Mindful Monkey.

Learning to listen to the body

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Arial view of nice trees

Everywhere we look, it seems that dieting is endemic. If you happen to ask a dieter what they would like to eat, the answer is an inventory of what they have had during the last day or so.

As they try to work out the answer to your question, they tally up what they have been eating. It seems as if they have lost touch with the most important source of information – the messages from the body in answer to the questions: “are you hungry?” “what do you feel like eating?”

Using ‘will power’ and tallying up calories leads people to think about food all the time except when they are eating. Can you see how the other way round, eating with awareness, would be more helpful?

It is as if we are losing touch with the messages coming from the body: about hunger or fullness. There is an innate wisdom of the body which is telling us when to eat, what to eat and when to stop. We need to get back in touch with this.

Mindfulness offers us a way to learn to listen to our inner wisdom. There is growing research that supports mindful eating as a way forward.

Food is very commonly a way of managing emotions. If you are not so sure about this, stop and think for a few moments about how you eat, particularly sweet things. And sometimes this seems to have a compulsivity which looks very similar to drugs. Of course this should come as no surprise, because the psychological mechanisms are the same.

Increasing the ability to listen to our emotions and manage them more skilfully is one of the key benefits of mindfulness practice. As well as the formal mindfulness practices, one of the things we can do is to practise mindful eating once a day. Don’t expect this to be easy! Start with something simple like a cup of tea or eating an apple or a biscuit and build up from there. This will help to develop the skills needed to tune into the feedback that shows us the way. Not will power, but utilising the gentle wisdom of our body to tell us what feels right.


A Choice

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Rocks sea and fluffy clouds and cool sky

We might try to look away but we keep coming back to our tears and sorrow at how things are, so we sit with this for a while. As we look at the state of the world, we can be shocked by the cruelty, or inspired by the kindness we see. So, are human beings good or bad?

I think we have to choose. We are at a choice point in human history. Do we wise up and act in ‘skilful’ ways, or do we not.

Clearly, this is not an abstract question: it is a matter of survival. If we choose ‘unskilful’ ways, then we are all undone. If we wise up then there is a world to win.

I wish I knew how we as a species will choose compassion for each other and the planet we live on. How do we get a ‘critical mass’ for a shift towards a way of being and living that puts us in harmony with each other?

I just hope that there are enough of us, in different ways, trying to find another way. Perhaps a good place to look is the simple wisdom in everyone: that harming other living beings feels wrong, and compassion feels like the right thing to do.


Mindfulness helps with Drug and Alcohol Problems

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While things might have seemed a bit quiet here on mindful monkey, there has been a lot going on. One of these is the arrival of a little person in my life Baby feetAnother was writing up the final part of my MSc, the research on mindfulness in treatment for drug and alcohol use. As far as I know this is the first systematic study of mindfulness with problem substance users in the UK.

20151003_235543I will be reporting on this in future messages but for now here is a summary some interesting results:

That mindfulness seems to improve mental health and wellbeing, helps people reduce drug and alcohol use, and supports continued abstinence.

There were positive correlations between home practice and these improvements, that is, the more regularly participants practised, the more benefits they experienced.

It showed that participants really took to mindfulness and enjoyed learning to practice. It also looked at some of the issues in rolling out mindfulness in Drug and Alcohol Services and pointed to directions for future research.


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