Mindfulness has been gaining momentum in the public eye over the last 10 years or so. It has been described as both a practice and a way of being, with many saying it has improved their own quality of life.

Recently, mindfulness has become a tool for helping those with mental health issues, with the advent of both mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).

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But how exactly can mindfulness be applied in the lives of people with disabilities, and what benefits does mindfulness have for them?


Mental health

It is estimated that roughly 1 in 4 people in the UK suffer with mental health issues.

Stats about people with disabilities who suffer from mental health issues in the UK are incredibly rare. However, the North Carolina Office on Disability and Health has carried out a few studies into it.

These studies have shown that depressive symptoms are between two and ten times more common in people who have disabilities or chronic illnesses.

This was backed up by another study from the States, this time done by the American Association on Health and Disability. They also found that people with disabilities have a much higher rate of depression and anxiety.

This is not to say that everyone who has a disability will suffer from mental health issues. But some of the challenges that people with disabilities face puts them at a much higher risk of developing issues with their mental health.

Mental health issues are often linked to a variety of factors, such as socioeconomic status, health, pain, mobility, trauma and isolation, all of which are common challenges for those who have disabilities.

It is, therefore, no wonder that people with disabilities often have mental health issues as well. However, this is where mindfulness comes in.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a style of thinking that helps people manage their thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is becoming more and more commonplace, whether that is in either the home or the workplace, as more people realise its potential as a tool to help.

If mindfulness still sounds like “hippie nonsense” though, there are a lot of studies that prove that it is not.

One study found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy was effective at helping treat depression not only in the short term, but the long term as well.

Another study found that mindfulness has a “moderate to large positive effect” on the mental health of breast cancer patients.

The third study to highlight is this one from the States that showed mindfulness-based stress reduction having “significant increases in positive affect and self-compassion.”As you can see, mindfulness is proven to have an effect on improving our mental state. Thankfully, we’re no longer at the stage where mental health and ways to improve your current state – like mindfulness – are treated with scepticism.

Applications of mindfulness for people with disabilities

All of this evidence leads us to believe that there are definitely applications for mindfulness amongst people with disabilities.

Often, many people with disabilities will carry a lot of stress and frustration around how a disability can affect their lives, without necessarily having the tools to deal with these feelings.

Many people with disabilities experience loss, which then leads to further loss. For example, your sense of purpose may be impacted, or there is sometimes a decrease in self-esteem. But by using mindfulness, visualisation and breathing techniques, people with disabilities can learn to process these feelings in a healthier way.

Mindfulness can be used to tackle feelings of sadness, anger and guilt in healthy ways. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for example, can change the way that you think about life events through the use of meditation.

Start being more mindful

There are plenty of ways to become more mindful, but often we need guidance when first starting with it. Luckily, there are loads of free ways to become more mindful.

The Free Mindfulness Project is a great place to start, as it has plenty of free apps, videos and techniques to be more mindful

Headspace is a fantastic app available on both iOS and Android that offers a 10-minute daily meditation practice

Mindfulness Exercises also does what it says on the tin, and has plenty of free mindfulness exercises to download

These are the three most useful ones we know of, but if you’ve got any other suggestions, let us know! Remember, mindfulness is proven to help, so why not give it a try? If you’d like to hear from us on living a happier life and ways to do this, including mindfulness, then read more here.

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