Posted in mental health, Mindfulness, wellbeing, wellness

There’s no such word as can’t!

So, let’s have a show of hands. Who looked at this title and thought back to their childhood and what they were told by well meaning parents each time they uttered words about not being able to do something? Who has heard themselves using this very phrase as an adult when a small person in their life has said, in an exasperated tone ‘but I can’t do it!’? Who also knows, that as an adult, they’ve found themselves many times to be the one making the ‘I can’t’ statement e.g. I can’t draw, I can’t swim, I can’t cook etc? So, is the term ‘can’t’ a superfluous word which should be removed from our dictionaries at once, or, more likely, do we need to think about our use of it and assess whether this is actually what we mean? Personally, I think the latter is likely to be favoured by most of you, but have you ever considered why?

The reason for this particular blog post is related to an idea from a compassion group which I’m currently signed up to and which I attend each Wednesday afternoon. It’s part of a therapeutic service offered by my local wellbeing team and was suggested by a therapist I was seeing on a one-to-one basis. There are 9 of us who attend and work alongside two therapists who run the group. Last week, we were talking about our experiences of doing a simple meditative breathing exercise at home which we had been asked to do for homework each day. One of the group members said, when sharing her thoughts, “I can do the rhythm of breathing here but I can’t do it at home”. Although this was met with nods from a number of the group, the response from one of the therapists was very different. She didn’t say ‘there’s no such word as can’t’. What she said was, that we all need to be mindful of using the word can’t in this kind of situation as an I can’t mentality can hinder self compassion, feelings of self worth and all of the other things that our group is all about. It’s this alternative way of thinking which I believe holds an important message for us all, but particularly those of us who struggle at time with our mental health.

You might be thinking that there are some things that you simply can’t do. An example here could be, I can’t fly. I’m not blessed with the physical make up which enables an ability to fly i.e. wings, so therefore this statement is true and factually accurate. You would of course, be correct in this case. However, if I share another ‘I can’t’ which I myself am a frequent user of ‘I can’t draw’ then the same logic cannot be applied because I am capable of drawing but what I actually mean is I’m not particularly gifted in this area.

Changing this mentality a little further though, can mean re-phrasing our utterances more carefully so as to give them an even more positive tone involving much more self compassion. If, as in the examples above, you aspire to be better at something, you could change what you say to accept where you are now but also where you would like to be in the future. So “I can’t do soothing rhythm breathing at home” would be rephrased as “I’m finding it difficult at the moment to do the breathing at home but I’m hopeful I will get better with practise”. In the same way, “I can’t draw” would become something more like “I find drawing quite difficult at moment but I’m working hard to develop my skills and techniques and I’m getting better with practise”.

I’m sure you can think of many examples of times that you’ve been a victim of the ‘I can’t’ mentality and there will be many reasons for this such as fear, lack of self confidence, feelings of failure or inadequacy. But, if we think carefully before we use self deprecating phrases then we can set our minds free from this way of thinking about ourselves in order to try to become more loving, compassionate and kind towards ourselves.

Accepting who we are, celebrating our achievements, letting go of our perceived failures and seeing ourselves as a work in progress with strengths and areas for improvement, we can stop with the negative self talk and hopefully feel better about ourselves and our lives.

I hope what I’ve said here makes sense and that it has at least made you think about how you talk about yourself to others. If you have any other hints or tips about self compassion, I would love it if you shared them in the comments. Also, let me know if there are any “I can’ts” that you find yourself particularly struggle with and find yourself beating yourself up with.

Until next time, stay strong, positive and kind towards yourself.

Much love, Laura xx

Posted in Mindfulness

Applying mindfulness techniques to chores – can ironing become a pleasure?

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neatly pressed and looking pretty

Yesterday, I started a mindfulness class. It’s a free eight week course designed to be an introduction to the core techniques and is provided my the Wellbeing service where I live. I signed up back in November and got a place in January so didn’t have to wait too long. I found the class a wonderful experience and can’t wait to learn more next week.

So, what’s this mindfulness thing all about?

In brief, mindfulness is all about becoming more aware of the present moment focusing on the here and now rather than the past or the future. It’s been scientifically proven to help our mental wellbeing, as long as you practise it regularly. If you want to read more about mindfulness and the benefits, click here to be taken to current NHS information and guidance: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/

In the class, we did a variety of meditations and techniques including what I shall call ‘the grape experience’. We were given one single grape each and asked to hold in our hand. We were then guided to experience it as though we had never seen a grape before using our 5 senses. So, we looked at it, from all angles, felt it (the skin, the temperature, the texture etc) smelt it (both in our hand and later in our mouths), explored it in our mouths (by rolling it around, testing it with our teeth etc) and then eventually bit into it and experienced taste and heard the sound it made as we chewed.

Now, you might be thinking, who’s got time to eat like that every day, or, alternatively, you could be questioning, quite rightly, what on earth grapes have to do with ironing. But, bear with me! Techniques like this, a simple example of mindful eating, show us how much we take for granted in our every day lives and all of the wonderful experiences we actually have and rarely savour. I, for one, am one of those people who regularly eat at the speed of lightening, whilst thinking about all of the other tasks I need to get done before my husband gets home from work.

Talking of tasks, one of today’s, which I seem to keep putting off, is the big pile of ironing currently residing in a basket in my spare room. I see it every time I go in there and my first thought ranges from ‘I really must get that ironing done soon’ to ‘arggghh, I’m such a domestic slattern’. So, thinking about what I’d learnt in yesterday’s class, I set about doing MINDFUL IRONING!!!

So, using my knowledge about mindfulness, limited so far to two hours of work and experience, here’s a summary of some of what I did in order to be more present:

  • listened to the sounds of the tap filling the little reservoir in the iron and watched it fill.
  • felt the different textures and temperatures of the materials which make up the ironing board and focused on the weight and strength required for the task of erecting the board on my kitchen floor.
  • listened to the various popping noises and the sound of the water heating up after I plugged in and turned on the iron.
  • examined the textures of the different fabrics of the clothes.
  • observed the creases disappearing and the steam coming from the iron as it glided over the items
  • watched, felt and sniffed the steam as it rose from the iron
  • marvelled at the science behind it all!

And do you know, I actually found the experience of ironing that big pile of clothes to be calming and relaxing and I even started to enjoy myself. The items were pressed and folded carefully in no time and I reckon I might even look forward to what I consider to be a boring and time consuming chore in the future. And wouldn’t that be amazing, if every chore felt like a pleasant experience and one which didn’t fill us with dread or boredom?

I really do recommend you try this technique even if you’ve never tried mindfulness before. How about some mindful washing up or mindful showering? Let me know in the comments if you have a go and what you thought of the experience. And even if you’re feeling cynical about it, give it a try, you never know, it might just change your approach to doing chores and improve your day!

Thanks for reading, and happy ironing!

Laura xx