Being out in nature is tremendously healing: even a walk around the local park can lift our spirits. When we’re feeling anxious and stressed we feel small and tight, like a tightly wound spring. Everything can feel as if it’s closing in on us. Being outside in nature immediately helps us to feel lighter and part of something much larger that ourselves. It’s a connection with this sense of space that is so healing. If you are prone to panic attacks, look up at the vastness of the sky and feel open and big. Remember, even when it’s a cloudy day, above the clouds is the spacious blue sky.
Our minds are wired to find problems and difficulties – even if there aren’t any, our mind will invent some! It’s only trying to protect us from danger, but the problem is we listen too closely to its catastrophic predictions and believe the scenarios it paints. To rewire this catastrophic thinking, take time to stop what you’re doing and make a mental list of all that you’re grateful for in that moment, even if it’s just the sound of birds or the feel of the ground beneath your feet. Try writing a ‘gratitude journal’ for ten days. Before you go to sleep write down three things that you’ve been grateful for during the day, no matter how small.
STILLNESS AND MEDITATION
Find some time, once a day if you can, for stillness and meditation. Maybe you could do it first thing when you wake up, when you get home from work, or before going to bed. It doesn’t have to be for long – ten minutes is fine – but just find a few minutes to be with the breath. It doesn’t matter if you notice that the mind is full of chatter – just softly observe and then come back to the breath. Being in the present moment and just watching the mind without entering into or identifying with the drama is a great way to build emotional wellbeing and resilience. And if you really can’t fit it in everyday, try twice a week and build from there.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Sometimes we are so much in our heads that we forget to listen to important signs from our body to slow down and take care. It could be the onset of pain, headaches or the continual merry-go-round of coughs, colds and minor ailments. When we’re stressed, inflammation in the body increases and hangs around. Our immune system becomes compromised and we become more susceptible to catching viruses. Stop and listen, acknowledge what your body is saying to you and work out when you can take time out for yourself. Perhaps an early night, relaxing massage or fresh air will help.
DITCH TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS
The energy we pick up from others is important for our wellbeing too. If you are subject to constant negativity or feel you can’t be authentic around some people and feel unsure of their judgmental nature, then maybe it’s time to recognise that this relationship no longer serves you. Better to have one or two close and supportive friends than lots of friends who create drama and don’t feed your soul.
SORT THOSE FINANCES
Money is something we rarely talk about and consider even less when contemplating mind, body and spiritual wellbeing. However, money is an important aspect of our wellbeing and not just about having more to spend! Being wise with your cash can help ease anxieties and worries, and the more you are aware of your finances the less your finances will get on top of you. Sort out all your necessary outgoings and see where any saving can be made. Set some savings aside for rainy days or car repairs and live on the rest. Stay within your budget and don’t borrow unless you absolutely have to.
TIME AWAY FROM THE SCREENS
Computers at home, computers at work and even computers on our phones – we cannot get away from them and being continually connected and in touch can be stressful. We have a strong compulsion to respond immediately to emails and texts and marvel at the perfect lives others are leading on Facebook. Being in contact with others is great, but over-connectedness is not. Try and have one evening a week when the computer, TV, iPad and phone are switched off. Maybe read a book, play a game or listen to music.
WATCHING THE NEWS
Much of the news is depressing and tragic and fills us with a sense of fear and uncertainty about the world. But there are so many things happening in the world, so who decides what’s a newsworthy item and what’s not? Think about reducing the amount of time you spend watching the news and instead find news sources that are positive and life affirming. A good one is www.positive.news.
Finding some time to be fully present, in a non-judgmental way, is a great way to reduce anxiety. Often when we are doing tasks, our minds are caught up in thinking about the future or ruminating about something in the past and we’re never fully present with what we’re doing. How many times do we do the washing up or drink a cup of tea, and twenty minutes later can’t remember if we’ve done them or not! It’s because we’re not fully present with the experience. To be present we have to make it our intention to be so – our mind will not automatically do it. Then use the senses of touch, taste, sight and sound to be fully aware of what’s happening. Yes, thoughts will come in but be aware of them without judging them, then bring yourself back to the present moment. Drop some mindfulness into your day and notice the difference.
Don’t take yourself or life too seriously. Find time to be with friends and laugh. You can even join groups such as laughter yoga, which encourage you to laugh, even if nothing funny has happened! Very soon you are genuinely laughing and feeling so much better for it. You can do it by yourself in your own home too!
Kathryn Buxton has been meditating for the last twenty years, and trained as a meditation teacher with the British School of Meditation. She is the manager of the Isbourne College where she runs classes in mindfulness and meditation, as well as tutoring on the College’s flagship course Introduction to Holistic Living. She also runs regular retreats in the Cotswolds and works with several local businesses to support their staff wellbeing. For more information see www.spacious-mind.co.uk or www.isbournecollege.org