Mindfulness: Where to start

Mindfulness Definition: A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations

Becoming mindful by no means is easy to achieve, it is something myself that I have struggled to achieve and stay on top of. When you introduce anything new into your life it does not come easy it is a skill that takes time to master. However, if you stick to it like myself the benefits are endless!!
It is important to understand that mindfulness can be a number of things. It does not necessarily require too much time it can be as simple as a taking a moment and a couple of breaths to reset and become present. However, to achieve this quick reset it takes more skill.

Where to Start?

Start Small but Consistent. I always advocate to my clients that are new to mindfulness to begin with guided mindfulness mediation (GMM). Start small (5-10min) build the habit, then build time. It is important to understand that GMM is a practice, therefore it consistency is key. Pick a time that you know you can achieve and start there.

What is guided Mindfulness Meditation (GMM)? Where do I find it?

GMM is a practice where someone guides your thoughts and shifts your focus, teaching you awareness of the present moment. This practice sets the foundation for overall mindfulness.
GMM is continually growing in popularity with this growth comes more variety in methods. You now have endless options: classes, apps, websites, retreats. With all the options it is best to pick an option that suits you and something that you can stick to. The big thing when it comes to guided mediation find a voice that is easy to listen so search around for one that suits you.

My Favourite Method

I personally prefer apps as they are easy to use and access. Plus, the majority of apps take you on a journey that educate you as your progress through various stages. As you advance they begin to impart methods and techniques that show you how introduce mindfulness into your daily lifestyle. This journey takes any worry of uncertainty while keeping you accountable and on the right track.

My Favourite Mindfulness Apps

Majority of apps offer a free trial that leads into a paid version (Headspace, Calm). Test each of them out and find the one that suits you. I highly recommend upgrading to paid versions as it becomes a lot more personalised as you can select packages that that you require and it offers further education that really gives you the skills required to make your mindfulness practice easy and stress free.

Free Mindfulness Options

Don’t want to pay. No stress there are options for you too. There is endless GMM available for free on websites, youtube and even apps that give you unlimited free access (Insight Timer). However, I have found these to be less effective as it feels more sporadic with less of a focus as a regular practice.
My Favorite Apps

Head Space: https://www.headspace.com/ (I began here)
Calm: https://www.calm.com/
Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/


The science behind mindfulness

Mindfulness mediation has been around for thousands of years but only recently research has discovered that the brain has the ability to change its structure and function—strengthening and expanding circuits that are frequently used and weakening and shrinking those that are rarely engaged. This flexibility in the brain is what is called ‘neuroplasticity’.

Mediation and Mindfulness for too long have not been accepted by the medical profession due to lack of evidence but with recent research coming out more and more medical professionals are accepting it’s use as a treatment for a wide variety of conditions, such as chronic pain, addiction, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer and HIV, to name a few.

Throughout the past decade, numerous neuroimaging studies have investigated changes in brain morphology related to mindfulness meditation. One study pooled data from 21 neuroimaging studies examining the brains of about 300 experienced meditation practitioners. The study identified that eight regions were consistently altered in the experienced mediators.

The eight brain regions included the following:

· Rostrolateral prefrontal cortex: A region associated with meta-awareness (awareness of how you think), introspection, and processing of complex, abstract information.

· Sensory cortices and insular cortex: The main cortical hubs for processing of tactile information such touch, pain, conscious proprioception, and body awareness.

· Hippocampus: A pair of subcortical structures involved in memory formation and facilitating emotional responses.

· Anterior cingulate cortex and mid-cingulate cortex: Cortical regions involved in self-regulation, emotional regulation, attention, and self-control.

· Superior longitudinal fasciculus and corpus callosum: Subcortical white matter tracts that communicate within and between brain hemispheres.

Other studies have analysed MRI scans and have now uncovered that as little as an eight-week course of mindfulness practice impacts the brains “fight or flight” center, the amygdala. This region is responsible for fear and emotion; it is involved in the ignition of the bodies response to stress. The amygdala has been shown to shrink, this is highly beneficial as it minimises the stress response. While the amygdala shrinks the pre-frontal cortex (function: associated with awareness, concentration and decision making) becomes thicker, offering a stronger awareness. Further, the connection between regions becomes altered with the amygdala getting weaker, while the connections between areas associated with attention and concentration grow stronger.

Simply put, our more primal responses to stress seem to be superseded by more thoughtful ones.

– Luke Taylor, Taylored Fitness

3 months

Journey to a healthy gut

WOW! It is hard to believe that I have just about completed my 3 month gut cleanse! I never thought in a million years that I would be able to completely remove two of my favourite food sources, gluten and dairy, from my diet for 3months.

As I approach the end of my diet it is time to slowly re-introduce these foods again and see if my gut has healed and regained the ability to process these foods. This is a moment that I have dreaded yet have been dreaming of at the same time.
But why have I dreaded this moment? If my body is still unable to process the foods that I’ve cut out of my diet, then that will mean I’ll need to remain on this diet for the rest of my life!! Now that’s a long time!

I should admit that I do miss these foods! However I find myself no longer reliant on them. Therefore, regardless of how this reintroduction process turns out, I have decided I will limit these foods in my diet. And I must emphasis the word ‘limit’, just like any healthy lifestyle – moderation is key! Especially when it comes to limiting foods as it will only further increase the intolerance if you eliminate a food completely for a long period of time.


Time for Intensity!

After finishing my 4 week hypertrophy cycle I am feeling good I managed to successfully build muscle and managed to manipulate my weight from 88kg back up to 93kg. Now time to trim down again. This means time for a change in training and diet.

New challenge will involve eating less and increasing the intensity of my training. This will involve a number of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions along with an increase in cardio.

Stay tuned for progress.

Gluten-free show Auckland

Gluten-free show (Auckland) – Week 7

I am 7 Weeks into my gluten free dairy free diet now. In this time I have gained a greater understanding what I can and cannot eat although the diet continues to grow boring. I have been creative but it is tough as there is not the variety of foods that I am used to. Don’t get me wrong I have grown to love the foods in my new diet but growing more and more bored with the selection. Or maybe it is the preparation required. Nonetheless change is required.

This led me to the Gluten Free and Allergy Show up in Auckland last weekend, it was great chance to see what else is out there and open my mind to new ideas.

Gluten Free Show was awesome, I sampled way too much and ended way too full with Nut and Bread overload! After searching through all the breads and nuts I found some more savoury products (what I have really been craving) amazing spicy salami, pizza bread with olive oil, 100% meat Sausages and even crumbed chicken. I was over the moon! However my wallet was not! As for everything allergy free they came with a price tag sadly.

It is always good exposing yourself to new ideas and opening your mind. I am feeling a new sense of motivation and excited to continue on this journey.