Mental Health, Meditation and Mindfulness

Mental illness affects 1 out of 5 people living in Canada (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2017) and seeking tools to help calm and focus the mind during stressful situations gets harder and harder as we get older. Although many struggle with mental health issues, our professional and personal lives often don't allow us to schedule time to reflect on HOW to deal with those mental issues.

Working with individuals of behavioural, mental and physical disabilities has taught me how important it is to develop skills and tools to FIRST address stress, anxiety and negative emotions in order to be successful during learning and development tasks later on. Although most of my work has focused on adaptive childhood development, many practises translate to the adult body and mind. During last weeks "Lets Talk" day, I was inspired to create a small 'exercise' for adults who struggle with understanding their intrinsic pain, want to lower stress and connect better, improve focus and concentration and reduce brain chatter! its so simple!

MEDITATION FOR MINDFULNESS: A basic method to meditate is to focus on your breathing - inhaling and exhaling, a practice simply called "mindful breathing". Try to set aside 15 minutes a day for at least once a week to practice Concentration and Compassion with this exercise below:

Mindfulness refines our attention so that we can connect more fully and directly with whatever life brings...

1. Getting comfortable - Ideally you want to start in a comfortable position (sitting, lying or comfortable chair) with your eyes closed. Keep your back upright but not to tight. Hands resting wherever they are comfortable. Tongue on the roof of your mouth or wherever is comfortable. The idea is to be able to practice enough so you are able to regulate mindful breathing when particularly stressed situations occur. It may help, in overly anxious situations, to start with an exaggerated breath: deep inhale through nose (3 seconds), hold breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils.

2. Notice and relax your body - Try and notice the shape of your body and its weight. Let yourself become more relaxed and release any tension. Imagine your head becomes lighter and your shoulders heavier. Become curious about your body and its environment; the connection to the floor/chair, which body parts are engaged.

3. Just Breathe - Feel the natural flow of breath - in and out. Leave it natural and try not to over exaggerate. Notice where you feel the breath in your body (abdomen, chest, nose) . Focus on where one breath ends, another one begins.

4. Be kind to the mind - Your mind may be starting to wonder at this time, distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That's okay! Just notice that this is happening and bring your attention back to your breath. Repeat "thinking" or "wandering" softly in your head and redirect your attention back to the breathing.

5. Seven in heaven - stay here for 5 - 7 minutes noticing your breath in silence.

6. Check in before checking out - After a 7 minutes, once again notice your whole body seated here. Let yourself relax even more deeply and then offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practise today!

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