The awareness of mental health has grown exponentially in the last five years. No longer do us Brits have to shove on that stiff upper lip and get on with it. The buzz word of late has been ‘Mindfulness’ but what is it and where can we get it?
In short, mindfulness is a psychological process that brings your attention back to yourself. We live in a world that is ruled by electronic devices and the constant fear that you aren’t as happy as everyone else. Mindfulness is all about forgetting all about that and start thinking about yourself, the rest of the world, and living in the moment instead.
It is a proven treatment for a range of psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress. And what’s more is that it shouldn’t cost you a dime. It is entirely self-directed, and a great place to start is something as simple as breathing. Spend two minutes slowly breathing in and out deeply. That’s the basics of being mindful.
Start at home, but as you get better at it, you can venture out to places to practice mindfulness. Below are some of my favourite spots and tips for feeling zen in Manchester.
Art Galleries and Classes
I may be a little bit biased, but I think art galleries are one of the best places to be mindful. Go on your own and wander around and take everything in. We are fortunate to have three excellent art galleries here in Manchester, which all offer diverse collections to get your proverbial juices flowing. Pull up a pew at The Manchester Art Gallery and take in the work of L.S Lowry, or get lost in the Whitworth and absorb their incredible collection of textiles- just be sure to take things slow and absorb all that culture.
Art classes are also a great way to relax. If you cast your eyes back to my round-up of the best life drawing classes that is a great place to start. Other than that, the Independent Art School offers a range of classes from painting to art-history as well as a variety of short courses that are available at Manchester School of Art.
Yoga & Meditation
If you aren’t confident to jump into the yogi world all on your own, there are a range of fabulous classes on offer here in Manchester. Drop into a yoga class at Studio 25 or The Manchester Buddhist Centre to start off with the basics, and then move on to the more complex stuff. Bikram Yoga in the Northern Quarter is where you can try hot yoga in a room that is 40 degrees. It takes a little getting used to and makes sure you bring LOTS of water, but the feeling you get afterwards is just glorious.
Kadampa meditation is the one if you want to start getting into this ancient practice of mindfulness. They have two sites- one in town, one in Chorlton and the classes are fantastic. They range in difficulty and Kadampa also offers retreats that fall over a couple of days so you can get down to the core of meditation.
Gardens & Green Spaces
Once you have mastered the whole meditation thing, it will be time for you to get out there and do it yourself. I know it might not seem like it from the outset, but Manchester does have some beautiful green spaces for you to get out and into nature. Towards the city centre, there is Vimto Park if you want to get away for a few minutes on your lunch break (the key to mastering mindfulness is little and often.) In the South, Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens in Didsbury will take your breath away in springtime, and Chorlton Water Park will make you forget you are in Manchester.