Mindfulness is not some hippy new age thinking about how we should all walk around thinking about stuff we don’t normally think about! Although some of that in our lives wouldn’t go a miss from time to time I’m sure. My first introduction to mindfulness was as part of my treatment for PTSD and to be honest in a room full of Ex-servicemen we were all fairly cynical. That said we all needed help and we threw ourselves into it. The results have been pretty useful in helping me understand some of my actions from day to day, my awareness of the impact on others that can have both positive and negative effects helped me sleep better and for longer and most importantly help me to improve and influence my life in a positive way. It all sounds pretty profound and for some people it can be, but for most in can just help you understand the, what and the why of their decision making. .
    So to make a point about how we operate on autopilot, think about something you do every day, say looking at a clock on your kitchen wall. If it’s been there years try moving its position in the room and see how many times you look at the old spot when needing to know what the time is or perhaps move the knife, folk and spoons around and see how many times you go to pick one up from the old position. These are automatic decisions that we make every day with very little in the way of thought processes. To get the time or spoon from its new position you have to think about it a little more, until it becomes engrained in our memory.
    So how about those behaviours that are unhealthy for us, diet change, exercise, better sleep patterns or work life balance. Some of these things can be relatively simple to achieve others are more complex. Take sleep for example, if you are sometimes restless, try to lie back and not think about sleeping, but instead think about your breathing. Don’t try to control it just start to feel the air passing in and out. Focus on it slowing and not about the things that have irritated you through the day. Start to feel your, heart rate slow, feel (consciousness, not touch them!) your feet, then your legs and finally your chest moving up and down as you breathe. Relax! Not that easy hay?
    Well it’s certainly a skill that needs to be practiced and best done while you not so stressed. It’s most effective to learn this basic practice when you are able to learn and absorb the skill rather than when you really need it. As you learn the practice, you may find that your overall stress levels reduce at sleep time and therefore using the practice can help at those times that you are more restless. In some ways, this can become habit or that autopilot we discussed earlier.
    Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment and non-judgmentally. This increases awareness, clarity and acceptance of our present moment reality – according to wwwgetselfhelp.co.uk . This definitely sounds a bit hippy new age, but it does work, I promise. Forget trying to go to sleep for a moment and all the other stuff you need to do today! Sit somewhere comfortable or lie down and try to think about nothing other than your body movement, which should really be your breathing. It’s not easy to empty your head is it? With practice it will improve and make an impact to how you relax.
    So where does this work for all the other stuff, like diet or exercise. Mindfulness will help you empty all the cravings or excuses and focus on the positives of sound diet choices and getting the PT kit on and out the door for that run and dismissing the negatives. I suppose it’s the ability to supress the thought process of ‘I want it now’ and focus on that longer term goal of losing weight, running faster/longer, lifting more. Live in the moment of I want my goals more than the mental thought process of ‘give me the chocolate bar!’ Don’t rush to the sweetie cupboard; think in this moment, right now, about your thoughts and what they really mean? Be calm, draw on your breathing technique. What this does is bring you into the moment of what does this mean ahead of an instinct of boredom eating, something I’m very guilty of, and raiding the biscuit tin or sweetie draw! The same can be said of some individuals who over train. Training with intensity can leave you feeling euphoric as your hormone response kicks in. For some people this can be addictive and they crave that positive feeling during and post workout. Overtraining can also lead to other issues that ultimately are not good for us. So using mindfulness, you can bring yourself back to the reality of must train, to why I must train; does my training reflect my end game goals or am I just thrashing myself. Be intelligent about your training, get the right advice and work towards your goals or set a programme that helps you maintain the status quo if you are happy with where you are. Be realistic about what is achievable, the body does take time to adjust as does your brain, which brings us back to mindfulness and practicing it to help it build positive responses to your mental state.
    Remember practicing can last for as little as 3-5 minutes, be comfortable, focus on breathing, but not controlling it! These short relaxation periods can help you relax through the day, evening and help you prepare for sleep. Never underestimate the effect of a good night’s sleep! As an exponent of mindfulness, all be it a learner, I have found it helps me become focused on what is really important to me and not the periphery that can often lead us to distraction. Give it go, what do you have to lose?

  • Posted by Stuart Evans on October 22, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Great post Jase.
    I did something similar as part of my post heart attack recovery programme and it was brilliant. At first you do feel a bit of a numpty but once you let go and relax and I mean relax properly, its wonderful. You feel so refreshed afterwards, I got the CD they used for the relaxation sessions and still use it and the breathing relaxation techniques. I even took it with me on holiday and had a lovely gentle voiced Scottish lady whispering in my ear "imagine you are on a sandy beach in the warm sunshine and the waves are lapping against the shore" I didn’t need to imagine it because I was there but when I listen to it now laying in bed or on the sofa, I close my eyes and that’s were I am :-)

  • Posted by Jason Fletcher on October 23, 2015 at 10:59 am

    Hi Stu, I glad you have found good use of the relaxation techniques post your MI. It is really important to learn these methods while you are in the fright frame of mind. Once learnt I have found it reduces my over all stress level, helps me sleep and when I feel like I’m becoming stressed, relax and reduce that anxiety/aggressive feeling that can present itself.


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