• Christmas Presence: The Gift of Mindfulness

    “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

    Make a pledge to put down your phone this Christmas and be fully present with those you love. Look at them in the eyes; listen with intent; abandon your expectations; stay curious and give conversations your unwavering awareness as they unfold.

    Observe what this approach does to your experience moment-by-moment -- you may find that it expands and deepens your connections, as well as your sense of the memory after the moment passes. You’ll likely discover that presence is one of the most precious gifts we can give at this (and every) point in the year, and adds far more value to our lives than any material object can.

    Most of us would like to think that we are present in our daily lives, but the truth is that so many of us live a far distance from ourselves and from our experiences. We often operate on autopilot patterns of feeling and behaviour not just in the midst of our daily lives, but in the face of those who matter most to us, our loved ones.

    As a season of unity and connection, Christmas lays the ground for interaction and gives us an opportunity to put our mindfulness in motion. With the simple and repeated practice of awareness, we can give presence to everything the season brings -- from warmth and joy, to difficulty and tension -- without needing to change or fix anything. We may find that being better connected to the moment in this way, a better connection to our self and to our family and friends begins to grow and flourish.

    Mindfulness is not just a gift for us individually, but collectively too. In these turbulent times of division and discord, mindfulness has the power to reinforce the shared humanity that holds us all together. The individual is reflected in the collective, and when we bring awareness to the way that we relate to ourselves individually -- that is, when we develop a deeper understanding of and more compassionate connection with our self -- this is mirrored in our interactions with those around us in the collective.

    Mindfulness begins individually, on our own terms, but if you like the idea of giving it as a present, you can browse our shop here for a selection of electronic gift cards for training -- workshops and courses, as well as books. Whether you want to help a friend or family member cope better with stress and anxiety, introduce them to ideas of self-care and compassion, or more broadly, live a life that is fuller and freer -- mindfulness gives us skills that last a lifetime.

    For more mindfulness tips and ideas to inspire calm and presence over the festive season, head over to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels!

  • How To Make Self-Care A Priority – This Week and Every Week!

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    As this week is national self-care awareness week, now might be a good time to ask yourself the question -- how do I care for myself?  

    Self-care in its simplest terms is our ability to care for our own well-being. In the media, the term is often presented with an emphasis on the outer self and the health of the body – including exercise, diet, personal hygiene and grooming. While this is true to a certain extent, a more whole definition of self-care is one that encompasses both mind and body.

    Self-care, then, is as much nourishing and nurturing the relationship we have with our mind as the one we have with our body. The power of this practice is not to be underestimated – when we take actions to protect, maintain and improve our mental, emotional and physical well-being, we can expect to see a reduction in the negative effects of stress, a boost to our mood and improved resilience.

    Mindfulness is so crucial to the act of self-care. With the awareness that the practice gives us, we gain greater clarity of the relationship we have with ourselves. We notice habits and addictions that don’t serve our well-being, or unkind judgemental thoughts about ourselves that have a negative impact on our actions and experiences. Often, this new awareness can precipitate a shift in mindset, and a desire to start treating ourselves with more care.It’s worth noting that mindfulness is especially important in the context of self-care because it allows us to ensure that we use it for the right reasons. Without a mindful attitude, we may use self-care as a form of distraction to avoid our feelings and edge around the reality of our experience.

    At the heart of self-care is self-compassion – an understanding, acceptance and kindness towards the self, and we can use this as a sign-post for developing a daily self-care habit. Building self-care into our lives needn’t be overwhelming – it’s as simple as making time for a few small acts of care and kindness towards ourselves each day, whether that’s yoga, meditation, getting more sleep or cooking a tasty meal. Over time, this will build long-term feelings of well-being and resilience – and self-care will no longer be something that we come to when we need it, but something that we have already embedded within our lives.

    Self-care goes a long way in helping us to better cope with everyday stresses, and far from being narcissistic or selfish, it is in fact the key to a fuller life -- because the more we look after ourselves, the more we have to give to our family and friends, and to the life that we lead.

    WORKSHOPS/COURSES

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • What is Mindful Birthing?

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    Pregnancy and childbirth can be some of the most special, significant and singular experiences in a woman’s life. But for so many, they also bring a lot of fear, pain and uncertainty. Happily, research from the University of Oxford has shown that mindful birthing may hold the power to transform and ease the experience of pregnancy, labour and delivery, as well as the relationship with the new baby after birth.

    At this point you might be wondering if mindful birthing has a connection to hypnobirthing. Although there is some common ground between the two practices – both place emphasis on breathing exercises, for example – they are essentially quite different. Hypnobirthing focuses on self-hypnosis – using affirmations, visualisations and relaxation techniques that help to prepare for a positive labour and birth. Mindful birthing, however, follows the principles of mindfulness to support both pregnancy and birth. It teaches how to skillfully work with pain, fear and uncertainty, and to shift perspectives by optimising the mind/body connection. Pioneered by Nancy Bardacke, an experienced midwife and mindfulness teacher, it is also known as the MBCP (Mindfulness-based Childbirth and Parenting) course -- an adaptation of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

    Mindfulness is uniquely positioned to help with the birthing process because in its modern form it was initially devised to help with pain management. Jon Kabat-Zinn was the first to study the connection between mindfulness meditation and pain when he set up his MBSR program in 1979 to treat chronic pain patients at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His landmark study years later showed that patients who were trained in the program and took a mindful approach to their physical pain, experienced significant reductions in intensity.

    In this way, mindfulness strategies can give mothers-to-be the tools to change the way they manage pain during labour and delivery. Fear and resistance can sustain and inflame physical pain, so by learning to relate differently to the discomfort that may surround intense physical sensations – to welcome it and work with it – women can reduce the likelihood of being overwhelmed and losing control.

    Beyond pain management, expectant mothers will benefit from the core principles of mindfulness – acceptance, letting go and trusting – which can help them to prepare for the unexpected during labour and delivery: a change to birth plans, sudden interventions or unforeseen outcomes. Cultivating the skill of awareness during pregnancy – which is the ability to notice thoughts and feelings as they arise – also allows expectant mothers to observe any fearful stories that the mind may be creating about birth from a more objective standpoint, and therefore identify with them less, which can help to reduce overall stress and anxiety.

    Recent research by BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth also shows that mindfulness may offer important maternal mental health benefits following childbirth. In 2017, pregnant women who undertook in an intensive course based on the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) education reported benefits including improved psychological adjustment and reduced postpartum depression symptoms. Well beyond pregnancy and childbirth, mindfulness skills keep giving, because they are skills for life. With regular practice, they have the power to transform future experiences of parenting, as well as all other areas of life. 

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindful Pregnancy & Birthing Workshop

    Mindful Parenting Workshop

  • A Dose of Meditation: Using Mindfulness for Mental Health

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    ‘Mental health’ is defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’(1). Today, on World Mental Health Day 2018, we know that this is not the case for millions of people worldwide. In the UK alone, approximately one in four people will experience a mental health problem this year. According to mental health charity Mind, how people cope with mental health problems is also getting worse – with the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts on the increase.

    While mindfulness is no magical cure-all elixir, there is emerging evidence to show that it could support a state of mental wellbeing. In instances of mild to moderate depression and anxiety, for example, mindfulness-based interventions hold great promise to ease symptoms. With regular practice and the support and guidance of a teacher during an MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) or MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) course, studies have shown that the benefits include stress reduction, emotion and attention regulation and reduced rumination. It also has as much power to prevent depressive relapse as antidepressants, shown by to a large-scale study published by the Oxford Mindfulness Centre in 2015.

    Essentially, mindfulness works because it gives us better access to resources that may help us deal positively with our experience of anxiety and/or depression. Firstly, we are introduced to the skill of awareness – which is the ability to notice our thoughts and feelings as they arise. Awareness creates space and allows us to observe our mental processes more objectively so we identify with them less. Secondly, we cultivate an open and accepting attitude, which allows us to welcome whatever arises, rather than trying to suppress it, avoid it or become overwhelmed by it. In this way, there is less internal conflict – which can make things a little lighter. Beyond the power of attention training, practicing mindfulness in a community may also play an important role in easing symptoms. Anxiety and depression can heighten feelings of isolation and self-judgement -- which may further feed our suffering. Learning mindfulness and sharing our experiences in a group setting such as an MBCT, helps us realise there is a common humanity to these conditions and that we are not so alone.

    There are instances, however, in which mindfulness should be approached with caution where mental health is concerned. As we turn towards ourselves to face our thoughts and feelings, mindfulness can often heighten our experience and perhaps even intensify symptoms for a short period. In this way, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain motivation. For those with a history of certain mental health conditions, such as psychosis, borderline personality disorder, bipolar or PTSD, mindfulness needs to be approached with care and often a tailored one-on-one approach with the specialist knowledge of a mental health professional is advised.

    While mental health awareness has improved dramatically over the past decade, we still have a way to go to change the conversation we have around it – to break social stigmas, encourage education and strengthen our response. Mindfulness may not be a short-term fix, but with continued practice it could provide a long-term solution for mild to moderate disorders, by giving us the power to respond to unpleasant emotions and distressing situations more reflectively rather than reflexively. We know from emerging neuroscientific research that mindfulness also facilitates plasticity, and herein lies the hope -- that each time we respond differently, we create new, more positive connections and pathways in the brain.

    (1) WHO: Mental health: a state of well-being http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/

  • “Just Start Over”: The Secret to Sticking to Your Mindfulness Practice and Other Tips

    With the turn of the seasons and the change in the air, September is a month when we might naturally assess where we are at and what we’d like to renew in our lives. Some of us might be thinking of what we can do to regain balance after the break and set ourselves up for the final half of the year. It may also be a time when we think about our mindfulness practice, and how we can pull it back into focus.

    Different flavours of distraction and discouragement may have drawn us away us from our practice. We may struggle with challenging emotions that come into our awareness, and the alive, felt-sense of our body. Our enthusiasm may wax and wane. But we can rest assured that it's all a part of the learning process. The practice of meditation is a journey of turning towards ourselves, of cultivating self-knowledge. Naturally, we are going to run into challenges and obstacles that can knock us off our intended path. The human experience is, after all, highly complex -- as is the relationship we have with our self.

    We know from nature that to grow anything, we must nurture it -- give it attention, patience and importantly care. There are many small, simple steps we can take to support our practice in its tentative stages or to get it off the ground again. A lovely motto to remember is Sharon Salzberg’s “Just start over”. Instead of getting caught up in the stories and judgements we have about our practice, we can use the core values of mindfulness -- acceptance, non-judgement and compassion -- and simply begin again, over and over, until we have integrated the practice into our being.

    We asked around for other useful ideas on nurturing practice, and here’s what we found:

    Seek community. The role of community and groups in sustaining mindfulness practice is so valuable and can be easily underestimated. For anyone who is struggling with their practice, joining a group or getting together with like-minded friends is a good place to start in order to establish a rhythm.

    Enrol on further practice. The 8-week course is just the beginning of our journey with mindfulness. We can also look to enrol on further practice -- such as a retreat or other courses. Retreats help to cement our learning and bring new insights, which in turn, can support our motivation for practice. Attending other graduate courses, such as the Mindful Self-Compassion Course, can also add a new dimension to our practice.

    Explore online resources. If you haven’t already, check out online resources, which can provide support in the form of free talks and guided meditations. There are many experienced teachers, from different backgrounds -- be it neuroscientific or Buddhist -- all sharing their offerings online. Find the ones whose meditations you really love to practice with.

    Start with small commitments. If all of these ideas seem overwhelming, we can simply start small. Mindfulness is a tool that works to the extent we use it, and knowing that what we practice grows stronger can be really encouraging to keep our personal practice going. We can remind ourselves when things get difficult that even small amounts of practice -- 5 minute bursts, for example -- are better than no practice at all.

    We may find that we understand mindfulness conceptually, but are under-prepared for the experiential challenges. However, we can rest assured that obstacles are to be expected and are actually essential to our practice -- serving to strengthen it and make us better equipped to deal with future challenges.

  • How To Make Friends With Change

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    If there’s one thing that can be counted on in life, it’s change. Sages, scientists and philosophers have agreed on this simple fact since time immemorial: “Nothing endures but change,” declared Heraclitus back in Ancient Greece. "All conditioned things are impermanent" said Buddha. “Nothing gold can stay,” wrote Robert Frost. A profound acceptance of this truth – that all things are impermanent – can truly transform the way we live.

    Of course, it is in our human nature to try and defy change. Left-brain thinking, which is so dominant in our culture, seeks to sweep the world into tidy boxes -- filing and ordering life to give it more permanence, security and familiarity. But to do this also goes contrary to the truth – that the present is living, in flux, and therefore difficult to fix. In a paradoxical twist, the only thing we can count on is change – so it makes sense to try to make friends with it.

    We can try to see change with new eyes by appreciating what it brings to our lives. Have you ever stopped to consider what a world without change would be like? “Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.” says Thich Naht Hahn. Without change, we would be frozen in time and space. In this way, change opens a world abundant with potential and possibility -- a living moment for which we can be grateful.

    Many of us may feel that change arouses fear and anxiety. Perhaps this stems from an expectation that it will be for the worse, or from a desire to distance ourselves from unpleasant aspects of our experience. Whatever the reason, fear blocks our ability to meet change with acceptance and open-mindedness. In these moments, we can use mindfulness to become more aware of the dialogue that’s taking place within -- and by looking at fear with curiosity and non-judgement, we can begin to disconnect from it and find the power to step into courage.

    Of course, we all need to feel grounded when change takes place around us, but so often we seek this anchor in external things or people. Once we truly understand that the external world is transient and fleeting, it makes little sense to continue to seek security in it -- and that's when we can start to look for that anchor inside of ourselves using mindfulness and meditation. By practising over and over the act of remaining present with what arises, we can come in touch with a part of ourselves that is beyond the ebb and flow of life.

    In fact, the more we let ourselves experience change, the more we may realise that it is something we can survive and benefit from. Life doesn’t necessarily get ‘easier’, but using mindfulness, we can ride its waves with more resilience and equanimity – or in the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, we “learn to surf.”

  • Can Mindfulness Ease PMS?

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    As women, so many of us are challenged by our monthly cycles. The female body ebbs and flows, and each menstrual phase brings with it a unique set of physical and emotional attributes. These changes can create a permanent feeling of flux and give rise to a cascade of emotions – from times of anger and sadness, anxiety and irritability, to elation and optimism, even precipitating conditions such as PMT (Premenstrual Tension), PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) and PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder). So what can we do to support ourselves each month? Although we may not be able to completely control our hormonal cycles, the good news is we can change our relationship to them -- and that’s where mindfulness comes in.

    Mindfulness helps us to reconnect with the body

    We can begin by becoming more aware of our bodies and emotions in each moment and start to recognise familiar patterns in our cycle. Charting thoughts, feelings and symptoms in a diary or on an app over the course of a few months can give us a clearer understanding of our behaviour, and patterns may even come to light that we can then begin to pre-empt. In this way, our moods will no longer take us by surprise and we can take more measures to respond to them with acts of self-care and kindness.

    Mindfulness offers emotional rescue

    So often we respond to unpleasant emotions in the same way that we do to bodily pain -- with dread and resistance. But what if we could look at them with acceptance and curiosity instead? We might find that we see them in an entirely different light, and that they even ease somewhat. Mindfulness is one of the best tools we have to develop this new way of relating with our moods. There is a lovely poem by Rumi, called ‘The Guest House’ where we see emotions passing through as guests -- it’s a helpful analogy to remember when we’re in the throes of low mood, and a useful reminder of how to put our emotions and their impermanence into perspective.

    Mindfulness meditation lowers stress levels

    Chronic stress can wreak havoc on our hormones, and further aggravate PMS symptoms, especially dysmenorrhea (pain during menstruation). Happily, mindfulness can offer a helping hand here. Study after study has shown that meditation is a powerful antidote to stress, because it works to deactivate the amygdala -- the area of the brain that controls our stress response. By bringing even just 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation to our day, we can keep our cortisol levels in check, which may help to dissipate some of our PMS symptoms.

    A key to improving our relationship with our hormonal cycles is being aware of them in the first instance, and then learning to work with and not against them. If we can better anticipate the highs and lows we can do things like structure our schedule in a way that takes advantage of each varying state. For example, scheduling those challenging meetings for the days where we are most likely to feel assertive or using the more reclusive times of the month to focus on tasks involving less interaction with others.

    There may also be times when we feel like we can’t get anything done and in those moments mindfulness allow us to bring a quality of self-compassion and self-care to our experience that provides a measure of relief in itself.  With more awareness and respect for our cycles, the subtle shifts in mood will no longer come as a surprise. Instead we can better anticipate our needs and learn to hold each fleeting state of mind more lightly, as we go with the flow.

    MEDITATIONS:

    Acceptance Meditation

    Love Meditation

    Mountain Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindfulness for the Female Cycle

    The Power of Mindful Self-Compassion

    8-Week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

  • 10 Tips to Mindfully Survive a Nervous Breakdown

    written by Alexa Frey

    A nervous breakdown is defined as: “an acute, time-limited mental disorder that manifests primarily as severe stress-induced depression, anxiety, or dissociation in a previously functional individual, to the extent that they are no longer able to function on a day-to-day basis until the disorder is resolved”. A nervous breakdown can have many causes such as having too much pressure at work, overwhelming family duties, a divorce or death, being diagnosed with a terrible illness, a traumatic experience such as abuse etc. According to Helpline, the most common symptoms of such a breakdown are depressive symptoms, such as loss of hope and thoughts of suicide or self-harm, anxiety with high blood pressure, tense muscles, clammy hands, dizziness, upset stomach, and trembling or shaking, insomnia, hallucinations, extreme mood swings or unexplained outbursts, panic attacks, which include chest pain, detachment from reality and self, extreme fear, and difficulty breathing paranoia, such as believing someone is watching you or stalking you flashbacks of a traumatic event, which can suggest undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    A nervous breakdown can last from a few hours to a few weeks. If your breakdown has been going on for a while, and you need some relief, the following ten tips are for you. They will help you not only survive this difficult time, but they might even help you grow from this difficult experience.

    Practice Meditation

    Try to meditate at least once a day. That’s if you can meditate. If you’re too deep in a hole, meditation might be impossible. Your heart might be beating too heavily in your chest, or you might be experiencing uncontrollable tremors which make sitting - and keeping your head upright - hard. If you can’t meditate, then don’t. But maybe, once a day, do try to give it a shot. Even if only for one minute. Anchoring your attention on sounds can be very helpful, if the feelings or sensations in your body are too distressing. Mindful walking too, can be very helpful, if sitting upright feels too torturous. If all this fails, you can always turn off the lights in your bedroom, and simply stare into the darkness - sitting or lying down. The sensory deprivation will hopefully help calm your mind and body. Also, when you do meditate, try to incorporate cultivation practices. Meditate on what you are grateful for in you life. When we’re in a hole, it’s good to remember the good stuff that’s still there in our life. Maybe that’s the beautiful tree outside of your bedroom window. Or you are grateful that you have best friends that support you. Also, try to give yourself compassion for what you are going through - give yourself all the love you need. Last, do practice anticipatory joy by bringing up things you look forward to in the future. Maybe Summer’s coming up and you’re looking forward to sunbathing. For more inspiration, find below a list of cultivation meditations.

    Ask Friends for Help

    One of the hardest things when having a nervous breakdown is that you feel lonely. Not because you don’t have any friends. But because we are so weak, that it can be very draining to be around people. Make sure that you do stay in contact with friends and family - even if you decide to be on your own. Use whatsapp (in moderation), if phone calls are too much and do ask your friends to come over - but let them know that they can’t stay too long. As you are going through a nervous breakdown, you will also notice which of your friends are friends that nurture you and which deplete you. You might have a friend that only texts you to let off steam. During conversations with this difficult friend use your mindfulness skills to notice how he or she makes you feel in your body. If this friend makes you feel tense, annoyed, sad, etc., then it might be time to cut down contact with him/her. As you are going through a nervous breakdown, you will also experience that some friends might just decide not to care, not to be there for you. That can be very painful, but also a great way to learn which of your friends are true friends and which ones aren’t.

    Practice Self-Compassion

    You want to get better. Every day. Obviously, nervous breakdowns aren’t fun. Also, there are many different reasons why people have nervous breakdowns - as mentioned above. Some nervous breakdowns like the one due to a work burnout, will most of the time, pass. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. However, other nervous breakdowns, might not pass as easily. Especially if the origin of the nervous breakdown stems from a chronic mental health disorder such as major depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Not only do such mental health disorders deplete and burn us out, they also often make it extremely hard to stay positive - a quality which in our society seems to be a must. However, how can one stay so easily positive if the very illness that one has been diagnosed with doesn’t allow a person to be positive or rational?

    Whether we are in a breakdown due to a work burnout, a chronic mental illness, a death of a close one or another chronic illness, we can choose to treat ourselves with self-compassion. To be patient with ourselves, to allow ourselves to be angry, anxious or depressed and to give ourselves all the love that we have.

    Common Humanity

    When we’re going through a breakdown, we might feel very lonely. Alone in our room, we might feel like we are the only one that’s going through a hard time. Especially when we look through our window onto the street, and everybody else is going about their day you might feel like life is passing by you and you’re missing out big time (Facebook newsfeed will be the worst!). In those moments, remember that you are not alone. There are many other people out there, right now, who go through a difficult time. Even though it seems like you’re alone, you are not. Search the internet for stories of other people who have went through hard times in their life. Read their words and find out what deep wisdom they have learned by surviving such a difficult time. Ask friends and family for their stories. Remember: you are not alone. We are all in this together.

    Listen to your Body

    When we are in the midst of a nervous breakdown, it is important to listen to our body. We may feel very sad or even depressed and that can make us feel sleepy (especially if we’ve been prescribed tranquilisers). Many people experiencing a nervous breakdown can also feel extremely exhausted. It’s important to give our bodies the rest they need. However, do listen to your body for signs of oversleeping. Too much sleep can cause dizziness and brain fog, which we want to avoid at all costs. Also, make sure that you go outside once a day if possible, for a walk in nature. However, do make sure that you choose a path that’s not too steep or too long and always be aware of how far it is to get back to your home. You don’t want to end up exhausted in the woods. If going for a walk seems like too much, try some YouTube exercise videos. Yoga with Adriene has a few easy and relaxing ones.

    Reduce Technology

    Having a nervous breakdown, we often feel like everything is too much. Sounds are too loud and laptop screens might feel too bright. This is why it can be helpful to keep technological use to a minimum. Order a hard copy book and immerse yourself into a story, which will make you feel good inside. The pages - just black and white - will help calm your mind. Audiobooks can also be great (look for “Catcher in the Rye” on YouTube). Close your eyes and listen. Just listen. You will notice that when your mind drifts off, you will quickly come back to listening - after all, you don’t want miss the plot. This will give you a break from the endless ruminating and worrying. Also, try to use Facebook and Instagram as little as possible. The endless scrolling won’t make you feel better, and trust me, if you see all the oh-so-happy lifes of your friends, while you can’t get out of bed, will not help. If you do watch a movie, choose one that doesn’t make you too anxious or sad. Instead choose something calming and/or happy!

    Communicate your Needs

    Going through a nervous breakdown, we don’t have the energy that we usually have. It might be hard for us to pay those bills, clean our home, and complete other important tasks. In times like these, we need help from our friends and family. However, not all of us are good at asking for help, and not all the friends that we have are selfless enough to offer help. During a breakdown we already feel fragile enough, so having to feel disappointed because a friend lets us down, should be avoided at all costs. Thus, go through a list of all your friends in your mind and pick the ones you think, will be willing to support you. Let those angels one by one know about your situation and kindly ask for their help. Also, if they say or do things that might hurt or annoy you, do let them know in a gentle way. Not everybody knows exactly how to deal with someone in such a difficult situation. But most are willing to listen and learn.

    Dropping into the Present Moment

    During a nervous breakdown, we spend a lot of time worrying about the future. Will I ever get better? What if things get worse? Or we ruminate about the past. Why did I not take better care of my health? I should have eaten healthier. Why didn’t I go see the doctor earlier and ignored the all the signs? It is natural to think about the future and the past. But especially during a nervous breakdown this tendency can deplete and exhaust us even more. Apart from that, if you pay close attention there are actually some positive, or at least a few emotionally neutral moments, even during a breakdown. Try to become as present as you can in those moments by connecting with your senses. Say you’re having a bath, notice the warm water touching every part of your body. Notice the scent of the bath oil. Turn off the light and simply listen to the sounds that emerge out of the silence. Become present and know, that in this moment, everything is ok. In this tiny moment, nothing is wrong. It’s just you in a warm bath tub. That’s it. Everything’s ok. Now.

    Seek Medical Help

    In the midst of a breakdown, all we want is to just stay in bed (and sleep). We want to hide from the world. We might feel physically really weak, we might experience awful social anxiety which prevents us from leaving our house, or we might just feel too depressed to leave the bed. We might hope, that if we just give things a bit of time, that we’ll feel better soon. While for some of us that might be true, most of us will need professional help. Your doctor might prescribe you Xanax to help you get you out of the worst anxiety, anti-depressants can get you out of the depression and a therapist can help you through speaking therapy (try to find one who incorporates mindfulness). Know, that you do not need to get through this in your own. There’s plenty of help!

    Self-Care

    I wish to end this article with something really legit positive about going through a breakdown. Now is the time, to indulge in self-care. Try to let go of guilt, and just give yourself everything you need. If you can afford it, order a massage therapist to your home as often as you can. Buy yourself fresh flowers once a week to put next to your bed. Go on Youtube and listen to your favourite teenage songs and sing along if you have the strength for it. Watch all the movies (in moderation) that you’ve always wanted to watch but never had time to. Have as many warm baths as you can. Meditate and use cultivation practices to feel good inside. Grab a pen right now, of all the good stuff that you can still do and go for it!

    MEDITATIONS:

    Gratitude Meditation

    Love Meditation

    Animal Affection

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Cultivating Happiness Workshop

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • Mindful Attitudes to Bring About Positive Change

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    As we step into a new year full of possibility and promise, eager to leave last’s year baggage behind, now is the time that many of us take inventory of our world and resolve to set new goals and intentions for change.

    So often, these best-laid plans are derailed due to impatience or expectations – ways of thinking that lead us away from the present moment. It’s no surprise then, that the most effective way to usher in change is to do so consciously – using mindfulness. By making the choice to shift to more mindful attitudes, we can begin to break old patterns and cultivate long-lasting change. So how do we begin?

    Choose to be proactive instead of reactive. How do you respond when you struggle to meet a goal? Some of us may run on a reactive mode of thinking that can lead to knee-jerk responses like ‘what’s the use’. Reactive patterns are often habitual and automatic, and to break them we must first identify them. Bringing mindful awareness to these patterns gives us the power to do so, and to shift to a more proactive way of thinking. This also extends to the way we practice mindfulness when problems arise - used reactively, mindfulness can only help in the heat of the moment, but when used proactively, it guides our thoughts and actions before a problem becomes a problem.

    Choose fluidity instead of rigidity. Be open to the reality of the present moment – it’s peaks and valleys, the possibility for failure and the potential for success in any given situation. In this way, we become more fluid, more resilient and far less likely to give up at the first hurdle. The practice of focusing and refocusing our attention is the first powerful tool that we learn in mindfulness, and can help us to carry our new goals and intentions forward.

    Choose self-compassion instead of self-criticism. A kind inner voice that supports us, rather than judges us, is far more likely to elicit our motivation to grow and change. In fact, study after study has shown that self-criticism is one of the biggest obstacles to forming new habits and meeting new goals. By responding to our frustrations and difficulties with kindness and compassion, we are better able to bolster ourselves for success.

    Choose acceptance instead of denial. Acceptance is a fertile ground for growth and change, and can dramatically transform how we relate to our experiences. When we come from this place, we are more likely to succeed in whatever we do. By accepting ourselves just as we are, and recognising that we may stray in the process of trying to meet new goals and intentions, we reduce our resistance to change.

    Choose value-oriented intentions instead of all-or-nothing goals. Avoid rigid resolutions and all-or-nothing goals to ‘quit’ or ‘stop’ a habit, and keep an open-minded attitude with more positively-framed goals. Mindfulness can help us both make and follow through on such resolutions, as well as provide strategies that help you more effectively handle the stresses and challenges that often derail resolutions.

    .....

    MEDITATION:

    Acceptance Meditation

    Body Scan

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    New Year's Resolution Workshop

    Introduction to Mindfulness

  • Top Tips for Mindful Communication at Christmas

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    A season for family, friends and festivities, Christmas brings our relationships and interactions with others into the spotlight. It’s often said that our closest relationships present us with our greatest challenges in life, so it’s little wonder that family gatherings over the festive season can be fertile ground for tension and conflict. Bringing mindfulness to our interactions can help us to navigate our way through this period and cultivate positive connections. Read our top tips and find out how…

    Listen With Intent

    Connecting with others is important to our happiness and wellbeing -- when we are disconnected, we can feel stressed and revert back to reactive patterns of communication. We can bring mindful presence to our conversations by staying open and curious, and listening with patience and acceptance. We don't necessarily have to agree with what a relative or friend is saying, but we can still be open to different points of view and listen with the intent to understand, not to judge. In this way, the person communicating has the experience of feeling respected and valued.

    Make Space For Emotion

    The festive season can bring with it a full spectrum of emotion -- from warmth and celebration, to bitterness and frustration caused by quarrels, or sadness and loneliness triggered by memories of lost loved ones. We can use mindfulness to make space for all of our emotions by observing whatever arises, and knowing that we don’t have to act or react to it, but to simply let it pass through our awareness with acceptance and non-judgement.

    Abandon Expectations

    Around this time of the year, we can find ourselves bombarded with images of Christmas ideals of unity, harmony and joy, but the reality can be different and far more complex, especially when it comes to close relationships. We can lay the ground for a more enjoyable experience at Christmas by choosing to not have any expectations, and by staying mindfully present with our social interactions as they unfold moment-by-moment.

    See Good In Others

    Dealing with difficult relatives can be one of the greatest challenges over Christmas. This year, see if you can transform a testing interaction with a relative by looking for the good in their character. It’s always possible to find qualities that you appreciate in someone, such as kindness, generosity, humour or even just positive intentions. When we make the choice to stay open and consciously look for these traits, we may find our interactions are transformed.

    .....

    MEDITATION:

    Candlelight Meditation

    Changing Seasons Meditation

    Good Friend Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

    New Year's Resolution Workshop

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