This is the final instalment of our series on how to upgrade your brain.
- Stress Management through mindfulness
Chocolate mindfulness...well there’s two of my favourite words in one sentence! You may have already heard about the Raisin exercise. It is a simple exercise which is ideal for beginners, but let’s face it... wouldn’t it be more fun to try this exercise with some chocolate from a selection box, a chocolate coin or, even better, chocolate from Zenzile Life? What if – instead of removing it from the wrapper because we haven’t feed you yet and then just munching it away in seconds – we stop and use the opportunity to practice mindfulness whilst enjoying the little piece of chocolate?
I think sometimes mindfulness meditation is looked upon by some as a solemn self-discipline, but it is important to remember that mindfulness is all about compassion towards ourselves and to others and whilst chocolate mindfulness may sound a little little-hearted and frivolous, it does have a deeper value. It helps us to re-connect with our senses, something which is very important in our busy lives.
Therefore, chocolate mindfulness sounds a much better idea right? Ok...I know a raisin is much healthier, but...I’d much rather follow the idiom of ‘A little of what you fancy does you good’ ! And it is almost Mental health day after all...
So...back to our chocolate mindfulness. I want you to sit as comfortable as possible allow our body to relax and feel supported. Take note of the sounds around us – both in the room and beyond – and then gradually bring your attention to your breath.
I know...you want to get on and eat that chocolate! Well this is all about practising chocolate mindfulness, so patience please...it won’t be long now...
We are concentrating on our breathing – taking a few moments to be aware of how it feels to be here, in the present.
Now...take your chocolate in your hand. Notice the wrapper. The way is shines with dark shadows in the crevices. Feel how the wrapper feels. Does it feel shiny as it looks? Take the ends of the wrapper and pull it open. Feel the stretch between your shoulders and notice how you feel. What do you hear? Remove your chocolate from it’s wrapper. Hold the chocolate in our hand and notice the weight of it and the texture. Is it warm or cool, soft or hard? Notice the desire to munch it, but then gently bring our attention back to the feel of the chocolate in our hand. If our eyes are closed, open them, and look at the piece of chocolate, noticing its shape and colour and any responses you have.
Next, continue the chocolate mindfulness by bringing the chocolate to our nose and inhaling the aroma. Notice when we first smell the chocolatey scent and when we do, sit for a moment appreciating the aroma. It might be mixing with other smells we haven’t noticed before and it may have a stronger scent than we expect. Yes...I know...the urge to gobble it up is getting stronger...but just notice this and enjoy the feeling of sitting comfortably whilst taking in the smell of the chocolate.
The best bit of chocolate mindfulness is now...when we can finally eat it! Letting our attention soften, so that we still have an awareness of the feel and smell of the chocolate, we can now bring the chocolate to our mouth and take a small nibble. What does it first taste of? How does it feel on our tongue? Take note of any flavours and sensations, whether anticipated or unexpected.
Now we can put the rest of the chocolate piece in our mouth and enjoy the tastes and flavours, subtle and strong. See if we can hold the chocolate on our tongue as long as possible, letting it melt and allowing our tongue to explore its textures and tastes. Chocolate has over 300 different flavours – see how many we can sense.
So...the chocolate has gone – we must wait until tomorrow for the next piece! The chocolate may be gone, but we should still bring our attention to our senses. Notice whether there is still a residual taste in our mouth and whether the smells you notice have changed. Bring attention back to our breath and to our feelings. Rest for a moment longer, just breathing and being aware of how we are feeling. How much did we enjoy our chocolate mindfulness exercise?
Do we feel any different in any way than how we felt at the start of the exercise? Is it different than normal – did the chocolate taste better than when we gobble it up in our normal way? Do we feel fuller than normal, or more satisfied?
Finally, we should bring our attention back to the rest of the room, the sounds we hear, the weight of your body on the chair ( no...just one chocolate shouldn’t have made a difference!), and our feet resting on the ground. When ready, we can slowly open our eyes and return to our day.
You just experienced a type of mindfulness meditation – a novel experience to most of you.
Stress is something that our bodies and minds are able to do, without us giving it permission, to help protect ourselves from harm. All of these issues cause us to worry. Worry makes both our bodies and minds feel threatened...so our body and mind will stress; therefore, stressing the spirit. Although we may not be able to control circumstances that cause stress; we can definitely control our spiritual response to stress.
Just like when you go on a detox diet to flush out the toxins from your body and cleanse your internal organs, it’s also helpful to flush out toxins from the mind. Mental and emotional toxins often go unnoticed, but they are just as essential to tidy up given the era of digital overload we live in and the busyness our lives can become. Mind clutter can lead to:
- · Lack of focus
- · Fatigue
- · Stress
- · Indecision
- · Overwhelm and over commitment
- · Communication breakdowns
- · Mistakes and errors
- · Health issues
- · Unhappiness
We are bombarded every day by texts, emails, chat messages, phone calls, social media notifications and advertisements -- and that's all on top of the hundreds of thoughts racing through our minds at any given time. . So all those things that beep and buzz and vibrate at us is making it very difficult for us to stay focussed and be present with the people we are with and with the task at hand.
We are on autopilot, we are daunted, we are frenzied, we are addicted to activity and other things that aren’t so great in terms of our ability to be effective in our day to day living.
To avoid these pitfalls, I want you to jump-start the process of uncluttering your mind—and reenergizing yourself this spring.
Exciting research in recent years shows that mindfulness has tremendous benefits on our physical, mental and psychological wellbeing. Mindfulness is by no means a new concept, but it's one that has enjoyed a resurgence in our modern world of constant connectivity and distractions.
I have a question for you? Who showered alone this morning? Are you sure? With how many people did you share your shower this morning? Well I have been trying to shower alone without about 20 people crowded in my shower for about 3 years now...
So - mindfulness just in short is really about being present and fully aware as opposed to distracted and basically being on autopilot. It is really being able to manage our attention , to focus on the task at hand and not get caught up by all of the distractions that all of us experience in everyday life.
By training the mind in this way, we are able to cultivate clarity, peace of mind and clear seeing. This has a positive knock-on effect on how we deal with potentially stressful situations in everyday life.
So, mindfulness helps us to focus and calm down. Mindfulness help us deal with difficult emotions, impulse control and learning get more active. That helps us to make good choices. In that way mindfulness increases well-being and social skills, and are better able to deal with stress. When we’re calm, we can easily be more mindful. And when we’re mindful, we get to decide how we respond to life’s challenges and we can more easily make good choices.
And when we look specifically at what mindfulness training means it is basically going to gym for the mind, to train our attentional muscle, to be able to be more engaged
So the last thing I want to leave you with about mindfulness is just a couple of really simple tips.
The first thing is that if you are inspired by this idea if being more mindful to grow yourself with is perhaps giving yourself permission to Be here, now- how you want to show up moment to moment in your day.
The other one is to stop multitasking, there is ton of science that says that multitasking is bad for us. It does not do us any good so just stop. Do one thing at a time and do it well.
Is your boss really getting on your nerves? Do you feel pressured by money?
Are the children driving you nuts?
Did someone just cut you up in traffic?
If your mind feels scattered, overloaded and about to burst, STOP. Take a moment. BREATHE slowly in and out. Feel the breath. Again... And again...
This concept is about the art of learning to be in the present moment and learning to focus our attention on what is rather than be distracted by what isn’t.
One minute of mindfulness could save your sanity, and begin to change your life from here on in...
For most of you this idea of mindfulness may be strange. Especially since it is used mostly together with the word meditation. I hope that you will take a look at it with an open mind. Remember to be engaged in the moment. To be here today and every day. So that every day could be your favourite day as well.
While the human brain is not exactly like a cellphone or computer, you could compare neuroplasticity to the ability to load new programs on a computer. When a new computer is manufactured and prepared for sale, an operating system(usually Microsoft Windows or Mac OS in personal home computers) is first loaded on the computer, which will determine what kinds of programs it can run. Then, programs can be loaded on the computer to do specific tasks. Some are loaded by the manufacturer, such basic search engines or a simple calculator, and many others, such as accounting software or video games, will be loaded by the end user.
Our brain is similar in the sense that we have some choice about what programs it will run. The brain itself is like the basic components of the computer—the processor, hard drive, and RAM. Our operating system is like the foundational information that we load onto this system—our basic beliefs about ourselves and the world. Just like an operating system, these beliefs will affect how our brain can be used.
If you use a cellphone computer at all, you know that updates are required often, sometimes just a few adjustments are made, and other times an entirely new version of the operating system is released. We at Zenzile Life believe that the brain may need the same sort of maintenance.
Just as people at Microsoft and Apple are busily looking for ways to improve operating system operation, you should be considering how you could hone your brain’s functioning. The question is not just, “How can it work better and faster?” but, “How can I make it work better for creating the life that I want?” In this sense, our brains are much more powerful than our computers because they influence every aspect of our lives and are the primary tool for making the lives that we long to live.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy.This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.