• How Can Mindfulness Impact Climate Change?

    Mindfulness Teacher - Jiva

    An interview with mindfulness teacher, Rosalie Dores, exploring how mindfulness can impact climate change and why she chose to run a workshop addressing the challenges. 

     

    What Has Mindfulness Got To Do With the Climate

    A fundamental component of mindfulness is developing awareness. In particular learning how to see and be with things the way they are. We engage in meditation practices that allow us to connect more deeply with ourselves and with the world in which we live. 

    In this way we find a deeply enriched experience of life. No longer living in a world mediated by constant patterns of thinking, we see life's beauty, sorrows and joys. 

    Sometimes I think about it as a kind of sobering up. We let go of the fairytale of the perfect life and instead find the capacity and wisdom to meet life as it is. 

    The verb to attend comes from the etymology to care. What we pay attention to we tend to care about. And so it is with the climate. 

     

    Globe

     

    How Can Mindfulness Impact Climate Change?

    In our current, technologically dominated world. Our attention is called here, there and everywhere. We could say that mindfulness is a radical act of paying attention. 

    If we're paying attention, we can't help but notice that our world is in trouble. Countries are threatened with extinction or major challenges due to flooding, drought, famine and extreme weather. 

     

    Join our Active Hope: Climate Crisis Workshop on 3. July. 

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    Mindfulness can impact the climate by supporting people in facing up to what's happening and being able to manage their responses, staying resourceful in the midst of great change and contribute to making positive change.

    Historian activist Rebecca Solnit says that optimism and pessimism are certainties, hope doesn't know, but acts anyway. This is the invitation I am making in offering the workshop.

     

     

    What Motivated You To Create the Climate Change Workshop?

    I have been concerned about what is happening to our world for a long time. In taking the online Active Hope Course with Chris Johnston I felt inspired to do more. One of the components of the workshop is to consider how you might participate in contributing to positive change.

    I'm a mindfulness teacher. And I'm a good mindfulness teacher. So I knew that I could do that. I could teach people what I was learning. How to move from the sense of powerlessness we face as humanity to a sense of empowerment. The workshop really does offer a sense that each of us has something of value to offer. 

    I remember being told by an activist that the antidote to despair, hopelessness, anxiety and depression is action. I have certainly found this to be my experience.  By engaging with climate uncertainty I have been able to create a feeling of connection with the world around me. I feel more hopeful and want to support others to do so.

     

    Can You Tell Us a Bit More About Joanna Macy’s Active Hope?

    Active Hope is structured around the work that reconnects spiral developed by Joanna Macy. The work begins by cultivating gratitude for what we love. This is the foundation and the first of four stages. 

     

    • Stage One: Finding Gratitude

    We find a foundation in a deep sense of gratitude for all that we are offered by the earth. In this way we come into touch with what we most care about. This care can bring us to connect with any sadness, depression and despair that might be present in regard to danger towards earth. 

     

    • Stage Two: Acknowledging Our Pain

    The next stage is acknowledging our pain for the world. The pain itself is data and feedback, important feedback that something is wrong. For many of us, our habitual response to feeling pained is to bury our heads in the sand or deny. This can work for a while, but the problems don't go away. 

     

    • Stage Three: Seeing the World With Fresh Eyes

    Thirdly, we see the world around us with new eyes, acknowledging that our pain can arouse a sense of energy and courage toward positive change. We recognise that we are a vital part of the culture, society and global population in which we live and that we have a part to play.

     

    ’We are not born into this world. We are born out of it.‘ 

    ALAN WATTS

     

    During the workshop we recognise that we are a part of this great planet and that in acting to protect it, we are acting to protect ourselves. We see with new eyes that we can make a vital contribution to change.

     

     

    • Stage Four: Contributing to Positive Change

    When we see with new eyes, we can be moved to go forth. To contribute to positive change in whatever way we feel able. The workshop that I'll be offering is structured around the spiral of Active Hope. 

     

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    What Are the Biggest Challenges Around Meeting Climate Change Mindfully?

    I think the biggest challenge to meeting the climate change mindfully is the tendency to want to close down when we feel anxious or fearful in any way. The practices and material that I will be offering will support people in feeling more grounded and resourced in turning towards the climate challenges we face.

     

     

    What Sort of Change Do You Hope To Create?

    My hope for the workshop is that people will leave equipped with ways of seeing and practices that will support them in feeling empowered and able to face the climate challenges we are experiencing proactively.

    This is an introuductory workshop, which I plan to extend into a course for those that would like to take a more active role and to develop this further in the future. 

     

    Is This Workshop Suitable for Everyone?

    The workshop is for anyone feeling concerned about what's happening to our climate and would like to feel more empowered in facing these challenges. You do not need to have an established mindfulness practice to join, more a willingness to learn and explore. 

     

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    A portion of the proceeds from the Climate Change Workshop at the Mindfulness Project will be offered as a donation to the Active Hope training.

  • Comparing Ourselves with Others

    Selection of Fruit

     

    It makes sense that we compare ourselves with others; social belonging is important to us, so we look around at our peers and make judgements on how well we’re fitting in. Whilst it's natural for us to compare, this doesn’t mean it benefiting us.

     

    Fear and anxiety are natural functions of the brain, designed to help us survive. Yet when these traits, including social comparison, become overstimulated they can cripple us, rather than keep us safe.

    If we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others and finding ourselves lacking in some way, this will leave us feeling not good enough and unable to express and enjoy our individuality.

    Reversely, if we’re comparing ourselves to others and feeling that we are better, this can put us into a self-righteous or judgemental mindset; one we might then feel we need to maintain.

    So how can we find peace with who we are, as we find ourselves, rather than basing our sense of self-worth on how we shape up in comparison with other people?

     

    Self-Esteem Relies on Comparison

     

    We may think that the antidote to being affected by social comparison is to have high self-esteem; to cultivate the belief that we are clever, good at our job, attractive, kind and loving, etc. However, rather than softening the sting of social comparison and helping us to accept ourselves, our desire for self-esteem actually drives us to compare in order to feel good.

    For us to feel attractive, self-esteem requires us to judge ourselves as above average in looks. If we’re to feel clever, we must achieve higher grades than our classmates. If we’re to feel like a kind person, we must try not get caught up in anger or selfishness like other people do, and so on.

     

    “The pursuit of high self-esteem has become a virtual religion, but research indicates this has serious downsides. Our culture has become so competitive we need to feel special and above average to just feel okay about ourselves (being called “average” is an insult).

    Most people, therefore, feel compelled to create what psychologists call a 'self-enhancement bias' – puffing ourselves up and putting others down so that we can feel superior in comparison.

    However, this constant need to feel better than our fellow human beings leads to a sense of isolation and separation.” 

    DR. KRISTIN NEFF

     

    Not only this, but when we compare ourselves to others and feel that we are less attractive or less successful, this really puts a dent in our self-worth.

    We might ask ourselves questions like, “How can I consider myself successful when my friend is earning more money than I am? That must mean I’m not successful.”

    Yet it is possible to untangle ourselves from thinking about our worth in terms of how we compare with others.

     

    Accepting Ourselves with Self-Compassion

     

    Whilst it’s true that we all share many things in common, including the pain and isolation of social comparison, it’s also true that we are unique in many ways. No one else has had quite the same life. No one else has exactly the same mind.

    We’re all dealing with a unique mix of personal history, brain wiring, physical abilities, personal limitations, emotions and thoughts. Remembering this can help us to become more grounded in the presence of who we are, not in relation to family, friends, colleagues or celebrities, but as an individual who is equally as valid as anyone else. 

     

     

    By adopting a more self-compassionate attitude towards ourselves, we can start to frame our lives differently. Instead of feeling that our achievements only count if they’re better than other people’s, we can start to realise that they count simply because we’ve achieved them.

    Say for example that we struggle daily with depression; if we come from a place of self-compassion, rather than self-esteem, we can see that our achievement of getting out of bed in the morning counts.

    These achievements are not because we’ve won some imaginary competition with others, but because it was hard for us to do, and yet we did it! And on days when we don’t manage anything, we can give ourselves a break and not add to our suffering by ranking ourselves as less than others.

    It can be useful to reflect on how we feel about ourselves, acknowledging our successes with an awareness of what it took for us to achieve them. We can view our failings with self-compassion, rather than belittling ourselves because other people seem to be doing much better.

     

    Self-Soothing Exercise

     

    1) A quick and effective way of accessing more self-compassion in this moment is to place our hands on our hearts.

    2) If it feels right, gently stroke that area, with the same kindness you might use to stroke a friend’s arm if they are feeling upset or a pet.

    3) Remember to breathe, noticing any unkind or judgemental thoughts that might arise and gently releasing them. 

    4) Acknowledge the presence of thoughts, yet if you can, try not to hold onto them.

    5) Just be with those thoughts, as a habitual chattering of the mind, rather than placing any sense of truth onto them.

    6) If it’s useful, you could try reminding yourself that you are always doing the best that you can in any moment, perhaps offering yourself some gentle words of encouragement. 

     

    Experiment with practicing this self-soothing technique whenever you notice that you’re judging your worth as a person in comparison to the worth you perceive in others.

     

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  • What Is Mindful Self-Compassion?

     

    An interview with mindfulness teacher and supervisor Jiva Masheder, as she reflects on the practice of mindful self-compassion. 

     

    Firstly, Can You Tell Us a Bit About Yourself?

    I came to mindfulness in 1997 and loved it immediately. In 2007 I started the Masters programme at Bangor University to train to teach mindfulness which I finished in 2012. 

    I find the practice so beneficial in terms of improved emotional stability and mood and greater clarity about my own internal processes, which gives me choices about how I want to be. 

    After 20 years of mindfulness practice, I still felt something was somehow missing. Mindful Self Compassion filled that space and has been enormously helpful to me in viewing myself more kindly. 

     

    What’s the Science Behind Self-Compassion?

    This works because we are very sensitive to an internal climate of criticism and judgement - it's like having someone nagging at you, all the time, and this contributes to anxiety and depression. 

    As mammals, we are hard-wired  to respond well to kindness and tenderness, and cultivating that as our internal climate is enormously beneficial for our wellbeing. It's also quite possible to do. 

    It turns out a kind internal motivator works better than a harsh one! Just think of the best teachers or coaches you've ever had - were they kind and encouraging? Or did they berate you at every turn?

    Dr. Kristin Neff, who co-wrote the Mindful Self-Compassion programme with Dr. Chris Germer, is a researcher on the subject of self-compassion. She has written three books on the subject; ‘Self-Compassion’, 'The Mindful Self Compassion Workbook’ and ‘Fierce Self-Compassion’.

     

    Cat Relaxing

     

    What Are Some of the Benefits of Self-Compassion?

    There's a mass of research to show benefits such as reductions in anxiety and stress, depression, and building resilience.

    It can help to improve communication and relationships, support healthy living and allow us to self-regulate emotion. It also offers a general sense of well-being and self-worth.

     

    Isn’t Self-Compassion All About Bubble Baths and Chocolate?

    The research shows that actually, when we are more self-compassionate, we are more likely to have good health behaviours. So while the occasional bubble bath and chocolate might be just the right thing, people are also more likely to eat healthily, exercise and get enough sleep.

    Self-compassion can also help us to draw clear boundaries so that we're choosing where, when and how to spend our time. When we focus on our values in a self-compassionate way we can protect what is important to us.

    For example, if we value family time it might mean declining an invitation to a work event we don't really want to attend to ensure we have the time (and energy) to dedicate to our family. 

    We don't get more self-indulgent - which is a common concern - we are more like a good parent who makes sure their child eats their broccoli!

     

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    Will Self-Compassion Help Me To Silence My Inner Critic?

    We do spend a session looking at the inner critic. People often feel that without it, they'll just lie in a bath and eat chocolate all day. 

    Instead, we learn to develop compassionate, encouraging motivation, which over time will come to replace the inner critic. This does take time. 

    Whilst self-compassion might not silence our inner critic, we can learn to relate to it differently and find a kinder motivation which can gradually replace the inner critic.

     

    Heart-Shaped Coffee & Fern

     

    How Does the Course Differ From the MBSR and MBCT Course?

    It's superficially similar - eight weeks, group course, practices and sharing. However, it includes more reflective guidance and written exercises. There’s also more discussion and exploration in small groups than you typically do in MBSR or MBCT. 

    As you'd expect, it also has a far bigger emphasis on self-kindness and a wider range of self-compassion practices to engage with. Many participants appreciate this as they're more likely to find a couple of practices that really resonate. 

    The course works well whether you've got experience in mindfulness or not. It's also a great follow-on course after a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course.

     

    Is There Any Home-Practice on the Course?

    From the first week there are practices to engage with and they are a crucial part of the course. They are shorter than MBSR, typically 15-20 minutes, and there's a wider range to choose from

    The suggestion is to do 20-30 minutes a day of guided practice. As with anything, the more time you give yourself to engage with the course, the more it will give you. The programme also equips participants with ongoing practices and reflective exercises beyond the course.

     

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  • Mindfulness for Relationships

    Mindfulness Teacher - Rosalie

    An interview with mindfulness teacher, supervisor and retreat teacher, Rosalie Dores, exploring the Mindfulness for Relationships course and what motivated her to become a relational mindfulness teacher.

     

    What Attracted You to Relational Mindfulness?

    I qualified to teach mindfulness in 2011 after completing my five-year master’s degree at Bangor University. While training I attended a seven-day relational meditation retreat. I had been practising meditation for 15 years. Practising relational meditation transformed my meditation practice and my relational life. It was a real turning point for me, it felt like a quickening.

    I’ve since graduated as a relational mindfulness meditation retreat teacher and spend much of my time studying reading and cultivating a wholehearted and skilful approach to life. I feel very fortunate that my passion for learning to live well, for developing the mind and body has become my livelihood.

     

    How Can Mindfulness Affect Our Relationships With Others?

    Relational mindfulness is grounded in personal solitary practice. In our personal practice we become more aware of what's going on within ourselves. With relational practice, we increase our availability to ourselves and others.

    We recognise our habits in relationships of advising, fixing, controlling or manipulating. We learn how to allow others to be as they are, and to allow ourselves to be as we are.

    A part of learning relational mindfulness, particularly as a group, relates to our sense of common humanity. We all experience challenges in relationships. We all experience some happiness. 

     

    Dog & Cat

     

    How Can Mindfulness Help Us To Communicate More Effectively?

    The first guideline we learn on the course is to pause; pause is fundamentally mindfulness. When we pause, we develop the habit of knowing what is going on in our bodies, hearts and minds.

    With mindfulness we create space to recognise our habits of relating, our reactivity and to choose a way of relating that feels more beneficial both to ourselves and others. Additionally, the safety of the group supports people in growing their confidence to be more fully, and authentically, who they are.

    People learn to recognise what values are important to them, what their needs are and how to express these, and get them met. 

     

    Join the 8-Week Mindfulness for Relationships Course With Rosalie.

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    How Would You Describe the Mindfulness for Relationships Course?

    The course was developed to help people to carry some of the calm and peace found in solitary meditation into their relational lives. Not only intimate relationships but all relationships, including our friends, family and colleagues.

    We are relational beings and as such much of our happiness relies on the quality of the relationships we find ourselves participating in. Relationships can be both a rich source of fulfilment and a primary source of stress.

    The relational mindfulness course supports people in recognising the roots of their relational stress and the possibilities for experiencing more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. 

     

    What Do Participants Do on the Mindfulness for Relationships Course?

    The course runs over eight weeks with two and a half hour sessions and a full day retreat day. Each session includes periods of silent meditation, relational practise, group sharing and a small amount of movement.

    Every week participants are given a specific topic that draws on western psychological understanding and eastern wisdom to support people in deepening their self knowledge and understanding. 

    During the course participants learn six meditation guidelines. These guidelines support us in accessing and developing skilful ways of relating to others. We take one of the guidelines, learn and practise it. I sometimes think the guidelines are like dials on a radio - supporting us to tune into both ourselves and others.

    People who participate in the course often speak about the depth and richness of relationships they experience with other participants. Many of them report that the course has profoundly impacted them, their experience of relationships and what might be possible. Relating in this way can bring about deep satisfaction and joy. 

     

    Tea for Two

     

    How Does This Course Differ to Other Mindfulness Courses?

    The course is different from others because it focuses specifically on relationships. It is ideal for people with a mindfulness or other meditation practises because it deepens and strengthens that practice, while developing skills for integrating awareness into daily life. 

     

    Will the Course Help Me To Build More Confidence?

    The course is excellent for supporting people in developing greater confidence. One of the core skills we learn is how to manage the inevitable anxieties, large or small, that arise in relationships.

    People with social anxiety have found the course to be liberating. Being in a group of likeminded people, cultivating awareness and suspending judgement, individuals find that they can be truly authentic. These skills are transferable to daily life. 

     

    Who Is the Mindfulness for Relationships Course Most Suited To?

    The course is particularly supportive for people wanting to deepen their meditation practice, as well as those who work with others or that can feel socially anxious.

    We explore every kind of relationship; family, partners, friends, colleagues and even our interactions with strangers. Essentially, it's for anyone that would like to improve the quality of their relationships to live a richer, fuller and more satisfying relational lives. 

     

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  • Beating The Winter Blues, Mindfully

     

    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, we can stay present and turn towards any unpleasant feelings with a curiosity and non-judgmental awareness.

    This can help to soften the hard emotional states that arise with S.A.D and strengthen our ability to bounce back in similar situations.

     

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    Likewise, mindfulness can help us to understand and embrace the impermanence of life. When we stay mindfully engaged in the 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?

     

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  • There’s More to Looking After Our Bodies Than Diet & Exercise

    Wooden Human Body

     

    Let’s start by saying that a good diet and exercise are super ways to nurture our bodies. However, there is no shortage of advice on eating well and working out.

     

    Instead, we will look at other, less obvious ways to ground ourselves in body and find enriching physical experiences. Becoming more connected and in tune with our physical bodies is an effective way of being more mindful.

    In bringing awareness to our physical experience, we naturally come to the present moment, using our senses as anchors. It can also help us adopt a more self-nurturing and self-compassionate approach toward ourselves.

     

    Mindful Movement

    Mindful movement practices sometimes double up as exercise. For example, yoga is great for strengthening muscles as well as practicing mindfulness.

    Yet, there are other ways we can practice mindful movement; ways which focus less on fitness or weight loss, and more on enjoying simple bodily movements. For example, the practice of gentle mindful walking.

    Those of us who spend all day at a computer may particularly benefit from connecting with our bodies more. How often do we reach the end of the working day and discover tightness in the shoulders or an achy back?

    We can be so focussed on our work or studies that we disconnect from the body. Yet if we make a habit of regularly checking in with the body, we can give it more movement and flexibility.

     

    Giving It a Try

    So right now, tune in for a moment. How does your body feel? Sense into your feet, legs, back, shoulders, even down through your hands to your fingers.

    Are there any parts of the body that want to stretch or wiggle? If you feel comfortable with it, why not stand up for a moment and get curious about how your body wants to move.

    Maybe you feel like bending forward to touch the ground, rolling your shoulders, circling your hips, or raising your arms above your head for stretch.

    You can’t get this 'wrong'; it’s all about noticing your current experience, and meeting it with openness.

    Notice how any stretching or movements affect your mood or energy levels. Have some fun with it!

     

    Comfort and Cosiness

    There’s nothing like putting on your favourite pyjama’s and curling up in a freshly made bed to read a good book. Or perhaps your favourite comfort is to wear some fluffy socks as you watch TV with your cat.

    Whatever makes you feel cosy, try to do these things regularly, as a way of treating your body with kindness and care.

     

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    Sensory Pleasures

    This could mean so many different things; from finding a shower gel in your favourite scent, to being touched by your partner in a certain way (or touching yourself).

    Getting to know what feels, smells, looks or sounds good to us, and consciously gifting them to ourselves, is important for our well-being. It helps us engage with the physical world around us.

    We can use these pleasurable sensations as a type of meditation. For example, we can listen to our favourite songs and notice all the musical elements. We might place things around our home that we enjoy admiring in detail.

    Bringing more awareness to our sensory experiences may help us start to enjoy things we normally do in auto-pilot, such as brushing our teeth or applying moisturiser.

     

    Looking After Our Bodies

    Our bodies don’t need to be perfect in order for us to enjoy the physical world around us. Having fitness or healthy eating goals can be very rewarding, however taking the time to look after our bodies in other ways is important too.

    When we step out of thinking of our bodies as a ‘project’ that needs work, we can start to enjoy the fact that we have a body that can move, feel and experience the world.

     

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  • The Only New Year’s Resolution You’ll Ever Need...

     

    Are you worried you might not have the willpower to keep your New Year resolutions this year?

     

    Sorry to be a downer, but you’re probably right! According to a study at the University of Hertfordshire, 78% of us fail to keep our New Year resolutions and are left feeling disappointed with ourselves.

    The problem is, we make these wild utopian promises to ourselves of making big changes in our lives with immediate effect.

    “From tomorrow, I’m not going to smoke another cigarette” or “From now on, I'm going to keep my house tidy”.

    When we slip up, we see it as confirmation that we just don’t have what it takes, that we’re not disciplined enough so we might as well give up.

    One cigarette becomes a relapse into chain smoking, and a little chocolate indulgence spurs a return to munching uncontrollably in front of the TV. “Oh well, there’s always next year…”, we say.

    Sound familiar?

    Unfortunately, it's not so easy to change old habits. Willpower isn't enough. We need mindfulness skillpower! But how do we develop that?

    One approach is called 'urge surfing’, and here’s how it works:

    1. Recognise

    Imagine you’re sitting in front of the TV and suddenly crave a bar of chocolate. The first step in mindfulness is to simply become aware of such an urge, i.e. recognise it.

    You can even name it in your head: “Urge to eat a bar of chocolate”.

    2. Acknowledge

    Most of us have been told that we ought to 'get rid' of such urges once they arise - control them, because they are bad. Or that we should distract ourselves by thinking of something else.

    Unfortunately our brains don't work that way.

    Research has shown that the more we resist something or try to make it go away, the more it will persist. Therefore, the second step is to simply acknowledge to urge to have a bar of chocolate. Allow to urge to be there.

    3. Investigate

    Once you have acknowledged the urge to have that chocolate bar, investigate how this urge feels in your body. Is it a tension in your chest, a watering mouth or a tickling sensation?

    Check in and find out for yourself. If you wish, you can even close your eyes during your investigation.

    4. Kind Surfing

    While you are investigating the urge, just try to be with it for a few seconds, maybe even a minute. Surf the urge and while doing so, be kind to yourself. It's not easy to surf an urge, so do not expect too much from yourself too soon.

    Even if you only stick with the urge for half a minute and then go ahead and have that bar of chocolate anyway, you’ve still exercised that part of your brain and could be better equipped the next time an urge comes along, so well done!

    The more you observe your urges, the more mindful skillpower you will develop. Research has even shown that this skillpower is like a muscle in your brain that you can grow – just as you can grow your biceps in the gym.

    But as with the weights, don't expect to lift the heaviest weight the first time you go to the gym.

    Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, especially when it comes to our brains – just as our biceps, they need time to grow and change. So be patient and kind to yourself. It's all about training.

    The Conclusion?

    Don't set yourself fixed goals as New Year resolutions that are doomed to failure. Instead, make the resolution a goal to develop mindful skill-power!

    One way to do this could be to join one of our courses in the New Year. The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) will help you develop your mindful awareness and a sense of balance.

     

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  • Don’t Forget Self-Care This Christmas

    Christmas Self-Care

     

    Christmas is a time for thinking of and giving to others. That’s what makes this time of year so beautiful and special! Yet it’s also important to take time for ourselves amidst all of the gift-giving, party preparations and cooking.

     

    Sure it’s a fun holiday, but if you’re responsible for buying the family presents, or if you’re hosting Christmas dinner, it’s easy to start feeling the pressure. Making sure you take care of yourself as well means you can enjoy the festivities without any unnecessary stress.

    Mindfulness is important when it comes to self-care, because without it we are not likely to notice when the pressure is getting to us. We have a habit of trying to soldier through things, often thinking to ourselves that we’ll only have time to rest once this and that are done.

    But there’s no reason why we can’t care for ourselves as we go.

     

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    Those who have a regular meditation practice will probably be used to checking in with how you’re feeling. Maybe you’ll notice when you’re feeling tight, or feeling tired or overwhelmed.

    If you don’t meditate regularly, or if you struggle with noticing when you’re feeling low, it may be useful to set an alarm to go off at certain times of the day, to remind you to take a moment and ask "how am I feeling right now?"

    Once we get into this habit, it becomes easier to take action when we’re not feeling great. What we do to help ourselves feel better and cared-for is very individual.

    Perhaps we might make time for a relaxing bath, we might watch a film that makes us laugh, or we might go for a walk in the countryside.

    As it’s Christmas, maybe we could put on our favourite Christmas song that fills us with warm nostalgic Christmas feelings, or we might even buy a gift for ourselves!

    Whatever it is that makes you feel more relaxed, happy or rejuvenated, try and find some time for it this Christmas, because when we take care of ourselves, we have more energy for taking care of other people too.

     

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  • This Is the Season To Be Jolly… but What if We Aren’t?

     

    For some of us Christmas is the most enjoyable time of the year. However, for others it might be a more difficult or painful time.

     

    When we’re caught up in our excitement, we may sometimes find ourselves pressuring others to feel the same way as us; reacting with judgement or criticism (directly or passively) when someone tells us that they won’t be sending Christmas cards, or that they’d rather spend Christmas alone with a meal for one.

    This reaction, whilst understandable (we might fear losing our own joy) and socially acceptable, actually flies in the face of what most of us consider to be the true spirit of the season: love.

    There are many valid reasons for people to not enjoy this time of year, or indeed other celebrations such as their birthday.

    It may mark the anniversary of the loss of a loved one, it might remind us of a painful childhood, or the sights, sounds and expectations of Christmas might simply just be too overwhelming for the senses.

    And just because it’s Christmas time doesn’t mean that normal life stops; couples still get divorced, people become ill, lose their jobs, or suffer with depression.

    The most compassionate thing that we can do is to say, "It’s OK" to our friends or family members who aren’t feeling jolly this Christmas, or to ourselves if we’re the one feeling that way.

    We can use mindfulness to help us make space for those feelings to just be as they are, without trying to enforce cheer upon ourselves or others.

    If you’re excited and happy for Christmas, that’s OK too! Enjoy it!

    But, if you’re not feeling so great, that’s OK too.

    Just bring awareness to whatever is arising right now, whether festive or not, and try to meet that experience with openness and presence.

     

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  • 4 Tips for Mindful Communication at Christmas

     

    A season for family, friends and festivities, the Christmas period 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. 

    With this in mind, we bring you four top tips to support a mindful Christmas.

     

    1. 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. We can listen 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.

    We can consider these moments an opportunity to practice equanimity and compassion.

    In this way, the person communicating has the experience of feeling respected and valued.

     

    Christmas Dog

     

    2. 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. It can also bring moments of 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.

    Instead, we can simply let it pass through our awareness with acceptance and non-judgement.

     

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    3. 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. This is especially true when it comes to close relationships.

    We can lay the ground for a more enjoyable experience at Christmas by choosing to not have expectations. Instead, we can stay mindfully present with our social interactions as they unfold moment-by-moment.

     

    4. See the 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 consciously look for these traits, we may find our interactions are transformed.

     

    The Mindfulness Project runs at calendar of events to support mindfulness practice and communication throughout the year. 

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