Viewing entries tagged
mindset

You are not your condition.

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Something that strikes me about most people who have a chronic health condition is that their condition begins to define them – it becomes their identity.  I often hear people say, ‘I’m an anxious person’, ‘My illness controls me’, ‘I’m depressed’ or ‘I’m a depressive person’ and ‘I have accepted that my illness is who I am’.  These to me, are very negative sounding identity statements because even though you may have a condition or illness, it is NOT who you are.  How does it feel differently if you were to say, ‘I have anxious episodes’, or ‘I am currently struggling with an illness’, or ‘I have depression’ or ‘My illness is just ONE aspect of me’?  Health conditions and illness are challenges that we all must manage from time to time – most are transient but for some of us they become chronic. Why that is raises many other questions and is a topic for a separate blog.

There are many aspects that make us who we are including our values and beliefs, our education, the environment we grew up in, our family and social connections, our genetics and our mindset – all of these things influence who we are, how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.  Most importantly, we can decide WHO we WANT to be.  We all have unique personalities and having a health condition does not define our entire being.  It can feel as though it is all we are and that we are defined by our illness, but we’re not…unless we choose to be. There is so much more involved and we have so much more to offer.  You may also be a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, friend, companion, professional, business owner and so much more.    You may wear many different hats depending on the context you find yourself in and they are all still you.

Let me ask you something - Who were you before you became ill?  Many people will describe themselves as confident, the life and soul, happy, assured, focused, driven and determined.  These qualities don’t just disappear, although it can feel like that, they just get pushed aside as the illness becomes more of the focus.  It is possible to find them again and still be you!  Believe me, I know how hard this can feel and the thought of becoming well again can feel like climbing an insurmountable mountain…but it can be done.  I remember the sheer joy of becoming well and looking in the mirror and seeing myself again for the first time in a long time.  I can’t express the feeling of recognising myself and be able to say, ‘there she is – I missed you’. 

Would you like to be you again? To feel free from your illness, to be back in control and living life on your terms?  It begins with language – the words we use to describe ourselves and the thoughts we have.  Identity (I AM) statements are a powerful tool that can change our view of ourselves both negatively and positively.  Notice what you say to yourself and if you spot a negative identity statement, change it!  The brain believes what we tell it so tell yourself you are confident, worthy, capable and so on.  Only positive identity statements allowed.  Now I’m not saying it’s an easy process or journey but I do know that you can find yourself again too if you want to.   So how about it? 😊

If this resonates with you and you would like to explore more, please feel free to get in touch and let’s have a chat.

www.lisajonescoaching.co.uk

 

Mind-Body Connection

Now this is a concept that seems so obvious to me, but for many, they still treat their brains and bodies as two separate entities.  When I was unwell, I would often feel frustrated with the medical profession for treating me as individual parts rather than a whole.  After overcoming my health challenges, I now absolutely know that our minds, brains and bodies are connected.  Our brains are the driving centre connected to our bodies through our autonomic nervous system.  Thousands of messages and signals are sent between our brains and bodies daily and we have the incredible power of our minds to change how we feel, behave and respond to stress and illness.  I strongly believe in a holistic approach to health looking after our brain health first and foremost so we can improve our emotional, physically and mental health.  This is not just about healthy eating, exercise and nutrition, it’s also about well-being, stress management and having a healthy mind as well.  Science understands that our health is heavily affected by our emotions and thoughts and vice versa. Just as we know that stress has a physical effect on our bodies and can live in our nervous system, we also know that our minds can make us well.  Think about the placebo effect for example. This powerful phenomenon happens when patients think and truly believe that the tablet is a cure (although it’s not) and this results in them feeling better, such is the power of our thoughts and beliefs.  Leading Doctors, Psychologists and Neuroscientists are speaking more about the mind body connection and the amazing things that can be achieved.  Neuroscientist Dr Sarah Mackay says  “Therapies directed toward addressing functional links between mind/brain and body can be effective in treating the range of symptoms associated with many chronic diseases.  In the context of health neuroscience, the brain is both the mediator and the target of mind/body medicine.”  “The latest research supports the notion that we have a natural ability to change the brain and body by thought alone…Because you can make thought more real than anything else.”  Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One  “Your thoughts are incredibly powerful. Choose yours wisely.”  Joe Dispenza, You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter  So, what is my point?  Understanding the mind body connection is one thing but what do we do about creating healthier thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.  Just think new thoughts?  That sounds simple, right?  On the one hand, it really is that simple, but on the other, it requires effort and consistency to change our thoughts and beliefs.  As much as our minds effect our physical health, our physical health also effects our minds.  The good news is that there are many practices we can do that re-train both our minds and our bodies!    This can be done by meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness, spontaneous movement and dance, yoga, listening to soothing music, spending time in nature, running, or hiking all of which allow our minds and bodies to connect and releases feel good endorphins.  Or simply receiving a hug from a loved one, which releases oxytocin, a natural hormone produced by the pituitary gland that promotes bonding and connection.  All of these practices change our physiology and affect our mood promoting healthier relationships between our brains and bodies.  Ultimately, we need to look after our brains first.  What do you do to look after yours?  The answer might be nothing right now, and that’s ok.  I encourage you all to start taking time out to look after yourself whether physically, mentally or emotionally so you can keep moving towards optimum health and well-being.

Now this is a concept that seems so obvious to me, but for many, they still treat their brains and bodies as two separate entities.  When I was unwell, I would often feel frustrated with the medical profession for treating me as individual parts rather than a whole.  After overcoming my health challenges, I now absolutely know that our minds, brains and bodies are connected.  Our brains are the driving centre connected to our bodies through our autonomic nervous system.  Thousands of messages and signals are sent between our brains and bodies daily and we have the incredible power of our minds to change how we feel, behave and respond to stress and illness.

I strongly believe in a holistic approach to health looking after our brain health first and foremost so we can improve our emotional, physically and mental health.  This is not just about healthy eating, exercise and nutrition, it’s also about well-being, stress management and having a healthy mind as well.

Science understands that our health is heavily affected by our emotions and thoughts and vice versa. Just as we know that stress has a physical effect on our bodies and can live in our nervous system, we also know that our minds can make us well.  Think about the placebo effect for example. This powerful phenomenon happens when patients think and truly believe that the tablet is a cure (although it’s not) and this results in them feeling better, such is the power of our thoughts and beliefs.

Leading Doctors, Psychologists and Neuroscientists are speaking more about the mind body connection and the amazing things that can be achieved.  Neuroscientist Dr Sarah Mackay says

“Therapies directed toward addressing functional links between mind/brain and body can be effective in treating the range of symptoms associated with many chronic diseases.  In the context of health neuroscience, the brain is both the mediator and the target of mind/body medicine.”

“The latest research supports the notion that we have a natural ability to change the brain and body by thought alone…Because you can make thought more real than anything else.”  Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One

“Your thoughts are incredibly powerful. Choose yours wisely.”  Joe Dispenza, You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter

So, what is my point?  Understanding the mind body connection is one thing but what do we do about creating healthier thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.  Just think new thoughts?  That sounds simple, right?  On the one hand, it really is that simple, but on the other, it requires effort and consistency to change our thoughts and beliefs.  As much as our minds effect our physical health, our physical health also effects our minds.  The good news is that there are many practices we can do that re-train both our minds and our bodies!  

This can be done by meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness, spontaneous movement and dance, yoga, listening to soothing music, spending time in nature, running, or hiking all of which allow our minds and bodies to connect and releases feel good endorphins.  Or simply receiving a hug from a loved one, which releases oxytocin, a natural hormone produced by the pituitary gland that promotes bonding and connection.  All of these practices change our physiology and affect our mood promoting healthier relationships between our brains and bodies.

Ultimately, we need to look after our brains first.  What do you do to look after yours?  The answer might be nothing right now, and that’s ok.  I encourage you all to start taking time out to look after yourself whether physically, mentally or emotionally so you can keep moving towards optimum health and well-being.

Mind your own business!

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What was your first thought when you read that?  It’s an interesting one as it has different connotations depending on which word is emphasised.

MIND your own business!

Mind your OWN business!

How do they feel different?

I was lying in bed last night thinking about writing this blog and a few phrases came to mind…

Mind your step, mind how you go, mind your own business and I don’t mind to name a few.  The thing that stood out for me was not only do all of these sayings have the word MIND in, they all relate to being mindful and mindfulness is exactly what this blog is about.

Now Mindfulness is a buzz word at the moment and something that is being actively encouraged to promote well-being which I personally think is wonderful, but what exactly is it?

Basically, Mindfulness is an intervention used at the level of thoughts which then influences our physical and emotional state.  Put simply, ‘being mindful’ is being present in the moment.

Now as I’m sure we all know, this is easier said than done and is something that takes practice but the benefits are well worth it – more on this later.  First, take your mind back to the sayings I mentioned earlier all beginning with the word ‘Mind’.  In essence, they are all saying the same thing – be mindful.  Be mindful of where you step and be mindful of how you go.  When saying this to others, we are essentially telling someone to take care.  If we look at ‘mind your own business’ however, that has more of a negative connotation as generally if someone is saying that, it’s because they feel someone has imposed a view or opinion on them that they either don’t like or didn’t ask for.  So, mind your own business not only means ‘butt out’ but also be mindful of your own business so be mindful of your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours before you judge mine.  And what about I don’t mind.  This is a phrase that people say all the time.  Truthfully though, do you really not mind?  When you take a moment to think about it, what are you actually feeling about it?

Being mindful is something, I feel, we should all do as it impacts on all areas of our lives from our cognition and emotions to our behaviour and perception of the world around us.  It can be used not only as a tool to calm and keep us present in the moment, it can also be used to manage feelings of anxiety, anger and aggression.

Neuroscience research now tells us that being mindful also has a physical impact on the brain including; increased grey matter density in the Prefrontal Cortex responsible for executive functions such as planning, problem solving and emotional regulation, increased thickness in the Hippocampus responsible for learning and memory and lastly decreased amygdala size which is the seat of our ‘Fight or Flight’ response.  It is important to note that these results are found in people who practice Mindfulness regularly but there is no arguing that it has amazing benefits on all aspects of our health and well-being.

And guess what?  When we’re being mindful, our inner voice also shuts the hell up allowing us to actually just be as we cannot focus on more than one thing at one time.   The more you practice mindfulness, the more you will notice that you can do ANYTHING mindfully from eating and walking to socialising and self-talk.  Now it’s well and good me saying to start practising but HOW do you actually do it?

The easiest way to practice Mindfulness is by using our breath.  Try being mindful when you wake up.  Give yourself permission to take five minutes to just breathe.   

Focus on your breath, notice your stomach rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.  Hear the sound of your breath in your body, be fully present in that moment.  Then notice how much calmer and more relaxed you feel as you begin your day.

Be mindful of your language, be mindful of your thoughts, be mindful of your behaviours and start to enjoy the feeling of just being.

THINK well, FEEL well, BE well.

Count your blessings every day...

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Count your blessings every day…

This is something I grew up hearing every day and something that (ironically) I am very grateful for.  From a young age, it was instilled in me to always count my blessings; no matter how bad my day had been, no matter how down I might be feeling and no matter what the external circumstances may have been.  I was taught that there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for.

Equally, it is just as important for us to acknowledge when we don’t feel ok and to be accepting of ALL of our emotions.  I’m not saying we should be grateful all the time and walk around with a false sense of positivity because let’s be honest, it’s not possible (or healthy) to pretend that everything is absolutely ok all the time when it’s not. 

However, there are huge benefits to practising gratitude emotionally, mentally and physically.  The first thing to note is that if we are experiencing gratitude, we cannot feel sad or angry for example.  The act of being grateful alters our state.  By cultivating gratitude regularly, it in turn improves many aspects of lives including:

  • Well-being
  • Optimism
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-control
  • Relationships
  • Physical and mental healt
  • Happiness

For hundreds of years, various cultures have taught the positive effects of gratitude and now science also backs this up.  In a study by McCraty and colleagues (1998), 45 adults were taught to “cultivate appreciation and other positive emotions”[1]. The results of this study showed that there was a mean 23% reduction in the stress hormone cortisol after the intervention period.

So how do you practice gratitude?  The best thing about this is that there are so many ways.  In social situations, you might say a well thought out ‘thank you’ rather than a clipped ‘thanks’.  For example, accepting a compliment in a genuinely grateful way.  There might be a person in your life who feel a great sense of gratitude towards so maybe write them a letter expressing that to them.  If you are late for a meeting, instead of saying ‘sorry I’m late’, say ‘thank you for waiting for me’.

To practice gratitude for yourself you could write a gratitude journal or take some time in the evening before you sleep to reflect on your day.  You can also practice gratitude in the morning before you get up.  Being grateful in the morning sets us up to start looking for the positive in our days, rather than the negative.  It calms us and also excites the reward centre in the brain making us feel good. 

There is a saying that goes ‘the best things in life are free’ and the best thing about gratitude and the amazing benefits it has is that it costs absolutely nothing to practice.  For me, I like to think of practising gratitude as getting my daily dose of Vitamin G which is essential for my overall health and well-being.  Next time you have a free moment, try it. You might just be surprised by the benefits it brings you.

[1] McCraty, R., Barrios-Choplin, B., Rozman, D. , Atkinson, M. & Watkins, A. (1998). The impact of a new emotional self-management program on stress, emotions, heart rate variability, DHEA and cortisol. Integrative Physiological & Behavioural Science, 32, 151-70

Is it possible to be positive ALL the time?

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This is a question I have been asked many times and a conversation piece that fascinates me. Pondering this, I’d like to share with you what I think and how I feel about it.

So this past week, I have been discussing the theme of having a positive mindset and how we can train the mind to start seeing things more positively even in negative circumstances.

Is this the same as being positive or happy all the time? Personally, I would say no. I would also say that trying to sell the idea of being positive or happy all the time is somewhat misguided.

How many of you know someone who is ‘always positive’ in that annoying ‘the sun is shining and magic rainbow fairy dust is coming out my ass’ kinda way? We all know someone like that right? Do you think they genuinely feel like that all the time? Of course they don’t! It’s an exaggeration much like the ‘life is just frickin awesome and perfect’ social media profiles.

Let me be honest – life sucks sometimes. We will experience pain, loss, grief, anger, fear and frustration along with a multitude of other emotions because this is what makes us so wonderfully human, and that’s ok! It’s ok to not always be ok, it’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s in these times where we are able to learn so much more about ourselves and to begin to love ourselves fully. If we are to be kind to ourselves, that means being kind at all times, through the good, the bad and the ugly. So no, I don’t believe it is possible to be positive or happy ALL the time.

However, is it possible to have a positive mindset? Yes, absolutely. But what’s the difference?

Let me explain – training our minds to see the positive in every situation is having a positive mindset. Being grateful for even the smallest thing is having a positive mindset. Taking learnings and understandings from negative situations is having a positive mindset. Accepting that life isn’t always easy and doesn’t always go our way is having a positive mindset. Being kind and compassionate to ourselves and others, even in times of darkness, is having a positive mindset. And so on…

I’m not saying it’s easy to maintain a positive mindset all the time because it isn’t. It’s about a choice and it requires effort but it’s absolutely possible.