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Amanda James

Choose Kindness

Kindness: the quality of being warmhearted, considerate, compassionate, humane and sympathetic we all have individual thoughts, feelings and emotions of what it means to each one of us. There are many ways to be kind and a whole lot of opportunities each day for us to practice and do acts of kindness, for ourselves and others. Changes to our environment and the way we have had to adjust to new living and working conditions during the current pandemic is the time when we should whole heartedly be kind, compasionate, sympathetic and loving to ourselves and others. As human being's, it's in our DNA to show kindness and fundamental to our human existence. Truth is when we are kind, we ourselves feel happier and less stressed, it creates feelings of warmth within us, it gives us a connection to others, leading us to have more positive and plesant relationships. The effect of us being kind to other's is that the receivers of our kindness, also experience all of these benefits, they in turn will be more likely to assist others with acts of kindness, producing wider and larger ripples of kindness out into the community.                                                                                                                                                                                

Kindness is also important for our health, doing acts of kindness or something nice for someone, makes you feel better too, this just doesn't happen, its to do with the pleasure centre in your brain releasing feel good hormones (endorphins, serotonin) Kindness is good for your heart it can affect it's chemical balance, kindness releases the hormone oxytocin which is known as a cardioprotective hormone, assisting in the regulation of blood pressure.  Oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) is produced when we hug other's or our pets and when we socially bond with others, it is also considered to help us counter act the effects of stress by reducing blood pressure and cortisol levels, oxytocin can also help to reduce inflamation in the body, which could help people with inflamatory health conditions like diabetes, chronic pain, allergies. With all of these positive effects happening could kindness be the secret to helping us live healthier and happier live's.

Kindness starts with being kind to yourself, be kind and forgive your mishaps, mistakes or misjudgements, it's all learning helping us nagivate through the up's and downs of life. Kindness is more than just being nice, doing intentional and voluntary acts of kindness when it's easy is simple, it's when it challenges you that it may become somewhat more difficult to complete your gesture, but it needs someone to get the ball rolling, to start that wave, to keep ripples moving outwards towards our families, friends, colleagues, communities and reach further wider destinations. Simple kind acts such as a smile, holding a door open, a compliment could make someone else's day, donate to chartity or volunteer, we have so many choices available to us, that we can all contribute some kindness to other's that will ease alongside and into our normal daily patterns and life styles.

*The small act of Kindness that you do, could possibility mean the world to the person receiving it* 

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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

One Step at a Time

We are now 6 weeks into the new year, and I'm thinking about the new small habits I wished to introduce into my life, in this coming year, mostly I'm doing ok, occasionally forgetting when Im not being totally present in the moment, sometimes its not easy when life is crazy busy, but its always doable if I keep reminding myself, post it notes stuck all over the house is my way forward.

So how is it for you? wether you call them new year resolutions or new life habits, its all about changing the way we do things,

The hardest thing for most of us, when it comes to wanting to build new habits is to stick to it long enough for us to see, feel and like the changes that we've made,  think small changes at first, most of us underestimate how much focus it takes to stick to a new regime, so choose just one thing at a time and just start, if you want to meditate sit in a quiet space, if you want to diet fill the fridge with healthy snacks, if you want to jog 5km then put your trainers on and walk. Find ways of enjoying the new task, focus on the positive points, share doing it with a family member or friends, join a group for mutual support. Having a schedule will help you stay motivated, a daily, weekly or monthly plan, a white board to write messages on or a phone to set yourself reminders, good old fashioned post it notes stuck on the fridge work for me, making small achievable changes to our normal routines will help us keep to our new life choices on track, walking a new way home from work away from the temptations of the  bakery window, or moving away from your desk to go and sit on the park bench at lunchtime and take a few mindful breaths.

When you feel like quitting.........pay attention to these thoughts, are you being self critical and giving yourself some negative self talk, its to difficult, i don't like it, there are to many other things going on in my life right now, not motivated etc etc, truth is it's difficult to change and most of us don't like change, but anything that's worth doing takes some effort so try asking yourself WHY it happens to you, since we know that many of our thoughts are just that, thoughts. With some self compassion and understanding of yourself, maybe you could change  those thoughts around, if I try I might like it, if I plan my schedule right I will have more time, if I set my mind to it, I can achieve what I want to.

Forgive yourself for the odd down fall, learn from your obstacles and mistakes, tomorrow is a new day to begin again, I wish you sucess. 

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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

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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