Mental Health

Mindfulness For Mental Health

It’s common to feel like your brain is going a mile a minute. Before you can finish your first thought, you’re already thinking of the second. This may be especially true when it comes to negative thoughts. The good news is, there are strategies you and your care recipient can use to help disrupt this negative thought process.

Woman meditating

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a practice used to learn how to be fully present in the moment, on  purpose, and without judgment. When practicing mindfulness, a person is aware  of and accepts all body sensations, feelings, and thoughts.  

  • Awareness. In a state of mindfulness, a person will notice their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations as they happen. This includes even the  smallest sounds heard in the room, or clothes felt on the skin. The goal isn’t to  clear the mind, but to become aware of thoughts and feelings instead of getting  lost in them.  
  • Acceptance. People are encouraged to observe thoughts, feelings, and  sensations non-judgmentally. Instead, they’re invited to simply note what  they’re feeling with no need to judge or change the feeling. 

Examples of mindfulness exercises include deep breathing, yoga, and meditation.  

Benefits Of Mindfulness

  • Self-compassion and self-acceptance
  • Increased mental clarity
  • Reduced symptoms of stress or anxiety
  • Reduced physical symptoms like chronic pain or high blood pressure

4 Activities For Mindfulness

Writing down thoughts as they come can help people explore their feelings in a
healthy way. It can also identify what negative thoughts are coming up so that they
can consider how to reframe them into a more balanced perspective. Journaling
can look like simply writing thoughts as they come, or using prompts like:

  • What are the emotions I am feeling right now?
  • What are the top 3 things on my mind?
  • What am I hoping for?
  • What 3 things am I grateful for today?

Stories or scripts are available to listen to. These help a person explore their thoughts or concentrate on relaxing. Use an app or YouTube to find guided meditations or other mindfulness practices. You can search terms like:

  • Guided meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • If you’re looking for something creative, you can search for art mindfulness
    or meditation.

These allow a person to practice being mindful by noticing and focusing on
sensations that come with deep breathing. Follow these steps:

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes if you’d like.
  2. Breathe in through your nose for 3-5 seconds. Breathe out deeply for 5 seconds.
  3. Focus on one part of your breathing. For example, notice your belly rising
    and falling as you inhale and exhale deeply each time.
  4. Consider what it feels like. Is it uncomfortable? Relieving? Focus on those
  5. If you get distracted, welcome and consider each thought or sensation
    without judging it as good or bad. Redirect yourself gently to your breath
    again when you’re ready.

Deep breathing can help slow down breathing, heart rate, and the nervous system,
helping to bring calm back to the mind and body. You may set a timer to encourage
practicing for a certain amount of time. Start small and work your way up. For
example, start with 2 minutes and add one minute each time as you feel comfortable.

This exercise involves tensing and relaxing muscles mindfully and purposefully. The person focuses on isolating each muscle, squeezing it, and relaxing it one by one while noticing how it feels. It can also help relieve muscle tension caused by stress. Start by sitting in a comfortable position. Remember to breathe slowly throughout. If you feel pain with any of these movements, stop and try another
muscle group. This shouldn’t be painful or strenuous. Work your way through
the following body parts:

  • Eyes: Squeeze your eyes shut as tight as you can. Hold for 10 seconds. Count to 10 in your mind to help you recognize the length of squeezing time for the next steps. After 10 seconds, relax your eyes.
  • Shoulders: Raise your shoulders all the way up to your ears, or as high as you
    can. Squeeze your shoulders up hard and keep them tight for 10 seconds. Then relax. Check in with yourself. What sensations do you feel?
  • Hands: Squeeze your hands tight into fists. Pretend you’re squeezing a lemon. Squeeze for 10 seconds, and relax.
  • Thighs: Cross your legs and squeeze your thighs together for 10 seconds. Remember to keep a steady breath. After 10 seconds, relax.
  • Feet or toes: Push your feet or toes into the ground as hard as you can for 10
    seconds. When you’re ready, relax and take 3 deep breaths.

Expert Tip

Incorporate 2-10 minutes of mindfulness exercises into your daily routine to help maintain the practice. This can help train your brain into thinking more mindfully and disrupt negative thought patterns.

Woman laying down meditating

Additional Resources

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    Caring For Your Mental Health While Caring For Someone Else’s

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    20+ Ideas for Managing Caregiver Stress

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    Dementia Caregiver Checklist

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