Monthly Archives: April 2017

Mindfulness

When I was in my early twenties I recall reading an article on meditation. Ever since then I have in various ways tried to find ways to meditate. My hope is that this blog will in some way encourage you to explore issues of mindfulness and meditation more. Whilst meditation is generally based within

Image result for meditation pictures

religious and Buddhist traditions, mindfulness, whilst still being based on Buddhist practices, is able to be practiced without any belief beyond the desire to be more mindful. Kabat – Zinn describes mindfulness as

 

‘paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non – judgmentally’

 

In practice mindfulness is a way of observing ourselves as we think, feel and have various bodily sensations. Unlike counselling, this way of learning to sit with whatever is going on for us is not around interpreting anything or learning to find new ways of being; mindfulness allows us to tolerate what is going for us without needing to avoid it. Over time this means we build up resilience to difficult emotional states and/or thoughts. Several years ago I decided to re energise my mindfulness practice and began with several iPhone applications. The best one that I found is called ‘headspace’ which offers ten minute guided meditations which help you understand the process and ease your way into it. I also attended a mindfulness course run by ‘the mindfulness project’ and can be found at: www.londonmindful.com. Through signing up to a course I found this helped me with motivation and also gave me people who I could talk to about how I was finding practising mindfulness several times a day. Whilst I found this course very helpful, there are mindfulness groups in most towns these days if you prefer to practice with others.

 Image result for meditation funny pictures

My experience of practicing mindfulness is similar to what I hear from other people who practice it. Whilst I will often feel that it is pointless while I am sitting, over time I have learnt to see these thoughts as just thoughts. They, like any thought or feeling, are transitory and change quite quickly if we allow ourselves to sit with the discomfort for a few moments. In the meantime I have found that I am less anxious, and can tolerate complex situations far better. I also found that my sleep improved and that I had more motivation through my day. Generally, mindfulness helps with:

 

Self-control

Enhanced flexibility of body and mind

Improved concentration

Emotional intelligence

Social anxiety

Stopping addictive behaviours

 

A blog post can’t really do justice to mindfulness so I have focused on the benefits, however if you are looking for more information, then; http://www.mindfulnet.org/page2.htm may help. Within counselling there is often a focus on what is unconscious, or rather what is influencing you but is outside of your awareness. Mindfulness works with what is present and allows you to cope better with direct issues you may be facing.

 

Advertisements

Exercise

 

It seems hard to write something positive around exercise that doesn’t immediately cause shame to people who don’t like their bodies or who have tried and feel they have failed to exercise well. crosscntry

I’m going to try, with the assumption that you take what I say as encouragement and not condemnation! Exercising means different things to different people, however what I don’t think is healthy is when it is used in ways that leads us to feeling worse about ourselves.

 

We are bodies, and our ability to look after our bodies both reflects something of how we see ourselves and also can help us feel much better about who we are. If we look at most animals they live fairly active lives that are a balance of excursion and rest. Sleep, eating, socialising, moving around are all part of their and our lives (for most but not all animals). What we know about exercise is that it helps promote all sorts of benefits:

Improves muscular and cardiovascular fitness

Improves bone health

Reduces risk of high blood pressure

Helps manage weight

Improves mood

Helps with socialising (if you take up a sport)

Can help with depression and anxiety

The NHS see’s exercise as one of the main things people could be doing to improve their health, and alongside counselling, exercise can help to manage difficult moods and increase self esteem. Along with this exercise actually helps brain function too when we begin new ways of exercising; our ability to learn new skills in one area of life promotes positive change in other areas.

 

I have found that whilst it helps to feel fit, exercise can be combined with other activities which again promote positive moods. Kayaking as an example allows for an hour of exercise whilst also spending time with nature. Starting a team sport quickly allows us to feel part of something and connected to others. Added to all of this, and at this point I feel I am pushing the benefits a little, most ways of exercising cost little or nothing.

 

A fast walk for half an hour three times a week can improve our fitness levels quickly whilst also having the bonus of requiring no kit and being possible for nearly everyone. As a last and more counselling related point around exercise; many forms of exercise help us to become more aware of our bodies, and more at peace with our bodies. For people struggling with body image issues of trauma, exercising helps us feel more attuned to who we are and as such more capable of loving every aspect of ourselves. So… happy exercising!