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A mindful activity

Hands up who really understands what Mindfulness is?

As an activity it’s become fashionable with its own gadgets, Apps, clothing and general paraphernalia! All of which I fundamentally disagree with, which is why I dislike the word ‘Mindful’.
Having said that, I have no problem with Mindfulness as a practice, provided that a) it’s not hijacked by commerciality and b) people understand what it is – and is not.

Mindfulness explained

It’s about:

  • Being present – engaging with the here and now, paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, sensations, as well as to the world around you. Not letting your mind wander to your shopping list or what’s on TV tonight!
  • Living with intent – deliberately moving through your life rather than being on auto-pilot.
  • Accepting that life isn’t perfect, so working with what you have now, not what was or should have been.

Why should we bother?

Being Mindful can have huge benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing by:

  • providing a break from distractions (especially electronic ones)
  • reducing anxiety, stress and the (very real) possibility of burnout
  • improving attention span
  • boosting creativity
  • enabling us to manage our emotions better
  • helping to reshape our perspective, bringing us back to what’s important in life

 Main barriers to being Mindful

We simply don’t have the time or space, thanks to our fast-paced, teched-up 24/7 lifestyles. When did you last sit down and reflect quietly or walk the dog without being attached to an electronic gadget?

I swim regularly, as many of my patients know. It enables me to ‘be in the moment’. I feel the water on my body, I pay attention to my breathing and I clear my mind. For me, riding my motorbike in the countryside or walking the dog is equally good.

Recently, I spent a week in Portugal on a woodworking course, learning how to make a chair from a mimosa tree using traditional woodworking tools. The scenery was spectacular and I enjoyed the sun and warmth on my body, the feel of the wood and the creative process of making the chair. The action of planing was soothing and therapeutic. There were no bleeps, rings or reminders to do things. I just lived in the moment, on my senses. And it was wonderful.

I’m not saying that everyone should go to Portugal. Or that you need special kit or gadgets. In fact, the opposite is true – anything can be done in a mindful way by anyone!

Tips for being Mindful

  1. Sit down quietly and become aware of your senses: notice what you can you see, smell, taste, touch and hear, to help keep yourself in the moment. If your mind wanders, just notice it and gently bring it back to your senses. Try this for just a few minutes at a time.
  2. Start each day with a few deep breaths and think about your top three priorities. Check back at different points during the day to see if you’re on track for achieving these.
  3. At the beginning of each task, take a minute to breathe, refocus and get into the moment, giving it your full attention. Many of us pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task but sometimes focusing on one activity and seeing it through to its conclusion is simply better.
  4. Set boundaries so that you switch off mentally at the end of each day, giving your brain time to recharge ready for tomorrow.

So, do think about giving it a go this summer, remembering the one golden rule of Mindfulness: anytime, anywhere – and anyone!

‘take more exercise’ is our favourite New Year’s Resolution!

As 2019 hurtles towards us I thought it might be a useful time for some salutary words about New Year’s Resolutions.  I know.  You haven’t even put up the decorations yet!  But this save you some time, effort and hopefully a whole lot of guilt!

According to a Comm Res poll, ‘take more exercise’ is our favourite New Year’s Resolution.  With 38% of us setting this as a goal.  Followed by ‘lose weight’ (33 percent) and ‘eat more healthily’ (32 percent).  But from my experience in clinic, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to setting physical goals.

I see patients spending hours in the gym trying to get the perfect shaped backside or six pack.  And highly stressed professionals self-medicating with excessive exercise.  They cycle or run to work, put in a full and often stressful day, and then cycle or run home.  They sign up to increasingly testing challenges – running further and in more and more difficult conditions or trekking and climbing all over the world.

But if the goal is unrealistic or the lifestyle unsustainable then I’m afraid to say that the chances of something physically ‘giving way’ eventually is high.

So, before you decide on a 2019 resolution to emulate the figure or physique of your favourite Instagrammer (thank goodness for growing up pre social media!) or take to Facebook to broadcast how many kilos you plan to shift (or lift!) by the end of the year, take a moment to consider whether some ‘alternative’ resolutions might be called for.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t aspire to move more and eat more healthily but, from a professional perspective, these are some resolutions I’d recommend incorporating:

Positive Mental Attitude

We all do it – even if we’ve ticked 20 items off our ‘to do’ list we focus on the tasks that remain outstanding. And it’s often the things that went wrong that stay with us rather than our numerous accomplishments.  Which can lead to a rather negative mindset.  To switch this thinking up, take a moment at the end of each day to write down three things that have gone well.  .

Be kind to others

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion,” says the Dalai Lama. And kindness towards others leads to enhanced well-being. For inspiration, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has a list of kindness ideas to get you started.

Be mindful

 I’ve blogged about this before.   Mindfulness is simply about paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you.  Something that’s easy to overlook in our fast-paced lives with so many calls on our time and distractions  – particularly electronic ones.  But mindfulness can have huge benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing.

For those of you planning to embark on more exercise in the New Year, why not consider a New Year appointment to iron out any niggles that might affect your success?

‘Mindfulness’ has become quite the buzzword in recent years.  A quick Amazon search revealed over 100,000 items across books, CDs, activity kits including colouring books, daily task sets and so on.  So big business.  And thereby lies my issue with it.

At a most basic level mindfulness is simply about paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you.  Something that’s easy to overlook in our fast paced lives with so many calls on our time and distractions to hand – particularly electronic ones.  But mindfulness can have huge benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing.

The problem is that this very simple practice has, in my opinion, been highjacked by commerciality.  One could be forgiven for thinking that in order to benefit from mindfulness, one requires a darkened room and candle.  Or perhaps a lycra outfit and an App.  As a minimum.  But that’s simply not the case and I’d hate for people to be put off from giving it a go because they feel they don’t have the necessary ‘paraphernalia’.

Keep it simple

I swim regularly.  I go to the pool and swim lengths.  And this is an excellent time for mindfulness.    I keep count of the lengths, notice my breathing patterns, my form and the feel of the water.  I don’t think about anything else.  There is no room to do so.  This provides a refreshing break for both body and mind.  But it would work equally well were I to use my dog walking time to notice the world around me.

Tips for Mindfulness

As I said, it’s all about being in the moment:

  • Start by bringing awareness to your senses: notice what you can you see, smell, taste, touch and hear? This is a really helpful way to keep yourself in the moment.
  • If your mind wanders, just notice it and gently bring it back to your senses.
  • Try this for just a few minutes at a time but during that time, try to get completely absorbed in your awareness of the moment.

When we fill our awareness in this way there is no room in our minds for worry or rumination.  Which is a good thing and can lead to decreased stress and anxiety, better management of the emotions and enhanced mental health and cognition.

So why not give it a go?  You may be heading off on holiday soon and a walk on the beach or a swim in the pool could be the ideal starting point for your mindfulness journey.

At The Robin Kiashek Clinics, we believe in a holistic approach to your general health. Therefore, as well as assisting patients with conditions that are currently causing them pain, we also look to encourage and promote other preventative techniques and practices such as meditation and mindfulness. After reading about some exciting new research in this field, we thought we would share some of the findings with you.

The benefits of regular meditation

We have long known of the benefits to body and mind from regular meditation and focused relaxation, but the evidence has often been dismissed as anecdotal. Now, across the world, we are seeing more and more studies into what happens to us physically when we engage in this kind of mindfulness activity regularly.

What is mindfulness and meditation?

meditation

Before we discuss this latest research, let’s briefly touch on what meditation and mindfulness is. Meditation has been traditionally associated with the Buddhist faith and is considered to be a state of contemplation or prayer. Nowadays it is considered to be the practice of sitting quietly with one’s thoughts or focusing on breathing. The idea is to keep your mind in the present moment, calmly clear your mind of any particular thoughts, whilst in a lying or seated position, and becoming aware of the energy coursing through the body in order to relax.

Mindfulness is similar, in that it is a the practice of remaining present and becoming conscious of your thoughts, how they spring up, what they are telling you about your situation and learning how to observe those thoughts with a view to overcoming any negativity. It can also be practiced whilst going about daily tasks, by way of stepping back and being more aware of how we are feeling or acting.

Recent studies of brain activity

A very recent study used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanning to prove conclusively that meditation can affect grey matter positively, causing it to undergo large, observable changes.

The work has been carried out in the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The project’s director, Sara Lazar, has concluded that during an average daily 27-minute meditation, the very structure of the brain alters. These changes lead to prolonged positive and relaxed feelings, and if sustained over a period of 8 weeks, result in significant changes and improvements in emotional life, as well as in the body.

In previous studies by Lazar’s team, the area of the brain that relates to attention and emotional integration, the cerebral cortex, has been shown to thicken in regular practitioners of meditation, more so than in subjects who had no previous experience in such activities.

Changes in our ‘dinosaur brain’

What is more, in the amygdala, the part of the brain often referred to as the ‘dinosaur brain’, responsible for regulating anxiety and stress reactions, there is a decrease in density of grey matter, meaning that the body is less likely to respond in a stressed way when faced with displeasing or adverse situations.

None of this brain activity was observed in the group of subjects who did not engage in mindfulness practice during the period of the study. No growth boosts in the brain were found. This showed without doubt that changes in the brain were not part-and-parcel of time simply passing, but that consistently engaging in mindfulness drastically changes grey matter.

The brain can be changed

Now we know more about the brain’s incredible plasticity, and we also have more confidence in encouraging human beings to be pro-active in their own brains’ re-structuring. It is now a certainty that the brain can be assisted into a state that leads to enhanced health and improvement in emotions and relationships, as well as increasing our ability to cope with stress.

Meditation to cope with stress

So, in light of the research above, might you consider introducing a regular mindfulness or meditation practice into your daily routine? Just 30 minutes per day, either first thing in the morning or last thing at night can help to make fundamental changes that will help the brain to cope with negative emotions such as stress or anxiety. These types of negative emotions may end up leading to more serious mental or even physical complaints (many of which we can help to treat in clinic), so it is wise to have a strategy to combat them.

Wellness and The Robin Kiashek Clinics

Wellness is at the heart of scientific endeavour, and here at Robin Kiashek Clinics we use the latest studies in diverse fields to keep our services on the cutting edge. To find out more about what we offer and our holistic approach to your health, please call us on: 0208 815 0979.

 

The results of a survey* released by the Mental Health Foundation suggests that the number of people who often or always feel stressed is 29% and the figures for those feeling anxious were 24% and depressed 17%.

The charity is now calling for a therapy called mindfulness to be made available nationally on the NHS. However, the recommendation is for specific groups of patients. These groups include patients who repeatedly relapse into depression or who are experiencing distress because of a serious physical illness such as cancer.

Mindfulness is derived from Buddhist meditation and is a technique which helps people reduce stress by focussing on the present moment.

Mindfulness sessions can be prescribed by GPs in some parts of the country; however, it is not widely available. The mindfulness technique has been endorsed by NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) and the Government’s chief medical officer. For some of the groups of patients it is being recommended for, trails have suggested that it can be as effective as anti-depressant drugs.

We will wait to see whether the charity’s recommendations are taken on board.

For many years I have taught Autogenic Training (AT). Both AT and Mindfulness have a common baseline – they tone down the Autonomic Nervous System, which, amongst other functions, controls the ‘Flight or Fight’ response.

AT can be very powerful as one of my patient’s found having suffered from insomnia for many years:

“After all these years and the many, many things I have tried, I really didn’t think anything would help me – thanks to Robin and Autogenic Training, I have been proved wrong – and that’s a first!” DL

Visit an experienced London Osteopath in W1 and N2 N10

If would like further information on how I may help you with AT or to book an Osteopathy appointment at either of my osteopathy clinics in London W1 and London N2 N10 please feel free to send me a message or call me on 020 8815 0979.