R U OK? - Mindfulness and Mental Health with Kylie Humphreys

In our line of work we often see clients who are going through difficult times. Today is R U OK? Day which is dedicated to empowering everyone to meaningfully connect and support anyone who may be struggling.

We recently heard Kylie Humphreys of Head & Heart Mindfulness speak about the benefits of mindfulness and felt it was an opportune time to share some of her insight.

Benefits of Mindfulness

There are so many benefits of mindfulness! I use mindfulness as a way of living my life to help me calm in stressful times, to really enjoy the happy times and to notice the beauty in my surroundings and experiences. The practise of mindfulness:

·         reduces stress and anxiety

·         prevents depression and reduces symptoms of depression

·         increases our stress threshold and improves resilience

·         improves our working memory

·         increases positive thinking, feels and emotions

·         enhances overall well being

There are 5 core components of mindfulness, following is a brief outline of each of these areas. I urge you to consider how these activities and ways of thinking can be of benefit to you when life’s difficulties arise.

1.       Attention

Mindfulness is all about paying attention. When you are mindful you pay attention to and are aware of what is occurring in the present moment. You are aware of your thoughts, physical sensations, emotions and feelings in the moment. Paying attention to all of these things enables you to be more self-aware. In difficult situations, the moment can be a refuge, as it gives us a break from thinking so much about the past or the future. Take time to practise mindful breathing, mindful looking and mindful listening as a way to help you stay focused and paying attention to what is happening right now.

2.       Open awareness

This component of mindfulness involves becoming aware of our judgements and labelling things as “good” or “bad”. When we are aware of our in-built automatic thought patterns for judgement of others and ourselves, we can practise letting go of these. Our judgements have the capacity to keep us stuck in certain ways of thinking and behaving – often having negative effects on our mental health and other areas of our lives.

3.       Acceptance

It’s not always easy but accepting our current experience as it is, without trying to fight against it and change what is out of our control can improve our ability to deal with difficult situations. It takes the power and effect of the struggle and fight away. Simply thinking “It is what is” or asking yourself “Can I change this?” and accepting the current situation can relieve stress, worry, anxiety and depressive thoughts.

4.       No Identification

This is all about your thoughts and not identifying with them. When you bring no identification into your life you accept that thoughts are just that, thoughts and they aren’t always reality. It takes the power that the thoughts can have over you in stressful times away when you realise that not everything you think is true. We often make up storylines in our mind of the future or replay scenarios from the past getting carried away, forgetting or not noticing certain details. No identification also brings awareness that you are not the emotion or the thought. Practise being aware of your thoughts and feelings, giving them less power, not playing in to them as much and notice how you feel.

5.       Choice

When you are paying attention to the present moment you are more aware of what you are thinking and feeling in a situation. This can help in difficult situations of times of stress. You become able to notice negative thoughts or unpleasant emotions when they start to arise, acknowledge them, breath to help yourself calm and then make a positive choice to the situation or your thoughts. This reduces our automatic patterns to respond, often negatively, which can be bad for relationships and your own mental health and wellbeing. 

Each of these 5 core components can be hard to get your head around and build into your way of being. As someone who has practised mindfulness and meditation for 14+ years, I still find this hard at times. The components above have now become automatic due to training my brain to think a certain way with mindfulness. Be kind to yourself, keep practising, celebrate your success in applying these components to your own life and over time, your mental health and well being will improve.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness information can be found on Kylie’s website www.headandheartmindfulness.com.au and in her new online learning course Mindful Living https://mindfullivingonlinelearning.thinkific.com

Shaw Bunner