Healthy Body … Healthy Mind? – January 2015

Healthy Body ... Healthy MindShelyna Mariscal, MASS Regional Co-ordinator for East Anglia and Partner at Hansells considers Mindfulness – could it
assist with our daily stresses?

It always surprises me when people tell me about their New Year resolutions, how many of us resolve to concentrate on obtaining a healthier body, few, if any of us, give as much TLC to our minds. Although we all like to be healthy, it is our minds that we rely on daily, not least from which we earn our living, so I would suggest it needs at least an equal amount of attention.

The daily pressures that we put on our minds are immense. We all have large, frequently complex, caseloads to deal with each one competing for a place in our thoughts. In addition we each have lives outside the workplace which should require more priority. It is often difficult to know which way to turn and not to feel overwhelmed with the amount there is to do both inside and outside work. Our minds are racing throughout the day and, if you’re anything like me, well into the evening too. We then expect to completely shut down and have 8 hours restful sleep. Sometimes it doesn’t happen and we start the exhausting cycle over again leading to more and more stress and unfortunately for some, depression.

I know as lawyers we all hear about stress and how best to deal with it. Some would argue that it is solely for our employers to ensure that we are not suffering with too much stress. However each one of us handles stress differently and ultimately we need to be the guardians of our own mental health and ensure our own wellbeing. This is of course easier said than done!

In recent months I have started to hear more about a practice called Mindfulness which could be an answer to the issue of overwhelming stress. In its most basic form Mindfulness is awareness or purposely paying attention to the present moment. The aim of Mindfulness is to enable us to feel rather than think and to give our overworked minds a much needed rest away from those nagging, stress inducing thoughts. Basic Mindfulness exercises start by grounding yourself with your breathing and seek to keep your mind focused rather than wandering as it inevitably will. When the mind does wander, however, Mindfulness encourages us to notice this and to bring it back in focus and importantly to do this in a non-judgmental way. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Try it. Some very lucky people are able to unwind and relax automatically but for the majority of us this is not always the case.

If you think you might benefit from exploring a new approach, please do find out more about Mindfulness. There is loads of information on the Internet (Mental Health Foundation introduction to Mindfulness, a detailed look at Mindfulness and an introduction). There is also YouTube clip where a BBC reporter attends a Mindfulness course.

The good news is that Mindfulness is a skill which can be developed and there is a growing body of evidence showing it is helping to reduce stress and alleviate the symptoms of depression.