Practicing mindfulness

I’ve been uploading quite a few politics focused posts recently, so today I decided to talk about another subject I am equally passionate about…mental health. I love to write these posts and they get a great response from you all, so I hope you enjoy.

If you’re in the UK, like myself, you’ll be in lockdown 2.0 right now, with not much longer to go before another set of changes. Uncertainty is the theme of 2020, honest to god, who knew we were going to be in another lockdown in November. With that uncertainty for the future has come a huge amount of anxiety. Feeling okay with just not knowing what next week is even going to look like can be very hard, I know I’ve definitely struggled with it.

For a lot of lockdown I felt the constant need to fill my time and to be as productive as possible. Whether that was taking online courses, reading, learning a new skill, even making this website, I had to be doing something otherwise I would be worrying about what was going to happen next or where I’d be in a post-corona world (whenever that is lol). I was desperate to not feel like I’d wasted a large chunk of life watching TV and pretty much doing nothing, however throughout an on and off lockdown from March to now, I’ve learnt that doing nothing sometimes is perfectly okay and in some cases is hugely important for our mental health, we can’t always be go go go! I spoke about this more in a recent post called ‘The Wonders of Self Care’.

Since that post I’ve been working on being more mindful, showing myself more respect and being more self-aware, and I have to say it’s done a lot of good. I think the fact that we just never know what’s going on at the moment or what the future holds can be very un-nerving. I’m definitely one to look to the future and worry things won’t work out, but with our current climate it can be even more worrying not knowing what is going on. I’ve decided that in order to combat that feeling I have to be more mindful and self-aware, I need to be doing what I can to stay sane in the moment. We never really know what is going to happen in the future, so instead, focusing on what is going on right now can settle that worry and uncertainty.

What is mindfulness and why is it important?

It is easy to end up living in our own heads and not being aware of what is really going on around us, how we are feeling, or what our thoughts are really telling us. We end up becoming stuck in auto-pilot, living out our days, unaware of our thoughts and how they effect the way we view and talk to ourselves. Mindfulness unlocks the ability to show ourselves self-respect and kindness, this then translates into our everyday lives.

When we practice mindfulness it allows us to see our own thought patterns and why certain situations or scenarios make us feel a certain way, we can train ourselves to better deal with these situations. When we are mindful of our emotions we can notice signs of stress or anxiety and mange them more effectively. If we are more self-aware of what is going on in our head we can control it and not fixate on negative feelings or emotions. We learn self-discipline and how to ensure our thoughts don’t control us, we control them.

Meditation and mindfulness has lots of proven benefits to our mental and physical health. It can lower stress levels, improve your sleep, improve your focus and attention span, help to prevent depression relapses, reduce anxiety and increases the size of grey matter in your brain. It was found in a study that consistent meditation and mindfulness increased grey matter in the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum. These areas of the brain deal with the regulation of emotion, learning processes, perspective and memory. As well as this, there has been evidence to show that mindfulness can reduce chronic pain and lower blood pressure. Overall mindfulness is significantly helpful in improving our wellbeing.

It can be scary or intimidating for some people to meditate or practice mindfulness, when you stop and sit in silence a lot of worries and thoughts come flooding in. It is important to remind yourself that these are just thoughts in your head and the more you focus on them the more they fill you with anxiety. You should instead turn away from them and remind yourself that these are just feelings, they don’t manifest in reality, they are just doubts, they are not real.

How have I been practicing mindfulness?

Each day I’ve been doing a meditation / affirmation morning routine to focus myself for the day. I’ve never been one to think this type of exercise is effective but I have found that it really helps to calm me and start my day right.

I put on some meditation or wave sound music and I breathe slowly and deeply, focusing on that breathing, any thoughts that would try to jump in I turn away from and focus my thoughts back onto following my breathing or listening to the sounds in the music. After this, I continue breathing and practice positive self talk and affirmations, reminding myself of what I’m grateful for right now in my life and focusing on the good, even if they are small things. The constant reminder of these affirmations each morning allows me to check myself and fight doubts I may be having. The journey of self-improvement is never an easy one, some days it is harder to focus than others, but sticking to the routine is so important.

I think meditation and mindfulness teaches you really important skills about controlling your thoughts. It’s easy to slip into a pattern of negative thinking, so forcing yourself even for 5 minutes to sit and breathe and to only focus on that breathing shows you that you have the ability to say no to the negative thoughts or doubts trying to enter your mind. It shows you that you have discipline and that you are in control of what’s going on in your head. I think this is an important mindset to learn and so far this routine has been incredibly helpful for me to centre myself and start my day correctly. Without showing discipline to your thoughts and being more aware of them, it can become much easier to fall into a negative spiral because you aren’t always aware of what does cause the spiral. Understanding your thoughts and being mindful of them is a good way of understanding what can trigger a path of negative thinking and then ensuring that you don’t take that path.

You should take the time to focus on the right here and right now, being grateful for what you have and reminding yourself of the good in the very day you are in, even if it is one small thing like the weather. Reminding yourself of the bigger picture means you get a better perspective of what’s really going on, and maybe that one thing you were stressing about soooo much, really isn’t as big as you thought it was. I think that there is a lot to learn about being mindful, and a lot it can teach us in terms of emotional agility and resilience through challenges times, like this very pandemic. Many of us have found this year challenging, it has affected our whole way of life, even our perspective on life. Checking in with yourself and being mindful of how you are really feeling is more important now than ever. So, take this as your reminder to crack open your window, let in some fresh air, breathe deeply, be grateful, and remind yourself of who you really are, remember that you can control the thoughts in your head.

Sunshine Blogger Awards

Welcome back to my blog, I’m excited to say today that I have been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award!

Thank you so much to the blog Wire Rimmed Glasses for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Be sure to check out their blog for inspiring lifestyle content!

Today’s post is going to be a little different from my usual content, but I am excited to share it with you all! Hopefully you’ll learn a little more about me in the process!

Sunshine Blogger Award Rules

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  3. Nominate 11 people and ask them 11 new questions.
  4. Notify the nominees by commenting on one of their posts.
  5. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post.

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those bloggers by other bloggers who are creative, positive and inspiring. Once nominated, a blogger is required to write a post in which they thank the blogger for nominating them and link back to their blog.

Questions

What is something you can’t wait to do after the pandemic is over?

One thing I can’t wait to do once the pandemic is over is definitely travel more. After I graduated, I had lots of plans to go away on trips to celebrate, but unfortunately coronavirus hit us all hard. Realising, the severity of the situation, this really was not the end of the world for me that I wouldn’t be able to travel.

However, once the world is safe again, I’d love to go on these trips with friends and loved ones. My 21st year of life will be on hold until that day, thank you very much.

What is one country or city you would like to see someday?

Carrying on from the last question, I would love to visit Greece. It was on the list for 2020 but sadly did not happen. It just looks like the coolest place, the beaches, the towns, the Mamma Mia vibes. I just would love to see it.

There are so many places on the list, I have been lucky enough to see some parts of Europe, but I’d also love to see Norway and Germany as well! Expanding out of Europe; Vietnam and Bali are also top of the list, though these are probably further off in my life for now. I am realising this is definitely more than one place, I’ll stop now!

Do you think aliens exist?

To think they don’t exist is just boring right? There has got to be something else out there on a different planet, surely it can’t just be us.

What is at the top of your bucket list?

I know I’ve already said it but I just want to travel so badly, it’s just 100000% no 1 on the top of my list. If we are getting specific though, I want to go to a place like the Maldives or Bora Bora with those overwater rooms. They look so magical and peaceful. I could just jump off straight into the sea, the sunsets look amazing, the beaches look insane. Visiting a place like that is definitely top of the bucket list.

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would buy?

The sensible answer would be to get myself a house, decorate it etc. And to be honest this would probably be what I would do first, but obviously I’d also love to travel and support my loved ones as well…kind of a typical answer for this one.

What is your astrological sign?

I am a Leo, I was born on July 26th. I’ve never been one to really follow astrological signs, purely because I couldn’t feel further from a Leo as a person, maybe that makes me a Leo I really don’t know?

Leo’s seem like loud, eccentric, and extremely confident, correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve never really thought those were defining features of who I am, I’m definitely not one for the limelight. However, they do seem like loyal friends and determined people, so I’ll take that!

What is your favourite movie or show?

I definitely prefer TV shows to movies. One of my favourite shows is Bojack Horseman. It’s a cartoon sitcom about a famous human-horse living in LA who peaked in the 90’s. I know, it sounds weird and there is actually no way to explain it without it sounding weird.

I love the show so much because it deals with such important topics such as substance abuse, depression, anxiety, workaholism, actual alcoholism and identity crisis’. You’ll be laughing and then crying, I really do recommend it. I must have watched the whole thing through 4 times at least.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Honestly, I really don’t think I do, but I can do a pretty good Australian accent and a dolphin impression if that counts.

If you could meet any person in the world, alive or dead, who would it be?

This is one of those question I think about for an unacceptably long amount of time and still will never be completely content with the answer, there are far too many people I would just want to sit down and have a long discussion with. I’m actually going to try and stick to one answer for this question.

I would want to meet Kimberlé Crenshaw and just talk to her and learn from her about her theory, intersectionality. I read huge amounts of papers and books by philosophers, politicians, and economists at university, but when I was learning about intersectionality and identity politics, Crenshaw’s paper and research was just so interesting to me, so to be able to just hear her talk about it would be inspiring. There are many other philosophers and theorists I’d love to hear from but Crenshaw is definitely top of the list.

If you would like to read a bit about Crenshaw’s theory click here. Alternatively you could watch her TED talk.

What is the last thing you ate?

Tuna and avocado salad…tryna remain healthy in lockdown 2.0.

What is your favourite month and why?

My favourite month would have to be October, or to be slightly less specific, the Autumn season.

Every year I cannot get enough of the crisp air, the leaves changing colour and the weather getting a little colder.

There is nothing better than a crisp sunny autumn day and I feel like October has the best Autumn days before it turns completely cold and rainy and all the leaves have fallen.

I nominate…

These are some of my favourite bloggers right now that I love and would like to nominate for this award too. Some are recent discoveries, all are inspiring and creative people!

Questions for nominees

  1. What’s your favourite season?
  2. Where is one place in the world you would love to travel to?
  3. What’s something you’ve learnt about yourself during the pandemic?
  4. What’s your favourite book?
  5. What happened today that made you smile?
  6. What do you love to do as a form of self-care?
  7. Who’s your favourite artist/musician?
  8. What advice would you give to someone as we enter lockdown 2 or generally throughout the pandemic?
  9. What’s your favourite food?
  10. What’s something you wish you could tell your childhood self?
  11. What made you start blogging?

Thank You

Thank you again for the nomination Wire Rimmed Sunglasses. I hope you all enjoyed this post today and got to know a bit more about me. Also welcome new followers to my blog! I hope you enjoy the content and thank you for the support!

Some good news

After my last post I felt the need to share some good news in the world. It can be hard to find the good in such a challenging year. We are constantly bombarded with COVID-19 updates that seem like there is no end in site, another horrific and heartless attack on a minority community and never-ending politics from governments that fail to support communities that need it.

These are all very important news stories and we need to bring awareness to them as much as we can. But for today I’m going to take a breather and share some good news because as important as it is to be politically and socially aware, sometimes we need some good news to know that the world isn’t a complete lost cause.

Consuming too much bad news can be detrimental to our mental health. There are plenty of studies out there to show you that consuming negative news will lower your mood. Having a blend of positive news with general news helps to lessen the burden that is 2020 and it’s constant stream of bad news. So, consider this your positivity pick me up of the day.

Marcus Rashford’s ‘end child food poverty’ campaign

Marcus Rashford has been nothing but an angel this year. After Rashford’s successful campaign to secure free school meals over the summer, Labour bid to extend the free school meals over the Christmas holiday which was rejected by Tory MP’s.

Despite the Tory’s turning a blind eye to hungry children, communities and councils have rallied together to ensure children will not go hungry this half term or this Christmas. Councils such as Manchester, Birmingham, Kent and Kensington have agreed to still supply vouchers for pupils over this half term. As well as the PM’s own constituency.

A map that shows places offering free meals to kids this half term. To access the map click here.

The government and Tory’s may have failed this country, but it’s communities are there to support children who need it. Marcus Rashford’s end child food poverty campaign has seen hundreds of restaurants and food providers rally together to donate food and hot meals in their local community. All over the UK small businesses and organisations, football clubs and universities have been donating food to those on free school meals. On the hashtag #endchildfoodpoverty on twitter there are many organisations pledging lunches and hot meals in various local areas.

Rashford helping out at Fare Share Greater Manchester, an organisation helping to offer meals to children this half term.

Rashford stated “even at their lowest point, having felt the devastating effects of the pandemic, local businesses have wrapped arms around their communities today, catching vulnerable children as they fell.” Even though our government may have let down the children who need support, our communities have carried on to give all they can despite the hardships the pandemic has had on many of us.

Huge organisations such as Sainsburys, Hovis, Heinz, Nando’s, Weetabix and Tesco to just name a few have joined the Child Food Poverty Task Force to support the 3 national food strategy policy recommendations. As a collective these companies endorse these recommendations to tackle child food poverty. Some of these organisations are also pledging food to vulnerable children such as Tesco and their partnership with Fare Share.

If you enter your postcode in this link it will direct you to places that are offering free meals this half term, not all participating organisations are on this link so do still check online to see what places are donating: https://www.schoolmealfinder.org/Search?postcode

Also click here to sign the petition to end child food poverty and to expand access to free school meals. It is close to a million signatures now!

Tasmanian devils make a comeback in mainland Australia

More than 3000 years ago, Tasmanian devils had died out in the mainland of Australia, now 26 Tasmanian devils have been introduced back. They have been released into a wildlife sanctuary in Sydney by Aussie Ark.

Aussie Ark’s release of the Tasmanian devil’s

These new Tasmania devils have come from an Aussie Ark breeding program. They grew from 44 in 2011 to now more than 200. The devils have been raised with natural behaviours so that they have a better chance of surviving in the wild. Tasmanian devils, like most of the wild, natural systems of the earth are great for our ecosystem. They are scavengers which helps to keep the environment free from disease, they also help to control the populations of feral cats and foxes which hunt other endangered species.

Aussie Ark are hoping to reintroduce other species into the wildlife sanctuary in part of their plan to re-wild the environment, as well as more Tasmanian devils. This project offers a ray of hope after the wildfires at the start of this year that struck disaster to the wild environment in Australia.

Tim Faulkner, the president of Aussie Ark, said that “in 100 years, we are going to be looking back at this day as the day that set in motion the ecological restoration of an entire country.” He explained that the Tasmanian devils can restore and rebalance the forest ecology and they will engineer their own self-sustainable environment.

To read more about the release of the Tasmanian devils in Australia click here to view the Aussie Ark’s website and to donate to the project.

Eba the eco-warrior dog

Eba, a young shelter dog is using her unique talent to help save the orca whales. Eba can detect whale poop and has been assisting a University research team. Eba’s owner is a marine biologist at the University of Washington’s Centre for Conservation Biology. Eba was not adopted with the intention to become part of the research team but has proven to be a useful team member.

Eba is now part of ‘Conservation Canines’, a dog training programme that helps to hunt for marine wildlife poop. This has proven incredibly helpful for researchers as it allows them to access information about genetics, general health, stress levels and the presence of toxicity in the whales diet. Eba’s role is so important because it means the researchers do not have to get to close to the orca whales and stress out the pod in any way, they keep at a respectful distance because Eba can smell from far away.

Eba and her owner Deborah Giles conduct their studies in the Canadian Gulf Islands, the pod they research has 74 members. Their work goes towards ensuring the conservation and recovery of the endangered orca whale species.

For more good news…

If you’re looking for a place to find your good news I would recommend Positive.News, they do a great weekly round up of all the good things that happened within the week as well as other positive news stories. I have linked some of my personal recent favourites below.

For Instagram you can check out The Happy Broadcast and The Happy News!