#Mindfulness for calm

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Its hard to relax and focus on calming thoughts at the moment. I’ve found practicing meditation has helped me in the past and now at this difficult time. 

Why practice mindfulness?

Clinical researchers have carried out a number of tests which have shown that mindfulness can improve your overall health and wellbeing in these ways:

  • lower stress levels
  • lower depression
  • improve the quality of sleep
  • reduce anxiety
  • encourage positive thinking
  • alter the way the mind reacts to difficult situations
  • improve decision making

How can mindfulness be described?

In a nutshell, it’s focusing our attention purely on the present moment. Doing this without letting the mind drift back to past memories or thinking about future events. Mindfulness is embracing the present with acceptance, without judgment.

The monkey mind🐒

There are so many distractions for us to focus our mind on. To illustrate the monkey mind, try this exercise for a couple of minutes.

Focus your mind on your breathing.  Think about where you can feel movement in your chest from your breathing.  Concentrate on this area, for a few minutes. You will notice your thoughts stray, thinking about numerous things other than the breath.

These thoughts are from past or future experiences. The mind is rarely focused on the present. It jumps from one subject to another, like a monkey playing. This practice is called the monkey mind.

How do I start to practice mindfulness?

Start by focusing on your senses when you carry out your everyday routine. By thinking about the feel, touch, smell and the sound of everything you are experiencing.

If you carry out a task such as washing the dishes, think about the heat of the water, the texture and feel of the plates, the scent of washing up liquid and the sound of water filling up the bowl.

“If you have a regular daily routine build some time into it every day to practice mindfulness.”

You could try changing your daily activities. For example if you regularly go for a walk and always walk the same way; try changing the route to one your not as familiar with. Or try a completely new walk.

By changing your routine to something different or new it will get your mind to focus on a familiar task in a different or new way.

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Thought watching

If you find while you are concentrating on tasks thoughts interrupt you. Just observe them, try not to be side tracked by them.

Introduce a label for each thought that arises; ‘I’m nervous about a exam result’, label it ‘thought’, or a feeling ‘I feel worried’ label it ‘emotion’; and go back to the task you are carrying out.

This practice will help train the mind to not follow a thought and get sidetracked by it. Just observe thoughts without judgment, acknowledging them, and labelling them. Going back to the task.

Mindfulness meditation

Taking mindfulness a step further incorporating it into daily meditation practice can encourage the mind to work in a regular pattern.

Mindfulness meditation works by silently spending a few minutes every day thinking about one aspect of the body, such as breathing awareness and acknowledging thoughts, when they arise and bringing back attention to the breathing.

Have a look at my page on Meditation for more information about suggestions for meditation practice.

 

Trouble with #sleeping?…

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A few simple changes can make a difference to your quality of sleep. I know this very well from first hand experience, having suffered from poor unrefreshing sleep for years.

After weeks of not sleeping the body’s functions become impaired making it extremely difficult to function in a normal way. (Whatever normal is for a fibromyalgia sufferer). 

“If you’re thinking, I don’t have fibromyalgia, it’s still worth giving these suggestions a try.”

“Insomnia, fatigue and pain are all part of life if you live with fibromyalgia.” The symptoms of fibromyalgia, such as fatigue and pain are all made worse with poor quality sleep.

Over time I’ve found some solutions that have helped me get a better nights sleep. Obviously, there’s no one size fits all with these suggestions. That said, it’s still worth giving them a go. Just being aware what might work is useful.

On occasions I still find I have some problems sleeping but I can solve these more effectively than previously.

Common problems experienced range from:

  • getting to sleep
  • staying asleep until morning
  • waking during the night
  • getting back to sleep after waking up

Have a look at the following suggestions for improving your sleep

  • Go for regular exercise every morning, for example a walk 

  • Check your bedroom temperature and lighting are beneficial for sleep 

  • Adjust your bed and pillows to make it as comfy as possible 

  • Invest in a electric blanket to warm the bed before you get in and help relax muscles 

  • Avoid smoking, over eating or drinking caffeine directly before bedtime 

My top tips for getting to sleep

  • Help your mind wind down for the day
  • Get into a regular sleep routine for adjusting your Circadian rhythm, try to get up at the same time every day
  • Turn off all devices that emit blue light an hour before bedtime
  • Read a relaxing book or listen to gentle music
  • Try a meditation, like yoga nidra or one for helping you to get to sleep 
  • Use ear plugs and a eye mask to block unwanted noise and light
  • Get into a comfortable sleep position and then try a relaxation routine 

Whilst you are asleep make sure your room doesn’t have anything that will wake you like a mobile phone.

A pet that sleeps in your bedroom and disturbs you in the night, should be encouraged to sleep elsewhere.

If you wake in the night and cannot get back to sleep get up and find something that makes you drowsy like reading or a yoga nidra sleep meditation.

If you find by morning you have not had enough sleep go back to bed and sleep for a while longer. If you catch up with a couple of hours sleep every night you will see the difference after a few months.

I recently read several articles which mentioned vitamin D (sunlight) exposure daily in the morning shortly after rising can help and mindfulness meditation both improved the quality of sleep in fibromyalgia sufferers. 

I believe this to be true because I usually get up and do a daily walk every morning and this regulates my circadian rhythm over the next 24 hours. It’s more important to get up at the same time every day than the time I go to sleep. 

I’ve found improvements in my concentration and ability to switch off at night after practicing regular Meditation on a daily basis. Explore meditation apps for sessions covering mindfulness and sleep. Have a look at my Fibromyalgia Self Help pages on  Meditation and  Exercise

If you have insomnia and it’s not necessarily fibromyalgia related, get it checked out by your doctor or health professional. If they prescribe sleeping pills it would be advisable to be referred to see a specialist sleep consultant.

Have a look at the  NHS sleep self assessment  to determine how good your sleep is.  From this link you will find some helpful information about sleep.

I have #fibromyalgia…

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Fibromyalgia affects around 1 in 20 people. Although most people have no idea what fibromyalgia is; let alone what it’s like to live with.

So, here’s a brief guide for anyone who doesn’t know anything about fibromyalgia.

What is fibromyalgia?

Its a long term chronic health condition characterised by pain. The pain ranges in severity on a daily basis from mild symptoms to severe pain in changing areas of the body.

The main symptoms are:

Pain throughout the whole body 

Joints and muscles feel stiff

Quality of sleep can be poor

Feeling tired and fatigued 

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Extreme Sensitivity 

Cognitive problems, feeling confused, or dazed, sometimes called Fibro fog

Headaches

Depression 

Anxiety 

Painful periods in women 

The symptoms can vary from person to person.

Symptoms can get better or worse from time to time.

Factors that influence this are:

  • the amount of stress you are experiencing 
  • how much daily exercise you have
  • and changes in climate and temperature 

Further information is available on the NHS website.              

If you think you may be suffering from fibromyalgia, consult your doctor or health professional. They will run a variety of tests to get an accurate diagnosis of your condition.

There’s no cure….Yes you did read that correctly; there’s no cure, but…

I’ve lived with fibromyalgia for 15 years and found some times are really tough.

The single most upsetting factor for me has been other people’s perception of ‘living with fibromyalgia’. They almost always get it wrong. So, if you meet someone who has fibromyalgia, tread carefully. Don’t jump to conclusions about how they feel. Listen to them. After all they are living with it on a daily basis.

The positives are my symptoms are still there, but have improved greatly since I was first diagnosed.

I have been able to boost my general health through diet, exercise  and meditation .

This is a short post about symptoms, living with fibromyalgia is another story…

If you would like to read more about what helped me, follow my blog and have a look at my Fibromyalgia Self Help Pages.