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
If you pay a little attention as you go through your week, you might notice yourself living in "What if" land. You'll know you're there because you will be having thoughts like:
I don't know a single person who doesn't have thoughts likes these, so don't feel bad if you have them! The funny thing is though, if you do have these thoughts, then you likely are making yourself feel bad. By wishing things to be different, you are doing two things:
If you can change this "What if" thinking into "What is" thinking, you bring acceptance to yourself and the situation. You are starting where you are, and not from a place of lacking (I/This is not good enough).
Examples of "What is" thinking are:
Set a reminder to check in with yourself as you go through each day, and if you find yourself "What iff-ing", change it to "What is", see how different you feel.
“You'll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that.”
When you notice yourself getting caught up in your thoughts or emotions, pause for a minute, and take a couple of belly breaths, then:
You just moved out of story and emotion, and made contact with what is actually here right now. This practice is grounding and calming, and a nice reminder that right here, right now, everything is ok.
"Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence."
It's that time of year again, and the to-do list might be looking quite long at the moment! It's very busy out and about, and during some time out in the stores yesterday I saw more than a few frayed tempers! A lady swore at me (in front of children) for getting in her way, and the cashier in the supermarket told me she couldn't wait for the day to end as so many people had been rude to her that day.
I get it, crowded streets and shops, combined with the pressure of a never-ending to-do list form the perfect recipe for bad moods and short fuses, AND a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness.
As we go about our Christmas business, would it be possible to check in every hour or so to see how the mood is?
If we find it's darkening, perhaps we could pause, take a belly breath, and remind ourselves spirit of Christmas - to share love and joy with family and friends. Make this feeling alive in your body, feel the warmth of it.
Then perhaps it would be possible to soften the hard edges of anger and frustration, and see the humanity in each other - the cashier in the shop, the stranger in your way, the old lady counting out change at the till?
See what a difference this attitude can have, not only for you, but for everyone.
“If you can't find the spirit of the holidays in your heart, you'll never find it under a tree.” - Michael Holbrook
Imagine the difference it would make if we took care of our mental health in the same way as we take care of our physical health. We know that brushing our teeth is important to keep them healthy and avoid fillings. We know that eating our 5 a day is going to encourage better health. We know that taking exercise will contribute to our overall health and fitness levels.
Can we apply this same thinking to our mental health? Can we apply the 'An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away' principle, to our heads?
Here are a couple of suggestions for practices that are easily integrated into a day, and have a huge impact on your mental health. Choose one, or perhaps you have your own favorite practice?
Do a gratitude practice.
Do some relaxing breathing.
Exercise in the morning.
Watch your thoughts pass by.
Ground using your body.
"Change your life today. Don't gamble on the future, act now, without delay." - Simone de Beauvoir
Ever heard the saying “Your can’t pour from an empty cup”?
We all have people in our lives that we love and care for, but life challenges can sometimes deplete our energy, making it harder to be there for our loved ones. Practising mindfulness fills your cup, so you can in turn, fill others.
Also, studies have shown that moods are contagious. In 1993, an experiment in Washington showed that crime rates dropped by 23.3% due to a group practising focused meditation. http://www.worldpeacegroup.org/washington_crime_study.html
So, when you practice mindfulness, you are giving to those around you, as well as yourself.
Here’s a simple way to practice generosity to yourself, and others:
"Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present." - Albert Camus
For many moments of our waking lives we are being told by social media, advertising executives etc. what we lack, and how if we just buy X or Y we will be happier, more content, more accepted by our peers. We are susceptible to this as our brains are programmed to seek out what’s missing, it was an integral part of securing our survival as we evolved.
When we practice gratitude it shifts the mind from ‘not enough’ to ‘enough’, which brings a sense of peace and calm to our lives. As it’s not the default position, we need to train our minds to be grateful—we need to practice it consciously each day. As we do so, like any muscle we train, it will begin to be stronger, and you will start to see the good things in your life more and more easily.
Here's a super simple practice to help cultivate gratitude:
Each night this week, jot down three things you are grateful for in your day. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are, pick anything that made you smile, or feel good inside.
"I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness - it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude." - Brene Brown
Non-striving means being fully present with this moment without needing to change it. This might seem counterintuitive as you may have begun to practice mindfulness as a means to get relief from depression, or anxiety, or pain. However, as we saw with the attitude of acceptance, letting go of the struggle against discomfort frees us energy, and opens up space for new possibilities to arise.
Non-striving takes us out of the habitual ‘doing’ mode and puts us into the more receptive and healing ‘being’ mode. This means we can let go of the constant pressure to be responsible for every moment, and allow life to just show up, whatever form that might take.
“For example, if you sit down to meditate and you think, “I am going to get relaxed, or get enlightened, or control my pain, or become a better person,” then you have introduced an idea into your mind of where you should be, and along with it comes the notion that you are not okay right now. “If only I were calmer, or more intelligent, or a harder worker, or more this or more that, if only my heart were healthier or my knee were better, then I would be okay. But right now, I am not okay.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Instructions for Positivity Training (You'll need a little notebook):
Our ability to scan the environment for danger has served us well in our survival and evolution. But for many of us, this ability is in overdrive, leaving us stressed, anxious, depressed, and fearful.
When you think a certain way for a long time, you strengthen the pathways in your brain that run these thoughts, and it takes deliberate attention and perseverance to form new pathways.
This week's practice is scientifically proven to forge new, more positive pathways in the brain, helping you be more naturally aware of the good that already exists in your life.
"But listen to me.
Instructions for "Spring Came":
If you are going through a tough time, take comfort in the fact that it WILL pass, time is your friend in this. In the meantime, be kind to yourself, be patient, and ask for help if you need it, company shortens the winter.
"Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems."
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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