By Lottie Kilraine
Politics, climate change and let’s not forget the ongoing global pandemic, it is safe to say that we have all had a lot on our minds this year, writes Lottie Kilraine. Sunday is World Mental Health Day.
Arguably, the conversation around mental well-being is improving and slowly but surely we are beginning to prioritise our mental health.
Mental well-being does not mean being happy all the time and it does not mean you won’t experience negative or painful emotions, such as grief, loss, or failure, which are a part of a normal life.
But, a broader understanding and acknowledgement of your own and others’ mental health can, and will, greatly improve your health and happiness.
Whatever your age, mindfulness can help you lead a mentally healthier life and improve your well-being.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga.
It can help you become more aware of our thoughts and feelings and stop you being overwhelmed.
This is a chance for you to step out of the daily grind and to allow time to be present with yourself; that is, being present with yourself, and with whatever arises in your mind and body.
Take a minute to observe your breathing.
Breathe in and out as you normally would notice the time between each inhalation and exhalation; notice your lungs expanding. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
It can often feel like we’re an observer of our own body caught up in our heads.
Spend your one mindful minute bringing awareness to your body and your body’s sensations.
Close your eyes and begin scanning your body.
Start with your feet, and then slowly bring your awareness upwards in your body until you reach your hands.
What sensations do you feel? Heaviness in the legs? Strain in the back?
Perhaps no sensations at all.
Now move your focus out from the hands and become aware of your environment and the space all around you.
Mindful walking is something you can practise at any time as you go about your day.
It’s good to try it slowly at first, but once you’re used to it, you can practise it at any pace, even when you’re rushing.
Walk slowly: become aware of the sensations in the soles of your feet as they make contact with the floor, and any sensations in the muscles of the legs.
You don’t have to look down at your feet.
When your mind wanders, use the contact of the feet on the floor as an anchor to bring you back into the present moment.
Just take a minute to focus on the sensations generated by walking.
Eating mindfully can take us out of autopilot, helping us appreciate and enjoy the experience more.
The next time you eat, stop to observe your food.
Give it your full attention.
Notice the texture: really see it, feel it, smell it, take a bite into it – noticing the taste and texture in the mouth – continue to chew, bringing your full attention to the taste of it.
By taking this time out to tune in to your environment and listen to what it tells you, it will help you to bring mindfulness into the rest of your life.
Take a minute to listen to the sounds in your environment.
You don’t need to try and determine the origin or type of sounds you hear, just listen and absorb the experience of their quality and how it resonates with you.
If you recognise a sound then label it and move on, allowing your ears to catch new sounds.
You can find out more about mindfulness and World Mental Health Day by visiting www.mentalhealth.org.uk
Let the mindfulness train take the stress and strain
Commuting to or from work can be one of the most stressful times of the day, particularly following a year of working remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic.
To help welcome passengers back to the railway, the Inner Journey project, is offering quiet spaces to enable commuters to experience the restorative benefits of mindfulness and meditation.
KeolisAmey Docklands (KAD), the franchise operator of Docklands Light Railway (DLR) have launched the world’s first mindfulness passenger trains and station corners to support commuter well-being and mental health.
Twelve modified carriages, drawing on nature-inspired scenes of mountains, forests, oceans, and the countryside will be in operation across the DLR network.
Commuters can download the complimentary Brain Recharge app to access meditation tracks offering a full immersion into nature.
The project is being delivered by KAD, DLR and London-based charity Youmanity.
DLR designated relaxation areas are located in Canary Wharf, Tower Gateway, and Woolwich Arsenal DLR stations.
Thrive LDN director, Dan Barrett said: “When overwhelmed and stressed, it can feel like there is nothing that can help you.
The Inner Journey initiative is a great way of reminding Londoners that even a small pause, some breathing space, can start the journey to feeling calmer and more resilient.
It is also an innovative way for how we can help encourage each other to talk and act more when it comes to mental health and well-being. As we emerge from the coronavirus crisis, this has never been more important.”
William Layton, KAD head of customer experience, said: “Stress and anxiety can become a barrier to travel and independence.
“Following the disruption experienced during lockdowns, promoting mental health is paramount.
“Our Inner Journey trains and kiosks aim to encourage our passengers to take time to relax and enjoy their commute.”
You are never too old or too young to experience great artwork
Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Tessa Jowell Health Centre (TJHC) are calling for submissions for a new health-led art commission series to show that no one is too young to experience great art.
The new digital art commission is set to be displayed in the Children’s Services area of the TJHC centre in East Dulwich.
This is the second of four art commissions which invite artists to create and develop site-specific work for the centre.
The work will follow the unveiling of the inaugural commission, The Health Centre’s Quilt.
The large-scale artwork by artist collective Bamidele Awoyemi, Farouk Agoro and Livia Wang, currently adorns the glass balustrade at the heart of the centre’s reception area.
Now the Gallery and TJHC turn their attention to the field of digital or technology-led art, inviting artists to produce work that will play a vital role in making such an integral space feel welcoming, engaging and safe.
The Children’s Services, delivered by Evelina London, part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, provide vital support to families and young people in the Southwark area.
Positioned opposite the health centre’s garden courtyard, the Children’s Services area at TJHC is a prime location for a piece of art, which will be seen by all of those using the family-orientated services at the centre.
For this commission, the gallery and TJHC are looking for an interactive artwork that is designed specifically to be child friendly and engaging for diverse families.
Alexander Moore, creative producer at Dulwich Picture Gallery, said: “No one is too young to experience great art.
“This new interactive commission will provide positivity and well-being for children, parents, carers and the staff at Tessa Jowell Health Centre.
“By integrating innovative digital art into the spaces at the centre we can support healthier and happier communities through creativity.”
Sam Hepplewhite, place based director, Southwark, at NHS South East London CCG, said: “The centre isn’t just somewhere which provides healthcare, we also want it to help support the well-being of Southwark people.
“We hope this artwork, once installed, will help support a healthier and happier community by creating a more creative and accessible space for children to receive care.”
To find out more, go to www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.