Looking after no.1

You’d have to have been living in your own headspace/a cave not to have noticed the increase in discussions around mindfulness in recent months. I’m by no means a media barometer (I barely scrape the surface of iPlayer) but I have seen books galore, including by several celebrities, and mentions including some decent scientific due diligence in programmes such as The Truth About Stress (BBC1). It’s clearly become ‘a thing’.

You’ll probably also have noticed that in general, we’re not coping very well with the demands of modern life. I’ve not time here to go into the whys and wherefores of blue screens, multi-tasking and political policy, but it’s true that tempers are frayed, work hours are long and pressures are mounting, whether social, financial or otherwise.

Equally concerning is the increase in referrals to CAMHS for young people who feel isolated by technology, despite being connected to 500 friends on FB. Specialist charity Young Minds found that over 5000 young people identified their top concerns as the impact of social media and the online world, lack of access to help, school stress and unemployment. Over 25% of young people are turned away from CAMHS without help due to lack of funds.

What to do?

Our brains are certainly very good at going onto ‘autopilot’. Our internal monologue can easily run away with itself, and become a barrage of thoughts, lists, criticisms, explosions. I know, I live in my head some of the time and so do we all. However, our brains become attuned to reacting to thoughts in a very real way, sending messages to the body to increase stress hormones. And mindfulness has shown itself to be a way of ‘turning off’ the irrational brain and tuning into our senses, grounding ourselves in the present – hence mindful. This is why physical activity is so important too.

These habits start young – so the sooner we can create space in our heads for rational reflection, grounding ourselves in reality not thought, the better we’ll be able to tackle what life throws at us. Not always, but often.

Annabel will be fully qualified in Mindfulness & Yoga for Children from November 2017.

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