5 ways to practice mental wellness in (about) a minute - Pt 1Sunday, September 19, 2021
By MARSHA J GOODEN
WITH headlines screaming the number of people infected or dying in this pandemic, not to mention the hassles with Internet connectivity to complete school and work obligations, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Granted, there's more talk of taking care of our mental health, but how can we do this in a real way? A mindful minute?
I'm not using the term mindful in the strict sense, as it relates to mindfulness, the practice of being 'present' in current experiences. A mindful minute involves a simple activity we can do to think positively, relax, and ultimately behave more adaptively in about 60 seconds. Here are five ways to have a mindful minute whether you're sitting at your kitchen table doing classes or back at work:
1.Deep breathing — Breathing from our abdomen reduces our heart rate and blood pressure leading to feelings of calm and relaxation. Sit upright or stand from where you're having that umpteenth Zoom meeting; just make sure you're comfortable. Imagine your lungs are balloons that you're filling with air. Each time you inhale slowly through your nose and count from one to four, filling your balloons. Then you exhale slowly from your mouth, counting backwards from four to one as the balloons deflate. This allows you to take about eight breaths per minute.
2. Repeat a positive quote — This comes in handy at the end of a class or a meeting when you need a little push to endure your busy schedule. Positive quotes such as Marcus Garvey's “If you've no confidence in self, you're twice defeated in the race of life” appeal to our need to achieve more and overcome obstacles. Such artful use of words powerfully engages us to believe that there's an 'other' who is spurring us on which acts as an incentive. Bible verses are also useful. Practice repeating a positive quote to yourself whether aloud or in your mind for a minute and see how you feel afterwards.
3. 5-4-3-2-1 technique — This focusing exercise assists you to intercept racing thoughts and anxiety by attending to each of your senses. If, like me, you get distracted when you're supposed to be getting that assignment done, this technique can definitely be useful. Get in a comfortable position standing or sitting. Breathe slowly and think of:
•Five things you can see or would like to see
•Four things you can feel/touch or would like to feel/touch
•Three things you can hear or would like to hear
•Two things you can smell or would like to smell
•One thing you can taste or would like to taste.
Slowly work through each sense and embrace what you're experiencing in your body in the moment. Repeat if necessary.
4. Prayer — Used for centuries to connect with what we consider sacred and supernatural such as God, some people say it's just like having a conversation with a close friend. It may involve giving thanks, asking for guidance, or simply seeking peace. Research finds that prayer helps us manage anger, encourages forgiveness and provides a wider perspective from which to understand a situation. Whether you're religious or not, you can take a break from what you're working on and say a short prayer for about a minute such as the Prayer of Serenity or formulate one of your own.
5. Compliment someone — This takes the focus off yourself and the hassles of being in this pandemic era by expressing kindness to others; however, it has benefits for the recipient and you. Kindness is linked to the release of oxytocin, sometimes called the 'love hormone', which increases our sense of connection to others, trust, pro-social behaviours and even reduces our bodies' stress response. Giving others genuine compliments also improves our relationships. All it takes is a minute to say something kind to someone near you or send a DM instead!
Have a mindful minute right now! It's easy…just slow down and commit to completing the activity. Yes, it may feel a little weird at first, but with practice it's easier and you'll feel more comfortable. Also, if you'd like help processing any challenging thoughts, feelings and behaviours, contact your nearest counsellor or mental health professional. Let's go forth and be mindful!
Marsha J Gooden, MSc, is an Instructor and Licensed Associate Clinical Psychologist at Northern Caribbean University.