5 more ways to practise mental wellness in (about) a minuteSunday, September 26, 2021
By MARSHA J GOODEN
IT was the end of class in my early days lecturing and, as usual, I felt overwhelmed with the students' loud chatter as they moved to their next activity or those coming to me for clarification about something. Enough was enough. I decided that we should replace this frenzy with a state of calmness and mental clarity. I was well aware that, as mentioned in my previous article, mental self-care can be practised in a simple activity or what I dubbed a mindful minute. It helps us to think, feel and behave more adaptively with the bonus that it can be practised anywhere and anytime with no one else even knowing.
Here are five more ideas for a mindful minute:
1. Gratitude – Gratitude increases happiness, empathy and reduces envy and aggression. It can even change your perspective of a current situation. One way to do this is by focusing on each gratitude point for a few seconds before moving to the next. Your gratitude point may be your relationships, completing that project, or you not getting in an argument with that co-worker who annoys you. Do this as you breathe slowly for 60 seconds and bask in your gifts.
2. Sing a song – As simple as this may sound, singing has several benefits such as elevating our mood and releasing endorphins or 'feel-good' hormones which reduce stress. Even if you specialise in singing in the shower, it doesn't matter (no one's grading you!). There are even more benefits when you sing in a group; this is a great mindful minute exercise you can use to end a class or meeting.
3. Reflect on your personal strengths – Some time ago, my former therapist asked me to list as many positive and negative aspects of myself as I could. Listing the negatives was a breeze, but searching for strengths produced a much shorter list! Deliberately reflecting on your strengths increases your sense of motivation, self-confidence, and ability to achieve your goals. Your strength could be anything from your sense of humour, resilience, caring nature, or leadership skills. I find this particularly powerful in setting a positive mindset when my students feel stressed with their workload. You may not realise, but you're stronger than you think, so take a minute, focus and name your strengths.
4. Stretch – Yes, exercise is good for you! When we are stressed, our muscles tend to get tense due to the body's natural reaction to challenges. Stretching allows the muscles to loosen and gives us a sense of relaxation. Here is a simple stretch I have practiced with my class for a mindful minute:
• Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
•Stretch both arms over your head while slowly tipping on your toes; hold that position for about 10 seconds (or until you feel uncomfortable).
•Slowly lower both arms while resting your feet flat on the floor.
•Lower your arms while bending over and try to touch your toes.
•Hold that position for about 10 seconds (or until you feel uncomfortable).
•Slowly stand upright and take a few deep breaths.
Breathe deeply as you stretch. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
5. Positive affirmations – Who do you say you are? Short, reassuring statements can combat the negative narrative that plays in our minds and motivate us to work towards that positivity. Slowly repeat short phrases that concur with what you deeply value within yourself or with your career aspirations. You may say these out loud or in your mind before you enter that nerve-wracking meeting. State them slowly in a calm, reflective state of mind. Try it for about a minute in a way that makes sense to you. For example:
“I'm focused on achieving great things.”
“I experience good health.”
Don't stop now! Take a minute and practice one! It's okay if you don't get it quite right the first time. Just practice and be patient with yourself. Or if you'd like a professional to help you process those thoughts, feelings and behaviours that challenge you, contact your local mental health services. The power is yours! Taking care of your mental health can start in just a minute. So go forth and be mindful!
Marsha J Gooden, MSc, is an Instructor and Licensed Associate Clinical Psychologist at Northern Caribbean University.
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