Taking time for mindfulness and reflection, whether you have dementia or not

We ask people about how they keep active and well. This time, we hear about how readers stop to reflect and be mindful.

Pauline Howl, 64 

Reflection on life and what it means to be alive, and how people manage their lives when they have to live with disabilities.

This can be done at any time, eg in a queue in the car, whilst gardening or walking in the local park. It tends to be a solitary activity, however sometimes I will share my thoughts with family or friends. 

Agnes Houston

Agnes.

Agnes Houston, 73 in North Lanarkshire with Alzheimer’s 

When I was diagnosed with dementia, in the ‘dark ages’, it was a negative place. I went to yoga! It wasn’t easy at first and I persevered with it, they persevered with me, and we grew together. 

My dementia caused sensory issues and I have other long-term conditions that make breathing difficult. Yoga has taught me breath work, complementing my medication. I have difficulties sleeping at night, so practise mindfulness. This benefits me both physically and mentally. 

Yoga and mindfulness have given me my own Mary Poppins tool bag! 

Sarah Williams, 56 in East Sussex 

I suffer from severe depression and anxiety, and find that keeping a diary and writing down my feelings for the day helps a little to keep a lid on things. 

Some days it does help and some days it doesn’t, but I feel like a weight has been lifted just by writing how I am feeling down. It allows me to look back and see how I coped with my feelings on a particular day. 

Lynne Parry

Lynne.

Lynne Parry, 69, Cornwall 

I’m writing up my life history, keeping separate files of different stages in my life and adding to them as I remember events from that time.

It’s reminding me of so many events and providing a memory of me for my sons and grandchildren. 

Taking part in Action for Happiness offers a daily activity to boost my mood. It’s given me daily simple pleasures to warm my day.

Susie Mackenzie

Susie.

Susie Mackenzie, 68 in York 

I practise mindfulness and keep a daily journal reflecting how I feel each day when I wake up, my practice of loving-kindness meditation (which I do first thing) and then how I feel when I go to bed. 

I started using mindfulness when my mother had dementia. We both became calmer. I stopped responding to her frustrations and anger, instead I would take three breaths, notice my reactions and then ask her to explain how she was feeling.

I started accepting her as she was, not as I wanted her to be. I also began to be more comfortable with my feelings of loss and frustration. 

Katherine Ripley, 55 in South Yorkshire 

I used a mindfulness phone app daily to get me over a particularly difficult period, and now use them on bad days. It enables me to focus on the present moment, and stops racing and ruminative thoughts which can result in anxiety building. 

Stay well 

Your age and genes affect your risk of developing dementia, but you can’t change them. 

Things you can change include keeping your mind and body active, enjoying healthier food, not smoking, drinking less alcohol, staying in touch with people, and dealing with any health problems.

If you already have dementia, the same things can help you to stay healthy and well. 

NHS Live Well has health and wellbeing advice for everyone.

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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