Mindfulness – an Antidote for Mental Illness
This is a guest blog post by Yugen Blog, check out his articles and have a good read. This specific article is on Mental Illness.
‘If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.’ – Amit Ray, spiritual master
There is but one cure for all mental ailments and turmoils, and that is mindfulness. It is quite literally medicine for the mind.
Committing to regular mindfulness practice has the power to alleviate almost all symptoms of poor mental health. Mindfulness is spearheading the 21st-century self-improvement revolution, taking it by storm.
Though its exact birthplace cannot be ascertained, perhaps one of the first known scholars to spread the mindful word was the Buddha. Although born into royalty and riches, Buddha was deeply saddened by the injustices in the world and took to meditating for 49 days under a bodhi tree, reaching an enlightened state and becoming free from desire.
And thus, Buddhism was born, one of its centremost tenets being the importance of mindfulness.
But what on earth is mindfulness?
Mindfulness merely is presentness; being here and now; forgetting about the past and the future.
It is the act of belonging to this moment, not worrying about those moments that have passed or that are yet to materialise.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
A study conducted at Harvard University showed that participants that engaged in just 27 minutes of mindfulness activities daily experienced significant growth in the areas of their brain involved in memory and learning, as well as a decrease in those areas associated with anxiety and stress.
Practicing mindfulness can literally reshape your brain.
Not only that, but studies have shown that regular mindfulness practice can…
- Increase focus
- Improve information processing
- Boost confidence
- Reduce blood pressure
- Improve the immune system
- Slow aging
How to Practice Mindfulness
Meditation is perhaps the most popular way to practice mindfulness.
It sounds very spiritual, in part due to its origins in the far-east. However, it is quite simple.
How to meditate:
- Take a comfortable seat with a straight back.
- Gently close your eyes.
- Breathe deep into the base of your stomach.
- Observe your thoughts, trying not to become attached to any of them.
- If you find yourself becoming distracted by thinking, simply return the focus to the breath.
In focusing on the breath and becoming indifferent to your thoughts, you will learn to become a part of the present moment. It takes practice, but overtime thinking will cease to influence your mood, and you will become increasingly good at tapping into your breath, recentering your attention on the here and now.
I advise meditating for around ten minutes a day. Morning and night work best for me, though it is important to explore the practice and cultivate the skill in a way that is beneficial to you.
Though I recommend that some time should be devoted purely to meditation, mindfulness is not limited only to quiet rooms with closed eyelids.
Whether on a busy train, out for a run or writing a guest article (*raises eyebrows*), mindfulness can be practised simply by tuning into the here and now. You may wish to focus on the breath, as previously discussed, but giving attention to bodily sensations or the sights and sounds around you can also help. For a detailed guide on presentness in everyday life, I recommend this article.
And, just as you’ll begin practising in meditation when thoughts begin to arise simply tap back into your environment/breath/body. There is no rulebook, and that is one of my favourite things about mindfulness. It’s as simple as focusing on the here and now.