Picture This

They say a picture paints a thousand words. When it comes to living a mindful life and getting outside in nature sometimes the only way we can do this is through our mind…literally.

Maybe we come to a point of overwhelm in our day when we can’t just walk outside and get away from that particular stressor. It may be in the middle of a meeting at work, whilst stuck on a tube train in rush hour, on a motorway in our car or any other situation that we can’t readily get away from.

At this point what are our options.

  1. Fight the negative thoughts and make it worse
  2. Work ourself up and possibly have a panic attack or anxiety attack
  3. Call someone to talk about the situation (if possible and feasible in situation)
  4. Have a coping mechanism that we can kick straight into in order to deal with the bad thoughts or stress

Obviously the best long term solution, and easiest to implement on tap, is number 4. Having a coping mechanism that we can tap into anytime we see fit.

What is this coping mechanism?

So I guess we are all different. What works for one person may not work for someone else. However I do believe that we are mostly the same in the way that we approach mindfulness and although what we imagine or enjoy thinking about may be different in essence the solution is the same.

For me it comes down to sight, sound and breathing as the basics of how I might deal with overwhelm.

Today I am going to discuss sight or any visual aid.

Sight may be literal, looking at a picture. Or it may be in the mind.

We are looking for something that we find relaxing. Pictures of nature are a great one for me. Rolling hillsides, open space, flowing stream, sunlight in a forest, shimmering sea, night sky, summers meadow etc.

These may seem cliche slightly but it is exactly what our minds generally need….nature and open spaces.

I have seen many beautiful spaces during my life but the images which are strongest are of the Himalayas when I trekked to Everest Base Camp. The mountains and natural beauty was awe-inspiring. Never to be forgotten. If I need a space in my mind then that is where I go.

Where have you been that you could use as imagery to help with overwhelm or just when you need to take a mental break?

If you need inspiration or you are someone that needs an actual picture then having some images on your phone or maybe just a quick google search could bring up some images to use.

Also using a meditation style app like Calm gives you access to everything you need. The great thing about the apps is that you will also have calming music to go with the images.

I will talk about apps in depth another day.

As an extra feature to really bring stress levels down or stop anxiety taking effect using breathing exercises is a truly exceptional tool to have available to use. The great thing is that your breath is always with you wherever you go and you can learn very simple breathing exercises to bring a sense of calm to your body and mind.

Again I will discuss breathing exercises in more depth later.

So in summary think about places, pictures, images that make you feel calm. A place you have personal experience works better I find but failing that then simply a natural landscape generally works best.

Have these to hand on your phone or in your head. If you feel a sense of overwhelm throughout your day and can’t leave the immediate situation then use these calming images and calm the mind to then return to the situation with a new, fresh outlook.

Try and fully concentrate on the image and let other thoughts go, even if just temporarily. Don’t think about events that have happened and don’t think about events in the future.

Mindfulness takes practice so get frustrated if it doesn’t work straight away. It is all about acceptance and being non-judgemental.