Mindfulness and social media

mindfullness and social media: why have a mind if yoiu can't change it?

‘Relentless Brexit news coverage is really hurting our mental health’, reports Wired. I know from first-hand experience how disruptive the arguments on social media (and elsewhere) over Brexit can be to our patterns of thought. Relax … this isn’t a post about whether it’s better to remain the EU or leave. This is about how mindfulness can help at times of disruption and stress.

I can almost directly attribute my mindful meditation practice to my use of social media and Brexit. Let me explain …

For a while I became a bit obsessed with Brexit, in the form of being a keyboard warrior on Twitter. Twitter brings a little feeling of power, tweeting directly to politicians I disagreed with and calling them out on their … er … inaccuracies. I enjoyed retweeting stuff I agreed with or commenting when a Tweet was clearly wrong (in my not-so-humble opinion). I’d continually read newspapers and watch rolling news, waiting for the slightest change in the story.

Then I noticed … after I’d spent too much time on Twitter, I’d be in a terrible place mentally.  Yes, when someone challenged my point of view; and more than that – when I’d been reading my timeline and getting drawn into negative energies.

I knew others were taking a break from Twitter or deleting their account entirely. A full social media detox is a very 2019 thing to do and for good reason.

I knew that adding my tweets to the noise made very little difference (while at the same I also knew that, if everyone thought their shouts into to wilderness would make no difference we really would be lost). At the same time, being active on Twitter was making a real impact on my ability to focus on life and have a clear mind.

Now I’ve cut back on my consumption of the news, while staying in touch with developments. We don’t need 24 hour rolling news to keep in touch. I do still tweet, but spend little time aimlessly scrolling through my timeline and try to tweet with compassion (and when I can’t find something worthwhile to say I don’t say anything). I guess I’m more of a non-participant observer now and observing from an increasing long distance away.

And yes, it feels good. I still know, in outline, what’s happening. I can always dive in and find out more when I need. With a clearer, more mindful, approach, I can make a compassionate contribution in areas where I can be most effective.

If we could all be a little calmer much of the current disruptive atmosphere could be handled better. I know my new approach isn’t for everyone. Some are naturally drawn to activism. We probably need those people too since I’m not arguing that we should passively accept whatever the extremities of politics throw at us. Of course, I still have days when I’m shouting at my monitor screen and feeling the need to add to the chaos. They are decreasing though.

Perhaps if we could all be a little more mindful, taking just a few minutes each day to observe our thoughts and come fully into the present moment, our society could find a way back from the extremes.

Care to join me in giving it a chance?

How to set up your day to mindfully resolve stress

mindfully resolve stress - stressed man in chair

This is the first in a weekly ‘how to …’ series of blogs. For the next few weeks I’ve planned posts on how to unwind mindfully at the end of a stressful day, how to meditate when you feel too anxious to meditate, and how to make the most of binaural beats (a rapid way of achieving a meditative state), and much more. When you’d like to know more about how deal with stress using meditation and mindfulness, do leave a comment below – or contact me – and I’ll consider posting or answer you directly.

Setting up your day to mindfully resolve stress can be one the most important steps in dealing with stress and anxiety. Sometimes we wake up already feeling stressed … our mind has been churning things over sleeping (even if not actually awakening in a cold sweat at 3 a.m.) and so our waking thoughts are stressful even before the first sip of coffee. Sometimes we knowing a stressful day at work lies ahead. Sometimes we don’t know why we feel stressed – we just do.

It’s important to totally believe that we create our own reality. Sometimes this is where resistance appears and we are convinced we are at the mercy of external events. If you are resisting that idea, just play along for now and see what happens.

Creating our own reality is a double-edged sword though. Of course, we want to create a reality in which we are dealing with all life throws at us easily; where we are in a state of flow at all times.

The other edge of the sword is that we create a reality where we feel stress whatever happens, no matter how trivial. Notice these two sides of reality creation when we react in different ways to exactly the same incidents. For example (one from my own reality) – on a good day, a car parked so it is blocking the pavement is understandable because the driver was clearly seeking to avoid blocking passing traffic. On a bad day, the same car parked in the same way is, at the very least, irritating – paths are for pedestrians and too much urban space are given over to cars at it is. In creating our own reality we are setting ourselves up for more of the same, for better or worse. So make it a better reality.

How does all this allow you to set up for a good day? One where you are present, in the flow, and letting go of stress rapidly?

Start the night before. As you drift off to sleep, mentally review the highlights of your day. Just the good bits. The times you smiled and laughed, when you received or gave a compliment, when you were congratulated for good work. (Don’t tell me there were not any of those moments! There will be, even if they seemed insignificant at the time).

As you recall those moments, notice where in your body you to feel especially good. You don’t need to do anything, just be aware as you drift off for a peaceful sleep.

As you awaken in the morning, in response to an alarm or naturally, notice you are already feeling calm. If that’s not true for you, simply notice the thoughts that are causing stress and anxiety, and observe them as they pass. Do not engage with them or attempt to resolve them. Simply observe, and thank them for serving you … as you let them go.

Now, if you have time, complete a mental body scan (the link is to a free resource of a body scan script you may wish to use). First, breathe in deeply, accepting the calm breath filling your lungs, then breathe out fully, letting go of any stress. Repeat three times, or as many times as is necessary to calm your mind and your body.

Finally, visualise your stress and anxiety-free calm place. Perhaps a favourite place from a holiday, or perhaps somewhere entirely imaginary. As you visualise see all the detail you can, and you might notice a feeling of deep calm throughout your body. You can return to this visualisation whenever it will be of use to you. Let go of the notion you may have been given as a child that daydreaming is bad for you. As you practice these mindful thought exercises more and more often, you will notice how good for you daydreaming and mindfulness is.

Enter your day, feeling calm, rested and ready to create your own positive reality for the day ahead.

You might want to make this a daily habit. Add 5-10 minutes to your morning routine to ensure you can relax into your mindfulness session without any added stress of thinking about running late! You could set a timer on your phone to end the session with a meditation bell, or use the Insight Timer app I posted about a few days ago. I’ll be adding a mindful audio version of this and future ‘how to …’ posts soon.

Insight Timer: An Excellent Resource for Meditation

Resource for meditation: Insight Timer logo

An excellent resource for meditation has become a new ritual. Every morning, even before I have coffee, I open Insight Timer and sit in their Daily Insight. This is a short session (around 5 mins if you have a free account, up to 20 mins if you are a member) and the teacher and topic changes every day. Without exception, so far, these have been an excellent start to my day.

To give you an insight, topics over the past five days have been ‘Your Journey to Self Love’; ‘Trust the Flow of Life’, ‘Love Frequency Sound Meditation (528 Hz), ‘Connect to Your Inner Joy’, and today it was ‘Grounding Attention in the Present’.

If you can spare just five minutes (10 mins. on a Sunday – go on, treat yourself) this is such a beautiful way to ease yourself into a day of creating your own reality. The app tracks your consecutive days of meditation, the time you have invested, and more. You need to touch a button to say you’ve finished, and I’ll admit this morning my meditation was recorded as 50 minutes because I fell asleep (well … it was early.)

I do encourage you to create an account at Insight Timer and experience these audio meditations. You’ll also find other material there including courses, music, talks, a timer (of course) for your own meditative practice – as well as audios for children and for beginners. There’s plenty of free material, and some (such as courses) is accessed via a yearly subscription at £55.99 (the first seven days are free). There’s enough high-quality free material to keep you happy for a long while.

I know, you’re now expecting me to declare my affiliate relationship with Insight Timer. Well, when I decided to post I did search for their affiliate programme and couldn’t find one. So, this is simply a recommendation from a very satisfied user.

Given my interest in creating online courses based on mindfulness and meditation, and as I’m currently writing many of my own guided meditation audio programmes, naturally my plan is for Insight Timer to feature some of my work in the future. After reviewing their requirements for teachers submitting material, I know they are committed to quality both of content and recording.

For now, I’m only there as a customer. There is a social aspect that allows you to see who is accessing this resource for meditation at the same time as you, add friends, and create groups. When you see I’m online, do join me and say hi.

Meditation in the park

Meditation in Ouse Valley Park (image from The Parks Trust)

Sunday meditation in Ouse Valley Park was peaceful, blissful and restorative.

We sat for a few minutes, closed our eyes, and became lost in meditation. The sounds of nature were all around us; birds, running water, the gentle breeze through the trees. A train in the distance. A jogger, breathing heavily, his feet crunching on the path; a few minutes later, the same jogger on a return journey. A bike zooming past and seeming startingly loud against the natural background. Our granddaughter sometimes talking, wondering if she could splash in the stream.

Hearing all these sounds and more. Letting them go. Bringing attention back to my breathing; back inside.

Opening my eyes. Feeling calm, restored, at peace with the world.

An intention: Whenever possible, in whatever surroundings, to sit for a few minutes and meditate. To sit for a few minutes and enjoy being alive.

Another intention: When next in Ouse Valley Park, to record the sounds; bottle them and take them with me. Use as a background for a visualisation.

Originally posted 11/07/2019 on my previous website, ‘Inner Wisdom’.