Hygienic practices for mental health are the things we do on a regular basis that promote and maintain good mental health. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness or not, we all can do things that contribute to our mental and resiliency. Some common practices are taking a morning walk or run, spending time in prayer, or listening to an affirming and uplifting podcast. Whatever you are doing that fortifies your mental health, keep doing it. But if you haven’t incorporated a meditation practice, may I you to begin with mindfulness.
Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” I describe it as paying attention to where you are, what you’re doing, and what’s happening within and around you, right now…in the present moment.
Mindfulness and other meditative practices have increased in awareness and popularity in recent years. It is being taught in schools, prisons, hospitals, and fortune 500 companies. One can hardly read or listen to anything wellness without it being mentioned. I even see our children’s favorite cartoon characters practicing mindfulness…and there is good reason for it.
Mindfulness has been linked to reduced stress and anxiety, decreased depression, lowered blood pressure, increased emotional regulation, memory and sleep, and cognitive improvements. I can personally attest to many of these benefits.
I was trained in mindfulness during a difficult time in my marriage and experiencing serious challenges with my daughter. I’ve always had my faith, but God also gave me the gift of mindfulness when I needed it most. Mindfulness didn’t replace my faith…it increased my faith and became another way I honor God with my faith. It kept me from replaying scenarios in my head and my emotions from going off the rails. I have continued the practice on the other side of that trying time in my life, and it has helped tremendously at keeping my tendency to worry at bey.
Now that you know some of the benefits of mindfulness and how it has been a blessing in my life…let’s give mindful breathing a try:
Set a timer for 60 seconds. With your eyes open or closed, whichever is comfortable for you, take a moment to notice your breathing. Don't try to slow it down or speed it up, just notice the normal pace of your breathing. Say silently to yourself “inhale” when you inhale, and “exhale” while you exhale to help keep you focused on your breath. Notice the air flowing in and out of your body. Do this until the 60 seconds are up.
There…you just practiced a mini mindfulness meditation. You can extend the length of your practice over time and there are many other ways to be mindful. However, mindful breathing is a good place to start, and you don’t have to do it alone.
I will be launching Mindful Meditations Summer 2023. This will be a non-judgmental and supportive community space where we can grow in our mindful practice together.
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