This Christmas may be unusual for many of us as so many people won't get home to see our loved ones. No doubt this will bring some sadness, but it is possible to still have a Merry Christmas, if we take care with our thoughts.
Thoughts really matter. If we approach the holidays focusing on what we lack, we will feel that lack whatever we are doing. If we approach them with a sense of gratitude, we can have a merry and full holiday, whatever our circumstances.
See if you can bring your awareness to the mental attitude you bring to the coming weeks, and if you notice an attitude of lack, see if you can shift toward gratitude. Don't underestimate the power of a little gratitude, studies have shown that a regular gratitude practice can rewire the brain to be more positive.
When we have breath in our lungs there is something to be grateful for, so bring your attention to the small things, they really do matter.
Wishing you a Joyful Christmas, whatever you're up to.
"...nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it." - Shakespeare
Take one minute three times each day to put your worries, thoughts, troubles on a shelf, and just be in this moment.
Breathe deeply and allow the muscles in the shoulders, face, and stomach to relax. Don't worry, anything important will be there when you come back, but for now, rest in the moment.
The more we can allow ourselves to follow this prescription, the more peace we create in our lives.
“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” — Abraham Maslow
The beauty of coming home to the breath is that you never have far to go. The breath is always with you, and once you learn to work with it, it can be a source of refuge from the ups and downs of life.
A long deep breath signals the nervous system to calm down, that everything is ok. We all know that if we're anxious or upset, having someone tell us to calm down is likely to be of no benefit. Emotions can feel overwhelming, and the chatter of the mind deafening, leaving us feeling powerless and at their mercy. But a few minutes of long deep breathing targets the body directly, bypassing the chatter in your mind, and shifting focus away from emotional overwhelm.
The trick is to stay with the breath, and when the mind pulls you away again and again, come back again and again. Watch out for thoughts such as 'this isn't working', or 'this is too intense', and return to the breath, it will guide you to safety if you can remain patient and persistent.
As with any practice, making it a routine part of your life is key. See if you can commit to taking a few minutes out to belly breathe each day this week, and connect with the sense of safety and peace within.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
"We have 60,000 thoughts a day, and 98% of them we had yesterday" - Tara Brach
Take a moment to think about this, is this true of your experience? I know it is of mine.
Often I find myself watching re-runs in my mind ranging from the mundane and necessary "What will I have for dinner today?" to the detrimental "Remember that time I said (insert stupid comment) to (insert person's name)? What an idiot I looked!".
What would happen if we opened up to this moment instead of watching re-runs in our minds?
Sure, there's comfort in watching a re-run, you know what will happen, you know how the story ends, there are no surprises, and there is a time and a place for that. But what are we missing out on by doing this? What new possibilities would open up if we were to be present and aware in this moment? What new things could we learn about ourselves and our relationships? Our work and our lives? What new story would we get to tell?
This week, set an intention to come back to your senses a few times a day and notice what's actually happening in the here and now. See if you can be curious about your inner and outer world, you never know what you might discover. :)
“Always hold fast to the present. Every situation, indeed every moment, is of infinite value, for it is the representative of a whole eternity.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Thought creates feeling, and feeling creates action.
Imagine this scenario: I wake up in the morning and immediately think of all I have to do today, it's a long list, and the thought comes "How will I ever get all this done?", quickly followed by "X always looks so in control, and she's busier than me, why am I such a failure, when will I ever get it together?" In response to this thought, my heart sinks, my shoulders slump, my head feels heavy. I feel tired already, so I turn over and go for a snooze. When I wake, it's late and I think "sure half the day is gone, what's the point??".
This is the power of thought.
Now imagine an alternate scenario: I wake up in the morning and immediately think of all I have to do today, it's a long list, and the thought comes "How will I ever get all this done?" --I immediately step in and ask myself "Where will this thinking take me?". I decide instead to remind myself that I am a person who can get things done, that even if it all isn't done by evening, that doesn't make me a bad person, and, that I am worth the effort to do the work of choosing to think and act differently. (It does take effort, especially in the beginning when all evidence points to the futility of even trying, but persist, and it will get easier.
Are you worth it?
"Your thoughts are a catalyst for self-perpetuating cycles. What you think directly influences how you feel and how you behave. So if you think you’re a failure, you’ll feel like a failure. Then, you’ll act like a failure, which reinforces your belief that you must be a failure." - Amy Morin
In times of uncertainty, instability, and change, it's really important to ground ourselves, and connect with the inner stability we are all capable of.
This short meditation is excellent for tapping into our inner stillness and strength, see if you can manage to do it every day this week.
(It may take a few seconds to start after you press play, thanks for your patience!)
Stay safe and well.
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.”
This week in The Weekly Minute, two guided grounding practices, so the winds of life (and outside!!) don't blow us away.
It's important to have a grounding practice so we feel stable and rooted within ourselves. As we know, life can be full of surprises, and change is inevitable, but if you feel grounded, you'll be more able to face challenges without falling.
Think of a tree, they grow so tall and sturdy because they have strong roots under the earth.
Practice these a few times this week, so you get familiar with them, and they are in your toolbox, ready for when you reach for them.
“Flying starts from the ground. The more grounded you are, the higher you fly.”
My niece was wearing a sweater with this slogan on it: "When nothing goes right... go left."
I loved it, it's good advice. BUT, how do we actually do that? What does "going left" actually look like? Slogans like this, and inspirational quotes we see online are great, but how we use them to actually make our lives better?
Here are a few practical ideas for "turning left" when nothing seems to be going right:
Whichever method(s) you choose, the most important thing is to remember to take that step to the left, and ignore all the reasons your mind might have to not take that step!
"An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching." - Mahatma Gandhi
We are moving into what can be a busy and stressful time of year, and it's important to remember your relaxation techniques.
A super simple breath technique to stimulate the body's natural relaxation response is 4/7 breathing.
The beauty of this breath is that it can be done any time, waiting in traffic, waiting in a queue, at your desk at work, anywhere.
"But when you make one part of the breath cycle, either the inhale or the exhale, longer than the other, and you do this for several minutes, the accumulated effect is that you will either slow the heart rate down or speed it up from where you started." - Baxter Bell MD
This practice lets you take back control of your ‘monkey mind’. Often our minds are darting around from one place to another and it can be difficult to focus. You might have noticed yourself that your thoughts tend to wander off to the same places, perhaps to something bad that happened last week, or something you’re worried about in the future. Spending too much time in the past or the future not only steals from what is happening right now, it can also feed depression or anxiety.
A practice such as this one strengthens your attention muscle, so you can make better choices about where to put your attention.
Aim to do this several times a day for the next week. (It may help to set a reminder on your phone.) Each time you practice, know that you are doing a little more to break the habits of your automatic thinking, and take control of your life.
“Most people don’t realize that the mind constantly chatters. And yet, that chatter winds up being the force that drives us much of the day in terms of what we do, what we react to, and how we feel.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Weekly Minute is a blog I write each week with the aim of providing proven tools to help promote positive mental health.
The collection of short, practical mindfulness and therapy tools for self-reflection and self-improvement, can equip people to take their mental well-being into their own hands, and improve their quality of life.
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