• Understanding the 7 Types of Hunger

    Dog Eating a Cake

     

    How many times have you reached for the snacks at a party and munched through them without thinking, or ordered dessert even though you were already full, just because it looked so good?

     

    We eat for many reasons - because we’re stressed or feeling sad, because we feel like we deserve a treat or simply because it’s our scheduled mealtime.

    Eating mindfully is about expanding our awareness around food habits, so that we can make more conscious decisions about what we eat and when. According to Jan Chozen-Bays, MD, author of the book ‘Mindful Eating’, there are seven different types of hunger relating to different parts of our anatomy - the eyes, nose, mouth, stomach, cells, mind and heart.

    Once we are more aware of these different types of hunger and their reasons, we can respond consciously and more appropriately to satisfy them.

     

    1. Eye Hunger

    We are highly stimulated by sight, so a beautifully presented meal or treat such as a birthday cake will be a lot more appealing to us than a bucket of slop - even if the ingredients are the same.

    TIP: To satisfy eye hunger, we can really feast our eyes on the food before we put it in our mouths. If we mindlessly throw our dinner in our mouths while watching TV, we’re wasting an opportunity to fully appreciate it.

     

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    2. Nose Hunger

    Most of what we think of as taste is actually smell. Our sense of smell is much more subtle than that of taste, as anyone who’s had a head cold and a stuffed up nose will tell!

    TIP: To satisfy your nose hunger, practice sensitising the smell of your food, isolated from taste, by taking a pause before eating to really take in the aromas.

     

    3. Mouth Hunger

    What we think of as tasty, appealing food is often socially conditioned or influenced by our upbringing. This includes how sweet or salty we want our food, and the kinds of seasoning and spices we enjoy. What is considered a delicacy in one country can repel those of another culture. Anyone for deep-fried cockroaches?! Many people’s aversion to raw food is a prime example of this social conditioning of the mouth hunger.

    TIP: Generating greater awareness and a sense of open curiosity around the flavours and textures in our mouths as we eat can help satisfy our mouth hunger.

     

    4. Stomach Hunger   

    A rumbling tummy is one of the main ways we recognise hunger. And yet, it doesn’t necessarily mean our body needs food. The hunger cues from the stomach are self-taught and linked to the schedule we have give our imposed upon it. It takes practice to sense when a grumbling stomach means actual hunger.

    Often, we can confuse the sensation with other feelings that affect our stomach such as anxiety or nervousness. If we feed anxiety with junk food, then get more anxious about our diet, we can spark off a negative spiral of emotional eating.

    TIP: What to do? This takes practice. Listen to the stomach’s cues and start to familiarise yourself with them. Try delaying eating when you feel hungry and become aware of the sensations. Assess your hunger on a scale from 1-10 before a meal, then halfway through check-in again.

     

    5. Cellular Hunger

    When our cells need nutrients, we might feel irritable, tired or we may get a headache. Cellular hunger is one of the hardest types of hunger to sense, even though it is the original reason for eating. When we were children, we intuitively knew when we needed to eat, and what our body was craving. But over time, we lose this ability.

    TIP: Through mindfulness, it’s possible to become more aware of our body’s cravings for specific nutrients and to develop some of the inner wisdom we had when we were children. As Jan Chozen-Bays says, “To learn to listen to cellular hunger is the primary skill of mindful eating.”

     

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    6. Mind Hunger

    Modern society has made us very anxious eaters. We're constantly influenced by the current fad diet, the latest nutritional guidelines or research paper. We are deafened by our inner voice telling us that one type of food is good and one type bad. This can make it very difficult to pick up on our body’s natural cues. The mind is very difficult to satisfy, as it is fickle and will find something new to focus on if one craving is satisfied.

    TIP: Mindfulness can help calm the mind and allow for a more sensitive awareness of the other cues our body is sending us.

     

    7. Heart Hunger

    So much of the time, what and when we eat is linked into our emotions. We might crave certain comfort food because we were given it as a child, or because we’ve associated it in our mind as a treat for when we’re feeling down.

    Often emotional eating boils down to a desire to be loved or looked after. We eat to fill a hole, but that hole often can’t be satisfied through eating. To satisfy our heart hunger, we need to find the intimacy or comfort our heart is craving.

    TIP: Try noticing the emotions that you’ve been feeling just before you have an urge to snack and you might be able to find other ways to satisfy them, such as calling a friend or having a cup of tea or a hot bath.

     

    So, next time you feel hungry, check-in with yourself and work out what kind of hunger you're sensing. If eating is appropriate - go ahead and eat! Try to be mindful of what and how you eat, take in the aroma, feast with your eyes and savour every flavour. Only then will you be truly satisfied.

     

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  • What Is a Retreat Day?

    Warm Drink and Cosy Blanket

     

    What does the word retreat conjure up for you? Sitting quietly in an empty room? Hiding under the duvet? Heading out into nature? 

     

    When we talk about a retreat in mindfulness, we’re talking about setting a prolonged period of time aside to tune into our senses and the present moment. To notice what’s going on in our bodies and minds.  

    We’re disconnecting from the distractions of everyday life to investigate beneath the surface; to restore, reset, and reconnect

    Just as we might set time aside to spend with our friends or family, we’re setting some time aside to catch up with ourselves and recharge our batteries.

     

    What is a Mindfulness Retreat Day?  

    In a nutshell, a mindfulness retreat day is a day dedicated to our practice, where we set aside our usual tasks and responsibilities and simply take some time for ourselves to be present.

    A full-day guided retreat is included in all of our Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Courses. 

    The retreat’s an important part of the mindfulness course, where we can further explore the practices, deepen our own practice and consolidate learnings from the course. 

     

    What’s the Purpose of a Retreat Day? 

    It’s very easy to become stuck in a trance of ‘doing’. Retreat days allow us to take a pause and help us to slow down. They create a sort of circuit break and can provide us with clarity. 

    With a retreat day, we create a bit of extra space which can allow us to go a little deeper than our regular meditation and mindfulness practice. 

    As we immerse ourselves in mindfulness, it’s also useful to embrace mindful attitudes such as acceptance, curiosity, and non-judgment.  

    Things we might ask ourselves during the retreat include:

     

    How do we feel as we begin and end the retreat?

    Does anything change as we move through the day?

    Are we experiencing any difficulties or challenges?

    Are there any recurring patterns?

     

    A retreat day can be deeply relaxing, challenging or both. It’s not often we have a full day to ourselves, so we can learn a lot more than we might expect. 

     

    Where Can I Do a Retreat Day?

    There are plenty of places you can do a retreat day -- a meditation or mindfulness studio, retreat centre or from home. Anywhere you can meditate, you can do a retreat day!

    You might seek out the support of a teacher and group (particularly if you are just starting out with mindfulness or haven’t done a retreat before), or do a self-guided retreat at home. 

    All of our retreat days are currently run online. We might instinctively feel that doing a retreat day at home isn’t really a retreat, but there are benefits to doing a retreat day from home, beyond home comforts and the need to travel.

    Doing the retreat day at home still offers the same guidance from a teacher, practices and group support, albeit through a device.

    Most powerfully, it also allows for the opportunity to more closely integrate our mindfulness practice into daily life, weaving in our usual distractions.

    Some participants reported having a more joyful presence with others in the home during the break or realising ways they can bring the practice into their day to day -- which continue to benefit them beyond the course.

     

    Bath, Candle and Coffee

     

    Do I Have to Stay Silent? 

    A lot of people ask this question. Do I really have to be silent all day? Perhaps they even wonder if this is possible if they’re a natural chatterbox. 

    If the idea of being silent fills us with trepidation, we can try to take it as and when it comes. When we feel uncomfortable with something, it often presents a valuable opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.

    It might also be helpful to reflect on the purposes of the silence. One, is that it’s simply offering an opportunity to let go of our external communication and turn inwards, so we can deepen the connection with our practice.

    No matter how you feel about periods of silence, by the time you come to the retreat you will have built up plenty of guided meditation practice which may make it easier than you’re expecting. Most people find it goes much quicker than anticipated. 

    Try to approach the day with a curious beginner’s mind.

     

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    If We’re Silent, Why Is a Mindfulness Retreat in a Group?

    There’s a sense of community when we practice mindfulness with other people. When a retreat day is part of a course, participants will also be able to discuss their experiences either at the end of the day or in the next session. When we listen to others articulate their experience, or share our own, it can help to make sense of it all. 

    Just as with signing up to a mindfulness course, the act of scheduling in and committing to a retreat day can be useful. In signing up, we’re setting an intention to make some time for ourselves and our practice.

    Finally, a group setting can also remove any niggling temptations we might experience alone, such as taking a quick peak of our phone! 

     

    Will I Be Sitting All Day?

    The simple answer is no. You are unlikely to be sitting cross legged for a pins-and-needles-inducing period of time! A retreat will cover many mindfulness practises from the course throughout the day. 

    You’ll probably find yourself lying down, sitting, mindfully walking, and perhaps even jumping around or nibbling (not at the same time)! Everything is broken down into bite-size meditations. 

    For those guided meditation practices where we do sit still, there’s always the option to move (mindfully). It’s not a test or exam and there’s no good or bad way to meditate. 

    So, whilst we can gently resist excessive fidgeting, if it’s helping us to stay more present then we can move. 

     

    Cushion on Wooden Chair

     

    What Do I Need for a Retreat Day?

    As the motto goes, be prepared! Have a think about what might be useful and set up your space the day before, if possible.  

    A drink, cushion, blanket, fan; have options available so that you’ll be comfortable. Perhaps light a candle or bring a plant into the room. 

    It’s worth considering what you’ll eat for lunch too. It might be nice to prepare something nourishing in advance, or have the ingredients ready to prepare something in the allocated break.  

    And it’s a good idea to let anyone else in your household know what you’re doing - especially if they might think you’re not speaking to them!  

    Finally, turn off those alarms, mobiles, laptops, and any other distractions (Alexa /Google Home, we’re talking to you). If you need to, hide them in a cupboard. 

     

    How Will I Feel After a Retreat Day? 

    This will vary from person to person and there is no right way to feel. You might notice that you’re particularly tuned into your senses after a retreat, and it can take a while to adjust. 

    Give yourself time to slowly move back into the day and soak up the practice. It’s a bit like leaving a serene spa - you’re unlikely to want to go straight to a nightclub! 

    We recommend planning a relaxed evening. This might include time spent journaling, submerged in a bubble bath or outside in the natural world, away from technology. You might even book a massage or treat to end the day for an extra dose of self-kindness. 

    If possible, schedule the rest of the day as ‘me time’ and continue your digital detox

     

    What If I Find the Retreat Challenging? 

    Just as it can take time to settle into a meditation, it can take time to settle into a retreat. 

    We might try to sit with these feelings for a while, but if we feel overwhelmed at any stage, we can adjust what we’re doing, take a break and / or let the teacher know. The teacher will be there to guide the entire session and offer support with anything we might find difficult.

    You can message your teacher directly in the chat box or put your hand up (virtually or in- person). Alternatively, you can simply sit out a meditation and come back to it, if and when you feel ready. 

    Whilst many of us will leave a retreat feeling inspired and highly connected with our practice, it’s OK if you don’t. If you come out of the retreat day feeling like you need to speak to someone, drop us an email. 

     

    How Often Should I Do a Retreat?

    After completing a mindfulness course, we recommend joining a retreat at least once a year to support your mindfulness practice. This might be a single day, a weekend or more!

    Many people find it supportive to do a retreat more often than this, so perhaps perhaps the best way of knowing is to simply ask yourself, are you in need of a mindfulness retreat? 

     

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  • Finding Refuge in the Breath

    Gentle Breeze by the Ocean
    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 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 ways. We may have a glass of wine, eat cake, or switch on the TV. We might constantly check social media or the news for distractions, or even go on a shopping spree.

    At times, this might be just what we need, but often this only increases the busy-ness of our minds. Rarely do these things give us the 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 too), simply taking a deep breath can bring great relief.

     

    Gentle Waves on Shore

     

    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.

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

     

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  • 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. 

     

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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. 

     

    Join our Active Hope: Climate Crisis Workshop on 27. September. 

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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. 

     

    Join our Active Hope: Climate Crisis Workshop on 27. September. 

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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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  • 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.

     

    Join a Mindfulness CourseWorkshop or Masterclass.

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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.

     

    Find Out More About Our Mindfulness Courses and Workshops, Including the 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course.

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