Living mindfully is a way of reducing anxiety and depression. It means being consistently aware of where you are and what you’re doing and gives you tools to live in the moment rather than worrying about future and past events.

Your frame of mind, or how you think about your life, plays a key role in mental wellness and how you interact with people, says Emile Vermaas, a counselling psychologist at Mediclinic Welkom. “When you’re experiencing mental health issues, those interactions become disordered,” he explains. That, in turn, affects your experience of the world.” It’s why everything seems particularly dark when you’re feeling stressed, depressed or anxious.

Learning to be mindful is a technique to mitigate these feelings – and to begin, you need to ask yourself some questions and consider ways to gently change negative feelings:

What causes me the most stress?

Reflect on your own experiences: what are these major stressors, and how do they affect your interactions with others?

Don’t judge yourself for having these feelings, says Vermaas. “Uncertainty is one of the biggest contributors to stress. With the broader events in our country and the financial pressures many of us are experiencing, it’s understandable that more South Africans are having mental health issues.

Stress is a common experience, but there are ways to reduce it.

One way to improve your mental wellbeing and reduce uncertainty is by finding meaning in your life. Creating order in your daily life helps tremendously. “Setting up a daily routine is your first step. Take care to do the small things, like making your bed, writing a to-do list, or setting up an agenda for a meeting,” advises Vermaas.

What can I do to find meaning in my everyday life?

Looking for the beauty in every moment is fulfilling – even amid the daily grind. Take a moment to appreciate the small things; that you’re lucky to have a job, a cup of hot coffee on your desk, or share a laugh with a colleague. Perhaps you notice the sunset when you get home or have a moment of gratitude that you have a roof over your head. “If you feel so stuck in unhappiness that this is beyond you, you may have to consider what you must do to end that unhappiness,” Vermaas says. Those decisions are likely to be tough ones – for instance, if you’re miserable in your job, you may need to take the step of looking for another position. If this is unlikely to happen soon, persevere with finding something in your workday that brings you joy or for which you can at least feel thankful.

How often am I aware of my feelings, thoughts and behaviour?

Harsha Maharaj, a clinical psychologist at Mediclinic Sandton, agrees that the secret to better mental wellbeing lies in living mindfully. “By consistently paying attention to your feelings, thoughts and behaviours, you’re able to take control of your mind, rather than the other way around. As you practise mindfulness, you’ll become more aware of your experiences, which can lead to a more joyful and richer experience of life.”

Slowing your thoughts lets you appreciate the moment and improves your outlook on life.

How to ground yourself

Start your journey towards greater mindfulness by being intentional, says Maharaj. “This means that you consciously engage your thoughts and feelings in the current moment. For example, if you’re eating a snack, don’t guzzle it down while checking your social media feed. Take a few minutes to savour your food and enjoy the actual experience.” This also allows you to slow your thoughts and take a mental break.

Use your five senses: To ground yourself, suggests Maharaj, find five things that you can see, four things you can touch and feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This simple exercise helps to quiet your thoughts and focus on your present environment, so you feel less anxious and overwhelmed.

Watch and notice: This is another mindfulness practice. When you respond to experiences automatically, you often miss out on critical information, which may lead to interpersonal conflict. Pay attention to what’s being said or what’s happening without immediately jumping to conclusions or letting your emotions get the better of you. When you take a moment to calm yourself, you realise you have a choice about how you respond to events. You then feel more in control and can have more fulfilling interactions with others.

Start typing and press Enter to search