It is mental health awareness week as of the writing of this blog post. Mental Health Awareness week, which runs from 11th to the 17th May is run by the Mental Health Foundation. The Mental Health Foundation is a Charity that helps to improve the lives of those with mental health problems or learning disabilities. The Mental Health Foundation is involved in research, service development and providing information on mental health.
If you wish to see the video. Below is the video version of this blog post
I feel Mental Health Awareness week is important for quite a few reasons, the first reason is obviously raising the awareness of mental health and it does not have to be on mental ill health. I once had a discussion with mental health campaigner Fiona Art who specified that mental health does not have to centre itself around those who are unfortunately mentally unwell or those with live experience.
We all have mental health, be it if we are unwell, coping or in adequate health. The problem is, are we aware of our own mental health and if we are aware, what are we DOING about our mental health?
Reasons for Mental Health Awareness Week
The problem is when we become mentally unwell perhaps due to stress, depression or anxiety, then we sometimes can face an uphill battle to use the tools of exercising our mental health in order to recover. Sometimes being aware of our mental health can come too late it reaches chronic levels.
This is perhaps the second reasons why Mental Health Awareness week is important, not only to raise awareness of mental health, but also to remind us that we should focus on our own mental health once in a while.I am no expert of mental health and I am not afraid to admit it, although I am a carer of someone using the mental health services. Ever since I took on the role as mental health carer, it was not long before I began to question certain things. These questions were very thought provoking as I wondered how was it possible for someone to become unwell. I then asked myself if this could happen to me under certain circumstances. Eventually I looked around and noticed so many were risking their own mental health by pushing themselves through difficult and demanding circumstances.
Being Aware is Mindful
It can be so easy to risk our own mental well-being, especially for carers who are on the front line trying to care for someone who unfortunately is suffering either physical or mental ill health. Carers too can often face anxiety, depression, frustration and anger. If we do not recognise the tools to aid us through difficult times then our mental health could reach chronic levels.
So the theme for Mental Health Awareness week 2015 is “Mindfulness”. As a reminder mindfulness does not mean it is only for those suffering mental ill health. Mindfulness is for everyone, be it if you are well, unwell or recovering. Too often in the west, we feel the answer to wellness is to take a pill or some form of medication.There are very good reasons that medication is the process of recovery or even trying to cope/survive with ill health. However to just take medication and not use other forms to combat mental ill health can have its disadvantages.
The Role of our emotions
Mindfulness can be a useful resource to aid the mind in good health. This is where we can use methods and techniques to focus our attention on the present and also measure how well we are coping. With mindfulness we can focus our attention on our emotions, even if our emotions are out of control, then at least we are AWARE of them. If we are not aware of our emotions then we can risk emotions getting out of control.
One of the core aspects of psychiatry is to observe how people behave and if someone is mentally unwell then a good way to observe them is through their emotions, although as a warning we are all unique it is not 100% that because someone behaves differently or expresses their emotions in a different way that this shows they are unwell.However what is important is the role of our emotions on our mental health. Mindfulness also does have its problems as it can be difficult to measure its success rate, but for those who use it as a tool, it can offer some form of mindful health benefits. So what are the tools of mindfulness?
Here is a list of techniques and tools that involve mindfulness.
Without a doubt, when someone thinks of mindfulness, meditation usually springs to mind. You do not have to be an expert and meditate for hours. You can even meditate while doing other things. Meditation has many purposes, but the more you meditate, the better you get at it. The point to meditation is to notice yourself, especially on what you are thinking about while trying to still the mind. In fact its not always possible to keep the mind quiet or even focus on a sound, but that does not matter as long as you are aware.
Positive Mental Attitude
We fail. We are humans after all, so we are bound to make mistakes, errors or misjudgements. With a positive mental attitude you can accept who you are and where you are going. You less likely to criticise yourself or others. Developing a positive mental attitude can come from books, self study or even by attending courses. Stating you deserve a break and that you can respect yourself is an example of a positive attitude.
The mind can rush from here to there. I bet even now while you are reading this, you are also thinking about paying the bills or planning some shopping. THis tool can be used as a form of meditation, but to be self aware is often very difficult. To practice quietness, we need to be in the right environment. Usually when there is less noise.
A very difficult, but useful technique for mindfulness. You do not have to be aware of yourself, but even be aware of your surroundings. There are few things worse in life than being automatic all the time. Ever heard the saying that “We are human beings and NOT human doings?”. It is difficult to be aware, but when you are doing the dishes, stop and think what it feels like as the water splashes on your hand. When you are walking down the road, stop and think how the air brushes across your face. Its the small things that can make a big difference to know you are alive.
Practising a form of Yoga
The mind alone is powerful, but with the body the mind can be a force to reckon with. There are all types of yoga and there are levels of expertise. Yoga helps keep the body flexible and while practising yoga you get to utilise the mind while keeping difficult or even basic positions.
Again we breathe automatically and only when someone mentions the idea or breathing we then begin to focus on how we are breathing. Believe it or not, most people actually do not regulate their breathing so well. Especially those who are quick to anger or are frustrated all the time. Notice next time how easy it is to have short quick breaths while angry. It is important to work on our breathing and posture in order to enhance mindfulness.
To be alive is a great thing, but to be present and be alive is a life worth living. Time moves so fast, but it is tragic to realise this when you are at an old age. We as humans are always thinking about the future. We are always wanting something and when we get it, we want something more. All we need to know is that we should try to be in the present. We are here and that is what can make a different to life. The past is gone and there is little we can change about it. The future has not arrived, but the present is where we need to focus on.
Taking on a new path
I certainly hope that I have educated someone out there on the importance of mindfulness, maybe they can begin a fantastic Journey on to the road of mindfulness. This only a fairly basic blog post on the issue of mental health and mindfulness and I encourage many to check out the Mental Health Foundation site.