A Time to be Mindful

Mindfulness has become an invaluable method for improving mental health. Focusing on purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, it is proving invaluable in helping people feel happier and more at peace.

We asked Rachel Dean Williams, from the Fishguard area of Pembrokeshire, why she believes this is a practice that can benefit everyone?

“Mindfulness is something that we can all do,” she explained. “We are  naturally innately mindful; we have the ability to be present and aware of what’s going on inside, outside, and all around us, all at once. It’s all part of being human. Unfortunately we spend most of our days being anything but mindful. Our minds are constantly pulled into the past or future (worrying, planning future events or ruminating, regretting past events) and we end up re-living and pre-living the past and future in the cinemas of our thinking minds. 

“Life is becoming more frantic and we’re simply not designed to cope with such chaos on a daily/weekly basis. According to the World Health Organization, burn-out is now officially a disease, and they predict that by 2030, mental health will cause the biggest burden out of all the health conditions, including heart conditions and cancer.” 

Rachel maintains that it is  now becoming more essential for us to pay attention to our mental health on a daily basis. “We tend to our oral heath each day by brushing our teeth,” she says. “ But what do we do to take care of our brains?

And Rachel should know. Training with the world’s leading mindfulness institutions, in Bangor and Oxford, she has been practising mindfulness, meditation and yoga since university days and has continued to work with children and young adults from all walks of life and with a wide range of challenges for some time.

Resilience and wellbeing are cornerstones of her teaching and she believes they are essential in supporting us through the many challenges of life.

We asked her for some advice on managing our mental wellbeing.

“Anxiety asks: ‘What might happen in the future?’ and depression dwells on past mistakes. Both of these can be counteracted with an increased ability to be in the here and now, the present moment.  When we’re grounded and calm, we’re able to work through emotions and memories in a healthy way.

“Mindfulness meditation builds upon concentration practices. Here’s how it works:

Go with the flow – In mindfulness meditation, once you establish concentration, you observe the flow of inner thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations without judging them as good or bad.

Pay attention – You also notice external sensations such as sounds, sights and touch that make up your moment-to-moment experience. The challenge is not to latch onto a particular idea, emotion or sensation, or to get caught in thinking about the past or the future. Instead, you watch what comes and goes in your mind and discover which mental habits produce a feeling of wellbeing or suffering.

Stay with it – At times, this process may not seem relaxing at all, but over time it provides a key to greater happiness and self-awareness as you become comfortable with a wider and wider range of your experiences.

Practice acceptance – Above all, mindfulness practice involves accepting whatever arises in your awareness at each moment. It involves being kind and forgiving toward yourself.”

“Some tips to keep in mind:

Gently redirect – If your mind wanders into planning, daydreaming or criticism, notice where it has gone and gently redirect it to sensations in the present.

Try and try again – If you miss your intended meditation session, simply start again.

“By practising accepting your experience during meditation, it becomes easier to accept whatever comes your way during the rest of your day.”

Rachel works with adults and young people, both in groups and individually. If you would like to know more, contact her: racheldean29@hotmail.com; 07968447462.

Kitty Parsons

Kitty Parsons

Kitty is an incomer, with five summers under her belt and the knowledge that even the wettest and greyest of winters have not diminished her love of Pembrokeshire. She knows she will never live long enough to be considered a local but hopes to leave some small mark through writing about this beautiful county and its people.

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