Blog

Getting “active” with our loved ones

IMG_5403[1]

Lisa Archer, Educational & Developmental Psychologist, Strong Minds Psychology

Don’t freak out!

When I say “active”, I am not suggesting that we all have to start training for the Melbourne Marathon! All I am talking about is taking time with our family or friends to fit movement into our day, and build on relationships.

Being “active” could include any or all of the following:

  • playing a game of Twister
  • bouncing/throwing/rolling/kicking a ball with or next to your child/friend
  • building sand castles
  • gardening
  • running or riding
  • walking to the corner of the street and back
  • playing with the pet dog/cat/bunny/ferret
  • digging a hole and filling it up
  • roller blading
  • bouncing on the trampoline
  • bush walking
  • exploring a new section of the local playground or trail

I was inspired to write this today as I took an adventure with my children (9 and 8 year olds). Currently feeling very under prepared for a half marathon (21.1km) that I signed up for that is in TWO WEEKS (argh!), I suggested to the kids that we attempt to ride/run to Warburton and back. My morning was full of worry thoughts, a worry tummy, thinking “how am I going to make this?”

So off we went, me straggling along behind as the kids rode their bikes off into the distance! Multiple fruit/water breaks, road crossings, and “Good mornings” later, we made it to our half way point, and my son exclaimed, “Mum, I feel so proud of myself!” They had never ridden to that town before, and now we knew we would be travelling their longest bike trip today. The kids rode further up hills than they had before, and even managed to not freak out as they zoomed down hills!

Well, to make a long story short, we made it all the way back again – success! High fives and celebratory snags from the CFA sausage sizzle were just the way to finish off a tiring but fabulous 20km.

Massive thank-you to both of my children for inspiring me today, and helping me to go further than I would have on my own! I’d love to hear about what you and your “active” buddy/family are getting up to this week!

If you need additional support enhancing your mental health, or supporting the mental health of a loved one, call the team at Strong Minds Psychology on 03 5967 1438, email us at strongmindspsychteam@gmail.com, or complete the form below.

About the Author:

img_3939

Lisa is an Educational & Developmental Psychologist, and the founder of Strong Minds Psychology (Yarra Junction & Warragul, Victoria). Lisa has over a decade of experience working in & with school staff to support the educational, social, & emotional needs of children throughout their school career, and beyond. Lisa thrives on working with people in a team approach, creating positive support networks for children and adults. She provides assessments, counselling and therapy – helping with stress, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, grief & loss, social skills, and anger management.

Letter to my teachers…

communication

Lisa Archer, Educational & Developmental Psychologist, Strong Minds Psychology

As promised, I told you all that I would share an example of an intro letter that you or your child can share with their teachers at the beginning of the school year.

Whether they are changing one teacher, or many teachers, it doesn’t matter, and it allows the chance to introduce likes, dislikes, triggers, and helpful tools and strategies. This letter or a dot point version can also be shared with specialist/non-core teachers, as well as ready for CRTs who can pop up at any time!

This saves time, reduces stress, and means that each new teacher does not have to reinvent the wheel!

Keep in mind this is just an example, and you can tweak it so that it feels “just right” for you! Be sure to change the wording if you are writing this letter on behalf of your young person to include their name. 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Mr/Mrs Teacher / To all of my teachers,

I am looking forward to/feeling worried about starting GRADE this year. My favourite subjects at school are XYZ, and my least favourite or more difficult subjects are ABC.

I thought it was important to tell you some things about me. I have (include any possible diagnosis or diagnoses here). For me, this means that (note any difficulties, common ways this impacts on academic/behaviour/social). Also include any strengths that present (e.g. attention to detail, passion for preferred subjects). I work together with include any members of your team/tribe to help me with the tricky stuff that comes up. Here are some more things about me.

Things that I really like to do are: (include own examples)

  • Swimming
  • Drawing
  • Bouncing on the trampoline
  • Being by myself

Sometimes I can get angry/anxious/frustrated/upset but I try to do something about it. Some things to help me calm down are: (include own examples)

  • Taking deep breaths
  • Running around the oval
  • Talking to the teacher
  • Chewing (crunchy stuff, gum)
  • Carrying heavy things to the office
  • Getting some water
  • Colouring
  • Reading a book

Some of the things that can make me feel angry/anxious/frustrated/upset/jumpy are: (include own examples)

  • Noisy classrooms
  • If I think the work is too hard
  • People asking me how I feel
  • When people do annoying things
  • When the teacher doesn’t explain the work properly
  • Not normal days at school (sports day, incursions, special assembly)

It can be helpful if teachers make small changes in the classroom for me. Some things that might help are: (include own examples)

  • Using dot points on a page instead of lots of information in a row
  • Explaining the reason why we are learning something or doing a task
  • Breaking down tasks or homework and showing me what it looks like
  • Giving me a notes page so I don’t have to write everything down AND listen

Include any ideas that have been helpful at home over the holidays, or strategies that you will be doing in the lead up to school (e.g. colour code books, practice on the playground, take photos of the school).

Team/Tribe have written some reports for me that might have helpful stuff in them for you to understand how I learn and think. I am looking forward to having/hoping to have a great year in class with you.

Sign off – parents/carers may put “Kind regards” or “Sincerely”, and young people may prefer to just put their name, or “From”.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

These letters are a clear and fantastic way for parents/carers to communicate and advocate for their child/ren whilst presenting as collaborative and sharing of what works at home. The shift to self-advocacy for young people and teens in upper primary and secondary school will help them as they become more independent and want to be heard!

Check out our other tips on the return to school in 2019- for primary school/kinder students, high school students, and for parents.

If you need additional support enhancing your mental health, or supporting the mental health of a loved one, call the team at Strong Minds Psychology on 03 5967 1438, email us at strongmindspsychteam@gmail.com, or complete the form below.

About the Author:

img_3939

Lisa is an Educational & Developmental Psychologist, and the founder of Strong Minds Psychology. Lisa has a decade of experience working in & with school staff to support the educational, social, & emotional needs of children throughout their school career, and beyond. Lisa thrives on working with people in a team approach, creating positive support networks for children and adults. She provides assessments, counselling and therapy – helping with stress, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, grief & loss, social skills, and anger management.

Back to school – Parent Care

Parent School Blog

Lisa Archer, Educational & Developmental Psychologist, Strong Minds Psychology

Updated post from January 2018 with edits

Congratulations! You did it! You are about to send your child/ren off to school! Whether it is your first, or your final baby you are dropping off, it is always an event to be remembered, and celebrated.

Every parent/carer experiences transition to school in a different way, but you should all be very proud of the myriad of things you have done to contribute to the safe, healthy, and ready to learn child (or teen) you are sending out the door.

I’ve already shared some ideas for how your child/ren can be supported at kindergarten and school, but I cannot forget the fabulous folk who have made that happen, so here are some tips for you!

Organise a catch up

Invite one or more other parents and carers to get together after drop off. Whether your preferred ingredients are coffee, chocolate and tissues, or champagne, strawberries and party poppers, having people around you who share your story is a great thing!

If you are in the group needing the tissues, make sure you save your tears (of joy, pride, or sadness) for in the car, or better yet, when you are with your friends. It might be best to organise the catch up at someone’s house, particularly if you prefer to keep your emotional  displays out of the local cafe!

Self Care

You have worked hard!

Some may say to you,  “Well you’d better start looking for work”… but don’t listen to them! You’ve earned a break. This might be peace and quiet at the gym or a walk after drop off, or it might be curled up in a dressing gown watching daytime television. Either way – own it!

You can get onto the next stages of increasing/beginning a career, or taking on study, etc, after you breathe for five minutes! Read a book, sit in peace, dance around the house to YOUR music, whatever it is that makes you smile.

Activity Planning

I know, I know, I just told you to sit down and chill out… but – if you have spent the past XX years predominantly in unpaid employment, supporting your child/ren, then there will be some time available. Choosing specific tasks that you enjoy, or that give you purpose or drive, will help to prevent potential feelings of grief and loss, and changes in self-identity as your role adjusts. This could include helping at school/kinder once a week (e.g. reading, canteen), volunteering for a local organisation, enrolling in a short course, joining a book club or sporting team, or starting that business you were dreaming of.

Check out our other tips on the return to school in 2019- for primary school/kinder students, parents, and the letter to the educator.

If you need additional support enhancing your mental health, or supporting the mental health of a loved one, call the team at Strong Minds Psychology on 03 5967 1438, or complete the form below.

About the Author:

Lisa Head Shot.jpg

Lisa is an Educational & Developmental Psychologist, and the founder of Strong Minds Psychology. Lisa has a decade of experience working in & with school staff to support the educational, social, & emotional needs of children throughout their school career, and beyond. Lisa thrives on working with people in a team approach, creating positive support networks for children and adults. She provides assessments, counselling and therapy – helping with stress, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, grief & loss, social skills, and anger management.

Welcome Stephanie Terlato!

All the team at Strong Minds Psychology are pleased to welcome Stephanie Terlato (Provisional Psychologist) to the SMP Family! 
 
Stephanie is passionate about working with children and their families in both therapeutic and educational settings, as well as supporting adolescents and adults across the lifespan. Her approach takes its roots from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) but also incorporates other evidence-based strategies to help her clients achieve their goals.
Stephanie’s past experiences include working with children in educational settings, and providing online mental health support and information to adolescents and adults experiencing anxiety and other difficulties.
Stephanie is building upon her training in assessments to determine underlying causes for learning or developmental concerns, to provide helpful strategies for individuals, carers and educators.
In her spare time, Stephanie is an avid reader with a keen interest in learning about anything historical. She also loves to bake, create all manner of sweet treats and to travel the world (she can also speak fluent French).
Stephanie will be working towards completing her training as a Provisional Psychologist throughout 2019, in order to become fully registered in 2020. She will be working with clients at the Warragul office on Tuesdays, at Warragul North Primary School on Wednesdays and at the Yarra Junction office on Fridays.
If you or a loved one need support to build your mental health with a strengths based approach, contact the Strong Minds Psychology team on 03 5967 1438 or email us at strongmindspsychteam@gmail.com. Alternatively complete the form below to get in touch. 

5 tips for secondary school preparation

High School Blog.jpg

Lisa Archer, Educational & Developmental Psychologist, Strong Minds Psychology

Updated post from January 2018 with edits

So it’s almost that time… your baby is headed to high school. You may not recognise them after the last few weeks – holed up in their room watching YouTube, hanging out with friends, or they’ve grown a foot taller than you!

Even for some seasoned high schoolers, some of these tips might be helpful during the settling in period.

1. Colour Coding

Reduce the stress of trying to remember what class is next, what equipment to bring, and where the classroom is. Bring together a school map, timetable, and locker full of equipment with some colour coding. Organisation can be extremely daunting for children headed into Year 7.

  • Choose a colour for each subject
  • Use coloured dots, and coloured folders if you can find them to sort out the equipment needed
  • Print out 2 or 3 copies of the timetable, colour it in, & stick in the bedroom, on the fridge, & in the locker. It could also go inside your school diary/planner
  • If needed, print a copy of the school map – colour code the classrooms as well!

2. Early Visit

 

Head in the day before school starts if possible, and set up that locker. This will remove the issues of carrying a heavy backpack in on day 1, and leave your teen feeling organised and confident heading in for their first day of up to 6 subjects!

  • Set up the locker neatly with clear colour coding
  • Stick up the timetable inside the door
  • Practice the lock – combination or key, 27 times (!) or until confident
  • Review where the main classrooms, buildings & offices are

3. “Wear” in that uniform

Engagement, mood and learning will all be better if you have a comfortable student headed out the door. Try these ideas to reduce sensory discomfort throughout the day.

  • Extra wash or two of the uniform
  • Cut off tags or spare buttons
  • Wear new school shoes around the house & get active
  • Check out second-hand options for your next uniform purchase
  • Talk to staff about alternative options if your teen needs the security of a hood, or can’t enter the classroom without a hat, or is not able to wear leather lace ups – maybe a change can be catered for

4. Communication

It all changes in the shift from primary to secondary. Gone are the days of chatting with the classroom teacher potentially twice per day. You and your teen are now dealing with multiple teachers, support staff, and leadership levels. Key things to find out and ask if needed:

  • Who is the first point of contact if an issue occurs – for students & for parents?
  • If organisation/homework are tricky factors – can task requirements be emailed directly to parent email, or how does the school portal work? (e.g. Compass)
  • Help your teen to develop & recognise a core group of staff (at least 5 – a handful!) that they can approach if difficulties arise (e.g. Year Level Coordinator – YLC, Home Group/Mentor Teacher, Individual Needs Coordinator, etc)

5. Letter to the teacher

Upon transition to high school, we definitely want to be helping our children to advocate for themselves. Helping them to “teach the teacher” – what is useful for them, how they learn best, what ways they can best show what they know. Support those who are unsure, or need keyboard help, but encourage their own viewpoint of the classroom. This can be done only in Year 7, or across any new transition when required. Look out for another post with a full example of how to write this letter, but here are some key points to include, if you are concerned about those early days with the new teachers – not just the comfy class teacher anymore….

  • Favourite activities/hobbies/subjects
  • Things that are tricky – e.g. teachers who speak loudly or yell (at anyone), reading aloud in front of class, wearing a school dress/tie
  • Things that help – e.g. dot points of instructions on the board, check in after a few minutes, ear-buds in ears (not necessarily listening to music, but looks cooler than ear muffs or ear plugs), exit card to take a break when needed, safe space to go if cannot go to class
  • What has been working so far – at home or at primary school

Check out our other tips on the return to school in 2019- for primary school/kinder students, parents, and the letter to the educator.

If you need additional support helping your child to settle into secondary school, call the team at Strong Minds Psychology on 03 5967 1438, or complete the form below. Our clinicians are passionate about working together to help children to be the best they can be, and support both caregivers and educators on that journey!

About the Author:

Lisa Head Shot.jpg

Lisa is an Educational & Developmental Psychologist, and the founder of Strong Minds Psychology. Lisa has a decade of experience working in & with school staff to support the educational, social, & emotional needs of children throughout their school career, and beyond. Lisa thrives on working with people in a team approach, creating positive support networks for children and adults. She provides assessments, counselling and therapy – helping with stress, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, grief & loss, social skills, and anger management.

5 tips for kinder or primary school preparation

Child School Blog

Lisa Archer, Educational & Developmental Psychologist, Strong Minds Psychology

Updated post from January 2018 with edits

So it’s almost time to go back to school and kinder. The kids may be ratty, the house a mess of toys, and you’ve got contact and name labels all over you!

Whether your child is headed off for their first day, or they are well into school, some of these tips might be helpful during the settling in period.

  1. Playground Visit

Pack a picnic, or the scooter, and head down to the school playground. Of course we know that the kids usually know how to go down the slide, and how to get across the monkey bars, but a visit before school goes back can be a big confidence booster!

  • Invite a friend from their new class, or rekindle a friendship
  • Try a new section of the playground – growing happened over Christmas!
  • Practice using the drinking taps
  • Find the closest toilet to your “grade” playground
  • Take a peek through the new classroom window – it might look different from last year

2. Morning Routine

Work together to create a morning routine. This can help to increase independence, reduce us parents repeating ourselves constantly, and decrease cranky nagging each day. Include jobs they are already able to do, as well as those that may need a little help or teamwork (e.g. pack bag, shoes on). Children who have regular home tasks or chores feel a sense of belonging and purpose, which increases resilience!

  • Use words AND pictures for each task for those who can’t read yet (or to make it look fun!)
  • Print online pictures or draw them together (print photos of your child doing the task if that helps them understand better)
  • Find a laminator – can then re-use the chart every day with whiteboard marker
  • If you have time, practice sometimes in the next two weeks before school or kinder begins
  • When asked “what’s next?” you can just suggest they check the chart

3. “Wear” in that uniform

Engagement, mood and learning will all be better if you have a comfortable student headed out the door. Try these ideas to reduce sensory discomfort or cranky first morning drop offs.

  • Extra wash or two of the uniform
  • Cut off tags or spare buttons
  • Wear new school shoes around the house – jump, dance, run, wiggle & play
  • Check out second-hand options for your next uniform purchase

4. Visuals

Knowing where you are going, what you are doing, and what you will need can be more easily recalled if you hear it AND see it! Take photos of what you have organised above – fun times in the playground, where to line up in the morning, where the toilets/drink taps/office are, etc. They can then look on your phone, tablet, or camera, and talk about what they have seen (or you can print off a story book for them to check in bed or car on the way to drop off).

5. Letter to the teacher

For kindergarten and early primary children, this would need to come from a parent/caregiver. Older primary children may be able to write this, and learn to advocate for themselves. Look out for another post with a full example of how to write this letter, but here are some key points to include, if you are concerned about those early days with the new teacher.

  • Some favourite activities – both home and kinder/school
  • Things that are tricky – e.g. loud noises, division, reading aloud in front of class
  • Things that help – e.g. dot points of instructions on the board, check in after a few minutes, wobble cushion on the chair/mat
  • What has been working so far at home – that way they know from the start that you want to be part of a team to support your child

Stay posted for more tips on the return to school in 2019- for secondary students, parents, and the letter to the educator.

If you need additional support helping your child to settle into kindergarten or primary school, call the team at Strong Minds Psychology on 5967 1438, or complete the form below. Our clinicians are passionate about working together to help children to be the best they can be, and support both caregivers and educators on that journey!

About the Author:

Lisa Head Shot.jpg

Lisa is an Educational & Developmental Psychologist, and the founder of Strong Minds Psychology. Lisa has a decade of experience working in & with school staff to support the educational, social, & emotional needs of children throughout their school career, and beyond. Lisa thrives on working with people in a team approach, creating positive support networks for children and adults. She provides assessments, counselling and therapy – helping with stress, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, grief & loss, social skills, and anger management.

Mindful Mondays

Mindful Mondays wk 11

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

In time, it is likely that I will finish this series of blogs with the aim of writing about a different topic instead. While there is much more to discuss in terms of mindfulness, the aim with these blogs was to give you a small introduction into what mindfulness is (and isn’t) and some of the ways we can practice it both informally and formally. Ultimately, the hope is that you think a bit more about how you can connect more meaningfully with your moment to moment experiences.

A related concept to mindfulness that I wanted to discuss today was nonattachment. Nonattachment refers to our capacity to let go of our attachment to thoughts, feelings, ideas, expectations, beliefs, opinions and so on. Nonattachment does not mean being cold and not experiencing these things. It instead means that we build an awareness of these things without attaching to them. We have, in ways, discussed this in previous blogs as mindfulness encourages you to be aware of your thoughts and feelings and allowing them to be. With nonattachment, there is less effort to try and make ‘positive’ feelings stick around or make ‘negative’ feelings disappear. There is instead effort to make room for all feelings (or thoughts) even if they are difficult in some way. One way of thinking about it is that mindfulness represents our awareness of an idea/thought whereas our attitude towards that idea/thought represents the level of attachment to it.

There are many examples in daily life where our attachments only contribute to suffering. We are often quite attached to our ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. In fact, it could be argued that it is our attachment to certain thoughts that contributes to our distress. If, for example, we are attached to a certain outcome/expectation and it doesn’t occur, we may be more likely to experience emotional difficulty due to our strong attachment to that outcome. Nonattachment encourages us to just notice these thoughts and allow them to come and go. And even when they do contribute to a certain feeling, we can still allow that feeling to just come and go.

For this week, I invite you to think about your own attachments to thoughts. Remember, a thought can be an idea, belief, attitude, or expectation. Are there certain thoughts that you attach strongly too? You might think about particular attitudes or beliefs you hold quite strongly. What happens when you are confronted with information that is contrary to your belief? Keep in mind, there is certainly nothing wrong with having an idea, thought, belief, opinion and so on. However, it is worthwhile thinking about your level of attachment to those thoughts.

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief & loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs call us on 0417 389 941 or send an email to strongmindspsychteam@gmail.com

Mindful Mondays – Candle Exercise

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

For this blog, I thought it might be nice to get back into a specific practice that you could try at home. In the past couple of blogs, I have discussed the use of apps and also revisited the general importance of being mindful. For this edition, I remembered an exercise that I was taught some years ago which I found useful as means of practicing mindfulness meditation.

Focus: candle

Time: 10 minutes

Body: sitting, lotus position

Technique: you will need a candle for this exercise as you will be lighting the candle and spending your time bringing you entire awareness to the experiencing of watching the flame. You can use any candle, whether it is a larger scented candle or a small tea light candle. What matters is that you have a small flame to watch. As you sit, bring your awareness to the flame and try and notice as much as you can. You may notice as the flame flickers and moves around. You may notice the different colours of the flame, even if some of these are quite subtle. Like many of these exercises, you will notice that your awareness will be interrupted by various thoughts. As always, simply acknowledge the thoughts and let them go before bringing your awareness back to the flame.

I find this is a nice exercise as an alternative to focusing on breathing. You will be surprised how much you can notice about a simple flame by bringing your entire awareness to it. When you are finished, it is recommended that you reflect on the exercise too. Did you notice anything that you haven’t noticed before? Was is difficult to set and just look at the flame for 10 minutes? Did you find that your mind was desperately trying to distract you and bring your awareness away from the flame?

As this exercise involves a flame, please make sure you do this in a safe environment!

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief & loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs call us on 0417 389 941 or send an email to strongmindspsychteam@gmail.com

Mindfulness Monday

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

The Strong Minds team has had a very exciting and successful move into our new premise at 3 Little Yarra Rd, Yarra Junction in the past few weeks. We have an open night from 5-7 this evening (Monday, 18th June) that is open to the entire community for anybody who wanted to drop by to meet the team and explore our new rooms.

            Unfortunately, there has been a bit of a lapse in my blog in the past few weeks partly owning to being quite a busy time of year. It has been difficult to find the time to write a new blog, though it has given me a chance to reflect on the importance of mindfulness in our lives. Not only mindfulness though, but taking the time to look after ourselves when things get stressful, busy, or overwhelming. There are many different ways you can look after yourself including making time to spend with friends and family, exercising, engaging in activities that bring a sense of joy, relaxation, massage, music, and of course mindfulness and meditation. It is these times when we feel the most pressure – due to our often chaotic and busy lives – that making the time to look after ourselves is even more important.

When life seems to be moving at breakneck speed that is the time when we need to put the brakes on and contact the present moment. This gives you an opportunity to ground yourself and orientate your awareness to the very moment you are experiencing. It is far too easy to get caught up in all the things we need to do. Our mind becomes like an out of control time machine at times, moving back and forth from the past (ruminating on things that have already occurred) to the future (worrying about what is to come). This capacity to orientate ourselves to the past and future is helpful at times, as it allows us to reflect on the past and learn from mistakes and plan and organise for the future. However, too often we get completely caught up in the past and future and forget to focus on what is actually happening now. So, if you find that your own mind is like an out of control time machine, remember to press pause and bring your awareness back to the present moment. It might be your breath, your sensations, or even just noticing your thoughts. Whatever you choose to focus on, the point is that you connect with the here and now.

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief & loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs call us on 0417 389 941 or send an email to strongmindspsychteam@gmail.com

Mindfulness Monday – Apps for Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindful Mondays wk 15.jpg

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

For those of you have had a go at some of the mindfulness meditation activities discussed throughout this blog, I am sure you would have met with some resistance or struggle being able to apply the techniques in actual practice. This is a perfectly normal experience and one which often continues to occur even after a significant amount of practice. Sometimes it can be helpful to utilise other resources to assist in our mindfulness meditation practice so for this week’s blog, I wanted to provide a brief overview of some apps and resources available that you might want to consider using.

Smiling Mind – Smiling Mind is a 100% non-for-profit organisation whose sole focus is making mindfulness more accessible to everyday people. They have a great app that is available on IOS and Android that contains different mindfulness programs based on age group. Best of all it is a free app so it is certainly worth checking out. Smiling Mind is also a good way to encourage your children to think about and practice mindfulness. More information is available here: https://www.smilingmind.com.au/smiling-mind-app

Headspace app – Headspace is an organisation that is devoted to providing mental health support to children, adolescents, and young adults. On top of the many great resources and programs they offer at the many Headspace sites, they have created an app available on both IOS and Android that provides information on mindfulness as well as opportunity to practice mindfulness. For more information, check out https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app

Insight Timer – this is one of my favourite apps as it provides thousands of recordings in a number of different topics and formats including guided mindfulness, meditation, music, talks and more. New tracks are added daily and there is the option to search for particular recordings according to what type (e.g., meditation, music, mindfulness, talks), length, rating and so on.  The recordings are streamed so this app does require an active internet/cellular connection. It is a free app unless you subscribe in which case you get additional features such as the ability to download the tracks so you can play them offline (i.e., without internet/cellular data required). Even without a subscription, there is an offline mode with some good features but to get the most out of this app you will want to be able to access the many thousands of tracks that are available through streaming. If you are at home with Wi-Fi or have a generous data plan, this may be less of an issue. For the record, I use this app regularly and I have not subscribed. The majority of content is available without a subscription; subscribing only opens up new features rather than more content. This app is available on both IOS and Android and more information is available here: https://insighttimer.com/

There many other apps available out there. If you are to search for mindfulness and meditation based apps in the Apple Store or Google Play, you are likely to find hundreds of apps. I think the above three represent a good place to start but I certainly haven’t used all of the ones available on the market. You might find some other great apps out there too. At the end of the day, these apps provided guided activities that can help make those initial attempts at practice formal mindfulness a bit easier. In addition, they have lots of helpful information and resources around mindfulness including practical tips in applying mindfulness to daily life.

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief & loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs call us on 0417 389 941 or send an email to strongmindspsychteam@gmail.com

Mindfulness Monday – Applying mindfulness to daily life

Mindful Mondays wk 14.jpg

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

Over the past month or two, I have provided a guide to a number of specific mindfulness meditation practices that you may have had the opportunity to practice. However, I thought it would be worthwhile this week revisiting the idea of informal practice or, more importantly, how to bring a sense of present-moment awareness to our daily life without the need for formal practice.

If you have been able to practice some of the exercises in a formal sense, that is great. But for many of us, we just run out of time or perhaps do not make the time. That is OK too; part of the philosophy of mindfulness is the notion of being non-judgemental. Thus, judging or criticising our self for not practising is not helpful (e.g., “I should be making time for this”). Formal practice is great and it is helpful, but there is no reason you cannot apply mindfulness at any time during your daily life. In fact, it is the day to day application that is often most beneficial. Being able to be fully aware of the present moment is incredibly important. I touched on this in an earlier blog about our relationships and how being mindful during our interactions with others is so important.

It is not just being mindful of our interactions with others, it is the capacity to remain mindful during times of difficulty such as those times we might experience stress, anger, or anxiety. Being in tune with these feelings can help us respond in more appropriate ways. For instance, if we are more mindful of our anger, we may become more sensitive to signs that we are getting angry and we may be able to respond in a less reactive way. If we can just take a step back and look at the emotion, and the accompanying thoughts, we may be able to get through it with less struggle. That does not mean the feeling goes away necessarily, but rather we just relate to it in a different way with more awareness and curiosity to the experience we are having.

Why not take a moment right not to be fully aware of your current experience. What are you feeling? What sensations do you notice both outside and inside of yourself? What thoughts are running through your head? You can be mindful anytime you decide to be fully present and aware of the experiencing you are having. You do not have to dedicate a specific time of day to be present. And remember, being present is one of the greatest gifts of all.

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief & loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs, complete the form below or call us on 0417 389 941.

 

 

Mindfulness Meditation 6 – Focus on Counting & Breathing

Mindful Mondays wk 13

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

This week, I decided to focus on another technique I was taught to use when practicing mindfulness meditation. For this technique, it combines counting and breathing as the basis for the practice.

Focus: counting, breathing

Time: continue until you reach the end of the counting exercise

Body: sitting or lying

Technique: for this technique, choose a comfortable position and spend the initial minute or so just trying to get into a state of relaxation.

Pay attention to your shoulders and jaw where we can hold tension. Allow those parts of the body – and any other area you might hold tension – to relax.

For this technique, you will combine breathing with a specified counting technique. When you are ready to start, take a breath in and in your head count ‘1’ and then as you breathe out, again count ‘1’.

On the next breath in, again count ‘1’ and as you breathe out count ‘2’.

For the next cycle, the breath in will again be ‘1’ and the breath out will be ‘3’.

Continue to do so until you reach 1-10 after which you will take a deep breath (no counting) and then start from 2-1.

Basically, you will start at 1-1 and work all the way up to ’10-10’ at which point the exercise can finish. It sounds easy but it is a good exercise in not only awareness, but focus. You mind will naturally wander so it is easy to get distracted and forget where you were up to. If you lose track, you should either start again or start from the last number you can remember.

As a reminder, the counting should proceed like so:

1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 1-7, 1-8, 1-9, 1-10 / Finish with a breath in and out but no counting

2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 2-4, 2-5, 2-6, 2-7, 2-8, 2-9, 2-10 / Finishing with a breath in and out but no counting

3-1, 3-2….and so on until you reach 10-10.

It’s quite a tricky task but as I noted, it is a good exercise in being mindful of the breath and counting.

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief & loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs, complete the form below or call us on 0417 389 941.

 

Mindfulness Meditation – Current Experience

Mindful Mondays wk 12.png

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

My previous blog described a mindfulness meditation practice that utilised multiple points of focus for awareness, including thoughts, breathing and sensory experience. This week, our mindfulness practice will target relational experiences. That is, you are encouraged to practice mindfulness while engaging with another significant person(s) in your life. Technically, this is not an example of mindfulness meditation but it is a good way to practice informal mindfulness. And you can always spend some time reflecting on the exercises afterwards too, which gives it more of a meditative flavour.

Focus: no specific focus, whatever is happening in the current experience

Time:  no time specified, do so for as long as you feel is necessary

Body: will vary depending on what you are doing

Technique: the basic aim here is to take some of the skills we have discussed thus far and apply them during a time where you are interacting with someone else. This might be your children, a partner, a friend or some other significant other. It doesn’t even need to be a ‘significant’ other, it can even be a colleague or any person(s) you have the opportunity to interact with over the next week or so. The point is, during your interaction, you should aim to bring your entire awareness to whatever it is you are doing. I’ll use the example of playing a game with a child, but you can of course apply this approach to other people and activities as well. During the game, be fully aware of what is happening both within yourself and between you and the other person. Notice your own thoughts and experiences (e.g., this might include being distracted by thoughts of needing to do something else) and also notice how you and the other person communicate and interact. Bring your awareness to their experience too; what do they appear to be feeling? How do they interact with you? How does your presence affect them? If engaging in a game (again, this is just the example), be fully aware of the game and the ongoing interaction occurring. The aim is to notice when you get distracted; as we have discussed, this is likely to occur but that point it that you notice when it happens. There is no need to act on this. For whatever amount of time you decide to practice, be fully and completely aware and engaged with the activity and the other person(s). Spending quality time with people, particularly children, where we are fully aware and engaged is extremely important. The term proximal abandonment refers to parenting that is emotionally unavailable. While we may be physically close, we can get so caught up in our own head (worries, plans, anxieties, stresses etc) that we are not properly tuning into our children (or other significant people in life). Hopefully, this activity will give you the opportunity to practice being completely emotionally available by applying mindfulness to our key relationships.

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief & loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs, complete the form below or call us on 0417 389 941.

Mindful Mondays Week 11 – Mindfulness Meditation Practice 4

Mindful Mondays wk 11

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

Rather than introducing anything specifically new this week, I wanted to focus this weeks practice on putting together some of the elements of previous weeks. Namely, I wanted to encourage a practice that encourages an awareness of everything in our present moment experience. This does mean your focus can shift around at your choosing, but the aim is to be fully aware and present with the very experiencing you are having.

Focus: Thoughts, feelings, emotions, body, sensations, breath

Time:  10 minutes

Body: lotus position, sitting comfortably in a chair, or lying down if you wish

Technique: Like the most of the practices so far, you can choose a position that is comfortable for you, either sitting with back straight or lying down. For this practice, I want you to bring your awareness to your entire experience. This will mean that your focus will shift around, as it is difficult to be fully aware of everything in our experience in any given moment. After all, the whole point about mindfulness is bringing our awareness to something in the present moment. Allow your focus to move around naturally, or if you prefer you can direct your awareness as you see fit. Notice your breathing. Notice sensations in the body; aches, pains, tingling, warmth or cold and so on. Notice the content of your thoughts. Notice how your thoughts come and go. Notice how some thoughts ‘hook’ you, and steal your awareness away from you. Notice what you can see (if eyes are open). Notice what you can hear. Notice the contact points (where your body makes contact with the world around you, such as the floor or chair). Notice any smells or tastes in your mouth. Just be fully connected to the present moment.

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief & loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs, complete the form below or call us on 0417 389 941.

Mindful Mondays Week 10 – Mindfulness Meditation Practice 3

Mindful Mondays wk 10

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

So far in our mindfulness meditation practices, we have focussed on mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of body (body scan) and a mindful eating exercise for the Easter weekend last week. Given that we have focused on breathing and the body previously, I thought it would be appropriate to focus this week on our thoughts. Our thoughts are often a source of great discomfort and distress, with the brain constantly chatting away thinking about the past, the future, our worries, memories, attitudes, judgements and so on. There is often an assumption that we have a lot more control over our thoughts than we actually do. Sure, we can influence and control our thoughts to some degree but we often fall into the trap of struggling with our thoughts. Trying thinking about a really significant memory that has a lot of personal meaning to you. Now, try and delete or remove that memory. You see? It cannot be done. If I tell you NOT to think about an elephant, you are very likely to do the exact opposite. We have less control over thoughts than we often believe.

Learning to apply mindfulness and just notice our thoughts without judging them or reacting to them is an important skill to develop. Developing our capacity to not attach to our thoughts can lead to an improved sense of well-being and less psychological distress. The aim of this activity is to help you start developing that capacity, by bringing a sense of mindfulness to our stream of thoughts.

Focus: Thoughts

Time:  5 minutes

Body: lotus position, sitting comfortably in a chair, or lying down if you wish

Technique: once you have chosen a comfortable position, it is helpful to start with a brief focus on your breathing just to help centre and ground yourself. Having done so, bring your awareness to your mind where your thoughts originate. During this exercise, we want to notice the various thoughts that come to mind. Again, these might be thoughts about the past, the future, memories, worries, images, words, ideas, and contemplation on what to have for dinner tonight. You may even notice judgements, such as “doing this is silly”. As you complete this activity, visualise a conveyor belt that is in constant motion. Do your best to visualise one as clearly as possible. If you struggle with visualisation, just imagine a thick, black line constantly moving (like a conveyor belt) in your mind. Now, each time you notice a thought, imagine picking up the thought and placing it on the conveyor belt/line so that it just passes by. There is no need for judgement (“that is a good thought” or “that is a bad thought”). We simply notice the thought, pick it up and place it down. You  may notice that sometimes you get caught up in your thoughts. That is OK. When you notice this, just pick up the thought and put it down. Keep doing so for around 5 minutes (more if you wish) before finishing.

Part of the aim of this activity is to build your capacity to be aware of the many different types of thoughts you may have. It also helps practice your mindfulness by bringing your full awareness to the activity of your mind. Each time you notice a different thought, you pick it up and place it on the conveyor belt. As an alternative, you can imagine a stream of water in your mind instead of a conveyor belt. If you visualise a stream instead, imagine that each thought becomes a leaf which you gently place in the stream to allow it to float away.

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief & loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs, complete the form below or call us on 0417 389 941.

Easter Mindfulness

Mindful Mondays wk 9

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

Given it is Easter Monday today, I thought it would be appropriate to incorporate chocolate into the activity for this week. I do acknowledge that Easter means different things to different people. For some, Easter is a very important time tied to their specific religious beliefs. For others, Easter has little or no personal meaning or significance. For many, Easter is a holiday that is celebrated by giving chocolate. My focus is on cultivating mindfulness so irrespective of your own personal belief around Easter, I hope you can enjoy the mindfulness activity for this week.

            If you do not like or cannot eat chocolate, you can complete this activity with another food choice. A sultana is another good choice but you can essentially using anything. That said, it will work better with a small item of food (e.g., piece of chocolate, sultana, grape, nut etc) rather than something bigger and more complex (e.g., a whole sandwich). Given you are likely to have some chocolate laying around at this time of year, chocolate is a good choice! It may help to use chocolate that has been in the refrigerator as you will be handling the chocolate before eating it. Thus, if it is cold, it will last longer before melting!

  • Take a small piece of chocolate (or other food) and bring your full awareness to it. Imagine that you have never come into contact with chocolate before and that this whole experience was new.
  • Using all of your senses, notice as much as you can about the chocolate. Notice what is feels like in your hands. How does it feel? Can you notice the coldness or can you feel it melting?
  • Look at it closely, what do you notice? Is the surface smooth? Does it have bumps or lines or any other markings?
  • Bring it up to your nose and smell it. Is it a strong smell or is it more subtle? Is it a pleasant smell?
  • Try snapping a piece of the chocolate if you can. Can you hear the sound of it breaking apart? If it is in a foil wrapper, can you hear the sound of the foil unravelling?
  • Now the best part – slowly bring the chocolate up to your mouth. As you take start to eat it, do so slowly and notice the texture, the flavour and the consistency. Can you notice it melting in your mouth? What different flavours can you distinguish?

            Pretty simple really. All you have to do is apply mindfulness to the task of eating a piece of chocolate. We often eat our food in a very mindless way, scoffing it down without paying much attention to what we are doing. For this exercise, we are being fully aware of the experience. Enjoy.

 

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief & loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs, complete the form below or call us on 0417 389 941.

Mindful Mondays Week 8 Mindfulness Meditation Practice 2

Mindful Mondays wk6

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

Last week, I provide some instructions on a fairly simple mindfulness meditation activity focusing on the breath. This week, we are going to try something a little different by introducing a basic body scan. A body scan involves being our awareness to our body, generally starting at one point in the body and moving slowly throughout the body until we reach an end point. In most cases, it means starting with the head and moving downwards towards the toes. A key difference between this week and last week is the change to the focus of our mindfulness. Whereas last week was focused on our natural breathing, this week we focus on our body. This type of exercise is often used in mindfulness and relaxation training. An example of this is Progressive Muscle Relaxation whereby you bring your awareness to various muscle groups in the body and deliberate tense the muscle before allowing to relax. Our approach this week is going to be a little more simple so read on and give it a go!

Focus: Body

Time:  this activity may take between 5 and 10 minutes but can vary

Body: lotus position, sitting comfortably in a chair, or lying down if you wish

Technique: you can start by briefly bringing your awareness to your breathing just as a way of getting into a mindful state of mind. After a few moments being aware of your breathing, bring your entire awareness to the top of your head. Notice any sensations you may feel as you bring your awareness to the top of your head. You may feel tingling, itching, a sense of coolness or warmth, an ache or pain. You may also not really notice any significant sensation but that is OK. Just keep your awareness on top of your head. If you do notice any sensation, just notice it and accept it and keep maintaining your awareness. After some time has passed, move your awareness down your neck into your shoulders. Again, notice any sensations including any tension that you may be carrying. There is no need to do anything, we are just noticing. You can then move your awareness slowly down each arm right up to your fingertips. Do it slowly and as you do, notice any sensations. From there, you want to continue with the same process going through your chest down to your abdomen through to your legs and feet. Take your time with the process and notice as much as you can about the various sensations in your body.

Remember, while doing the above you are likely to have a lot of distracting thoughts. That is normal. Just recognise when you mind wanders and bring your awareness back to your body. There are lots of guided body scans available online, including YouTube. They vary a little bit but the basic premise is the same. I have included a link to a long (30 minutes) and short (5 minute) body scan that you might like to try. It can be a bit easier being guided through an activity like this, at least initially.

Have a great week!

https://youtu.be/dsmfIAyiois (short body scan)

https://youtu.be/_DTmGtznab4 (longer body scan)

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief & loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs, complete the form below or call us on 0417 389 941.

Mindful Mondays Week 7 Mindfulness Meditation Practice 1

Mindful Mondays wk7

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

By now, my hope is that I have provided you with a basic introduction to mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. This has been, of course, an extremely brief and basic overview of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. They are quite literally hundreds of books, course, and websites on the topic so if you feel you need more information, I’d encourage you to explore more. My aim is to provide a more accessible introduction into these ideas that doesn’t overwhelm or put off. There is no need to jump into the deep end straight away; sometimes it is nice just to dip your toes in and get used to the water before slowly submerging yourself.

For this week, I want to start encourage ongoing mindfulness meditation practice. I’ve already provided some details on how you might practice in earlier blogs, but from today I’d like to make it a formal practice. Remember, mindfulness meditation is a practice that is relatively easy to learn but can take years to master. For each practice I introduce, I will give a few details on 1) The focus of the mindfulness practice (e.g., breath), 2) the length of time, 3) body position, 4) any specific technique/strategy to include

Practice 1 – Brief mindfulness meditation

Focus: Breath

Time:  5 minutes

Body: sitting comfortably on the floor in lotus position. If this is uncomfortable, you can sit in a chair. The main thing to ensure is that your back is straight and you are comfortable.

Technique: keep this practice simple. No music. Just sit for 5 minutes and focus on your breathing. Allow your breathing to be natural. No need to modify your breathing in any way. Your attention will naturally wander (“why am I doing this?” “what should I have for lunch?”). This is natural. Just notice your thoughts, let them go, and return your awareness to your breathing. Try and notice as much as you can about the breathing process. Notice how deep or shallow your breathing is. Notice the rate of breathing. Try and notice the air pass through your nostrils (remember, try and breathing in and out through the nose). Notice as the air enters into your lungs. If it helps, you can remember the three R’s

  • Rest your awareness on your breath
  • Recognise when your mind wanders
  • Return your awareness to your breath

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief &loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs, complete the form below or call us on 0417 389 941.

Mindful Mondays – Formal Mindfulness

Mindful Mondays wk4

TOBY MIZZI, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST, STRONG MINDS PSYCHOLOGY

Last blog, we introduced informal mindfulness which basically meant bringing your full attention and awareness to the present moment, whatever you may have been doing in that moment. Mindfulness can also be practiced formally, which essentially means a dedicated time to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation is the best example of this. It is important to distinguish that mindfulness and meditation are not the same thing. Meditation is simply one way (of many) you can practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness based meditation usually involves simply paying attention to your breath. In fact, focussing on the breath is probably the most common way to practice mindfulness. Your breath is always with you and is an ongoing physiological activity that will continue regardless of whether you are aware of it or not (in other words, it is automatic). This is part of the reason why focussing on the breath is often a good place to start if you want to practice mindfulness. There are hundreds of different specific breathing techniques that you could use, but the main point is that you are bringing your whole awareness to breathing. Take notice of your natural breathing rhythm. Do not try and chance it. Just notice it. See if you can notice the feeling of the breath passing through your nostrils. You might notice that the air is cool as it enters through the nostrils. Notice the feeling of your diaphragm expanding and collapsing as you breathe in and out.

Some people might like a bit more structure to their mindfulness practice, so you might try and technique such as the 7/11 technique where you breath in for a count of 7 seconds and then breath out for a count of 11 seconds. Of course, even this can be modified to suit your own style (e.g., shorter breathing counts).

One thing you are likely to notice when practicing this sort of activity is that the mind will always wander. The aim here is not to stop your mind wandering but to simply recognise and acknowledge when thoughts start to manifest and to accept them and allow them to move on before bringing your awareness back to your breath. I often like to use the ‘Three R’s’ method as a basic reminder to Rest your awareness on your breath / Recognise when and where your mind wanders / Return your awareness to the breath. This is a helpful guide as it is only natural that your mind will wander when you try and practice mindfulness. You can also consider guided meditations which can be a good place to start. That way, you simply have to listen to the instructions in the guide as to what you need to do.

Consider starting and/or ending your day with some mindfulness practice. You don’t have to it for hours and hours. Even five minutes once a day is a good start. If you make the time to practice it formally, it will become more natural in your other day to day activities (informally). Give it a go and see how it might help. Mindfulness has been linked to a number of positive outcomes including reduced stress, reduced emotional reactivity (e.g., anger), more self-compassion and greater cognitive flexibility. Mindfulness is also incorporated into a number of treatment programs including Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is very widely used as a therapeutic tool in modern times.

Here are some more tips on practising mindfulness:

https://au.reachout.com/articles/how-to-practice-mindfulness

https://www.smilingmind.com.au/

About the Author:

Toby Mizzi (Counselling Psychologist)

Toby shares his time between the Strong Minds Psychology team, Swinburne University, and his young family. He is passionate about providing individualised support, and empowering people to enhance their mental health. Toby provides counselling and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples – helping with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship difficulties, grief &loss, and family conflict. Mindful Mondays will be a regular blog on our website and Facebook page. 

If you would like to discuss how the Strong Minds Psychology team can support your mental health needs, complete the form below or call us on 0417 389 941.