by Janette Grant 6th August 2017
I was taking a walk with my two dogs this morning and was doing my best to be mindful whilst walking. On the way back, passing a little beach café, I spotted a swarm of tiny ants moving a big potato crisp across the pathway. To them, it must have been the equivalent of a group of us moving a car by hand across a carpark! I stood and watched their progress for a while, amazed at the determination to take the food back to their nest and their ability to co-ordinate the lifting and carrying of it!
Apparently there are ‘leaders and lifters’ – one which scouts the terrain and organises the lifting and direction by pulling in a certain direction and the others follow. After standing there for a few minutes, making sure no-one stepped on them and ruined their progress, I left them as they got to the side and walked away smiling and uplifted by this simple demonstration of co-operation and determination – we could all learn from it! And I wouldn’t have noticed this herculean task at all if I’d not been walking along practising mindfulness.
Mindfulness sessions help athletes to develop mental edge
7th August 2017
This is an article from the American Psychological Association which expands on the concept of mindfulness being beneficial in the success in sports. The article explains how it helps athletes to prepare psychologically to develop a mental edge and improve performance.
Be mindful to notice the view and ‘smell the roses’
by Janette Grant 9th August 2017
Today, I drove along the lakefront in Garda, practising mindfulness as I drove. I looked at the wonderful view of the lake, I listened and sang along to the music on the radio and felt the sun on my shoulders and the breeze in my hair with the top down in the car. I stopped to let out cars from side roads and smiled at the people when stopped at pedestrian crossings. When I arrived at Castelletto I remembered to be grateful for the last space in the car park. I walked along the lake with my dogs mindfully aware of all the lovely houses and when by the time I’d stopped at a local bar for a cappuccino and croissant I had several messages and emails come through on my mobile, but I was mindful of what was in front of me, put the mobile away and sat gazing at the view and watched passersby, really savouring the froth on my coffee and the tasty breakfast. I have just arrived back home and now feel so uplifted that I can calmly deal with any work issues today!
‘In the end, just three things matter: how well we have lived; how well we have loved; and how well we have learned to let go’ Jack Kornfield
The above is a quote taken from The Mindfulness Journal by Corinne Sweet, which is a favourite mindfulness book of mine : The Mindfulness Journal – Amazon It has lots of quotes and exercises to help us become more mindful.
Mindfulness and sex
10th August 2017
Ok…now I have your attention! Below is an article from the Independent newspaper about how mindfulness can improve our sex lives. Basically, therapists are saying that being more present with each other can lead to better sex; paying attention to our partners should be a given, but mindfulness can help us achieve this.
A mindful walk…?
13th August 2017
‘I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake,
beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze………….
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood.
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude:
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
- Sounds to me that William Wordsworth was practising mindfulness…..
Loving a broken body
14th August 2017
The following is an interesting article about weight loss posted on the Psychology Today website: A counterintuitive road back to your skinny jeans
Take a look at our Mindful eating to achieve weight loss and sustain it page for further help.
Ruby Wax talking about how mindfulness helped her depression
15th August 2017
This is an interesting article about how Ruby Wax wrote her book about depression and how it was helped through mindfulness.
Here is an extract from the book: ‘When you use mindfulness, you learn to accept things the way they are without trying to change them. It is the gateway to the ‘shit happens’ school of enlightenment. Everyone wants things to be better, but they mostly aren’t, so what are you going to do about it? Have a hissy fit? This is a hard one to swallow, but swallow it you must if you want to go to sleep at night. As the observer, you witness the good, the bad and the ugly without giving a running commentary on whether you like what you’re seeing or not. Once you start doing that, you’ve lost your seat on the sidelines and will be sucked back into the crossfire of words.’
The book is definitely worth a read if you’re struggling with depression.
For more help take a look at our Mindfulness and meditation can help beat depression page.
Will Young becomes Mindfulness Coach!
27th August 2017
This short article tells how Will Young has been practising mindfulness for years and now wants to share it with others
When swallows fly high…the weather will be dry…
by Janette Grant 2nd September 2017
This is what the old folklore says. Well, this video from yesterday during a thunderstorm in Garda shows them sheltering their little bodies from the heavy rain and hailstones! I was watching the storm from the window, taking note of the heavy rain bouncing off the road, listening to the thunder, marvelling at the flashes of lightning and smelling that lovely ‘rain smell’, when I suddenly noticed all the lovely swallows clinging on to every little ledge they could find and just had to get my camera to record it…there was even one holding on to the side of the window…so sweet!
17th November 2017
I love this idea for a short yoga exercise…perfect for this time of year!
Close your eyes and be very still, imagining that you are a snowman (or snow-woman) standing in the middle of a sparkling, snowy garden. You are frozen and completely still. Everywhere around you is covered in crisp, white snow and the sun is shining, making the snow shine even brighter.
Whilst you are standing in the garden, take a few seconds to feel how peaceful it is on this sunny morning. Feel the warmth of the sun on your frozen head and body.
Very slowly, feel yourself melting – starting from your head, feel the snow melting and dripping down onto the frozen ground. Now feel your body getting smaller and smaller, wonderfully warm and ready to move again. As each part of snow melts, your body is transformed until there is only a pile of fluffy snow in the middle of the garden.
You feel very relaxed and still, and no longer a snowman.
And now, when you are ready, wiggle your fingers and toes, stretch and open your eyes.
Mindfulness in our relationships
Mindfulness in our relationships
by Janette Grant 14th February 2018
Today seems the perfect day for looking at how mindfulness in our relationships can help us gain better connections with all our loved ones! And who wouldn’t want that! Mindfulness practise not only improves our own well-being; studies have now shown how it can also have an enormous effect on our interpersonal relationships. Couples who practise mindfulness experience reduced levels of relationship stress, as well as overall stress, thus experiencing an increase in their relationship happiness.
Mindfulness helps us in being more open, compassionate and self-aware, giving us a skill that enables us to calm ourself down when we feel stressed. It helps us to switch out of autopilot so that we can be more present and connect with the moment and recognise when we have negative, judging thoughts. As a consequence it’s easy to see how being more mindful can make us better relationship partners and recent studies show that higher levels of mindfulness produce happier, more satisfying relationships.
How practising mindfulness can give us happier and more fulfilling relationships:
- Mindfulness teaches us to be more present and attentive – how often have we been frustrated when we are trying to talk to someone whose attention is elsewhere – looking at their phone or watching tv etc? Practising mindfulness can change the part of our brain related to attention and focus, which enables us to recognise when we are in autopilot and instead pay attention to what our partner is saying and what they may be feeling and needing. Being more present in our relationships will help us become more loving, which builds intimacy and makes for happier and more connected relationships.
- Mindfulness reduces negative emotional reactivity – studies have shown that practising mindfulness can change the emotion regulation part of our brain. The amygdala is the part of our brain controlling our fight, flight or freeze impulse and this is what causes us to feel threatened during arguments with our partners. This can then cause us to shut down emotionally or start an attack on them with angry words. Mindfulness effectively shrinks the capacity of our amygdala by reducing its ability to seize control and put us into threat mode, thus helping us to escape from the negative cycle of destructive arguments or emotional distance.
- Mindfulness enhances emotion regulation – studies have shown that practising mindfulness also strengthens our prefrontal cortex, which is the thinking part of our brain. Mindfulness can help it to take earlier control of our amygdala to stop the fight, flight or freeze response, thereby enabling us to recognise that losing our temper or walking away when our partners are talking is not helpful. It will help us resolve conflict instead of exacerbating it and be less reactive to relationship stressors, thus preventing us from heading into a relationship minefield. We have all had moments when we feel our anger rising and we feel intense distress, but what if we could just merely recognise those emotions without allowing them to take control and thus be able to keep our emotional balance? Mindfulness gives us this ability; it allows us to think how we would like to respond instead of reacting impulsively. It enables us to observe our thoughts and stay connected to our feelings without acting on impulse based on our past issues.
- Mindfulness improves self-awareness – practising mindfulness can also show changes to our anterior cingulate cortex (ACC); this part of our brain controls our sense of self-regulation, self-perception, emotions and impulses. It helps us to view problems from a different perspective, allowing us to adapt instead of holding on to fixed ideas of ourself and our partner. It also helps us to recognise when we are acting destructively and impulsively and brings our attention back to how we believe we should react – reminding us of our core values. So that when we are about to check our partner’s messages for example, it nudges us to leave it alone and move on. It’s very easy to get stuck in a negative cycle resulting from childhood attachment issues and past traumas; and romantic relationships are particularly susceptible to opening us up to our insecurities and distrust. How often, in a distressing moment, do we find ourselves saying something that we later regret? Why is it always those with whom we are closest?! It is those closest relationships which challenge us most by reminding us of feelings from our past and our fears of being hurt. This vulnerable state can cause us to be more reactive and we then risk self-sabotaging by not behaving our best when dealing with those we love. Mindfulness helps us to be calmer and reduces the automatic negative behaviours such as trying to control our partner or avoiding intimacy. Enabling us to change ourselves and, as a result, our relationships.
- Mindfulness increases our empathy – mindful practise also changes our insula, which is the part of our brain connected with empathy and compassion. This helps us in being more understanding of our partners’ perspective and emotions and thereby helps us in feeling more compassion towards them. When we interact with compassion, instead of anger, our communication becomes much more positive. Compassion also helps us in expressing our love and warmth for our partner, which in turn builds more intimacy. Mindfulness can help us change from an avoidance mindset to a more open, accepting and empathic approach. Most of us occasionally find ourself fixated on our partner’s flaws, but mindfulness helps us to change track and instead, focus on their positive attributes. When we can recognise and understand that their behaviour is affected by their past (and present) life it is easier to forgive negative behaviour. Becoming more aware of our own emotions also helps us to reduce the likelihood of our own stress affecting how we connect with our partners.
Practising mindfulness in our relationships gives us an incalculable aid for the everyday challenges of staying close to our loved ones, enabling us to become more centred and calm, so that instead of reacting and ending up shouting at each other, we learn to talk things through. When we are feeling defensive, we overreact to what is being said, which means we fail to really hear what is upsetting them. What are they experiencing? Why are they upset? What is really being said or asked of us? When we are more mindful we are able to take a moment before responding, recognise that we are feeling angry and make a decision to take a break and calm down – maybe by taking a few deep breaths or taking a walk.
Once we’ve had time to reflect on our feelings, we can choose how we deal with them and select better actions which will not hurt our partner. Once we’ve calmed down we will communicate more clearly from the heart, rather than from anger. Mindfulness isn’t about denying our emotions, but rather choosing a different way to deal with them. If we imagine our feelings being a train roaring through a station, then only we can choose whether to get on board.
‘What mindfulness does is it creates this space; it takes us out of the catastrophe. And as a couple working together in a mindfulness way…there’s a lot more heart available. There’s a lot more understanding possible than this need to defend’ – Dr Donna Rockwell
How to develop mindfulness in our relationships
Mindful meditation helps us to get to know our thoughts by teaching us to slow down and pay attention, helping us to become more familiar with our minds. It enables us to recognise our many critical inner voices that rule our lives subconsciously. Once we begin to recognise these voices we can start to act against them and prevent them from affecting our perceptions of ourselves and our partner. When we can do this, we will be stronger in our relationships. We know that mindfulness is all about paying attention to the present moment without judgment and if we can stay in the moment with our partners, it is much easier to stop fixating on their flaws or turn against them. Instead, we welcome each moment and nourish empathy, insight, and morality within ourselves, and in turn extend the same compassionate approach to our loved ones.
We all desire happier relationships and mindfulness can be the key to relationship satisfaction, so instead of focusing our energy on complaining about our partner we could re-focus that energy into practising mindfulness. Even better, if we want to be more successful in our relationships we should try learning mindfulness together! This will help us be more present, loving and emotionally mature and surely that’s what we all want!
24 hours of Daily Mindfulness
24 hours of Daily Mindfulness
by Janette Grant 28th January 2018
So many of us just spend our days rushing around, dashing from one situation to another, and this constant hectic activity can put a huge strain on our mind and body. Instead, when we begin to practise 24 hours of daily Mindfulness we will learn to recognise and enjoy the present moment, rather than spend our life distracted by past regrets and future worries.
Mindfulness, originating from Buddhism, is about paying deliberate and non-judgmental attention to each moment of our life. Feeling gratitude for the moment generates happiness and the significant benefits of practising daily mindfulness are experienced through a reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, and even pain; an improvement in sleep; and lower blood pressure. This all gives an improved physical and emotional well-being and more focus and intuition.
24 hours of Daily Mindfulness activities
Whatever we are doing in our day to day life these calming strategies will help us through in a mindful way so we can enjoy the moment.
First thing in the morning – instead of just reluctantly dragging ourself out of bed we should try setting our alarm 10 minutes earlier, sitting somewhere comfortable, with our eyes closed and focus on how we feel in our mind and body. Allow our thoughts to drift along, just noticing if we feel any tension, and letting go. We can then focus on our breathing and its rhythm for a few minutes and relax. This will set our intention for the day ahead.
Journey into work – when driving in to work try to park 10 minutes further away than normal, or if we are catching the bus, we should get off a couple of stops before, so that we can incorporate an outdoor walk in our daily routine. Whilst walking, pay attention to the surroundings, including what we can see and hear and how the wind feels against our cheeks. Notice how our feet feel on the ground, the shifting of our weight and our pace. Connecting with nature in this way will help to ground us, making us feel part of something greater and allowing us to gain perspective.
Whilst at work – a basic mindfulness exercise is to focus on our breathing and we can use this when we feel our mind wandering, by bringing our attention back to our breath. This can work in the same way when we notice our attention straying from our task – when we become distracted we should just take a deep breath and bring our attention back to the task. And if we make a point of smiling at people it will immediately increase our positivity and level of happiness.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner etc – whilst preparing and eating our meals we can use the time to practise some mindfulness meditation. We should focus on our breath whilst inhaling and exhaling and when our mind wanders we should just gently bring our attention back to our breath. When we sit down to eat we should notice how our food looks and smells and how it tastes and feels in our mouth. When we purposely think about our body’s needs and appreciate every mouthful it will help us to ensure we only eat what we need, which will help to maintain a healthy weight.
Random acts of kindness – try fetching a coffee for a colleague, giving flowers to a friend or saying thank you to the bus driver. These small acts of kindness are psychologically proven to help us feel better about ourselves, whilst also making the other person feel valued as well – a win/win situation!
Waiting in line – when we find ourself queueing at the bank, or stuck in a traffic jam, try to view it as an opportunity to be still and focus on how we are feeling, whilst we take some deep, calming breaths. Take notice of the people around and cultivate feelings of compassion and positivity towards them – we will be surprised at how much more joyful we feel in response.
Catching up with friends – when spending some time with friends try a simple exercise whereby each person says 3 positive events that happened in their day. It will foster an awareness of the positive moments in our lives and this will make us become more aware that even in bad days we can find something to appreciate.
Digital detox – How many times have we said we are too busy, but then spent time scrolling through social media sites wasting precious moments we could be spending more productively? Try to switch off and put away all our technology for 10 minutes at least! Even better, leave the phone at work during lunch to give us some real space and down-time, which will allow us to feel more present in the moment.
Use this extra time for ourselves – we must make time to listen to ourself. When we feel a negative emotion we should listen to what it’s trying to teach us. Our emotions are there to show us what we need to know and prompt us to take appropriate action; even when it’s uncomfortable, we must ensure we pay attention.
When we are afraid, we are being told to be courageous. When we feel trapped, we are being prompted to take down the obstacles to obtain the freedom we crave. Paying attention to difficult emotions allows us to more easily process the discomfort we are feeling.
Count our blessings – at the end of every day we should write down three things for which we are grateful and one thing with which we have struggled, but learnt from. Writing it down helps us to appreciate it more and if we prefer, we can use an actual gratitude jar. This will help us notice all the little things that make our life wonderful!
And so to bed – just as recommended for our children, we should also endeavour to have a bedtime ritual which will help to calm us and quieten our busy minds to prepare us for sleep. Try to switch off from our phones and lap-tops etc – we can hardly expect to fall asleep easily when we are sitting in bed looking through our social media sites just before lights out! Instead, we need to pamper our minds and bodies by using candles, aromatherapy and bubblebath – this will allow our emotional self to relax along with our physical self. We can even spend the time we are cleaning our teeth in an informal, mindful contemplation. We will then be ready for bed feeling clean and relaxed.
Once in bed, before we go to sleep, we should practise mindful breathing. Take a deep breath in through our nose for 3 seconds, hold our breath for 2 seconds and then a long breath out through our mouth for 4 seconds. Notice each breath without trying to adjust it, observe the rise and fall of our chest and the sensation through our nostrils as we breathe. We may find that our mind wanders, but just be aware when this happens and gently bring our attention back to our breath. As we lie there, bring awareness to all the physical sensations in our body beginning with our toes and slowly move upward. Hopefully, by the time we reach our head we’ll be ready for the Land of Nod!
If we can practise these 24 hours of daily mindfulness regularly we will reconnect with ourselves and become healthier in mind, body and spirit, now in the present and in the future. It all starts by changing one habit at a time – give it a try – practising these activities will change our life for the better!
Make Mindfulness our New Year’s Resolution!
Make Mindfulness our New Year’s Resolution!
by Janette Grant 10th January 2018
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
How to practise Mindfulness for our New Year’s resolution
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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…
- 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.
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.
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