When you call a plumber out, you expect him to come equipped with some tools to do the job.
If he starts trying to borrow a spanner and a wrench five minutes into the work, you may get the feeling you’ve called the wrong person.
When I work 1:1 with people using mindfulness as a way forward with mental health problems, I also come equipped with some tools.
The main tool I have is an understanding of how the mind works. The rest form what I like to call my Mindfulness Toolkit.
This is not some theoretical knowledge I’ve picked up from a book. It’s knowledge I’ve gained from directly looking into my ‘mind’, and seeing how it functions.
Plus, I’ve compared notes with friends who’ve done the same. And I’ve used that actual direct experience, to weigh up whether certain conceptual models are correct, or just plain baloney.
From that knowledge, I’ve devised some ways of helping people with mindfulness.
As I write this, I have nine practices on my Resources Page.
Some of these are traditional – often Buddhist – mindfulness practices. Some are variations I’ve altered to work specifically in the area of mental health.
These nine practices form my Mindfulness Toolkit for working with mental health problems.
Obviously, just like the plumber, there is some underlying knowledge required before the tools are used. Well, maybe – to be on the safe side, there is.
If you have, or work with someone with mental health problems, you can put these practices in your toolkit.
Here’s a quick run-down of how the mindfulness toolkit works:
Usually a good place to start is the Body Scan. That’s because most people are stuck in thought. The Body Scan takes you out of the mind and into the body. For most people, that in itself can be a major turning point.
If destructive thoughts are the main problem, I often then go for Mantra Meditation. Mantra Meditation ties up the mind with a word, so it’s a lot harder to think. This can be used as a coping mechanism…. When destructive thoughts come in, just start the mantra. But it’s also a great standalone practice. It’s how I started, and boy, did things change!
Another way to work with destructive thoughts and uncomfortable feelings is the Gather and Release Practice. This instills a good habit that can be used anywhere, anytime, with far reaching results.
If thoughts are not so destructive, go straight to the Mindfulness of Breathing Practice. Again it gets you out of the body, as we’re focusing on physical sensations. But engaging with the breath allows for the possibility of increased concentration and calm – and it’s an excellent way to link to helpful imagery in the practice.
Then we have Loving Kindness Practice which can help with low mood and low self-worth. It can be a challenging practice for many, especially as it confronts self-view head on. But stick with it, and your emotional life will change.
The Letting Go practice points to something deeper. Though many people are looking to regain control, this practice asks us to release control and trust in the outcome. Because of that it’s not for everyone, but for some it can be just the ticket they need.
This is a run-down of the core practices. Hopefully the other practices are self-explanatory. Any questions, just get in touch. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as I can.