The term ‘mindfulness’ is being used more frequently these days, there are even individuals that teach mindfulness for a living- but what exactly is mindfulness and can it replace pharmaceutical medication for common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression? As per with most prescribed medications, the most common tablets for relief from these mental health conditions may have severe side effects. Although in some cases, medication is required for full recovery. It may be an idea to consider trying alternative methods (or alongside therapy/medication) if you are struggling with your mental health.
Learn more about mindfulness in this post from Thrive, a UK based organisation that supports individuals, who may be struggling with their mental health, and companies looking improve their employee well-being.
Mindfulness, in fact, is a type of mental state one can reach through becoming focused on the present moment while accepting one’s feelings and thoughts. It is a therapeutic technique that is on the rise in popularity as a way of reducing stress, depression and anxiety. There are a variety of techniques that can be practised to achieve mindfulness including typical meditation (which can be done in different ways), deep breathing exercises, deep muscle relaxation therapy, therapeutic colouring, yoga and more.
Being mindful is said to be a lifestyle that requires no new skills, it simply enhances the ones we already have. Mindfulness is not based on beliefs, but evidence. Both science and experience shows the benefits mindfulness can have on an individual’s life, whether it’s their mental health, work stresses, home life or even money problems. It is a different, positive way of seeing life.
For those who would like to attempt mindfulness, here are five tips to help you get started-
Notice what you are doing when you lose concentration and zone out, for example when you are driving, and you can’t quite remember how you got from A to B- Concentrate on being more aware when you are next doing this activity. Focus.
Savour things- whether it’s a taste, a feeling or looking at something beautiful. Focus solely on that, the present moment. Try to do this at least once a day, to begin with, slowly increasing the number of times; this will then begin to happen naturally.
Do one thing at a time, try to prevent multitasking if you can help it; this will achieve focus purely on that task and allow you to complete it to the best of your ability with no distraction, however- ensure not to rush this either
Don’t worry about the past or the future, simply focus on the present. By concentrating on the present moment, instead of panicking about the if’s for the future, you’ll find yourself a lot more at ease with life in general.
When talking to somebody, make sure you are fully present. Do not let your mind wander off, ensure you are really listening to what the other is saying, don’t think about what you want to say next, let the conversation flow naturally.
There’s no denying mindfulness and meditation is an effective, proven method to help millions of individuals overcome stress and anxiety helping to find their inner peace. What about those millions of people who meditation doesn’t work for? Whether lack of time or lack of concentration, there are numerous reasons why meditation won’t work for everybody. Most people visit their GP straight away to get medication that can actually increase suicidal behaviours. 
There are plenty of different alternatives if mindfulness meditation doesn’t work for you, including Progressive muscle relaxation.
Deep Muscle relaxation otherwise known as Progressive muscle relaxation, is a proven method of relaxation. There are numerous different areas in which deep muscle relaxation is beneficial. It can help for those with both psychical and emotional pain. The method was originally explained by Edmund Jacobson in the 1930’s who claimed that mental calmness is linked with psychical relaxation.
Depression and anxiety are actually relatively common in the modern age, over a quarter of the British population will experience some type of mental health issue during their lifetime. This is due to increase of different factors such as poor diets, lack of sleep and stress. Deep muscle relaxation will significantly reduce some symptoms linked to depression, anxiety, panic disorders, stress disorders, PTSD, OCD and Insomnia. Throughout history, deep muscle relaxation has been reported to help those with insomnia; some claim it works as well as sleeping sedatives but without the side effects.
In a study of the technique and the benefits for one affected by panic disorder, it was shown to reduce stress and panic in 38% of patients with no other techniques involved. It has also been found to help those with PTSD as sufferers tend to be more on edge and jumpy however the technique will relax your entire body in time. In a 2009 study, it was found to reduce anxiety in those with acute schizophrenia. Progressive muscle relaxation not only benefits those affected by mental illnesses, it also reduces long-term physical pain.
According to breastcancer.org, the technique can actually reduce nausea, vomiting, anxiety and depression linked to cancer or treatment. A meta-analysis and fifteen published controlled clinical trials (found on camcancer.org) among patients undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy has shown that in 14 out of 15 studies reviewed progressive muscle relaxation was proven effective in significantly reducing nausea, pain, anxiety and depression. It also helps those who suffer from chronic headaches, high blood pressure and digestion issues. It can also slightly increase dopamine levels (which regulates movement) in Parkinson’s patients.
The technique causes the ‘relaxation response’ which decreases your heart rate to a steady rate, slows and deepens your breathing, stabilizes blood pressure, relaxes muscles and therefore results in your body beginning the healing process. Deep muscle relaxation is a simple technique which can be carried out almost anywhere and usually only takes 10-20 minutes to complete. It typically includes inhaling, contracting a muscle starting lower and working up holding for 5-10 seconds and finally exhaling while releasing the muscle.
Here are a few more natural things you can try to ease the symptoms of your anxiety or mild depression.
Although it is advised that medication be explored for moderate to severe depression as there is little to no evidence suggested that the prior stated ways to support recovery are effective – they may be worth a go alongside or beforehand!
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