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BalanceTime meditation insights

By Judy Claughton 08 Jan, 2018

After the pressures of the Christmas season – demanding we take time to see more people, spend more money on them and to eat more than our body weight in cakes and chocolates, the new year brings fresh pressure.

Now is the time for a ‘new you’ – reinvent yourself, be thinner! be healthier! be happier! Achieve more at work – get a new job! Do these topics and themes sound like familiar demands on your time and thought processes? It is no wonder that January blues affect so many of us and you can feel burnt out by about the middle of this month.

Here is our simple three step guide to balance for the start of your year.

1.   Make time to reflect:

Yes, now is a great time to think about what you want – but reflect before you rush in with a long to do list of things you want to achieve.  You risk making a long list and finding you haven’t achieved anything on it by February - so you feel flat and despondent. Pause and make time to reflect. 

Are you living the life you want?  2018 can be the beginning of anything you want. So, think about what makes you feel fulfilled, content and whole. Think about what you really want and how you want to live your life. 


 As a mini meditation, pause for five minutes to just let your thoughts settle, before you even reflect. Take time to just pause and notice what is going through your mind at this point in time, what are the worries and thoughts that dominate your time when you slow down. Try in these 5 minutes not to try to judge or solve these worries but simply take time to notice them.  Observe each thought one at a time and let it go - almost like blowing bubbles – each one with a thought or idea within it. Each one being blown away. 

Now take a further five minutes to reflect on the question – what do you really want? 

Write your answers for five minutes – noticing what comes up when you keep asking yourself the same question. Do you see patterns in your responses? Is there one thing above all that stands out as most important. It can be helpful to use post-it notes and write one thing that you really want on each post-it – set yourself a 5-minute timer and then see what you have at the end of this pause.

 

2. Make time to simply be

Reflection is powerful and too often in the new year we rush into a world of ‘doing’ without pausing to reflect if this busy-ness is actually helpful, productive or setting us on our ‘right’ path. As mentioned above – one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself this year is time, each day, to simply be. 

Whether you use a meditation, a mindfulness technique or just take time out with a cup of tea. Reflection is great, but a few minutes each day to simply allow your thoughts to settle – is incredibly powerful in all areas of your life. This sounds simple, but simple doesn’t make it easy. That’s why I have been learning meditation for over 15 years and work to help others to learn and develop these focusing, calming and balancing techniques.

Try this simple one minute meditation.  Pause and count your breath, breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of four (less or more - as comfortable. Count your breath in this manner, repeating this simple exercise ten times (this will take approximately a minute).

Can you manage a count of 20, 40, 108? Try to use your breath to allow your thoughts to pass. You won’t stop your thoughts but you can, in time, stop them getting ‘stuck’ – leaving you feeling clearer and calmer.

 

3. Don’t change anything major until February

Yes, now is a great time to think about what you want. It is a great time to pause and start to allow your thoughts to be and to not have such power over you. But try to set yourself a plan to act in February – not now. You’ve all these delicious treats left over from Christmas – so enjoy them with the love they were given to you. In the same way, don’t rush them, savour and share your gifts and treats – whether it is a box of chocolates or a delicious bottle of wine. Make it last and make each treat a mindful moment – not a guzzling competition. Sure you can join the gym – rush to get fit – but are you in the right mindset to keep up your plans? Are you setting yourself realistic goals? Take time to be, go for that run – go for that walk, take part in that class – and then decide by February which classes, which goals are right for you, for this year, and what you want to achieve? Actually 5 times a week -running was really hard to manage – but exercise that I really love like dancing doesn’t feel like hard work…

What is true for you? Let January be time for you to be, for you to explore, for you to try – before you set your goals for change. 

Try this mindful eating exercise with one of your Christmas chocolates/treats. Take one treat/chocolate and before you eat it have a really good look at it. Get curious about this object. Notice packaging, colours, texture, shadows, contours. Imagine you have never seen this before and really look at it from all angles. How do you feel about doing this? 

How does this tasty treat feel in your fingers – does it start to melt? Do your fingers feel sticky? Uncomfortable? How do you feel about this? Do you feel this in a particular part of your body (is your tummy growling with anticipation?). Breathe in the smell of your tasty treat, noticing how the smell makes you feel. Then before you eat it, hold the object to your lips for that sense of anticipation. Take a small bite and before you chew and swallow – observe how the food feels in your mouth, notice the saliva building up and the taste starting to spread in your mouth. Slowly chew and swallow.

 

I hope you find these 3 meditation techniques interesting and helpful and enjoy the fresh thinking to approaching your new year's resolutions.  

Remember the gift of simply being and how giving yourself time will help you become – not so much a new you – but more of the real you….

Do share your thoughts and comments with us and if we can help by sharing a little Balancetime – please get in touch.

By Judy Claughton 15 Nov, 2017

In all walks of life, I am hearing more and more people commenting on how they cannot sleep.  Or how they wake in the middle of the night riddled with anxieties, that keep them up all hours.

Helping people sleep better has been an interest of mine since learning about the importance of our circadian rhythm over ten years ago, when I was part of the communications team for the Sleep Well Live Well campaign.

As a meditation teacher, people are coming to me more and more asking if mindfulness meditation can help with their sleeping problems.

The answer is yes – and no.

No – is you are looking for a panacea – a one-time “pill”/tool that you can use just once to cure your insomnia. While meditating, even just once will induce feelings of relaxation in your body  as found over 40 years ago by Dr Herbert Benson , you would need to practice the techniques more than just once to learn mastery over your mind.

Like physical exercise, you can’t do 10 sit ups just once a year and expect to have the perfect physique. Meditation, like other forms of brain training and physical training takes time to master in order to reap the physical and mental benefits.

So YES – if applied regularly and build into part of your daily routine, mindfulness meditation can quickly make a difference to your night’s sleep. Harvard University research in 2015 showed the link between mindfulness meditation and improved sleep  and further studies continue to enforce this.

One client, who I started working with to help her insomnia, was suffering from massive sleep deprivation, getting only three to five hours sleep every night. She was having both trouble getting to sleep, as well as the fact that when she finally fell asleep, she would only get a few hours before the anxieties plaguing her mind would wake her.

We looked at introducing a mindfulness meditation routine to her daily life to tap into the sleep benefits. We also looked at sleep hygiene factors and ways to integrate mindfulness into real-life. An important hygiene factor is screen time and in June 2017 a new study showed just how damaging the link between our phones and sleep can really b e.

So to get you in a better space of mind for improving your sleep, I invite you to try some of these tips and techniques:

1.       When you wake in the middle of the night, try a body scan meditation

Consciously take time to notice your body from toe to head, one part of your body at a time. Just observing the temperature, comfort – or lack or it.  How do you feel about each part of you? You can also invite a sense of relaxation and calm into each part of your body – one at a time, after pausing to simply observe and notice how you are feeling. You can sit up in bed to keep yourself awake and explore this, or stay lying down, so you can encourage your body to dose off.

2.      Before you go to bed, take a few moments for a gratitude meditation.  

Spend some time saying thank you for at least three good things about the day., Even in the darkest days there will have been some moments to be thankful for – or that have raised a smile. It may be the fact that someone brought you a cup of tea or said hello with a big smile to you in the shop. It may be a beautiful sunrise or sunset. It may be a lovely smelling shower gel that picked you up and refreshed you when you washed today. It may be the fact that you are alive and breathing and able to read this article….You can also spend some time writing your master ‘happy list’ of things that make you happy and that you are grateful for – that you can review every night before bedtime to find a smile in the face of worry.

3.       Mindfully prepare your bedroom for sleep. 

Is your room surrounded by clutter, filled with electronics, stuffed with dirty clothes? Move the dirty laundry – to another room/laundry basket if possible, Move the clutter – even if you sweep it into a box to sort through tomorrow, and see how your sleep can improve.

4.       Turn off the TV, tablet, laptop, phone ideally TWO hours before you go to bed – as the blue light can have an impact on your melatonin levels and your body’s natural circadian rhythm ( see 2014 research ).

5.      You may like to listen to guided meditation to help you drift off such as offered by Australian Meditation expert Jason Stephenso n or one of the meditations from the Chopra Centre .

Love to hear how you find these tips and ideas.

Have a great day and a good night!

For more support on exploring mindfulness meditation to help improve your sleep – join our next retreats  or find out about one to one support, classes, workshops and courses near you.


By John Miller 24 May, 2016

Mindfulness is a form of meditation and both are often in the media for their link in stress reduction, increased focus and improved happiness – but did you know they could help you lose weight and meet your wider new year's resolutions and goals?

Here are five of the top reasons to make mindfulness meditation part of your year.

1.   Stress Reduction – Mindfulness and meditation exercises are scientifically proven to help your body to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline – so you can physically and mentally feel more rested. You can try mindful breathing by just pausing for a few moments to notice your breath, observing the speed, temperature and position in the body – then try to count and extend your breath in and out.

2.   Sleep better – not only will meditation help you to feel calmer it can help with specific problems such as insomnia . There are specific techniques that are particularly useful – such as the ‘body scan’ where you start to deliberately pay attention to each part of your body in turn, moving in your mind slowly from head to toe, in order to bring a feeling of relaxation into each part of your body.

3.   Increased happiness – Research from as early as the 1960s has proven a range of health benefits through meditation as well as the fact that meditation increases dopamine (the happy hormone) in our brain. Dr Benson of Harvard Medical School’s early studies found that meditation helped to reduce obsessive thinking, depression and hostility, and help us to be happier. It also reduces the ‘fear centre’ in our brain so we receive less negative messages from our brains and more happier ones! Benson also found you can even change the ‘set point’ for happiness when affected by challenging life circumstances, by using a daily meditation practice, in as little as six weeks. More recent studies confirm how the part of our brain responsible for our happiness actually grows when we practise meditation .

4.   Weight loss – There is a growing understanding of the link between over eating and our emotions, alongside the role of calorie counting and exercise. Meditation helps us to understand and monitor our emotional wellbeing and better tune in to our bodies. It can help us to stop reaching for unhealthy comfort food in times of stress and sadness . It can also help give us more focus to stick with our fitness and diet plans! You can try Mindful eating with the first bite of your next meal and start to notice the difference. Take a moment to really pay attention, pausing to look at your food, listening to any sound it makes as you cook it, open it, cut into it etc. Observe the smell and then really experience the taste and texture and take note of how your body reacts to each mouthful.  

5.   Sticking to our Goals – meditation can help increase focus by making changes to our brain. It works like a form of ‘brain training’ growing parts of our brain and helping to build neural connections that help memory, concentration and focus.

If you are curious and would like to give it a try – come and discover the range of drop in workshops and classes on offer through BalanceTime .

By John Miller 24 May, 2016

“Yes!” says Amanda who was signed off work with stress last year, and has transformed her approach to stress through treatment from her Doctor alongside regular mindfulness workshops and a 5-week mindfulness meditation course at Theale Wellbeing Centre.

She talks about the changes. “ At first the sessions finally helped me to relax, but with time and practice they have really helped me shift my mindset towards work and pressures at home, to find better ways to not just manage my stress but take action to stop it building to such unhealthy levels in the first place.”

Mindfulness meditation is frequently under the spot light with research from Harvard University showing powerful links between meditation and reduced stress and anxiety . Much like physical exercise and its impact on our health - it’s not a quick fix – i.e. you can’t run once a year and have a perfect physique. But those who practice regular mindfulness meditation are calmer and able to manage pressures in life with less stress and anxiety. Research from Dr Sara Lazar shows how mindfulness meditation makes this possible by physically changing our brains so we experience less anxiety and fear .

Current research has found that no medicines yet actually address the hormone that is the root cause of stress…cortisol. While you can take a plethora of medicines to reduce the symptoms stress hormones have on our bodies – like betablockers for lowering blood pressure and insulin for diabetes. Tackling the root cause of stress requires a different approach.

From massage and reflexology to sooth body and mind, to the calming experience of mindfulness meditation, to more in depth therapies such as counselling and hypnotherapy – is it time you explored ways to have a positive impact on your wellbeing and reduce your stress levels?

Today our blog showcases mindfulness meditation for reducing stress – not just through the science but with short stories on how clients have been enjoying the stress relieving impacts of Mindfulness Meditation with   BalanceTime.

Peter attended the Two Hour Holiday meditation workshop to help tackle his stress and anxiety at work and comments:

“I attended the 2 hour holiday as a complete mindfulness and meditation novice, I was a bit nervous and I'll admit quite sceptical about whether it could help me with my anxiety. Judy put me completely at ease, explained everything really well and the meditations really helped me 'get away'. With help from the regular workshops BalanceTime run at Theale Wellbeing Centre I now use the techniques I have learnt daily and as a result I am sleeping a lot better, am far less anxious (as I now have some tools to calm me down) and find time to really appreciate smells, sights and sounds in everyday life!”

Elizabeth had used meditation and mindfulness in her past but recently found with pressures at work and looking after her family that she couldn’t find time for it. She came along to a series of workshops to help her find some time for herself and to balance her stress levels. “By learning new techniques and reminding myself of others, plus discovering easy ways to practice these lovely exercises daily, has reminded me the importance of mindfulness in my life.  I have been able to reduce my blood pressure tablets – I still need to take them – but my dose has halved – I am certain these mindfulness exercises are a big part of the reason why. Thanks Judy for helping remind me how to make mindfulness meditation a part of my day”.

Claudia has been attending Judy’s mindfulness workshops throughout the last six months and adds “I’ve learnt some techniques that really help me with stress and managing pain from an injury. But I do love dropping into the sessions for a wonderful way to refocus on me and enjoy a calm-inducing hour or two – the classes leave me with a feeling of rest and rejuvenation to last me all week.”

Find out the next stress busting mindfulness meditation workshops with BalanceTime   here .

 

Note – to protect our clients identities names have been changed. You can see more referrals on our Facebook page 

By John Miller 24 May, 2016
Why do we go on holiday? Relaxation? New experiences? To de-stress and get away from it all? Your mind and body know when you need one. But is it possible to recreate holiday feelings without getting away?

We explore the top 5 things most people look for in a holiday and a different way of getting away without leaving the room.

1. Travel to our favourite destinations – Holidays are all about new destinations, experiencing some of your favourite things and discovering your curiosity for new adventures, sights and sounds. BalanceTime ‘Holidays’ help you to use your imagination to travel to favourite holiday destinations and happy holiday memories and bring back that feeling of happiness and relaxation without leaving the room.

2: Breathing space  
Holidays are about taking some time out away from the daily routine and giving yourself some breathing space from anxieties and pressures.  Regularly taking an hour out from your busy schedule and enjoy some quality 'me-time' can give you a boost and breath of fresh air away from it all - without travelling very far at all. Exploring breathing exercises to  helps you to re-focus and refresh with just a few minutes to spare - is a great way of finding breathing space and  micro moments every day - not just when you are on annual leave.

3:Food tastes better on holiday  

Sometimes we travel for the cuisine. Often we just feel that food tastes better on holiday.  Is the sunshine? The company? The location?  These can all have an impact but a bigger impact than you may realise is your mindset towards food.  Too often in our daily life we eat mindlessly - not stopping between tasks or even to look away from our computer screen.  Do we even notice what we are putting in our mouths?  A meditation holiday helps you explore how mindfully eating and choosing something to eat can bring back feelings of joy and 'take you to a holiday moment' with one small taste .

4: Smile inside and out
 
We go on holiday to unwind and do things that make us really happy.  Can you find more things to make you happy everyday - not just two weeks of the year.  Sometimes it is just about shifting your mindset to what you have to do each day.  Sometimes it is about finding happy triggers to help bring you back to moments of joy when life makes you feel blue.  With a mix of props to set the scene for the holiday destination, our meditation holiday workshops help you to smile inside and out as you notice playful memory triggers of happy holiday times.

5. Relax, de-stress and refresh  
The secret to success of most holidays is the search for relaxation and stress busting environments.  How you can you bring that back into your life when you are home?  The mini break and holiday workshops use a mix of meditation, mindfulness and relaxation exercises to help you unwind and feel refreshed.  Your body will relax, as your mind slowly takes some time to 're-boot'.  We explore ways to find your 'happy triggers' - helping you take away ideas and techniques you can use every day to help you find a moment of calm whenever you need it.

To find out dates for our next meditation mini break please visit our what's on page.

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