Are you a worrywart or nervous Nellie? Maybe you thought by now your stresses would be behind you. Or perhaps you are concerned at the fast pace of change around you. Well, relax, because there is an easy, drug-free way to replace racing thoughts with calm ones – mindfulness.
Mind Australia, which helps people improve their natural resilience, describes mindfulness as “learning to rest your mind and body by focusing on the present moment”.
There are a few ways of practising mindfulness, from concentrating on your breathing to meditation. You can do it alone or with others, and you can do it anywhere you know you will not be interrupted for a few minutes.
The results are immediate and with daily practice, the calmness stays.
“By learning mindfulness, it is possible to ease stress and learn how to live with troubling thoughts,” according to Mind Australia. “It allows you to acknowledge these thoughts non-judgmentally, that is without dwelling on them in a negative or positive way, before letting them go.”
Meditation expert Theresa de Riggs, who operated Akasha Retreat in outer Melbourne for a decade, told YourLifeChoices around 40 per cent of her clients were older than 65.
“Being in the present moment means your worries are far from your thoughts, because those two ways of thinking cannot co-exist at the same time,” Ms de Riggs said.
“Worries are memories of things that happened in the past and the fear or projection of what might happen in the future.
“Mindfulness helps older people to reflect back with wisdom rather than judgement, so that the thing that is making them anxious becomes less of a worry,” she said.
The easiest way to relieve anxiety is to sit in a quiet spot, make sure you are warm and comfortable and close your eyes. Take a long, slow breath in and visualise it entering your body. While you hold for two seconds before exhaling, imagine the breath travelling to all parts of your lungs. Slowly breathe out and visualise the air leaving your body. Repeat multiple times.
If you prefer to be guided through a relaxation technique, consider these five, smartphone apps rated highly by Mindful.org:
Stop, Breathe and Think: if you have never meditated, this app is for you. It explains the thinking behind mindfulness and slowly guides you through simple techniques
Mind: this app is suitable for beginners. It uses soothing sounds to guide meditations, which can last anywhere
Omvana: for those who like to mix it up, this app offers variety. There are more than 70 free meditations to choose from
Aura: asks your age, and how stressed or happy you feel. Then depending on your mood, it personalises a three-minute meditation to complement or improve your outlook
Headspace: this one offers themed meditations depending on your current needs – whether it be to sleep or overcome the fear of flying. The sessions are kept short for busy people.