When we find ourselves unhappy and lacking that fulfilled sense of joy, it can often be that our “reality” of what is going on for us right now, doesn’t match up with our expectations of ourselves, our circumstances or the people around us!

We call this the Happiness Gap! The bigger gap between our expectations and our reality, the unhappier we can feel!

Think of it like a movie playing inside our heads of how we expect our life to be if it is all going to our “plan” and then there is the reality of what is…

We are happy if our life matches our “movie” but disappointed if it doesn’t.

We are also disappointed when the characters in our movie respond differently in real life than what we expect, which is usually the case in real life, right?

This type of thinking creates a gap between our expectations and our reality. When our mind notices this gap it asks why and this can feel uncomfortable at times. 

The answers to this question can spiral us into a cycle of negative thinking. 

Why am I not happy? Then comes the inner critic of our mind, tell us limiting beliefs such as 

“I am not attractive enough,” 

“nothing ever works out for me,” 

“I am not smart enough…”

With Mindful awareness we become aware of the gap  or as we call it – ‘Mind the gap.’ 

We can learn that in some cases, to work on releasing this movie in our heads by turning our expectations into appreciation for all that we do have.

We learn to throw away the movie and approach life with curiosity, gratitude and kindness.

Practising gratitude or appreciation cultivates a feeling, we can practise this by keeping a list each day of 3 things we are grateful for in our life right now. It can also be a lovely thing to do verbally, with your family or partner at the dinner table at the end of the day. 

It gets easier to practise this over time and can anything that is seemingly “small things” such as a warm meal on the table, or, your comfy bed, to loving friends around you, or, a stranger smiling at you today! 

Try it for yourself, keep it up each day and soon you will really start to notice there is more and more for you to appreciate in your life!

 

Learn more practical Mindfulness tools and techniques and teach them to others, with our Ovio Online Mindfulness Course

Here’s how to get out of your head and into your body.

Are you feeling like there is a lot going on in your head?

Is it hard to let go of the thoughts and focus your attention?

Here’s a 5 minute exercise that we call The Body Scan and it’s great for a few good reasons..

  • Firstly it helps us to integrate our mind and body to feel more centred and present with ourselves and with others.
  • If practised regularly, we can work towards training our attention to the task at hand rather than getting caught up in our thoughts.
  • This simple mindfulness tool also teaches us to practice acceptance and non judgement.

When we feel anxious, we may be swept up in the stories we tell ourselves and using this tool, helps us to let go of the stories.

So find a quiet place to sit where you won’t be disturbed and listen to the audio here.

 

Keen on more joy and less stress?

Get in quick for our  50% of mindfulmay sale!

Ovio Online Mindfulness Course  is now only $62.50 for lifetime access to our beginner course plus bonus content.

So you want to start practicing mindfulness, but you’ve got no idea how to begin?

The wonderful thing about mindfulness is that you can get started anywhere, any time.

 

Here’s how I recommend you get started:

 

1. Set aside a certain time every day

2. Sit in a place where you can actually be as free from distractions as possible.

3. Set a timer, even starting with one minute will make a difference!

4. Simply sitting there for one minute, noticing your thoughts and then bringing it back to whatever you’re anchoring your attention on, such as your breath.

5. You may want to just sit and listen one of our audios such as the Noticing thoughts exercise or see more Ovio audios here.

 

Quite often you’ll find if you go to sit down for one minute, you’ll end up being there for 5 or 10 minutes.

Mindfulness is not only beneficial for you, but for anyone that you come in contact with. So remember, please do not feel guilty that you’re taking time out for yourself!

As you become more accepting, less judgmental, and kinder to yourself, you naturally extend that same courtesy to others.

So get started, give it a go. I wish you all the best.

Learn more practical Mindfulness tools and techniques with our Ovio Online Mindfulness Course

Food choices and diet are often so emotionally driven. We can have all the intention to eat well and avoid temptation to eat foods that we might later regret, but in the moment we feel this intense urge to eat the chocolate in front of us, or dive in for a second helping of cake.

Cravings work in a similar way it’s like all we can think about and the urge builds until we give in.

If we want to make diet or lifestyle improvements we need to look at our habits. The first place to start is awareness of the habit when they pop up and sit with it until it passes.

This is a powerful tool that allows you to ride that real urge of intense desire like a wave.

How to Surf the Urge!

Instead of giving in to the habit, we stop, and we recognise what’s happening, so we recognise that there’s an urge inside us.

There’s a habitual wanting to reach for the food and we know, in prehistoric times when food was scarce this was a survival adaptation but when we are surrounded by an overabundance of food we may need to override this urge.

The idea of surfing the urge comes in when you first notice it building up, just as if you’re surfing over the top of a wave, something like this…

 

1. Feel the desire or urge 

“Oh this urge is getting more and more and more, I’m going to have to give in to it.”

 

2. Just pause at that point, check in and notice –

Where in your body do you feel that urge? How does it feel in your body?

 

3. Notice that big rapid build up and just like at the top of a wave –

It plateaus for a little bit, before you come back down again and the urge eventually subsides.

 

 

Once you start noticing this your cravings or urges like this, you get control over it.

You may be surprised at first, when you practise this technique because you can really feel that happening.

What happens is you disrupt this habit loop. So next time when you see a piece of chocolate cake, your habit is not as strongly as ingrained.

This allows you to start to take control of your eating, you start to be more conscious and deliberate and just breaking free of that habit loop can be just so wonderful.

So wonderfully liberating.

If you need some extra support managing your cravings or addictions our online mindfulness course is a great place to start.

A mindfulness tool that takes just a moment.

How often are you mindlessly caught up in thought and you’re not really “here”?

When we are mindless, we tend to be more reactive to our environment and situations. We might say things we didn’t mean to say, be unable to truly be with someone in a conversation or experience overwhelm of a demanding workload or never ending to do list.

We tend to just go and go all day without allowing ourselves to stop and check in with ourselves, even just for a moment.

Here’s a simple 5 step tool that allows us to go from being mindless to mindful, using PAUSE as an acronym.

This PAUSE can be done anywhere, anytime of the day, in fact – no one needs to know that you’re doing it.

PAUSE in transition times

Use this tool in any transition time, you can do it as you’re walking, you can sit down to do it, at the traffic lights, here are some instances when it could be most useful:

  • PAUSE as you’re walking from one place to another
  • when you arrive home from work, before your step in the door.
  • before eating to have more appreciation for your meal and bring some awareness to what you are about to eat.
  • between clients or meetings.
  • or before having a difficult conversation.  

So we’ve based the five steps around the acronym of the Ovio PAUSE:

P is for Pause.

Just pause and let the true experience you’re having come in. That may sound a little bit obvious, but quite often, we are in our minds remembering something that’s happened in the past or something that’s going to happen in the future and we’re not even noticing the experience we’re having in that present moment is. So just pause and let ourselves notice that.

A is to accept

Acceptance is to no longer resist what is. Accept the present moment non-judgmentally and with curiosity. Curiosity is a beautiful childlike feeling that kind of opens us up to the present moment.

U is You!

Observe yourself, your mind, your body in your environment. So how’s my mind? What’s going on in my head full of thoughts? What’s happening to my body? Am I hungry, am I tired, am I cold, hot? And the environment, what’s going on around me and my senses?

Sigh and Smile

On your next exhale, let out a sigh. By sighing, we’re releasing all that stress and tension. The sigh will naturally be followed by a deep inhale and as we’re inhaling, curve up the corners of your mouth and smile, to release the body’s endorphins, which are the natural painkillers, which actually make us feel happier and more open to the present moment.

E  is to Engage

This is the outcome of the PAUSE. Now that we’re mindful, we’re ready to engage with clarity, a bit more balance and purpose, because we’ve actually arrived in the present moment, which is a wonderful feeling. Engage with those around you or the task at hand.

Of course like any new tool, at first it won’t come naturally. So, it’s recommended to start being a bit disciplined with it and set an alarm on your phone to remind you to PAUSE during the day.

Do this for the first 3 or 4 weeks to build in the habit and enjoy the benefits of a calmer and more present mind.

To manage your emotions with more ease we offer our online beginners course, which is a great place to start. Or deep dive this topic and more join us for our teach or deep dive training.

Balancing family life

April 26, 2018

How to bring mindfulness into your home. 

One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the ability to be mindful – to be still and be in the moment. Learn about mindfulness and how to bring it into your home – by using simple breathing and focusing exercises.

Find some peace amidst the chaos

The hectic world we live in is something many adults find difficult to cope with at times.

But what about the impact an ever-increasing drive to ‘succeed’ is having on our children?

A world of constant action, noise, and expectations can deprive children of the quiet time they need to grow and learn. It can be a baffling and scary thing to navigate.

Mindfulness can help children to:

  • pause and find some peace amidst the chaos
  • learn to turn their attention inwards and use of all the valuable resources they have inside themselves.

Mindfulness has been shown to benefit our brains to such an extent that we can feel calmer, more aware, have an increased ability to focus and concentrate, remember things better and feel happier.” Grant Rix, NZ Mental Health Foundation Press Release, July 2012.

Train your mind and stop habitual thinking

Mindfulness is a non-religious, evidence-based, psychological approach to mind training. Jon Kabat Zinn, Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, describes it as:

“Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness increases our ability to be present and aware. By learning to participate fully in the present moment without thinking about the past or worrying about the future, we can become less reactive and can break free of our habitual ways of reacting. We can respond consciously to the challenges life throws at us rather than react out of anger, fear or anxiety.

Reduce stress and improve your wellbeing

Mindfulness has significant benefits for adults and children alike – and growing evidence to support its effectiveness. Some of these proven benefits include:

  • less stress and anxiety
  • an increased sense of joy and wellbeing
  • improved resilience
  • greater focus
  • better relationships
  • enhanced emotional intelligence
  • improved sleep.

Stop and breathe, and improve emotional wellness

Mindfulness is rapidly increasing in popularity around the world, and has made its way into mainstream medicine, education, and the workplace. Many New Zealand schools are now seeing the need to place emotional wellness of children high on their priorities.

Bring mindfulness into your home

Bringing mindfulness into your home can be simple. As parents, we can model mindful behaviour for our children. We can do this by quietly taking the time to be aware of the present moment, really noticing what we think and feel, and identifying our emotions for what they are. Engaging all five senses to become more aware of and appreciate our surroundings is a powerful mindfulness tool.

Here are some practical things to do at home with your children, to help them (and you) become more mindful.

Teddy bear breathing

Place a teddy bear on your child’s tummy while they’re lying down. Encourage your child to breathe in and out, and to notice their tummy rise and the teddy move up, then down as they breathe out. By ‘giving teddy a ride’, your child learns to relax and focus. This is great to do if your child feels stressed, anxious or is struggling to calm down and sleep.

Mindful walking

Take the time to walk in nature with your child, simply noticing your surroundings. It’s amazing what you notice when you take the time. Discuss with your child your experience of what you see, hear, smell, and feel as you walk.

Make and use a Mind Jar

To make a Mind Jar, put 2 cups of hot water and about 2 tablespoons of glitter glue in a 600ml jar (adjust proportions for different sized jars). Add an extra tablespoon or 2 of fine glitter. Shake until the glue dissolves. You can add food colouring or leave it clear. You can also change the proportion of glitter glue to water if you’d like the glitter to settle more or less slowly. For younger children, you may want to use a plastic jar.

To use the Mind Jar, ask your child to give it a shake. Ask them to imagine the glitter being the busy thoughts going through their mind when something stressful happens. Watch as the glitter slowly settles and ask your child to notice how that is like their thinking. When the glitter settles at the bottom of the jar, the water is clear, just as our minds should be. When we’re calm, we can focus again. ‘Shaking the Mind Jar’ will allow your child to pause between experience and reaction, and give them the chance to respond to something stressful in a healthier, calmer way.

Learn how to clear your mind

As a mindfulness coach and teacher, I’ve found it amazing how quickly children embrace the concept. Here are some comments from children I’ve taught to use the techniques of mindfulness:

“I was losing my tennis match so badly that I stopped and did my mindful breathing so I could clear my mind. I went on to win the game.”

“Now when I feel angry I can stop and breathe before I do something stupid.”

“Now when I get anxious I know why, sometimes I look at my mindful jar or focus on my breathing and it’s not such a big deal anymore.”

By Cheryl Strawbridge (This article was orginally published in kiwi families an online parenting magazine)

 

 

Dealing with addiction is a lifetime process and mindfulness can us help to non-identify with cravings so that they may pass more quickly. This article was orginally featured on Living Sober by Mrs D.

Living Sober is a community website designed to support people who wish to free themselves from the clutches of alcohol. Living Sober is not for profit, nor is it concerned with alcohol reform or public policy. It is about self-education and empowerment, based firmly around the concept of community.

Mrs D is the name Lotta Dann gave herself when she began anonymously blogging her way sober. Lotta Dann is a wife, mother, journalist, writer, and sober alcoholic. Lotta’s blog ‘Mrs D Is Going Without’ began in late 2011 as a series of private letters hidden in a corner of the internet, but is now a hugely popular site that receives thousands of visitors every day. Lotta discovered in blogging for herself that openly and honestly writing about her addiction was a hugely powerful tool. Furthermore, the community of support that built up around her blog became hugely beneficial to her recovery process.

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Dealing with Grief

January 5, 2016
grief mindfulness

How we deal with grief is unique to each of us.  Here’s my story of my own experience with grief and how mindfulness helped me to manage this difficult period. Grief, gratitude, mindfulness and purpose can lead to transformation.

Four days before the start of 2014 I received an unexpected call from my father’s partner. She called to say she had rushed my dad to hospital with severe gastroenteritis. She told me he now only had a few hours left to live! Dad was in Palmerston north hospital and I was in Kuratau on the South Western shores of Lake Taupo, two and a half hours away from Palmerston North. It seemed like some bad taste joke or a call for attention. Dad had been gardening with his grandchildren only a few weeks prior.

Dad held on to his life long enough for my brother and I to make it to his bedside to watch him struggle with disbelief and pain in his eyes as he took his last few breaths.

As a life coach and mindfulness teacher I have helped many people cope with the overwhelming sadness and disorientation that comes with grief. My mindfulness teachings were really put to the test when coping with my own experience.

Below is a list of what helped me the most:

1. I approached my grief with kindness and curiosity and dismissed the popular notion that grief was something I had to rise above or get over. The experience of grief is similar to that of love in that it is totally unique to every person and every situation. It is also a completely natural part of being human.

2. After dad died I noticed my breathing had become very shallow so I had to consciously remind myself to breathe deeply. Shallow breathing keeps our flight or fight response triggered and makes it difficult to sleep, digest food properly, relax or react wisely (as well as impacting our health). I would pause for a moment and check in with my breath then I would inhale deeply and feel my tummy and lungs expand. I would notice the subtle pause at the end of the inhale and the delicious release on the exhale. I repeated this as often as I needed.

3. I spent a lot of time journaling. My mind wouldn’t stop but by writing down my seemly endless thoughts I felt a sense of relief and I also gained valuable insights by rereading what I had written. I also wrote down all of the things I should have told my dad but never managed to. That felt really good.

4. I found mindful walking helped to ground me in the present moment, and balance my emotions. I would walk consciously engaging all of my senses. I was fully aware of each step I took and I focused my attention on all that I could see, hear and feel as I walked and walked. When I noticed my mind had gone back to its usual ruminating I would gently, non-judgementally return my focus to my walking. Slowly my mind and body would unwind and I would find a sense of ease.

5. Through desperation rather than wisdom I became courageous enough to let others see my vulnerability and to let them know what I needed, and how they could help. This was one of the most challenging of all the mindful teachings to follow when I was feeling so raw emotionally but it helped immensely. It also worked a lot better than expecting people to intuitively know exactly what I needed and exactly when I needed it and being disappointed or angry when they didn’t!

This article written by Cheryl Strawbridge was originally featured in Good magazine

Facing Change

January 4, 2016
mindfulness letting go

The only constant in life is change. Change can be fun and exciting. But it can also be stressful and overwhelming.

As much as we might try to control the world around us, life happens, and things change. And ultimately, the only thing we can truly control … is how we RESPOND.

Face change head on with mindfulness

Mindfulness helps you to RESPOND rather than REACT to change. It helps you cultivate the space to choose your response, so you can behave in ways you’re proud of (rather than in ways you later regret!).

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Victor Frankl (Psychiatrist and holocaust survivor).

Sigh and Smile

One of the simplest things you can do when faced with a challenging change is to SIGH and SMILE! Simply take a big sigh out, and then turn the corners of your mouth into a grin. Your sigh out will naturally be followed a deep inhale which will refresh your system. And your smile will send a message to the brain that things are going well and promote the production of feel good hormones – helping you cope with the challenging situation at hand.

Let it RAIN

mindfulness RAIN technique

R.A.I.N is another simple and easy to remember mindfulness tool you can use if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed by change.

R – Recognise what you’re experiencing

A – Allow the experience to just be;

I – Investigate with compassion;

N – Non-identify with the emotion.

Recognise what you’re experiencing

When faced with change it can be tempting to bury your head in the sand and ignore it, to resist the change and think ‘why me?’, or to get angry. The first step is to give your full attention to what you’re experiencing. To notice how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and how the change is impacting you. You might like to name what you’re feeling as ‘anger’ or ‘sadness’.

Allow the experience to just be

Once you’re aware of how the change affecting you, allow your feelings to be: just as they are. Allow what is happening to happen, and how you’re feeling to be OK. Being present with what ‘is’ rather than what ‘should be’ or ‘could be’.

Need help? Try this Noticing Thoughts Exercise

Investigate with kindness and compassion

Step three is to turn inward and investigate what’s going on inside you. If you’re feeling anxious about the change, how does this feel in your body? Does your chest feel tight, is your breathing shallow? Are your palms sweaty? Approach this investigation with compassion and kindness towards yourself. Remember you’re a human with human feelings and it’s OK to feel the way you’re feeling.

Non-identify with the experience

In the final step of R.A.I.N, you remember that you are not your thoughts, your feelings or your emotions. You are not your mind. And you are not your circumstances. You might be FEELING angry, or worried, or sad as a result of the changing circumstances. But YOU are not anger, worry or sadness. And just like the change you’re currently experiencing, so to your feelings will soon change.

“You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”
– Pema Chodron

You can take your time to explore the R.A.I.N technique as a daily meditation practice, or you can use it to gain perspective when you’re in the midst of challenging changes (like stressful travel issues!).

This article written by Cheryl Strawbridge and Emily Mason originally featured in Nadia Magazine