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Need A Little Mindful Motivation

Are you living in Full Bloom?   Has your Mindfulness practice become less over this long period of Covid lockdown? or maybe, you have found that your practice has improved with having a little more free time on your hands.  After talking with some of my clients this week, there seems to be a general feeling of frustration that they are experiencing, it's among most them, everyones lives had been turned upside down by the pandemic, now the time is upon us/them (some of them post vaccine) that they are all trying to rebuild and slot back into their old routines, But as they have expressed to me, nothing seems to quite fit the way it used to, not enough time in the day, how did I use to fit everything in, Am I that disorganised, its all a bit to much and they are finding it quite challenging to get back to or to start a new Mindfulness practice.

Firstly be kind and gentle with yourself, try to accept how different your life is right now and how you feel about it at this moment in time.  Remember study shows that people who practice mindfulness are happier, healthier and more successful when coping with the highs and lows that our life path will take us on. Setting yourself a realistic and achievable goal is essential, motivation is a combination of intention and focus, why do you want to start or restart your Mindfulness practice, having a clear picture of why, will help you to stick with it. Maybe you could try to schedule your Mindfulness session, make an appointment with yourself, put it in your diary and treat it the same as you would a meeting or a check up at the doctors.  Choose a comfortable amount of time to begin with, ten minutes, twenty or thirty, remember its your practice, so do whats best for you in your allotted time frame.  Finding time in a busy day can sometimes be really difficult, everyday we all follow a routine of some sort, we wake up, shower, clean our teeth you can see what I'm trying to say, maybe you could include one of your daily tasks into your Mindfulness practice be present and fully aware of your thoughts and feelings while you are doing the task. Try out some  different Mindfulness practices,  A Bodyscan, Breathing, Movement, Walking, Five Senses be curious and discover what it is that helps you maintain your practice.  Perhaps being part of a group (online maybe) or having a  friend will help to keep your focus going.  Make a list of the benefits you feel once your practice is complete, its always nice to remember the positives, but do also allow yourself time to recognise any other emotions, thoughts and feelings that may come and go during your Mindful practice.  Don't be to hard on yourself if you stray and get off track for a day or two, it doesn't mean its time to give up, workout why you strayed, recommit and continue onwards.  Different things work for different people, there will be some stormy days and some beautiful clear sunny days during this restarting or starting phase, just try to stick with it, enjoy and discover how Mindfulness will work for you, your lifestyle and your personality.  Live Life in Full Bloom  

 

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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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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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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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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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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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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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