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.”
Have you ever noticed how much thought can go into something, and the thing itself might never get done?
Maybe you had great plans for the exercise you were going to start in 2020 but the running shoes haven't hit the road yet?
Maybe there's a work project you've been mulling over and over in your mind but you haven't started yet because you're unsure how to start it, or afraid won't work out?
Maybe you have the January blues and you're mind is full of negative thoughts?
If any of these sound like you, see if you can bring your attention to the amount of mental energy you are giving to something, without actually doing anything about it. If your thinking is constructive, such as making solid plans and acting on them, or troubleshooting an issue, all good. But, if the thinking is sounding more like a broken record, and bringing feelings of negativity, then do something. Anything.
Take a walk.
Chat to a friend.
Get yourself out to a yoga or meditation class.
Take some action around the work issue, even if you're not sure it's the right action.
Do something to break the cycle of thinking, and get unstuck. Where there's movement, there's change.
"Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it's no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing." - Eckhart Tolle
The best gift you can give yourself or anyone else this Christmas is to be present.
When we are present, the mind can't wander into the past or the future, where worries and regrets live. Staying in the here and now allows us to connect with our lives and those in them as they are, and we often realise that life is better than we think.
This Christmas, try as best you can to stay in your senses, and not so much in your head. Set a reminder on your phone to prompt you to reconnect with what is actually happening: what you can see, hear, feel, and (not forgetting the dinner) smell. :)
You can also use the breath to come out of your head and into the body. If there's anxiety present, make the exhale a little longer than the inhale.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
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
It's a busy time of year so this week, we'll keep it short and sweet.
Tension can build up in the body as we move through our day, so see if you can so a quick sweep from head to toe several times a day, looking for areas of tension. (pay extra attention to the head, shoulders, chest, and stomach)
If you find you are holding tension anywhere, direct the breath to those areas, one at a time, and invite them to relax.
As with anything, remembering to do this can be a challenge, so set a reminder on your phone, or put a post-it somewhere where you'll see it. (The kettle is a good spot, or your desk, your car, or even the bathroom! ;))
"It's very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems." - Thich Nhat Hanh
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
How we view the world is coloured largely by two things: how we feel on the inside, and our evolutionary bias toward scanning for danger.
Maybe you have noticed that if you're feeling a little blue, your daily interactions and activities will tend to feel flat and dull. Or if you're feeling anxious, they may seem to be tinged with an unnameable fear.
You might also have noticed how we hold on to the one negative comment but quickly forget the five positive ones. This is a genetic pre-disposition from our hunter-gatherer days, when we were constantly on the lookout for things that could eat us, and, our need to be accepted as part of the group as there is safety in numbers.
These are two good reasons to not trust the first interpretation your mind offers you, and to actively seek out other ways of seeing a situation.
An example might be when you send a message, and you see the two blue ticks that tell you it's been read, but your friend doesn't reply. You might instantly think: "Oh no! What did I do to offend her??" - but don't accept that. Come up with at least 2 other ways of interpreting the situation. Maybe your friend got distracted; maybe she was just about to go into a meeting; maybe her phone ran out of battery just then.
If you find it hard to come up with other ways of seeing something, ask a friend to help you, or pretend a friend has asked you for help. Give it a try, and see how it feels!
"In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That shades “implicit memory” – your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood – in an increasingly negative direction....But you don’t have to accept this bias! By tilting toward the good – “good” in the practical sense of that which brings more happiness to oneself and more helpfulness to others – you merely level the playing field." - Dr. Rick Hanson
When's the last time you had a good laugh?
Sometimes, adult life can become very serious, with too much work, too many bills, all those things to get done, all the people to look after—and all that before we watch the news!
It's important to remember that life can also be fun, and one of the purposes of life can simply be to enjoy it.
This week, take a look at your schedule and see where you can insert some fun. It doesn't have to be a big commitment, even setting time aside to watch a show that makes you laugh (I go for Benidorm on Netflix, don't judge me), or playing a silly game with your kids, or having lunch with a light-hearted friend can do the trick.
Much like the Two Wolves we talked about last week, remember to feed the Fun Wolf, the Responsible Wolf gets enough to eat!
An old Chief and his grandson sat in the shade of an ancient tree, staring at the river below.
The elder looked troubled.
Softly the boy asked: “What is the matter Grandpa?“
The old man frowned and said: “It is as if there are two wolves fighting in my heart.“
"Tell me about the wolves?” said the boy.
“Well, one is a nasty, vengeful, aggressive wolf and the other wolf is gentle, forgiving and peaceful.“
The boy thought about this and then asked: “Which one is going to win?“
“Ahhh, my boy….“ replied his grandfather and his face lit up “That’s easy …… the one I feed.“
I look at this little story and apply it to where I put my attention. If I allow my thoughts to wander into the past, and bad things that may have happened, or wrongs people have done to me, I am feeding the wolf of hurt and anger.
If I am reading all those negative stories online about Brexit, climate change, who is richer and prettier than me, I am feeding the wolf of fear, helplessness, and inadequacy.
However, if I am out for a walk with a friend, taking in the beauty of the countryside and chatting, I am feeding the wolf of connection and joy.
If I choose to do a meditation, some yoga, or a gratitude practice then I am feeding the wolf of self-care and self-love.
We are what we do, and each day is another opportunity to feed the right wolf.
Check in with yourself regularly this week, and see which wolf is growing fatter.
"Whatever we put our attention on will grow stronger in our life." - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
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 legitimate 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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