Julie Hickton's Blog

Mindful Moments

I have currently been convalescing from an operation and during this time it has enabled me to reconnect with mindfulness.

We recommend mindfulness with the clients that we work with who are stressed, anxious, feeling overwhelmed or exhausted from their busy lives. My colleague Elaine is trained in mindfulness and has recently been on a 7-day mindfulness retreat. I tend to connect with it every so often in various ways struggling with the challenges that many of us have of trying to fit mindful moments into our bust schedule.

Before I share my more recent experiences while I’ve been recovering, lets reconnect with what we mean about mindfulness and the recent research around its benefits.

Our definition that we use in our Optimal resilience model is

"The ability to proactively notice and pay attention to your personal well-being in a non-judgmental and compassionate way and take the required actions to address it."

"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally" Jon Kabat-Zinn

"Mindfulness is a way of exercising your ability to pay attention: when you can bring focus to something, the critical thoughts quieten down. It’s about being able to focus on the inside, being able to stand back and watch your thoughts without the usual commentary on them." Ruby Wax

Or her other definition is "noticing your thoughts feelings without kicking your own ass while your doing it" 

The threads here being noticing what’s going on with you and accepting whatever it is without judgement. You might think the noticing part is the tricky bit to learn how to do, I would suggest that learning to be non-judgemental about yourself and being kind and compassionate to yourself in the moment is just as hard for some of us.

Some of us are quite hard on ourselves thinking we need a good talking to get us motivated or deal with our sadness and upset. Being non-judgemental is about accepting that this is how you feel and being ok with it noticing it rather than trying to ignore it and push it away. This aspect links to emotional intelligence and the self-awareness element. If we ignore it and push down what will happen is that the emotion will affect our behaviour even if we aren’t aware, and potentially impact negatively on our health.

What are the benefits of being more mindful – why bother?

Recent research now links mindfulness practice to helping with our physical health and longevity of life, as it reduces our anxiety and stress. It helps our psychological wellbeing, it helps with mental illness such as depression, it helps calm us down and become anchored back in reality rather than our imaginary stressful world. It increases our ability to focus and pay attention, our self-management. To name a few.

So, what can we do to help us connect more with ourselves and become more mindful?
Ruby shares in her book Frazzled a 6-week programme of doing various different things that we can incorporate into everyday life. Helping you to wake up to you.

Examples from her book are
Week 1

  • Taking your me to really taste something – starting with how it looks, feels and smells before you get into the taste.
  • Experiencing and noticing how everyday things feel, like showering etc.

Week 2

  • Is about noticing the sensations in your body, how do they feel at any one moment – body scanning
  • Using the sound of your breath to anchor you back in to the current moment

Week 3

  • Mindful movement (coming back form not being able to do very much I have loved these exercises) really noticing the senses when we stretch – head roll, shoulder roll etc
  • Mindful movements in the gym – really noticing how things feel, when you are doing your exercises
  • Or I particularly like the bag life and trolley stretching (you’ll have to buy her book if you want to know more about that)

Week 4

  • Mindful of our feelings and emotions, connecting with these and exploring aspects around our feelings – where they are in our body, how warm or cold is it, is it moving does it have a colour?

Week 5

  • Mindful of our thoughts, identifying what are our regular thought patterns, what do we think that habitual? Are they helpful or unhelpful thoughts, are they anchored in reality or our imagination (we help clients work with their unhelpful thinking patterns as you’d be surprised what patterns we have got into that aren’t helpful and negatively impact on our wellbeing)

Week 6

  • Putting it all together

What have been connecting with over the recovery period that has helped my mindfulness – my mindful moments

  • Taking up art, something I’ve not done for 30 years, being absorbed in the moment of creativity
  • Mindfulness meditation to help relax myself when the pain has been uncomfortable or I’ve needed to connect with it and understand it to help work out what I need to do
  • Being connected with my physical self and noticing what my body has needed to recover, rather than carrying on and pushing myself to do more noticing what the body needs at particular moments
  • Mindful stretches – thanks Ruby
  • Mindful breathing – especially when in hospital this really helped calm me down
  • Slowing down my eating and experiencing the flavour
  • Taking a walk and noticing the smells, the sounds the sensations of the wind on my face.
  • Really listening to others and exploring their world – managing to prevent distracting thoughts or activities so I can really understand what they are experiencing.
  • Re connecting with music and different genres and noticing how they impact on my senses, especially my mood.
  • Noticing how I feel and when I’ve felt frustrated, fed up or low if I’ve had a knock back or can’t do what I thought I would be able to do at this stage, acknowledge that this is how I feel at this moment and that ok. If I accept it and give it space then it passes, the opposite of ignoring it or berating myself, as it lingers or comes back louder if ignored.

The time of recovery has enabled me to remind myself about what I do and can do more of in my life to be mindful. I can incorporate these into my life as I become more active and engaged in work. And will do so this is a helpful habit in my life that supports my wellbeing and happiness and I’m sure makes me a nicer individual when I’m with others too.

Mindful moments a key strategy for wellbeing 

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