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  • Kathryn Hulland

"You cannot calm the storm. You can only calm yourself. The storm will pass"


This is so very true. When we get stressed and wound up over something we are making ourselves ill, and it us doing it to ourselves - we can change that by focusing on the way we think and deal with situations.

We can change how we react to what happens around us; if we can't change the situation why stress about it you are only causing yourself more grief - this is where Mindfulness comes in very useful.

Mindfulness helped me learn how to deal with the things life threw at me, my health was a huge issue and how I dealt with it wasn't helping and in turn I would suffer from stress and depression which only made any health issues last longer. Learning how to live more mindfully has helped me manage my life and enjoy it again even when my health has its "moments". I'm not saying I'm perfect..! I still have days when whilst suffering a fibromyalgia flare-up I feel angry and that I am letting people down because the pain and tiredness results in time off work and cancelling plans but instead of letting these negative feelings grow and control me I am mindful of them, I acknowledge them, deal with them and so before I know it they've drifted off and the positivity has returned - in the long term this attitude has resulted in me feeling less stressed, less resentful and less angry and so in turn my health is better for longer and the flare-ups are nothing like they used to be.

See my website for my full mindfulness experiences and how I started to learn to be mindful and incorporate it into my life - Click here

  • I used to stress a lot about all sorts of things but no longer, what will be will be and if something happens emotions will flow but I will no longer turn myself inside out over what could have been, what could have been done differently and the if onlyies;

  • I will not give people the reaction they may desire if they try to cause trouble and upset me (though luckily this is not something I ever had to worry about and still don't but I know others may have family and friends who do things to cause you to react);

  • I no longer let my health affect my mind in a way that I am full of regret and grief for what I had;

  • I no longer allow guilt to bury deep inside me, guilt is something we often hang on to and is hard to move on from but it is again a feeling that we only bring on ourselves, the best thing we can do is acknowledge it is there, question it, meditate on why it is there then let it go.

There is no point in trying to stop the storm - just be mindful of it and allow it to pass without destroying you on its way through!

Thanks to Horse Hippie for the initial photo quote - click here for their Facebook page

More on Mindfulness

There is a website www.bemindful.co.uk which is full of useful information about Mindfulness. You can find out about courses in your area by clicking here

There is also a stress test which can be quite interesting

Mindfulness helped me learn how to deal with the things life threw at me, my health was a huge issue and how I dealt with it wasn't helping and in turn I would suffer from stress and depression which only made any health issues last longer. Learning how to live more mindfully has helped me manage my life and enjoy it again even when my health has its "moments". I'm not saying I'm perfect..! I still have days when whilst suffering a fibromyalgia flare-up I feel angry and that I am letting people down because the pain and tiredness results in time off work and cancelling plans but instead of letting these negative feelings grow and control me I am mindful of them, I acknowledge them, deal with them and so before I know it they've drifted off and the positivity has returned.

Mindfulness can come in to play in many different ways these are some of my experiences and what I have found helpful:

Meditation

Mindfulness meditation has been life changing for me, this was the first type of meditation I ever did which then opened me up to the other types I now also do. The body scan meditation was very strange the first time I was introduced to it on my 8 week course, it involves being guided through a meditation, slowing your breathing and then working through every part of your body (and I mean every part including individual toes). It's a great process to go through as you really learn about your body, where the aches and pains truely are; it makes you stop and breath two very important things to do. Initially I found it hard to concentrate on areas of the body where pain was, surely it's better to block it out and ignore it as best I could? Turns out no... I found breathing in to and through the pain, letting the breath expand out around it some how helped lift the pain a bit, it took time and practice but it has helped.

Other mindfulness meditations I enjoy are a sitting one concentrating on breathing in and out slowly and also a walking meditation concentrating on the movement of the body, the step, your balance, shifting your weight and your breath. This is a great one do to walking around with the herd of ponies.

Inevitably when meditating especially when new to it thoughts will enter your head and race around the way to deal with them is to just let them be, acknowledge they are there and let them pass by, imagine the thought just passing through in one ear and out the other - and whatever you do don't beat yourself up for letting them come in during a meditation it's going to happen so simply acknowledge it and move on.

My favourite mindfulness meditations are by Jon Kabat-Zinn who has also written various informative books, you can find out more information about him here. His books and CDs are available on Amazon.

Mindful Touch

This one hit me hard one day when I was a volunteer for a trial of a mindfulness meditation course at the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre. I was there for a day which was a lead up to their 3 day course and I was asked to stroke a mare and feel her, feel how her fur felt on my fingers, take in her presence, her smell everything. I couldn't do it I had to walk away touching her and actually thinking about it had me instantly in tears; it wasn't too long after I'd had to re-home my pony because of my health which I'd struggled to deal with, losing him had sent me in to my biggest depression and although I'd been around some horses and ponies since I'd obviously been on automatic pilot and touching this mare brought so much emotion out of me that I felt I had to walk away. It's a brilliant example of horses being such incredible natural healers. I know the horse was sending her own healing pushing me to acknowledge and release these emotions and it took me to be in the right mindset to feel her and let it happen. Although I walked away I was able to acknowledge those feelings I'd suppressed and as a result deal with them.

Mindfulness Practice

This too was a revelation to me, we were set various tasks as part of my mindfulness course including being mindful when cleaning our teeth, when eating dinner and even washing up. Doing this made me realise just how much we rush through life not really taking in what we are doing. Next time you clean your teeth feel the bristles, taste the toothpaste, feel the movement on your teeth and gums; next time you eat your dinner chew each mouthful lots of times don't rush it savour the flavours, the texture and note how your body reacts to it and swallows; when you wash up take note of the bubbles, the warm feeling on your hands and perhaps the horrid grease from the plates!!

Mindfulness Outside

This includes mindfulness walking but also being mindful of everthing that is around you, the smallest details out in nature, breathing it all in and taking note, clearing the mind and just watching and listening. You can focus on one thing like say a spider making its web (I've done this many times sat under the oak tree in the fields behind my house), I get lost watching the spider busying itself noting each tiny leg movement. It could also be walking along, clearing your mind and looking at all that is around you, the little detail on the brickwork of the building you walk past every day but never really looked at, the way the sun shines and glistens causing a sparkling effect on the floor, the different colours and textures on the individual leaves of a tree - there's too many to name but you get the idea look and you will see and as you do this your other thoughts stop, you get drawn in to the tiny details so it's all you're really focussed on leaving the stresses behind!

This information is from the NHS website

What is mindfulness?

Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.

Professor Williams says that mindfulness can be an antidote to the "tunnel vision" that can develop in our daily lives, especially when we are busy, stressed or tired.

"It's easy to stop noticing the world around us. It's also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living 'in our heads' – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour," he says.

"An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.

"Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.

"Awareness of this kind doesn't start by trying to change or fix anything. It's about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives."

How mindfulness can help

Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.

"When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh many things in the world around us that we have been taking for granted," says Professor Williams.

"Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.

"This lets us stand back from our thoughts and start to see their patterns. Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply 'mental events' that do not have to control us.

"Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. We can ask: 'Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?'

"Awareness of this kind also helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them better."

Studies have found that mindfulness programmes, where participants are taught mindfulness practices across a series of weeks, can bring about reductions in stress and improvements in mood.

How you can be mindful

Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.

"Even as we go about our daily lives, we can find new ways of waking up to the world around us," says Professor Williams. "We can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk. All this may sound very small, but it has huge power to interrupt the 'autopilot' mode we often engage day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life."

It can be helpful to pick a time – the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime – during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you. Trying new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can also help you notice the world in a new way.

"Similarly, notice the busyness of your mind. Just observe your own thoughts," says Williams. "Stand back and watch them floating past, like leaves on a stream. There is no need to try to change the thoughts, or argue with them, or judge them: just observe. This takes practice. It's about putting the mind in a different mode, in which we see each thought as simply another mental event and not an objective reality that has control over us."

You can practise this anywhere, but it can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that, for several minutes, you have been "trapped" in reliving past problems or "pre-living" future worries. To develop an awareness of thoughts and feelings, some people find it helpful to silently name them: "Here is the thought that I might fail that exam". Or, "Here is anxiety".

Formal mindfulness practices

As well as practising mindfulness in daily life, it can be helpful to set aside time for a more formal mindfulness practice.

Several practices can help create a new awareness of body sensations, thoughts and feelings. They include:

  • meditation – participants sit silently and pay attention to the sensations of breathing or other regions of the body, bringing the attention back whenever the mind wanders

  • yoga – participants often move through a series of postures that stretch and flex the body, with emphasis on awareness of the breath

  • tai-chi – participants perform a series of slow movements, with emphasis on awareness of breathing


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