Feeling disconnected? How meditation helps you feel more present

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If you're feeling a little out of sorts, find out how a meditative practice could help you re-connect your body and mind  

Feeling disconnected? How meditation helps you feel more present

Meditation practice can help bridge the gap between our emotional response to events of the past and the emotions associated with the anticipation of the future - both of which strongly influence our present experience. Meditation practice can therefore be a tool for being mindful of our relation to the past and future, contemplating the effect this has on our wellbeing and how we can be more present in this moment, while not being negatively influenced by past and future experiences.

The term “meditation” refers to a variety of practices that focus on mind and body integration and are used to calm the mind and enhance overall wellbeing. Some types of meditation involve maintaining a mental focus on a particular sensation, such as breathing, a sound, a visual image, or a mantra, which is a repeated word or phrase. Other forms of meditation include the practice of mindfulness, which involves maintaining attention or awareness of the present moment without making judgments.

Meditation might be an ancient practice but its benefits for reducing stress, and improving overall mood, focus, sleep, and wellbeing transcend centuries. Meditation can help connect our emotions from the past and our eagerness for the future, and that’s why it teaches us how to become more present in life.

Living more mindfully, by focusing your attention on the present moment without judgement, is a wonderful way to ease stress and anxiety while creating a sense of peace and serenity within, that allows you to pause when agitated, and make more calm, productive choices.

Why not try guided meditation with Happiful?

Picture this: you finally sit down to practice some meditation, but as soon as you close your eyes, however much you try to stay focused on your breathing, your mind begins to wander - to work worries, that task you forgot to do, that problem that needs solving. Sound familiar? The good news is this is completely normal - emotions and feelings that we have suppressed throughout the day often come to the surface, sometimes overwhelmingly, in moments of calm.

It's OK if your thoughts wander - at first, they almost certainly will. Over time, you will be able to observe your thoughts when meditating, but not attach to them. Daily meditation, little and often, will allow this control over your thought patterns to come more naturally and these thoughts will disturb the peace of the present moment less and less. Our meditation journey is individual to us, and it might take some of us longer to master than others, but through practice, you will discover that the journey is the important part, not the destination.

Daily meditation can help you perform better at work. Research has found that meditation helps increase your focus and attention and improves your ability to multitask. Meditation helps clear our minds and focus on the present moment, which gives us a huge burst of energy for our tasks and goals. When you can easily concentrate on one activity at a time, your self-esteem grows, which solidifies your feeling of control over the present moment.

Discover the wellbeing benefits of living seasonally: winter edition

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As part of a new series of articles, we’ll be exploring how to deepen our connection with the world around us, and embrace the seasonal gifts nature has to offer. So, first let’s set foot into a winter wonderland…

Discover the wellbeing benefits of living seasonally: winter edition

Wrapped in my dressing gown, I pad out on to my front step, into the biting cold darkness of the morning, and listen to the quiet. There is the occasional rumble of a car driving down the nearby dual carriageway, and the twitter of birds waking up, their song abrading the dawn. It is peaceful, tranquil, and I stare down my suburban street, at the orbs of streetlights and the rows of houses where some are still asleep, while others’ windows glow as people make their breakfasts and prepare for another winter’s day.

Despite the often hectic weeks around Christmas and New Year, there is a sense of quiet during winter. Beyond festive parties and presents, this is the perfect time to reflect, and take stock of our lives.

Most of us are familiar with the idea that nature is beneficial to our physical and mental health. But for many, it isn’t entwined in our days. For me, that’s definitely the case. When I go for a hike or spend time in my garden, my mood is lifted, but I don’t do this enough. So, what can I do to increase my connection with nature?

I’ve experienced serious mental health issues in the past – five years ago, I was in hospital, struggling with severe depression. And while low mood and anxiety are still a part of my life, I have moved on a long way since then. Doing things like connecting with nature to benefit my wellbeing seems particularly important as I try to move forwards and reclaim myself.

Can a year of living more seasonally help?

The Wheel of the Year

Observing how nature shifts with the seasons is a joy. Though the skeletal trees may make us think of winter as a time of lack, there is so much happening beneath the surface as the northern hemisphere prepares for spring.

I’m drawn to the idea of the Wheel of the Year, which is how some neo-pagans mark the changing seasons through the observation of eight sabbats spread throughout the year.

From Yule, otherwise known as the winter solstice, on 21 December, the hours of daylight begin to increase, as each day lengthens little by little. This year, I am getting up to watch the sunrise on the solstice – something I have always wanted to do. Clutching a flask of coffee as the sun emerges on the horizon, this will be a chance to reflect on the past year, and set intentions for what I want the next to bring, my hopes expanding as the daily sunlight waxes.

Imbolc is a sabbat marked on 1 February, and celebrates the stirrings of spring. We can plant seeds and think about our hopes growing. I will light a candle and reflect on how the daylight is increasing, and what I need to do to make those intentions I set at Yule become a reality. These little rituals are a way of working with nature, of thinking about how it relates to our lives.

Learning about nature

Learning about nature is also a great way for us to connect with it more. I’m lucky to have a park near where I live where I often go to walk and feed the birds. There is a joy to knowing the breed of each goose I throw seeds to. Lots of beautiful Canada geese are he

Michelle Elman on the dilemmas of modern-day dating

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Our brand new columnist, author and life coach Michelle Elman, questions the societal scrutiny and pressures put on singletons, and explores how we can reframe the dating game

Michelle Elman on the dilemmas of modern-day dating

If you have been single long enough, odds are someone will have asked you ‘why’ you are still single. This question has always irked me, because it implies that being in a relationship is the default, when actually it’s the opposite. We come into this world single and, one way or another, we leave this world alone, too. Not everyone wants a relationship, and during my eight years of being single, I hated being asked this question, but what I hated even more was when people would try to answer it for you. “Maybe you aren’t putting yourself out there enough?” “You will meet someone when you least expect it” “Maybe you’re too picky?”

So, whether you’re sick of hearing these same questions, or you want to understand why, even with the best intentions, they can be problematic, let’s unpick these common sentiments singles hear all too often:

“Maybe you aren’t putting yourself out there enough?”

The implication here is that if you are single, it is your own fault, and you aren’t working hard enough to rectify the problem that is ‘being single’. Just because you are single, doesn’t mean you have to be dating. You are allowed to just want to be single. And even if you are dating, it is undeniable that dating consumes a lot of time and energy, so it’s understandable if it’s not always the top of your priority list. There will be times when your work comes first, and there will be times when you come first. Being single is not a fault that needs fixing.

“You will meet someone when you least expect it”

First they blame you for not making enough effort, and then they blame you for making too much. After all, you don’t want to be desperate. Can you imagine if we said this about any other goal you wanted to achieve? Sending in your CV to a job you want would be seen as ‘desperate’. It makes no sense. This is a phrase often uttered by people in hindsight, but the truth is rarely close to it. There is no shame in actively pursuing a relationship.

“Maybe you are too picky?”

Well, if you are not desperate and you are putting yourself out there enough, then you must be too picky! You’d hope I would be picky! Think about how much time you spend with a person when you are in a relationship. Typically, it’s the person you spend the most time with. With our growing loss of community, we as a society now place more emphasis on our primary romantic relationship, so you better pick someone who you like being around. I am a big believer in the phrase ‘you become the five people you spend the most time with’ and so if a person is going to consume so much of your time and energy, damn right you need to pick wisely!

Ultimately, we need to reframe society’s view on what it means to be single. We need to stop seeing it as a sign of our unlovability, or that there is something wrong with us. You can actively choose to be single, and by do

50 calming affirmations for Christmas chaos

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Take a moment for yourself this festive season, with these 50 affirmations designed to help you find calm in the chaos

50 calming affirmations for Christmas chaos

Christmas is a time for giving, gratitude, reflection, and togetherness. It’s also a time for over-flowing to-do lists, kitchen nightmares, noise, lights, and family fall-outs. So, this year, doesn’t it just make sense to make a commitment to creating pockets of calm, where you can?

Affirmations are short phrases or mantras that we can repeat to ourselves, either aloud or in our heads, that help us to focus our minds, soothe stress, and build resilience. Here, we’ve collected together a list of 50 affirmations, designed to help you find calm in the chaos.

Which ones resonate with you? Pick out a selection, note them down on your phone, or write them out on a piece of paper to keep in your bag or pocket – and, when you feel your stress levels rising, breathe deeply, and repeat your affirmations. Let the calm in, and the chaos go…

  1. I let go of the pursuit of perfection.
  2. I am committed to peace and calm.
  3. I am capable of tackling obstacles.
  4. My thoughts do not control me, I control my thoughts.
  5. My wellbeing is worth protecting.
  6. I am doing the best I can.
  7. I take things one step at a time.
  8. My feelings deserve to be recognised.
  9. I invite joy into my life.
  10. I am the architect of my own life.
  11. I give myself permission to rest.
  12. I let go of stress.
  13. I am safe.
  14. I can ask for help when I need it.
  15. I deserve to be treated with respect.
  16. I recognise my skills.
  17. My feelings are valid and I will Iisten to them.
  18. I do not need to please everyone.
  19. I treat myself with kindness.
  20. I live in line with my values.
  21. I have the tools I need to face challenges that come my way.
  22. I will take time to find joy in my day.
  23. I am allowed to say ‘no’.
  24. I am grateful for what I have.
  25. I treasure happy moments.
  26. I relieve myself of the pressure to perform.
  27. I can feel a sense of calm moving through my body.
  28. My mind is still and quiet.
  29. My anxious thoughts don’t rule me.
  30. It is healthy to set boundaries with others.
  31. I deserve to rest.
  32. If I reach my capacity, I can stop.
  33. I am not responsible for everyone’s happiness.
  34. I breathe out stress and breathe in peace.
  35. Asking for help is a sign of strength.
  36. It’s OK to need quiet.
  37. I deserve to feel appreciated.
  38. I am not responsible for the things I can’t control.
  39. I don’t need to prove myself to anyone.
  40. It’s OK to take a step back.
  41. I will have a peaceful day.
  42. I let go of the tension.
  43. I have faith in myself.
  44. I return to the present moment.
  45. I am capable of being calm.
  46. I do not ponder on intrusive thoughts.
  47. I am loved.
  48. External stress doesn't need to affect me.
  49. I deserve compassion.
  50. I am calm.

Looking for support? Connect with a counsellor using the Counselling Directory

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10 things to try in January to benefit your wellbeing

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From a book about nocturnal exploration, to a podcast that will help you find your mindful moment, try something new with our enriching suggestions

1. Page-turners

10 things to try in January to benefit your wellbeing

Wild Nights Out: The Magic of Exploring the Outdoors After Dark by Chris Salisbury

Instead of settling indoors during the shorter and darker winter days, take it as an opportunity to go on a nocturnal adventure, and explore the wonders of nature after dark. From learning how to call for owls, to fireside storytelling, outdoor educator Chris Salisbury’s fun-filled guide is packed with games and sensory activities that can be enjoyed at any age.

(Out now, £14.99)

2. Out and about

Enjoy a winter picnic

If you think picnics can only be enjoyed during the summer, think again! Winter picnics are becoming increasingly popular, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a perfect, low-cost activity to share memorable moments with loved ones in the brisk beauty of winter. So, pack your bag with warm comfort drinks and lunches, and be at one with the outdoors.

10 things to try in January to benefit your wellbeing

3. Act of kindness

Volunteer for Be My Eyes

Living life as someone with vision loss can be difficult, but volunteers at Be My Eyes are here to help make the world more accessible. Sign up to lend your sight to blind and low-vision users to help individuals solve tasks and tackle problems via a live video call – it will certainly make a big difference to someone’s life.

(Visit bemyeyes.com to find out more information)

4. Lend us your ears

‘Meditation Minis’

Do you find it difficult to make time for mindfulness in your busy schedule? With these short five to 20-minute guided sessions, you can always make time for a daily dose. Led by hypnotherapist Chel Hamilton, each episode is designed to calm your anxiety and find inner peace.

(Available on all podcast platforms)

5. Plugged-In

Yulia Sherbak

Whether you’re an embroiderer seeking creative inspiration, or someone who can simply appreciate the fine art of “painting with thread”, follow self-taught embroidery artist Yulia Sherbak. The beautifully intricate needlework featuring nature and wildlife, certainly speaks for itself.

(Follow @mossandfeather)