The mental health landscape in the U.K. is worrying right now. I am of course aware that the USA are having a similar (if not worse) crisis and the rest of the world are suffering too, but this must not deflect from our own situation.

mindfulness-family-robert-brennanIt is impossible to say exactly why this is, and of course macro events like the COVID pandemic have made things far worse for various reasons, but it was hardly the case that we were managing our mental health particularly well before March 2020.

To get straight to the point, I think that the problem can be stated at a very high level, as a total lack of connection in the world. A lack of connection to each other, but also, and perhaps more worryingly, to ourselves.

Topics such as this are not new to my blogs, seminars and client sessions. I have written much about mindfulness, resilience, and mental health over the years, and so today I want to build on this work and further highlight what I see as the problem and also to shed some light on what I believe to be the solution.

Something Isn’t Working

Too many of the clients that I see; young and old, are desperately stressed, exhausted, anxious and on top of this, very hard on themselves for feeling this way. For many of them, the first time they recall deeply relaxing in their lives is in their first session with me – which is not okay at all. They literally never stop just ‘doing things’ or ‘being busy’ Living this way makes it harder for true personal connections to form or develop.

I wrote recently about the Opportunity Cost of Self care to try and explain why practically no one looks after themselves properly, and I would suggest everyone reads this article as soon as possible (https://www.robert-brennan.com/challenging-the-perceived-opportunity-cost-of-self-care).

mindfulness-stress-robert-brennanIn this world of constant ‘busy-ness’ the art of doing nothing and therefore introspection and self-connection is in grave danger of being lost. Even our children cannot do ‘nothing’ for a few moments without complaining of ‘being bored’. When sitting without an engaging activity for a few minutes becomes a problem for a child, it is clear that the real problem is constant overstimulation. What is worse is that it does not stop in adulthood, it gets worse in fact, as the stresses of life build and build through the years.

Overly busy people can’t be present, it’s just not possible. They can’t notice what is going on around them properly or more critically, what is going on within them. No one knows how they feel inside because feelings are just inconveniences that must be jammed down quickly, lest they distract one from ‘being busy’. People may not notice how their children are feeling either, as they’re too busy, and begin to class “Fine” as a suitable debrief to a day’s events at school . (Note: It is not… )

When mental health strikes in the form of more serious problems for ourselves, our partners or our children, it is always “a shock” or something “we didn’t see coming”… but we may well have seen it, or sensed it, if we were just looking a little closer.

Governments, psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors and nurses globally are tearing their hair out, throwing an unimaginable amount of money at the problem of mental health, but the solutions proposed are not reflective of this massive effort. The number of people coming through my clinic door would suggest the problem is getting worse, not better, which makes no sense at all… unless… they are searching in the wrong place.

What if they are massively overcomplicating the entire situation? What if the problem really is just a lack of connection and the solution therefore is to re-establish connection in the world? What if this could be achieved in a way which was cheap, simple and accessible to all?

What If The Solution Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness can be defined as; “a mental state achieved by focusing awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”

This is something we are not doing very often at all.

Mindfulness reduces stress hormones and boosts presence and awareness of ourselves and therefore our empathy and awareness of other people. Being more tuned in to those around us will lead to more kindness and less judgement. The research certainly suggests this is the case. By stopping for a few minutes each day and looking within we can then see the world without far more clearly. There are many, many more benefits of mindfulness that I simply don’t have time to go into in this blog.

mindfulness-children-robert-brennanIn a more mindful and present world, people would not simply state that it is “okay not to be okay” whilst rushing to the next meeting, and would instead adopt the far more inclusive and helpful narrative that “no one is okay all the time”. Struggle is normal, we just need to support each other without judgment when it is necessary to do so and we will all thrive a little more. This adapted narrative, facilitated by mindfulness, will normalise and not stigmatise mental struggle.

If we were more attuned to the people around us they perhaps wouldn’t feel the immense pressure to reach out for help when they are struggling, simply because we would have already noticed and talked to them first. We put a lot of pressure on those in struggle to talk about it, and we express sadness or even anger when they don’t, as though it is their fault somehow. Perhaps if we were more mindful and connected, we would never have to feel the intense sorrow or even anger of being too late to help a friend, because help would have been given as a matter of course when it was first needed.

What if some calm time with our children each day would boost our connection to them and we would see them and hear them more clearly, meet their needs more effectively, and thus ensure that less children would feel emotionally neglected growing up. What if this might result in less adults harbouring the insidious feelings of insignificance or invisibility that they have never been able to shake off since their childhood. What is all this, could change the world.

We Have Nothing To Lose By Giving Mindfulness a Try

The very worst thing that could happen if we all focussed on mindfulness a little more, is that we would feel calmer, happier and generally better. There is no downside at all, we simply need to take action. I am not suggesting it is a magic bullet to cure all of the world’s problems but it certainly has been shown to help almost everything either a little bit or a lot, and there is therefore no harm in everyone learning about it. There is nothing to lose at all.

Meditation is the easiest route to mindfulness, and you can get various great apps which will guide you through the first steps in learning it, and you can even learn to meditate for free on my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYNrSVn-M0ysN5QGZecqlLw).

Take action right now, and start to re-connect with yourself and the world around you, you won’t regret it.

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