - especially if you don't know what to expect. To ease any fears you may have, I'd like to give you a bulleted sneak peak into what counseling might look like. Ready?
1. You do research and find a counselor you think you would jive with (preferably one who takes your insurance)
2. Contact counselor via phone or email to discuss availability and cost.
3. Your counselor may send you some forms to fill out before your first session so that full 50 minutes is focused on YOU.
4. Time to meet! The first two sessions are typically spent diving into what you're dealing with and creating a plan of attack (aka a treatment plan) to help you reach your goals for counseling.
5. The rest of counseling will be spent working on those goals and building confidence in your ability to maintain progress on your own.
Hopefully this sheds some light and eases any reservations you might have about taking the leap of faith into counseling. You got this!