Like trying to herd cats, closing your eyes, sitting still and focusing your attention on just one thing, can feel impossible at first.
However, constantly bringing the mind home; observing your thoughts in a non-judgemental and detached way not only has the power to raise self-awareness but actually trains the brain.
Just five minutes can be enough, or three, or two, although some will sit for an hour or more. It is not so much the length of practice but the regularity of the practice which builds psychological muscles, eventually rewiring the brain for greater self regulation.
Did you know?
It’s possible to slow down time with mindfulness.
We spend more and more of our time living on autopilot as we get older. As children, everything was new and interesting, so it had our full attention. The older we get, many of these experiences lose their novelty and we ‘switch off’ our conscious awareness in more and more of our everyday life. As a consequence, we experience time distortion just like being in a trance. Time seems to fly by as a result. Think of when you are surfing the internet, engrossed in a book or TV programme. Where does the time go?
We do the same with the kind of everyday tasks we have done so many times before, that we don’t have to think consciously about them anymore. It’s a way of freeing up headspace and does serve a cognitive purpose.
If you want to slow time down, try seeking out novel experiences, learn something new and challenging or practice mindfulness throughout the day to learn how to ‘fall awake in your life’ and consciously savour the present.
Having a daily seated practice is really where the big changes happen.
Brain imaging shows physical shifts in the density of brain matter after just a few hours of regular meditation. Transferring those benefits to everyday life is what most people really want when they embark on a mindfulness programme.
Managing your mind: How to respond rather than react
It is all too easy to react rather than respond to life events due to ‘emotional hijacking.’ But our emotional brain has the ability to switch off rational thought for a very good reason.
If there was a bus hurtling towards you in the road, there would be no time to make a list of all the options. You need to react immediately. So the emotional brain temporarily disables rational thought while it turns on your fight or flight system. It floods the body with adrenaline to make you jump out of the way of the bus.
This is good news if you are in a truly life threatening situation. However, the emotional brain is a much older part of the human brain and only sees things in very black or white terms. It sees either ‘fight or flight’, ‘stay or go’, ‘everything is ok’ or ‘everything is not ok’.
For this reason, we do not want our emotional brain to be in the driver’s seat of our everyday life. We need our emotions of course; without them we would be like robots. But we should not let emotion take control.
Exercise: Try this
Think of a STOP sign.
Imagine standing at a fork in the road and having to choose which road you want to travel down. Play the film forward and see the consequences of your decision. Now you have bought yrself time to make the better choice.
Pause for a while in ‘the gap’ between STOP and GO.
Respond, don’t react. Breathe, count, think.
Now you are harnessing the power of your higher intelligence to make your decisions.
And doesn’t that feel good 🙂
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Stopping self harm, suicide prevention, the Rewind Technique, raising self esteem, Mindfulness Based Mind Management (advanced MBSR), worrying well, solution focus, guided visualisation, resolving addiction, epigenetics, mapping the connectome, polyvagal theory, the reticular activating system (RAS), secondary gain, trauma resolution, coaching for kids, treating depression, worrying well, working SMART, therapeutic stories, insight, psycho education, positive mental rehearsal, reframes, fast track learning, perception shifting, self actualisation, positive psychology, rewiring your brain, the STOP System, the SAFE SPACE happiness recipe, holistic coaching and working on the continuum of wellbeing are included in the Fusion Therapeutic Coaching Diploma and Distance Learner programmes