News and events Blogs Reconnect through Mindfulness by Heather Oakman I am a retired Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) as well as a Carer for many years; first for my Mother and now for my Husband.I have been practising Mindful Meditation for over 50 years – that’s right half a century. My Father taught me to help me cope with caring for Mum. Fate intervened and I was lucky to build on this with further training devised by Mark Williams for the NHS. Thus my course was set to teach as many people as possible to use this useful coping strategy, not just for stress reduction but to enhance everyday life. I have been teaching it since the 1990’s,firstly within the NHS and currently, since retirement, at Gateshead Clubhouse, where I run a weekly drop in as well as an 8 week course. I have also provided this course for carers in the past at Crossroads. Enough about me, let’s get to the interesting bit – Mindfulness! It’s been around for as long as mankind has been in existence. We do it naturally (just watch a 3 year old), but alas as we are programmed into society, with all its’ stressors it gets forgotten about. Mindfulness reconnects us with the World and Ourselves by using Meditation and breathing techniques to enable us to be aware of the connection of Mind, Body and Soul – all the bits that make you You. It helps to bring us into the present moment, aware of thoughts, feelings and our needs to keep ourselves well. It wakes us up to the world around us so we can see the little things around us that can bring small moments of joy that can be missed in the hustle and bustle of daily life (especially in a caring role). We often live in “Automatic Pilot” without being aware of what we are doing or thinking. This can lead to low mood and unhelpful coping strategies. By waking ourselves up through Mindfulness we are able to choose what actions we take. Mindfulness consists of Formal and Informal practises: Formal - the meditations and breathing practises that help develop this awareness.Informal - being fully present during everyday activities to experience life, whether it is the feel of rain or sun on your face or the taste of the first cup of tea of the day. Mindfulness Meditation has proven useful in coping with anxiety, depression, bereavement and pain (as well as enhancing everyday life). It is very good for coping with negative/difficult experiences (thoughts, feelings and events). There is a lot of research on the internet to back this up, from Michael Mosley to the American Marines (although they call it Mind Fitness). Let’s give it a try: Mindful Breathing – the main focus in Mindful Meditation Sit comfortably, without slouching. Support your back if you need to. Close your eyes if it feels comfortable for you. Place you hands on your tummy to enable you to be more aware of your breathing. There is no special way to breathe. As you are focused on your breathing you may become aware of thoughts, feelings, emotions or sounds. This is fine; just acknowledge them without getting involved or judging them. When you notice this has happened, gently bring your attention back to your breathing. Do this as often as you need to. It is normal. Start by sitting for a few minutes and gradually increase the time to a maximum of 15 minutes over several days. There are lots of Mindfulness exercises around and on the internet. Mark William’s breathing exercises are on YouTube for anyone to access as are the breathing exercises I use on the 8 week course and also the same ones the American Marines use. I hope you find this helpful.