Do you ever suffer from stress or low mood? If so, then you are not alone.
According to studies, one in four of us in the UK will at some time or other suffer from a mental health problem.
In fact over the course of our lives, whether we were aware of it or not, most of us will have known someone who has suffered from some sort of mental illness which can take a number of forms such as stress or depression.
I myself am not immune to struggling with life’s knocks from time to time and being a life coach can add to the pressure to always get things right, to always be happy and to have enormous levels of resilience to overcome almost any obstacle encountered. Yet fortunately, over the years, I have built up a toolbox of techniques that has enabled me to put structures in place to help to settle my mind when the going gets tough, gain perspective on my problems and ensure I am in the best place to deal with them when they arise.
So, what then have I found to be the most powerful tools for settling the mind and developing resilience? The answer is simple: practicing gratitude and Mindfulness.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of gratitude but what exactly is Mindfulness?
Well, in a nutshell, Mindfulness is a form of meditation where we focus our thoughts on the present moment rather than getting caught up in the busyness of our minds, whether that is fretting over past mistakes or worrying about the future. It has been proven that regularly practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress and prevent low mood spiraling into full blown depression.
Mindfulness can be practiced in various forms, where the focus of our minds can be on any of our senses, whether it’s tuning into the sensations in specific areas of our bodies or focusing on the sights and sounds around us. Alternatively, it can just be observing our thoughts rather than identifying and getting caught up in what we are thinking.
The beauty of Mindfulness is it doesn’t have to take up loads of our time and can be easily slotted into our daily lives. Although Mindfulness can be practiced sitting down in a ‘traditional’ meditation position it can also be practiced while taking a walk or going about a daily activity such as cleaning our teeth or washing the dishes. To get the best results from Mindfulness, it needs to be practiced every day and become part of our daily routine.
As a gentle introduction to Mindfulness, there is a simple exercise that is very easy to do and also good fun. It’s simply called ‘The Chocolate Meditation’.
So, if this sounds intriguing, grab yourself some chocolate, or any tasty bite-sized treat, and let’s have a go…..
Take the piece of chocolate and hold it in your fingers. Take in the colour and texture of the chocolate and observe the sensation of holding it in your hand.
Lift it up to your nose and, as you do so, notice the sensation of the movement in your arms and then focus on savouring the smell.
Next, focus on the taste as you move the chocolate around in your mouth.
Finally as you swallow the chocolate, focus on the sensation as the chocolate moves down your throat.
Repeat for each piece of chocolate and remember to refocus your mind on the present moment if it starts to wander to other things.
This form of Mindfulness can be practiced whenever we eat and used this way not only helps focus our mind and reduce stress, it can also help us to appreciate our food more, aid digestion and help reduce our overall intake of food, leading to a healthier lifestyle.
This practice was beautifully demonstrated to me while recently watching the final episode of the BBC adaptation of War and Peace where the protagonist Pierre was encouraged by his friend to savour and be thankful for a simple mouthful of food after being taken prisoner and facing starvation. Even when he was released and returned to his life of luxury, he continued to practice this daily act of appreciation.
So, like Pierre, let’s start to make Mindfulness and appreciation part of our daily lives and at the same time reduce our levels of stress and increase our levels of happiness and well-being. Who knows, we may even loose a few pounds in weight at the same time!
Let me know how you get on by writing in the comments section below…..
To your happiness, confidence and success