Mindfulness and how it works in the modern world

maria

Maria,
Clinical Governance Pharmacist at LloydsPharmacy

The world we live in is a fast paced world. Our brains and bodies are becoming wired to be always thinking ahead. With this comes an increase level of stress and anxiety in our lives. A consistent and prolonged state of anxiety can lead to a weakened immune system, depression, high blood pressure, and gastric problems. It is essential that we learn to ‘self- check’ and monitor our levels of anxiety. A certain level of anxiety is normal in our lives. It is our natural ‘fight or flight’ and ensures we accomplish what needs doing. However when these levels go out of synch then we see it impacting our health. Therefore the act of mindfulness is a series of simple techniques and approaches to help us to focus on the present. From this we learn to reduce our levels of stress and overwhelming anticipation. With the launch of our CYHD programme in our 93 stores, we in LloydsPharmacy are very focused on boosting wellbeing and attaining a better lifestyle.

 

How can you practice Mindfulness on a daily basis?

  • Meditation: A very simple technique and one of the most utilised approaches to mindfulness. It can be as simple as a few minutes in the morning or evening depending on your routine. Find a quiet, decluttered space in your home and make yourself feel comfortable. Some people choose to sit on a chair while others prefer to sit on the ground with their legs crossed and arms rested. Gently close your eyes and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You may notice your breath is quite shallow. Therefore to allow you to breathe more deeply and hence relax, hold your breath for approximately 5 seconds and then exhale. Once you have become more relaxed return to your normal breath pattern. Become aware of how you are feeling in your overall body. Are some areas of your body tight and tense? Allow yourself to acknowledge how you are feeling. Your thoughts begin to wander, that is completely fine. Let your mind wander. Listen to the sound of your environment and allow yourself to take sense of your environment. Again acknowledge this moment. Some people may like to stay in this state for 10 – 15 minutes, others longer. Once you feel you are ready, then gently soften your gaze, open your eyes and focus on where you are. Assess how you are feeling now after the session. Many people feel a greater sense of calm and their bodies, both physically and mentally, are more relaxed. This meditative approach can be done daily or weekly depending on what you feel works best for you. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Some people bespoke their meditation to incorporate gentle music in the background, the burning of essential oils such as lavender or adding in gentle yoga sequences. Again see what works best for you.

 

  • Gratitude Journal: The concept of journaling is something we are all familiar with. It has been found that recording what we are grateful for allows us to appreciate the present, reduce stress levels and increase our levels of happiness. Again there is no right or wrong way to journal. Some people like to record two or three points maybe twice a week of what they are grateful for. Many find it therapeutic reviewing what they have recorded over time.

 

  • Online resources: There are many mindfulness apps that can guide you in your practice. ‘Headspace’ is an excellent app that you can download on your phone. It has many guided exercises that allow you as a beginner to get started. Other apps include the ‘smiling mind’ which has exercises for children and young adults, as well as the app ‘conscious, to name just a few.

Above are just a few pointers in directing you to including mindfulness in your daily routine. As you will see, the approach is personal to the individual. Even just by focussing on our breathing, recording our thoughts and taking time to acknowledge our presence can help in adding balance to our busy lives. To finish a quote I really like, ‘mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and the experience’ (Jon Kabatt Zin) and as we all know, we must be friends with ourselves first and foremost.

Advertisements

Mindfulness: can it help us to achieve our weight loss goals?

Avril PicAvril Reilly, pharmacist and weight-loss coach in LloydsPharmacy Governey Square, talks to us this week about Mindfulness and how we can apply its techniques to help us be more aware of what and why we’re eating.  Avril is currently coaching 20 of her customers through their weight-loss journeys, supporting them in making real and lasting changes to their lifestyles.


Mindfulness is a real buzz word at the moment, isn’t it? Everyone seems to be talking about it and how it can help to alleviate stress, anxiety and even depression. Mindfulness meditations and mindfulness colouring books have become a huge craze for a reason and millions of people are leading more controlled and happier lives as a result. Even though mindfulness has only been embraced in western societies over the past few years, it’s actually an ancient Buddhist practice.

I first came across mindfulness a few years ago while browsing the self-help section of my local bookshop! I saw a book called “Mindfulness – a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. After reading the back cover I decided that this book was definitely worth a read. At that point, I felt that life was just too hectic and days were passing by in a blur. The days and weeks just merged and my mind was constantly cluttered with things I needed to do or things I didn’t get done that day. I just felt like I was always chasing my tail and I never really felt relaxed or in control. That book was a life changer for me and really opened my eyes to a whole new way of living. Living in the moment.

Simply becoming aware of my thoughts and my feelings and observing them in a non-judgemental way. Sounds complicated? It really isn’t, it just takes practice. Here’s a little example of how I integrate it into my life. Previously, I would go for a walk, headphones on and head in the clouds – by the time I finished my walk, I couldn’t even tell you what songs I had listened to because my mind was wrapped up in my thoughts. Now I try to soak up everything around me, like the feeling of the cool breeze on my face, the colour of the sky, the sounds of the birds or children playing. When I get home, I feel relaxed and refreshed – like I have had a real break.

So I’m sure you are wondering what this has to do with weight loss. Well, have you ever eaten half a tin of chocolates at Christmas without even realising? Or what about all those times you finish your dinner, yet you barely remember eating it?! Next thing, you are going for seconds because you don’t feel in any way satisfied! Mindful eating really just means eating with true awareness, without distraction. It allows us to listen to our hunger and satiety cues. It’s a way of tuning in with your body’s true hunger signals.

Next time you feel hungry, ask yourself is it genuine hunger or is there something else triggering a desire to eat? When you sit down for a meal, try to eat slowly and appreciate all of the colours, flavours and smells of the food in front of you. Chew your food thoroughly and put down your knife and fork between mouthfuls. Put away your smartphone or laptop and turn off the TV. Allow yourself the time to enjoy and truly appreciate your food. I’m not saying that it’s always possible to do this with our busy lifestyles and hectic work schedules, I don’t even manage it myself all of the time, but perhaps try to introduce mindful eating for at least one or two of your meals each day. It really can make a difference to your waistline and to your overall health, particularly if you deal with digestive issues from eating too fast, or if you tend to overeat or binge eat. It can take twenty minutes for our brains to realise that we are full, so just try to give yourself that time before reaching for more food.

It does take practice but this simple advice can really increase your awareness of how much you are eating and whether you are eating to nourish your body and satisfy hunger, or is there something else causing you to reach for the packet of biscuits after your dinner?

Free weekly weight-loss support is available at any branch of LloydsPharmacy nationwide as part of our Change your Health direction programme. We have helped hundreds of customers reach their goals. Ask in any branch for details.