The Instagram Effect

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I have been thinking lately about Instagram and it’s effect on the amount of “appreciative moments that I have”. When I used to travel with my friends we always reminded each other to stop and have an appreciative moment when we were doing something amazing like sailing around Sydney harbour or walking a beach in Thailand. Unfortunately, the appreciative moments were reserved for holidays….. Until Instagram came along.

Now I am constantly stopping to appreciate my surroundings and whipping out my phone to capture the moment.

Far from boasting about great experiences, I think it is great to see people really appreciating the simple things in their posts such as a hug with their sleeping child or a crisp glass of white wine at the end of the week. Instagram is vastly increasing the number of appreciative moments in our lives and keeping us all present in the moment. I for one am grateful for the “Instagram effect”.

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Wellbeing Toolkit

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Over christmas I was closing down my old journal which spanned two years. Reading through it was enlightening to say the least. I have a relatively peaceful life with good friends and family, a job which I would describe as my vocation and enough money to live comfortably. Like most people however, I encounter difficulties which sometimes wipe me out and make me sad and fearful. I was pleased to find an entry in my journal which I had written as a letter to myself after I had recovered well from a particularly heart breaking situation.

The letter to myself reminded me that, whilst in the middle of the crisis I felt that I would surely never recover, I did recover. I then listed all the things that I did to aid the recovery to be referred to in the future should the need arise. It is good to make this list while you are clear-headed and feeling positive because when you are feeling despair you might not be able to motivate yourself to come up with solutions, but you can easily refer to your list, pick a helpful activity and do you best to take part. I would call this list your “wellbeing tool kit”.

Take some time to think back through any challenging events in your life that might have taken you to your knees for a while. Now in your journal, on your iPhone or just on a pice of paper make a list of the activities, people and things which brought a smile to your face and lightened your heart just enough to see you through. What helped you to gain perspective? What gave you the boost to push through to a better place?

Here are a few of the things on my list:

1. Dancing with my niece.

Children are free of burdens and are so disinhibited that being around them, and engaging in childlike play never fails to lift my spirits.

2. Walking in nature with friends.

We call it “walking therapy”. Just half an hour out in the fresh air, exercising whilst we moan, gossip, laugh and cry always leaves us feeling like at least a tiny part of the problem has been solved.

3. Yoga

To me yoga is a cure-all. If your tired it revitalises you, if your wired it calms you down. If you are fragile you can take it easy or even just sit on your mat and breath. It will always leave you feeling better than when you started.

4. Mindfulness

I used to be lost in my stressfull thoughts most of the time before I discovered mindfulness. Now I’m still lost in thought but not as much. Mindfulness practice provides me with a balcony view over my thoughts. This allows me the space to recognise that they are “just thoughts” not facts!

5. Retreat

The picture above is me on a beach at sunset. During time away on holidays and short breaks I can clear my mind and be peaceful. If you can’t afford a holiday then plan a small at home retreat. A day of “nothingness” to just relax and unwind. Eat some nourishing food and read a good book.

6. Books

Motivational reads are perfect for challenging times. See the “on my bookshelf” page for some ideas.

7. Friends

When times are hard surround yourself with your support team. Those friends that listen, make you laugh, give you the home truths and leave you alone when you need it. I look to people who inspire me and people who have been through difficult times and recovered to be stronger than ever. These are the friends from who we can learn and grow.

8. Nourishing the body

Taking care of the body is so important during stressful and upsetting times. adequate sleep and a good nutritious diet will push you through to a better place much more quickly than self neglect. Even if you’re feeling low and de-motivated try to care for your body as you would take care of a little child, with lots of love and kindness.

 

Self-care

 

 

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There are so many clichés around self-care. We have all heard the advice about putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others and filling your own cup before giving to others. We all know that to be a good friend, mum, wife, husband and employee we need to be physically and mentally well. To support others we need to be grounded and strong enough to support ourselves first. But do we really invest enough time in self-care? Are we as kind to ourselves as we are to others? Do we talk as nicely to ourselves as we do to others? Do we give ourselves treats and rewards for a job well done? May be not as often as we should.

When I think about self-care I think about taking time for myself, being peaceful and quite, a hot bath, a new hair cut. All physical things to pamper myself. But when I looked for other forms of self-care, I realised there are much more subtle ways of taking care of, and protecting ourselves. For example, saying “no” sometimes if something feels wrong or we are too busy. Saying “yes” sometimes to offers of help or opportunities that inspire us. Trusting our instincts to know when to say yes and when to say no and not trying to be a “people pleaser”. Staying away from people or situations that creat drama or negativity as much as you can and most importantly not speaking badly to ourselves or about ourselves.

So try to make the effort to nurture yourself as you would a child. Don’t chastise yourself or be self-critical. Protect yourselves from negativity and most of all…. Love yourself whole heartedly.

 

 

A taste of mindfulness

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One of my favourite speakers, authors and thought leaders about mindfulness is John Kabat-Zinn.  He is the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts and he has written many books on mindfulness.

He wrote this poem which to me, totally embodies what mindfulness is, and how mindfulness feels. It is impossible not be moved by the possibility of feeling the essence of what is captured in his words. I hope you enjoy these words as much as I do.

‘Poem’, by Jon Kabat-Zinn,
A Taste of Mindfulness
“Have you ever had the experience of stopping so completely,
of being in your body so completely,
of being in your life so completely,
that what you knew and what you didn’t know,
that what had been and what was yet to come,
and the way things are right now,
no longer held even the slightest hint of anxiety or discord,
a moment of complete presence beyond striving,
beyond mere acceptance,
beyond the desire to escape or fix anything or plunge ahead,
a moment of pure being,
no longer in time,
a moment of pure seeing,
pure feeling,
a moment in which life simply is,
and that is-ness grabs you by all your senses,
all your memories, by your very genes,
by your loves,
and welcomes you home,
that is a taste of mindfulness.”

 

Surrender to stillness

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We all long for more time. More time to ourselves, more peace and quiet, more rest and less activity. Unfortunately though, when we get the time to be still, we are so uncomfortable in the stillness that we just fill it up with more “stuff”. I’m guilty of this myself this morning which is what has prompted me to write this post. For the first time in weeks, I have the house to myself and not a single activity on the agenda for today. I feel agitated, I have wandered around the house, done the house work, watched TV and tried to entice a friend out for a walk and it is not even ten o clock yet!

If we sit in stillness, often thoughts or feeling arise that we are normally distracted from by all our activity. So we inflict the busy-ness onto ourselves to keep these thoughts and feelings at bay.

Jon Kabat-Zinn Said,

Non-doing has nothing to do with being indolent or passive. Quite the contrary. It takes great courage and energy to cultivate non-doing, both in stillness and in activity. Nor is it easy to make a special time for non-doing and to keep at it in the face of everything in our lives which needs to be done.

So the next time you have a precious half an hour to yourself, surrender to stillness. Sit comfortably and just breath. If thoughts or feeling arise that make you uncomfortable, try to just sit with it for a while. Notice what it feels like to sit with the urge to “do” and not act on it. Focus on the breath coming into the body and going out of the body. After a time the discomfort will soften and move further away. Do this for as long as it feels OK to do so. Give yourself credit for taking the time out to be still before you go back to your activities of the day.
 

 

 

Just for today…….

Reiki-Principles

As I prepare to further my Reiki training, I have been studying the principles of Reiki and realised how closely they link with Mindfulness and present moment awareness. Dr Mikao Usui developed the five principles of Reiki (or the 5 Reiki intentions) to help us gain the most from Reiki and understand the ancient secret method for gaining happiness. Dr Usui believed that applying the five principles or intentions in our lives, in conjunction with Reiki practice, helps to increase our wisdom, compassion and inner strength.

The appealing aspect of the Reiki principles is that we only have to think about today. The thought that it is “just for today” can often make any difficult or daunting life experience seem manageable. Maybe when we are making a lifestyle change such as stopping smoking or dieting, the prospect that we might never smoke another cigarette again or will have to go for weeks without our favourite food, seems unbearable. If we bring more present moment awareness to the experience and remind ourselves we only have to do this today, and tomorrow is a new day, things somehow feel more achievable.

This fits in nicely with the mindful approach to living and present moment awareness. Our tendency to be carried away by our thoughts into future events or fears is a common source of stress. Reminding ourselves of these intentions, and living just for today brings us back to the now.

I found these intentions particularly helpful when I was grieving for a very dear and beloved grand parent. I found it over whelming that I would never see her again. Imagining my whole life stretching out before me without her in it seemed frightening and heart breaking. Just thinking about it in these terms now as write, makes my heart race and my eyes fill with tears. But, if I ask myself will I be OK if I just don’t see her today? The answer is yes, just for today I will be OK without her.

So if you are grieving, trying to change a habit or stuck in a job that you dislike and are feeling stressed about spending the next few months there, ask yourself, can I do this  just for today? The answer will probably be yes. You might think that this approach may prevent you from moving forwards in life or changing unhappy circumstances, however, when you remove the stressful thoughts of a future that hasn’t arrived yet, you achieve some mental clarity and space to take positive action.

 

 

5 Habits of mindful people

 

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If you want to become succesful at something, a good place to start is to find a role model and examine their habits.

On my recent Enhancing Mindful Resilience training I was impressed and in awe of the trainers who seemed to embody mindfulness and exude the serenity that mindfulness can bring. So I have spent some time watching people who I consider to be “mindful masters” to compile a short list of habits that promote mindful living.

1. Meditation

Mindful people prioritise their meditation time. They don’t wait to see if they get everything done and then if they have time, squeeze 10 minutes of meditation in. They meditate (usually as part of a morning ritual) and then begin the rest of their day. If you feel like you don’t have time to mediate, set your alarm just ten minutes earlier, when it goes off hit snooze. Then sit up in your bed and meditate for the 9 minutes until your snooze alarm sounds. You will feel the benefits for the rest of the day.

2. Conscious Listening

How often are you involved in a conversation and whilst the other person is talking, you are planning your answer, wondering if you will finish work on time or wishing you had bought those shoes in your lunch break? You are not in the present moment, consciously listening to the other person, you are in the past or the future.

When I observe mindful people in conversation they are calm and you can sense that they are present and listening fully. They don’t rush to provide answers or respond in the conversation. Their speech is unhurried and considered. They creat space to engage fully in the present moment. Being in conversation with a person who is mindfully aware is noticeably different and a much more enjoyable experience.

3. Mindful Eating

How often do you eat your sandwich at your desk or eat your tea whilst watching TV? You are not concentrating on your food. You are not enjoying the tastes, the textures or the smell of the food. More importantly you are not paying attention to when you are full, and so you mindlessly eat until the plate is clear. Experiments have shown that when a person is blindfolded during their meal, they eat less. They are not distracted and cannot see when the plate is empty, and so they stop eating based on their sense of feeling full.

Mindful people will treat their meal times like a ritual. Preparing the food and eating the food without distraction. Try turning the TV off and sitting quietly to eat your food. Savour each bite, chew the food for longer and take some time between forkfuls. Listen to your body and stop when you feel full rather than when the plate is empty.

4. Uni-tasking

I often find myself checking my emails on my i phone whilst I am walking round the supermarket. Or writing an email at work whilst I am on hold on the phone. By multi tasking we are doing neither task to the best of our ability. Rather than save time, we are probably causing more problems for ourselves and wasting time. I might forget half of my shopping list due to being on my phone and have to go back to the supermarket. I might make a mistake in the email because I am concentrating on the phone call.

Mindfully completing one task at a time will save time. Look at each task like a ritual. Give it your full attention and do it to the best of your ability then move on to the next task. Try to remain in the present moment. When your thoughts wonder to the next thing on your “to do” list, notice this and gently guide your attention back to the task at hand.

5. Self Compassion

One of the key principles guiding mindfulness and mindful people is self compassion. Being kind to ourselves as much and as often as possible. Don’t judge yourself for your thoughts, actions or lack of action. If your mind is busy during meditation, don’t get frustrated,  just notice the thoughts, acknowledge the busy mind and guide your attention back to the breath and the present moment. It is not possible to do a mindful meditation incorrectly, just a moment of quiet and stillness will benefit you. Don’t stop practicing because you fear you are not meditating correctly.