Calm, confident, and consistent is how most people would describe Greg 52, from Brisbane. So when he was seemingly distracted and forgetting things at work, his teammates knew something was up. Greg was going through a separation at the time and thought he was handling it pretty well. In actual fact, months of underlying stress and neglect of his mental wellbeing had finally caught up with him.
“After the separation, I just kept going into work. My approach at the time was to work through it and soldier on. People would ask me how I was feeling and I would just tell them I was fine. In hindsight, that was probably a lie. I was struggling.”
Instead of taking a few moments to stop, look after himself, and reflect on his thoughts, Greg was choosing to ignore them. The result? A high level of stress and a mind caught up in worries about the future. Greg came to a sudden realisation. “It just dawned on me one day at work how important it is to really look after yourself. My mind was constantly elsewhere which was so out of character for me.”
"People would ask me how I was feeling and I would just tell them I was fine. In hindsight, that was probably a lie. I was struggling."
It was clear to Greg that he had to work on his mental wellbeing so he started by searching for answers online. As someone who stayed fit with running and triathlons, he found that while he was physically fit, he was ignoring his mental health and wellbeing. This is where he learnt about mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the idea of learning how to be present and engage in the moment. It’s also about being aware of your thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgement. Practising mindfulness has a strong positive effect on mental wellbeing because it helps you focus your thoughts and attention, instead of worrying about things from the past or things that might happen in the future.
“I learnt about mindfulness and that it teaches you to tune into your mind and pay attention to how you’re actually feeling. That sounded like a good thing for me with how I was feeling at the time. I started with a little bit of meditation with stuff like apps, but it wasn’t until I gave yoga a go that I really noticed a difference.”
"I learnt about mindfulness and that it teaches you to tune into your mind and pay attention to how you’re actually feeling."
Many people take up yoga to build strength and increase flexibility, but the benefits stretch well beyond the physical. Practising yoga prepares the body for mindful meditation. So while you’re in that lotus position or downward dog, you’re directing your brain’s conscious processing power on what is happening in the present. This is what helps you clear the nonessential information in your brain like stress and worry.
“It helps with that process of clearing your mind. When I’m doing yoga I’m not thinking about my worries. I’m thinking about my breathing, the position of my body and the way my muscles feel. Afterwards I feel energised and ready to go. You could say I’m a bit of a convert!”
"When I’m doing yoga I’m not thinking about my worries. I’m thinking about my breathing, the position of my body and the way my muscles feel."
By practising mindfulness when he’s stressed or going through something challenging, Greg is able to get back to being positive and focusing his thoughts on the present. Since joining up with his local yoga studio he’s back to his cool, calm and confident self.
“The great thing about yoga is that you can go at it at your own pace. I go at least once a week and just set that session aside to focus on my breathing and take notice of what’s on my mind. Don’t worry if you don’t have a mat or you don’t know the postures, the yoga instructors are more than happy to help you out. That’s what they’re there for. All I can say is give it a go!”