I recently wrote an article on mental health for the charity “Youth Mental Health Matters”, who work with young people in the UK. I hope this serves people well. Of course, it's also for anyone who considers themselves older than "young".
Below are the video and audio versions, and the article should be on Youth Mental Health Matters’s website later this week.
If we are experiencing emotions like depression, anxiety, fear, guilt or worry, it's very easy to become stuck in our own heads. We can get stuck believing that every thought we have is who we are, and that every negative thought that pops up in our minds must be true.
To start to find a little bit of relief, there is a tool that is always available to us and yet very easy to overlook...
At first this might sound silly. How can my breath take me out of all of my bad feelings?
Instead of thinking about what the result will be - what's possible and not possible, just try this little experiment.
Breathe fully, ten times. In and out counts as one time. It doesn't have to be super deep, and it's much better if you are sitting down, without anything else to do for about a minute.
10 breaths. We are always breathing, but how often do we pay attention? Usually our attention has become a slave to thoughts and attitudes that have either come from the society around us, or have come from our reaction to it. Sometimes it’s good to unplug from our minds and from the world, even if it’s only for a minute.
Here’s what can happen:
You breathe fully in and then relax as you let your breath out. Easy. Then you do it again. Easy. Then you do it again, and your mind will want to think about something else. Your thoughts will say something like "this is boring" or "this isn’t working" or "do something else". Or it will just feel as if your mind wants to think about something else altogether. Sometimes it's as if our active minds have become so addicted to activity, that the idea of being silenced frightens it.
But you just carry on. It's only ten breaths. You count your breathing until you reach ten, and then perhaps you do a few more breaths if you feel like it. Perhaps you do ten more. If you ever feel lightheaded or dizzy from breathing too deeply, that's a sign to slow down and not breathe too forcefully. Just breathe normally, in and out.
You might notice a little bit of space inside yourself, or around your thoughts and feelings. You might notice a little bit of ease. You might just notice a gap before your mind is reactivated with its cycle of thoughts. Or you might not notice any change at all.
This little easy practice seems insignificant, but even if you did it twice a day - once in the morning, once in the evening, all of these little practices and their micro effects would begin to swarm together, team up and build a mental health promoting effect that you may not have predicted.
It will make you aware that as you go through your day, the dense emotional energies or thoughts inside of us are not the only things that exist. There is more to us. Our breath is a formless doorway into the realisation that while we have all of these thoughts and feelings swirling around inside of us, we are the ones that can see them. We are the awareness in which they move, and they have been claiming far more importance and truth than they really deserve.
Try it out for a week. Ten breaths in the morning while sitting. Ten breaths in the evening while sitting. If you feel no benefit after a week, then the only downside is you will have oxygenated your body a little bit more than usual, and oxygen is the most useful thing you can give your body and mind.
I hope that's useful for you. If you’d like to hear more from me, head over to my free resource for inner peace - InnerPeaceNow.com, where I have plenty more blogs, audio recordings and videos to share. Thanks for reading.
All the best,