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Amanda James

Mindfulness and the 5 Senses

Mindfulness, our ability to pay attention to the present moment, with curiosity and without judgment,

There are various ways to practice mindfulness, one example of a mindfulness practice is called the Five Senses Practice, the aim is to focus on the environment that you are in, using your five senses, it's simple and easy to do and it can be as long or short as you wish the practice to be.

Start the practice as you normally would, being in a comfortable position, maybe even walking, bringing your focus to your breath, the phyisical sensations of the breath as you inhale and exhale, the eyes softly closed if your not walking.

Seeing - Open your eyes and look around you, observe what you can see, the colours, shapes and textures, really look at all the variations, shades of colour,  bright or muted, angles and curves, rugged or smooth surfaces, maybe noticing something you've never seen before, take your time.

Hearing - Start by listening to the sounds close to you, try not to label the sounds as pleasant or unpleasant just notice, allow your attenion to drift outwards to hearing the softer more subtle sounds that are in the distance, sounds that may have previously gone unnoticed.

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Amanda James

Appreciation for what you have

Take a moment now and scan through your life, notice which memories or parts of your life that you feel appreciation for, I'm guessing that its something that happened rather than something that you purchased.

We are not usually focused on what we have, more often than not we are focused on what we don't have, If only I had a better job or that promotion I went for, if I only had a bigger house, If only I had a better car, a state of most of the time, wanting more, but some of the people who have all of the things, that we think we need are not less stressed or have higher self esteem levels and cope with life better than we do.

People who can appreciate what they have are more satisfied in their relationships with their family and friends, they have lower levels of stress hormones helping to improve their general health, lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems and are generally happier within themselves.

Appreciation can be learnt, look around you, find the silver linning, instead of looking at what you haven't got, look at what you do have, you may not always be able to control what happens in your life, but you do have the choice in how you handle the situation when it arrives,

Recently I came across by accident a video on YouTube called Brightside, be grateful for what you have, by Igor Kalashnikov,  It starts with a helicoptor flying above a yellow sports car, the man in the car is looking up wishing he had the helicoptor, as the clip focuses to the left of the screen, there's another man sitting in a red 4 wheel drive vehicle looking at the yellow sports car, wishing he had the sports car in his life. The video moves to a man in a blue saloon car and a man in a small 2 door car both wishing they had bigger and better vehicles. Eventually you see a man riding a bicycle wishing he just had a car to drive and then a man waiting at the bus stop for his bus, he to wishing that he just had a bike to ride. The last shot in the clip is of a man sitting on a balcony, looking down on the street below wishing he had the mobility to walk that street, He was in a wheelchair. The freedom to walk whenever and wherever we wish, is something that most of us forget to really appreciate.

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Amanda James

Are you Listening?

Listening = "To give one's attention to a sound"

Steven Covey said "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply"

Listening in any language requires focus and attention, we use our ears to receive individual sounds, our brains then convert these sounds into messages that mean something to us. Its a skill that some of us need to work a little harder than others to achieve, hearing is the act of taking in sound by the ear, LISTENING however is what we consciously choose to do.

45% to 50% of a typical day is spent listening and immediately after we listen to someone, we only recall about 50% of what is said. We listen at 125 - 250 words per minute, but think at 1000 - 3000 words per minute.  

Effective listening helps to resolve conflicts, builds trust, inspires people and strengthens relationships, spending time being in the present moment and really listening you will truly absorb the information that is being given to you, good listeners are perceived as being more intelligent.  

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Amanda James

What is MBSR

What is MBSR? It is an evidence based 8 week course, generally the weekly session are 2 hours long with a committed daily practice time of 30/45 minutes per day, 5 or 6 days per week, It offers training in Mindfulness practices, these practices (include: mindful breathing, mindful movement, body scan and other simple mindful techniques) when learnt, can help people to cope with stress, anxiety, depression and pain.

The course is designed on the original MBSR programme that was developed in the 1970's by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, it was then used to treat adults suffering from both mental and physical chronic pain that was a side effect of illness.

Today it is a practical and experiental course, giving its participants the opportunity to build committed regular mindfulness practices, learning both formal and informal types of practice.  The different practice skills can then be used long after the 8 week programme has been completed. It helps to form new patterns of thinking and build new healthy lifestyle habits,  assisting in changing the way that we react to our real everyday life pressures and ultimately lowering the health risks that are associated with high levels of stress. 

It seem that some of us are forever living life in the fast lane that we somtimes forget to check in with how we actually are, how we feel phyisically, emotionally and mentally. Mindfulness helps us to focus our attention on the "right here, right now" and live in the present moment.

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Amanda James

Do you know when it's time to S.T.O.P

Sometimes, even after having a good formal morning mindfullness practice, our day can turn out to be just, ONE OF THOSE DAY'S when it's all to easy to get caught up in all the stresses and activities of what we consider to be our normal everyday daily lives, when we are rushing around on atuopilot, not really sure of how we are feeling and what we are thinking, "sounds very familier does'nt it" By introducing the STOP practice it can help you positively change the way your day is shaping up.

S.T.O.P is an acronym

S = Stop what you are currently doing, just pause for a moment.

T = Take one or more abdominal breaths, Re-connect with your breath, your breath is your anchor to the present moment.

O = Observe your thoughts, feelings and sensations in this moment, noticing what IS happening.

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Amanda James

Kindness

"Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see" Mark Twain

Kindness - The quality of being, friendly, generous and considerate

Psychologists believe that we are wired to detect anything that threatens our survival, always on the look out for the next incoming danger, our attention has been raised to continuing acts of unkindness and cruelty in our every day life, shown to us through television, social media, newspapers and magazines.  Has this made us fearful of having interactions with others, leading us to be less likey, in offering acts of kindness to people we don't know? Maybe in this fast paced world we live in kindness and compasson have taken a back seat to our self interest of getting ahead, being more successful, wanting to earn more, continually working longer hours to achieve and be happier. Is that being kind or compassionate to oursleves?.

When we do something kind for someone else we feel good within ourselves, many people feel that this is because its the right thing to do, so reaching deeply into our sense of whats good about human nature. Kindness improves our relationships by reducing the emotional distance between people, allowing us to feel connected giving us closer bonds with our partners, families, working colleagues, neighbours, local groups even strangers. Kindness is contagious when we are kind ourselves it inspires others to be kind, creating ripples that fan outwards reaching into other peoples lives.

When we are observant and really listen, we will notice the chances that arise in our day to day lives, to be kind and ease the paths of others who we share our world with, it can be as simple as having eye contact with someone and saying hello, a smile, a thank you, making a cup of tea, a thoughtful note in a loved one's lunch box, giving a lttle of your time to help an other person, checking on an elderly neighbour, I could type an endless list of things here, I'm sure you all having plenty of way's you can be kind.

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Amanda James

Mindfulness during the Menopause

Menopause is a time of great change, a natural biological process for all women, it happen's generally in your 40s or 50s.  The physical symptoms that may be experienced can be Hot flushes, Night sweats, Sleep problems, Weight gain and slowed metabolism, Thinning hair and Dry skin, Irregular periods, before they totally cease and vaginal dryness.  The emotional symptoms experienced could include Irritability, Anxiety, Fatigue, Mood changes, Sadness and Difficultty in concentrating. Having to live your every day life with some of these symptoms can have an overall effect on your health, wellbeing and lifestyle.

Research has found that women who are committed to practicing Mindfulness may experience fewer menopausal symptoms, and women who have higher stress levels show a greater link to experiencing menopausal symptoms.  The impact of Mindfulness on menopausal symptoms is not the same for all of it's symptoms, hot flushes and night sweats seem to be the least changed symptoms, although it shows a positive reduction in the symptoms of irritability, anxiety and fatigue, allowing some women to have help with their changing emotions.

Mindfulness involves focusing our attention on the present moment, maintaining an awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations non judgementaly through a gentle nuturing lens. When we practice Mindfulness we are able to tune into what we are experiencing right now rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future, using our breath as our focus.

Although Mindfulness cannot claim to entirely eliminate menopausal symptoms it shows that it may reduce the impact that your symptoms have on your life, giving you a vital life tool to have.  You have every to gain and nothing to lose so give it a try.

(REF: A study conducted by the Mayo clinic, Dr Richa Sood)

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Amanda James

Should you be writing a Journal?

A cathartic release for some, a permanent record for posterity with other's.

Journal writing is good for you, it assists in helping us to clear our mental clutter, the stuff that justs keeps going around and around in our heads.  Transfering those problems we have from inside our heads onto a piece of paper, the mind becomes clearer, we can then switch our attention from problem storing to problem solving. To relive experiences and events safely on paper without charged emotions. giving us a dialogue with ourselves, breaking down complex experiences into smaller pieces that are easier for us to cope with, reducing stress levels, fear and anxiety.

Journal writing can help us when we need to make decisions that will affect our future life situations, by having a record of the past choices we have made, allow's us to make informed future choices, avoiding past mistakes.  Recording our major accomplishments and moments that we are proud of boosts our self confidence and self esteem.

Wanting to watch your weight? keep a food diary it's a great way to pay more attention to what and when you eat, allowing you to see if there are particular times when you are hungery or whether emotional factors increase your intake of food.

At work, school or university keeping a record of the good projects, pieces of work you've completed on time and had great feedback from or maybe  some other area may come to light that you need to pay a little more attention to.

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Amanda James

Mindfulness with your Children

Sadly at an increasingly younger age our children seem to be facing higher levels of stress in their young lives.  Mindfulness practices can be benifical for children for exactly the same reasons they are helpful to us adults.

It may seem like a huge daunting task to ask your children to meditate, when you can't even get them to eat breakfast before going to school or get them to concentrate on their homework.  Mindfulness can help children to have a happier school/social experience, to focus during exams and reduce stress and anxiety.

Being Mindful is the ability to sustain a focused awareness on the present moment whilst acknowleding and accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, maybe a little challenging for children to fully understand, although parents can gently begin to help their children discover their awareness.  Parents could start by introducing short quiet times, bringing awareness to breathing maybe in the morning or evening, a few moments can be really helpful at reducing the physical symtoms of hightened excitement or anxiety.  Breathing is also benifical for the youngest of children games like pretending to lay still like vegtables.  Learning to focus on thier breathing will take a little practice at first so a game is always a great place to start, placing thier favourite teddy on their tummy and rocking it to sleep with the motion of the rise and fall of their belly whilst breathing, pretending that their bellies are balloons making them bigger and smaller.  Focusing on our senses is a really helpful tool, a listening or seeing walk, paying attention to what you can hear or see whilst standing still for a few moments during the walk, maybe stopping at a favourite spot to do this, if its a walk that you take regularly.  Asking your children at the end of their day to remember something happy, nice or glad that had happened to them or someone else they know, can help them to keep themselves in a positive frame of mind.

As adults we fully understand that the vast ocean that is our lives, has small ripples to major storms that we need to endure from time to time, generally if we pay attention to our feelings during these times they don't say around to long, shutting them away is just asking them to hang around and possibly build up into a mountain rather than a mole hill, this is exactly the same for our children no matter how old they are.

Enjoy your family breathing sessions

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Amanda James

Take a Break from your Daily Stress

How can you escape from the harmful effects of stress in your normal daily life?

Feeling stressed can feel perfectly normal to most of us, especially when we have a busy lifestyle and in small doses stress can even help you accomplish some tasks more efficiently, at other times we can feel overwhelmed and unable to concentrate on the smallest tasks.

The good stress keeps us feeling alive and excited about life, feeling our pulses quicken when riding a rollercoaster, butterflies in our stomach when we are going on a first date, result in helping us to feel pleasure and be happy with life.   When bad stressful situations occur and it feels inescapable our bodies are being exposed to chronic stress, we are then prone to having a weakened immune system, fatigue and anxiety related conditions.

Mindfulness breathing helps us to interrupt the stress cycle, letting us get some space away from the stressful situation.  Using our breath as an anchor (our breath being ready available to us whenever we need it) bring your awareness to the physical sensations in your body whilst breathing, the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen, the warmth or coolness of the breath in and around your nostrils.  Your mind will inevitably wander off, thinking, planning or just day dreaming.  When this happens, gently with kindness bring your awareness back to the sensations of your breathing, this may happen a few times or many times, just keep bringing your focus back to the breath and the present moment.

Often when we are stressed we take shallow more rapid breaths, by bringing our attention to the rise and fall in our abdomen, it relaxes us by encouraging a slower more rhythmic breathing pattern, this will massage our internal organs improving blood supply supporting a healthy heart and brain.  You can choose to be lying on your back, sitting up tall on a chair, crossed legged on the floor or even out walking when doing your practice. Start by doing a few minutes several times a day increasing it up to a complete 30 minute practice once a day, your practice will allow you to take the control back into your life and help to balance your emotions and thoughts, making choices and decisions with clear awareness. 

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Amanda James

Are you getting your Green Exercise

Many of us, due to our modern day lifestyles are experiencing a nature deficit.  More of us now live in towns and cities, many of us work inside large and tall buildings sometimes without windows, we are also constantly involved with using our many electronic devices.

Walking in nature, taking in all the atmosphere, using all of our senses to absorb the experience has a positive effect on our minds and bodies.  Research has shown that spending time in nature can, reduce stress, anxiety, deepression and anger, therefore helping us to feel happier, less fatigued, more tranquil and relaxed.  As little as 5 minutes of Green Exercise, a short walk across a park at lunch time, has been shown to boost moods and self esteem, producing a more productive working afternoon.

When our Green Exercise becomes a regular activity, physically we can expect to improve our cardiovascular fitness, strengthen our immune system, lower our blood pressure and improve our muscular strength.

With all of these healthy benefits what a great option for us to choose as an activity, when we have a liitle free time, maybe a walk and picnic in your local countryside, forrest, lakes, woodland and streams, coastal beaches and cliffs, even your local parks, anywhere that will take you closer to nature.

 

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Amanda James

Choose to eat Mindfully

Mindful eating - Giving your full attention to the experience of eating in the present moment.

It has also been shown to help with weight loss and assist in gaining control of unhealthy eating habits.

A few simple tips to get you get started.   Slowing down and eating without distraction.  Our brain takes around 20 minutes to register that we feel full, so sitting down giving our full attention to what we are eating and chewing our food is a great place to begin.  Try not to be distracted by the television, the computer or your smartphone.

Decide what makes you eat,   do you eat from actually being physically hungry or from an emotional signal such as feeling stressed, frustration, sadness or just plain old fashion boredom.  By learning to know and understand what your own personal triggers are, will give you time to choose your response to those feelings.

When do you eat?   at random times during the day grabing snacks here and there during your busy day or do you plan ahead deciding what you are going to eat and when.  With good organisation and preperation skills you are more likely to eat the amount of food that you need and not overindulge with one more snack.

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Amanda James

Wellbeing

Wellbeing feeling good and phyiscally well

Do you want to feel more positive, happier and get the most out of your life?

There is much evidence and research to suggest that there are 5 Steps we can take to achieve an improvement in our mental and phyiscal wellbeing.

Being mindful an awareness of being fully in the present moment, whilst acknowledging and accepting our feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. When we are mindful we can reduce stress, enhance performance and gain clear insight.  You come to realise that your thoughts come and go of thier own accord and that you are not your thoughts.

To be Active take a walk or cycle, enjoy the colours and smells of the outdoors, join a team event and make new friends, anything that inspires you to move and breath.

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Amanda James

Mindful Dance

To Dance mindfully is to synchronise your mind and body with breath and rhythm.

Mindful dancing can allow the body and mind to release it's stresses, in a way that brings pleasure by moving to music.  Even the most simplist movements enable you to express your own personal emotional story, happy, sad, confident or shy.

To try it out, choose a particular peice or several peices of your favourite music, listen intently, notice your emotions that are present at this moment, allow yourself to begin moving freely completely natural and in a way that is comfortable for you, without forcing, striving or pushing yourself to hard (remember its not a workout and no one is looking).

When your attention begins to wander (and it will) away from your movement, invite it back with kindness, connect back into your breathing and once again to the flow of your movement.

You could keep the practice totally personal to yourself or choose to share it with a partner, family or friends.  At the end of the practice you might like to take a little time to just sit, rest and reflect, being aware of your breath, in the stillness and quietness after the movement and music.

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Amanda James

Connection to others

Most of us need to feel supported, valued and Connected to others, this makes us happier and healthier, leading us to function well as human beings in the enviroment that surrounds us.

As we learn the art of genuinely giving and receiving with others our personal, social and professional relationships grow and strengthen.

Why not today see how Connected you are, maybe try a new or different approach than you normally would do.

Smile or say Hello to a stranger.

Speak to someone on the telephone rather than texting or e-mailing.

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Amanda James

Sunshine in your life

Colour is a powerful communication tool, it can be used to influence our moods, personalities and behavior.  With spring upon us, new life is starting to grow in the earths soil giving us a host of bright colours scattered across meadows, hedgerows, gardens and tubs.  Cheerful shades of yellow bring bright sunshine rays into our senses.

Yellow can be said to represent Happiness, Optimism, Freshness, Positivity, Energy, Clarity and Joy.  It can be warm and soft like baby chicks or warm and bright, springtime sun shine streaming into a room through a window.

Yellow looks different to us depending on the time of year, in the summer yellow appears more greenish where as in the winter it appears more reddish. Phyiscally yellow is the easiest colour for our eyes to see, which is why its used in awarness and danger signs.

Look at the stars, Look how they shine for you, And everything you do, Yeah they were all YELLOW words famously sung by Coldplay

How much Yellow is in your life today, close your eyes, breath in the sunshine.  

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Amanda James

Creative Mindfulness

Being creative is a natural way to practice Mindfulness, the immersion into something that can help us focus our concentration so that we lose track of time, engrossed in colour, texture and shapes.  We just need a willingness to create something with a sense of freedom and curiosity, while being kind and gentle to ourselves, there is no right way or wrong way to being creative.  It does not have to be recognizable as anything you know, you could just doodle and see what appears on the paper. 

Having fun painting with feathers.

"For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment" (Claude Monet)

 

 

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Amanda James

Mindful Breathing


Breathing supports our health and wellbeing, so its a good idea to pay a little attention to how we breath, it can affect our physical, mental and emotional state.

Mindful breathing is a simple practice, start by paying attention to the sensations caused by the movements of your breathing in your own body.  The gentle rise and fall of the chest being one of them.

Are your inhales and exhales long or short?, quick or slow?, there is no controlling it, no judging it just letting it be as it is in this moment in time.  Can you feel the breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils?.

As you try to do this breathing practice your mind will wander thats normal, when it does gently bring it back with kindness to the awareness of the sensations of your breath.

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Amanda James

Valentine

Valentine's Day what does it mean to you?

Love is described as an "intense feeling of deep affection"

A feeling of being deeply connected to one or more people.  A partner, family, friends related or not, to animals, ojects, passtimes or career.

To love is to feel and act lovingly,

Maybe this Valentines think what is the most loving and thoughtful thing that i could do for the special person/people I have in my life.

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Amanda James

Mindful - FEBRUARY

Welcome to the month of February, the Latin word Februarius means PURIFY.  

February is a month for us to cleanse, freshen, restore and de-clutter.  Is there an overdue chore or task you've been meaning to do?  Large or small, clearing your in tray or emptying a draw that you no longer can cram anything elso into, now is the perfect time to tackle this.  

Cleansing our personal or working space can improve our energy levels, our vitality and our moods.  February in nature is the month we start to see the long maroon and yellow catkins appear on the Alder trees, one of the many trees that filter and purifies the air that we breath each and every day.

 

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