Being kind in the time of Coronavirus.
“The quarantine state of mind is having 3 solid days where you feel pretty well adjusted, followed by a sudden, unexpected dip into what we call “the hell zone”.” @ItsDanSheehan
On day 1 of lockdown I don’t think I was the only one to have realised that what was coming was sometimes going to feel like an eternity but did we have any real idea of how this was going to last?
At times surreal and at others all too real I wonder how you are coping with living in limbo?
These are unchartered waters and trying to keep the ship afloat as ‘per usual’ isn’t easy.
It is a challenging time, to say the least, but we know that the one thing we can do and have seen expressed all over the world is to show acts of kindness and compassion, they have a way of lifting us all up.
From shopping for neighbours, calling long lost friends, clapping for the NHS heroes and key workers on our doorsteps, a multitude of beautiful acts of kindness have sprung up like flowers in what had been an arid, greedyand self-centered desert.
However, to be kind to others you need to be kind to yourself first.
So when you find yourself in the ‘hell zone’ remember that there will be bad days when everything seems out of control and scary.
There will be times when you will feel overwhelmed by uncertainty and anxiety about the future too.
It’s tough to sit with uncomfortable feelings on your own so when you’re feeling low and lost it’s good to reach out to someone you trust and talk your feelings through.
Sharing your feelings and speaking them out helps to somehow normalize the situation making it easier to deal with.
Talk to yourself with kindness too, as Brené Brown puts it:
“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”
Being kind to others is also a great way to feel good about the way we feel about ourselves. So, reaching out to lift others up is a great thing to do when you can.
What does kindness from look like to you?
Is it receiving a simple text from a friend checking in on you?
Or is it the exchange of a smile with a stranger as you pass by on your daily exercise? Perhaps it's that cup of tea in bed made for you by a flatmate or partner. Or maybe it’s setting up the zoom sessions with friends and families keeping in touch when you can’t see them?
Whatever it is we need to find ways to lift people up right now and be as kind and as considerate as we can possibly be.
In due course when you remember this peculiar chapter of your life I wonder what memories will stand out for you? What action did you take to make a difference, what did you do that you can remember with pride?
How we hold onto this goodwill and generosity of spirit, when life returns to some semblance of normality, is going to be a test for us all but one that will be worth fighting for.
Next week I will be suggesting some ways to bring mindfulness into your life to help you to simply connect to the present moment.
So, go gently on yourself, keep things simple, keep things kind and remember this too shall pass.
Have a good week enjoy the sunshine when you can.
Living in the present.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Jon Kabbat Zinn
Coronavirus has bought with it an unavoidable and inescapable day-to-day life where we have had no choice but to live in the present!
Striping us of our freedom, lockdown has often meant that there has been no alternative but to find ourselves looking at ourselves full-frontal, warts and all, at times this has not been easy.
No busyness, activities or distractions to divert our attention, many of us have been learning things about ourselves over the last few weeks that we’ve been trying to dodge for years.
This strange time has also bought with it levels of serious uncertainty and ambiguity.
As humans, we do our best to avoid these feelings and our minds work hard to manufacture certainty for us as they try hard to keep us safe.
The way they do this is by creating stories of things that might happen or they spend time ruminating on a worry or something from the past that might affect the future.
Many of these thoughts may well have beenmanufactured in the first place.
Our bodies though, don't know how to differentiate between these imagined stories and the genuine scenarios and our thoughts have a tendency to trigger anxiety and worry that is often not based on reality.
What if you could help yourself by noticing when your mind is playing games with you and is in the storytelling mode?
If you could do that then you could choose to remember that your thoughts are actually not facts.
Mindfulness can help you do this; it helps you to be less judgemental of your thoughts allowing you to let them go as if they were clouds passing by in the sky.
Mindfulness has proven to alter the physical structure of the brain in a process know as neuroplasticity. Studies have found that regular mindfulness practice causes changes in the prefrontal cortex that makes it easier for the brain to process positive emotions and thoughts.
Just three minutes a day can help you to change your mood.
Right at the moment I don’t think you need to download an app or sign up to a course you could just start by just being completely present in some daily activity.
With our world being so much quieter try when you go for your daily walk or exercise to be completely present in the moment you are in one step at a time.
Be present, look at the trees, the flowers, listen to the birds, smell the newly cut grass, watch the families playing with their dogs and immerse yourself in the beauty of each moment, step by step by step.
Give it a go and see how you get on.
Have a very good week.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” Aesop
Gratitude is a total game changer; it’s a key to true happiness.
When you start to appreciate all the wonderful things you have in your life rather than ruminating on the negative elements, your life automatically feels a whole lot better.
Having a grateful outlook on life is strongly connected to having good mental health and life satisfaction. Grateful people experience more joy, love and optimism; they find a way to look for the good and be appreciative, whatever the situation.
So, counting our blessings regularly help us to feel more optimistic and positive about our lives. This leads to a greater feeling of satisfaction and overall general wellbeing.
Being grateful doesn't mean your glasses are permanently rose tinted. It does, however, mean you are able to change your perspective, to focus mindfully on the small, good, simple little things in your life.
These are the things that actually make it full, precious and magic.
Gratitude and mindfulness go hand in hand, together they help to nurture the happier place within us.
According to Jack Kornfield:
“Buddhist monks begin each day with a chant of gratitude for the blessings of their life. Native American elders begin each ceremony with grateful prayers to mother earth and father sky, to the four directions, to the animal, plant, and mineral brothers and sisters who share our earth and support our life. In Tibet, the monks and nuns even offer prayers of gratitude for the suffering they have been given”
In the same way that being mindful of the present moment (as it flies by), helps us to appreciate the beauty of the fleeting moment, gratitude stops us in our tracks to wonder at it.
Last week I suggested going on a mindful walk and being as present as possible. Spending mindful time looking at the trees, the flowers, listening to the birds, smelling the newly cut grass, watching families playing with their dogs and generally immersing yourself in the beauty of each moment, step by step by step.
I wonder if you managed to do this? What was this experience like for you?
Today my suggestion is to start keeping a daily Gratitude Journal if you don't already have one. Find yourself a note nook and at the end of everyday, mindfully bring your attention to the small details of your day, the little things that you can be grateful for. They don’t have to be big things, and could be a simple as clean sheets, a smile shared or a call with a friend.
See how the magic of mindfully becoming aware of the small good things in your life changes the quality of your daily experience. Even when things aren’t going quite ‘right’!
“If exercise was a pill, it would be one of the most cost-effective drugs ever invented.” Dr Nick Cavill.
We have been very lucky during this time of lockdown to have been allowed our daily allowance to exercise in nature.
For many, this time has been used to go on a run to raise the heart rate, get bodies active and out of busy heads.
For others, it’s been a family time with dogs, bicycles, scooters and skateboards too and for some, their walk in the park has been a blessed moment alone to listen to a podcast or reflect and gather thoughts.
Exercise is most definitely a mood changer and a lifesaver too, research clearly shows that physical activity amongst many other benefits helps to boost self-esteem, aid better sleep and can also prevent mood swings.
Vigorous, physical exercise like running, cycling or working out and mindful practice seem at odds with one another.
In one we are focused on being physically and mentally still and in the other, we’re in a state of heightened physical and mental activity.
However, it is possible to merge awareness and physical exercise together as one and this allows us to be in the present moment throughout the physical activity.
Running, or perhaps the term jogging would be more appropriate in my case, has always been a key part to my almost daily mindful routine and it’s never been more important for my mental health and wellbeing than it has been over the last weeks.
The idea of the daily ‘run’ always fills me with slight dread as I pull my trainers on early in the morning and take a mindful pause as I tie them with a double knot.
As I leave the house and head off, my attention is soon drawn away from my busy head that is full of swirling thoughts bringing me instead to my physicality as my muscles start to warm up.
Heading towards the first incline I focus on doing a body scan from head to toe, noticing where the aches are and were the tension lies.
By the time I arrive at the park gates, I am ready to embrace the wide-open beauty of the green expanse before me and I’m onto the next stage of my physical mindful practice.
I now bring my attention to my breath and as I head up the hill and my breath becomes quicker I try taking it one breath at a time.
Before I know it I’m running down the other side of the hill with just a little more speed and a lightness of feet.
Then comes the Horse Chestnut path, this winding path takes me through a glade of magnificent trees with their beautiful candlestick blossom and the cow parsley that surrounds the base of their trucks makes me feel I’m in the country and as I physically distance myself from a dog walker I’ve all but forgotten what was it that I was worrying about just a little while ago?
My mindful running practice is a process that always starts with a jumbled busy and often troubled mind. Through the process my mind stops swirling, fears get filtered and by the time I reach my front door my once troubled thoughts float by like clouds in the sky. This cardiovascular exercise has released a flood of endorphins and as I mindfully put the key in the lock, sweating and with a beating heart I find myself grateful for my active body, the beauty of the day and find that I’m actually looking forward to what lies ahead.
Perhaps I’m preaching to the converted and you already find your practising mindfulness in your daily exercise, if you're not why not give it a go this week?