All posts by Janette

Make Mindfulness our New Year’s Resolution!

Make Mindfulness our New Year’s Resolution!

by Janette Grant 10th January 2018

mindfulness quote
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream – C.S.Lewis

Ok…hands up those of you who made New Year’s resolutions and who are already struggling to keep to them? We know that New Year’s resolutions have a powerful effect on our psyche with the promise of new beginnings, a new chapter, and hopefully the chance to achieve all those things we desire. But don’t beat yourself up when you falter…it’s a fact that over 90% of people fail to achieve their resolutions!

new year's quote
Dear New Year’s Resolution. Well, it was fun while it lasted. Sincerely, January 2nd

Clearly then, most of us are going about this in the wrong way! A  much better idea would be to make Mindfulness our New Year’s Resolution and then instead of resolving to Lose weight, Exercise more, Save more money etc., we could have an Intention to be more mindful and the rest will naturally follow. After all, making changes in our life is driven by our intentions and at the heart of every goal lies the desire to be happier. Research has proven that the benefits of mindfulness extends to improved well-being, mental and physical health, better sleep and reduced stress, which all contribute to an improved level of happiness.

mindfulness quote
‘If you want your story to be magnificent, begin by realising you are the author, and every day is a new page’

The word intention comes from the Latin intendere –‘to turn one’s attention’. And whereas resolutions are hard and firm – we are resolute in our expectations; intentions are flexible and about where we direct our attention – they are about being mindful. Most of us though, spend our lives with little intention and findourselves looking back thinking ‘Where did all those years go?!’ Isn’t it time we live as if it matters?

We can use mindfulness to help us be more intentional with our lives. Think about how we set our minds up for anxiety; we start our morning worrying about all the work we have to do in the day – our mind keeps the worrying going and then we arrive at work and everything we deal with is clouded by our anxious mind. Some bad news arrives and we continue to focus on the difficulties of our situation because this is the mindset we are stuck in. If however, we intentionally aim to bring more mindfulness into our lives, we will naturally begin to deal with our daily issues with more balance, flexibility and compassion.

‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ – Gandhi

mindfulness quote
The year is yours. What will you do with it?

Change begins with intention; how do we want to be in this world? One of the most common mistakes, which most of us fall into, is setting rigid resolutions and then when we falter we find ourselves in a negative mindset once again: ‘I’ve failed again…what’s the point?!’ But what if we set an intention and then develop an action plan to achieve this intention, instead of just thinking of ourself as a failure and giving up? To achieve this we need to remember the following:

  • Accept we are likely to stray – it is very likely that we will sometimes stray from the goals we have made – we may have committed to exercise regularly, but then we fall ill; or we aim to meditate every day, but then we get bogged down at work and days go by without practice. This will happen and so….
  • We should not judge ourselves – the fact that we have strayed from our goals is not a good or bad thing – it’s just natural sometimes when we are trying to make a change in our life. Simply notice we have strayed and where, so that we can notice it sooner next time. If we find ourself judging: ‘I can’t do this! Why did I think I could?!’, we should just notice our thoughts just as we noticed our straying behaviour and go on to….
  • Refocus our thoughts – and gently bring ourselves back to our action plan or decide if we need to revise our goal. No-one is perfect – by striving for perfection we are merely setting ourself up to fail – so we should be as kind to ourself when we do stray as we would be to our friends. We just need to compassionately guide ourself back to the object of our focus.
mindfulness quote
‘Although no-one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending’ – Carl Bard

Choosing to practise mindfulness for our New Year’s resolution will help us to develop our awareness of the feelings driving our behaviour and give us the space to recognise these difficult feelings so that we can make deliberate choices towards more helpful behaviour. We will then understand why we allow our plans to slip; life happens and we cannot always completely fulfil our commitment. But this does not make us failures and when we understand this, we can go on to realise that it can take up to four months to change a behaviour, so missing the odd gym session, or eating the odd biscuit does not mean we should just completely give up on our intention! Mindfulness can teach us to accept, let go and move forward.

Another thing to remember is that most of our goals centre around our desire to stop doing something, which is focusing our thoughts on negative behaviours. And what happens when we try hard NOT to do something? It then becomes all we think about! Mindfulness can help us focus on the positive and what we will gain from achieving our goals – instead of thinking ‘I need to lose ten pounds’ , we should be focusing on how much healthier we will be. How do we want to think, feel and behave? What will achieving our goals do for us? Mindfulness helps us recognise the bigger picture and a greater sense of self. We must seek pleasure in the simple things and set our intentions not on what we hope to lose, but what we will gain.

mindfulness quote
Set a goal that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning

How to practise Mindfulness for our New Year’s resolution

  1. Consider our intentions – some of the more common resolutions are to lose weight, exercise more and spend less money. But we need to check that these are your intentions. Do you want to feel better about your body? Do you want to have less financial worries? Think about the personal meaning behind the resolution and this will then help us maintain our intention.
  2. Focus on the process and not the result – resolving to lose weight and save more is just focusing on the result and ignoring the process of getting there. Research proves that we achieve so much more when we focus on the process, rather than the result – completely focusing on results means we are less likely to achieve them! Instead of focusing on losing those ten pounds we should focus on going for walks and eating healthy foods – we will most likely then achieve our goal of losing weight anyway. Focus on the process – the present moments in which transformation will occur – rather than the single result.
  3. Recognise and change our ‘habit-loop’ – changing our behaviour starts with self-awareness and we need to look at the habits we want to change and recognise what sustains those habits. For example, if we want to spend less money, we need to be aware of how, when and why we spend it. Is it a regular habit to click on those BIG SALE store emails and impulse buy? If so, unless we change this habit we will struggle to save money! The key to changing our behaviours is understanding our habit loop – the cues that set off a particular action and the rewards that lead us to continue doing it. For example, instead of checking our social media with a coffee in the morning, we could use this as the reward for ten minutes of exercise or meditation and then eventually this will become a routine. But we have to change our habits – not just intend to ‘exercise more’. So we need to look at our less mindful habits, which are presently enabling the behaviours we want to change and when we break down a habit into its various parts, we can work out which part needs changing to support the transformation to our routine.
  4. Be Kind to Ourself – whatever intentions we set, there will always be times when we don’t achieve our expectations. The basic lesson we learn from mindfulness is that we are constantly beginning again – each breath, each day. We can start meditating
    Mindfulness quote by Buddha
    ‘Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most’ – Buddha

    and experience a brief moment of awareness, but then our mind starts wandering, we take a deep breath, awareness re-arises and then our mind is off chattering again! When our mind wanders, we should gently bring our attention back to our breath, without judging or berating ourself. The moment when we notice our mind has wandered is the moment of insight – the practice of mindfulness itself. This is the same for our intentions – we need to bring a kind awareness to our behaviour when we fall short and begin again…

  5. Consider our Resolution Alternatives – if we find the pressure of New Year’s Resolutions too much, we could consider these alternative ways to help with our intentions for the year:
  • Make a Vision Board compiled of images which represents what we want for ourself in the coming year. This will give us a great visual reminder of our intentions to eat more healthily, exercise more or make time for some mindful meditation.
  • Choose a Word of the Year that encapsulates the feelings, attitudes and behaviours we intend for the year ahead. It can be something like breathe, trust, focus etc. and this word will guide our choices and actions. Then instead of giving ourself strict expectations we can just ask ourself if a particular behaviour matches our word and our intentions.image of a fish made up of different words

New Year’s Resolutions are about growth and improvement and bringing health and joy into our life. Practising Mindfulness for our New Year’s Resolution will bring awareness to our habits and give ourself compassion and kindness as we strive for meaningful transformation. It’s not that our goals are unachievable, but that we aren’t starting from the right place to succeed in our intentions. To achieve anything we must be aware and it’s only from awareness that we can successfully manage our thoughts, feelings and behaviours and intentionally move towards our goals. So let’s put Mindfulness at the top of our New Year list.

new year quote
and so the adventure begins

 

 

 

DBT Mindfulness Exercises

DBT Mindfulness Exercises

by Janette Grant 5th January 2018

DBT mindfulness

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness is a key skill taught in DBT as it helps patients in raising awareness of their own thoughts and feelings. The simple DBT mindfulness exercises have expanded into treating a number of different patients, including those with severe anxiety. The exercises can teach people how to slow the pace of their thoughts, recognise them for what they are – just thoughts -and sharpen their focus. It also helps to address their anxiety issues in a real way and thus healing them rather than just masking them.

DBT mindfulness exercises were first added to general psychiatric treatments for various mental health problems, to help patients achieve the wise mind and focused on two sets of skills:

 

mindfulness what skillsThe ‘What’ skills helped the patients to learn how to simply observe their experience; describe this experience using verbal labels; and to be fully present in the moment and in their actions without feeling self-conscious. These skills allow the patient to be aware of what is happening to them and of their part in their own experience. Being more aware of their own thoughts and more grounded in the present sets the foundation for the other set of ‘how’ skills.

The ‘How’ skills teach people how to observe, describe and mindfulness how skillsparticipate in their own experience. These skills help in learning how to have experiences in a non-evaluative and non-judgmental way; to focus on one thing at a time and learn to bring their attention back to the goal when they go off course; and to keep their focus on their goals regardless of their current mood.

Patients were introduced to various mindfulness exercises including mindful breathingthe body scan and other simple awareness practices. Some of these exercises are mentioned below and have been shown to be of enormous help.

5 DBT Mindfulness exercises

These are simple and quick exercises for anxiety which can easily slot into our everyday life and practising them regularly will make an enormous difference to our level of anxiety.

  1. Observe a leaf – pick a leaf and hold it in your hands and fully mindful leaf exercisefocus your attention on it. Take note of the physical characteristics of it – noticing the colour, shape, texture and pattern, without judging them as good or bad, beautiful or ugly. We should not assess or think about the leaf, but just observe it for what it is. This will help bring you into the present.
  2. Mindful eating – this can be done using the raisin exercise on our Mindfulness exercises page or you can pick any food you enjoy and pay attention to what you are holding, noticing how it feels in your hands. Observe the texture, the weight, the colour etc., before bringing your awareness to the smell. Now put a little of it into your mouth and notice the taste and its texture on your tongue. This will give you a a new experience with a familiar food.mindfulness
  3. Observe your thoughts – sit comfortably, or lie down on your back. If you are sitting, keep your back straight, but release the tension in your shoulders and let them drop. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing, taking notice of how your body feels as you slowly breathe in and out. Become completely immersed in the experience and imagine you are riding the waves of your own breath. Now move your attention to your thoughts, becoming aware of any that enter your mind. Try to see them just as thoughts – mere events just happening in your mind. If it helps, you can imagine them as clouds passing along, or leaves floating down a stream. Notice the thoughts enter your consciousness, but then just let them disappear on their own – no need to hold onto them. If you find yourself becoming sidetracked by a thought, just notice what diverted you from observing your thoughts and then gently bring yourself back to observing.  After a few minutes you should shift your attention back to your breathing and open your eyes when ready.
  4. Mindfulness Bell exercise – begin by closing your eyes and listening for the bell and as soon as you hear it, you need to focus on the sound and keep focusing until it completely fades away. This will help to keep you firmly grounded in the present. This audio will help:
  5. Stare at the centre exercise – this is similar to staring into a candle flame and the aim is simply to focus your attention on the centre of the shifting pattern of colour. This exercise can bring focus and deep thought – your mind may wander, with thoughts coming into your head – but you should let those thoughts pass and stay in the present moment. You can use this below:

 

These simple DBT Mindfulness exercises all help to fully bring you into the present moment and are an enormous aid in reducing anxiety. The Observe your thoughts exercise can apply to any situation where anxiety is felt, when you can use your ‘observer mind to simply slow down, step back and calm your anxiety. We should all look to use this skill today!

Mindfulness quote
‘If a person’s basic state of mind is serene and calm, then it is possible for this inner peace to overwhelm a painful physical experience’ – The Dalai Lama

 

 

Best Mindfulness Exercises

Best Mindfulness Exercises

by Janette Grant 3rd January 2018

mindfulness quote
I am grateful for every mindful moment

There are many to choose, but it is possible that the best mindfulness exercises are those that are simple and accessible to all and that can still really help us to live in the moment. Mindfulness does not just happen though – just as with most things that are worth doing, Mindfulness has to be worked at, and practised regularly, to be of most benefit to us.

One of the best mindfulness exercises is the Mindful Pause. This is so simple, but very effective and only has two steps:

  1. Firstly we pause and feel our in-breath and out-breath for 10-15 seconds
  2. Then we finish with asking ourself: ‘Which of my character strengths should I bring forward right now?’
Mindfulness quote
‘If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything’ – Thich Nhat Hanh

This exercise is so effective because it is very short, doesn’t take much time out of our daily schedule and easily integrates into whatever we are doing – whether just waking up, eating lunch, sending an email or driving home from work etc. It brings us into the moment and makes us think about our best strengths, preparing us to be our best self and allows us to bring our strengths to the moment. This then enables us to be ready for those challenging moments, helps us to more easily handle stress and to give our strengths more freely.

The 24 character strengths are defined as:

  • Creativity – originality, ingenuity and adaptability
  • Curiosity – interest, novelty-seeking, exploration, openness
  • Judgment – critical thinking, thinking things through, open-mindedness
  • Love of Learning – mastering new skills & topics, systematically adding to knowledge
  • Perspective – wisdom, providing wise counsel, taking the big picture view
  • Bravery – valour, not shrinking from fear, speaking up for what’s right
  • Perseverance – persistance, industry, finishing what we’ve started
  • Honesty – authenticity, integrity
  • Zest – vitality, enthusiasm, vigour, energy, feeling alive
  • Love – both loving and being loved, valuing close relations with others
  • Kindness – generosity, nurturance, care & compassion, altruism, ‘niceness’
  • Social Intelligence – aware of the motives/feelings of self/others, knowing what makes others tick character strengths
  • Teamwork – citizenship, social responsibility, loyalty
  • Fairness – just, not letting feelings bias decisions about others
  • Leadership – organising group activities, encouraging a group to get things done
  • Forgiveness – mercy, accepting others’ shortcomings, giving people a second chance
  • Humility – modesty, letting our accomplishments speak for themselves
  • Prudence – careful, cautious, not taking undue risks
  • Self-regulation – self-control, disciplined, managing impulses & emotions
  • Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence – awe, wonder, elevation
  • Gratitude – thankful for the good, expressing thanks, feeling blessed
  • Hope – optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation
  • Humour – playfulness, bringing smiles to others, light-hearted
  • Spirituality – religiousness, faith, purpose, meaning

These strengths can be turned to anytime when we pause, refocus and gain clarity on what is important in that moment. The Mindful Pause can be very useful in the transitional period between work and the start of home-time. For example, when the character strength Love emerges after a pause, we will then immediately bring our full presence in a warm and interactive way with our family. When Gratitude emerges it can remind us to be aware of how much we have to be thankful for in that moment and feel blessed and driven to share those blessings with everyone around us. When our strength  Kindness emerges after a pause it will remind us to be patient with the people around us and to listen to and support them intentionally and when we’re alone, it reminds us to take care of ourself. The Mindful Pause can help us when we are dealing with frustrating behaviours from our children. If we pause and allow  Self-regulation and Perspective to emerge, we can then practise perspective and realise that they still love us despite their behaviour and self-regulation can prevent us from saying something we’d regret later.

mindfulness quote
‘Explore the infinite dimensions of Being…’ – Darsham Baba

Other simple, but Best Mindfulness Exercises are:

  1. Candle Meditation – this is great when we need some peace and quiet and only needs a quiet, darkened room and a candle. Sit in a comfortable position and focus on the flame – not pondering on the chemical reactions as the candle burns – but instead simply focus on the candle in a pure way.
  2. Eating Meditation – instead of simply gobbling down our food we can take a minute to savour it. Look at the meal, smell it, feel the textures as we chew it and notice how it tastes. This exercise can
    mindfulness quote
    just take one minute to observe it for what it is

    make an enormous difference and it doesn’t have to be used through the whole meal – just occasionally.

  3. Take a Mindful break – instead of checking emails etc in our break, we should take some time to notice the sensations in our body and mind – listen to the sounds we can hear, feel our heart beating and be present in our body for a few moments, letting go of everything we are thinking about.
  4. Take a Mindful shower – instead of simply showering we can pay closer attention to how hot the water feels, how the shampoo smells, how it lathers on our hair, and how the different parts of
    mindful shower quote
    Be mindful of the wave of pleasure as the warm water washes over you, mindful of the shower gel, soap or shampoo

    our body feel. This exercise can be extended to other habits such as brushing our teeth etc.  and we should completely immerse ourselves in the process.

  5. Mindful walking –  we can take at least 15 minutes a day to walk in a quiet, peaceful environment, listening to all the sounds around us and focusing on the present – not letting other thoughts distract us as much as possible. Instead, we should focus on the thud of our feet on the ground and the rhythm of our breath. When we’re walking in the wood, we should listen to the birds chirping, the trees rustling and the leaves crackling under our feet. It is easier to focus on these simple sounds first when we have problems concentrating. Our thoughts will often wander,
    mindfulness quote
    Focus on the feeling

    but when they do we should just gently bring ourselves back to the present moment.

These mindfulness meditation exercises are all extremely easy to practise and simple to incorporate into our daily habitual activities and can help us better cope with the difficult thoughts and feelings that cause us stress and anxiety in our everyday lives. They can help us gain the ability to root our mind in the present moment and deal with all life’s challenges in a clear-minded, calm and assertive way, thus enabling us to be fully present. Let’s all give them a try!

mindfulness quote
‘The realisation that you have control and influence over your own life is a key concept you will need to understand to practice mindfulness’ – Janet Louise Stephenson

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness for Anger Management

Mindfulness for Anger Management

by Janette Grant 19th December 2017

Anger management

How often have we been happily driving down the road feeling peaceful and calm and then a driver pulls in front of us, cutting us off? Or we want to change lane, we signal and then no-one will let us in? Immediately, our peaceful mood changes to anger! We start shouting and getting angrier and then proceed to draw conclusions…He’s an idiot…He was rude…He was in my way…He made me miss my turn. None of this is true, but it’s what our mind immediately assumes! We automatically start to draw conclusions about a situation or the people involved. Anger isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it is a normal emotion – and when we’ve been treated unfairly the emotion can help to rectify the issue. But…blowing up regularly is not good! We all have ways of dealing with anger and some are much healthier than others. But when we unthinkingly snap at people, it can be hurtful to them and us…and actually, quite embarrassing to show that we are unable to hold our temper! And Mindfulness for anger management can teach us how to calm down before the emotion becomes unhealthy.

Angry coupleThese kind of things that make us angry or frustrated can happen daily; a friend hurts our feelings by letting us down; a colleague does something that gives us extra work to do; or we do something thoughtless, which makes us cross with ourself. We then start with all these thoughts about how and why these things happened – we can start swearing and thoughts such as ‘It’s not fair’ and ‘I’m not putting up with this’ etc feed our anger. We worry about the trouble caused and whilst our minds spin off, our frustration, anger and resentment intensifies.

anger management quote
‘Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’ Buddha

The problem is that we attach meaning to an event, but once we recognise that our minds are just creating a story, we can observe our thoughts, stop the story escalating and gently bring ourself back to the present moment. We must realise that thoughts are not facts and once in the present moment, we will understand that the story we have created is causing more pain than the original event.

‘The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace: the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you think about this and come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, that it is only destructive,  then you can begin to distance yourself from anger’      Dalai Lama

Anger is our inner alarm system telling us that something is wrong, or off balance when an event has not matched with our expectations, our beliefs or our spirit. It can help us in our quest for self-awareness when we look honestly at our anger, but it can become counterproductive when we just ‘lose it’, repress it, or get wrapped up in it and allow it to negatively affect our health and relationships.

If, instead, we could stop for a moment to fully feel the emotion when we first notice our anger, we could put a little space between it and us. How does our body feel when we’re angry? Maybe we feel tightness in our chest, our body tenses and heats up and our breathing becomes shallow. We are practising mindfulness when we stop to notice these sensations in our body and just by accepting and acknowledging these feelings we can loosen their hold over us.

Cartoon of angry man
He who angers you controls you

When we are resisting what IS, our anger will build and we continue to carry that anger with us. But when we accept what IS, we will begin to move forward.  When we recognise and accept our feelings and simply observe our thoughts, we are in a much better position to make a conscious choice of how best to respond to all the daily annoyances we encounter.

Accepting Mindfulness rather than Anger Management

What were we all told to do in the past when we were angry? Count to 10? Pummel a pillow? Go to an open space and scream? How often did this work though? The problem with the old anger management techniques is that the aim was to control or contain our anger, instead of healing it by resolving the problems our anger has brought to our attention. When we try to manage anger, we’re only basically patching the wound – just temporarily blocking the flow of emotions until the next time we lose it.

It is a fact that anger is an emotional energy that stays in our body until it has run its course. And anger needs to be processed for our emotional health, otherwise it will continue to recycle and resurface. Our anger can teach us what’s important to us, where our sensitivities lie and the limit of our boundaries, but we need to listen to it to learn anything. When we are able to recognise the internal signal or clue that anger is rising, we can switch to a mindset of curiosity and self-investigation about what our anger is saying and then hopefully be able to stop ourself before the anger takes control. We can then choose how to respond to it. These impulse control techniques can make our lives more productive, fulfilling and full of meaningful and loving relationshipsanger management

Mindfulness for anger management and the impulse control techniques to help it

We first need to learn what triggers our anger and we can use mindfulness to discover this. Our anger triggers could be:

  • Situations that make us feel unfairly treated
  • Actions that make us feel disrespected, hurt, frustrated or disappointed
  • Things that we just simply don’t like, such as irritations and annoyances

We then need to learn how to catch the impulse that leads to our anger. We may not be aware of it, but there is always an impulse that comes before our anger – these impulses are the sensations and thoughts that come after the anger trigger. It may feel like anger and the anger impulse are the same, but this is not the fact. Common anger impulses are:

  • Feeling hot
  • Feeling tension in our neck
  • Raising our voice and changing its tone
  • Stonewalling others
  • Sighing frequently and loudly
  • Feeling threatened
  • Feeling fear or jealousy
  • Feeling irritable
  • Fantasising about revenge or aggression
  • Brooding about the anger trigger
anger management quote
‘You will not be punished FOR your anger: you will be punished BY your anger. BUDDHA

After using mindfulness to help us recognise our anger triggers and impulses we now need to use the impulse control techniques. If we can catch and control our anger impulses, it allows us the mental space we need to respond instead of simply reacting to whatever has made us angry. There are two impulse control techniques for our type of anger:

Anger dumpers – the aim here is to get calm and keep the anger in our body instead of unloading it. We should give ourself a time-out, close our eyes and take some slow, deep breaths. Count to 10, or 20 if necessary, whilst breathing in through our nose and out through our mouth. Then we tell ourself to relax and not react and it’s ok to sit with the feelings. If we can imagine a safe, soothing place to retreat to, we should go there.

Anger withholders – this aim is to stay present in our body and not run away. We need to try different containment exercises, such as hugging ourself tight to feel that we’re really there. Or, grip our opposite forearm in each hand and knead our skin. We should keep our eyes open and focus on staying in our body.

As we practice these techniques we must remember that thoughts always comes before feelings. It is important to remember that it’s not what happens to us, but what we think about what happens that decides how we will feel. We always have the choose to stop and explore our anger, learn from it and release it – instead of reacting to it in our normal destructive manner.

anger management quote
‘For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness’ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mindfulness for Anger Management exercise:

  1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Notice how your body feels on the chair. Take a few deep breaths, completely releasing the breath.
  2. Remember a time when you felt angry – a little annoyance is better to start with. Envision what happened, feeling the anger again and allow it to get as strong as possible within reason. You may feel other emotions as well, such as sadness and fear, but stay with the feeling of anger if you can.
  3. Feel in your body where the anger is and explore the feeling. You may want to push it away, but instead try to investigate how it feels. When you notice a sensation, check whether it increases or decreases in intensity.
  4. Practise bringing compassion to the anger – it is normal – we all experience it. Imagine holding your anger like a mother cradling a newborn – how does it feel when you hold it with tenderness and care?
  5. Say goodbye to the feeling and slowly bring your attention back to your breath and stay like this for a while, letting your emotions settle into the space of your breath and awareness.
  6. Once you have finished think about the sensations you noticed in your body. Did they change as you observed them? Could you bring compassion to the anger? What happened when you did that?

When we use mindfulness to understand and overcome anger we will learn to recognise our feelings of anger, instead of allowing them to control us, we will then be well on the way to using mindfulness for anger management, which has to be a good thing for all our relationships!

 

 

Mindfulness for eating disorders

Mindfulness for eating disorders

by Janette Grant 18th December 2017

The power of BEING PRESENT for Disordered Eating

Those of us suffering from an eating disorder can be helped enormously by becoming mindful, which helps to silence the critical voices inside our heads. Everyone struggles with trying to remain in the present moment – with non-stop social media distractions, planning for the future, and memories from the past fighting for our attention – so it’s not hard to understand why most people struggle to appreciate the present.

Individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder struggle with the critical voice inside their heads and thoughts surrounding calorie intake and weight are a huge burden to bear. These negative thoughts make them question their self-image, decreases their self-esteem and affects their ability to understand and appreciate the present moment. And then when they are bombarded with images of skinny models, articles on the next fad diet and peer and family pressure, food becomes a way of coping with the stress caused by this – it’s a vicious circle!

eating disorder quote
No food will ever hurt you as much as your eating disorder will

This makes it even harder for these individuals to live in the present, due to the constant worry about gaining weight from the food they just ate and obsessing over their exercise regimes. However, once they are able to become aware of the social and environmental stressors which cause them to feel she or guilt, they can then turn those stressors into activities that will feed their soul instead.

How mindfulness can help with eating disorders

Studies in mindfulness techniques has shown that participants practising mindfulness enjoyed significant reductions in weight and shape concern, dietary restraint, thin-ideal internalisation, eating disorder symptoms and psychosocial impairment. In a world of constant distractions, cultivating mindfulness can help suffering individuals decrease the number of binges for example and become more comfortable in their own skin. Mindfulness can also increase motivation to change unhealthy eating behaviours. We go into full detail about mindfulness and weight loss etc on this page and on our Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training post.

Mindful eating quote
Why Practice Mindful Eating?
There is evidence that mindful eating helps with treatment of obesity as well as binge eating disorders.
The benefits of mindful eating are not restricted to physical and emotional health improvements; they can also impact one’s entire life, through a better sense of balance and well-being.

 

Mindfulness for eating disorders

There are a number of techniques that can help with eating disorder suffering for individuals overwhelmed with their own thoughts and engaged in destructive behaviours. These techniques can prevent the behaviours such as not eating, purging, or eating until uncomfortably full. Once individuals take a step back and focus on the present moment and their feelings, they are able to transform their impulsive eating habits into healthy thoughts and behaviours. The following techniques can help in battling difficult moments and practising them will make any person become more mindful of the present moment.

mindful eating quote
Make Peace with Food
  • Understand the moment – it is important to understand what is happening to make us feel this way or to engage in a destructive eating habit. When we become aware of the present moment we will become aware of ourself in relation to the environment and be able to differentiate between environmental and personal factors which empower us and those things that belittle us. We should ask ourself ‘What am I feeling and why?’ and ‘What is currently causing me to harm my mind and body?’ Practising mindfulness will help us to recognise the critical voice inside of us and to gain the resilience to remove ourself from those stressors in the environment that cause us to question our self-worth. We can then move on and choose the things that feed our spirit in a more meaningful way.  Writing down our thoughts, practising meditation and yoga are all good mindfulness techniques to evoke the relaxation response and help us to live in the present.
  • Focus on the positive – by practising mindfulness it will help us to recognise that our thoughts do not need to dictate who we are. When our mind begins to entertain thoughts of a negative self-image, desires to become thin, or feelings of guilt, we must just recognise them for what they are – just thoughts – and let them go likes leaves floating down a stream. We can then engage in more positive behaviours such as exercising, cooking a healthy meal, or meeting up with supportive friends and family.
  • Take action – once we have gained awareness of our environment and the thoughts associated with our eating disorder, we can now build resilience against it. Working with a dietician to create a meal plan can help us to become more mindful whilst food mindful eatingshopping and cooking. We should avoid all distractions, (including our phone) whilst eating, so that we mindfully eat and enjoy the taste of the food and company of others. We can have fun by cooking healthy meals with friends. Doing this, establishing an exercise programme, and doing things we enjoy will cultivate mindfulness, which in turn will help us to achieve a positive self-image and finally feel love for our mind, body and soul.

Mindful eating can be practised alongside any diet, dietary programme or way of eating. As our mindfulness develops, we will naturally be drawn towards eating more healthfully. A mindfulness approach focuses on our body, eating behaviours, thought patterns and underlying beliefs, and our emotions. And it is when we are dissociated from all these that an eating disorder takes over. Unfortunately, weight and diet programmes do not address any of these issues.

Mindful eating quote
Mindful Eating: Cook and eat in a good mood. Feel the taste of food. Soft relaxed music. Eat your favourite food last. Not multi-tasking. Sit at a real table. Respect your body and health. Drink more water. Don’t hurry.

Practising mindful meditation when in recovery from an eating disorder can calm our mind and teach us to relax in environments that trigger destructive eating behaviours , thus helping us to make more sound decisions to benefit our health. Using the techniques learnt from meditation allows us to take a step back from a stressful situation, let go of our negative thoughts and respond in a more productive way.

How to introduce mindfulness meditation into our daily routine

  1. Begin the day by waking up all the parts of our body with simple stretching yoga poses, which will help calm the mind before the rush of the day
  2. Take a few minutes from the day’s schedule to check in with our breathing. When we are dealing with a difficult situation, recognise that moment and find our steady breath.
  3. When our busy day is done, schedule 10-15 minutes before dinner to engage in some mindful meditation practise. This will help release the stress from the day and help us to go on into mindful eating practises.
  4. Take 5 minutes later in the evening to body scan all the parts of our body, noticing areas of tension and release all the stress from the day. Bring our focus to the present moment and centre our thoughts.

We need to remember that when life seems to be running away from us, we must slow down and find peace within ourself. This will help us to make more healthy decisions in the present moment. When we centre our mind and body and focus on the present we will naturally learn to engage in behaviours that benefit our overall health and well-being.

 

Mindful eating quote
Mindless eating v Mindful eating
Before – my eating disorder story – emotional eating, binge eating, dieting, fasting, bulimia, overeating, food addiction.
After – my eating recovery story – the natural way of eating, the natural way of being

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness at Work

Mindfulness at work

by Janette Grant 17th December 2017

frantic minds in workplace

Most of us are dealing with hectic lifestyles – our workday is filled with meetings, calls, emails and deadlines and we often spend our evenings and weekends trying to catch up – whilst trying to raise our children, race through tv programmes and responding to a pile of after-hours work messages! It’s a crazy merry-go-round and cruising along on auto-pilot restricts creativity, makes us less productive and strains our relationships. Instead of living in the moment, our brains are stuck reviewing mental checklists and worrying about what’s coming next.

Mindfulness can help to reduce stress, anxiety and conflict, along with increasing resilience and emotional intelligence -improving communication in the workplace. It’s therefore hardly surprising to

Mindfulness at work
Mindfulness at work
‘The key to a better life is being aware in the life we live’ – Krishna Pendyala

hear that many businesses swear by mindfulness to enrich the working lives of their employees. From Google, Goldman Sachs, Harvard Business School and Transport for London – even the NHS have adopted it in various forms. Mindfulness, in its simplest form, means awareness and is fully explained on here.

It’s about paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way. We’re not trying to analyse or change anything – we’re just trying to achieve greater self-awareness and become more aware of the patterns of our thoughts and emotions. Once we are more aware, it enables us to choose how to respond to a situation instead of having the normal knee-jerk reaction. Mindfulness also helps us to decide where we want our attention to Mindfulness at workbe, anchoring our focus and concentration.

So how mindful are we? How often have we found ourself in the following situations:

  • Unable to remember what others have said in conversations?
  • Unable to remember any detail of our daily commute?
  • Eating at our desk without tasting our food?
  • Paying more attention to our mobile/laptop than our loved ones?
  • Fretting about past events or worrying about what the future holds?
  • Skim-reading this post?

If we answered yes to even one of these, then the likelihood is that we are zoning out regularly, spending at least some of our time on autopilot. As an example, we could be in a meeting and notice our mind wandering; ‘What can I cook for dinner tonight?’ ‘I need to go to the dry cleaners on the way home’ etc…etc. If we can notice when our mind is wandering, we can bring it back to the present and so improve our focus and concentration.

Mindful meditation at work
‘In your mind’s browser clear your cache…now delete your history…now navigate to a blank web page…’

How can we be more mindful at work?

How do we stop being mindless and ‘unconscious’ at work and instead be more mindful and consciously present? If we can adopt the following ideas it will help greatly:

  1. Make a clear decision at the start of the day to be present as best as we can. Pause for a few moments to set this intention in our mind.
  2. Make an effort to work more consciously, even if that means we need to work a little slower at first, but this will pay off in the long term.
  3. Remember to keep all the advantages of working mindfully in our mind to motivate us.
  4. Continue to be aware of our senses instead of getting lost in trains of thought when we’re doing a task
  5. Following on from (4.) we should practise giving our full attention to what seems like mundane tasks such as washing the dishes, opening doors, dialling numbers, or even just feeling our breathing whilst we’re waiting in a meeting room.
  6. Try setting an email reminder or put an alarm on our phone to prompt us to practise mindfulness meditation every day, as it’s easy to get caught up in the frantic pace of office life otherwise.
  7. When we are full-time parents it’s easy to get caught up in thoughts about clearing up their mess instead of enjoying the moment. But we should learn from our children – they are naturally more mindful and present. We might go out into the garden to hang out the washing and think ‘I must do some weeding’, but a child is more likely to be fascinated with the soil, the crawling ants, the smell of the grass etc – we can learn a lot from that!

 

Mindfulness at workAll this can help us to turn our day into a more mindful one. Introducing mindfulness into the workplace does not prevent conflict or difficult issues from arising, but when they do, they are more likely to be skilfully acknowledged and responded to. Mindfulness also helps us to develop the inner resources to deal with difficult, trying and stressful situations with more ease, comfort and grace.

It is clear then that mindfulness at work is a good idea…but what can we do to become more mindful in the context of our busy working lives? These are quick simple exercises we can do in the workplace:

  • The Breathing Space Meditation – this can be done at our desk or a quiet corner of the staffroom etc and will only take 3-5 minutes. We should pick any physical sense, such as our breath or the office noises, to anchor our mind to the present. Notice every time our mind wanders, and that moment of awareness when we bring our mind back to our breath etc will help train our mind to mindful breathingbe more focused. Take note of our body’s contact on the chair and the floor – what does it feel like? What are the sensory qualities involved? Pay attention to our breath – where is it in our body? What does the keyboard feel like under our fingers – notice the clicking sound of the keys. We can do anything mindfully – even washing up!
  • Mindful stretching – this can even be done whilst we’re waiting for the kettle to boil in the office. Just do some mindful stretching, noticing where there’s tension and pay attention to the physical sensation rather than thinking about the email we need to send!
  • Mindful walking – this exercise is ideal when we move around a lot in our job, such as a nurse moving from ward to ward, or a teacher walking to different classrooms. Mindful walking can be done whenever we are on the move. If we are office-based we can do it during our lunch break, or even on the way to work. When we’re walking, we should bring our attention to how the ground feels beneath our feet and who and what is around us, instead of thinking about what we have to do or what we’ve just done. Feel the breeze on our skin and notice the sounds around us.
  • Meditation of senses – this is ideal for when we are commuting on a bus or train. We should pay attention to the movement of the carriage; the noises of the engine, people chatting etc.; and the temperature. Using any of our senses to ground us is being mindful. It may be that we think the surroundings are awful and it makes us irritated, but that’s still being mindful because we are being aware of the present moment. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be in an idyllic, relaxed setting – it’s just about accepting things the way they are.
  • The Body scan – this exercise is brilliant for the growing legion of home workers. It can be used at the start or end of the day to set a boundary between work and home life. We should find a quiet place to lie down and begin to move our attention through our body from the top of our head down to our toes. Notice when our mind starts to wander as it inevitably will and gently bring our attention back to our body in a non-judgmental way.

Mindfulness at work is challenging because paying attention to the present moment is not really how our minds work. Think about when was the last time we spent ten minutes just ‘being’ – not planning what we have to do at the weekend or what we’re cooking for dinner tonight. Just being in the present moment is rare, so it’s likely to feel difficult to begin with. But persevere and the benefits can have an enormous impact on not just your working life, but your whole personal well-being.

‘If we take a moment to slow down and open up to our work circumstances, we will discover that work is continually inviting us to help, not hide; to listen openly,not to close up; to connect, not detach; to perfect our skilfulness, not put it into question’ – Michael Carroll

 

 

Mindfulness activities for children

Mindfulness activities for children

by Janette Grant 17th December 2017

mindfulness for children

We know that mindfulness is good for our parenting skills, allowing us to choose the more mindful approach rather than a less reasoned reaction. Equally, mindfulness is good for our children too. Research studies have shown that mindfulness can help our children to increase their ability to pay attention; to calm down when they are upset; improve social skills; and to develop problem-solving  and better decision-making skills. It has also been shown to reduce the effects of bullying and improve mental-health and well-being. It does this by improving their emotional regulation and cognitive focus. We discuss this in more detail here.

So how do we teach mindfulness activities to children?

Mindful children
Mindful and creative, a child who has neither a past, nor examples to follow, nor value judgments, simply lives, speaks and plays in freedom – Arnaud Desjardins

Firstly, we need to practise mindfulness ourself! It shouldn’t be the old adage of ‘Don’t do as I do…do as I say!’ It would be difficult to convince our children to practise mindfulness, if we are not engaging ourself.

Secondly, we need to let go of our expectations. Practising mindfulness is not guaranteed to eliminate tantrums; make the active child calmer; or make the house quieter. Whilst feeling calmer is partly an effect of mindfulness, it is not the ultimate goal and it is unrealistic to think it will stop normal childish behaviour. Instead, the aim of teaching our children mindfulness is to give them the following skills;

  • to develop their awareness of their inner and outer experiences
  • to recognise their thoughts as just thoughts
  • to understand what effect emotions have on their bodies
  • to recognise when their attention has wandered
  • to provide tools for impulse control

Finally, we cannot force it! If the children are not interested in the activity – due to tiredness, hunger etc – then we should leave it. This will be the time for us to practise our non-attachment to outcomes! And never make mindfulness a punishment!

Mindfulness activities for children

There are many activities to engage our children in mindfulness, but here are a few suggestions:

  1. The Bell Listening Activity – ring a bell and ask the children to listen carefully to the vibration of the ringing. Ask them to stay silent and raise their hands when they can no longer hear the sound. Then ask them to stay silent for one more minute to pay attention to any other sounds once the ringing has stopped. After, we can go around to each child and ask them to tell us every sound they noticed during that minute. Young children love this and it helps them connect to the present moment and the sensitivity of their perceptions.
  2. Breathing Buddies – ask the children to bring along a stuffed animal each and if possible, have them lie down on the floor and put the stuffed animals on their stomachs. Ask them to breathe in silence for one minute and notice how their breathing buddy bearBreathing Buddy moves up and down, and any other sensations they notice. Ask them to imagine that any thoughts that come into their head turn into bubbles and float away. Having a Breathing Buddy there makes the meditation more friendly and shows the children that a playful activity doesn’t have to be noisy.
  3. The Squish and Relax activity – whilst the children are lying down with their eyes closed, ask them to squish and squeeze every muscle in their bodies as tight as they can. Ask them to start with their toes and feet, squish the muscles in their legs, squeeze their stomachs, then their hands into fists and raise their shoulders up to their heads. Ask them to hold themselves squished up for a few seconds and then fully release and relax.
  4. Smell and tell – give something fragrant to each child, such as some fresh orange peel, a flower, a mint leaf etc. Ask them to close their eyes and breathe in the scent, concentrating all their focus on the smell of their object. Scent can help with anxiety-relief as well as relaxation, stress, concentration etc.
  5. The Art of Touch – give an object to each child to touch, such as a ball, a feather, a soft toy, a stone, etc. Ask them to close their eyes and describe what it feels like to a partner. Then ask them to swap. This exercise and the previous one teaches children to isolate their senses and to tune into separate, clear-cut experiences.
  6. Mindful walks – children will love to do a ‘noticing walk’. We can walk along noticing things we haven’t seen before and then have one minute where we are completely silent and pay attention to all the sounds we can hear, such as birds safari mindfulness walksinging, a lawnmower, a stream gurgling over stones etc. We can even expand it into a Safari walk by asking them to notice as many birds, bugs, creepy-crawlies etc as they can. This will turn a normal walk into an exciting adventure and teach them to focus all their senses.
  7. Have a daily gratitude moment – we can teach our children to appreciate the abundance in their lives, instead of focusing on all the toys eat they want. It can be as simple as sharing about one thing we are grateful for at dinner every night.
  8. Personal weather report – ask the children to best describe their feelings at the moment. Are they sunny, rainy, stormy, calm, windy etc? How do they know they are feeling those feelings? Where do they feel them in their bodies? Ask them which feelings they like best? Then ask them what they can do to feel better, reminding them they can always imagine their thoughts as bubbles when they’re upset; they can do the Squish and Relax activity when they need to calm down; or they can take a few moments to listen to their breath or feel their heartbeat if they want to relax. This activity shows children that they can observe their present state without over-identifying with their emotions. They understand that they can’t change their emotions any more than they can change the weather, but they can change how it affects them. They can learn to recognise that they are not the rain, but it is raining: they are not a scaredy-cat, but they can sometimes feel scared. Mindful heart
  9. The Heartbeat exercise – ask the children to jump up and down for one minute and then ask them to sit back down and put their hands on their heart. Ask them to close their eyes and feel their heartbeats, their breath and whatever else they notice about their bodies.
  10. The Mindful jar – this activity can teach children how strong emotions can take over and how to calm down when these emotions happen. We should put a big spoonful of glitter glue into a clear jar and fill it almost to the top with water. We then put the lid back on and shake it to make the glitter swirl. We then tell the children that the glitter is like their thoughts when they’re upset or angry and mindful jarthey can see how when it is whirling around it makes it hard to see clearly. And that’s why we make silly decisions when we’re upset and this happens to all of us. We then put the jar down in front of them and ask them to watch what happens when they’re still for a little while – the glitter starts to settle and the water clears. We then tell them that their mind works the same – when they’re calm for a few moments, their thoughts will settle and they will see clearer.

Teaching mindfulness activities for children will give them the skills they can use anytime; the skill to calm down, slow down and feel better when they are upset. If all the children around the world learned these skills in their childhood, our world would be unrecognisable in one generation!

mindful children

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness of thoughts

Mindfulness of Thoughts

by Janette Grant 16th December 2017

Mind full or mindful

How many times do we find our minds jumping to a conclusion which ends up with us descending into depression or anxiety? When this happens, we need to check where our head was at the time and if we are able to take a look dispassionately and use mindfulness of thoughts, we can become aware of why those thoughts spiralled into negativity so quickly.

By putting some space between ourself and our reaction, we can change our relationship to our thoughts, merely watching them come and go instead of treating them as actual fact. When we’re stuck in a negative thought, we should ask ourself these questions:

  • Is it true?  Often, we will think yes. But this is our brain that we live with daily, which is on auto-pilot and which we believe is right.
  • Is it absolutely true? Are we sure this thought is 100% accurate? Or can we see the thought in a different way?
  • How does the thought make us feel? Be aware of any storyline we are clinging to and notice our feelings – sad, angry, hurt, jealous.
  • What would be different if we didn’t hold this belief? Imagine the possible benefits to our relationships, motivation and energy levels.
  • What if evidence is clear that the thought actually is fact? Then we should ask ourself ‘What does buying into this thought do for me?’ ‘Does it help?’ ‘Is it working?’ If the answer is no, then simply move on from the thought, choosing not to get caught up with it.
Mindfulness thoughts quote
‘It has been said that, it is not an event that causes us distress but how we think about the event. Often we become so fused with our thoughts that instead of regarding them as merely thoughts about something, we confuse them with reality’ Pauline Skates

This example below can help us to understand how different our perception could be if we practise mindfulness of thoughts :

I’m sure this, or similar, will have happened to most of us at some time – imagine we have been having a bad day and things just don’t seem to be going well for a while. A friend walks by and although we wave, they look in our direction, but then just walk past. Take a moment to recognise what our thoughts were on reading this. We probably had various thoughts such as;  ‘What have I done wrong?’ ‘I knew it, she doesn’t like me just like everyone else’ ‘I’m worthless’ ‘What’s wrong with her?’…etc…etc!

Now imagine that we’ve been having a great day; we’ve just gained promotion at work and got a 20% pay rise and we’re just thinking about all the ways this will improve our life and our friend walks past again. We wave, but they just walk on by. What do we think this time? We may find we have a different attitude this time; ‘I wonder what’s up with them?’ ‘I hope they’re ok’ ‘Maybe they didn’t see me’…etc.

thoughts are not facts

Same situation, but differing moods and different interpretation. This illustrates how thoughts are not facts – they are just mental events which pop into our mind and are dependant on our mood. So the next time our mind jumps to a conclusion, which is likely to lead us to become anxious or depressed, we should stop to think how we were feeling at the time, as this can affect our interpretation.

When we have a thought again and again, it can end up as a belief and beliefs are then often treated as facts. When we begin paying attention to our thoughts in a gentle and quiet way, we can begin to think about our thinking and we can move away from believing that thought is fact.

Mindfulness quote
Woman: Meditation is too hard. How do you keep one thought in your mind for this long? Man: Dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner

Mindfulness of thoughts exercise

Firstly take a few deep breaths, noticing any thoughts that come into our head as we are aware of our breathing. Notice and accept these thoughts without judgment. Thoughts are not good or bad, positive or negative, they are just what they are – thoughts.

We may notice that we are having difficulty thinking about our thoughts, so think about that. We could be thinking ‘I can’t do this very well’ and that’s a thought too! Think about that!

It sometimes helps to think of thoughts like leaves in a stream, or

Mindfulness quote
Why am I smiling? Because I am observing my stressful thoughts rolling by like clouds in my mind and I don’t believe in them anymore. I am in peace.

clouds in the sky. We can notice each passing thought, as one comes

after the other. We may notice that just when we become aware of a thought, it passes and is replaced by another thought. This is normal – thoughts come and then they go.

Finally we should bring ourself back to our awareness of our breath.

Taking a few minutes a day to think about our thinking can dramatically improve our life‘  Dan Harris

A simple definition for mindfulness is the skill of knowing what’s happening in our head at any given moment without getting carried away by it. The thoughts in our head can be thought of as a waterfall with thoughts mostly full of ‘me,me,me’. Mindfulness of thoughts can allow us to step away from the current of the waterfall and observe the contents of our thoughts non-judgmentally from a distance. The ability to step outside of ourselves and ‘think about our thinking’ in a calm and non-judgmental way is something that makes humans unique.

Mindfulness of thoughts doesn’t mean we should eliminate thinking, but it  just helps us to understand what we’re thinking when we’re thinking it – just as we want to know what we’re feeling when we’re

mindfulness quote
watch our thoughts

feeling it. We can watch our thoughts, be aware of how one thought leads to another, decide if we’re being led down an unhealthy path and if so, let go and change directions, with compassion for ourself if the thought is uncomfortable. When we learn to recognise a feeling as it begins, instead of 15 consequential actions further on, we can go on to develop a more balanced relationship with it – neither allowing it to overwhelm us, nor ignoring it through fear or shame.

And so, mindfulness of thoughts gives us the ability to see our lives more clearly and honestly.  And with the clearer vision and direct, personal information we have about ourself and the world, the better we can make good decisions and the less fragmented we will feel.

Being able to think about our thinking and practising daily meditation is enormously beneficial to our physical and psychological well-being. Here’s another thought… shouldn’t we all be practising it?

Mindfulness quote
A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes. Gandhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

by Janette Grant 13th December 2017

Mindfulness – keep within reach of everyone

How can Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) help us? We all deal with stress on a daily basis, from the little irritations of life, up to the enormous life-changing events we are sometimes unfortunate to experience!  It’s inescapable and brings with it many uncomfortable and distracting symptoms. Stress isn’t just a feeling or a mental state: if we don’t learn to deal with & alleviate those symptoms, it can seep into every area of our life. Stress can cause:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation & nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain & rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds & infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability

As well as these physical symptoms, stress can also have an enormous impact on our emotions and general mood including:

  • Difficulty in concentrating & racing thoughts
  • Problems learning new information
  • Forgetfulness, disorganisation & confusion
  • Trouble in making decisions
  • Feeling overloaded and/or overwhelmed
  • Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
  • Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
  • Little interest in appearance or punctuality
  • Nervous habits like fidgeting, feet tapping
  • Increase in frustration, irritability & edginess
  • Overreaction to petty annoyances

We can see clearly how stress can reach into every part of our life, but it’s not all doom and gloom! Just because stress is inevitable, doesn’t mean we have allow ourselves to succumb to the negative symptoms of it.

Dessert

‘Stressed spelled backwards is desserts!’

Taking our cue from the above quote demonstrates that by treating stress as an opportunity, rather than a threat , we can change our mindset and meet the challenge head on, which will contribute to our growth and development – instead of panicking and succumbing to the stress… every cloud and all that!

Instead, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction can help us turn our times of struggle into opportunities for positive change – turning our stressed into desserts.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a group programme which was originally developed in the 1970s by Jon Kabat-Zinn to help treat patients struggling with life’s difficulties and physical and/or mental illness. Taking the traditional Buddhist principles of mindfulness and meditation, he developed a more modern, flexible and scientific-based approach to reducing stress and viewed mindfulness as an activity which every human has the capability of practising. There are virtually no barriers to the practice of mindfulness or yoga – it is accessible for all.

Quote about stressing less
STRESS LESS – 1.Dance it out 2.Go for a walk 3.Talk about it 4.Breathe 5.Go to bed earlier 6.Focus on what you can control 7.Reminisce about good times 8.Ask for a hug 9.Smile

Since the ’70’s, mindfulness-based stress reduction has been used by a wide range of people from all parts of life. MBSR has a flexible approach to stress reduction, with mindfulness being practised in the best way to suit the individual, but it is based on the same set of principles, some of which are; making the experience challenging and turning the mindful observing of our life into an adventure in living, rather than one more thing that ‘has’ to be done; emphasising the importance of individual effort and motivation and regular disciplined meditation; the immediate lifestyle change necessary for formal mindfulness practise, as it requires a significant time commitment; and the importance of making each moment count by consciously bringing it into awareness during practise into the present moment.

When Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is used in conjunction with existing medical and/or psychological treatments, it has been shown to greatly enhance the treatment results for:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Asthma
  • Cancer and chronic illness
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastro-intestinal distress
  • Grief
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Pain
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Skin disorders
  • Sleep problems
  • Work, family & financial stress

With help for all these it would make sense to give MBSR a try, particularly as it doesn’t require an enormous amount of time, energy or resources. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has two parts – Mindfulness meditation and Yoga – and some of the techniques are as below:

  1. Focus Mindfulness – we should focus on looking inward to observe what is happening in our mind, in the manner of an ‘eyes on the road’ experience. To keep our focus, we can use our breath to keep us grounded in the moment
  2. Awareness Mindfulness – we practise awareness of the external instead of the internal. Awareness focuses on the mind, but from an outside perspective, as if our mental activity belonged to someone else. Awareness mindfulness is looking at our thoughts and feelings from outside of our usual self-centred experience and observing our mind as a stream of consciousness without judgment. An example of a simple awareness exercise is: Start by taking a few gentle deep breaths and turning our mind inwards by focusing on our breath. Now take our mind outwards, seeing our thoughts, feelings, moods and sensations floating as objects down a stream – watching without judgment. Take one of the objects and focus on it, letting the other sensations and thoughts go by. Notice any new thoughts or feelings that appear from observing this object and sit with these for a moment. Then when ready, simply drop the object into the stream and watch it float
  3. Breathing Mindfulness – read all about mindfulness breathing on this page, where it is fully explained.
  4. Body Scan – read more about relaxation techniques here, but a brief example would see us lying flat on the floor or bed, with our eyes closed, moving our awareness through our body, focusing on one area at a time. Stop when any area is tight or sore and focus our breath on this area until it relaxes – it may help to visualise a ball of white light melting into the sore spot to aid the healing.
  5. Object Meditation – hold an object that is special or interesting, focusing all the senses on it and notice what our senses feed back to us, including its shape, size, colour, texture, smell, taste, or sounds it makes.
  6. Mindful Eating – this exercise can also include all of our senses whilst we focus on the food. Eat slowly, noticing the smell, taste Mindful eatingand feel of the food. Full information about mindful eating can be found on this page.
  7. Walking meditation – take a leisurely walk, observing how we walk and noticing the sensations in our body as we walk – how our shoulders feel, our feet as they meet the ground and the swing of our hips. Try to match the breathing to our footsteps
  8. Mindful Stretching – this can be practised with any set of stretches, but yoga will provide a more guided practice. See below and here.
  9. Worry or Urge ‘Surfing’ – we should learn to view our thoughts and feelings as ‘surfing’ on a wave. Imagine the negative emotion coming at us like a wave getting bigger as it approaches, cresting
    ‘Experiment in the living lab of your life with what might happen if you spent less time constructing an imagined state of stability and learned instead to ride the waves of your life.

    as it reaches us and finally falling away. Imagine ‘riding’ that wave as it passes, letting the negative emotion go with it. Celebrate the ability to let the emotion go and recognise that more may follow occasionally, remembering to ‘surf the wave’ again when they do.

  10. Yoga – many studies have shown the benefits of practising yoga for everyone – young and old – and is an excellent way to reduce stress and practise mindfulness. It can help enhance levels of calmness, comfort and cheerfulness, as well as quality of sleep.
MBSR quote
‘The body aches that the medical doctors couldn’t even explain, much less fix, MBSR has alleviated’

These are just a few techniques for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. When we are suffering stress, it can feel overwhelming at times and while there are many ways to deal with this stress, mindfulness can give extra benefits. It can not only address current stress, but it can also help us fight against future stress, create a deep and lasting sense of peace, and even improve our blood pressure and heart rate. What’s the harm in giving it a go? There’s nothing to lose and a lot to gain!

MBSR
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness grounding exercises

Mindfulness grounding exercises

by Janette Grant 10th December 2017

Everyone can benefit from taking a moment to focus on their connection with Earth
Everyone can benefit from taking a moment to focus on their connection with Earth

Mindfulness grounding exercises can help us firmly anchor ourself in the ‘present moment – the here and now. They can be as simple as  taking three deep breaths or longer exercises like meditation. There is no ‘wrong’ way  to ground ourself –  the aim is to keep our mind and body connected and working together. Grounding exercises can help us when we find ourself overwhelmed by distressing memories, thoughts or feelings.

Most of us, at some time, have walked barefoot on a beach.  Remember the warmth of the sun on our skin, hearing the rhythm of the crashing waves and the smell of the ocean wind. Remember our feet on the sand…was there a tingling sensation in our toes or legs as the warmth rose up our body? We can notice the same sensation whilst walking barefoot on grass – not everyone has seen it, but those who have, remember how Richard Gere’s character in  Pretty

Daily resolution: Walk barefoot on grass

Woman felt once he was persuaded to remove his shoes and socks and walk barefoot on the grass?! At that moment, he was ‘grounded’. Being grounded means we are fully present in our body and feeling connected to the earth. When we are grounded we feel ‘at home’ – this is a generally momentary, but grounding techniques can help us get and stay rooted in our bodies.

Mindfulness grounding exercises can help us clear our mind, recharge our energy, strengthen our instincts and calm our emotions – increasing our overall well-being. Signs that we are ungrounded are:

  • we get distracted easily and ‘zone’ out
  • we over-think or ruminate
  • we engage in personal drama and experience anxiety and constant worrying
  • we are overcome by the need for material possessions
  • we are easily deceived by ourself or others
  • we are obsessed with our personal image
  • Physical signs include inflammation, poor sleep, chronic pain, fatigue and poor circulation
Walk as if you are kissing the ground with your feet -Thich Nhat Hahn

Being ungrounded is a worldwide issue, yet few people recognise it as the proximate cause of much human suffering. Research on grounding began in just the last 15 years, but the results are promising in that it has been shown to reduce inflammation,  improve the immune response, reduce emotional stress, improve blood flow and elevate mood. Grounding is similar to centring and the first aim of grounding is to get rooted in our physical body. Centring  includes our mind, heart and spirit, as well as our body and once we learn how to ground ourself, it’s easier to find our centre. Grounding techniques are designed to redistribute the energy from our head/mind into our body and in doing so it has an almost immediate calming effect. Most of our stress and anxiety results from a disconnection with our bodies and the more rooted we are in our body, the less stress and anxiety we suffer.

 

It helps to have a selection of grounding exercises for different times – just as different strategies work for different people, it’s often found that different techniques can work at different times. The list of grounding exercises below are about using our senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch – to reconnect our mind and body in the present. Our basic human senses remind us we are here now, and safe. When we find ourself needing relief, we may find that only one or two work for us and we just need to pick the strategy that will be most helpful for us at the time and which allows us to feel most comfortable with.

Grounded quote
Grounded meditation allows you to focus your mind to feel more balanced and aware

List of mindfulness grounding exercises

  1. Remind yourself of who you are, say your name, age, where you are, what you’ve done today and what you’ll do next….my name is -I am – yrs old, I am in my sitting room, in my home, in Wimbledon, in London, I woke early, had a shower etc etc… This can be done if you wake in the night too, expanding it to noticing the familiar objects in your room and naming them. Feel the bed you are lying on and any sounds you hear etc.
  2. Take 10 slow breaths, focusing fully on each breath, on the way in and out. Say the number of the breath to yourself as you exhale.
  3. Splash some water on your face, noticing how it feels and notice how the towel feels as you dry.
  4. Sip a cool glass of water.
  5. Cover your crown – sounds odd, but almost always works! Just place one hand over the crown of your head and if possible, and it helps, close your eyes
  6. Hold a cold can or bottle of soft drink in your hands, feeling the coldness and the wetness on the side. Notice the taste as you drink.
  7. Feel the clothes on your body, whether your arms and legs are covered and the sensation of your clothes as you move in them. Notice how your feet feel encased in shoes and socks.
  8. If you are with other people, and you feel comfortable with them, concentrate closely on what they’re doing and saying, and remind yourself why you are with them.
  9. If you are sitting, feel the chair under you and the weight of your body and legs pressing onto it. If you’re lying down, feel the contact between your head, your body and your legs on the surface you are on. Notice how each part of your body feels.
  10. Stop and listen. Notice and name the sounds you can hear, gradually expanding outward to focus on what you hear in the distance.
  11. Hold a mug of tea in both hands, feeling its warmth. Don’t rush drinking – take small sips, taking your time to taste each mouthful.
  12. Look around you and name and notice the qualities of large objects and then smaller ones.
  13. Get up and walk around, noticing  each step as you take one, then another. Stamp your feet and notice the sensation as you connect with the ground.
  14. Clap and rub your hands together, noticing the noise and feeling the sensation in your hands and arms.
  15. Wear an elastic band on your wrist (not tight) and flick it gently, feeling it spring back on your wrist.
  16. If possible, step outside, noticing the temperature and how different or similar it is from where you have just come.
  17. Stand like a tree by standing with your feet parallel and at least  Groundingshoulders width apart. Keep your head above your body, chin tucked and spine straight. Rest your hands at your side and sink all of your body’s weight and tension into your feet (but still retaining, your posture) allowing it to be absorbed into the ground. Imagine roots growing out of your feet, extending deep into the ground beneath you.
  18. Stretch – animals have got it right!
  19. If you have a pet, spend some time with them, noticing what is special and different about them.
  20. Run your hands over something with an interesting texture.
  21. Get a sultana, a nut, or similar and focus on how it looks, feels and smells. Put it in your mouth, noticing how that feels, before chewing mindfully and noticing how it feels when you swallow it.
  22. Listen to some instrumental music, giving it all your attention.
  23. If you have a garden or just some plants, tend to them for a while. Plants and actual soil can be great ‘grounders!’

    I look around to find 5 things I can see, 4 things I can touch, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell and 1 thing I can taste. I’s called Grounding.
  24. Notice five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two you can smell and one you can taste.
  25. Take a cold shower or take a dip in the sea/lake – it is invigorating and has many health benefits. Much research has shown that exposure to cold increases immunity, can reduce fat and elevate mood (by triggering dopamine). It has been shown to be of great benefit to those suffering from depression, to the extent they have been able to stop taking anti-depressives. If you’re not accustomed to cold showers (!) or regular dips in winter, just reduce the temperature of the water in your shower to warm/cool for the last 30 seconds. Then over the next few weeks, make it slightly cooler and stay under longer. By the end of three weeks your body will be used to the cold temperature. Check with your doctor first though, before jumping into the nearest lake!
Health Benefits of Grounding; improved mood, improved sleep, reduced pain, reduced stress, improved wound healing, improved immunity, reduced inflammation.
Grounding or Earthing refers to direct skin contact with the surface of the earth.

 

 

 

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