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Mindfulness when Grief visits

At some point in our lives all of us will experience the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job, a pet, a home and even maybe permanent changes in our health, there are countless reasons in life that we will grieve. Grief is a completely natural human response to loss. There is no right or wrong way for any individual to go through this process, it takes the time it takes and the feeling of loss may never truly pass, it will just becomes a part of us, as we travel through the journey of our life. Whatever kind of loss, bereavement or grief that we experience, we cannot predict what our thoughts, feelings or physical sensations will be, and arise in such an impossibly hard emotional time. Grief is universal and happens all over the world, a shared human experience, and each person will have their own individual beliefs and cultural values when this time arrives for them.

Mindfulness practice is not meant to minimise any of the pain we experience or suggest that by meditating everything will be okay, but what it does do is, teach us how to experience our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations in the present moment, and with a huge amount of self compassion, allow and give yourselves the permission to feel what you feel without judgement, moment by moment in a healthy environment. It is acceptable to most of us that we generally want to avoid pain and suffering, but to resist and suppress our emotions becomes exhausting, taking up far too much of our emotional and physical energy.Sometimes you may need to kindly remind yourself that grief can become too much for one person alone, you may want the help and support from family, friends, your religious community, a grief support group or a healthcare professional.Also remembering that there is never a destination to reach when experiencing grief, however there are many different mindfulness practices that can help with the grieving process, try not to rush things and maybe start with a simple practice, it takes time to learn new things and when you feel ready, maybe a breathing mindful meditation is a good place to start.

Mindful breathing can be done anywhere at any time without anyone realising you're even doing it, your breath is your anchor, it always with you and on an average we breath 22,000 times a day without even being conscious of it.In a comfortable position, focus all of your attention on your body, as your breath enters and exits the body, there’s no need to change anything just your normal breathing pattern is good, pay attention to the gentle rise and fall of your chest, the feeling of the cool air in your nostrils and the warmth of your breath as it leaves your body, can you notice any other physical sensations as you breath? the whole of your body as your breath rhythmically flows in and out? a sense of stillness, restlessness, lightness maybe some heaviness, whatever you feel in this moment is ok and if you feel nothing that’s ok to, all you are doing is noticing what your experience is right now in this present moment, your mind will probably wonder, thinking of all the other things than seem more important to do at this time, do acknowledge and not linger on these thoughts (your thoughts are just that thoughts) and then gently without judgement bring your attention back to your breath and all the sensations that you can feel in this moment, this wandering or distraction may happen one or more times during your meditation time and that's okay, its the noticing that this has happened and bringing your attention back to the breath that counts (this is meditation) and when you feel the time is right for you, finish your breathing meditation by taking just a moment to sit, and give yourself a kind thought for the rest of the day. Mindfulness practices help us by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (our bodies rest and digest system) when this is activated our heart rate and blood pressure will lower which can then help us to reduce the feelings that occur when we are anxious. 

Mindfulness allows us to embrace and accept what is happening now in the present moment to be without judgement in this moment, to recognise what has happened and allow us to have some self compassion. Gently remind yourself that your process is your own it will rise and fall, be gentle and patient with yourself and take all the time you need.

 “You will survive and you will find purpose in the chaos, moving on doesn’t mean letting go” Mary VanHaute

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Post Lockdown How Mindfulness can Help

Over the last 12months Covid-19 has brought about many changes in our lives that we would once never have thought possible.  Creating enormous losses of, loved ones, for some of us, the loss of jobs affecting our income, a loss of our everyday work and social routines and a loss of what we thought was the certainty we had, at least on our own life pathway.  We had been placed in a completely new and strange world.  With the current lockdown restrictions beginning to ease in the weeks ahead and many of the population have had or are currently receiving their vaccines, maybe we can start to look forward to having a little bit of normality and some of our old routine if its still there back in our lives.  But as we took time to adjust going into and living in lockdown, there are many of us that are feeling anxious and concerned about reconnecting, to start over once again, living our lives as we had before.  For many there will be the added pressure of living with the feelings of loss and grief that was experienced through this pandemic.   Everyone of us will have experienced this in some way, a loss that is personal to them, so challenges and uncertainty maybe ahead, in our families or in our working environment, we will certainly need to navigate and move through it the best way that we can, all using our own individual coping mechanisms, allow yourself to feel what you feel, have self-compassion and self love, love and compassion for others, there is no set timetable for how long it will take you to adjust.  Life is beautiful, but it can also be difficult and at times painful and throughly enduring.

Learning to use Mindfulness as a tool, will help you to address your feelings, assist you when navigating a way through the discomfort and challenges that may arise from what you have personally experienced, worry, anxiety, fear, loss and grief.  As we begin to intergrate back into our normality and the joy of community living we will come across changes of all kinds. Mindfulness teaches us to become aware of the present moment, our thoughts and feelings, our physical experience and accept them as they are in this moment,  to acknowledge any discomfort, anxiety and pain that may also be present in the moment, to experience it, feel it, instead of maybe choosing to turn away or ignore those feelings.  How to be aware of our immediate surrounding space, the sounds and smells it has, how it appears visually to us and how it feels physically to us.  This experience of living in the present, can be expanded out into the world that surrounds our lives, giving us a wider picture to view, experience physically and emotionally.  Once we can accept that there is no permanence, we allow ourselves to live in the present moment, with its ever changing shape, its ebbs and flows and all the up's and downs that life hold for us.

Mindful Breathing is accessible to us all, every minute of everyday, try to think of your breath as an anchor that holds and grounds you, in the present moment.  To begin, stop what your doing, be comfortable and focus on your breath, feel the physical sensations of the breath, the rise and fall of the chest, maybe you can feel the breath in other parts of your body, the back or the shoulders, the lower abdomen, can you feel the flow of air in and out of your nose or mouth, any thoughts that enter your head (and they will) try allowing them to drift past as you like clouds in the sky,  then refocus once more back to your breath, you may sometimes feel emotions rise to the surface whilst practicing Mindful Breathing  this is ok, acknowledge them, and when you feel ready return once again to the sensations of your breath, after experiencing any distraction always gently and with kindness to yourself return back to the sensations of your breath.  This is not easy and it may take a little time to learn, so practice is essential, but it will and can become a great natural tool for you to use when those anxious and difficult to handle moments arise or those trying periods that will certainly enter into your life at some point.

We all need to take care of ourselves, our families, friends, communities and each other, we need rest, sleep, to eat well and exercise, set time aside each day to.............breath, just be still in the present moment and breath, be your own best friend, be kind to yourself, seek and ask for help if you need to, these are difficult and challenging times, but they will not last forever.

 ***Feelings come and go like clouds in the sky. Conscious Breathing is my Anchor*** Thich Nhat Hanh 

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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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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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Being and Seeing Differently

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music" Nietzsche

We are alll different, in all sorts interesting ways, and thats what makes life fascinating and intriguing, We all have a wide range of like's, dislikes and opinions on almost every subject you can imagine.

Appreciating these differences is one thing, trying to be within our personal and professional relationships will sometimes have its challenges, as will our chance meetings with others going about our daily chores and recreational pass times.

Maybe the key is to accept and respect our differences, if we can embrace our differences with tolerence then we could build better relationships, no one would ever want to enter into a brainstorming meeting with everyone having the same ideas and all going in the same direction.

"Everyone has two eyes but no one see's the same view"

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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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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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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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