Our thoughts and beliefs shape who we are, how we see ourselves, others and the world around us. But often, how we talk to ourselves is a root cause of many of our problematic issues.
The Mental Health Foundation say; “nearly two thirds of us have experienced mental ill health at some point in our lifetime” but also… only 13% of us live life with “high levels of positive mental health.” Some pretty poor statistics, I’m sure you can agree however; many things usually don’t have to be as ‘bad’ as we perceive them to be.
We all know what it’s like to feel stressed, but it’s not easy to pin down exactly what stress means. There’s no medical definition of stress, and health care professionals often disagree over whether stress is the cause of problems or the result of them. (mind.org.uk)
Often we can think differently about things, when we make that choice. Too often we compound issues by the way we process our thoughts. The way we think about our response to events and circumstances. Often our thoughts can be irrational and present negative impacts and outcomes, we talk ourselves into difficulties.
The inappropriate or irrational words that we choose to use in our mind but worse, we then ruminate on those ‘poor’ choices and compound the problems. Often it’s not the events and situations that cause us the real problems, it’s more about how we choose to think about them and what feelings and emotions we attache to those thoughts.
What’s all this ‘Mindful’ Tosh?
Within the 5 Steps to Mental Wellbeing, there is a common question which asks; “is your mind full or, are you mindful?” Almost immediately many seek to dismiss Mindfulness as “fluffy nonsense” or a “trendy hippy fashion” but it’s not just a passing fad.
Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training. Mindfulness is derived from sati, a significant element of Buddhist traditions and based on Zen and Tibetan meditation techniques. (wikipedia.org)
Today’s Mindfulness practice is a combination of age-old traditions, the efficacy of which is now backed by science. It has been researched, developed and subsequently endorsed by the NHS, amongst others. It also forms a constituent part of The Five Ways to Wellbeing – a set of evidence-based public mental health messages – aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of the whole population. A policy born in commissioned research and part of the Government Foresight Projects published in 2008.
Mental capital and wellbeing: making the most of ourselves in the 21st century (Oct 2008). A Foresight report looking at how to improve mental resources and mental wellbeing through life. (Gov.uk)
It’s way too easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. We all do it, even more so amongst those who live their life with a constantly competitive edge to their working day. But even outside of the work environment, too many continue their competitiveness in their lifestyles.
You’ll see lots of things with the word “mindful” attached, but not all mindfulness courses are the same. (bemindful.co.uk)
The NHS promote Mindfulness as a valuable intervention for stress, anxiety and depression and acknowledge; paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing (read more).
Should we be mindful of mindfulness? It has been prescribed by the NHS for depression since 2004 but recently mindfulness has spawned a whole industry of evening classes and smartphone apps. What is the evidence that the practice – part meditation, part CBT – works? (The Guardian)
Mental-health & Self-medication
Often people resort to substances to manage their mental-health and wellbeing. Either as part of clinical interventions including prescribed medications but also, as a form of self-medication process with substances sourced from street dealers and the Dark Web. A dangerous process often at the root of many addictions, and all of which can have significant impacts on individuals, communities and our wider society.
Before deciding to take any medication, not least those designed to alter your mental state, it’s important to ensure you have all the facts (read more) you need to make an informed choice.
It’s worth noting; once you have started taking any drug, particularly ones that are designed to alter your mental state, you might find it difficult to stop taking them in the future. Many people can and do become addicted to prescribed medication and, the longer you have been taking a drug, the more likely it is that you will experience withdrawal effects and find it harder to stop.
NOTE: If you’ve been taking prescribed medication and you want to stop using it, you should always seek advice from a doctor, an addictions specialist or appropriate health-care professional. There could be a danger to your health. Some drugs can and do cause withdrawal effects. Particularly if you have been taking them for more than 2–3 months.
Mindfulness isn’t the answer to everything and as with all thinking, it’s important not to let enthusiasm run ahead of evidenced research.
The mind is always running ahead of the evidence… it’s a bit like predictive texting and we all know how that can go wrong – Prof Mark Williams
And on this subject, the last words go to… Professor Mark Williams, the Founding Director and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre in this YouTube presentation (1hr 22mins) filmed at an Action for Happiness event in London on 21 Jan 2015.
Further Information & Resources
The following links and social media clips are interesting but importantly, should also help to support your additional learning…
- What is Mindfulness? – More than ever before people are talking about mindfulness but, what is it and how can it help? This resource from Mental Health Foundation explains more and in detail. It also provides an online mindfulness course, amongst other resources. (bemindful.co.uk)
- NHS Mindfulness – part of the NHS Moodzone which includes self-help strategies, online stress assessments, explains more about talking therapies and provides case-study information etc. (www.nhs.uk)
- The Five Ways to Mental Wellbeing – another part of the NHS Moodzone resource looking at stress, anxiety and depression. (www.nhs.uk)
- The Mental Health Foundation – Dedicated to finding and addressing the sources of mental health problems. (www.mentalhealth.org.uk)
- The Oxford Mindfulness Centre – The OMC works to advance the understanding of evidence based mindfulness through research, publication, training and advocacy. (www.oxfordmindfulness.org)
- The OMC Research Group – Department of Psychiatry (Medical Sciences Division), Oxford University. (www.psych.ox.ac.uk)
- Action for Happiness – Movement of people building a happier society by making positive changes in their personal lives, homes, schools, workplaces and local communities. (www.actionforhappiness.org)
- UK SMART Recovery – Self-Management and Recovery Training – Providing a secular science based combination of techniques to address all addictive behaviours. (www.smartrecovery.org.uk)
Mental Health Awareness
Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation the 2019 Mental Health Awareness Week will take place from Monday 13th to Sunday 19th May 2019. The theme for this year is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.
Our thoughts and feelings around body image feature heavily in the foundations in many aspects of today’s poor mental-health issues. In a world that advocates self-promoting imaginary (the so-called ‘selfies’), too many people are constantly pursuing and craving social-media acceptance and adulation. When the ‘likes’ don’t arrive or worse, they disappear in the fickle flash of fashion, many find that fact difficult to comprehend and deal with.