Viewing entries tagged
positive thinking

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.