• drashleighmclellan

A simple route to mindfulness and meditation

Are you someone who finds it hard to make time to do mindfulness even though you know that it will be beneficial for you?

Mindfulness Trees

Maybe you do practice a little mindfulness, but are often distracted by your to-do list, emails, that small task that just needs finishing, or any other pressing thing your brain decides to alert you to - and that includes social media!

Because of these distracting thoughts, you might think that mindfulness just isn’t for you, or you may even be self-critical about whether your practice was a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ session.

Or maybe, every time you have tried to close your eyes, you have had a sense of feeling overwhelmed by emotions or memories, and actually, mindfulness can feel a little bit scary? This is more common than you might think and it's nothing to be ashamed of (you can read more about this in my upcoming blog on trauma-sensitive mindfulness).

I have both personal and clinical experience of mindfulness and meditation practice and have struggled with all of the above. I know a lot about the science behind the benefits of mindfulness and yet I can still find it challenging to devote time to really developing my skills in this area.

Don't get me wrong, over many years of study and practice, I have definitely improved but I know there’s still a way to go. One thing I have noticed is that the time when you most need to calm the mind is when it can feel the hardest to try and do something like mindfulness.

What’s going on in your brain?

When life is incredibly busy, you feel stressed and overwhelmed, it is your threat system that’s online; constantly scanning the environment with the motivation of protecting us from danger.

Because our threat system emotions, such as anger and anxiety, are activating, we are more physiologically aroused, which can make even the idea of sitting down to rest feel unappealing. If we do actually sit down and close our eyes with the intention of focusing on our breath, we can notice that our thinking brain (our evolutionary new brain) can be constantly running through the things that we need to do, making mental lists, rehashing difficult conversations or rehearsing new ones (this is our default mode network, part of our neural circuitry, in action). All of this can lead to further stimulation of our threat system and increased arousal, especially if we're being self-critical about the fact that we ‘can't even do some mindfulness which is supposed to help us’.

The first thing to say is: it’s not our fault. This mental activity is the product of millions of years of evolution, together with genes, temperament and social conditioning that has shaped our brain. It’s actually perfectly normal, your brain is working in the way that it was ‘designed’ to.

But how can we help our brains on this path into mindfulness and all its benefits?

I didn't have a clear solution to this, and in a clinical setting it could be a challenge. The people who needed the benefits of the mindfulness practice the most, were the ones who also struggled the most. Mindful mediation is a skill, and so many of us need support and structure, or scaffolding, while learning something new.

There's no ‘one size fits all’ solution but when my step-mum Hilary McLellan, an Organisational Behaviourist, spoke to me about the beginnings of a mindfulness product that uses visual stimulation, beautiful scenes and sounds of nature, I started to see how this could be incredibly helpful in providing the scaffolding that people need.

Initially, the idea that Hilary and Karl had was to take ‘ready-made’ mindfulness audio scripts and have the scenes of nature as a backdrop. As we started to discuss ideas, we realised that by interweaving the awe of nature, we could enhance what is being cultivated in our minds.

At the end of 2019, I started working with Karl and Hilary and Your Virtual Mind Trainer (YVMT) evolved into looking at ways to both ‘calm the mind’ and ‘train the mind’ in different qualities and characteristics, that we know can be incredibly beneficial in approaching life generally, but also in finding a sense of ease or happiness or competence at work.

When I first watched the 360° videos of nature that Hilary and Karl had filmed and edited, I was humbled by the positive physiological impact that seeing a scene of nature could have on me. I could soon feel my parasympathetic, rest and digest/soothing, system coming online.

Mindfulness Trees

Our modern-day life is so full of visual stimulation via technology and often what we're looking at has a negative physiological effect on our body. YVMT comes to you through the very devices we’re so often glued to anyway but rather than spending six minutes on social media (which let’s face it can suck you into spending longer than six minutes!) you can spend that time getting a boost from nature and rebalancing your system.

We're really excited to be bringing this product to you and we're looking forward to helping you start to feel the benefits of mindfulness and nature wherever you are.

If you would like to find out more, watch our preview video, and subscribe to a package, please visit us at www.yvmtrainer.com

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