• 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.

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    MEDITATION:

    Candlelight Meditation

    Changing Seasons Meditation

    Good Friend Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

    New Year's Resolution Workshop

  • Beating The Winter Blues, Mindfully!

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    As we fall into a new rhythm that brings darker days and colder weather, our mood can take a hit. For some it’s a sense of feeling low-spirited, but for others it manifests as a debilitating type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D), which causes symptoms of anxiety, hopelessness, irritability and fatigue.

    Research has shown that one in fifteen people in the UK suffers from S.A.D, otherwise known as the “winter blues”. Scientific studies point to a lack of the sunshine drug - vitamin D - as the culprit, which means levels of serotonin and melatonin drop and the body’s circadian rhythms are disrupted. So how can mindfulness make a difference?

    The first way mindfulness can be used to counteract the effects of S.A.D, is by helping us to build resilience - the ability to adapt to change and overcome the unpleasant things in our lives without being overwhelmed by them. Whether we’re challenged by low mood or cold weather, staying present and turning towards any unpleasant feelings with a curiosity and non-judgmental awareness can help to soften the hard emotional states that arise with S.A.D and strengthen our ability to bounce back in similar situations.

    Likewise, mindfulness can help us to understand and embrace the impermanence of life. When we stay mindfully engaged in every moment, with whatever is arising in our thoughts, feelings and experiences - we gain an awareness that change is the nature of all things. Understanding the truth of impermanence can benefit us in moments of low mood, as it helps us to realise that these feelings will eventually pass.

    The next tool we have in our mindfulness practice is the power of perspective. As the adage goes: ‘change how you see, and see how you change’. For example, instead of directing our focus on what is lacking over the winter – warmth, sunshine, nature in bloom – we can choose to shift our awareness to see its gifts. A time of endings opens the door for self-reflection, and the slower pace brings with it an opportunity to rest and recalibrate. A conscious change in perspective, if we practice it often enough, can become embedded in our brain thanks to neurological plasticity.

    We can extend this sense of wellbeing even further by creating a daily or weekly gratitude list. From warm drinks and woolly socks, to the simple joy of having a bed to sleep in at night – there are countless things to be grateful for over the winter months. We can use gratitude as a buffer against negative attitudes and mind-sets by bringing our awareness to the good things in life and taking the time to savour them.

    Finally, since mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with self-compassion, adopting a regular self-care practice over the winter months can also help to remedy a low mood. Ask yourself what can you do to make yourself feel good? Nurturing habits, such as long walks outdoors, warm baths and nourishing meals can all take the edge off feelings of anxiety and depression that are associated with S.A.D.

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    MEDITATION:

    Changing Seasons Meditation

    Body Scan

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindfulness for Anxiety and Depression

    8-Week Mindfulness Course for Depression

    8-Week Mindfulness Course

    Mindfulness One-Day Workshop

  • Cultivating Positive Mind States

    Written by Alexa Frey

    In mindfulness, we train our attention to be in the present moment. How? By anchoring it on a sensory experience – for example, the breath, a bodily sensation, or a sound. In short, we learn to place our attention on a chosen anchor. That’s the first step. With practice, we then become better at directing our attention where we want it to be. Slowly but surely, we learn to focus and stay in the present moment.

    Now, once we are able to focus, and choose where we want our attention to be, we can start engaging in what in mindfulness is called ‘cultivation’. This means, that we place our attention on something that fills us with gratitude, acceptance or anticipatory joy, or compassion for ourselves or others.

    How does this work? Usually we start by settling our attention on the breath, which helps to calm down and focus the mind. After a while, we begin to engage in cultivation. If we wish to cultivate gratitude for example, we will bring up a person or a thing, or a situation, that fills us with gratitude. Maybe the lush tree that grows in front of your house evokes gratitude in you, or the fact that you can see, or maybe you feel grateful that you own the cutest dog in the world!

    So, bring to mind what you are grateful for and keep your attention on it. As you stay with it for a while, you will notice a sense of gratitude spreading through your body. A sense of expansion and joy.

    As you practice cultivating gratitude, your mind might drift off – just like in a normal meditation. It might run off to a completely different experience. If this happens, gently redirect your attention back to what you are grateful for. Return to gratitude. Again, and again, and again.

    .....

    MEDITATIONS:

    Gratitude Meditation

    Love Meditation

    Animal Affection

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Cultivating Happiness Workshop

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • Four Ways Mindfulness Eases Anxiety and Depression

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    According to the mental health charity Mind, anxiety and depression affect nearly one in four of us in the UK. So if that includes you too, you are not alone. Though their root causes are varied and complex, we do know that anxiety and depression are exacerbated by our fast-paced, plugged-in world, which leaves us little time to connect with ourselves. Mindfulness may not be an overnight fix, but it does offer us an arsenal of tools and techniques to ease the weight of anxiety and depression. And its effects are cumulative – which means that what we practice only grows stronger. Find out just a few of the ways it can help…

    Mindfulness soothes the nervous system

    On a simple level, mindfulness meditation soothes the nervous system and promotes a sense of calm which reduces anxiety. Being attentive to physical sensations and breathing mindfully activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a state of peace and relaxation in the body. This is backed by recent scientific studies, which have revealed that levels of cortisol – the hormone that’s triggered in response to stress – are dramatically reduced in those who practice mindful awareness.

    Mindfulness teaches us to accept difficulty

    When the blues strike, it’s common to want to hide what we feel and detach from our emotions. Sweeping pain under the metaphorical rug stops us from connecting with it, which can simply make it worse. As the old adage goes: ‘what you resist, persists’. The idea of turning towards emotional pain may seem counterintuitive, but when we gently open the door and invite it in, our relationship with it can be truly transformed. By cultivating an acceptance of our painful thoughts and feelings in the present moment, and holding space to simply ‘be’ with them, we may find that they loosen their grip on our lives quite dramatically. This can bring a clarity that helps to heal old wounds and break unhealthy patterns.

    Mindfulness opens us to self-compassion

    We all have an inner critic – it’s a voice that often comes from the past: a parent, teacher or boss. When we find ourselves stuck in a rut, feeling anxious or depressed, that judgmental voice can make things ten times harder. If we’re not careful, we can live by the stories it tells us about ourselves and let it shape the direction of our lives. Becoming aware of our inner critic is the first step towards disengaging with it, and mindfulness empowers us to do this. By training the brain to spot its negative internal commentaries, we can choose to respond to life’s difficulties with self-compassion instead of self-criticism. In this way, we chart new neural pathways that support and nurture us when we’re feeling low.

    Mindfulness helps us to break negative thinking

    Negative and ruminative loops of thinking are characteristic of depressive and anxious moods. They can throw us into a black hole of self-doubt that colours our response to everything. Happily, mindfulness can help us to break this cycle. With mindful awareness, we train the mind to recognise negative thought patterns and learn the skills to interrupt and respond to them in a way that makes us more resilient. Science has also shown that mindfulness works to disarm the mind’s ‘stress centre’ – the amygdala – which is the seat of our fearful and anxious emotions, and boosts activity in the more thoughtful area of the brain – the pre-frontal cortex. As a result, we are less overwhelmed by negative and ruminative thoughts, and more able to access practical thinking and positive emotions.

    .....

    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    TIPS:

    Why Meditate?

    The Present Moment

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindfulness for Anxiety and Depression

    8-Week Mindfulness Course for Depression

    8-Week Mindfulness Course

    Mindfulness One-Day Workshop

  • Phone off: My 12-hour Digital Detox

    written by Alexa Frey

    A busy and emotional week lay behind me and I urgently needed a break. Thus, I had decided to spend a whole Saturday doing nothing - in solitude. Nurturing myself. Taking care of the most important relationship that I have, the relationship with myself.

    Saturday, 2pm. I had slept in, eaten breakfast and then slept a little more. I went on to Netflixing an animal documentary (ok, and a little ‘Mad Men’). Everything should have been good. But my heart was pounding in my chest and my body just wouldn’t settle into my self-proclaimed chill out day.

    Ding! My friend had texted and I texted back. A few texts led to a whole conversation and by the end of the conversation, I felt even more tense. But now I knew why my heart was pounding in my chest!

    There was this sense – in that moment - that I wasn’t safe. The fact that my phone was on, didn’t give me that solitary space I needed. I had this visceral sense, that at any moment, someone could intrude my space and disturb my chill-out day. But not only that, I noticed how the impulses to check social media and be in online contact with my friends didn’t let me attend to myself. The self, that I had neglected all week. The self, that needed attention and nourishment.

    I decided to turn off my phone. For 12 hours. This is what I’ve learned:

    Back to Books

    As soon as I had turned off my phone, like magic, my body started calming down. Moments later, I realised that I actually had no desire to be on Netflix. So I grabbed a book from my bookshelf and – feeling like back in the 70s – started reading. I noticed the simple letters on the paper pages. Black and white. This simplicity felt soothing. Freeing. So I read for a while. As my body calmed down more and more, I looked outside and felt a pull to get out into nature.

    Off to the Park

    Walking towards the park, I spotted a little bee dancing around a flower. I paused and watched it as a smile grew on my face. As I looked up, a woman came walking towards me, her gaze firmly glued onto her phone screen. I wondered whether she too had spotted a bee, as I continued walking. The park seemed brighter today as I passed by a blackberry bush. My friend’s favourite berries. I grabbed for my phone to send her a picture. No phone. Just me.

    Old School Entertainment

    After having a swim in the Hampstead Health woman’s pond, I lay down in the grass. Wondering what time it was. At this point, I’d usually check in with my phone, maybe read an article from my Facebook feed or shoot off a few texts. But here I was – just me. Since there was no online entertainment, I started listening to those two very old French ladies behind me, wondering how they had lived most of their lives without phones. It was lovely listening to them discussing the new Diana documentary, Brexit and the long dark Winter nights in Norway. I was truly entertained.

    Missing out?

    “It’s 7:05pm!” One of the French ladies answered to my question. I decided to make my way back home. I was wondering whether my flatmate was hungry too and felt to urge to ask her out for dinner. I grabbed for my phone. No phone. I am so used to be able to reach out to my friends and family whenever I want to, that the situation felt strange. Foreign. I made my way back home – uncertain whether my flatmate would eat without me, and whether she was even at home.

    Deeply Connecting with Myself

    She wasn’t at home, and I didn’t know where she was. I had decided to keep my phone off and spend some more time just with myself. That evening, I really settled in. Reconnected with the most important person in my life. Myself. Phone off. Just me.  

    .....

    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    TIPS:

    Why Meditate?

    The Present Moment

    RETREATS:

    3-Day Mindfulness and Nature Connection Retreat

    One-Day Mindfulness Retreat

    Deepening Mindfulness Retreat Day

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindfulness for Anxiety and Depression

  • Wanting to be different

    Our internal world isn’t always how we want it to be. Emotions sometimes sweep through our minds and bodies - and we often have no control over them. Sometimes we don’t even know what triggered them.

    If we experience such emotional tsunamis on a frequent basis, and those experiences negatively impact on our everyday lives and relationships - we might start to hate not only those experiences, but also ourselves and this being human.

    “Why do I have to be like that? Why can’t I be in control?”

    “Why do I have to experience this emotional roller coaster?”

    “I want to be different, someone else!”

    Such thoughts usually don’t help. Especially because we tend to repeat them over and over again in our heads, and those repetitive energy loaded thoughts will create even more emotions in our bodies. More suffering. More pain. It’s endless.

    At the core of this rumination is the wish to be different. To be in control of our emotions, to feel less.

    But what if the first step to recovery wasn’t attempting to be different. But the attempt to accept who we are? To get real with who we are. To get real with the fact that maybe I need more sleep than other people? That I am an introvert who needs to spend a lot of time in nature in order to be happy.

    What if the solution to the problem is actually rather practical? To accept who I am and to make the necessary arrangements in my life? Practical problem solving. Taking care of the fragile being that I am - rather than wishing every day I was different, someone else.

    .....

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

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