Focus/Attention

  • “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.

  • 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

  • Staying Mindful This Autumn

    It’s the time of harvest festivals, brightly coloured leaves and bonfires. Like any season, the joys of Autumn can pass us by all too quickly if we don’t pay attention. There are of course many reasons to dislike the season too – it’s getting colder and the evenings are getting steadily darker. However, whether we enjoy Autumn or not, it provides many mindfulness bells – prompts that remind us to come back into the moment and experience it fully.

    Mindfulness in Autumn

    Fruits of Autumn

    The first half of the season has a real feeling of abundance to it. Even the smallest green spaces may contain a blackberry bush, a rosehip bush or a hawthorn tree. Taking a moment to pick fruit is a great way for us to stop what we’re doing and become present in our surroundings.

    There are still a few late blackberries hanging here and there, so why not use them as an exercise in mindful eating? Notice how the berry looks and how it feels when you pick it. Does it squish in your fingers, leaving a dark purple stain? How does it taste? Bitter? Sweet? It’s also a good reminder to feel gratitude – for your taste buds, for the fruit, for the moment.

    A Chill in the Air

    There’s no denying it – summer is definitely over. Although many of us probably take the time to be mindful of the summer sun on our skin, how many of us give the colder weather such attention? We tend to notice and appreciate things we like in life, and begrudge those that we believe we hate.

    Instead of just thinking ‘Oh, I hate the cold!’, why not try using it to become more present in your body? Notice the chill on your face, how the wind ruffles your hair. You don’t have to enjoy it, but being mindful of it may bring new feelings and sensations. As well as the weather, we can enjoy the warmth and softness of our scarf, the snugness of our coat or the comfort of a hot cup of tea when we return home.

    Spiders

    Not all of us are afraid of spiders, but for many people this season can be anxiety-inducing because there are so many big spiders about! Yet even these creepy crawlies are mindfulness bells in disguise. Spotting one our eight-legged friends may at first send you into a panic, but mindfulness isn’t just about savouring the good stuff, it’s about noticing when we’re suffering too. Can you be present in and accepting of the anxiety? Can you take a deep, steadying breath, and get some perspective – that it’s just a spider? And if that doesn’t work and you totally freak out, can you show yourself some self-compassion and forgiveness?

    Bonfires and Fireworks

    As the nights draw in and the trees become bare, at least we have the warmth of a bonfire to look forward to. Bonfire nights and firework displays offer a treat for all the senses. We can savour how the heat of a bonfire warms our cold faces, the smell of burning wood, the bang of exploding fireworks or the sound of happy voices around us, the bursts of colour in the night sky, maybe even the taste of a hotdog or jacket potato. Appreciating these physical sensations can bring a whole new level of enjoyment to these traditional events.

    The Coming of Winter

    While there are many things to enjoy about Autumn, for some of us it may be a worrying time. Depression can worsen due to the dark mornings and evenings, and we may feel more socially isolated, stuck in our homes away from the cold. The cold can also exacerbate some physical conditions. We may also be struck with a sense of loss; with the leaves falling from the trees it can be a harsh reminder that everything eventually ends.

    Yet even here we can cultivate mindfulness. The seasons change, just as we change. We all go through our own personal seasons, times of light and sunshine, and then times of dark and cold. We’re not separate from nature in this way; we’re inextricably linked with its transitory cycles. If we can accept the changing weather, we might take one step closer to accepting our own changeability.

    But just as winter will again become spring, our darkest moments also pass. If winter proves to be a difficult time, our discomfort can be a mindfulness bell for compassion, self-love, and maybe even forgiveness of ourselves for not being consistent and steady all of the time. By practicing mindfulness, we can build internal bonfires, to bring us comfort all year round, despite the changing nature of ourselves and our world.

    .....

    MEDITATION:

    Changing Seasons Meditation

    Body Scan

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    New Year's Resolution Workshop

  • Putting Down Our Cameras to Make Mindful Memories

    CameraMobile technology makes it easier than ever before to document special moments in photographs or videos. However, how many of these moments are we actually experiencing mindfully, rather than simply viewing through a screen? Whilst it’s wonderful to be able to capture these sights or occasions so that we can remember them later on, we may sometimes find ourselves simply pointing and clicking in lieu of really looking and letting the moment sink into our minds.

    Mindfulness encourages us to slow down, and even to completely stop sometimes in order to notice or savour what we are currently experiencing. Rather than rushing from moment to moment, trying to see or do as much as possible, we can instead start taking the time to use our senses as a kind of camera, capturing the moment in a deeper way. By mindfully looking, listening, feeling, tasting or smelling, we can create a full sensory memory of the moment, so that in the future when we look back we’ll have more than just a snapshot on our phone. Although of course we can still take a photo or video as well!

    Next time you’re at a party or get-together with friends or family, or next time you see something beautiful or interesting, pause and take a moment to let the scene sink into your mind first. Really feel into the emotions it brings, whether it’s happiness, gratitude, love, awe or fascination, let it permeate your whole being. It may be helpful to think of it as a way of honouring the moment with your full presence. Take a mental snapshot before you take one on your camera, and then notice how it changes the quality of the memory when you look back on it later on.

  • A Thought on Judgement

    judgement

    With the practice of mindfulness comes a lot of talk about non-judgement. Indeed, when we become more mindful we do naturally loosen our ideas of what’s good and bad, right and wrong, etc., and as a result we may drop some of our past prejudices and knee-jerk reactions to things. However, judgement is also necessary; we need it in order to navigate our daily lives and to make decisions. So how do we find the balance?

    It’s useful to approach judgement with curiosity. If we can step back from automatically buying into every opinion we have, we can start to learn more about where our judgements are coming from, whether they’re helpful or not, and whether they are in line with our true values.

    For example, say we’re with a friend and they’re telling us about a problem they’re having. As we listen, our minds may be throwing up many judgements about why the problem is happening, what our friend could do differently, even judgements about the overall character of our friend. These judgements are inevitable (we can’t stop our minds from judging) however our reaction to those judgements is slightly more within our control. As soon as we notice them, we can try to hold them more lightly. This way, we don’t get so lost in our judgemental thoughts, and can instead redirect our focus on listening with more awareness.

    However there will of course be times when we must act on our judgements. If our friend is constantly telling us about their problems and yet never asks how we are doing, we may feel that we no longer want to spend time with that person. And that’s okay. Being mindful isn’t about passively accepting everything that happens in life. It’s about cultivating that ability to reflect on our judgements first, and then take action.

    So next time you notice a judgement, get to know it a little better. Is this judgement coming from your values, or just from the temporary mood you’re in? Is it true? Is it fair? After taking a few deep breaths, or even meditating for twenty minutes, is the judgement still the same? Don’t push the judgement away or make it wrong, simply sit with it for a while and explore.

    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    Good Friend Meditation

    RETREATS:

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

  • Applying Mindfulness in Sport

    Sportswritten by Oliver Dixon

    Whilst the hectic, high pressure environment of professional sport might seem like the last place you would expect mindfulness to be utilised, the practice is actually becoming increasingly popular among professional organisations, particularly in the US. Michael Gervais uses it with the Seattle Seahawks, George Mumford has used mindfulness with numerous championship winning NBA teams including the Lakers and Bulls, and Novak Djokovic, who is considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time, has described mindfulness as the secret of his success. Here we look at several ways that mindfulness can be applied in sport.

    Improved Focus

    A major issue in sport which leads to poor performance is misplaced focus. This can be caused by ruminating on previous mistakes (e.g. a missed shot), or trying to predict the future. An example of this is when athletes are said to have ‘choked’; surrendering a lead because they felt the pressure, and more than likely have run through hundreds of possible scenarios in their mind for how the rest of the match could pan out.

    Applying techniques such as mindful breathing can help keep you grounded in the present moment. Being more able to move on from mistakes or stop yourself thinking too far ahead ensures that you can stay fully focused on the next play.

    Mindfulness teaches us to become aware of the thoughts we have, not in a judgemental way but to simply recognise and observe them. This awareness is the first step in recognising what you are mentally saying to yourself during sport, and the results might be surprising. You’ll often find just how critical you are; comments you wouldn’t say to other people. When these thoughts are illuminated by awareness it then becomes easier to let them go, or at the very least not believe in them as truth.

    Novak Djokovic commented, “I used to freeze up whenever I made a mistake... Now when I blow a serve or shank a forehand, I still get those flashes of self-doubt but I know how to handle them: I acknowledge the negative thoughts and let them slide by, focusing on the moment.”

    Self-regulation

    The practice of mindfulness helps us cultivate self-regulation of our emotions. The ability to react to another player’s action without emotion is often the difference between a wise decision and one that loses the game. Sport can be a hugely stressful environment, with so many factors being out of your control, and mindfulness practices have been shown to greatly reduce stress.

    Mindfulness also teaches you how to connect your mind and body, through exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation. This heightened mind-body connection means you can be more attuned to signals your body is giving off during sport. For example, you might notice when the red mist begins to descend earlier than before by recognising stress and tension in the muscles, or become aware of a possible muscle injury before it becomes serious.

    Imagery

    One of the most powerful techniques in sport psychology is imagery. By picturing your next shot or game, you can plan responses to different scenarios. However, if practiced incorrectly it can lead to negative results. Incorrect use of imagery usually occurs due to a lack of control of the images you create, and can cause visualisations to be ineffective or even negative. For example, excessively visualising what could go wrong would likely result in a loss of confidence or cause anxiety. Mindfulness can help to increase the level of control you can have over your imagery, through quieting the mind and allowing you to focus on only relevant information. It can also help you utilise all five senses to increase the vividness of the image, increasing the effectiveness of the exercise.

    So next time you’re playing sport and you miss an easy chance, or make a mistake, rather than let negative self-talk and rumination distract you from your game, take a deep breath, centre yourself in the present moment and carry on enjoying the game!

     

  • Finding Refuge in the Breath

    bambi
    The mind is a constant whir of activity. Without any effort, our minds can jump from past regrets to concerns about the future to mentally noting that doctor’s appointment we have next week. If our minds are particularly busy, this stream of thinking can sometimes become too much for us to take. The non-stop nature of it can be overwhelming.

    Naturally, we want to retreat. And we might do so in a number of different ways. We may have a glass of wine, or a cigarette, or some cake, or switch on the TV and zone out. We might constantly check social media for distractions, or go on shopping sprees, yet this only increases the busy-ness of our minds. Rarely do these things give us that sense of respite we so badly need.

    Thankfully there is a better refuge available to us, one which we can access at any time, no matter where we are or what we’re doing. It doesn’t exist outside of ourselves, so we’ll never be without it.

    When we find ourselves in the midst of stress, anxiety, depression, sadness, or even intense excitement (this can be overwhelming sometimes too), simply taking a deep breath can bring great relief. When our minds have become tumultuous with thought – each passing thought like a wave that rocks our little boat in a stormy sea, and the rocking never seems to end – we can take a deep breath and…. ahhhh, the waves settle; sometimes just a little, but sometimes a lot! The more we practice, the easier it gets to remember to take those important moments of refuge.

    Try it now. Take a deep breath…. and let it out slowly. How has it changed the quality of this moment?

    .....

    MEDITATIONS:

    Body Scan

  • Using Mindfulness When Things Are Beyond Our Control

    controlAs much as we like to plan and make our own choices, there will always be times in our lives when we have little or no control over what happens to us. Say we have an accident and have to stay in hospital for a while, or we’re involved in a legal procedure and are awaiting a decision that could change our lives, or even something less serious as waiting to hear about how we did in a job interview. That waiting, lack of influence or loss of autonomy can be incredibly stressful or depressing. Our minds may be full of solutions that we simply are unable to put into use, or we may be plagued with regret, rumination and if-only’s.

    However, we can use mindfulness and self-compassion to help us get through these difficult or uncomfortable situations.

    ‘Fight or Flight’ Reactions

    Ever noticed how stressful situations get your blood pumping, your heart beating faster, and your whole body buzzing with nervous tension? That’s a ‘fight or flight’ reaction (also known as ‘hyperarousal’ or ‘acute stress response’) – a physiological response to a perceived attack or threat. An initial response from the amygdala then starts a chemical chain reaction within the body, which is why our blood pressure goes up (among other things). The nature of the threat doesn’t really matter to the brain; the fight or flight response could be triggered by a vicious dog jumping out at us, or just the prospect of speaking in public. Basically anything that we perceive as being potentially harmful to our physical or psychological well-being will send us into that stress reaction.

    In general, this is no bad thing; it’s designed to help keep us safe from danger. However, if this reaction is triggered regularly, it can make us feel constantly anxious and on-edge.

    This can happen in situations that are beyond our control; we naturally feel threatened or at risk, however, there’s nothing we can do to avert that risk. For example, say we’re waiting for an important medical scan, the results of which could show whether or not we have cancer. We have to wait for the scan, and then we have to wait for the results, and throughout all this time there’s nothing we can do other than worry. Our anxious thoughts of not-knowing, of not being able to ‘do’ anything will keep triggering our fight or flight responses, trapping us in a perpetual state of stress. Aside from the health issues this can cause, it’s simply not pleasant! So what can we do when we find ourselves helpless against our circumstances?

    Noticing When We’re On High Alert

    The first step in helping ourselves cope is to notice when we’ve gone into a stress reaction – sometimes this can happen just from thinking about the situation we’re in. By bringing mindful awareness to our bodies, we can notice if our breathing has become rapid, or if we are holding tension in parts of our bodies.

    What usually happens when we bring mindfulness to these things is that we naturally let go a little, simply from noticing that the tension is there. Of course, this won’t always be the case though. It’s not always possible to relax ourselves. In these cases, it may just be enough to simply acknowledge how we’re feeling. If we’ve been going through a trying time, we may have got stuck in the belief that we must keep soldiering on, that we can’t allow ourselves to feel sad, angry, anxious or whatever else. And so we hold it all inside. Being honest and accepting of whatever is arising for us at this time will allow those feelings to come and go more freely, rather than getting held tight in the body.

    Mindfulness Shrinks Amygdala Volume

    Studies have found correlations between increased mindfulness and decreased amygdala volume. Remember that it’s the amygdala which kicks off the whole stress response process. So in other words, people who practice mindfulness benefit from a reduction in stress and anxiety. That’s not to say that we won’t still feel stressed during stressful situations! Yet we are more likely to be able to cope better when those things arise. Therefore, practicing mindfulness isn’t just a good idea for in-the-moment stress relief, but is useful as a sort of ‘preventive’ measure for future stresses too, in the same way that strengthening your back muscles may help prevent so many aches and pains in later life.

    Self-Compassion in a Crisis

    There’s never really a time when some self-compassion isn’t a good idea, however when we’re helpless and in a difficult situation that’s when we really do need it the most. When there’s nothing else we can possibly do, we can at least be kind to ourselves.

    In a beautiful talk (The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion), self-compassion expert, Kristin Neff describes a particularly challenging experience she had on board a plane with her four year old autistic son, Rowan. As can sometimes happen when autistic children are very young, Rowan had a terrible tantrum. He’s flailing and screaming on the plane, while all the passengers are staring disapprovingly. Kristin decides to take him to the bathroom to comfort him away from everyone else, but when they get there it’s occupied:

    “So imagine being in that little space, outside the bathroom door, with this tantruming child, and I knew that in that moment the only refuge I had was self-compassion. So I put my hands over my heart, and, I tried to comfort him but I was mainly focussing on myself: ‘This is so hard right now darling, I’m so sorry you’re going through this, but I’m here for you.’ And you know what? It got me through.”

    So although there are some things in life that we can’t control, we can at least choose to be kind and caring towards ourselves; to take a deep breath, acknowledge how hard things are right now and that we’re doing the best we can, and show ourselves some compassion.

    MEDITATIONS:

    Body Scan

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindfulness for Anxiety and Depression

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • Practical Tips for Practising Mindfulness

    NYThere are so many benefits to be gained from regular mindfulness practice. Research has shown that mindfulness meditation can improve learning processes, memory and emotional regulation (just to name a few things!) by prompting changes in different regions of the brain. However, in the same way that it can be difficult to get into new exercise or healthy eating habits, it can be hard to turn mindfulness into a daily practice, even if we know how much we will benefit from doing so. Once we’ve gotten into the swing of things, maintaining a regular mindfulness practice becomes much easier. But what steps can we take when we’re first starting out that will help us incorporate mindfulness into our daily routines?

    Using Your Phone as a Mindfulness Prompt

    The simplest and easiest way that we can become more regularly mindful is to set an alarm on our phone or watch. By setting alarms to go off at certain times of the day, our present mindful self can remind our future self (who might have become a bit mindless by that point) to take a pause and breathe.

    How long we choose to pause for is completely down to us, but even if we’re working at our desks when the alarm sounds, we can take a moment to adjust our posture and let go of any tension we’re holding in our bodies, so that we can continue with our work in a more present mindset.

    It’s best to choose a gentle alarm tone, rather than something that will jolt or aggravate you when it goes off. Experiment with setting alarms at different times of the day, maybe focusing on times that you know you could particularly use a mindfulness prompt, for example on your commute to work, at lunchtime, or as you’re winding down in the evening.

    Making Time to Sit

    Even though we know that meditation is good for us, we can probably come up with lots of reasons not to do it. When faced with the choice between watching our favourite TV show and sitting for 20 minutes in silence, the TV show is probably going to seem more entertaining! Once we’ve gotten into a regular meditation practice, the benefits we feel from it will motivate us to make time for it. Yet until that happens, we might need to give ourselves a little push to make the effort. Setting a regular time for meditation can help us do this.

    Pick a time of the day that you’re most likely to be able to stick to. For example, if you’re always rushed in the mornings, it might be better to choose a time in the evening when things aren’t so hectic. It might be useful to start off with a short amount of time, like five or ten minutes. You can then increase your meditation time once you start to get comfortable with it. Try your best to sit down to meditate every day at your chosen time, even if you don’t feel like it sometimes. Just remember, it will get easier the more you do it.

    And if you do miss a day? Or two, or five? It’s okay! Go easy on yourself. Just try to keep that intention going, and start over again if you need to.

    Find a Meditation Buddy

    Sometimes sharing a routine with a friend can make it easier to stick to. It’s so tempting to make excuses and reasons not to do something when it’s just us, but we generally don’t like to let our friends down. We tend to make more of an effort to stay on track with our plans when we know that someone else is also benefiting from it. Plus the social side of it might make it more enjoyable if we don’t like sitting alone.

    Alternatively, if you want some guidance and a structured routine, it might be beneficial to join a regular meditation group. Here at The Mindfulness Project we host a weekly evening meditation for people who have completed an 8-week Mindfulness Course. Check out our calendar for more information on what’s coming up at our space!

  • 8 Wellbeing Benefits Of Practicing Gratitude

    Increased gratitude is a common result of practicing mindfulness. As we start paying more attention to our thoughts, we notice where we block ourselves from appreciating the good things in life. Say, for example, that you always used to get angry when stuck in traffic, but now when you bring your focus to where you are (rather than where you want to get to) you notice things such as the song on the radio or a beautiful scene beyond the car window. We can’t feel grateful for things we don’t notice, and so mindfulness and gratitude go hand-in-hand.

    Gratitude

    The Science of Gratitude

    Robert Emmons, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology at UC Davis in California, and has been studying the effects of gratitude on over 1,000 people. The participants in his study ranged in age from eight to eighty, and were split into two groups. One group was asked to keep a journal in which they were to write five ‘gifts’ that they were grateful for each day, while the other group had to write down five ‘hassles’. Some examples of the ‘gifts’ people noted were generosity of friends, and watching a sunset through the clouds. Examples of ‘hassles’ were things like difficulty in finding a parking space, and burning their dinner.

    What Emmons found was that those who had kept a gratitude journal experienced significant psychological, physical and social benefits: a 25% improvement in overall health and wellbeing in comparison with the group focussing on what had gone wrong each day.

    Here are just eight of the many ways in which mindfully practicing gratitude can improve our wellbeing, and the wellbeing of others around us.

    Greater Energy Levels

    When we experience sadness or depression, our energy levels slump way down. Sometimes doing the simplest of tasks can feel like running a marathon. However, people who kept a gratitude journal in Emmons study reported that their energy levels improved. Many also started exercising more. People with depression are often told that exercise will help, however this study suggests it may in fact work the other way around; that being mindful of what’s good about our life plays an important role in having the energy to exercise.

    Better Sleep

    On average, study participants found that they were not only sleeping 10% longer than they used to, but that the quality of their sleep was improved. They reported waking up feeling more refreshed and ready for the coming day.

    Reduced Blood Pressure

    With our current hectic lifestyles, high blood pressure has become a common problem. However, simply taking moments to focus our attention on our loved ones or friends, or on the beauty of nature, can lower blood pressure, thus taking the strain off our hearts, brains and many other parts of the body.

    Feeling Less Lonely

    Gratitude strengthens relationships, not just with people we know, but with other people in general. When we’re mindful of positive traits and behaviours in others, we feel more supported, and that leads to us feeling more able to support others in return. When we feel safer, we become less selfish, as we no longer feel such a need to look out for our own interests above others. This leads to us feeling less lonely and isolated, as we are more able to truly connect with others.

    Fewer Physical Symptoms

    People who wrote down five things they were grateful for each day became less affected by aches, pains and other physical symptoms. This ties in with other studies which have found that mindfulness can ease uncomfortable physical symptoms, even chronic pain.

    Improved Attentiveness

    As we mentioned earlier in this post, mindfulness and gratitude are very much linked. Over time, those who deliberately thought about what they were grateful for experienced greater attentiveness. They felt more alert and aware of life.

    Taking Better Care of Health

    Practicing daily gratitude resulted in many participants taking better care of their physical health. Mindful individuals tend to have better self-control and are less impulsive, in many areas of life, including eating habits. Add this to more exercise and better quality of sleep, and you’ve got an all-round much healthier life.

    Increased Joy

    When we steer our attention to what’s good about the world, we naturally feel a greater sense of joy. It’s important to note, however, that gratitude isn’t about denying what’s wrong; solely acknowledging the positive and avoiding the negative can do us much psychological harm. But noticing good things, when and where they exist, takes us out of seeing the world as just being a bad place where bad things happen. In truth, life contains both good and bad, but mindful gratitude helps us appreciate those lovely moments in life, whilst at the same time enabling us to make more of those lovely moments for others.

    MEDITATIONS:

    Gratitude Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Cultivating Happiness Workshop, Self-Compassion Workshop, 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course, Self-Compassion Drop-In for Graduates

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