All posts filed under: personal development

Alphabet of the Heart

For those meditators amongst you, you’ll be interested to hear about the Alphabet of the Heart – a mnemonic meditation exercise created by Dr James R. Doty, M.D, founder and director of the Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University. The exercise was created by Dr. Doty as a reminder of the 10 steps towards the journey of compassion and mindfulness. Attributes that need to be cultivated to live a happy, meaningful and altruistic life. These include Compassion, Dignity, Equanimity, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Humility, Integrity, Justice, Kindness and Love.  The exercise involves running through each letter during our daily meditation practise. With reflect for a time on each attribute, manifest the intention, and as a result, cultivate more of it in our everyday lives. You can hear Dr. Doty explaining the creation of the exercise here and there’s also a full podcast series including personal reflections, research on each attribute and practical tips to cultivate that specific attribute found here.  

How the Body Scan Gives us the Power of Choice

Technotox was asked to write an article for Everyday Mindfulness about the power of the body scan… I used to suffer from severe pain in my left shoulder. I would walk for 50 minutes into work each morning with a strappy bag casually hooked over my left arm. It was a beautiful vintage mulberry, so what did it matter that it was causing shooting pains deep into my muscle tissue? For weeks and weeks I ignored it, mindlessly going about my business, caught up in the busy cycle of day-to-day life, oblivious to the long term damage this pain might be causing. Three months later, I joined a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course with the aim to make mindfulness a part of my daily routine. I had heard a lot about its benefits and read plenty of books on the subject, but now it was time to put it into action and to be held accountable for my daily practice. During the first week we carried out a 20-minute body scan. Something I had grappled …

Poetry Friday

The Guest House This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, Still, treat each guest honourably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, 
and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. Rumi    

Why Should We Turn Towards Difficulty?

We all come up against difficulty in our lives. In various forms and guises we’re met with grief, rejection, fear and loneliness, confrontation, difficult friends or work colleagues, decisions and situations that are out of our control (the EU referendum!), the list goes on… Difficulty causes us discomfort, frustration and pain. So our natural response is to turn away from it. We don’t want to feel it, craving something else, something more pleasant. Averting our attention elsewhere and turning away from our problems and difficulties. We don’t want them or to even acknowledge them so we don’t, often fantasising, burying and ignoring them instead. But this aversion starts to inform our lives and dictate our decisions. A person that finds it difficult to be with rejection for example, will do anything to avoid it. Not applying for that dream job, or asking that cute girl at the bus stop out for a coffee. Someone who finds confrontation difficult will allow themselves to be walked all over, never hearing the truth or any constructive criticism. And intimacy? Well that person won’t ever …

How Smooth is your Wheel of Life?

There’s a very useful coaching tool called the Wheel of Life, used to take a snap shot of our lives at any given moment and help us assess the areas that need improvement. Completing the wheel allows time for reflection; for us to pause and take stock of the areas that use up most of our time and energy. These areas include Money, Career, Friends and Family, Significant Other, Fun and Recreation, Health, Physical Environment and Personal Development. To complete the wheel you must give each area a mark out of 10 for how satisfied you are with them currently – the centre represents 0 and the outer perimeter a 10. You then draw a line or curve at that point to create a new outer edge. Looking at your completed wheel, what do you notice? How balanced is the Wheel? How smooth or bumpy is the ride? Which mark would you like to be giving in 6 months time? What are some steps you could take to reach those goals?        

The Art of Resilience

We will all experience suffering at some point in our lives. Perhaps through illness, heartbreak or death. Difficult times are inevitable, often hitting us some idle Wednesday afternoon, unexplained and unexpected. No matter how careful we are, how honorable a life we lead or how hard we try to avoid pain, in the words of Buddha, life is suffering so it’s inevitable it will affect us all eventually. For some, suffering will be an old friend, to others a frightening new foe. We cannot change the things that happen to us, we must each accept that. Fortunately, we can change the way we respond to them and this is where building resilience is key. What is Resilience? def. the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy. It’s important to point out resilience isn’t overcoming pain nor trying to forget it ever happened, instead it is growth and personal development through suffering and adversity. Author, psychologist and resilience specialist, Chris Johnstone designed the Self Help SSRI Model to help each of us improve our resilience. It’s important to …

Be happy. Be productive. Build PERMA.

We all want to be happy. When we’re happy we look on the bright side of life, take ourselves less seriously, become more motivated, loving and generally better people. Scientist know our genes and upbringing influence around 50% of the variation in our personal levels of happiness and our circumstances, (like income and external environment) about 10%. Which leaves as much as 40% accounted for by our daily activities – the relationships we keep, the things we do and the choices we make. So our actions strongly impact our happiness levels, which is great news because it means we can easily improve them! Respected positive psychologist Professor Martin Seligman developed a well-being theory called the PERMA Model. It combines five building blocks, which need to be in place for a happy and flourishing life. The five elements are – POSITIVE EMOTION (P) Experiencing feelings of joy, hope, love, inspiration, satisfaction, gratitude or any positive emotion allows us to experience wellbeing. ENGAGEMENT (E) When we’re fully engaged in a challenging task and time seems to stand still, we experience a state of flow (see blog post ‘How do you find your flow?’). We lose our …

24hr Social Media use Linked to Teenage Anxiety

Research from the University of Glasgow has found a strong link between teenage social media use and increased anxiety and depression. Lead researcher Dr Heather Cleland Woods carried out the study on 467 teenagers, looking at their overall and night-time specific social media use. Further tests measured sleep quality, self-esteem, anxiety, depression and the subjects’ emotional investment in social media, which relates to the pressure to be available 24/7 and any anxiety around not responding immediately to texts or posts. Results showed that overall and night-time specific social media use along with a higher emotional investment in social media, were related to poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem and higher anxiety and depression levels. Dr Cleland Woods explained: “Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety, and poor sleep quality may contribute to this. It is important that we understand how social media use relates to these.” She went on to say “While overall social media use impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to …

Poetry Friday

One for a (hopefully) sunny Bank Holiday! Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now. Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine. Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle …

Who’s been to the School of Love?

From a young age we’re inundated with ideas about love. From the perfection of Hollywood movies to the romance of classic novels, like sponges we absorb ideals of what the perfect relationship should look like. It is rich with red-hot desire and passion, holds the patience of a saint and the utmost respect. But best of all no matter who or what we are, we all deserve it. In fact, isn’t it our basic human right to experience the ultimate romantic love? True love doesn’t require effort or patience, or a compromise of ourselves. True love just happens, regardless of our own imperfections and selfishness. If it takes work, surely it’s not real? Then at some point along the path to adulthood, a sharp prick bursts our bubble and reality is revealed. Love isn’t easy. It does require effort. A great deal of effort at times. In fact it’s an ongoing balancing act that requires active participation and very clear and concise levels of communication. Like a garden requires nurturing, a loving relationship needs feeding, pruning and …