Mindfulness Chocolate Challenge!

Mindfulness is a type of meditation which focuses on the awareness of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment. It is free from interpretation and judgment of your own thoughts and feelings. Practicing mindfulness helps to relax the body and mind, as well helping to reduce stress levels. Today I am sharing with you a guided mindfulness activity. This was one of the very first things I did when I began studying for my Psychology degree, so it’s super beginner friendly if you haven’t tried mindfulness before. All you need for this activity is 5 minutes, 1 chocolate (or a raisin), and a pen and paper (or your phone will do).

The below activity was sourced from Duke Intergative Medicine. My personal choice for this exercise is a small Celebrations sized Malteser chocolate! Ready to begin? Find a comfortable and quiet spot and get your chocolate at the ready…

  • First, unwrap the chocolate, take it out of it’s wrapper(if it has one), and hold it between your index finger and thumb. Focus solely on the chocolate and try to imagine that this is the very first time you have ever seen this food.
  • Take some time to examine it carefully. Really look at it. Give it your full attention.
  • Allow your eyes to wonder across the chocolate, focusing on it’s shape. Are there any different colours? What does it’s surface feel like?
  • Examine it’s texture and note if there is any light shining on it, or if there are any shadows.
  • Begin to turn the chocolate between your finger tips, and continue to focus on it’s texture.
  • Apply a very small amount of pressure to the chocolate – is it soft or is it hard? Feel free to close your eyes if that allows you to really focus on how the chocolate feels between your fingers.
  • Recognize this is as chocolate. What thoughts do you have about this chocolate, if any? Are there any specific memories that come to mind? Do you like or dislike them?
  • Now hold the chocolate under your nose, and take a few natural breaths in. With each inhale, notice how the chocolate smells.
  • Continue to breathe the chocolate in and out, but now turn your attention to the effect this has had on your mouth and your stomach.
  • Slowly bring the chocolate close to your mouth. Notice if you have begun to salivate, as your body and mind prepares itself for eating.
  • Next without chewing, place the chocolate gently into your mouth.
  • Over the next 10 seconds or so, feel the chocolate with your tongue and become aware of the sensations of having it there.
  • Take a moment to become aware of this deliberate pause. How does it feel to take some time before eating this piece of chocolate?
  • When you are ready, prepare to chew. Take one or two bites into it without swallowing, and notice what happens when you do so. Bring your full attention to the chocolate’s taste and texture as you continue chewing. How does the chocolate’s taste and texture change in your mouth?
  • When you feel ready to, swallow the rest of the chocolate, focusing as you do so as it travels down to your stomach.

How does your whole body feel after completing this exercise? Take a few moments to write down any reflections and answers you may have to the following questions:

  1. Was there anything that surprised you during this exercise?
  2. What did you notice about the chocolate in relation to sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste?
  3. Did you have any thoughts or memories that you recalled during this exercise? If so, what were they?
  4. What is one takeaway from this exercise that you will try to apply to your future eating habits?

I hope that you enjoyed this mindfulness eating exercise! Redoing this activity reminded me how I used to take a moment on my commute to practice mindfulness. This helped set me up for the day ahead, as well a block out any possible annoying commuters…! If anyone has any other activities that you find useful, please do share them in the comments with me.

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Working From Home Tips | Mental Health Awareness Week

You may be aware that last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, with this year’s theme concentrating on kindness. Mental health is not an easy topic to approach, but I really wanted to get involved and join the conversation – despite this late upload! Mark Rowland (Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation) shared an anecdote of just how powerful the simple act of kindness is, particularly in today’s circumstances. He recalled how whilst he was waiting in line to enter a supermarket, “One of the staff noticed we were getting wet. He scurried away to find a pile of umbrellas, carefully disinfected the handles and passed them out with a smile. To my surprise, my eyes started to well up. At a time when I felt alone, I suddenly felt connected”. This story really resonated with me and reminded me of a moment I had earlier last week. I woke up on Monday morning momentarily feeling disheartened at the challenge of getting through another week. Another week, working from home, not being able to go out and see family and friends. Yet again. Working as a Recruitment Coordinator, I really enjoy meeting new people and having a direct impact on the candidate experience. I miss not physically seeing any new, as well as the regular faces around the office! It was 8am and I was sat by my desk in my bedroom, drinking a cup of tea. I was checking my work messages from colleagues based in America and Asia, to see if they could support with some upcoming interviews. Over the weekend, they had come back promptly, apologizing for the delay and gladly expressing their support, as well as their gratefulness to me for getting these organized so quickly. At this moment, I found my eyes welling up. I felt really moved by this simple thank you and the mountain that was the week ahead, suddenly felt easier to climb.

I tend to get a lot of my energy from being around people and so have often found it quite difficult having limited social contact during lockdown. Some days I experience brain fog, lack of concentration, and some days I am just caught in the motions. I have beaten myself up for not using every waking moment of this time to be my most productive, creative or <insert your own superlarative!> self. If I’m honest, I’ve been so up and down I could be my own roller-coaster. However I’ve been trying my best to be open and transparent about these feelings; acknowledging them, riding them out, sharing them and it turns out I am not alone. And you know what? The saying, “A problem shared, is a problem halved” is really true.

It may be the start of another week, but I hope you make some time today to check in with yourself and acknowledge whatever it is you may be dealing with. No matter what battle or challenge you may be facing, particularly during this pandemic, your feelings matter. Ignore the small voice in your head that tells you that person x has it “worse” or “harder” than you. Your challenges are yours alone and the intensity of them may be heightened during this very abnormal time. Give yourself the love and kindness you deserve and would give to others.

If you are in need of a bit of self-kindness, I thought I’d share just a few of the things I’ve been doing more regularly, that have been helping me cope over the last 10 weeks and look after my own mental health:

  • Goals; I jot down daily/weekly goals that are achievable. Simple things like reading for 20 minutes or painting my nails have been on this week’s list. This helps find a sense of direction for the day
  • Go outdoors; Whether it’s for a walk in your neighbourhood, in a park or even just sitting in the garden! Going outside really lifts my mood and helps clear away some of that brain fog
  • Listening to podcasts or the radio; I miss physically socializing and podcasts are great to help you feel like you are a part of a conversation and keeping you engaged
  • Read; One of my best friends bought me the book, Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and it has been really beneficial in changing my perspective and regaining some positivity – I’d highly recommend this book for anyone who likes a bit of Psychology mixed with Self-Help
  • Exercise; I’ve been prioritizing my physical health this year and have been making time to exercise more regularly. I have chosen to do workouts that I enjoy and thus am more likely to do again. I haven’t worried about how “easy” or “hard” they are, or personal bests etc. Instead, I’ve been focusing on how they make my feel and it’s the first time in a long while I have stuck to exercise regularly and have definitely noticed results!
  • Challenges; Pre-covid life, the freedom of choice, trying and experiencing new things and places was plentiful. Some days, lockdown has been exhausting as it can seem like one day merges into one. Therefore to establish some differentiation (like my life pre-covid had), I’m trying to initiate new challenges for myself, such as taking time to bake or cooking new meals. Last week I cooked a chicken katsu curry for the first time!
  • Talking; Making time to Facetime friends, family and even co-workers just for a chat like I would have done in the office has helped cheer me up. On the flip side, I know how meaningful these check-ins have been for them too
  • Alone time; Importantly, I’ve also really enjoyed spending time with me! The pandemic has removed a lot of noise and distraction, that my life used to have and has forced me to spend more time on my own more than ever. Yes, it’s cliché but I’m getting to know myself and am identifying the things I both want to and don’t want to do in the future

Although there are days I can be self-critical I try to recognize this behaviour, flip my perspective and be kind to myself instead. According to the MHF, “Kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging… it reduces stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens friendships. Kindness to ourselves can prevent shame from corroding our sense of identity and help boost our self-esteem”.

I hope that you are each looking after yourselves the best way you can and that you make a special effort to be kind to yourself.

#KindnessMatters 

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

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20 Things That Made Me Smile In March

Today is International Happiness Day which could not come at a more needed time! It’s been a testing few weeks and I thought I would lighten the mood with a list of things that have made me feel so much joy amongst the recent uncertainty.

I’ve written a post similar to this before and had a lot of positive feedback (thankfully!). Although I don’t keep a gratitude journal, I really enjoyed writing this post so perhaps now is a good time to start? Have a little read of the things that made me smile this month (so far…!)

  1. My Grandmother laughing hysterically when we found a very old feather boa in her house and got her to wear it
  2. Hearing my next door neighbours singing Ghost’s Unchained Melody to soothe their crying baby
  3. Looking back on my Californian Vlogs as I edit them
  4. Feeling great after exercise and sticking at it consistently as my New Years resolution
  5. Getting positive feedback and recognition at work for the hard work I have been putting in
  6. Making the effort to spend quality time with friends (pre isolation)
  7. Watching videos of Spanish and Italian communities singing to lift their spirits whilst in isolation
  8. Baking brownies that didn’t burn (hurrah!)
  9. Humour from colleagues that have arisen from sad working from home meals
  10. Getting an extra hour in bed and feeling so rested
  11. Saving money by not commuting in (London travel is ridiculous)
  12. Enjoying my current TV series This Is Us, where I feel all the feels!
  13. Starting my podcast (slowly!)
  14. Having a delicious meal out with my boyfriend (pre isolation again haha)
  15. Preparing to celebrate my 8 year anniversary with my boyfriend (go us!)
  16. Enjoying long walks on the rare British sunny days
  17. Game nights with friends (pre isolation)
  18. Reading books which were gifted to me for my birthday, even if it’s just for 20 minutes – it reminds me how much I enjoy reading!
  19. Seeing that the penguins at an aquarium in Chicago were allowed to freely wander around during this quarantine period!
  20. The breathtaking sunsets even on the cloudiest of days reminding me that tomorrow brings another day that has not yet been lived

Wishing you a positive international day of happiness! What things have made you smile this month? Take a moment to think of one thing a day that brought you joy!

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