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Mindfulness and Meditation: A guide

What is mindfulness and who can use it?

Mindfulness is the essential human capacity to be completely present, mindful of where we are and what we’re doing, and not being excessively responsive or overpowered by what’s happening around us. While mindfulness is something we have normally through the natural processes of our brain, it can be a much more powerful tool when used everyday. At whatever point you bring attention to what you’re encountering with your senses, or looking thoroughly at your thoughts and feelings, you are being mindful.

Anyone can practice mindfulness and meditation but practising it consistently and frequently is the real key. If you want to improve your physical and mental well-being then mindfulness meditation is right for you.

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What is meditation mindfulness good for. Design & concept: David McCandless, Research: Miriam Quick, Featured on: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/

The Benefits of Mindfulness

There has been extensive research in to mindfulness and meditation in recent years and all point to great benefits when anyone practices it for both physical and mental health. Here is a list of the key benefits:

  • It lowers stress 
  • It reduced Anxiety, Depression and irritability, especially in teenagers and pregnant women
  • It can help in work and exams – Mindfulness improves working memory, creativity, attention span and reaction speeds. It also enhances mental and physical stamina and resilience.
  • It could help people with arthritis better handle stress and lessen pain
  •  It helps us even when we’re not actively practising it – It can be used with cognitive behavioural therapy to improve a range of mental health difficulties and it has lasting effects to help you deal with difficult emotions.
  • It changes the brain in a protective way – It can actually result in brain changes that may be protective against mental illness.
  •  It makes music sound better. Mindfulness meditation improves our focused engagement in music helping us to truly enjoy and experience what we’re listening to, according to a study in the journal Psychology of Music.
  • It could help your doctor be better at his/her job. Doctors who are trained in mindfulness meditation are less judgemental, more self-aware and better listeners when it comes to interacting with patients.
  •  It makes you a better person. Sure, we love all the things meditation does for us. But it could also benefit people we interact with, by making us more compassionate, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science. Researchers from Northeastern and Harvard universities found that meditation is linked with more virtuous, empathetic behaviour.
  • It could help the elderly feel less lonely. Loneliness among seniors can be dangerous, in that it’s known to raise risks for a number of health conditions. But researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that mindfulness meditation helped to decrease these feelings of loneliness among the elderly, and boost their health by reducing the expression of genes linked with inflammation.
  • It comes in handy during cold season. Good hygiene, mindfulness meditation and exercise could lessen the nasty effects of colds. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Health found that people who engage in the practices miss fewer days of work from acute respiratory infections, and also experience a shortened duration and severity of symptoms.
  • It supports your weight-loss goals.
  •  It helps you sleep better.

How do I practice mindfulness and meditation?

Mindfulness is available to us in every moment, whether through meditations and body scans, or mindful moment practices like taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it. Mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our reactions, breaking down our conditioned responses. Here’s how to tune into mindfulness throughout the day:

  1. Set aside some time. You don’t need any special equipment to access your mindfulness skills  you only need to set aside some time and space.
  2. Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement. Easier said than done, we know.
  3. Let your judgements roll by. When we notice judgements arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
  4. Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
  5. Focus on your breath – To bring yourself back to the present moment it can be helpful to focus on some thing that here in the present. The most popular thing to focus on your breath as it is always there and can stay in the present.
  6. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognising when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.

The more you do it the more benefits you will reap.

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Carers Rights Day 25th November

Carers UK are a charity that highlights the plight of carers in the UK and protects their rights. Each year they hold Carers Rights Day to bring organisations across the UK together to help carers in their local community know their rights and find out how to get the help and support they are entitled to. Carers Rights Day 2016 is on Friday 25 November, and this year’s theme is: Missing out? Know your rights as a carer

carers-ukThis is how Carers UK describes the state of carers in the UK and their organisation:

Across the UK today 6.5 million people are carers, supporting a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill.That’s 1 in 8 adults who care, unpaid, for family and friends. Within our lifetime, there will be 9 million carers.Our loved ones are living longer with illness or disability, and more and more of us are looking after them. Whether round-the-clock or for a few hours a week, in our own home or for someone at the other end of a motorway – caring can have a huge effect on us, our lives and our plans. Caring is such an important part of life. It’s simply part of being human. Carers are holding families together, enabling loved ones to get the most out of life, making an enormous contribution to society and saving the economy billions of pounds.Yet many of us are stretched to the limit – juggling care with work and family life, or even struggling with poor health ourselves. We often find it difficult to make ends meet if we’re unable to work or if we’ve reduced our working hours to care.

Every day 6,000 people become carers. Many don’t know how or where to get help. It can be frightening and very lonely.For some it’s sudden: someone you love is taken ill or has an accident, your child is born with a disability. For others, caring creeps up unnoticed: your parents can’t manage on their own any longer, your partner’s health gets gradually worse.Looking after someone can be tough, but you’re not on your own. Carers UK is here to listen, to give you expert information and advice that’s tailored to your situation, to champion your rights and support you in finding new ways to manage at home, at work, or wherever you are.

Their website offers lots of help & advice for carers so they know their rights and to find ways to get support for this important role in families and communities. We meet lots of carers in our line of work and it is a great charity to support. If you know anyone who could use some help, point them in the direction of the Carers UK website so they too can learn their rights and get the most out of life while caring for a loved one.

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World Hospice and Pallative Care Day

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is a unified day of action to celebrate and support hospice and palliative care around the world. Voices for Hospices is a wave of concerts taking place on World Hospice and Palliative Care Day every two years. This years theme is LIVING AND DYING IN PAIN: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO HAPPEN. A concept we fully agree with when we work with those who even at the end of their lives want to still live their life to the full without pain and their independence intact.

When does World Hospice and Palliative Care Day take place?

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day takes place on the second Saturday of October every year and Voices for Hospices takes place on the same date every two years. The next World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is on October 8th 2016 but you’ll have to wait till next year for World Hospice and Palliative Care Day with Voices for Hospice will be held October 14th in 2017.

What are the aims of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day?

  1. To share a vision to increase the availability of hospice and palliative care throughout the world by creating opportunities to speak out about the issues
  2. To raise awareness and understanding of the needs – medical, social, practical, spiritual – of people living with a life limiting illness and their families
  3. To raise funds to support and develop hospice and palliative care services around the world

Who organises World Hospice and Palliative Care Day?

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is organised by a committee of the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance, a network of hospice and palliative care national and regional organisations that support the development of hospice and palliative care worldwide.

What can you do to get involved?

There are many things you can do during and in the days leading up to World Hospice and Palliative Care Day. Visit the WHPCA website for full details and resources.

 

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Green Prescriptions & the Impact of an Allotment on Health

There has been a new wave of thinking when it comes to visiting the doctor and health. GPs in the UK can now prescribe so called ‘green prescriptions’ which advises patients to attend leisure centres, parks or start gardening. This new type of social and medical care is primarily there to encourage exercise and reduce the strain on NHS services from preventable illness and diseases caused by the obesity epidemic.

The prescriptions could provide free visits to national parks or gardening sessions at National Trust properties, match patients up directly with a leisure centre and on to fitness courses. There are already trials of these ‘social prescribing schemes’ in Devon, Dorset and Liverpool, with hopes for more across the country.  However, The Royal College of General Practitioners’ Spokesman Dr Steve Mowle said: “Social prescribing schemes can certainly be beneficial to a patient’s overall health and wellbeing – as some pilots have shown – but to be effective, there needs to be better integration between health and community services, so that GPs and our teams can signpost our patients most appropriately.”

Patients can be recommended to allotment and gardening groups where the benefits to both physical and mental health are extraordinary. In The contribution of allotment gardening to health and wellbeing: A systematic review of the literature , findings showed “Allotment gardening provides a stress-relieving refuge, contributes to a healthier lifestyle, creates social opportunities, provides valued contact with nature, and enables self-development.”

Information from NHS Choices indicates that people who do regular physical activity have:

  • up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
  • up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
  • a 30% lower risk of early death
  • up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
  • up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
  • a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
  • up to a 30% lower risk of depression
  • up to a 30% lower risk of dementia

With all these benefits, maybe it is time you picked up your pitch fork and get digging!

Further Reading

The contribution of allotment gardening to health and wellbeing: A systematic review of the literature

The Impact of an Allotment Group on Mental Health Clients’ Health, Wellbeing and Social Networking

Doctors urged to offer ‘exercise outdoors’ prescriptions – BBC

Green prescription needed to tackle ‘cradle to grave’ health crisis – National Health Executive

Benefits of regular exercise – NHS Choices