'Mindfulness' is something spoken about a lot these days. With rates in youth depression and anxiety constantly on the rise (and my personal theory that depression is a little contagious) it's a really important thing to practice. Mindfulness is a kind of mantra-like mental tool that was taught to me by a psychologist, various philosophy readings, books and other miscellany in my life. I have been lucky enough to come across the message of mindfulness almost constantly, which has reinforced it in my mind so much and been invaluably helpful in helping me out of some really rough mental patterns. Yet, I know that not everyone has this kind of luck. So I thought to myself (after reading this INCREDIBLE post by Zoe London) perhaps I need to spread the message. Zoe writes about the importance of spreading positivity, and so this is me trying to do my bit today.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is something that comes with a lot of definitions. Whether these definitions originate in Eastern or Western philosophy, ideologies or practices like CBT it all generally comes down to the same idea: To be mindful is to catch negative thoughts, patterns and practices and recognise them for what they are before letting them spiral out of control. When you catch a thought you stop allowing it to possess you. You stop letting it take over how you're functioning. By grabbing it by the tail-feathers you give yourself the power to change it. Otherwise it might just run away with you.
I really the way vlogger Jason Aaron Davies lays out a step-by-step program to dealing with anxiety/ies in THIS short video:
How does it work?
Whenever I start to think negatively, I try a few things depending on how strong the feeling is. I either catch myself, I tell myself that it's just a thought not worth thinking about. Sometimes I even roll my eyes and think, 'that's boring/not an issue/do something else'. Other times, if the negativity really hurts, I try to tell a friend or my sister, or someone else. Talking it out can be really helpful. Just saying something as simple as, 'I don't feel very well today, I'm not very happy' can relieve SO much weight, and even get rid of the thought. Also, the people you tell can aid in grounding you, getting you out of your head and helping you realise that what you're thinking has little to no basis in reality.
Another tool I try to use is to visualise the thought disappearing. My philosophy lecturer from university once used a great metaphor when teaching us about Zen. He said that we can watch our thoughts pop 'like bubbles in the air'. Remember that it only takes 5 seconds to get from one moment to the next, breathe in, breathe out and close your eyes imagining that negative feeling/thought popping in the air. Another tool taught by psychologists is to imagine the thought burning or being flushed away down the toilet. Whichever image you can hold onto most strongly is probably the ideal image for you. Oh look, it's gone. What was that thought? Who cares. It wasn't worth holding onto. The weight of possessing it was not worth the negative impact of the thought.
The du'a Method:
In the Islamic faith a "du'a" is a prayer and act of "calling out", seeking guidance or help from Allah. I feel that this can be applied also to those of us who aren't Islamic, but are in need of guidance and help.
In the below video Saad Tasleem says that, when feeling jealous, we can counteract our emotions by praying that whoever we are feeling jealous of receives even more goodwill. Thus, rather than acting on jealous behaviour we put out positive feelings and train our minds to act with positivism and goodwill. So, when we are feeling sad, anxious, etc, can we not also search for the root of our issue and attempt to invent a counteractive du'a?
A few weeks back I wrote about Mantra, and the act of replacing a negative belief with a positive by properly developing that positive belief, using something 'real' to latch onto - like an experience which was once tangible.
When we feel awful, why not try to counteract this by praying or telling ourselves that we wish happiness onto ourselves? Why not suggest that we, just like everyone else, are deserving of this? It's true. You, just like your best friend, brother, sister, mother, father, etc, are thoroughly deserving of happiness no matter what you have done, or how you have made yourself believe you are not. You are.
You don't need to punish yourself. No matter what. You don't need to hate yourself, it's not worth the energy. You don't need to believe that you're a failure & grip onto that belief. Remove that idea from your mind, remember that it takes five seconds to go from one moment to the next. Count those seconds, 5,4,3,2,1. Breathe. Relax. Watch your thought drifting away and let them pop like bubbles. Visualise the bubbles. Remind yourself to do the things you love and wish yourself and everyone you know peace, luck, love and happiness.