I just saw an article shared by Kay Sheldon on Twitter from the Telegraph – Knitting, crocheting and jam-making improve mental health, study finds and it got me thinking about mindfulness.
I’m certainly not an advocate of ‘go for a walk and get over it’ and I don’t believe Kay Sheldon is either, but there is definitely something in these kinds of activities. As part of a package, that is.
I have been learning all about Person-Centred Planning through some of our senior leaders at Home Group, my place of work. We have supported housing across the country for people with mental health problems (as well as individuals with learning disabilities and other care needs) and this is that they value greatly.
Person-Centred Planning, or PCP, is about tailoring a care plan to suit the person’s individual needs. As one of our directors, Audrey Mitchell put it, suggesting a personal goal of ‘finding your own accommodation and living independently’ might not ignite excitement and determination in everyone. It might be a little too generic. However, if someone’s dream was to, for example, have their own cat because they have happy memories of a childhood pet, they would more than likely need to have their own accommodation to allow them to do this. This would be a more personal driver to encourage independence. The outcome, ultimately, is the same.
And I kind of think mindfulness might be the same. The most talked about forms of mindfulness are probably yoga, colouring, meditation, etc. And, whilst I want to enjoy the benefits that mindfulness brings, these activities don’t particularly float my boat.
When I saw the article about knitting and jam-making, however, mindfulness immediately sprung to mind. The activities mentioned are creative, for sure, but they also promote mindfulness and being in the moment. And some people particularly love making jam or knitting. I remember a friend once telling me how he coped with a particularly stress day by baking enough varieties of cake to enter every single category in the Great British Bake Off. He is currently trying to talk me into pottery classes as another form of mindfulness. Which I am seriously considering (as long as I can get that bloody scene from ‘Ghost’ out of my head – yak).
So in my view, you can be mindfully creative, mindfully active, mindfully relaxed and mindfully laughing your socks off to Sarah Millican’s latest DVD (which I did the day after Boxing Day – and it helped bring me out of a week of feeling on edge and anxious).
I am mindful that being mindful, for me anyway, will not work in isolation. To promote good mental health, I also need supportive friends and family, CBT and medication, a good diet and a comfortable, safe place to live. However, I think it’s about time I put more effort into mindfulness. But when I do that, I am going to do it my way.
So, my mindful new year’s resolutions are:
Number 1. Start the day with some henpower
I have two fabulous clucking little hens who chatter continuously in the back garden. I popped out to see them this morning and it reminded me that I should be spending more time out there. Not only is the fresh morning air good for the soul, but chattering on to my two girls while feeding them corn from my hand definitely makes for a happy and relaxing start to the day. It’s mindful (they’re fascinating creatures to watch) and they are so sociable so you get a lot back. Ours are ex battery hens – so we feel good about ourselves in rescuing the little ladies too. If you can afford the time and the space to look after them, check out Homes for Hens or the British Hen Welfare Trust.
Number 2. Write now
Writing definitely switches the outside noise off and exercises your creativity. However, most of the writing I do on my blog is either reflective or future focussed. So, I will make it a New Year’s resolution to write more ‘in the moment’ stuff. Right now, I can hear the fish tank bubbling, see my kitten sleeping soundly beside me and hear the Christmas wreath banging on the door in the wind. I’m sure there must be a way to use the senses to dramatically improve writing – and that’s something I am definitely going to work on in the New Year.
Number 3. Running
It’s easy to head to the gym, hit the treadmill and run a few kilometres with the Prodigy blasting holes in your ear drums (well….I say easy but in truth I’ve found the get up and go particularly challenging for the last few months. Must. Do. Better). So, I will make it part of my NY fitness regime to head outdoors for a run, minus the iPod and take in everything I see around me.
Number 4. Put that bloody phone down
I drive my husband mad with my constant attachment to the iPhone. It’s definitely not healthy. So a NY resolution for me is to put it in another room to enjoy the ‘now’ a bit more. A walk to the shops without having to check my email (it’s usually just the garden centre promotional emails anyway), chilling out with my cats without instantly checking Twitter when I hear it ping. If I can’t find more excitement in real life as opposed to the digital world then there’s something seriously wrong with me and it’s time I upped my meds.
Number 5. Bring on the belly laughs
As mentioned, I had a few anxious days over Christmas. Which is really shit. You can’t see any reason not to kick back, relax and enjoy the festivities, but a dreaded, nagging feeling inside refuses to let you do it. So I found therapy in stand-up comedy. We had Sarah Millican and her pants, Stewart Lee and his mother’s quilts and Stephen Fry and his trademark ‘baah!‘. There’s nothing better to release the knots in the pit of your stomach than stand-up (I would just advise you steer clear of Roy Chubby Brown – cos that’ll only make you angry).
Number six. Exercising the green fingers
There’s a reason I have so many promotional emails from the garden centre. And it’s not just cos I’m old and obsessed with tootling around them before enjoying afternoon tea in their over-priced cafes (as loyal gardening club members we get a discount. Once upon a time I was a member of Spiders nightclub but now I’m dodging the real deal in the garden instead. That’s definitely got the edge in my eyes). Getting in the garden and back to nature seriously chills me out. I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a serial plant killer (my jasmine seems to shake it’s delicate leaves every time I go near it, and my sad-looking rhododren has all but given up on life) but I’m trying and it’s an effort that makes me feel good.
So, that’s my personal take on mindfulness. Hopefully I will stick to these. The standard resolutions are in there too (our alcohol free beer selection box has arrived and the hubby is buying me nut cutlets instead of lamb shank for my NY dinner tomorrow).
Roll on 2017 and the non-meat-eating, non-boozing, plant rescuing, hen-whispering, kitten-appreciating, comedy loving shiny new me.
Watch this space.
Happy new year!