How disengaging for just 5 minutes a day can benefit your mental health

“What haven’t I done that I should’ve done today?”  “What do I need to buy from the supermarket?”  “Am I doing enough to help the kids with their school work?”  “Should I have said that to my spouse?”  “Will there be enough money in the bank to pay all the bills at the end of the month?”  “Am I good enough?”  Sound familiar?  When our minds aren’t constantly occupied with a huge workload or organising family or doing chores, they tend to run over questions about things that worry us.  Negative thoughts and worries keep us awake at night and the stress causes anxiety and depression.  Thankfully, we can take steps to get out wayward minds under control and it starts with taking just five minutes a day.

It’s actually impossible to empty your mind and not think about anything but it is possible to focus on one thing that isn’t the negative chattering or worrying.  This is essentially what meditation and mindfulness are.  These practices train your mind to focus on a single thing to shut out everything else.  Initially, it can be quite difficult because your mind lacks discipline and keeps wandering.  That’s why I recommend a really short simple practice to begin with.

You don’t have to go anywhere special or put on any special music or anything like that unless you want to.  All you need to do is sit somewhere where you won’t be interrupted for five minutes.  Close your eyes and focus all your attention on your breathing.  You don’t need to change the way you’re breathing, just listen to the sound of it coming in and out.  Feel your chest and stomach rising and falling.  Feel the breath coming in and out through your nostrils.  If you feel your mind wandering, don’t worry.  Don’t get cross with yourself if you find your mind wandering very quickly.  It’s very normal to start off like that.  When you become aware that your mind has wandered, because sometimes you get caught up in your thoughts and forget you’re meant to be focusing on your breath, just gently bring it back to the breath.  You’ll probably find that you can concentrate on your breath for only 30 seconds or a minute to start with but the time you can focus gets longer each time you try.

The benefit of this, even if it is just for five minutes a day, is that it gives you back control over your mind by improving focus and relieving stress.  Taking just that time out every day reduces the effects of stress in your mind and body.  It also improves your mood and your sleep.  If you find you want to take it further after you can focus comfortably on your breath for five minutes, there are all different mindfulness and meditation practices you can try.

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