In my previous article, we reviewed the idea of the Mindful Minute and how we can use simple activities to take care of our mental health. Working as a clinician, it disappoints me that so many persons still view mental issues as a state of ‘madness’, someone eating out of the trash or being injected with concoctions that turn them into crazed zombies. We usually see mental issues in extremes, not realizing that one thought, one action or one feeling has the potential to aid or destroy our mental health. And, of course, that translates into how we get along with and lead others in our relationships. Let me share a short story with you about why practicing mental wellness in simple Mindful Minute exercises has proven helpful to me.
It was my first Semester lecturing at a university in Jamaica and at the end of each class I would usually feel overwhelmed with the rush of students seeking clarification about something or just chatting loudly with their friends as they moved to their next activity for the day. At the end of one particular class, I remember distinctly feeling annoyed with the deluge which would follow and I made a decision. We will end our classes in the same way we begin them – in a state of calmness and peace. Being a Christian institution, we begin classes with a devotional exercise that inspires us to learn the day’s lesson with a Christ-like attitude of humility and grace. So, I thought, let’s also leave inspired, and in a more relaxed state, too. Let’s practice doing a Mindful Minute to end classes.
And that was it. Since then, I’ve led my classes through several simple, quick activities in a minute or so that help us to think, feel and behave in a more adaptive way. These activities help us to transition between classes while reinforcing the integral role of mental self-care as we go through our day. The bonus is that these activities can be practiced anywhere and anytime with no one else even knowing. Here are five (5) more simple ways you can practice mental wellness in a Mindful Minute:
1. Gratitude – Reflect on the relationships, experiences and personal qualities that you are thankful for. Our lives are filled with these but we usually find it is easier to focus on the negative experiences. Gratitude increases happiness, empathy and, reduces envy and aggression. Practicing gratitude for a minute can change your perspective of your current situation. One way to do this is by focusing on each gratitude point for a few seconds before moving to the next. Your gratitude point may be your family, your creativity, your faith or the beating of your heart. Do this as you breathe slowly for 60 seconds and bask in the gifts you’ve been given. For more on the power of gratitude read this.
2. Sing a song – As simple as this may sound, singing has several benefits such as elevating our mood and releasing endorphins or ‘feel good’ hormones which reduce stress. Even if you specialize in singing in the shower, it doesn’t matter (no one’s grading you!). There are even more benefits when you sing in a group so this is a great Mindful Minute exercise that can be also be used to end a class or a meeting. Sing your favorite song for a minute as a way to take care of your mental health.
3. Reflect on your personal strengths – Some time ago, the therapist I was having sessions with asked me to list as many positive and negative aspects of myself as I could. Listing the negatives was a breeze but searching for personal strengths was hard work, and produced a much shorter list! Research actually shows that deliberately reflecting on our strengths, increases our sense of motivation, self-confidence and ability to achieve our goals. Your strength could be anything from your sense of humor, resilience, caring nature or leadership skill. As it was for me, you may find it challenging to name positive aspects of yourself but don’t let that stop you. You may not realize it now but you are stronger than you think, so take a minute, focus, and name your strengths.
4. Stretch – This is not only beneficial before and after physical exercise but it aids in stress management. When we are stressed our muscles tend to get tense due to the body’s natural reaction to the challenge. Stretching allows the muscles to loosen and gives us a sense of relaxation. Here is a simple stretch I’ve practiced with my class for a Mindful Minute:
Breathe deeply as you stretch, it may feel a little weird but your body and your mind will thank you for it.
5. Positive affirmations – Who do you say you are? Positive affirmations are short reassuring statements used to combat the negative narrative that tends to play in our minds. By changing the narrative, we are motivated to work towards that positivity. To practice positive affirmations, slowly repeat short phrases that concur with what you deeply value within yourself or who you aspire to be. You may say these phrases out loud, in your head or while standing in front of a mirror. State them slowly in a calm, reflective state of mind. It may feel a little odd at first but practice it for just about a minute in a way the makes sense to you. Here a few examples:
"I am focused on achieving great things.”
“I experience good health.”
“I am amazing as I am.”
This article gives a comprehensive review of the related research and resources available to practice positive affirmations.
Don’t stop now! Take a minute to practice one of these activities! It’s OK if you don’t get it quite right the first time. Just practice some more and be patient with yourself. Or read up more about these activities using the links provided. Also, if you would like to work with a professional as you process those thoughts, feelings and behaviours that challenge you, contact your local mental health services. The power is yours! Taking care of your mental health can start in just a minute.
So go forth and be mindful!
Firestone, L. (2015, November 19). The Healing Power of Gratitude. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/compassion-matters/201511/the-healing-power-gratitude
Keating, S. (2020, May 18). The worlds’s most accessible stress reliever. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200518-why-singing-can-make-you-feel-better-in-lockdown
Lindberg, S. (2018, June 18). Stretching: 9 Benefits, Plus Safety Tips and How to Start. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-stretching#benefits
Mead, E. (2020, June 22). Personal Strengths & Weaknesses Defined (+ List of 92 Personal Strengths). PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/what-are-your-strengths/
Minnis, G. (2018, September, 16). Stretching. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise-stretching
Moore, C. (2020, March 4). Positive Daily Affirmations: Is There Science Behind It? PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/daily-affirmations/
Morin, A. (2015, April 3). 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude