Life can be hard sometimes, and everything can be grey. But it’s important to look for the light within, to carry you through to brighter days. Learn how to be your own sunshine to break through the dark clouds.
In this modern day and age, mental health issues are becoming more prevalent, with approximately 1 in 4 people experiencing some sort of mental health problem each year (see Mind.org.uk). Moreover, statistics reveal that the way in which people deal with mental health problems is getting worse. This is shown by an increase in the number of people self-harming or having suicidal thoughts. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that we find coping mechanisms to help us through hard times, and also to reach out to others who are suffering – we can simply do this by offering an ear or sharing with others our own methods of staying sane.
Having battled with my own mental health since my former teenage years, and having experienced an untimely bereavement, it is surprising that these days I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I see beauty in things I did not before, I see light and love in abundance, I see kindness, and above all I SEE right now. The present moment. The here and now. After all, this is all we have. It is so easy to get hung up on the past, or dwell on the future. But all of this is irrelevant. The past has already happened and is unchangeable. The future may not happen. All we tangibly have in this world is this current moment right now. The moment after you’ve experienced something, or noticed your experience, is the moment that it ceases to exist. Being present in the current moment is one of life’s gems. In the here and now, there are no past mistakes to haunt us, or worries of what the future holds. There is only this current experience of existence. When we realise this, we can be free.
My new found joy for life or happiness let’s say, is mainly a result of three important practises in my daily life; Discipline, Ritual, and Mindfulness. Encompassed within these are the practices of meditation and yoga – my saving graces.
You might hear people rave about this and think it’s nonsense, but trust me, discipline sets you free. Discipline comes in many forms, but for me it is about showing up daily to my Yoga Mat, sitting down for 10-20 minutes a day to meditate, and a freezing cold shower in the morning. If I was feeling down before these practices, I won’t be by the time I’m finished with them. In my journey with mental health, Yoga was the first thing I came across that made a difference to me. I would say this this is where it all changed. There is something about Yoga, and If you’ve done it before, you’ll know what I mean. It is an incredibly special, and also – if practiced traditionally – spiritual practice. A place to truly connect and be with the self, a moving meditation, and a space in which you can observe your thoughts and bodily sensations, (hopefully) non-judgementally. The latter comes with time and practice. Yoga has numerous psychological and physiological benefits, and – I believe – something for everyone.
These should be little things that make you feel good and bring you joy. It can also be lovely to make your rituals a multi-sensory experience. For example, a favourite ritual of mine is bathing. I indulge my senses with candles, essential oils and bath salts. Involve some mood lighting to create a soothing environment, and if you’re into it, get a crystal in there with you too (see crystals and bathing guidelines first though). As humans, it feels good to indulge our senses. Try adding smells to your rituals for a little boost. Another ritual I swear by is journaling. Journaling is a platform upon which you can express your inner-most feelings in a totally non-judgemental place. This can be an incredibly cathartic release. Written therapy, if you will. Sometimes I find myself caught up on something, and after a journaling session, it seems trivial. What I’m trying to say is writing something down can be the equivalent of ‘getting it off your chest’ verbally. Try it next time something is on your mind. It could be the release you need. If, like me, you’re into the sensory experience thing, light a stick of Palo Santo or a candle, for some good vibes.
The above rituals and disciplines involve perhaps the most important practice; mindfulness. Now, this is an incredibly powerful tool. If you don’t know how to practice mindfulness, try a guided meditation course. I recommend Headspace’s ‘Basics’ course or Sam Harris’ ‘Waking Up’ course. Adding mindfulness to your daily routine allows one to become more aware of the inner workings of the mind. After continual practice, you will be able to detach from that critical little voice inside your head, and simply observe it. Bliss, right? Be patient though, this takes time.
So, if you’re going through a rough time mentally, or even if you’re not, try adding a little discipline, ritual and mindfulness to your day and see what happens. You might never look back.
If you’re interested in seeing content about yoga for mental health and other yoga-related stuff, please check out my Instagram page @isayogini where I share my journey.
By Isabella Whitaker