For thousands of years, many cultures have used mindful practice or meditation as a way to improve wellbeing, and in more recent years, scientific advances have helped to confirm its benefits. Meditation has been shown to improve happiness, memory and sleep, as well as reduce levels of depression and anxiety.
Our mental and emotional balance are at the core of our health and wellbeing; their influence is profound on all our other biological systems, so it is important that we nurture our mental state.
The act of meditation allows us to slow down and focus on the present moment. How often do we allow ourselves to do just that? Of course, it can feel like a really difficult habit to stick to. Amongst the busyness of life, how do we find the time and remember to meditate? Just a few minutes is all it takes. Stick to the same time each day until it becomes habit. Try sitting, eyes closed, focusing on the breath for 5 minutes. That can be all it takes to make significant changes to how we are feeling. Our conditioning to feel like we constantly need to be ‘doing’, alongside the chaos of family life, running businesses, getting from A to B… it’s exhausting just thinking about it all. Think of meditation as pressing pause on your day, to just ‘be’. A little nervous system reset that your mind and body will thank you for.
You can also throw the traditional idea of mediation out the window if that is not what appeals to you. Active meditation is meditation in motion – think walking, surfing, gardening, even doing the housework! It’s about focusing on the task at hand. This is a great way of incorporating mindfulness in to daily life for those who have a hard time sitting still in a traditional meditation manner.
Apps such as Insight Timer can be really useful too. Choose from thousands of free guided meditations which help to quieten a busy mind.
Other than meditation, what else do we have in our mental hygiene toolbox? Some nutrients and herbs can be incredibly helpful at supporting the nervous system and our body’s ability to deal with stress.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in black and green tea, and has consistently demonstrated its calming and relaxing properties. It works by increasing alpha brain waves and the brain neurotransmitter GABA. Both these actions create a state of relaxation, and reduces sensations of restlessness and anxiety. A study investigating the effect of a 200mg L-theanine drink on patients’ stress response, found that within just one hour, participants observed reductions in feelings of stress. In addition, within three hours, cortisol (stress hormone) levels were significantly reduced and an increase in alpha wave brain activity were observed – impressive huh!
Viridian, who are known for producing top quality supplements with clean ingredients and ethical practices at its heart, have an amazing supplement that combines 200mg l-theanine with 300mg lemon balm; a herb that is well researched for its mood enhancing and stress relieving effects. Similar to l-theanine, it has anti-anxiety and calming effects without making you feel drowsy.
Another popular supplement for stress reduction is ashwagandha, and rightly so. Ashwagandha is a plant native to India and is considered a type of adaptogen helping the body cope with stress. Ashwagandha has proven to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress-related symptoms.
As with any supplement, quality is key. Do pop into Sprout to have a chat to one of our team to find out more about the range of calming supplement capsules or drinks that we carefully selected to stock on our shelves.
Whilst we are on the topic of mindfulness and mental health, don’t forget that Sprout have teamed up with @katieaustinyoga and @mentalhygiene.jen to host a film night on Thursday 23rd June, screening the documentary ‘My Year Of Living Mindfully’ by journalist Shannon Harvey, which looks at if living a more mindful existence can lead to positive change in ourselves and in turn, society as a whole. For more information and to purchase tickets head to mentalhygiene.co.uk.