It’s a sad fact of modern life that we spend much of our time living in the past or future instead of fully appreciating the present. We are either ruminating over things which happened in the past, which we can’t change, or fretting about an imaginary future which might never happen.
Mindfulness is about developing a quality of present moment awareness and becoming more in touch with ourselves, with other people and the world around us. Its roots lie in ancient religious and philosophical traditions from around the world but in recent years it has increasingly been recognised as an invaluable stress management tool, particularly when used alongside meditation.
The fast-paced nature of today’s world has made it increasingly difficult for us to switch off. Smartphones, the internet and social media have created a culture in which we’re always on the go and where people have multiple ways of getting in contact with us at any time of the day or night. The result is that our brains have become overstimulated, over-anxious and over-reliant on other people’s feedback and approval.
Mindfulness enables us to slow down and to find a state of internal stillness and quiet. It is the practice of being aware in every possible moment, while keeping a non-judgmental outlook and, at the same time, observing your own bodily and emotional responses. By practising mindfulness we cease to be a slave to our own thoughts and the emotions that they generate.
At Phoenix we can teach you a wide range of mindfulness techniques and practises which you can incorporate into your everyday lives to help you become more grounded in the present.
These can help with:
Stress is one of the great epidemics of the modern age. We live in a society that is over-anxious and burdened with worry. The financial crises of recent years have taken a huge toll. An austerity-driven agenda of relentless cost-cutting has led to vast swathes of job losses, zero-hours contracts, mass unemployment plus burgeoning workloads and longer hours for those “fortunate” enough to have kept their jobs. The cost of living has continued to rise whilst wages have been squeezed, leaving many people worse off than they were a decade ago.
To put it bluntly we’ve become trapped in our fight-or-flight mechanism which our ancestors only used as a response to life-threatening situations. We’ve become like cars which have been driven with the accelerator pedal rammed permanently to the floor until the engine blows. That’s what happens to your body when you ignore the early warning signs of stress and try to keep battling on at full throttle. Don’t ignore those warning signs. They’re there for a reason. The smoke coming out the engine is trying to tell you something. It’s time to get help. Mindfulness can help us to break the habits of unhelpful rumination and worry so that we can slow down, become more grounded and start to live our lives with a greater sense of internal peace and harmony.
MANY people suffering from stress or anxiety also have depression and it’s extremely common for the two conditions to go hand-in-hand. Some people still think that depression is trivial but they’re wrong. Depression is a real illness with real symptoms, and it’s not a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by just “pulling yourself together”.
The main thing to realise is that you’re not alone. Many famous people have battled depression, such as JK Rowling, Buzz Aldrin, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Jim Carrey and actor Robin Williams whose tragic death in 2015 catapulted the subject into the public eye. One of the biggest problems faced by sufferers is the fact that depression is an invisible illness. Unlike, say, a broken leg, the effects aren’t visible to the casual observer. But that doesn’t make it any the less of an impediment. If anything, it makes it worse because there’s little support or sympathy. Mindfulness can help by making us less self-critical and more accepting of who we are and what we are.
Because of our increasingly stressful lifestyles, more and more people are turning to forms of substance abuse to make themselves feel better, but the tragic reality is that alcohol and drugs only ever make things worse. Yes, they might provide us with a very brief and temporary sense of euphoria or stress relief but these effects will soon wear off and leave us feeling even worse than we did before. Addiction takes many forms – it’s not just about smoking, drinking or drug use but also gambling, shopping, computer gaming and even Smartphone addiction. We’re living in a culture of instant gratification which leaves us constantly wanting more. No matter how much you have, you’ll always be chasing the next product, the next model, the next iPhone, the next car, the next job or the next episode of a TV show. Our binge culture has left us addicted to the feelgood chemicals serotonin and dopamine and we’re constantly looking for more of whatever gives us our personal hit. Here at Phoenix we have a strong track record of working with addiction and with helping young people in particular to break bad habits and turn their lives around. Mindfulness is one of the key tools in the Phoenix arsenal, helping our clients to find a greater sense of internal harmony and wellbeing without dependence on external sources of stimulation.