Everyone suffers in some form or another with the perils of the mind. For me, it’s my incessant inner monologue that I cannot escape from and the constant overthinking which clouds my judgement more often than not. It can be so difficult to just be. So recently I wrote down all of the things that bring me joy and some possible things to explore in order to help myself feel more fulfilled. Last week I had three distinct opportunities spring up which I am incredibly grateful for, as they have each allowed me to connect to myself more and embark on a journey to better mental health. This is my path to positivity.
Last Monday I attended the first session of a series of yoga classes that I had signed myself up for. The classes are held at my university and I had been meaning to become a part of it since last academic year, but timetable clashes had always meant I couldn’t. So when I found out the sessions were starting up again and that I would be free, I signed up immediately without hesitation. My wellbeing mentor and various counselors have always come to the conclusion that yoga would be perfect for me, reversing my overbearing tendency to resist the act of slowing down and being at ease with myself.
I had attended one yoga class before, at a sports centre, and admittedly I thought it was pretty rubbish. Everyone was a lot older than myself and the instructor was not very personable, so I was put off. So last week although excited upon arrival I was definitely apprehensive. I have had my own yoga mat since before I even started university, I am half way through my second year now, and until the morning of this yoga session it had remained in its packaging. Shameful, right?
I have to say though, the session was incredible. I was surrounded by fellow students, a mix of novices and pro yogis, and it just felt so natural. The instructor was warm, friendly and had a beautiful grasp on mindfulness and the importance of yoga for wellbeing. Lots of people speak about the physical side of yoga and the importance of holding poses, but I feel that the physical side is secondary to the calming effect of yoga on the mind and soul. I felt connected to my body and I felt accepted, welcomed and unjudged. After another lovely session at the beginning of this week I feel blessed to now be a part of this yoga group, and I hope my journey with yoga soon starts to flow into my everyday life. I recommend it to anyone.
Last week my university also presented me with the opportunity to meditate in a small group with a wellbeing coach. I went to the same session this time last year, too, as part of my university’s wellbeing week. It was incredibly needed. The session was just over half an hour of guided meditation, where we laid down on mats with pillows under our heads and blankets over our bodies. The lights were off and the therapist/instructor guided us through a series of calming body awareness exercises, taking the breath through your body and letting go of any built up tension.
At first, you get that silly feeling – why am I lying on the floor at university? What if I fart? Is this completely mad? – and then you allow yourself to slip into relaxation. I was almost brought to tears, simply by the pure contrast of what I was doing in relation to everyday life. I am on the go all the time, if not physically then mentally. It is non-stop. So to actively take time out of the day to do nothing and to connect with my body felt almost otherworldly. It was a beautiful experience and I have tried to incorporate it into daily life. It is certainly difficult, when you’re so used to a continuous feeling of unease and being someone who struggles to relax and take a moment for the self. But when I do slip into that state of relaxation, even if just for 1 minute, it is overwhelmingly blissful.
I am someone who needs a lot of self-discipline in order to make anything routine, but I stumbled across the Headspace app and that helps me to incorporate a small amount of meditation into my day. I don’t do it as often as I would like, but I want to continue practicing. The more time you take to connect with yourself in moments of silence, the more at ease you will feel in times of difficulty.
3. LIFE DRAWING
I have mentioned here before that I have a love for drawing, just simple sketches get my creativity flowing. But I don’t do it anywhere near as often as I would like to. Drawing is therapeutic and stimulates so many different parts of your being, and figure drawing fascinates me the most. I love sketching the body because it feels raw and natural. Everything nowadays is shrouded in social judgement and censorship, so the inherent taboo of life drawing creates a sense of freedom when you engage and let your creativity flow.
I have attended a couple of life drawing classes back in sixth form, but until last week I hadn’t attended a session since. I was incredibly nervous walking into the room and setting up my easel, I had no idea what I was doing. And considering I was surrounded by fine art and illustration students, I felt particularly inferior. But it was very relaxed and private, nobody peering over my shoulder or scrutinising my efforts. It felt free. I ended up with loads of drawings, executed through means of charcoal to coloured pen. I had a great time and I will definitely be attending another life drawing session again soon.
I will share a post soon with all of my sketches from this life drawing session.
I think it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and find things you enjoy doing, things that come naturally to you and/or speak out to your inner values. Yoga, meditation and life drawing are just 3 ways I have recently discovered I can connect with myself. I plan on continuing to explore and find means of easing myself and bringing myself joy. Don’t settle for routine, embark on your path to positivity.