A Gateway into Mindfulness

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A Gateway into Mindfulness

CBD is fantastic, but (a big but) it is most effective as a part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A food supplement’s job is not to make dramatic changes to the way that you feel, rather it’s job is to provide support and provide a platform for your body’s ability to achieve optimal well-being.

If you have come to find CBD for one reason or another, it is really important to think about what else you need to do to improve your lifestyle and wellbeing, if you are not already doing so.

A huge part of our mission is to support mental health in the UK, particularly combat the epidemic of male suicides that is now the biggest cause of death in men under 45 (CALM being the UK’s leading male suicide charity). Just like going to the gym, your mind needs to be taught to operate in a healthy manner; unlocking the power of the mind can have huge implications on your happiness, your relationships/ friendships, performance at work or at play! We work alongside several wellness organisations in Edinburgh and the UK, and would like to share their work and experience with you, plus push you in their direction if you are interested in what they do.

So, what we are going to be talking about today is often referred to as ‘Mindfulness’ – and personally, we feel that it is an invaluable tool that we all need to tap into to take care of ourselves (thanks to The Mindful Enterprise).

Fight or Flight

As we fire into the 2020’s, life is becoming increasingly faster, more chaotic, and thanks to technology, external influences can find us no matter where we are. The psychological impact of getting a work email before bed is huge; have you ever been in perfect zen ready for bed to being wide awake thinking about what you need to do in the morning? My work phone ringtone is like a lightning blot cutting through a tree when it is time to relax.

The process that causes this is our hard-wired, genetic fight or flight mechanism. In prehistoric humans, this helped us survive. Just imagine, we’re walking along minding our own business, and a tiger pops out of a bush. Uh oh! Your brain automatically flicks turbo mode on so that our body can give everything to survive; whether that is to run for our lives or to fight to the death.

Due to this stimulus of danger, our body functions are turned off (like digestion, healing, growth, immune system etc..) to prioritise only those processes which are essential to survive an attack. Our blood pressure is increased and the flow is rerouted, the body is flooded with chemicals like adrenalin and cortisol to supercharge our muscles and give us a huge boost of energy.

Now that you are safe inside your cave, your body turns off turbo mode and resumes business as usual; it puts the blood back into the essential processes we need for the long term health. In short doses, this stress can help you get through some difficult situations and make you feel alive!

Fast forward to modern-day and we live in an environment that is complete of our own making; the stimulus is no longer the physical danger of a predator or enemy, but it is very much inside our own head. Our survival is no longer while hunting in the jungle, but rather being at work, or socialising with people/colleagues and navigating around other people living in this world; all of which we have a connection with 24/7 via our mobile phones.

So when we see a particularly nippy work email come through, or a text that isn’t kind, or a news alert about the world ending, there is almost certainly no threat of physical danger/death, but our brain turns on that survival mechanism and we go turbo.

The danger of this is that most of us almost never get a chance to switch off and escape the stimulus, and our body is constantly in fight or flight mode. So, rather than turning off the immune system (as one example) simply to survive an attack, our body’s ability to defend itself from viruses is constantly affected (it is why we get sick when we are stressed). Have you ever been so stressed or angry that you just can’t think straight? Well, this is caused by the fact that the prefrontal cortex is tuned down during turbo mode, which leaves us unable to think clearly, plan ahead or make rational decisions.

So, if we feel in danger every second of the day, our body stops working as it should; this could lead to sickness, dysfunction and a lack of rest (or sleep). This long term exposure to stress is what is often referred to as ‘toxic stress’. It is a build-up of these chemicals that can be harmful to our well-being.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness comes in many different forms, and you may actually be practising it without even knowing it. In a nutshell. it is referred to as the art of learning to pay attention, on purpose, to the present moment without judgement; Kabat Zinn. This is all about being in the moment.

Basically, you take note of the things/feelings happening right now without associating a feeling to them. Just accept and acknowledge their presence. In modern life, we are almost always thinking about something- what is happening at work, who said what, how you will reply etc… and we are almost very rarely thinking about what we are doing in the moment. A study committed by Harvard University (a while ago now) found that we were not thinking about what we were doing in that moment for 47% of the time (no doubt that has increased in recent years). Reading this, your mind may have already wandered off into something else. I am going to hope that you’re not bored with this blog post, but that your brain has just caught wind somewhere along the way. It just shows that it can be difficult to be focused on what you are doing right now.

Mindfulness is about giving your mind some time to rest, and just be in the moment; not to think about what you’re having for dinner tonight, or what you have to do for work (which triggers your turbo mode). It is a concerted effort to bring your thoughts into now.

When we are unable to vent, and extract these emotions we build up that toxic stress. Mindfulness gives us a newfound ability to self-regulate their emotions and to understand (and prevent) patterns of thoughts and behaviours which may lead them to feel stressed, anxious, depressed or otherwise.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence and GPs refer sufferers of mental health conditions (like anxiety, depression, OCD and more) to Mindfulness courses to reduce stress and try to prevent recurrent depression. Mindfulness has been proven to have a dramatic impact on your general health and well-being, alongside helping people (young and old) to improve satisfaction and performance in many areas of life.

A Gateway into Mindfulness

Like anything, getting into mindfulness is difficult to start with, but there are a couple of little tasks that you can implement every day that will help you deal with your emotions and ultimately make you feel much better.

  1. The Right Start – If you’re anything like me, the first thing you look at is the emails that have come through during the night. This time in the morning is maybe the most essential part of the day. It is the time when you are collecting your thoughts and setting up how you feel for the day to come. Find yourself 10-20 minutes before you head to work, put the radio/TV on or pick up your phone, just to be present. Whether that is when you’re in the shower (feeling the warm water wash over you) or sitting with a cup of coffee while looking out of the window. Just take in the moment, without thinking about the day ahead. Then get cracking.
  2. A Mindful Moment – A mindful moment is just enjoying the details of the moment during the day. Ideally, this is something small like eating lunch, drinking a late morning coffee, or looking out of a window. Quite a few of us work and eat lunch at the same time, or look at our phones and read trash that ultimately doesn’t affect our lives (even if the news article says so). Take the time to enjoy your food- think about the flavours, the textures and the environment you’re in. Try to keep your mind in the moment and not to think about other things going on in your life. Just be present in what you are doing.
  3. Diary Moments – Sometimes, when work and life is so damn chaotic, it is really really hard to just stop and take a second. If you just keep going until you hit the pillow, you will not give your mind time to unpack everything that is stored in your brain. Like unread emails, your thoughts and feelings will bottle up and eventually become unmanageable. So, why not work in a little time to yourself with a diary? Just before you head to bed: get a pen and some paper and write a little bit about the day. What happened? How you felt and the plan for tomorrow. This gives you time just to think about what has passed, and to get what you need to do on paper. In theory, when you head to bed, you have already unpacked what you need to process and can just lay in bed enjoying the moment without your mind going mental.

The Mindful Enterprise?

Well done, if you have made it this far then we are truly thankful for taking the time. If this post has hit a cord, then it is time for the next step.

In honesty, this blog post is part of our own learning curve and identifying what helps for us; most of this understanding comes from Gary from The Mindful Enterprise who is leading the mindful revolution in our home town of Edinburgh. The company is a social enterprise who give their profits into providing training and wellness coaching for those in need.

If you are interested in finding out more about Mindfulness and how it can revolutionise your wellbeing, then check them out!