How to be more present and mindful while living with a mental illness

How to stay in the present and attempt to be mindful when living with depression and anxiety? This was one of the topics asked of me to hit on the month of May for Mental Health Awareness Month.

Here are a few things that I have been doing more and more lately and have seen a difference in me being more present and mindful in my day to day life. Which has given me an increase of peace, joy, and ability to process emotions and thoughts better.

 

  1. PUT THE PHONE DOWN!

I started limiting screen time for my boys and then I realized I had to do this too. At night, my phone is used rarely. Forcing me to look up and out. The conversations between the three of us are deeper and better. We laugh more. We have more fun. I noticed my anxiety has went down. I don’t feel as rushed. And I don’t really miss what is happening in social media because I have the best things and people right in front of me.

Find a chunk of time in your day that you are going to set the phone down. (also shut the TV off!) Maybe it is the morning, 4 hrs in the afternoon, or at night. Whatever. Make an effort to be conscious of your time when the electronics are shut off. Use this time as a way to reconnect with your kids, spouse, self.

 

  1. GET OUTSIDE!

Walk. Run. Sit. Read a book. Play with your kids. Drink a beer. Have a picnic. (Also this only works with the phone is not in your hand).

Scientifically there are huge benefits for being outdoors for mental health. Fresh air. Sun. Physical activity. But when I am outside, I find I am more aware of how the elements feel. How the sun warms my skin. The drop of sweat rolling down my neck. The birds chirping, kids laughing, and the lawn mower going. Time seems to move a little slower outside.

 

  1. PRACTICE GRATITUDE!

Ok. So you all know how I feel about gratitude. It cannot be forced or coerced. But it is a practice. I am finding that it takes time. One day of gratitude is not going to solve all the problems.

A few months ago, a friend and I did a 30-day gratitude challenge. Everyday, I was looking for the good things that were and are in my life. Even the people and things, I didn’t want to be grateful for. I found myself more present and mindful.

Also, practicing gratitude brings an important relationship to our lives. Joy. Brene Brown, (one of my favs) found the correlation between gratitude and joy. “In my 12 years of research on 11,000 pieces of data, I did not interview one person who had described themselves as joyful, who also did not actively practice gratitude. For me it was very counter-intuitive because I went into the research thinking that the relationship between joy and gratitude was: if you are joyful, you should be grateful. But it wasn’t that way at all. Instead, practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives.”

Living with a mental illness is dark. I have described it as literally sucking the joy from my life. Practicing gratitude can bring that joy back.

 

  1. SELF-CARE!

Ah yes. Just add in a spa day, nap, and pedi, you are good to go. Ha. I wish.

Self care is much more than just giving yourself a day of physical treatment. It goes past the surface. Finding what gives you passion and energy. Making yourself a priority. Carving out the time to do what you love. Some days the time spend is 5 minutes, 20 minutes, or a few hours.

Yoga has been a self care item for me the past few months. When I take that 25 minutes on the mat, I am more focused and centered when I step off.

We cannot be present and mindful in our lives if we are not present and mindful of what is going on inside of ourselves. Taking care of our bodies and minds allows us to show up for everything and everyone else.

 

Depression and anxiety takes us away from our lives. It consumes our minds and souls. Forcing our focus on the illness and what it is doing to us. Yet, we are able to overcome by practicing being present and mindfulness. Discovering what that means to us. Integrating it into our daily lives. These are a few of mine. Use them as a starting point in exploring yours.


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