When a bad day gets the best of you there’s nothing like having a good soak in the bath, perhaps lighting a candle and pouring a glass of wine. But as we move through life there will often be times where you’ll need to dig deeper, times which really test your inner strength and character. In the same way you might have a haircare, beauty or workout routine working on yourself requires an investment of time and consideration but the results can be life changing. So what are the best options out there?
Meditation has been around for centuries and is certainly more in the public eye now, with apps like Headspace and Calm leading the way in making meditation accessible to everyone. Some people find these apps invaluable, and it certainly can help to have an app that you can easily access wherever you are. But you don’t need to spend out on an app to get the benefits of meditation as there are plenty of resources online that will help guide you through this ancient practice and I’ll provide a list of resources at the end of this article.
If you’ve never tried meditation before you might assume that it involves blocking all thoughts completely to become a zen-like being. Far from it. Meditation is actually about training in awareness and helping you to achieve a healthy sense of perspective on life.
One of the key aspects I find useful about meditation is that it teaches you how to sit with your thoughts and feelings. This can be a long and slow process that you should see as a journey rather than a quick fix. There will be days when you can do it and days when you can’t or just don’t want to. It’s important to be gentle with yourself and approach it with curiosity.
Something that I’ve personally found the most useful is mindfulness. Mindfulness differs from meditation slightly in that it is less of a practice and more of a skill that you can develop. It can also compliment meditation well as it teaches you greater awareness.
Last year in the gloom of lockdown I found a brilliant online course run by Jon Kabat-Zinn from the University of Massachusetts Medical School that gave me a great grounding in mindfulness. In fact much of what I learnt from the course I still put into practice now. The course is absolutely free but it will require you to make a time commitment as you really need to be at a computer to access the content and do the exercises.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a talking therapy that helps you to manage your problems by challenging the way you think and behave and for some it can equip them with skills to return to in tough times. The NHS describes CBT as follows:
‘CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle.
CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts.
You’re shown how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel.
Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.’
Like mindfulness and meditation, there are apps that can help you get started, but to really get the best from CBT it’s best to seek guidance from a professional initially. It’s worth bearing in mind that CBT can be a really positive experience for some, but it isn’t for everyone. During the process you may have to confront a lot of negative emotions which can be uncomfortable.
There are a whole host of online resources to give you a taster of some of the techniques in this article and we’ve listed some of our favourites below: