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Unicorn gin & mindfulness

That mental M25 that never stops? Here's the solution.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a pair of red stilettos, a dance floor and a good, strong G&T solves most of this world’s ills but, sorry to be a Debbie Downer Muddies; it won’t solve them all.

Some troubles go so deep that even a shiny, new pair of Louboutins (what girl could want more) and your most local, most artisan, most infused with unicorn’s breath gin, will not succour bring.


Unicorn Gin

Stress, depression & anxiety; they’re inescapable symptoms of this merry-go-round, 21st Century life we lead, always working, never still, disconnected from nature and community. Oh cripes! *Takes large swig of unicorn gin*

If you don’t find yourself flying off the handle for no reason, weeping into a pillow now and then or self-medicating with that very middle-class solution: wine or posh gin, then frankly you’re either crazy lucky, good at lying or erm, you don’t own a pillow because like the common cold, I’d wager a pair of my finest Loubs that this all encompassing bogeyman we refer to as ‘mental illness’ is, or has been, a reality for most of us.


Yes, really… all of us.

OK, cut to the chase. I’d say that 99.9% of you are nodding your heads right now. And if not us, let’s looks at our husbands, our parents, our children. Our husbands especially; let’s keep an eye on the dear men in our lives.

Unlike the common cold though, symptoms of depression & anxiety are hidden, devastating; laced with shame and the Jurassic attitude that sufferers should ‘snap out of it’.

In fact, someone with moderate to severe depression can no more flick a mental switch and make all OK than a cancer patient on chemo can dance the can-can fuelled by will-power alone.

I am not being flippant, I simply know this to be true.


Time to change?

What would happen, though, if we re-framed mental illness? If we saw depression and anxiety in the same light as flu or a chesty cough, or even more serious diseases like diabetes or even the dreaded Madam C?

A sign that we’re running on empty and that, yes, if our condition is severe then medication is absolutely vital, but in the long-term we can personally improve and take charge of the situation: through diet, through lifestyle and through rewiring our brains.

Sounds, well a bit mad? But yes folks it can be done. It has been done for a Millennium, and the modern research backing up its extraordinary effectiveness is overwhelming, so much so that the NHS now prescribes it.

It’s called mindfulness: clearing your mind of all that clutter, the beliefs, judgements, past hurts, to-do lists and the mental M25 that never stops.

Our body’s need to sit down with a cuppa now and then, surely it’s only fair that our brains have a break as well?

And even if you’re a pretty happy go lucky soul, it’s worth being prepared like the good Scouts we all are, for the rough seas that will inevitably hit our lives at some unexpected point.

And how my friends do we achieve this? That’d be daily meditation practise.

Whoa there, I saw your attention wander. Meditation? Really? Park those Gap Year memories, the joss sticks, cockroaches and cultural appropriation (hello bindis, UV Hindu tattoos & Kho Pha-gnan circa 1998).

If meditation is too loaded a word for you, then re-frame it as sitting still.

Quiet. Withouts thoughts.

Simple, but in practise t’is devilish hard.

It is a skill which requires mental fitness and know-how. Lucky for us then, that we can access a thousand year’s worth of Eastern mindfulness knowledge through the courses that are springing up across the country.

They teach a rigorous method which is all about strengthening neural pathways and accessing ancient knowledge backed up by cutting-edge modern science — think 0-5k for brain instead of brawn; personal training, but for the mind.

I can vouch for all this, because in September, I started an eight-week course with Zenways Mindfulness Instructor, Kate Rowlandson.

I wanted to learn to deal with stress, stop snapping at all and sundry, and have tools to hand so that next time the black dog of depression descended, as Churchill described it and he’s right, I would finally have the skills to work through it.

What I liked was how practical and process driven the course was. I think this is something that appeals to men especially, so take note if you think your husband/brother/son/dad/friend might benefit from mindfulness but needs some persuasion.

I’ll have what Kate’s having.

Kate came to mindfulness when early motherhood left her depressed, anxious and nothing like her normal self; a scenario many of us can relate to.

From there she trained as a Zenways Advanced Mindfulness Instructor then set up her own company, Mandala Living. She’s the living embodiment of mindfulness’ benefits, just look at her luminous smile.

The first week of the course teaches a meditation that locks your focus into your body, then as the week progress and neural pathways strengthen, pupils move to ‘harder’ meditation exercises.  Having a weekly catch-up ensures that everyone sticks to their daily practise (give or take a few days) and creates a wonderful supportive environment encouraged by Kate’s gentle teaching style.

As well as learning meditations we also looked at how mindfulness helps with physical and emotional pain, mental functioning, memory and focus (company’s in Japan send their managers on mindfulness courses as a matter of course), as well as stress and ageing — regular practise can add an amazing decade to your life expectancy. *Crosses pricey face-cream off Xmas list*

It’s a personal thing, diving deep into the crazy blue that is your consciousness, but there is something powerfully nourishing about meditating daily.

Slowly for me, the practise morphed from another grinding point on my To-Do list to something I needed, something that gave me the same warm fuzz as a glass of wine.

Meditation as middle-class medication? I’ll take that for the team.

Kate runs regular courses in mindfulness as well as shorter drop-in workshops in the Winchester area plus weekly, Tuesday lunchtime meditation sessions at New Energy Yoga in central Winchester.

Her next 8-week mindfulness course starts on the 3rd week January.;; 07876 718646


Words: Muddy Hants Editor, Mary Malyon

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