Shifting focus can be a useful skill to help with your mindfulness practice.
I sometimes practice this in the way I notice my thoughts. Mindfulness does not have to be trying to get the absence of thoughts, but it can pay attention to them in a curious way. I sometimes try to make a shift in my focus from having all these strong feelings, to shift into noticing and labelling these feelings. Once I move into becoming an observer of these feelings, a new perspective often comes into focus. And often what happens is that those feelings lose some of their intensity. It is a subtle shift that allows a gap to develop between what we experience and how we respond to what we are experiencing.
Another way I shift my focus when I’m doing Shavasana* after my yoga session. This shift involves me trying to shift my focus from my busy thoughts, to the pattern of my breath moving in and out of my body. If I get distracted, I just return to noticing or counting my breaths. This shift in my focus, helps to bring a quiet calm to my mind. It also brings a clarity and allows me to get focused on me and my goals and my positive mindset.
And funnily enough, whilst these activities of shifting focus during mindfulness are quite an internal focus, it actually allows me more room to have compassion, time and patience when I’m interacting with others. So being able to use this skill of shifting my focus, paying attention for me, is a great skill for social connection as well. I’d love to know if you have tried to shift your focus in your mindfulness practice or if you are keen to try these next time you want to get some calm in your mind.
And just in case you wanted to know a bit about what Shavasana is!….
*To perform Shavasana, lie on the back with the legs spread as wide as the yoga mat and arms relaxed to the side, and the eyes closed. The whole body is relaxed on the floor with an awareness of the chest and abdomen rising and falling with each breath. During Shavasana, all parts of the body are scanned for muscular tension of any kind. Any muscular tension the body finds is consciously released as it is found. All control of the breath, the mind, and the body is then released for the duration of the asana. Shavasana is typically practiced for 5–10 minutes at the end of an asana practice (Wikipedia).
Dreams are wonderful, dreams get us feeling alive and they can ignite an enthusiasm and magical feelings in us. Children are amazing at allowing their imaginations run wild and can much more easily slip into this way of thinking because fantasy and reality are still being worked out and understood.
Adults however can get very stuck in the reality of day to day life, and generally find, have a harder time slipping into imagination and thoughts of no limits (which is totally understandable as we are responsible for all the challenges of day to day life, which can make it harder to find thoughts of freedom and open possibilities).
To try and get children and adults to step into focusing on their dreams and goals, there is a technique called the Magic Wand question. And it goes something like this-If I had a magic wand and was able to wave it around for your, send a bust of glitter and sparkles into the air and also in that moment, solve all the problems and bring all the things you wanted into existence, what would it look like for you? What would be different in your life, what would you be doing and how would you be feeling?
This question helps us to shift our focus on the problems and challenges and all the reasons why we may feel stuck and get us to totally focus on that life that we want.
Once we allow our imaginations to dream this future that we, the next question is to then focus on what is one small thing we can do to help being that dream into a reality?
Because having that big picture dream is the first part of having it come true. Then it becomes easier to think about the smaller steps that needs to happen for you to have this dream come true and begin to take action on them.
But first, let yourself dream, open your mind up to magical thinking every now, because many dreams we can make come true.
So let me know if you can try this exercise-I know it’s something that has taken practice for myself to do-and if you want, let me know what was revealed to you!
Thinking big is like being asked to dream and voice those dreams out loud. It can sometimes feel opulent and excessive. Especially if you have been trained to think small and to expect little (so we don’t get disappointed when it does not work out)… so it can feel strange to give ourselves permission to change this way of thinking. I know that ‘thinking big’ can be challenging because it’s something that I’ve struggled with at times. But I’ve seen the benefit of doing it personally and for the families I work with too many times to ignore its benefits.
And because of its importance in moving people forwards, it’s a great honour to be part of encouraging others to think big for and develop a picture in their mind of their ideal day, or ideal outcome for themselves and their family.
And whilst I know that can seem scary, because it might be far from where they currently are, but daring to imagine an optimistic future is actually the first step in having that become a reality.
So have a think about when you last gave yourself permission to think big about your dreams, wishes and wants. Encourage yourself to let your imagination run, and get involved with painting the picture of it so it is vivid and clear.
Imagine yourself and how you will feel in this future place or situation and carry this emotion with you. When we allow ourselves to think big, it inspires us to develop our skills in optimistic thinking, which is a great mindset to have along life’s journey.
Having a mission seems like a serious heavy word to describe what you are going to do-it’s strongly associated with war and space and religion. However it also means being involved in work that you feel is your life’s calling.
It’s also a way to describe the feeling that you’ve found a definite purpose or true calling. It’s a feeling that helps you get very focused and determined, and in my mind it feels like a guiding light that shines a path ahead. So even though I don’t know where I’m going exactly, I know enough to feel confident in moving forwards. That for me is how I prefer to see my mission, that it’s not a job, it’s not hard work, but it’s something that aligns with my values and it’s something that lights me up.
And fortunately, when I’m on my mission, I’m able to light the way for others. My mission to educate, support and empathise, is like watching more light bulbs beginning to flicker on, so that others can too begin to spread their own shine.
Having people find their voice is an important part of my goals for many people I work with, even if it’s not a conscious goal for them. Although they may list activities and actions they need support with, I’m looking deeper and wondering about mindset and confidence and assertiveness skills. I have the urge to help with their confidence to be who they are, to have the courage to ask for help if they need it and assertive skills to be able to advocate strongly for themselves or their loved ones.
Being a minority group comes with all kinds of challenges, so it’s part of my role and my privilege to help you find your voice. And when that voice is found, to encourage it to speak and if need be, to amplify the sound so that your message can be heard clearly.
And I know that this is not always easy to do. I know myself who generally feels fairly confident in using my voice, when I have to use my voice in a way that will invite more attention, scrutiny or possibly criticism, that it’s hard not to listen to unhelpful thinking that tells us to ‘shoosh’ and quieten down.
But I’m reminded of a lovely quote ‘speak even if your voice shakes’ from the anti-bullying campaign, that confidence comes from doing. It’s also a great reminder that speaking up can have impact near and far and that the positive ripple effect is something we can’t ignore.
Speaking up and using our voice, which can then be a collective voice, can then give others the courage to do the same.
Structure is required for planning my thoughts, my time and my energy. Structure helps me to provide my energy out in a more even manner, otherwise I feel stretched, under-resourced and overwhelmed.
Structure helps me to break large tasks and goals down into achievable ones. Structure provides and framework so that you can have freedom within that. Structure helps us to make sense of our world and with that comes reduced anxiety. Structure aids control and accountability. Structure takes discipline and commitment- but the payoffs can be great. I probably thought less about it in my life except when I was studying, until I had my own children. Now having structure and routine is essential for all the organisation I need to accomplish.
I’m always curious about the role structure plays in people’s lives, as it can seem that some people are living with such ease and freedom and it can appear that they don’t have any structure at all. But I think that is the illusion, that those that do have a good amount structure, actually a life that has pockets of freedom and an overall ease.
How does your family respond to structure? Does it reduce anxiety or does it feel too confining? I know a common topic is how to ensure enough structure in the routine of the day to reduce anxiety for children who are seeking of structure, versus allowing flexibility and change that happens within family life, to occur naturally.
So do a quick scan of the structure you have in your life and that of your family and see if you are happy with the amount of structure, or are there small changes that could shift it towards the right amount for you.
Being in flow is when I’m so totally in the moment, and time is not registering and I’m feeling joy and connection. And it’s found doing lots of my recreation actives such as yoga, painting and listening to favourite music and meditation.
However, I’m really fortunate that it’s also found when I’m in session with a family and I can feel that I am on the same wavelength as they are, what I’m sharing is resonating with them and it feels as if I am doing what is my purpose-supporting, guiding and validating their experiences. I’m so fortunate that my ‘day job’ is also something that allows me to truly be in my flow state.
Today I wanted to give you a very quick summary of just TWO steps that will help you with a common problem or challenge I frequently hear. And that is-“how do I help my child with their emotions?” So whilst is a very big, broad and individual question, but I thought I would give you two things that will help you along with this. 1)The first step is understanding WHAT emotions are and HOW these are experienced and COMMUNICATED for your child. Remember that emotions are experienced as PHYSICAL sensations in the body, but that they are also a THOUGHT process that occurs in our minds, which is further articulated through our use of language. So particularly for younger children and children with autism, there can be a couple of additional challenges with emotions because of they way they may be perceiving their emotions physically (due to a different sensory profile) and differently to how we would expect. And in addition to this, they may not have the skills or knowledge on how they can give this feeling a label and then express it verbally -and this could be further hampered due to challenges finding words for feelings and or expressive language delays). The second step is to then help them with linking these emotions onto the correct facial expression or word for what it is they are feeling. You can do this via the use of visuals, prompts and supportive parenting to assist them make the link between their feelings and a label for these feelings. This process of naming and labelling our emotions in turn helps to reduce the intensity and return to a calmer state more easily. So I hope that these two steps helps you to understand and help your child with their emotions.
Music is a powerful creator of emotion, memory and movement. It has the ability to transpire us to exact moments in time or a period of time. It also operates on an unconscious level as well, in that we may be unaware of memories associated with a song until we hear it. I have that happen in my yoga infusion class, where if I hear the tracks that we do our ab workout to, my body remembers immediately!-not necessarily fondly! Recently I was asked to pick a song that could be an anthem for this year. Although I have so many music loves, I picked a song that had been recently resonating with me, just because it was a new song I was enjoying. It does not have profound lyrics, it’s not by one of my favourite music artists, BUT it does remind me of warm summer evenings of being carefree and unwinding. And now it is winter and this feeling is needed more than ever! So Harry Styles ‘Watermelon Sugar’ is playing as I write! I love how a favourite song has the power to shift your mood, encourage you to move your body-all the things that creates a release of that feel good brain chemical dopamine. Getting more of this is a positive move for our mental health and wellbeing and a way to prevent and assist with depression. So what song gets you moving and what song creates a happy grove for you, or ignites memories that are great to relive?
Make sure you get some music in your day today and sing along if the mood takes you!
For me, when things get difficult, when I don’t think I have energy left in me, my children and knowing that I have the power to improve their life, to influence them in a great way, is what gives the extra push to keep going, to keep working, to keep expecting more of myself and to keep learning.
They are our teachers at the same time, they are there to be taught and guided and supported. Their mental health and wellbeing is more important than most (if not all) other items that try to take our attention and time, so let that guide you.
Let your families motivate you to make difficult choices, push yourself out of your comfort zone and to do what needs to be done. I know my family is worth it to me and I know yours is worth it to you.