Mental Health Day
In the UK yesterday there was a mental health awareness day to help us understand and talk about mental health.
As someone who teaches meditation and mindfulness, this is a key part of the work I do. It’s why I set up Connected Kids as I have witnessed, many times, how teaching kids, teens and adults meditation helps improve their mental health.
But mental health isn’t the whole picture. We have emotional and physical health to consider and these are inextricably linked to our mental health.
I love the fact that the world is waking up to the benefits of meditation in the form of mindfulness. I was introduced to a wonderful mindful meditation called ‘the self compassion break’ and was so inspired by this I have recorded this (for kids, teens and adults) so you can listen at the end of this blog.
However I am curious about some other aspects that link to our mental health – suicide and loneliness.
Loneliness and Meditation
Loneliness I think is an epidemic that perhaps seems more obvious when people age – in other words the family grow up, friends move away or die and the older person is left living alone.
However research shows that it doesn’t just affect our mental health; loneliness can affect our ability to fight infection, raise blood pressure and can even lead to depression.
Many of us have experiences of loneliness and this applies to children too. The BBC launched a survey which saw 55,000 people take part and the results were astonishing; the largest group that feel lonely are aged 16 to 24 age with 40% admitting to feeling lonely.
What if that sense of loneliness was (ironically) something that we all share and instead of focusing only on our mental health we learned to connect together in the true, most challenging feelings that we face. In other words we learn not to be alone with these feelings but to meditate with them, sit with them and acknowledge that as thousands of us are feeling this that we are connected through this feeling. I believe that’s why the self compassion break meditation is one of the most profound ones I have experienced.
Loneliness and Grief
Perhaps I’m curious about this feeling of loneliness as I associate it with feelings of grief.
My journey with grief can best be described as, initially, an unbearable and crushing feeling that I felt after the sudden death of my mum when I was 28. I felt isolated and alone (even in a room full of wonderful, loving friends and family).
My perception was that no-one could feel what I was feeling and this left me being/feeling alone with it.
I couldn’t even find the words to describe what was going on in my head and heart so I sat with this for 2 years before eventually finding a meditation group where I felt a sense of release and lightness that had been missing. In those 2 years before starting to meditate regularly I had tried to avoid the feelings of grief as they were so painful.
Had I been taught, as a child, how to meditate with and allow and honour my feelings, perhaps I would have recovered more quickly and that I wouldn’t have felt the grief exacerbated by the sense of being alone with those feelings.
Let us be clear that teaching meditation to your kids isn’t about ensuring their life is free of grief or pain. But my experience shows me that when we are given the meditation tools to help process our most difficult thoughts and feelings, it helps us recover and strengthens our resilience when faced with future, inevitable challenges. This is why we must teach our children and teens meditation.
Mindful Listening and Suicide
Our UK Government have just announced that a Minister for suicide prevention is to be appointed. I am grateful that we are taking this subject seriously but we must be careful not to think we can rationalise our way out of this.
When a person takes their own life there may be many reasons given/offered about the action as we try to make sense of it, but what if we can’t?
What if that suicidal person doesn’t need anyone to give them techniques or tools to stop them from suicide but perhaps needs simply to be seen and heard. Perhaps this person would benefit from communicating their most vulnerable feelings and thoughts in a way where we mindfully listen. No solutions. No fixes. No judgements. Just us listening to them…mindfully, from the heart.
I watched a fascinating TedTalk a few years ago about an American policeman whose job is was to patrol the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco patrolling the bridge for suicide attempts.
In his 23 years experience he says “listen to understand. Don’t argue, blame, or tell the person you know how they feel. By just being there, you may just be the turning point that they need.”
My own father took his own life in his early 40’s. He had 2 children, 1 on the way, a good job and a happy marriage. On the morning it happened he appeared perfectly normal. Yet he had planned his suicide.
There is much collateral damage when someone takes their life. They would never mean to harm anyone and simply are trying to escape from their own pain and (I imagine) the loneliness they feel with this pain.
It is why I do what I do. I am passionate about sharing and teaching meditation with others – young and old – to help us sit with those vulnerable feelings, feeling them ‘mindfully’ and speaking about them from the heart.
To help us listen mindfully to those who need this heart-felt understanding.
To discover that these feelings and that sense of loneliness are shared with others. And by the very nature of doing this, we connect to each other – heart to heart.
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. “
‘The Prophet’ bt Kahlil Gibran, Sufi Poet
Self Compassion Meditations
Meditation – for you and your kids
If you would like to learn how to create your very own meditations for kids/teens try our Connected Kids level 1 course – online or in-class) (This is the gateway to our professional level)
Or find ideas and tips in our book Calm Kids (beginners) or Connected Kids (working with special needs/anxiety).
If you want some creative inspiration you can listen to one of our Meditation CDs for children/teens >>>
So well put. Can’t say more than that. Except thank you always x
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