Mindfulness, with the help of chocolate buttons

Mental health nurses discuss some surprising activities to manage stress, including chopping wood, riding motorbikes and melting chocolate buttons in your hand

Chopping wood, riding motorbikes and melting chocolate buttons are among the activities mental health nurses use to manage stress.

Melting a chocolate button in your hand is one of many surprising mindfulness techniques suggested. Picture: iStock

Nurses discussed different mindfulness techniques during a session at the RCNi Mental Health Practice Conference in Manchester.

RCN mental health forum chair Ed Freshwater, who led the workshop on 10 May, said mindfulness does not always have to include seated meditation, and can be done anywhere.

Focus the mind

The group came up with the following ideas and tips:

  • Melting chocolate buttons: Placing a chocolate button in your hand, watching and feeling it melt and noticing the temptation to eat it. The same kind of awareness of touch, smell and taste can be achieved with strawberries, one nurse said.
  • Mindful motorbiking: Doing an activity that totally focuses the mind, such as motorbike riding. Mr Freshwater said: ‘There’s nothing like being on a motorbike to focus the mind on what you are doing and not be distracted. Don’t get on a bike if you have had a row with someone or just talked someone down from a crisis.’
  • Mindful posters: One nurse said she has a poster at work showing a head full of thoughts that asks ‘are you mind-full or mindful’. She says it reminds her not to feel so stressed.
  • Chopping wood: This is another activity that requires you to focus on the task.
  • Drinking tea: One nurse described how his team conducts their shift handover and then someone leads a ‘mindful cup of tea’; again, using the senses to experience the tea.

Breath awareness

The session also discussed more traditional mindfulness activities, such as breath awareness and labelling emotions. However, Mr Freshwater said breath awareness was not suitable for everyone, adding it could be particularly difficult for those with anxiety who may fear they are not breathing properly or are about to have a heart attack.

On labelling emotions, he said: ‘In Harry Potter everyone is terrified of naming the character Voldemort, it can be the same with emotions. Just name the emotion, and if you are too scared, name fear.’

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