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mental health awareness

Review: ‘Smile’ meditation at London’s Inhere Studio

Inhere meditation studio, London

It’s not every day you’re invited to try out a meditation session at Inhere, a boutique space in the capital to help busy Londoners chill out. So imagine the disappointment at missing your original appointment due to circumstances beyond your control. Yes. This is what happened to me on Thursday.

Despite the driving rain and howling winds, I’d woken up in good spirits as I was off to The Big Smoke to see a new specialist about the weird, sporadic allergy-like reactions that cause my tongue to swell up. The hospital appointment was at 10.20am, my meditation slot at 1.30pm. Plenty of time. Or so I thought.

We all know that travelling by train to London can be a fraught affair, especially when commuting from the South East, so I’d factored in an extra hour and a half’s travel time to cushion any delays. As soon as I arrived at the station, the blinking information screens suggested something was awry. “What’s happened?” I politely asked the man in the kiosk.  “Trains are delayed because of branches on the line,” he replied staring into the distance.

“Bloody brilliant,” I thought. My mind raced ahead. “I’m going to miss my connection. I need to plan an alternative route.” Travelling on the tube hadn’t been part of the plan although now it was increasingly looking like I might have to. “But what if there are delays on the network? I’ll be underground with no way to inform the hospital?” A tide of anxiety washed over me. To be on the safe side I emailed the medical secretary explaining the situation. I’d waited so long for this appointment – I couldn’t miss it now.

I needn’t have worried. As luck would have it a much earlier but heavily delayed train pulled up. It only stopped twice. I made the connection and arrived at the hospital with half an hour to spare.  Wahoo. I was back on course. After checking in I regained my composure and waited. And waited. And waited. An hour and a half ticked by. Still, I hadn’t been seen.

Now I’m not one to grumble – the NHS has been kind to me over the past two years and hanging around is something I’ve grown accustomed to – except today I had one eye on the clock because of my appointment in Monument at 1.30pm.  I watched as mothers, grandparents and children ambled in after me and left before. This was clearly an efficiently-run clinic. Why was I still sitting here like a lemon?

Inhere meditation studio, London

I tentatively approached the receptionist who assured me I’d be seen soon. When I eventually sat down with the consultant the miscommunication became clear. Apparently one of the other doctors would have seen me at 10.20am but because I’d mentioned the specialist’s name – which was on the original letter – the time of my appointment didn’t stand as he was the lead chap running the ENTIRE clinic. This hadn’t been explained to me.

Regardless, the wait was worth it. The consultant was thorough. He took down my complex medical history in astonishing detail. He examined me. Usually, when I see a new specialist for the first time I’m in and out in 20 minutes but this was a rather comprehensive affair. “You’ll need bloods taken in another part of the hospital,” he said.

“BLOODS?!”  I was dangerously close to missing my next appointment. Sensing my anxiety, the doctor suggested I call the meditation studio. Of course, this was far more important but I detest letting people down. “I’m really sorry,” I blurted out to Inhere founder Adiba Osmani. “I’m still in Westminster. There’s no way I’ll get there in time for the group session. “Don’t worry about it,” she replied reassuringly. “We have individual slots available, just get here when you get here.”

Adiba Osmani, Inhere founder

Despite her kinds words, I felt terrible. With a cotton wool ball taped to my arm, I bolted out of the hospital and legged it to the nearest tube. By the time I arrived at Inhere, I was a sweaty, frazzled mess – ironically a perfect candidate for what was about to follow. The teacher-free drop-in meditation studio, described by Osmani as London’s ‘first’, is designed to help busy professionals stop, unwind and hear themselves again.

“The City is one of the most stressful and demanding environments, whether you’re a trader in a bank of a waitress in the Folly,” Osmani declared. “And yet there is nowhere to go for even a few minutes respite, to breathe, unwind and regain a sense of calm.”

Until now. The former corporate management consultant was inspired to set up the concept following a one-week stay at a retreat in Thailand where she witnessed the benefits of meditation first hand. “I was flabbergasted at the change I could see in peoples’ eyes after two days,” she explained. “I wanted to help people in London. I took a year away from the corporate world and learned about the scientific benefits.

“Research shows that meditating, even just for a few minutes at a time, can help us cope and manage stress better. It enables us to think more clearly, sleep more deeply, work more efficiently and live in a calmer, more considered way.” I looked at her and laughed. “I need to move in.”

Helen Gilbert, Inhere meditation studio, London

 

Those seeking headspace can book online or drop in and wait for a slot on their way to work, in between meetings or if they’re looking to unwind before they head home. There’s no need to “make small talk” because the sessions are teacher-less.

I was led to the luxe basement setting – all draped curtains, mood lighting and ambient music. I’d been due to join some city workers for the 30-minute lunchtime session known as ‘Steady’, one of seven options on offer. This programme is said to help you stay on track, create a positive space in your mind and learn how to put unhelpful thoughts aside.

Others include ‘Focus’ to help improve your concentration, ‘Rest’, a deep immersion relaxation, visualisation, and yoga nidra-style session to help you leave the day behind and ‘Smile’ – one of the studio’s most popular choices – to reverse negative thinking and cultivate acceptance and compassion for yourself and others.

Because I’d missed the 1.30pm group class, I had the room to myself and opted for ‘Smile’. “Before we begin, would you like to sit in a chair or lie down?” Osmani asked smiling. “We recommend that you sit up so that you don’t fall asleep.”

Damn. I’d already spied the floor cushions and blankets, which proved far too irresistible to pass up. “Second option please,” I grinned. With that Osmani disappeared and the lighting dimmed.

Helen Gilbert, Inhere meditation studio, London

 

A soothing female voice filled the room and proceeded to guide me through the next 20 minutes. Among other things, I was encouraged to think of a kind deed a friend or family member had carried out on my behalf and urged to focus on the warm, uplifting feelings generated before applying them to different scenarios. I couldn’t believe it when the lights came up signalling the end. The experience passed by in what seemed a flash but I was ready for more.

Just two days prior to my Inhere visit I’d moved house – one of the most stressful things you can do so this was just the welcome pit stop I needed to recharge my batteries. And despite the frantic morning, I felt remarkably calm by the end of the session. I’ll certainly be back for more!

Prices start from as little as £5 plus multipack and new guest offers are available. For more information visit: www.inherestudio.com

*Relax Ya Self to Health was invited to try this meditation experience in exchange for a review

Helen's Health, Wellness

WHY SMALL TALK SAVES LIVES

I’m a chatterbox. Always have been, always will be. Often people will ask how I find it so easy to talk to anyone and everyone but I guess it’s just part of the day job – I’m intrigued by folk and their stories. So I was pleased to discover that this trait could be put to good use on my commute into work.

A new suicide prevention campaign called Small Talk Save Lives has been launched by the Samaritans, British Transport Police and the rail industry encouraging passengers to act if they spot someone who might need emotional support – worryingly, a suicide occurs on our railways approximately every 36 hours.

The idea is that a short conversation with someone who may be struggling to cope can go a long way. This is what happened to Sarah Wilson* whose story is featured in the video above. The 28-year-old decided against taking her own life on a railway after a stranger reached out to her.

Samaritans Small Talk Saves Lives

As many as 69% of rail users understand that a simple question could be enough to break the flow of negative and despairing thoughts occupying the mind of someone who is suicidal, research conducted on 5,000 people found.

The research, carried out on behalf of the campaign, also showed that although the majority of people would be willing to act, only 44% would be encouraged to approach someone if they knew they weren’t going to make the situation worse. And nearly nine out of ten thought a person in need of support would find it hard to ask for help.

So what can you do to help?

Become aware. Look around. Take a break from your phone or tablet.

Notice if a person is standing alone or isolated, looking distant or withdrawn, on the platform for a long time without boarding a train, or displaying something out of the ordinary in their behaviour or appearance.

Although there is no single sign or combination of behaviours that mean a person is suicidal, if something doesn’t feel right, the message is to act and respond in ways that people feel comfortable and safe with, Small Talk Saves Lives suggests.

Try approaching the person, asking them a question to distract them from their thoughts, or alerting a member of rail staff or calling the police.

“Someone showing me they cared about me helped to interrupt my suicidal thoughts and that gave them time to subside,” Sarah reveals.

“The more that people understand that suicide is preventable, the better. I hope people will share the video and that the campaign will encourage people to trust their gut instincts and start a conversation if they think someone could need help. You won’t make things worse and you could save a life.”

Samaritans Small Talk Saves Lives

 

Suicide is ‘everybody’s business’, according to Samaritans chief executive officer Ruth Sutherland. 

“Any one of us could have an opportunity to save a life,” she declares.  “Research for this campaign showed 73% of the public would expect somebody to approach their loved one if they were upset in a public place… The knowledge and skills to save lives in the rail environment can be applied to many other situations. We hope that Small Talk Saves Lives is the start of a much wider conversation about how suicide is preventable.”

Professor Rory O’Connor, a leading suicide prevention expert from the University of Glasgow, suggests it’s a  myth that nothing can be done to prevent suicide.“We all have a role to play,” he insists.

I know I’ll certainly make an effort on my train journey into London tomorrow.

Last year, I hit rock bottom when my health started to deteriorate. Read the night it all began here. But I was lucky. I had my mum, my dad, my sister and a supportive network of friends around to help pull me through. Not everyone is so fortunate.

If you’re catching the train today, take a look around you.

Smile. Make eye contact. Be kind. Talk.  You might just save a life.

 

For more information on Small Talk Saves Lives visit:  www.samaritans.org/smalltalksaveslives

*Sarah’s name has been changed

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