Tag Archives: calm

See The Colour

4 Mar
© Jess Bruce 2016

© Jess Bruce 2016

If you worry or suffer with anxiety or get nervous (don’t we all from time to time?) then this post is for you.

I’m going to share today a really simple technique for calming and quietening your mind.

I used it a lot when I was first starting to recover from ME/CFS and was starting to push my activity boundaries by going out more. I needed a way to silence the noise in my head, the automated subconscious, but very loud voices, telling me ‘you’ll do exhausted in bed for the next week by going out’, ‘you’re going to do a migraine whilst you’re out’, ‘you can’t cope with this’….

By using this technique I was able to shut out all the negative, stress inducing mind noise.

© Jess Bruce 2016

© Jess Bruce 2016

But this technique has a much broader application than just in a chronic illness scenario.  If you’re nervous or distracted, or worried about something or just want a few mindful minutes then try this colour spotting technique.

I like to do this as I’m walking up the street but it could be done anywhere. If you’re at work, sat at your desk, anxious before a big meeting, you could take a few minutes out, it really can take just a few moments, and do this.

So what do you need to do?

Firstly choose a colour. Any colour. The first one that pops into your head or one that resonates with you. I like to use yellow as it’s bright and positive.

Then look around you and notice everything that is your chosen colour. Focus purely on that one colour and mentally note as many things as you can see.

So as I walk down the street, I see yellow daffodils, the yellow light on top of a taxi, the yellow shop sign, the yellow amber traffic light, the poster with yellow lettering at the bus stop, the little girl’s yellow wellington boots, the young boy’s yellow hat, the cyclist’s high-vis yellow vest….and so on. And before I know it, my mind is quieter and clearer, the stress or fear has fallen away, the negative voices subsided, having been crowded out and replaced by a much more positive and calmer frame of mind. I’m more mindful and present in the moment, focused purely on walking up the street and what I can see around me.

© Jess Bruce 2016

© Jess Bruce 2016

So easy, so simple and yet incredibly effective. If you find your mind has wandered off, then just bring yourself back to your colour and what you can see around you. You can repeat this technique as many times and as often as you need. The more you do it, the more positive synapses in your brain you build and the weaker the negative ones become.

Incidentally, after you have done this exercise, without actually looking again, try and recall what you can remember of a different colour. So if I’ve chosen yellow, I can reel off a whole host of yellow objects that I’ve noticed in the street. But what about red? Pause and try and name a red object. Don’t think about it too hard. Don’t look around you again. What can you remember? You’ll most likely not remember any colour other than the one you originally chose. Try it and see. This is a good lesson in you only see what you look for. As in, if you look for the negative in the world, then you will miss the positive. A good little life lesson I think.

So go forth, choose a colour and look around you. Take a few mindful moments out to calm yourself. And then get on with your day in a more positive state of mind 🙂

Are You Present?

25 Feb

Present Moment DaffodilHave you ever?

  • Walked away from your house, and then turned back to check that you did actually lock the front door?
  • Left your house, and then gone back inside to check you turned the gas ring off?
  • Finished reading a page of a book and realised you can’t recall what it said?
  • Cleaned  your teeth for a second time in a morning because  you don’t know if you’ve already done it today?
  • Parked your car and then run back to make sure you locked it? (Mr B’s favourite activity)
  • Gone for a walk and not noticed any of the colours that you’ve passed?

Surely this is not just me? Tell me it’s not just me!

My most extreme example in this regard took place about 6 years ago. I had left the house one morning and jumped on the bus to take me to the station. It was about a 10 minute ride. During that journey I was suddenly plagued with the thoughts of ‘did I lock the front door? Did I even close the front door’? So guess what I did when I reached the train station, where I would normally have changed onto a train to take me into central London? I got back on the bus and went home to check the status of the front door. I had of course closed and locked the door. I then had to wait 10 minutes for the bus to take me back to the station. I had missed my train and had to wait for the next one. Needless to say I was late for work that day!

I’m not sharing all this to make me out to be a completely forgetful crazy person. My memory is actually pretty good. I don’t think it actually has much, if anything, to do with memory.

No, I think it goes deeper than that.

The reason I ‘forget’ if I have done these routine tasks is that I am not mindful of doing them. I am not present in the moment when I am doing them. I am on autopilot. My body is doing it but my mind is elsewhere. My mind is off in the past rehashing and analysing some event that I can no longer change or it’s dancing forward in the future worrying and planning the minutiae of an activity still to come. My mind is anywhere but present in the here and now.

All this leads to increased stress. On the bus there were moments of acute panic where I struggled to remember if I had closed the door. Heart pounding  etc. But more than that there’s a latent layer of subconscious chronic stress constantly eating away at our health. Multi tasking is hard work. It is draining. And a lack of mindfulness is pure multitasking. Our brains are clever but they can’t be mindful about more than one thing at once.

Yes we lead busy lives, with all of us trying to juggle many different balls. But there is only one moment. This moment, right this second is all we actually have.

We can only do one thing in each moment. So as you move from moment to moment, jumping from one activity to the next, be present on that one thing. Be mindful. One moment, one focus. It won’t slow you down or hold you back. It will actually enhance your productivity and efficiency by making you calmer, more clear headed and more focused.

Mindfulness and present moment awareness of course originate in the realm of meditation and mindfulness meditation is wonderful. I encourage you to take the time to sit and meditate. It has helped me enormously. But if in response to that you scoff and say ‘pah! I don’t have the time to meditate,’ then try flipping it round and aim to be more mindful in your every day tasks instead. Every little helps after all. It doesn’t have to be confined to the meditation mat (and incidentally if you do mediate you will find that over time you naturally become more mindful in everyday life anyway).

Mindfulness and present moment awareness are very simple concepts. Be fully present in the current moment. Be conscious of what you are doing in  THIS moment. Focus on the task in hand right now. Nothing more, nothing less. Simple yet amazingly effective. They can have profound effects on our health and happiness.

So why not give it a try?

Before continuing with your day, take a few seconds right now to mindfully embrace this moment. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and focus purely on your breathing, the replenishing inhale filling your lungs and the soothing exhale as you let it all go.

Now go forth back to your day, taking a little more present moment awareness with you.

Spring in Bloom

16 Mar
Snow Drops and Sycamore  © Jess Bruce 2015 All Rights Reserved

Snow Drops and Sycamore © Jess Bruce 2015 All Rights Reserved

Spring definitely feels like it has finally sprung in recent weeks here in the UK. The days are longer, the mornings lighter, the air a fraction less fresh and the grey cloud is giving way to sunshine and blue skies. It is uplifting and energizing. It makes me feel alive and happy.

No Springtime would be complete with the bursts of flowers that brighten the world at this time of year. I love the beauty and delicacy of flowers. Each one so perfect and simple. My attention to flowers is not something that has always been there though.

Yellow Aconite  © Jess Bruce 2015

Yellow Aconite © Jess Bruce 2015 All Rights Reserved

I’ve written before about, how prior to becoming ill with ME/CFS, my life was hectic and busy. Or more importantly, my attitude and mentality were hectic and busy. I was rushing through time, always striving for the next thing, the next weekend, holiday, deal closing, deadline to be met. Looking back, I don’t think I engaged with each, or any, individual moment. I wasn’t mindful in any sense. I was plagued with worry about the future and the past, very rarely actually present.

Crocuses in my Mum and Dad's front garden  © Jess Bruce 2015. All rights reserved.

Crocuses in my Mum and Dad’s front garden © Jess Bruce 2015. All rights reserved.

Now, after life, rather drastically, forced me to slow down by throwing a chronic illness my way, and after a lot of relaxation and meditation practice, mindfulness is something I try to practice in all aspects of everyday life.  I should probably ‘fess up here. I do not pretend to be any kind of meditative zen master (masteress?? mistress??) who oozes mindful calmness 24/7, my loved ones are most likely laughing out loud at that idea. Wishful thinking they’re probably saying. And yes, whilst meditation is definitely a work in progress for me (isn’t it for everyone, really?), I am definitely more mindful now. And for that (and many other things) I am grateful to my illness.

Crocuses in full sunlight, one in full bloom, one nearly there, another just opening and one still a tiny tight bud © Jess Bruce 201

Crocuses in full sunlight, one in full bloom, one nearly there, another just opening and one still a tiny tight bud © Jess Bruce 2015 All Rights Reserved

Now I don’t just see a bunch of flowers and think they’re pretty and pass by (or as I think is so often the case in our crazy hectic world, not even notice the flowers). Now I see the colours, the shapes, the light, the contrast between the delicate softness of the petal and the stronger presence of the stem.

Photography helps me to mindfully notice and appreciate the little things. It helps me pause and slow down. It takes time to compose a photo. My photography is a work in progress too and whilst my pictures may not be technically perfect, it is all about the process, that’s what matters, that’s what helps me to be, at least a little, mindful and calm – I seem to have unintentionally touched on a deeper theme here, life is a work in a progress, life is a journey? We’re always learning?

Snowdrops from a few weeks ago, the end of winter © Jess Bruce 2015

Snowdrops from a few weeks ago, the end of winter © Jess Bruce 2015

I started this post thinking I’d write a few lines about how happy I am Spring has arrived and then just share some photos of flowers. But somehow it has become more than that. I apologize if it comes across as waffle. But for me this post celebrates the beauty of flowers, the warm joys of spring and the calm a few mindful moments may bring, if you are able to pause, however briefly, to let it in.

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