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Mental Health Awareness Week – Mindfulness by AOer David Wilkinson

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As part of Mental Health Awareness Week some of our brave AO’ers are sharing their journeys with mental health.

Today David shares his story with us about the importance of mindfulness and looking after your mind & body.


David’s Story

I have been involved with AO since the outset … I “retired” a few years ago. I am now a trustee of AO Smile and just love being around the business.

I can now look back on my career and understand the impact on my mental health.

When AO was created, we built it on principles and values which have remained constant to this day … one of our core values is CARE … yes that’s caring for others but it’s also important to care for yourself. So as the saying goes “if I knew then what I know now” … here is what I do to look after my mental health.

Ideally, I aim to achieve a balance between Eat – Exercise – Relax – Sleep … which are all important. However, in today’s blog I’d like to share with you my focus on Relaxation. This splits into two parts 1) Breathing and 2) Connecting my senses with nature.

I try every day to spend 15 minutes outdoors in the fresh air (yes even in the rain). Firstly I sit down and concentrate on a simple technique of breathing in through my nose taking the breath down to my stomach to the count of 3 … then hold the breath for a further count of 3 and finally exhaling slowly through the mouth to a count of 6 until you feel “empty”. Repeat this about 10 times whilst scanning your body in turn head to toe and relaxing each part.

Secondly I allow my breathing to return to its natural rhythm and connect my senses to nature … observing sights – sounds – smell – taste – touch … feeling as one with my surroundings like bird song, warmth of the sun on your skin or breeze in your face. Spend one to two minutes focusing on each sense.

I find this fills me with positive energy, clarity of thought which encourages rational thinking and decision making.

I adopt the breathing technique anywhere, taking a few moments any time of day … particularly when I feel stressed which keeps me grounded and balanced.

Finally, I would like to applaud the brilliant job everyone is doing in these extraordinary times … making a positive difference to people’s lives. It certainly makes me burst with pride to be part of the AO family.

Relax and stay positive!