I wanted to make a very simple video to introduce everyone to the idea of meditation and take away some of the preconceived ideas of great difficulty that can sometimes get attached to buzzwords.

I have been meditating for many years now and I have had a great many teachers from all over the world. Some teachers made it easy and some made it incredibly complicated. I practise daily now and its very simply just a part of my day like sleeping and eating. Very few of us even get a chance to stop and breathe each day so maybe just try and take a few minutes for yourself each day and check in.

This quote really sums it up for me:

“One who does not touch the stillness of his life, one who does not touch the stillness of his being, one who does not know or has not tasted the stillness within and without, will invariably get lost in the movement.” Sadhguru

Sometimes the greatest power is in keeping things simple!

Have you tried meditation? Do you like it? I’d love to hear from you

Namaste

Ali xxx

ALL VIDEOS PROUDLY SPONSORED BY COULEUR CARAMEL IRELAND

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

Some tips on how to transform your stress this holiday season

We all know that Christmas is a big opportunity for stress—the combination of having to appear to be having fun, while coping with all the frustrations and extra work can be a real downer.

One of the things we need to know about stress is that it closes things down. It’s hard to feel joyful and enthusiastic when you are stressed. We tend to close in on ourselves and set up a kind of survival regime to get us through. Maybe it does help us to struggle along but it does not help us to care for ourselves, to open our hearts to others, to learn anything about the habits that lead to the stress in the first place.

Let’s take a look at some ways we could set about making connections this Christmas instead of going into survival mode.

Connecting with yourself first of all

 making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

Do you ever feel like this gingerbread person at Christmas—all in your festive gear but not able to communicate how you are really feeling? The holidays can be a strangely lonely time, even when you are surrounded by people.

As the lead up to Christmas gathers pace, why not take some time to check in with yourself and see what you are hoping for from the holidays.

Whether you are religious, or not you can ask yourself what is important to you about this holiday. Is it having family around and lots of good things to eat and presents to share? Or is it about having a few days off from work and routine in the middle of winter. Whatever it is, it will help you to set an intention for yourself—a kind of inspiration for the holiday.

Then at the other end of the scale, try to see what it is that triggers stress for you. Take a moment to sit quietly and then ask yourself these questions:

  • At what times do I experience a high level of frustration over relatively small events?
  • How does it feel in my body?
  • What do I do about it?

Going through this exercise will help you to identify the times when stress can creep up on you, so you can prepare for it and hopefully, avoid it. Allowing yourself to use your body like a stress barometer shows you the effect that stress has on you. Spending time thinking about how you deal with stress helps to get you off the survival treadmill and really consider how you can ease your stress.

Connecting with the present moment

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So often when we are busy our minds are just rushing away with us thinking ahead of all there is still to do. That’s particularly sad at Christmas when there are so many enjoyable rituals in getting ready—like making the cake.

So one way we can ease a feeling of stress is to connect with the present moment. For example, instead of hurrying to make the cake while worrying about the mince pies, a present for grandma and whether you have enough wine in the house, try focusing on simply sorting your ingredients for the cake, weighing and adding them in the correct order and mixing it all to a delicious consistency. Take time to smell the fruits and the brandy. Allow yourself to enjoy the texture of batter. Remember to make your wish and just be with the making of the cake. When it is in the oven, you can go on to the next task and approach it in the same way. 

Connecting with a sense of enjoyment and celebration

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

The more we can get our stress into perspective, the more chance we have to enjoy some of the magic that there can be around Christmas. We said earlier that stress closes things down and one of the first things to go is any sense of enjoyment and celebration.

Allow yourself time to look around you and see the things you enjoy. I am a big fan of Christmas trees both indoors and out in the open. There is something about all the lights and glitter on a dark winter evening that just says home and love to me.

What is it that you enjoy most at Christmas? 

Connecting with family and friends

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Probably if we are honest, one of the biggest sources of stress is how the family is going to manage together over the holidays. It can get complicated with all the in-laws and the extended family. We all know that awful tense feeling that can come when uncle George manages to come out with the opinions that we know will drive our teenage daughter to distraction, or when grandma insists that we don’t know how to out on a Christmas like they did in her day. You dread the moment when your sister-in-law, who always manages to make you feel like bargain-basement wife, arrives for dinner looking as if she just stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine, along with her two immaculate children. You, on the other hand, hot and bothered from the kitchen feel less than glamorous.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind while the family dinner is underway.

Everyone around the table wants to be happy—just like you do. None of them want to be anxious, or worried, or miserable and yet, inevitably they all have times when they are—just like you. Chances are that each one of them have their own insecurities about the family gathering—just like you do. Perhaps some of them are even intimidated by aspects of your behavior–what a good cook you are, how you juggle family and career—who knows? It can help so much if before your irritation arises you can put yourself in the shoes of the person irritating you—perhaps they are more like you than you think.

Connecting with the rest of the world

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas, As well as closing things down, stress makes us loose perspective. Whatever is going on with us seems so much more important than anything else that is happening in the world—which in the scheme of things, really does not make sense.

During the holiday period you can counter-act any tendency to feel that getting the lights working on the tree is more important than, say, global warming by consciously allowing yourself time to think about what is going on for everyone else in the world. Many millions of other people are celebrating Christmas around the world, with traditions that may be very different from your own. There are also millions who are not celebrating Christmas and it is just another ordinary day for them. Then there are the millions who whether or not they wish to celebrate Christmas are not able to because of poverty, or war, or persecution. Keep them in mind also.

So, a very merry stress-free Christmas to everyone!

 

Maureen Cooper is the author of The Compassionate Mind Approach to Reducing Stress. She combines more than thirty years of experience as a professional educator and senior manager in a non-profit organization with a hands-on education in Buddhism. In 2004 Maureen founded Awareness in Action, a consultancy dedicated to the secular application of mindfulness, meditation and compassion in the workplace.

www.awarenessinaction.org

Meditation for anxiety and depression, alison canavan, mindfulness for anxiety and depression, Mindful monday, prescriptions, why pills don't work, health and wellness, positive mental health

Is breathing good for you? Well of course it is we need to it to keep us alive but have you ever noticed in situations that are stressful our rates of breathing change and some of us even hold our breath without even realising it!

Down through the years I have struggled to find something that really works for my depression and anxiety. Don’t get me wrong I have found lots of things that have worked temporarily, but I was sick of being on a roller coaster and simply craved consistency in my moods and my ability to cope with everyday life.

Regular meditation practice has given me the just that! Through meditation I have received the most precious and priceless gift of peace both in myself and also in the world I live in. It helps me to cope with stress, depression, anxiety and the everyday challenges that come with daily life.

In a study called: The effects of Mindfulness based therapy on anxiety and depression, Published by The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, they found that mindfulness based therapy was moderately effective for anxiety and mood disorders and the results suggest that mindfulness-based therapy is a promising intervention for treating anxiety and mood problems in clinical populations. Their meta-analysis was based on 39 studies totaling 1,140 participants who received mindfulness-based therapy for a range of conditions, including cancer, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and other psychiatric or medical conditions.

But too be honest the clinical evidence backing meditation and mindfulness now is plentiful and hard to argue with. The reason I actually chose this study was because the results said moderately effective. Sometimes people expect miracles but in my opinion the miracle is the ability to cope with life a bit better.

If we do a lot of little things that are moderately effective imagine how powerful they would all be when they work together?

I really wish I had been given the kind of prescription in this picture when I was a teenager rather the usual pill filled kind we have become so used to today.

Meditation for anxiety and depression, alison canavan, mindfulness for anxiety and depression, Mindful monday, prescriptions, why pills don't work, health and wellness, positive mental healthDon’t get me wrong I know that there’s a place for medication but there is no way we need the amount of medication being prescribed today. I have swallowed or drank my emotions for well over half my life and making changes is hard, in fact it is very hard at times, but the thing is those changes are so worth it in the long run even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

It costs nothing to try meditation and if you are struggling to sit still and focus on your breathing try some guided meditations from websites like Zen 12 or Omharmonics I find these great if I’m very hectic and stressed or in an airport, on a plane, bus or train.

But try my simple “first steps” approach and see how you get on:

Meditation can be done anytime and anywhere and the busier you are the more you need it.

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START BY:

Sitting in a comfortable position with your back straight

Start to notice the natural flow of your breath

Inhale and exhale slowly and keep repeating

Don’t try and stop your thoughts, instead just observe them and let them go by almost like watching a motorway and if your favourite car drives past, let it go and don’t follow it!!

Start small and build – so even a couple of minutes a day building in more time each week. This way you will be able to incorporate it into your routine without you even noticing.

Finally Enjoy it!!!

#MindfulMonday

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It’s Mindful Monday again and today I wanted to talk about mindfulness and meditation becoming trendy and cool.

I thought this was great in the beginning but now the inevitable has happened and on a daily basis I now get people sending me links to articles questioning does it work or is it just ridiculous. Where’s the real proof etc…

I’ve been meditating for over 15 years now. I was first introduced to it at the end of my yoga classes in London but then it developed into something much more. I have explored many different types of meditations in my time and I currently practice primordial sound meditation and I also have my own visualization techniques and affirmations that work for me. I have never needed science to back up how it made me feel.

Over the past few years I have deepened my practice further and again I have not needed studies that cost millions to verify the benefits that I am living, feeling and noticing in my day to day life from my practice.

I do however respect and understand people that are interested in the scientific proof and thankfully we have that now. This area is called neuroplasticity, which is a term that is used to describe the brain changes that occur in response to experience.
There is an abundance of studies on how meditation affects the brain now and they are amazing to read with more and more benefits being proven everyday.

FURTHER READING:

Scholar works
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/

I have always been drawn to the more spiritual side of life and this is something I have shared with very few people for obvious reasons down through the years. I used to get slagged off for going to my weird classes and retreats but in recent years it has become cool to pay for expensive retreats where people are hoping to get all the answers to their problems and that is where the problem lies. We live in a quick fix world of instant gratification. People expect to practice meditation and miracles to happen.

We are all looking for something to help us navigate this complex and somewhat difficult journey called life. The fact that mindfulness and meditation has become such a cult trend is a huge warning sign in my opinion that there are an awful lot of people desperate for answers and some peace in their lives.

We all have different tastes in music, clothes, food, exercise, people and so on which means one type of relaxation technique will not work for everyone. The Telegraph newspaper has even called mindfulness the saddest trend for 2015, but too be honest what I find sad is that we are living in an age where chronic diseases are at an all time high, stress is our biggest killer, our food is packaged and processed beyond recognition and depression and anxiety issues are crippling society.

I know that I would personally rather been meditated than medicated.

For years I was both and it has not been easy to trust myself, but the only person you can really trust on this journey is yourself as you are the only one who can decide what is right for you.

I will admit you need to very discerning in this field because just like any other trend it has started to attract a lot of opportunists trying to exploit people’s vulnerability. I was extremely vulnerable when I was looking for answers years ago. I was always looking to outside sources for answers but as corny as it sounds all the answers lie within you. By all means study, practice and try new things but at the end of the day you are the only person who can truly know when you feel at peace.

If meditation and mindfulness give you peace in your life it really shouldn’t matter what anyone else says. Some people never feel peace their entire life don’t be one of them.

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The word therapy can scare people sometimes. The thought of entering a room where your deepest darkest secrets might be uncovered or even worse you might find out you have problems that you never even knew about before!

Believe me I can understand these fears because I have experienced them myself and putting yourself in that position can make you feel vulnerable and insecure. What I have realised though down through the years is that therapy in that sense is not always the ultimate answer. Yes it can help you take the first step towards wellness and that first step on the ladder can generally be the hardest, but good health is something that needs daily attention and heading to a therapist once a week is not going to solve your problems if you are still living a destructive lifestyle outside of therapy.

Simple everyday things like dancing and singing are examples of great therapy that we can include in our daily life. Art is therapy, friendship is therapy, meditation is therapy and self-care is therapy. How about a bubble bath, a walk in the park, coffee with friends or if you’re a parent enjoying a cup of tea by yourself! To me therapy is anything that contributes to a positive and balanced lifestyle.

We all encounter challenges on a daily basis so we need to find tools to help us cope that work for us personally and sometimes you need to try a lot of tools before you find the one that works for you.

For example if yourself and a friend were given a box each containing 100 keys and you were told that only one of the keys could open the door. What would you do?

You would have to try the keys one by one in an effort to find the one that unlocked the door. You might be lucky and pick the right key first time round or you might have to try 99 keys before you finally find the one that works and the same applies to life.

What works for one person will not work for another and you need to find what works for you. Different things will work on different days but the most important thing is to have fun along the way.

20 THERAPEUTIC THINGS FOR YOU TO TRY:

  1. Buy yourself flowers
  2. Take a bubble bath
  3. Swing on the swings in the playground and see how high you can go (my favourite!!)
  4. Listen to your favourite music
  5. Have a disco
  6. Sing your heart out
  7. Read your favourite book
  8. Have a cup of tea and your favourite treat
  9. Organise a get together with friends
  10. Meditate
  11. Colour (yes adult colouring is wonderful)
  12. Knit or sew
  13. Laugh!! At yourself, a funny movie, a silly book
  14. Go for a walk
  15. Cook your favourite meal
  16. Take a nap
  17. Journal- yes, write down your ideas, dreams, hopes and worries. I find writing one of the greatest forms of therapy
  18. Write that thank you card to someone special (There is always someone we need to thank!)
  19. Try yoga or Pilates
  20. Give yourself a compliment

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As children growing up we can become what we hear and quite often we hear negative things about ourselves that we own and then they become a part of us.

As a young model I got a lot of positive comments but if one photographer or casting director said something negative that is what I would hold onto. I remember a very well known photographer telling me I had man hands that were unnatural and then a designer who told me was body was completely out of proportion and my legs were actually quite short for my height and I seemed to have an abnormally long torso! Of course every time I went to a casting I would try to hide my hands and if tops were too short on my upper body I would think to myself “well Alison that’s because your body is disproportionate”

At 37 this evokes so many emotions for my younger self but primarily sadness that I carried around such nonsense for so long but what it also shows is how people can be very irresponsible with their words and as the saying goes “be sure to taste your words before you spit them out”.

Words can stay with you forever and anyone who has been in a relationship of any kind and experienced emotional abuse will know exactly what I mean by this.

So for this, my first ‘MINDFUL MONDAY’ lets all try and be kinder and nicer with our words about each other and ourselves. Our words have both meaning and strength.

This week write a list of 10 things you like about yourself. They can be big things or small and they don’t necessarily have to be about your looks so for example:

  • I love my smile
  • I love my legs
  • I like my hair
  • I love my sense of humor
  • I like my musical talents
  • I’m a great dancer
  • I’m artistic
  • I can say NO when I need too
  • I’m honest
  • I’m a great mum!! (yes say it loud and proud)

Have fun with your list and have on your journey of becoming the most complete and best version of YOU!

Ali xxxx