Mindful Monkey.

Mindfulness for Health & Well-Being – The 10 Week Course

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The course has now started. Our next Mindfulness Course is due to start  on 11.9.16. If you were planning to attend then pop the date in your diary and watch this space for further information. 

There is growing evidence to suggest that mindfulness can bring about a wide range of improvements in physical, psychological and emotional well-being. Typically these benefits build up over a number of weeks of sustained practice.

If you want to explore mindfulness at a deeper level and are willing to do some daily practice between course meetings, then this course is for you. With a small group of people we will be guiding you through a set of mindfulness practices; starting with the Breath through to cultivating Self-Acceptance.

You will be given recordings and instruction on how to practice in between the meetings. These can then become a resource that you can carry into the rest of your life. We will meet fortnightly over 10 weeks on Sunday afternoons from 2:00 to 5:30 pm on:

20.3.16
3.4.16
17.4.16
1.5.16
15.5.16
5.6.16

You can sign up just below here (please scroll all the way to the bottom of the page). You can either pay the full fee or if it helps then you can pay in 3 instalments. The first instalment works as a deposit and secures your place on the course.

Get in touch if you have any questions: Shehzad@mindful-monkey.com



Attending to your own health and mental well being

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It seems that not a week goes by without another piece of research on mindfulness in the news (actually there are many more each month, these are just the tip of the iceberg).

One study with 16 to 17 year old sixth formers, suggests that school-based mindfulness may improve attention and reduce self critical thinking. In teenagers! Sounds pretty good to me.

The researcher in this study who happens to be the supervisor on my MSc research has also done a previous study which showed that Mindfulness improved school grades and reduced stress in school students.

More generally, another study by the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital found that Meditative practices could reduce the need for healthcare services by just under a half.

So, here is yet more evidence that mindfulness helps with physical and mental health. Given the way things are going with health services, and in particular Mental Health Services, it would seem like a really good idea to take control of your own health: being kind to others, doing some exercise, eating mindfully and doing some mindfulness practice seems to be the way forward. Of course reading about it is nice, but actually doing some practice is the way to get the benefits. If you can get to Leicester then sign up for our course that starts on the 20th of March.


The Smart Bubble

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1-20150905_173741You might have noticed that we have a tendency to bat away praise or complements we receive. On the other hand taking to heart anything that seems like a criticism, and while getting distracted by our feelings of hurt, actually missing the useful information that was contained in the feedback.

Surely this is the wrong way round? Of course criticism is difficult and we are trained to be defensive and try to protect ourselves. Perhaps there is a better way: The Smart Bubble is a visualisation is designed to help us more skilfully handle feedback. One might say it is a structured way of learning to manage feedback mindfully.

This visualisation is inspired by the (much more complicated and rather brilliant) ‘Strategy for Responding to Criticism’ by Steve and Connirea Andreas.

The recording below was made at a recent workshop with some young people. It starts with brief explanation that sets things up and follows with a guided imagery. The whole thing is just 13 minutes long.


Mindfulness for Health & Well-Being – The 10 Week Course

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Research into the benefits of mindfulness is growing exponentially. A recent report: “Mindful Nation UK” (Report by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) October 2015) recommends mindfulness as a major contributor to health and wellbeing:

We have been impressed by the quality and range of evidence for the benefits of mindfulness and believe it has the potential to help many people to better health and flourishing. On a number of issues ranging from improving mental health and boosting productivity and creativity in the economy through to helping people with long-term conditions such as diabetes and obesity, mindfulness appears to have an impact.

Although there are many excellent books, articles and resources on mindfulness, there is no substitute for participating in a course where you get the chance to practice and learn mindfulness.

We are running our next 10 Week Mindfulness Course in Leicester starting on 20th March 2016. It runs for 6 fortnightly Sunday afternoons, over 10 weeks. What better way to spend the afternoon? A ‘mind spa’ to help you recharge those batteries, and much more than that: learn how to utilise mindfulness to enrich your life.

The venue, Phoenix Arts Centre is located in Leicester’s cultural quarter with convenient parking.

Here are some of the comments from participants on our last 10 Week Course:

How often does a course change your life? This one will.

This has been a great insight into mindfulness practice which I’ll take forward into my life

The course was delivered with compassion… and enthusiasm. The facilitation was of a superb standard. A huge thanks… for making the course both informative and enjoyable

This course has been a great journey to open the doors of mindfulness.

Mindfulness helps me in every aspect of my life, from child care to work…

What a fantastic course, I felt calmer and lighter afterwards, and more balanced. Thank you… for a truly uplifting experience with a peaceful connecting energy within the group

In case you are new to mindfulness here are some things to consider:

Mindfulness although often experienced as calming, steadying and relaxing isn’t primarily about relaxation. Among other things it is about attentional training, strengthening emotional and meta-cognitive skills, that enable us to act in more choiceful, wiser ways.


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.


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.


Mindfulness: An Experiential Workshop

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On Monday the 13th of April I will be facilitating a workshop at Leicester University on Mindfulness. This workshop is part of the Foundation Degree that I teach on and a few places are open to the public.

The day will have a strong experiential element, interspersed with some discussion on applications.

The accepted idea in mindfulness work these days is that in order to use it with clients, we need to have established a period of personal practice. So one of the aims of this day will be to set things up so that participants can begin this journey. You will be provided with guided mindfulness recordings and a handout with background information and further reading to get you started. If you have already been practising then the day is a chance to take things further.

If you do attend then remember to wear comfortable clothes and bring something to lie down on. The majority of the time will be spent on practising guided meditation. Here is a flyer giving details and how to book.

In November this year we hope to run the next 10 Week Course in Mindfulness, watch out for details here on Mindful-Monkey.


Mindfulness downloads refreshed

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01-20150215_121040 (Resize for blog)I have updated the guided mindfulness recordings here on Mindful-monkey. They are free, just click on ‘Downloads’ at the top of the page. I hope you can use them to support your mindfulness practice.


Turning Towards our experience…

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A friend of mine once explained to me that the attraction of Opiate use is that it makes a person feel ‘inviolable’. Clearly this is not just about drugs, it is pointing to something central in the human condition: our capacity to suffer and our desire to escape suffering. Surely this is the logical thing to do…

Yet it seems that all the things we do to escape suffering seem to increase it: avoidance behaviours, addictions (many other things besides drugs for example eating, shopping) and sadly, for some, hurting others! So what is the alternative to going with the automatic, knee jerk responses of trying to escape from what we feel.

Basically this involves ‘turning towards’ the experience, finding a way to ‘be with’ the difficult feeling. Initially this seems counterintuitive, why would this help? And indeed it is not at all clear how we might deliberately do this. To understand this we need to approach it more directly, through the body and senses, experientially.

In mindfulness practice we learn to turn towards our experience in ‘this moment’, starting with everyday things like the breath, sensations in the body, sounds. This helps to build the mental skill to ‘be with’ things; neither getting carried away with them nor bouncing off them. With practice this becomes a valuable skill in dealing with difficult feelings and thoughts.

This is why Mindfulness is not about relaxation (although the experience can of course be relaxing and calming) it is about learning to attend to things in a new way that sets us on the path to wiser, more compassionate responses and healing.

I will explore this further in future posts.


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