Wishing you a mindful Christmas
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Wishing you all a very mindful Christmas
When I was thinking about what to write for this column I decided to search the internet for “mental health news and Christmas”. The search results displayed many features on how to manage stress over the festive period and I felt discouraged. It seems that Christmas and the New Year are often only really considered for the struggles they bring rather than the potential for reflection, contemplation, love, fun, connection, relaxation and self expression. What did catch my eye though were the many references to Mindfulness and through the website for the Mental Health Foundation I came across an online training course in Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is something I know quite a lot about having started meditating nearly twenty years ago and have always found the more mindful based practices the most helpful. I have also enjoyed retreats and trainings to develop my practice and yet it is at times when I could most benefit from mindfulness that I can so easily end up doing other, arguably less helpful things with my time. And this Christmas is a difficult one for me, it is a year on since the death of someone very important to me and so naturally, as the anniversary comes closer, then I find myself experiencing difficult emotions and thoughts. My body is also showing me that it is a hard time, a cold, tense neck and shoulders muscles a few headaches and occasional sore tummy. So now really is the time for me to be particularly kind to myself and to call upon my mindfulness practice - yet the turbulence I am experiencing also makes this hard to do. I think this explains why this online training has attracted my attention and so I’ve decided that for the next few columns I am going to take the training and then share the experience.
The background information from the provider of this training, a website called www.bemindfulonline.org, states research conducted by Oxford University published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) reported 58% reductions in anxiety, 57% in depression and 40% in stress; so I feel excited and hopeful thinking about getting started. If you sign up you get free access to a short introductory video from the two Trainers Ed and Tessa. Watching this I find the trainers very reassuring, with what they say resonating easily with my experience of mindfulness. And I find I am really warming to this as an approach to learning, you can take this at your own speed.
Next is a short video introducing a pre-training test. In this Ed explains it will benchmark how you are experiencing and relating to stress to allow for comparison at the end of the course. Taking the test, I recognise the questions that are widely used to form generic tests for stress, anxiety and depression. As I complete the tests I am struck by how the last two weeks have been particularly hard for me and I am again drawn back to thoughts around the events and memories from the run up to my bereavement last year. A further video from Tessa acts to again reassure but also encourage continuing with the course. At this point though the free introductory element comes to an end and a fee of £60 needs to be paid before you can continue. I’m feeling curious so I find it easy to make the payment.
It feels good to be getting properly started and the first exercise is one I’ve done before - they call it mindful eating. What really strikes me is how distracted I am, how hard it is to focus and my awareness of this I find reassuring. I’m already starting to gain a sense of empowerment, I’m thinking I’m on to something that is really going to help me at this time. Pressing the play button again Ed and Tessa now introduce the tasks for week one. Again they are exercises I’ve done before but in hearing what I will be doing I start to feel more relaxed. I’m thinking it is as though I am being allowed to slow down, to go at my own speed. It is a bit like having someone who really really trust ask you what you want to do and then to have them give you reassurance that you really do know best!
So what will I be doing each day for the next week? The tasks are as follows firstly to eat a meal mindfully, secondly choose a daily task for the mindful treatment - mine will be cleaning my teeth and lastly a thirty minute guided mindfulness relaxation. It is going to be a busy time over the next week as I prepare for the Christmas break so I’m going to need a bit of will power. By the next time I write I will be able to tell you how it has been and what exercises were introduced for the second week. In the meantime from all of us here at Nicholas Rose and Associates we wish you all the very best for a mindful and enjoyable Christmas and New Year.