Ruby’s a Mindful Mentor

Ruby Wax: Mindfulness Expert & Failed Dinner Party Hostess

Ruby Wax: Mindfulness Expert & Failed Dinner Party Hostess

As part of my work, I read a lot of books on mindfulness and mental wellbeing but instead of being inspired or motivated after reading them, there are some books that make me just want to bang my head against a brick wall.

When you’re feeling anxious or depressed, the last thing you want to read is some dry old doctor wanging on in jargonese and making you feel like you’re a specimen in a jar. Or otherwise you get some shiny guru type who gives you advice in between eating quinoa and standing on their head on the sand dunes near their Malibu home.

That’s why I liked comedian Ruby Wax’s book ‘Sane New World’. She’s neither of those types. Despite taking a masters in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy at Oxford University and being hugely well qualified to talk about the subject, she does so in a sympathetic and down-to-earth way that makes sense to someone who may be fraying at the seams. She doesn’t pretend to be anything she isn’t and she doesn’t gloss over the worst parts of her depression. She reveals everything in an honest, touching and humorous way that makes you just want to hug her. (Although she mentions in the book that she hates hugging so maybe I’d leave that out).

My favourite part of the book is when she describes how she tried to organise a dinner party whilst feeling well below par. The stress, the drinking, the putting-on-a-brave face, the disastrous food and the final collapse, all rings true to anyone with a mental health issues who has had to deal with a social occasion whilst in the throes of their condition.

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I was introduced to Mindfulness through a therapist back in 2008. I was trying to find ways of not being so stressed and angry all the time so she gave me a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn – one of the pioneers of mindfulness practice who had a stress-reduction mindfulness program. I liked the initial idea of always being present in your mind instead of rehashing the past or chundering through a list of things to do in my mind, but unfortunately I didn’t get on well with the practise because one of the first exercises it told me to do was to wash up the dishes mindfully.

Now the problem with me is that I bloody hate housework of any kind. I feel like a part of my soul is being chipped away whenever I have to do it because it’s one of those things that seems an utter waste of time because housework never stays done. There is always more washing up to do. But in the book it was telling me to “enjoy the feeling of the warm water” and the “fragrance of the washing up liquid”. This just served to really REALLY annoy me. So I became stressed out because not only had I become very angry whilst doing the exercise – exactly the opposite of what I wanted – but it also made me feel like a failure.

When I went back to my therapist she asked me how I got on. Not wanting to disappoint her, or appear a loser, I lied. (Yes, I know lying to your therapist is a supreme waste of money, but name me one person who hasn’t lied to their therapist and you’ll have yourself a liar right there.) I told her I really liked the “being in the present” idea and…and… and then promptly ran out of things to say. Then she did that therapist thing of staying quiet and looking at me until I broke down and shouted: “I hated it. Take your stupid book back! I can’t wash up mindfully! I’m not a zombie who goes around doing chores with a serene smile on her face.”

My therapist laughed and asked me if I’d learned anything about myself from doing the exercises. I said: “I am an angry person. I get angry. That’s just the way I am. I am not someone who can float through life, I am someone who charges through it. And sometimes that’s not good, but that’s who I am and I have to accept it.”

And right there, Mindfulness taught me my first lesson. That instead of stressing out about my personality, I had to accept it and try and work within my behavioural limitations instead of constantly trying to be something I wasn’t, striving for the holy grail of calmness and peace that never seemed attainable to me. It taught me to let go.

Almost a decade on from that session, I can now read Ruby Wax’s book and see that there are many more lessons I can learn from Mindfulness and none of them have anything to do with washing up. I now do Mindful Walking, Mindful Body Scans and Mindful Breathing. I can cherry pick the exercises that speak to me, and leave out the ones that don’t. I practise Mindfulness when sitting in traffic, knowing I cannot get to my destination any quicker so I instead listen to music and breathe deeply and try and enjoy that moment anyway because if I’m going to be late, I’m going to be late and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it so there is no point in getting stressed out and smashing my head against the horn on the steering wheel.

So I would highly recommend Ms Wax’s book and if you want to give Mindfulness a quick go, try our Mindful Body Scan recording (below) which I recorded as part of our free online mental health course with NHS psychiatric nurse Liz Axham. (No washing up required.)

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GET THE FREE MENTAL FIXITS KINDLE EBOOK...

Download the whole LightHearts UK mental health course for free with Kindle Unlimited. Includes personal stories from the LightHearts founders on how to deal with low self-esteem, eating disorders, depression, anxious thoughts and panic attacks.

So click HERE to go to Amazon and find out how you can download your copy now.

How a Free Meditation App Changed My Life

Despite being a mental wellbeing and massage therapist, I often used to find it hard to carve a chunk of time out of my working day to deal with my own mental health issues. I was always looking after the mental wellbeing of my clients, my family and my friends before I looked after little old me. And ironically, I would happily dish out mental health advice without actually taking it myself.

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Top of my advice list was always meditation. Even if it was just for five minutes I would always insist that my clients complete some kind of daily calming practice to soothe and unwind. I’d even spent 18 months with an NHS psychiatric nurse formulating a free online 10-week mental wellbeing course complete with recorded meditations to help people do just that. But could I ever find a few minutes to do it for myself? Yeah, right. About once a week, if that.

But then I discovered a free meditation app that completely changed my life. 

It’s called the Insight Timer app and it brings together thousands of guided meditations, meditation music and expert talks on a range of subjects from mindfulness to spirituality and provides help with areas such as sleep, stress and anxiety, relationships, recovery and healing. It even has meditations specifically for kids and teens. It also provides a timer with sounding chimes if you wish to meditate in silence, and a notification feature to remind you to stop your busy lifestyle and give yourself a moment of reflection.

Before I found the app I had developed a few bad smartphone habits that hadn’t helped my mental health one little bit. I’d managed to kick my social media habit by deleting my Facebook account but unfortunately instead of scrolling through ‘friends’ status posts, I would wake up in the morning and the first thing I would do was switch my phone on and scroll through the morning news to see what hell had been inflicted on the world by either terrorists, politicians or natural disasters. Negativity and fear. What a way to start the day!

But since signing up for the app, I rub the sleepy dust out of my eyes and instead of clicking on frightening headlines I click on Insight Timer instead. I set my alarm 30 minutes early and instead of being grumpy at waking early, I look forward to choosing one of the special morning meditations, or a gratitude practice or just some simple Buddhist breathing exercises to help me ease into the day. (There’s even some really out-there meditations too such as Unicorn Healing and Find Your Womb Goddess. Meditation needn’t be super serious or crunchy granola wholesome - we all need a bit of crazy sometimes depending on our mood!)

I now start the day feeling much more relaxed and calm, feeling like a can deal with any stresses that pop up during the day. I've learnt new techniques which not only benefit my personal life, but also benefit my clients. One of the wonderful aspects of my job is that I can share knowledge and see first-hand how it can transform lives.

So give the Insight Timer app a whirl or click HERE to use it as part of the free online 10 week mental health course which comes complete with meditations and heaps of advice for mental wellbeing.

Namaste!

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GET THE FREE MENTAL FIXITS KINDLE EBOOK...

Download the whole LightHearts UK mental health course for free with Kindle Unlimited. Includes personal stories from the LightHearts founders on how to deal with low self-esteem, eating disorders, depression, anxious thoughts and panic attacks.

Click HERE to go to Amazon and find out how you can download your copy now.

Mental Health Project Prepares for Launch

The LightHearts UK mental health project, which features a free 10-week on-line mental health course for sufferers of stress, anxiety and low mood, will go live on Monday January 16th. 

The project has been set up by two best friends Liz Axham - a senior NHS psychiatric nurse who works extensively with sufferers of severe anxiety and depression - and Katya Jezzard-Puyraud, a holistic massage therapist and mental wellbeing teacher.

The project, which is packed full of advice, techniques and scientific research along with specially produced audios and sourced videos, is split into 10 weekly course sections that anyone can do online for free in their own time. And it's not just for people with diagnosed mental health issues - anyone with rising stress levels will find it helpful. (As a little taster of what's in store, you can click on the audio below taken from Week 1 of the course.)

Katya and Liz decided to fund and develop the project themselves after a round of severe government cuts that left many of the country's NHS mental health teams struggling. Redundancies and budget cuts, coupled with a huge increase of people with mental health issues resulted in many of the already over-worked teams being unable to provide care except in the most acute cases.

Katya explains: "Despite the amazing work of NHS mental health teams around the country, for sufferers on low income these cuts mean the best they can hope for is to be put on a long waiting list for therapy, or be prescribed anti-depressants. We hope our project can bridge that gap between someone feeling desperate and being able to find the right treatment."

The course features current techniques being used by the NHS such as Mindfulness and CBT, as well as effective methods taken from around the world. It also contains useful tips called "Mental Fixits" which are personal techniques that both Liz and Katya have found invaluable in their own lives.

Liz said: "We wanted to show a wide range of techniques so that people get a chance to try out what suits them and what works for their particular issues. We want people to build their own tool kit of methods - their own set of "Mental Fixits" - which they can delve into whenever they feel their anxiety rising or their mood plummeting."

If you'd like to receive the links to the project on the launch date, you can sign up using the form below (email addresses are kept confidential) or simply put January 16th in your diary and be sure to visit www.lighthearts-uk.com and click on the 'Mental Wellbeing' section.