By Dr Javed Latoo, Psychiatrist UK
Mindfulness has lately become popular in the west even though it has been part of eastern civilisation and all major religions over many thousand years. More recently there have been studies to understand the benefits of the mindfulness in patients with both mental and physical health problems. Studies have shown it can be beneficial in anxiety, depression, insomnia and chronic pain. It is also known to improve general mental and physical well being in general population.
There are many mindfulness exercises now popular in the west that have been studied in various patient groups. Mindfulness is promoted by people of all backgrounds. It is impossible to cite the initial source as mindfulness has been part of all major religions in one or other form. I am sure following exercise has been studied and promoted by various individuals including academics and I claim no credit for writing this exercise here.
Safe place visualisation is a good exercise to relax when you are stressed. It can be used when you are anxious, stressed and feel overwhelmed by things around you. This activity involves imagining yourself in a place where you feel safe and relaxed. It can be a real place you have visited or an imaginary place that makes you feel comfortable. Before starting this exercise make sure you have a safe place in your mind that you will use for this activity.
You can practice this daily for few weeks or whenever you feel anxious or stressed.
1. Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed for next 15 minutes where you can practice this exercise.
2. Sit, relax and take few deep breaths. Inhale through your nose, hold your breath counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Exhale through the mouth. Repeat this four times.
3. Now imagine yourself in the safe place you chose for yourself that makes you feel safe and relaxed.
4. What can you see? People, nature, colours or animals? Is it sunny or cloudy? Who is you with? What are they saying? Observe them in detail.
5. What can you hear in this safe place? Sounds, people speaking, wind blowing or waterfall sounds, sounds of animals? Focus on this for few moments.
6. What can you smell? Any smell of food, perfume, flowers, fresh air, grass, etc.? Focus on this for few seconds.
7. What can you touch in this safe place? People, grass, clothing, flowers, floor, etc.?
8. What can you taste? Any food you are eating?
9. Now use all your five senses and observe this place. Notice how relaxed, safe and happy you feel in this place. Stay there for a couple of minutes.
10. When you are ready to finish, take few deep breaths again and end the exercise.
11. Remember you can visualise this place whenever you want to.
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