For many of us a new year is a chance for a fresh start. Our bodies take a bit of a battering over the festive period when we overindulge on food and booze, so it makes sense to try and start the year with a healthy approach to eating and by trying to increase the amount we exercise.
But what about exercising our minds? In my opinion it's just as important to focus on our emotional and mental well-being as it is on our physical fitness. After all, 1 in 4 adults are likely to have a mental health problem in any year (1).
Mindfulness is a simple form of meditation originating from Buddhism. It typically involves sitting upright in a chair with your feet planted on the floor and can be practised alone or in groups. The idea is that you pay attention to your thoughts and feelings in the present moment rather than worrying about the past or the future. There is a focus on acknowledging your thoughts without judging them, whilst tuning in to the 'breath'.
You might be thinking, "Pfff! I don't have time for all that deep breathing meditation mumbo-jumbo." But just before you swipe off the page, you might want to consider that there is a growing body of evidence which shows that practising mindfulness can result in a reduction in stress, anxiety (2) and depression (3). It is also now recommended by The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), guidelines used by doctors, as a treatment for recurrent depression disorder.
Why not give it a go? I found that the Headspace app was an easy place to start. It delivers 10 minute guided meditations and you can sign up for a free 10-day trial. No matter how busy you are, surely you can devote 10 minutes a day to your emotional well-being? To learn more about mindfulness, visit bemindful.co.uk set up by the Mental Health Foundation charity. So instead of spending loads of cash on a personal trainer or a gym membership you probably won't use, why not invest in your mind?
If you are worried you might be suffering from stress, anxiety and depression then I would encourage you to discuss this with your GP.
1. The Health & Social Care Information Centre, 2009, Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, Results of a household survey 2. Stefan G. Hofmann, Alice T. Sawyer, Ashley A. Witt, Diana Oh. The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Therapy on Anxiety and Depression: A Meta-Analytic Review. The Journal of Consulting and Clinic Psychology 2010; Apr ;78(2):169-83 3. Clara Strauss, Kate Cavanagh, Annie Oliver, and Danelle Pettman, Mindfulness-Based Interventions for People Diagnosed with a Current Episode of an Anxiety or Depressive Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. PLoS One. 2014; 9(4): e96110