Friday, 26 January 2018

Using Mindfulness In My Recovery // Self Care 101

I am a big fan of meditation and mindfulness. I used to attempt to meditate when stressed in high school and college but fell out of the habit fairly soon because I was of the mindset that if I was doing something other than studying, I was wasting my time. Nowadays, I know that this mindset is damaging and wrong and so I try to set aside a good amount of time for self-care. One of my favourite methods of self-care is mindfulness. I fell back in love with mindfulness when I was attending a low-mood therapy group, run by my university counselling service. My counsellor/therapist recommended me to the group when I first started attending counselling with her and I turned up, reluctant that group therapy would help me, but hopeful nevertheless. At the end of each of the group sessions, our group therapist would tell us all to get comfortable and close our eyes before she ran us through that session's mindfulness practice.

The feeling that comes from mindfulness is hard to explain and I imagine it is different for each of us. For me, mindfulness makes me feel rested and very calm. I feel carefree and almost as though I am suspended in the space around me, and that nothing else is happening in that moment other than the practice. This feeling mostly comes when I am attending a mindfulness class with the person leading the practice in the same room as me and surrounded by others practising mindfulness with me. However, I have found apps to also be incredibly useful to get in the practice at home!

The way in which mindfulness helps me in my recovery and control of my depression is how it treats thoughts and feelings. You have a negative thought or feeling, such as self-doubt, you acknowledge that it is there and that it is okay to think or feel like that in the moment, but you do not have to accept it. It is about noticing the thought or feeling without automatically accepting it. By practising mindfulness more, I hope to apply this ability to notice and acknowledge my negative self-beliefs without accepting them and taking them as truth.

My favourite mindfulness apps

This is possibly the most well-known mindfulness app out there! It has some free features but it's really really good on the full subscription. My friend paid for a full year and gave me a code for a free month of the full package and I'm so gutted that it's about to run out because all the programs that I find really helpful are in the paid version and I can't afford it at the moment! I love the range of programs available on the paid version of the app and I love that you can set a reminder for the app to get you to meditate each day!

The free version of this app is wonderful. There is a good range of programs and the app is super easy to use. However, as with Headspace, you need to pay to get the full potential of the app. One feature of this app which is not found on Headspace is its music section, which features a collection of instrumental tracks lasting about an hour each. They are categorised with purposes such as 'sleep', 'focus' and 'relax' and there are a handful from each section which are available on the free version of the app. Another feature is its Sleep Stories feature, which is a section full of bedtime stories "to help you fall into a deep and natural sleep". I usually fall asleep to podcasts but this is a lovely idea with a similar approach! They are all narrated with soothing voices, especially the one narrated by Stephen Fry!

This app has a lovely layout! It has three main sections; 'meditate', 'breathe', and 'wisdom'. In the meditate section you can choose your discipline, instructor voice, and the duration of the meditation. This allows you to meditate flexibly, making your session as short or long as you have time for. The breathe section features three breathing exercises to calm, awaken, or heighten concentration. It features live instructions along with a visual representation of the breaths to keep you on track with the exercise. I have found this feature to be very useful! Finally, the wisdom section contains videos and audios with advice and lessons on meditation, excessive thinking, and the world around us. The most individual feature of the app, however, is the home screen. It features, at first, a sapling. The more you meditate, the more the plant grows until you have grown a tree.

This app is a gem! The first thing you do when you enter this app is check in with yourself. The screen dims for 10 seconds while you close your eyes and think about how your mind and body feel. You let the app know how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally. They then recommend exercises for you based on your results. This includes meditation, breathing exercises, soundscapes, walks, and more. This is super easy to use and is currently my favourite app for mindfulness and self-care! I think it's super useful to check in with my emotions before diving into a mindfulness activity and it gives you a wide range of recommendations based on your check-in, so you have plenty of options!

To Be Continued

I am about to attend an 8-week intensive mindfulness course (combined with CBT) through my university counselling service. I will update you all with my progress through my weekly Pull Yourself Together posts and I will definitely do a follow-up to this post after I have completed the course and have an even more in-depth knowledge of mindfulness!

Let me know if you have any app recommendations or if you try out one of these! I hope that you are all well and that you enjoyed this post!

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