Healing for Mental Illness: A Simple Tool to Relieve Anxiety

An article by the Irish Times released late last year shares that our country has one of the highest rates of people who struggle with mental illness and negativity. Another study shared by The Times, reports a survey where Ireland has the highest rate of chronic depression in comparison to all other EU countries.

Anxiety, unease, negative thoughts… These are things that are becoming more and more prevalent in our society, and can no longer be ignored.

“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry, all forms of fear, caused by too much future and not enough presence...”

Eckart Tolle

What is anxiety?

If you were to consider the number of times you felt negativity during the day, you would be surprised to find that most of your negative thoughts actually spur from situations that are not even your reality, rather they are fear of what may become reality. It is also possible that they are negative thoughts and dwellings on a current situation that cannot and will not be solved with a negative disposition.

What negative thinking does to your brain and body

A study reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychology shows that worrying negatively affects your ability to perform tasks. Subjects of the study were asked to sort things by category and those who worried frequently experienced a significant amount of confusion and disruption as the task advanced in difficulty.

Upon further investigation, it was proven that negative thoughts affect how our brains process information and our ability to think clearly. Eventually, the conclusion that was drawn is that when we think negatively of a problem or situation, it actually becomes even more difficult for us to solve.

A very essential part of our nervous system responsible for our sensory and motor functions — the thalamus —  does not know how to differentiate negative emotions from actual, factual danger. When anxiety begins to creep into your mind, the thalamus prepares your body to take action and flee from the danger you are imagining in your mind.

Your body then responds; your heart begins to race, your blood pressure heightens, bodily perspiration is triggered... all the symptoms you feel in a physical position of danger are activated through what we allow to grow in our mind.

The relief that yoga brings

In its centuries of existence, the exact historical development of yoga can no longer be determined; however, in its earlier days — more than the stereotypical difficult poses that are all over the internet — yoga was focused on meditation for the purpose of overcoming pain and broadening one’s consciousness.

It has been medically proven that yoga can actually decrease anxiety, negativity, and their physical consequences. One of the most difficult ways to overcome anxiety is to find and accept your reality (good or bad), and with the mindfulness that meditation through yoga brings, release the negativity that you are experiencing.

Because of the flight or flee response that our thalamus sends to our entire body, when we encounter thoughts or situations that trigger our anxiety, all we want to do is run away or hide what we are feeling. What yoga encourages is self-acceptance of whatever it is you may be feeling — it is with the acceptance and acknowledgement of difficult situations or feelings that you are able to release them and welcome something better.

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, mental illness, or any negativity that is bothering your mind or body, here is a simple, meditative breathing tool you can use to calm your mind and sort through what you are feeling. Make it your goal to face your anxiety. If you find your mind agitated, this is the breath that I use. Looking for more tools to ease your thoughts? Join me for a day of relaxation and renewal of mind, body, and soul, on Saturday, May 11th. I will be having a Restorative Workshop from 10:00am - 12:00pm, and Medicine on the Mat workshop specifically designed to help you cope, and find relief for your anxiety at 2:00pm - 4:30pm. Beginners are more than welcome. Consider this your day of healing from all negativity, and together let us find the freedom that is so readily available to us — we need only try.