Mindfulness and self-care

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By Jennifer Springham, @jlspringham2
Joint Appointment: Lecturer in Mental Health and Practice Development Lead, My Care Academy. 

Last week was self-care week, and although we should be looking after ourselves all of the time, it was a helpful reminder for me to check in with myself and evaluate my own strategies for keeping well. Particularly now that the weather has changed and deep into a busy new term of teaching. 

Mindfulness is the ability to focus your awareness on the present moment, paying attention to thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. I was inspired having read Joanne’s blog reflecting on her time as a newly qualified nurse, and how Mindfulness helped her with managing stress. I realised that I had neglected practising Mindfulness for a long time, even though taking it up in the first place had really changed my life for the better.

I got into mindfulness 5 years ago when I completed a Kindness Behaviour Training course at my local Buddhist centre. During this 8 week course, I learned that Mindfulness can be done at any point of the day and can be incorporated into what you are already doing. For example, mindful walking, eating, or taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to sit somewhere quiet and focus on your breathing. Sitting on public transport is a good opportunity to do this. That said, it is not for everyone, some people have said they haven’t felt the benefits yet, or simply do not get round to it. Mindfulness is a skill, that improves with practice and consistency, and starts with being able to take a few minutes out of your day to pay attention to the present moment. 

There are lots of choices of guided meditations, and everyone is different in terms of their preferences and what works well for them. There is growing research on the benefits of Mindfulness on health and wellbeing when practiced consistently. The NHS Apps Library has a list of apps that include Mindfulness, some paid and some free. After reviewing some of the free ones I decided I liked the Feeling Good app the best. There is a gentle introduction to Mindfulness and a choice of guided meditations for relaxation or resilience building. And personally, I love the guitar picking in the background. The idea is to listen to these meditations regularly, depending on your activity. Having a variety of meditations are nice, however it is also good to find a guided meditation that you really like as you’re more likely to listen to it again.

If you are interested in trying Mindfulness there are lots of resources out there. You could try out an app, or sign up for a Headspace account where you can learn the basic techniques for free. Or you can set a reminder to take at least 5 minutes out of your day to feel more grounded. I like the forgiving nature of Mindfulness, no matter how long you leave it, you can always go back to it. 




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