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The Hidden Powers in Mindfulness

Mind Full vs Mindfulness

Mindfulness, a word that has spread in the past 10 years more than it ever has, continues to be uttered by many. But what exactly is mindfulness? Why are some institutions offering courses in mindfulness, or employers insisting on training their employees in this subject? The reason is one: it is a powerful tool and the way to grasp this power is through practicing it.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness simply implies being present, maintaining a clear, non-judgmental connection with your current status and accepting your existing circumstances. Though it has its roots deep in Buddhism, this practice has gained popularity and has become a realistic way of freeing the mind and a major step that relieves stress and reduces suffering. 

Mindfulness reduces suffering

Depression or stress levels tend to spring up when you are in constant struggle dealing with past events or worried about the coming future. Mindfulness encourages interaction and acceptance of the present which results in the mind responding in a more neutral and less painful fashion. The non-judgmental attitude towards our present feelings, i.e. not believing that there are ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ about how to think or feel, give us the ability to reduce our sensitivity and therefore the impact of the cause of the depression.

Why you should opt to practice mindfulness

Mindfulness carries with it a powerful healing effect on both mind and body. The state of embracing your predicaments and being in complete harmony with them is what sparks the healing process. Being in this state of mind such that you are hardly troubled by the necessity to seek another will enable you to identify deep internal resources that you could harness and put to use.

Breaking the common mindset that you have to get away from what’s bothering you before you can attain peace is a thought that could help you in this process. It’s actually possible to accept and come to terms with emotions considered negative such as fear or agony, no matter how impossible this may seem. This will encourage better health conditions, both psychologically and physically, and is more nurturing to your life instead of living haunted by the thought that you either have to hate or love something.

Mindfulness can rightly be described as the tool that brings joy. Practicing it increases your awareness of the healthy things life offers and by paying close attention to the present, you’ll enjoy them even better. A jog with your dog, or carrying your child to sleep will seem much more than just that, and the fact that you won’t be in any hurry to move to the next task on your to-do list will ensure that maximum enjoyment and satisfaction is achieved.

 It’s now a proven fact that being mindful unleashes the better part of you and this practice is now being adopted in medical centers and institutions across the globe. It’s one of the greatest gifts we’ve been entrusted with to handle life, but unfortunately, very few of us do so. It’s about time we put an end to this, accept our present without modelling our lives according to hard and fast rules that we have created ourselves.

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Tips For Climbing Out of the Pit of Depression

DepressionEver had a season of depression that just wiped you out?  You want to feel all happy, but for some reason you just can’t. You lie in bed at night thinking how yucky your life is and you wake up in the morning dreading yet another day.

Yes, depression is a real downer.

It really is such an energy zapper, sometimes even making everyday tasks difficult to accomplish. The severely depressed have a difficult time getting the gumption to shower or even cook a meal and eat.

The good news is that you don’t have to allow depression to completely rule your life.  You may have a day or two of the blues (everyone is entitled to those), but depression and darkness do not have to be your reality for weeks, months, or years.

By all means head to your GP if you’ve tried to beat your depression and can’t. He or she will be able to assess whether you’re dealing with long term depression or some temporary general unhappiness. Should your state of depression be situational, there are things you can do to take control of some symptoms by making lifestyle changes that have been found to alleviate many symptoms of depression.

Here are some great changes you can make:

  • Exercise regularly

If you want to take control over your depression, exercise is a great way to start.  By committing to an exercise regime throughout the week, your mood may be elevated.  When we exercise, our bodies produce a chemical that makes us feel more pleasant and we also tend to feel better about ourselves, as we are being constructive with our time.  You can take a brisk walk, join a gym, engage a friend in golf or tennis, or go for a swim. The exercise does not even need to be strenuous. Simply planting flowers or a small garden is an example of calm, light exercise that will give you a boost emotionally.

  • Change your eating habits

Another great lifestyle change involves your eating habits.  It is so easy to get caught up eating unhealthy foods, which have the effect of making one feel sluggish and possibly gain weight.  Our bodies need healthy foods to be at their optimal performance. Begin to eliminate unhealthy foods one at a time and introduce healthy foods into your diet.  Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, drink plenty of water, take vitamins, and stay away from sugar as much as possible.  You will find that as you progress in eating healthier, you will feel better about yourself mentally and your body will begin to feel better as well.

  • Acquire a supportive network

Having friends or family is important, as it is oftentimes a relief to be able to share concerns, stressors, fears, etc. with a supportive person.  If you communicate your problems to a person that you trust, you might feel better after sharing your experiences with them. You can also consider going for counseling for help.  You might be able to honestly communicate your problems and receive support, becoming more aware of your emotions and thoughts with someone who has been trained in listening attentively without judging you.

  • Consider getting a pet

Pets can be very therapeutic for those who struggle with loneliness or depression.  Consider getting a cat or a dog to offer company and unconditional love.  Plenty of men and women have gained a sense of approval and feel needed as their `pets’ lavish love on them.  If you are not able to have animals in your home, you could purchase a bird or even a hamster or guinea pig.

  • Meditate

Some people have found relief from depressive symptoms by regular meditation. Even just five or ten minutes of solitude deliberately paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way, may be all that is needed to get you feeling better.

  • Get out with a friend

Isolation will not do you any good or alleviate depressive symptoms. Make the effort to get out with a friend and do something that you enjoy. Being with another person, smiling, laughing, and talking will do wonders for your mood.

There are things that you can do to help alleviate symptoms of depression.  Give these tips a try for a few weeks and see if your mood improves. Sometimes you just have to dig deep and make yourself do the things you don’t really want to do to pull yourself up out of the pit of depression.  In the end, you’ll be glad you did. Today, make the decision to take action and do what you can to beat depression

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Dealing with the Pain of Bereavement

BereavementAs Maria V. Snyder says in Storm Glass; “Everyone grieves in different ways. For some, it could take longer or shorter. I do know it never disappears. An ember still smoulders inside me. Most days, I don’t notice it, but, out of the blue, it’ll flare to life.”

Sudden loss and bereavement can leave you feeling numb, overcome with grief or confused. The loss of someone close to you hits hard and deep. There is the shock, the disbelief, having to comfort and be strong for others, guilt, denial and often much, much later, the true outpouring of pain and hurt.

The fact that the true response only comes weeks and sometimes months after the event makes it harder to cope with. You thought you had been dealing well with it, your friends and family thought you had moved on, you had returned to work. And suddenly there you are, in tears every night, feeling worse than the day you heard the news. Reality hits you: he or she is truly gone.

A lot people try to ignore this reaction: it’s silly, you can’t suddenly feel like this after all this time. They feel too embarrassed to tell those closest to them, often thinking: “because it’s been such a long time, they may think I’m seeking attention.”

Then there are many that just cannot stop grieving. This is often wrongly judged as “wallowing”, but it’s not. The hole left behind by the loved one is so big that they don’t know how to cope. There are people out there that get knocked for six with just their favourite TV show ending – it was part of their lives – so imagine if it is a person you saw and loved day by day for many years.
Like the delayed griever, you too might repress your emotions, thinking it is the right thing to do. No, it is the wrong thing to do.

Repressing the pain can lead to physical manifestations of the pain or, often, depression.
So please do seek someone to talk to, a person you truly trust, or seek counselling, there is no shame in this!! A therapist has the skills to deal with your problems and you don’t need to worry about them not wanting to listen to you: it’s their job!!

A good exercise to accompany counselling or to try and deal with the pain in general is to practise Mindfulness. This might surprise you, because Mindfulness isn’t about “being in the moment, and isn’t “the moment” exactly what we are trying to avoid. Well, “the moment” is a big part of it, but what is far more important is getting the mind to be still, so you are no longer a prisoner of your own thoughts. Training your mind to be quiet is a good aid to tide you over when you feel grief and despair washing over you.

Sameet Kumar, Ph.D., author of Grieving Mindfully and The Mindful Path Through Worry and Rumination says: “Grief can often feel like chronic stress, and research shows that 20-30 minutes of twice daily mindfulness practice can alter how your brain processes stress after about eight weeks. Mindfulness practice during grief can help your mind and body find precious moments of peace during difficult times. Regular mindfulness practice can also help you sleep better and is a crucial foundation for developing healthier habits during your grief journey.”

There are many courses out there so you can pick any that would serve you best. Taking a course would also help get you out of the house into a new situation where you can meet new people, so it is always a win. If you don’t feel like going out, there are dozens of online classes available too, many of them for free.

While counselling and mindfulness might work to help you on your way, you still have to take it one day at the time. For every good day there can be four bad ones. But if you cherish these good days and every fun moment and remind yourself that you are allowed to be fun and don’t have to feel guilty you can slowly move on. Yes, you are allowed bad days too, you don’t have to get up if you don’t want to, there is no fault in that, in many ways it is healthy to not force yourself out of a depression and treat it as a flu. But don’t forget: a flu doesn’t last 4 weeks and even people with the flu have to do their shopping.

Use the good days to make plans with your best friend, brother, sister, parents or kids: if you have been in bed or in the house and depressed for more than 3 days, they should take you out for a walk, a lunch or the zoo, and you are not allowed to complain. Once you are outside the mind usually clears and a new happy moment to treasure during the bad times will follow.

Dannii Cohen

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Could counselling be a choice for you?

images (1)Have you ever heard anyone saying ‘this is just an excuse to wallow in misery”? If given the option would people really choose to wallow in misery as opposed to living a happy, fulfilled life? Fortunately statements like that are becoming less and less common and the stigma attached to mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety has significantly diminished over the years. It is not so uncommon nowadays for people to look for counselling or psychotherapy as a way to overcome difficulties or as a powerful ally against the battles of mental illnesses.

A frequent misinterpretation of looking for counselling is that only weak people or ‘losers’ do it. This could not be further from the truth. As Richard Taite, founder of Cliffside Malibu, a Drug & Alcohol Addiction treatment centre in the America, said “Not only do successful people not fear therapy, they embrace it…. Psychotherapy is a tool that creates success. Smart people use it.”

Awareness of mental health illnesses has also increased in recent years in the UK. The Mental Health Foundation (UK’s leading mental health research, policy and service improvement charity) has created the Mental Health Awareness Week. For one week each May they campaign around a specific theme. This year’s theme was anxiety, one of the leading causes of mental ill-health in the world.

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)’s Governor, Dr Andrew Reeves says that the greater awareness of mental health illnesses, largely thanks to high profile people such as Alastair Campbell speaking out about it, is also relevant. “While, traditionally, things got worse and worse until the GP eventually prescribed medication, I think this growing awareness has made people much more likely to recognise and acknowledge their own mental health problems and be more proactive in seeking support at an earlier stage.”

A BACP survey carried out earlier this year has revealed that 28 per cent of Britons have consulted a counsellor or a psychotherapist, compared to just one in five people in 2010. “The significant increase in the number of people consulting a counsellor or psychotherapist is evidence that people are seeing more and more value in these extremely effective interventions” says Dr Andrew Reeves.

It makes sense to think that if you had a heart condition you would look for a cardiologist, or if you had a broken arm you would be seen by an orthopaedist. Therefore with the awareness of mental health problems increasing and the stigma around it decreasing, people in the UK might find it a bit easier to look for a counsellor or psychotherapist if they feel they can benefit from it or envisage the chance of leading a happier, less stressful life.

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