The Woolwich Observer

Get started with mindfulnes­s

- The Woolwich Counsellin­g Centre provides education to promote emotional and mental wellness for individual­s, families, businesses, and others in Woolwich and Wellesley

Things that give our lives meaning – work, family, friends, hobbies, community – can also be a source of significan­t stress. Our brains can easily become overwhelme­d, and we can feel like we are “spinning” —waking hours are filled with constant planning for the future, ruminating on the past, or just getting through the daily grind.

The good news is you can help yourself reduce your stress and anxiety by learning to slow down your brain.

Practicing mindfulnes­s is a powerful way to take care of our personal mental health. Mindfulnes­s is about being in the moment and gently bringing our awareness to the here and now. It can help reduce anxiety, depression, and chronic pain while helping you feel more rested, relaxed, focused, resilient, energized, and joyful.

The first step toward reducing your stress and anxiety is being selfaware. You need to be able to identify stress and tension in your body if you are going to reduce it. If you don’t know what stress and anxiety feel like, you won’t recognize calmness. The opposite is also true. The more you are aware of relaxation, the sooner you will notice that you are stressed.

Bring your awareness to your body; begin by finding a comfortabl­e sitting or lying position in a quiet environmen­t. Notice tension in your muscles, notice your breathing, pay attention to what is going through your mind. Key advice: don’t react to your observatio­n. Try to remain a detached observer.

The second step is to slow down the brain.

You can use all your senses. So, for example, notice your breathing; notice the air flowing in and out through your nose, feel your chest and stomach rise and fall. Listen to the sounds around you and feel your body in its environmen­t – the ground beneath your feet or the clothing on your skin.

Even if you can only keep your attention in the present moment for a second or two before you become distracted with thoughts about the past or future, scientists tell us you are changing your brain. When your brain is in the present moment it is much “quieter” and this will also be reflected in your body. The more stressed and anxious your brain and body is, the harder this exercise will be, but don’t give up. Even when you get distracted and your brain fixates on all the “what ifs,” when you bring your awareness back to the present moment, you are changing your brain and reducing stress.

Practicing mindfulnes­s need not be expensive or time consuming. In addition to the above exercise, consider these activities to slow down the brain and relax: Colouring, knitting or other crafts, walking, taking a hot bath, painting by numbers, reading quotes, bird watching, or completing a crossword.

Know that you can reduce your stress and you can do it right now. Take a few minutes and repeat mindfulnes­s exercises throughout your day – it will be the best gift you can give yourself and others.

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