It is an uncertain time for people all over the UK. Brexit is coming to a head and it seems like people starting to show the strain.
Recent figures released by the Office of National Statistics have shown spikes in anxiety since the decision was made to leave the EU in 2016.
The constant conflict and uncertainty about the manner of the UK’s exit and its future implications has done nothing to ease these concerns.
There is a fear that the mental impact of Brexit, be that in the form of uncertainty, nervousness about the future or just anger at the process, is not being dealt with among all the preoccupation over economic, political and travel problems.
It’s not just our problems either – Donald Trump, rises in homelessness and the debate over universal credit all loom as potential worries that we now have to deal with on a daily basis.
However, organisations in Sheffield might have an answer to our struggles. They are promoting mindfulness as a vital tool for people to stay in control of their mental health in tough times.
Mindfulness has been growing in stature since the turn of the century and has been the subject of various clinical studies which have confirmed its status as a solid antidote to detrimental mental health issues like anxiety, depression and mood swings.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the art of centring your thoughts and feelings on what you are doing and experiencing at any one time.
It is originally adapted from Buddhist teachings about the art of meditation and it is only in recent decades that it has emerged as a tool for physical and mental health. It can be as simple as just going for a walk when you feel stressed or can take the form of full, traditional meditation.
Mike Pupius runs the Centre for Mindful Life Enhancement in Sheffield, a mindfulness centre run entirely by volunteers that has trained over 600 people in the art of mindfulness since it opened in 2014. They have worked with West Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Police services, as well as Sheffield City Council as part of their MindfullySTRONG programme and anything they are paid by these organisations for their work is the Centre’s only source of income.
Mike first learned about mindfulness 25 years ago and has been a keen exponent of its benefits ever since.
“I was working as the district head postmaster in Sheffield and it was a very stressful job with a lot of organisational and operational challenges. I took up transcendental meditation at the time,” he said.
“I was aware of the benefits of meditation and when I retired I wanted to develop different activities to promote it.”
One person who can speak to the powers of mindfulness in the modern world is Anthony Watson, a Sheffield resident who encountered the art when suffering severe physical problems and credits it with turning his life around.
“It just allows you to understand your body and your emotions. It’s about learning to be with you and understanding you at that particular moment in time,” said Anthony, who founded the Mindfulness in Sheffield initiative to teach mindfulness on a wider scale.
Your mind can run away with you and you can’t stop that, but you can find that balance of ‘what can I do today?’ rather than worrying about what you can’t control.”
Mindfulness in the modern day
Mindfulness in this day and age takes many forms. Traditional face-to-face health teaching is on the decline, with other forms taking precedent in the technological age. Apps such as Headspace and Calm, which use mindfulness ideas, have accrued tens of millions of downloads and audiobooks and e-books dedicated to mindfulness techniques and teaching have also proved popular.
Given the levels of political and social upheaval we are currently experiencing, Mike Pupius thinks that it is more important than ever that people are able to process their emotions and make sure that they do not get too caught up in what they cannot control.
“Societal issues like Brexit, Trump and the rise in homelessness can impact on everyone. Our teaching is about trying to help people become more accepting of the fact that these issues exist but that it is not necessarily in their control.
“You have to sort yourself out before you can save the world.”
The debate about mental health provision in this country will rage on but it is clear that there are alternatives to traditional therapy out there and it may be that with so much changing in the world, these techniques will become more important than ever.
More information about the Centre for Mindful Life Enhancement can be found at mindfulenhance.org and the NHS has provided plenty of advice about mindfulness, its benefits and resources about the art.
So next time you feel Brexit getting you down, it may be worth thinking about learning some mindfulness – it might save you a whole lot of stress.
As Anthony Watson said: “No-one knows what’s going to happen and we shouldn’t worry about it until it does. And even then, should we worry? I don’t – the sun’s still going to come up in the morning, isn’t it?”