Sometimes we get good advice at a time when we just can’t hear it or when we can’t appreciate it’s value. Rae Ritchie tells her story as guest blogger on Mental Health Today of a time when she was told to just breathe. As she was in crisis at the time, she really did not appreciate the advice. It wasn’t until the next day when she was given more in depth assistance and training in exactly how to breathe mindfully that she really appreciated what good advice that was.
Don’t wait to have a crisis to learn the skills of mindful breathing that will get you through and out the other side. In many cases, good breath control will resolve a crisis before it happens. As one blogger wrote, a panic attack can make you will to sell your own mother and throw in the freight, if only someone will save you. Rather than go there, being able to mindfully breathe your way out and manage your own rescue will make your life feel much safer and calmer.
Meditation feels like far too much to take on for many people. It seems like a big committment of time and there is the fear of lifestyle change. So many people assume that you need to go sit on a mountain, assume the lotus position and learn to say Ommm to meditate. While much of the meditation practice we have been exposed to in the last decade or so is Eastern in origin, the West has over a millenia of meditation practice through prayer as well. Modern Westerners are unaware of this ancient tradition due to the increasing break with traditional Christian churches since the 1960s.
Modern meditation practices are much easier and often quicker. They are usually called mindfulness practices. If you were to scan your brain before and after you had put in place a mindfulness practice you would see an amazing change. Brains work differently and better when we routinely practice mindfulness. We also sleep better, concentrate better, relax better, relate better and are physically healthier. It is free. There are no side effects. What has anyone got to lose?
What’s more while quiet is nice, you don’t have to go off on your own nor close your eyes. You don’t need to sit in odd positions either. You can practice mindfulness on the train, at work, while you exercise or eat, and at any time night or day. You can set up practices so that in very stressful situations, a few deep breaths, or some other trigger, can gain you all the benefits of a full session.
The best results will come from daily practice. It doesn’t matter if that practice is for a few minutes or if you put aside 20 minutes. Once you have got the hang of it, just getting it done makes the difference. Of course it can be very hard to start up a great new habit and keep it going. Apparently it takes 21 days to cement in a positive habit. So getting help to put that good habit in place just makes sense.
There are many apps that can start you off. One of the most recommended by professionals is the headspace app. This is a free app and it is not only easy to use but you can set reminders so that you can practice every day until you get really good at it. You should try out various apps to find the one that suits you. Here are some free apps available on iTunes and Play Store that people I have worked with have given good feedback:
- Smiling Minds
- Insight Timer
Or you can go online. While there are many, many sites the following three are very reputable Australian sites.
- Heaspace: mediation and mindfulness made simple login
- ReachOut: How to practice mindfulness click here
- SmilingMind: click here
If doing it on your own is just not your thing, you can still attend yoga classes or work on techniques with your social worker or other mental health professional.
Of course, many people are struggling with what feels like out of control anxiety or other issues. An app or an online program just does not cut it. You can get assistance individually, or in a group of others with the same issues or interests, to learn the techniques that suit you and develop a practice that will change your life for the better. Contact your GP, social worker or other mental health professional.
If you need help right now contact Lifeline 131114 or online
I couldn’t agree more about taking the time to breathe. If there’s one thing that the buzz-word of ‘mindfulness’ has done it is to take the scariness out of meditation. Making friends with our experience is a phrase I like to use in the work I do.
Sorry about the delay in replying – I had to take some unexpected time out. It’s so true that a lot of the scariness of the mediation process has been decreased in recently. It’s a bit sad though that the real benefits are being dismissed because ‘mindfulness’ has, as you say, become such a buzz word.
I love that phrase – “make friends with our experience”. I mihgt borrow that with your permission? In my work I have often commented that every coin has two sides. If you look at this side you see the negative but if you look at the other – there is always positive to be found. It’s about the reframe.
‘Making friends with your experience’ is much used by Pema Chodron and maybe her teachers. I find it very helpful personally and with clients.