Recently I’ve been reflecting on my mental wellbeing. I am blessed with sound mental health. Having seen so many people I care about, of varying degrees of closeness to me, really find life difficult at times, I’ve come to realise that this is something that I should not take for granted under any circumstances. I’ve realised that if I do, I may start to neglect it and damage my mental health. And it’s so important that I don’t do that.
My favourite way to chill out is to whack on some Zero 7, or The XX. Then hand me a pen and paper and let me write with a candle burning, and some fluffy socks.
I’ve also started to meditate.
It’s one of those things that I always thought I should do. You know the stuff. If I eat clean, if I do yoga and if I meditate, it makes me a better person who is adulting well.
***NEWSFLASH*** none of that last sentence is true.
Having said that, I do feel that my little forage into meditating is having nothing but positive impacts on my life.
Historically when I’ve attempted meditation I’ve thrown the towel in because in my eyes, I’ve failed. Pretty strong belief, huh. See the thing is, I always felt that not being able to switch off and focus on “nothing” was failing. And believe me. I DO NOT switch off with ease. It takes A LOT of gin to make that happen.
I’ve now returned to it (meditation, not gin) and I cannot begin to express how differently I now perceive it.
A week or so ago I downloaded the head space app. Go and download it now. Don’t bother reading the rest of this. Just download it. It’s a subscribed service but there’s lots of free content too.
Now the first thing that struck me about this app when I downloaded it was that it very much talks about meditation as a practice that you need to, and can, get better at. YAY! It doesn’t matter that I suck at it!
The second thing I noticed was that the meditations in the basic course were no more than 10 minutes, and even then you can choose between 3, 5 or 10 minutes. This was news to me. It’s something I’d always believed you had to spend at least half an hour on. No wonder it had repeatedly been going so badly for me!
When I then played the first meditation session, I found it so easy. As a beginner, 3 minutes was more than enough. And guess what. No-one yells at you if your mind wanders. In fact it’s even encouraged at points.
My favourite thing about this app though, is the guide’s voice. He has a voice that is so easy, and in fact a pleasure to listen to. There’s no gimmicks. There’s none of this “fake soft meditation voice thing” that so many people insist on and fail to realise how distracting and annoying it is for the rest of us.
I’m enjoying my little wander into the world of mindfulness so much, I found myself agreeing to go to a meditation class on Sunday night with a friend. The class was in a dimly lit room at the back of a beauty salon, filled with comfy chairs and candles. I’d been told it was an hour long which seemed pretty daunting at first, but actually the structure of the class made that quite comfortable.
The first thing we did after a little round up of how everyone was feeling and finding out about people’s experience of meditation, was a short “warm-up” meditation. This was just a simple 10 minutes to bring you into a more relaxed state for the rest of the class.
I’ll be honest – this felt weird at first. Being sat in a room, with your eyes closed with a bunch of strangers is weird. You feel so vulnerable. But it wasn’t too bad and the 10 minutes flew past!
After that we were about to do a body scan. This is a meditation where you focus on your body. You work from your head down and focus on any aches, and then try to work through any niggles.
We started at the top of our head, and although by this point I was used to breathing deeply with my eyes closed in a room full of strangers, I couldn’t help but feel that this was weird!
We were told to focus on the top of our head and be aware of any sensations. Well, I couldn’t feel a thing. I’m sat there wondering what the hell I was doing and desperately trying not to laugh! As I was told to draw my attention down through my body, I still wasn’t getting anything, although I could feel myself getting heavier and heavier in my chair. They were either trying to hypnotise me, or I was getting attention bloody good sleep for a fiver!
And then we hit the lower back. Nothing major, but I’d been feeling a little ache throughout that day. And as I continued to breathe deeply and focused my energy on breathing away the pain it went.we carried further down. The next bit for me was my left leg. I suffer from unexplained tingling in it regularly so it would be interesting to see what would happen now.
Once again, I focused on breathing the sensation away and out of my body. And it worked. Now I’m not saying I’ve found the secret of healing, but it sorted out a tiny niggle in my back, and my tingling subsided until the next morning. It’s nice to get a little respite.
After the body scan we were asked how we felt. I could pretty much sum the experience up as, powerful and better than a glass of wine!
I will definitely be returning and I will definitely be keeping up the work I’m doing with the head space app.
Whatever your mental wellbeing looks like, look after it. I really believe that meditation can help with that.