Mental Health Awareness Week this year focuses on not simply how many people live with metal health problems, but asks why so few of us thrive in good mental health on a daily basis. With an increasing number of us struggling to cope with everyday demands and living by just getting through the day; the aim of this awareness week  is to establish the difference between surviving and thriving, what the government can do in relation to mental health issues, and what steps we can take to thrive rather than just survive.

Good mental health is more than the absence of a mental health problem (Mental Health Foundation)

In a podcast the Mental Health Foundation, discusses what they mean by Thriving or Surviving in life.  Surviving being the term used for just getting through the battles of the day believing that stress, anxiety and other mental health problems are what we have to put up with in order to, well, survive.  Where as thriving is about living life to the fullest; it is simply not the absence of mental health problems but contributes to the way we feel, behave and enjoy ourselves daily.  Thriving is about accepting life’s challenges and taking control by intentionally living life and engaging with activities that bring energy; purposefully navigating through life rather than living on autopilot.

They describe how stressful periods in life are universal and that to some degree or another we will all encounter difficult times, where life is a struggle, a treadmill that is difficult to enjoy, but that resilience and using resources available to us can enable us to move through these periods.  However increasingly we are left without the resources and are unequipped for the challenges of modern life.

Resilience and resourcefulness are dependent on  many thing for example, an individuals background and previous life experiences, their up bringing and social support network.  These qualities are not fixed and fluctuate throughout life, however can be increased by lifestyle changes and specific techniques.  One specific technique which is growing in scientific evidence and popularity is mindfulness.

Mindfulness helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that, instead of being overwhelmed by them, we’re better able to manage them, through techniques such as meditation, yoga and breathing (Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990); cited by the Mental Health Foundation).

In a recent BBC documentary on stress, Fiona Philips explored the perception, experience and management of stress and looked at MRI scans of the brain to see what happens when we allow our mind to wander (60% of mind wandering tends to be negative) versus mindfulness.  Through this imaging it was clear to see that the functional parts of the brain during each activity were significantly different and demonstrated how mindfulness can bring clarity and reduce the running commentary that goes on in our brain which can be overwhelming and unhelpful.

Evidence has suggested the benefit of mindfulness to health and wellbeing, with results showing positive effects on several aspects of whole-person health, including the mind, the brain, the body, and behaviour, as well as a person’s relationships with others.

If you or someone you know would like to know more about Mindfulness, Rowan House are pleased to welcome Gemma Sandwell from The Happiness Branch on Tuesday 30th May.  Gemma will be giving an introduction to mindfulness practice and will be giving a few mindful living tips.

To sign up please email: thehappinessbranch@gmail.com