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Amanda James

Finding new appreciation of Nature

Has it taken this period of lockdown, over these last couple of months for you to find the pleasure that you can feel from walking outdoors, discovering the nature that is right on your doorstep or even in your own back garden? finding the new winding pathways to and from the shops, a gently trickling stream that flows into a never noticed before pond, a peculiar looking old tree amongst the others in the woods or someone else's beautifully kept garden, with lower polution levels and less tiny particles floating in the air the skies have been bluer and the stars in the night sky brighter. 

Even a brief nature fix of 10 minutes can lower our stress and anxiety levels, these amazing benefits we feel, could be maximised by us spending longer moments connecting to and with nature, the more of our senses we use, our sight, the sounds we hear, the aromas we smell, the things we touch and even taste, the positive effects we receive from utilising our senses whilst out in the natural world will show in our physical and emotional health. 

Mindful walking can help us to be present in the moment, stay in the here and now by focusing on how we feel and whats happening around us. It simply means walking while being aware of each step you take and being mindful of the breath, it can be done at anytime and anywhere that you may find yourself, alone or with other people, start by walking a little slower than usual, bringing your attention firstly to the physical sensations that you feel in the whole of your body as your feet touch the floor with every step that you take, feel how your feet adjust to the even or uneven surface beneath them, how your balance may change as you slow down your pace.  Also spend a little time noticing how you feel emotionally whilst walking, no judgement here just noticing. Maybe try walking barefoot to feel the different textures in between your toes and on the soles of your feet, how do your arms feel naturally swinging gently to counter balance your steps. As with other mindful practices your mind will wander and when it does bring your focus back to the sensations that you are feeling in that moment. Maybe when you feel comfortable walking,  you could choose a focal point slightly ahead of you, you may even choose to stop there, now shift your attention away from your body to what is surrounding you, seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, how does the weather feel on your face? what colours and shapes do you see?, the sounds that you can hear near and far, spend several moments here just noticing, as each experience comes into your awareness, acknowledge it and then let it pass like gentle clouds in the sky, you can stop walking whenever you feel the time is right for you,

With so much going on in the world around us, it may seem tough to get rid of all the noise that goes on inside our heads, the stress and anxiety that arises when we worry about those that we love and care about, so continue (or start) to reap all the benefits from your mindful walks in nature, the phyiscal exercise experience can help to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, create feelings of wellbeing, provide better sleep patterns, improve mood and lower stress and anxiety. 

Most of all enjoy your mindful walks, you'll be amazed at all the things that you've never even noticed before, so smile to yourself and smile at others that you'll meet on the way.

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Amanda James

Going Nowhere - Being Still

Going nowhere, with the inforced boundaries that living in lockdown has given us and many changes to become familiar with, everyday life completely altered for some of us and we are still living in uncertain times.

Being underlockdown for me has been a strange and sometimes challenging experience, in complete isolation with my elderly vulnerable parents, not able to see other members of my much loved family, my dearest friends and work colleagues. But it has also been a time of reconnecting with my parents, playing board games, doing jigsaw puzzles for amusement, watching nature in the back garden, cooking and appreciation for the shared meals, and all of the small simplistic things in life, I am no longer waking up to an alarm clock, having a full daily to do list, organising my diary so everything can be completed on time, but instead there is time for drinking the first cup of morning tea in the garden, listening to the birds chirping, the lack of traffic driving past makes the morning song seem louder and more pleasant, enjoying breakfast with parents, their talking about what they're planning to fill their day with, small but to them essential things, that keep them going mentally and physically day to day.

Stillness - what does it mean to you? maybe you think it's the opposite to movement, being energetic, or is it absence of noise, quietness, tranquility. Stillness is a choice for us, it can be felt by being fully aware, in the present moment, connected to our physical body sensations and our emotions, it is our natural state of being. So why can it be so difficult to find for some of us, today we live our live's with constant distractions, so much noise both inside and outside of our brains, several screens that demand our attention, daily to do lists, stimulating food and drink, it seems we are all trying to juggle many balls at the same time.

Lockdown may be the perfect time to cultivate Stillness and feel its benefits, it is possible that you have naturally reduced your external stimuli in these times of restriction. Stillness soothes our nervous system, helping  to lower the stress and anxiety we may feel in these uncertain times, it can lower blood pressure and help boost our immune systems, you can start by just taking a few minutes (10-30mins) out of every day and practice, it takes a little time to learn, so keep going, lockdown being the perfect opportunity to have a go.

Stillness can come in different ways, there is no right or wrong way to do it, you can find a favourite place to sit inside or outside, as long as you won't be disturbed, and focus simply on your breath, the physical sensations you feel from breathing, the rise and fall in the abdomen and rib cage, there is no need to change anything stick with whatever feels natural to you, if your mind wanders away, and it will, bring back to focus once again on your breath, it may be that you prefer to focus on a soothing image, nature in the garden, using your sight as if you are seeing for the first time, noticing all the small intricate details, or listening to a low, calming piece of music, the sounds of nature, the birds, a slow trickling stream, or some natural motion like a candle flame flickering,  you are using your senses to be fully aware and completly experiencing the present moment. It is not problem solving nor is it planning, it is not regretting or reliving the past, it is not worrying or dreaming of the future, It is just being Still and breathing in your own natural calm rhythm.

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Amanda James

Times of Change

We are now living in uncertain times, changes occuring on a daily basis and the long term outcome unknown, but change and uncertainty have always been impossible to avoid, change is one of the things that is always constant, this is how most of us experience life, so how do we start to navigate through this time of anxiety, stress, and worry, that we have for ourselves, our famlies, friends and colleagues. Acceptance is a start, to truly accept that we can't plan our way out of what we don't know, and it's ok to have the feelings that you have, give yourself permission to experience the uncertainty of this situation.

Our brain has a natural negativity bias, this means when we are faced with uncertainty, we are most likely to think about all of the things that could or might go wrong, rather than focusing on all of the good things that could possibly happen, Its also natural to feel fear about the future and this fear only adds fuel to our negativity bias. To counter our tendency to focus on the negative, we can write down things that we are grateful for within these uncertain times, try to write maybe three things per day, it can be absolutely anything that comes to mind. Research has shown that when we think about something that we are grateful for, our body releases serotonin this helps to give us a mood boost and dopamine which plays a vital role in the brain's pleasure and rewards system. Intentionally being kind to others helps, getting out of our own heads, our own worries and stress. Caring for other's, texting a friend, asking a neighbour if they are ok, smiling at someone is always a kind thing to do, even in times of correct social distancing, these small postive acts of kindness make us happier as our brain releases oxytocin. 

Having daily tasks "rituals"  things that we do by repitition each day provide us with a sense of control, giving us order during the chaos, it's an efficient way of us relieving the anxiety and stress, we may have to change some of our old rituals for new or different ones during this time of isolation, try involving family members to come up with some new ideas, home exercising as a family, husband and wife indoor date night at the weekend, using technology to keep in virtual contact with loved ones, a to do list, reading the books you've always wished you had time to, Our world is full of constant change our rituals old or new help us to keep consistency and balance.

Having some times during the day away from the constant 24/7 barrage of media coverage, perhaps choose a specific time to tune in and stick to the trusted sources of information, government and NHS websites, this is especially true if you are prone to feeling anxious and your thoughts spiral into overdrive, don't believe everything you think, thoughts are not statements or fact, pause and breathe.

The use of mindfulness practices can be really helpful, to navigate through the uncertainty that change brings into our lives, using the breath meditation, bodyscan, mindful movement, loving kindness practice, becoming aware of how you are, your thoughts and feelings, experience your body sensations, being curious and gentle without trying to fix or change anything that is present, being non judgemental about anything that arises. It will be possible to be exactly as you are in the present moment with practice, this takes sometime and some dedication to achieve, but every new skill takes a little time to learn. 

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Amanda James

Grey Days

Some of us love nothing more than the cosy feelings of grey winter days, snugly in hats and scarfs, closing the curtains early shutting the rest of the world out, log fires burning brightly, comforting lunches of home made soup and fresh crusty bread and butter.

But.........

What if your one of the many people who find these days difficult to live with, those grey winter days can leave us feeling low in mood, lethargic, having loss of concentration, mood swings and cheering ourselves up by comfort eating. These feelings are most likely triggered by the lack of sunlight in winter months, with shorter days and the winter weather causing darker cloud cover, contributing to the disruption of our natural body clock rhythms.  Research suggests that the lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalmus from functioning properly, affecting our production levels of the hormones melatonin and serotonin.

Maybe if we change the way that we feel about the colour grey it can help us to overcome the struggle of those winter days. Is grey a colour of compromise, being neither black or white? The darker grey becomes the more dramatic and mysterious it becomes, whilst the lighter it goes towards being silver and white, the more illuminating, lively and sparkly it can be. We can think of grey as being timeless and practical, it can also be conservative, boring, drab and depressing or maybe it's sophisticated, elegant, smart and cool. Grey is the perfect neutral and allows it to be flexiable, it can moderate brighter hues and expertly pull a colour scheme together.  When too much grey starts to create feelings of sadness, loneliness or even depression for us, maybe its time to add some colour to change these feelings. To add energy and warmth try reds, oranges and yellows for a calm cooler mood add blues, purples and greens. Enjoy experimenting and see what works for you.  

Remember if we always colour the picture of our world grey, the picture will constantly be GREY, use the crayons of your imagination to colour the pictures that you want to see in your world.

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Amanda James

Why do we need Mindfulness?

Just because we are hearing about Mindfulness everywhere, does it mean we should jump on the band wagon of the lastest stress busting trend? "YES" is the answer.

So what are you doing right now and what are you thinking right now, are both of these things focusing on the same topic? If your thinking about something completly different than what your actually doing, your mind is somewhere else, rather than being on the present moment. We have become very adapt in our busy lives to multitasking and living our lives on auto pilot, rushing from one thing to the next or doing two or three things at the same, all this without paying full attention to our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Mindfulness in essence is being in the present moment with awareness of whats going on for us internally and externally without judgement or attatchment to that moment.

Mindfulness practices can help us to focus our attention and observe our thoughts, feelings and emotions, helping us to make clearer decisions, undertstand our emotions and to be more engaged in our lives.

Take a moment to sit and observe, this can be externally (the scenery) or internally (how you are feeling) this is just noticing, using your sesnses, seeing, hearing etc or what you are feeling, happy, sad etc. Now see if you can describe this observation to yourself, what is the experience without making a judgement of it, For examlple if I was sat watching ducks swimming and feeding on a pond, I would try to notice what I was actually seeing and feeling rather than saying whether I liked or disliked the scene I would just sit and observe with the whole of my being, and finally ,fully throw yourself into the experience of appreciating the present moment, remember their is no right or wrong, no good or bad just observation of the moment, staying with this type practice for as little as 5 minutes could be of benefit to you. As you get more experienced in doing this type of practice it could increase in the length time for up to 30 minutes or even longer.

Studies have shown that doing regular Mindfulness practices we can reduce our stress levels, improve our sleep patterns, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, strengthen the body's immune system, improve irritability and help our concentration skills. It helps us let go of the "what if's" in the future and accept the things that we cannot change in the past, realising the present moment is the only moment we truly have. 

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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

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

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

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

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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Amanda James

Smile today

A Duchenne Smile, Smiling with your eyes.
Smile to improve your day and maybe make someone else’s day.
Smiling and laughter are of benefit for your mind, body and overall wellbeing.
Smiling can boost your mood even if your feeling a little blue, it can increase positive emotions, so smile your way through a day to lift your spirits feel happier and boost your immune system.

****If you see someone without a smile give them yours****
Dolly Parton.

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Amanda James

No Phones, No Social Media, No Television,

Mindful Meals

 With family or friends, colleagues or strangers, mealtimes make people feel connected to others, an opportunity to talk and share our experiences, to relax and improve our social skills, to stop and listen to others.  It’s a place for children to learn how to interact in conversations and develop their own views on the topics discussed.

Leisurely mealtimes enable us to appreciate how our food really looks and tastes, fully enjoying each mouthful, eating slower has the benefit of helping us to not to over indulge and aid our digestion. 

The sharing of chores involved in the preparation, cooking and clearing away after the meal is also an ideal opportunity for sharing togetherness.

Read more about Mindful eating here : https://www.mindfulnesslife.co.uk/mindfulness/mindful-eating

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Amanda James

How do you care for yourself?

Personal hygiene, a good healthy diet maybe even regular trips to the gym or some other form of exercise, are all ways that we take care of our external selves. The day to day things that we do ensure that our bodies stay clean, healthy and fit for the life style we choose to live.

Do you have the same nourishing and caring relationship with your mind as you do your body ?

Do you have a daily routine or practice that contributes to protecting and maintaining your mental wellbeing ?

A practice that will help you to reduce the effects of living busy and stressful lives.

Maybe you could start by being kind to yourself and creating some snippets of quiet time throughout your busy day with STOP

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