Whether it’s stress from work, relationships, finances or just our lives in general, we all experience, a form of stress in our daily lives. And as a solution to stop the growing tensions, we may react in several ways with crying, screaming and shouting to name just a few. Lockdown happened so unexpectedly, being stuck indoors for weeks, even months on end, unable to see relatives or friends, significantly changed people physically and even emotionally. You may have shouted more, exercised more or even took taken up a new hobby like art. I’m here to teach you what I learned over the course of my lockdown and how important it is to focus on yourself and practice mindfulness.
When our minds are worried, our brain’s hypothalamus releases charges. It sends two signals to the pituitary gland and the adrenal medulla – in simple terms – the short-term responses result in your body igniting it’s fight or flight mode. It’s during this part, where your body begins to lose control – your heart quickens, palms sweat, body tenses in response to the threat, attack or harmful event that your brain recognises. This stage during the biological process is where you most likely release the stress in the form of yelling or lashing out.
Let me introduce an alternate solution – mindfulness. Mindfulness, by definition, is the ‘psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, which one develops through the practice of meditation.’ However, I know what you’re thinking, somewhere along the lines of – meditation, isn’t that what hippies do where they sit on the floor and make humming noises? But don’t be so quick to dismiss the idea.
There are many positives that come along with mindfulness and believe me when I say, it can even make you sleep better – research has shown that with older adults who were diagnosed with sleep disturbances; it was found that the meditation practice resulted in significant short-term improvement in the participant’s sleep quality. Mindfulness allows us to step back from our thoughts and understand that we are in control of our thoughts, whether that be positive or negatively, resulting in the gradual experience of us appreciating what we have and knowing what we’re taking for granted.
Mindfulness can be achieved in various ways with meditation being one of many. You can practice mindfulness through creating art such as painting and colouring, writing diaries and journals, or even through running and exercise. It isn’t all about sitting down with your legs crossed and humming. But like I mentioned before, mindfulness is a mental state, which means that an individual can have various techniques in order to reach content and relaxation. Techniques such as deep breathing can be done anywhere, when you focus your attention on your breath – deeply inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide allows you to release any tensions or worries.
In terms of tips for everyday mindfulness, I recommend just taking in your daily surroundings; it may sound cringy but just allowing your mind to forget its routine ‘autopilot’ mode even if it be for just a few minutes can be healing. Trying something new, such as walking a different route to your usual, trying a new fashion style, sampling new food or changing usual places where you sit and relax can alter your perspective. Engaging in a routine is very important too, whether it be ten minutes before bedtime or choosing a consistent location to practice mindfulness, it can really help. And whenever you’re feeling stressed about what life throws at you, it can help to acknowledge your current emotions and gradually find a short-term solution.
Mindfulness may not be for everyone but during lockdown, we now have the time to focus on ourselves a bit more – to slow down our everyday rush. Mindfulness can even be achieved by simply acknowledging that you’re in control of your thoughts, feelings and actions and to recognise that the past is gone and worrying about the future will not change anything. Mindfulness isn’t just for ‘hippies’ and about meditating, it’s about finally recognizing the importance of living in the present moment.
Article by Young Reporter Beth Downes
First published in Grimsby Telegraph 30th June 2020