Mindful Monkey.

“You’re not hallucinating, MPs really did pass crazy bad drug law” says New Scientist

Tags: , ,

You’re not hallucinating, MPs really did pass crazy bad drug law

These are not my words but the headline of an article in New Scientist. I’ve been tracking the discussion around the new ‘Psychoactive Substances Bill‘ for a while. The disquiet around this legislation has been mostly expressed in more measured tones, so this, coming from a scientific publication stood out.

Since Mephedrone (MCAT, Meow, Bubble) there was a  ‘leap frogging’ between new drugs (NPS) and the law, and it was evident that each time a set of designer drugs got banned, a new set appeared. And each new set of drugs seemed more hazardous than the last. Things seemed to be getting progressively worse.

So the government decided that a ‘ban everything’ approach would solve the problem. There are two potential issues with this approach. Firstly if you say everything psychoactive is illegal, you immediately need to start creating exceptions. So it starts with Alcohol, Caffeine and Tobacco, but then where will it end? Secondly how do you police this? There is no evidence that making a drugs illegal makes them go away; but there is evidence that criminalising substances creates unintended consequences, most notably more crime.

This reminds me of the saying (often mistakenly attributed to Einstein, but of unknown origin) that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Consider this: We know the safety profile of Cannabis, it has been around for a long time and there are no known cases of overdose or physical harm. There is a worldwide trend towards decriminalising it and it is being researched for a range of medical uses. While at the same time the latest synthetic cannabinoids (helpfully produced for us in China) are creating merry hell in prisons, amongst homeless people and other vulnerable populations. Are you beginning to see a possible solution?

Source: You’re not hallucinating, MPs really did pass crazy bad drug law | New Scientist

The Smart Bubble

Tags: ,

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

Tags: ,



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

Tags: , ,

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

Tags: ,

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 downloads refreshed

Tags: ,

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.

What to do with a Gut Feeling: A Question of the Signal to Noise Ratio?

Tags: ,

Do you think the importance of emotions is down played? We hear phrases like “… oh you’re just being emotional”. Reasoning is often put forward as superior faculty for dealing with our experiences. This position argues that we should disregard emotions as somehow ‘soft’ or ‘fuzzy’ and rely on reasoning and intellect.

Yet most of us also suspect that our emotions are important. For example most people know that it is not wise to ignore our feelings about something and that using a ‘gut feeling’ can be a good way of deciding or knowing things.

So how do we resolve this seeming conflict? In recent years there has here has been a revolution in thinking about the brain; the importance of emotions in how we think and process things is seen as central to how the brain works. The ground breaking research of Damasio and Panksepp has helped to create the field of study called Affective Neuroscience.

For now let’s look specifically at what we call ‘gut feeling’. How good is the information it provides us? Can we really trust a gut feeling? Is it reliable? Most of us would not ignore a gut feeling – yet we also know that it may not be infallible.

Let’s start with the idea that the information being provided by our emotions is important, relevant and accurate. However, problems arise with errors in the reading of them. The signal is being incorrectly deciphered, a bit like taking a reading from you electricity meter and calculating your gas bill from that. As you can imagine that would lead to an unhelpful outcome.
20140810_150318-001 second resize

So what we are saying is the emotions are a key part of our wisdom, the feeling tone in our body provides essential signals which make up our ‘emotional guidance system’, our ‘emotional intelligence’. So the ‘gut feeling’ about something is a very important message, it provides essential information. So how do we decipher and use this inner guidance wisely?

The ‘knee jerk’ reactions to our feelings will not usually be the most helpful way to respond. For instance it is common that when feeling afraid or angry people will ‘lash out’ against the person (or situation) that appears to be the cause of these feelings. I guess you can see that this is usually not the most helpful or wise thing to do. So how do we use the information better?

Firstly we don’t react to it ‘automatically’. To have the important mental skills to be with an experience, the difficult feeling, and not have the knee jerk reaction, but rather be able to ‘hold’ and contain the feeling, listen to it, without either becoming overwhelmed or cutting off from it. This gives us an opportunity to hear its deeper meaning, which is usually more helpful and is trying to guide us in important ways.

Understanding all this conceptually is not easy, yet with a few weeks of regular Mindfulness practice most people start to see it happening in their lives, in their reactions to things. Old habitual knee jerk reactions are not triggered off immediately, and somehow ‘space’ appears around things in a way that allows wiser more helpful responses.

Perhaps one way of understanding this is in terms of ‘signal to noise ratio’. When there is a lot of noise the important signal is obscured. As the intensity of the inner ‘noise’ is reduced, the important signal becomes clearer; we can ‘hear’ it better. The Mindfulness practice helps us strengthen these skills and this becomes the doorway to our healing and growth.

You can now get all the Guided Mindfulness recordings you need to get going with your practice here.

Or you can come on the Mindfulness 10 week course starting on the 21st of September.


Venue update for the Mindfulness for Health and Wellbeing – 10 week course

Tags: , ,


Demand of the course was greater than anticipated so we have changed the venue to a more spacious one. The new course location is:

The Woodhouse Room
4th Floor
Charles Wilson Building
University of Leicester

The Woodhouse Room is located on the 4th Floor accessible via lifts and is a lovely room overlooking Victoria Park.

There will be free onsite parking during the course. Come in via Entrance 1 (near sports centre) then drive round and park on campus. Charles Wilson is the tall building in the centre of the campus. If asked at the gate then tell them you are on a course in the Charles Wilson building.

This link takes you to a map of the university  (In the menu on the top left click on Charles Wilson).

There are a few places left so if you were thinking about coming then sign up soon.

Look forward to seeing you soon

Motivating People

Tags: , ,


Here are a few ideas that came up during the Motivational Interviewing workshop we are in the middle of facilitating. Miller and Rollnick define:

MI is about arranging conversations so that people talk themselves into change, based on their own values and interests

Time and time again I find myself thinking:

People change as a result of how we listen to them, rather than what we tell them

We often find ourselves in a situation where our job is to stimulate change, we are supposed to ‘persuade’ people to change in a way that will benefit them. I have found a useful way of looking at this process:

Persuasion is not about getting a person to do what you want them to do, it is about getting them to want to change.
It is not about coercion, it is about desire, the desire for change is induced within the client

I will be running a 2 day Essential Motivational Interviewing Skills in Nottingham on the 16th & 17th of December 2014.

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com