Mindful eating in self-isolation

Until recently I was completing a 12-week, group-based, NHS supported programme to lose weight for health reasons. I’m technically obese, asthmatic and have other minor weight-related health issues. In the last month I have reduced my calorie intake, been walking more and attending sessions such as Aquacise at the local pool and was feeling quite positive and motivated.

The COVID-19 \ Coronavirus pandemic has meant that these activities have been disrupted, even just with a reduction in activities and before social distancing \ self-isolation due to the outbreak. Obviously we don’t know to what degree our diets will be affected or for how long, but potential home isolation, heightened anxiety or depression, changes in routine and a lack of variety of food types are likely to impact attempts at weight loss.

At The Owl and The Coconut we try to accept ourselves as we are and reduce absorption of external opinions about weight loss. Over Christmas 2019 at the Book Club (now online!) we read body positivity activist Megan Janye Crabbe aka @bodyposipanda‘s book,  that diets more often than not impossible, and that diet culture is a thing of the past.

We can be fit and happy at any body size, and Megan believes that diet culture is ‘just a marketing spin to make us feel bad and consume more, setting us up to fail and living on a never ending hamster wheel to self-acceptance – something that you just can’t buy’. However, some of us aren’t or don’t feel healthy, and the good thing about the programme I was on was that it was about making small, sustainable changes for our health. Our society may also have been the root cause of overeating, which isn’t healthy.

One thing that can help and doesn’t rely on an external world (obviously apart from being able to get some food in the first place!) is mindful eating, a way to try to change how you think about and go about eating in itself, a form of mindfulness that has been shown to be an effective technique to help gain control eating habits and disorders, reduce binge eating, help weight loss and the best one, improve experiences of enjoyment! It can definitely help to create better relationships with food and healthy weight loss.

So what is mindful eating?

You may have heard of the raisin technique, a practice that is part of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. It involves placing yourself somewhere free from distractions, and exploring a raisin or other small berry with all your senses and a “beginner’s mind”, as though you’d never experienced one before. Eventually you would place the raisin in your mouth (which is where the eating bit comes into it!) but eating can be so much more before chewing, and we’ve become accustomed not to even take notice of food anymore, despite our propensity to make it so tasty and varied.

Getting into the habit of mindful eating isn’t always easy after years of living in a fast-paced society, mindlessly eating, but practise can mean that eventually it is second nature and you could start implementing mindful eating habits with more meals. You could perhaps start with just mindfully eating one meal a day, just snacks or foods with high salt or sugar content. You’ll also find that if you’re rationing food, mindful eating can make eating much more enjoyable and memorable! When you are trying to cut down on something (or scarecity requires it), savouring becomes almost a neccessity. You could also save money and find that you eat much less generally. It can have benefits for anyone, not just those with weight issues.

Some key points about mindful eating:

  • Your brain can take up to 20 minutes to register its fullness, so eating more slowly is an important part of mindful eating and can help to prevent overeating.
  • Appreciation of your food, particularly if you took time to make it, is also key. Appreciation could even start during preparation!
  • Eating without distraction can also help to promote mindfulness – try ceasing conversations and bringing your attention away from the TV for example, and focussing on your food.
  • You should also try to pay attention to your physical fullness-hunger cues, eating only until you’re full and not beyond that, and honing you ability to distinguish between physical hunger as opposed to more psychological triggers for eating.
  • Allowing time for more engagement of your senses by paying more attention to the food itself; noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and flavours for example.
  • You may find that you feel differently about something after eating it more slowly and mindfully, for example noticing how sugary it feels in the body.

Mindful eating challenge

Say you wanted to mindfully eat a chocolate biscuit (one of my favorite snacks). First eliminate all distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone further away so you can eat in silence or with quiet music on, and then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does the biscuit look like? Does it have a pattern? What colours is it made up from when you turn it towards the light?
  • Close your eyes if you want to.
  • What texture is it? How does it feel in the hand? If you break it, what happens to it?
  • What does it smell like? Do you like it? What does it remind you of? Does each side smell different?
  • Lick it… What does it it taste like? Is it different than the smell? Can you sense different ingredients?
  • Take a tiny bite…. How does it feel on your teeth? How does it break down when you hold it on your toungue and move it around?
  • Chew thoroughly and slowly… What does it feel like? How sweet is it?
  • Take a breath or a drink between every other bite.
  • Tune in to how the food makes you feel and any physiological changes in your body.
  • Stop eating when you’re full.
  • How do you feel immediately after, or 20 minutes later?
  • After doing this regularly for a few weeks, do you notice a change in how you feel about this particular food? Is there anything you’d like to add or suggest? Let us know on our Facebook page or in the comments below!

Hopefully you will experience some benefits from mindful eating, and can spread the idea to your loved ones, to get you all really enjoying your food! The raisin practice is part of the MBSR course and occasionally some other The Owl and The Coconut online classes – check them out on the Classes and Courses page.

Further reading: 13 tips to stop mindless eating

Author: Lucie Fitzpatrick, freelance marketing consultant.
Date: March 20, 2020

The Owl and The Coconut Self-Care Team Share Event

We invited all our volunteers, staff and associate freelancers to come along to a special Team Time at The Nest event that was kindly funded by HOUR Manchester to share a memory, hobby, activity or skill that they love with the team in any way they chose; something that sparks joy within them and enhances their wellbeing. They could demonstrate through hands-on, “show, tell and try” or a more formal presentation, whatever they felt most comfortable with. The aim was to share and empower others to try new things or get involved with something new.

After the Team Time, the team headed for local pub The Blue Bell Inn for a hearty Sunday Roast. This provided more time for some unstructured sharing! The impact for the team overall was a general consensus of feeling closer to each other, learning and growth through being able to share something important to them.

Team member: Pam – Circle Time Sharing

Pam just returned from maternity leave and felt that she really needed to reconnect with the team, so she hoped that sharing the activity of ‘Circle Time’ would provide the chance to do that. Circle Time is often used in schools and youth groups to enable young people to get to know each other better and become accustomed to sharing their feelings. Pam’s share time was first activity of the day, and it helped to loosen up the group and feel warmed up for sharing and receiving.

Each person held a cuddly pig as they shared. Lauren thought Pam’s activity choice was apt given her openness for dialogue; to present a question and delight in each answer. One question required each team member to say something that they liked about the person next to them, which was enlightening and inviting when people weren’t so familiar with each other, and heart warming and empowering when they were, pointing out how other’s actions, support or even just their personality traits had affected them personally, in a positive way. Perhaps such openness should be more present in daily life – or just part of every Team Time!

“I love getting to know people better and about their lives , not just talking about work stuff, and because I’m nosey! [I liked] just having time together and not having to focus on a particular task or piece of work. Yet mindfulness and art were still very present, despite us not having to use them directly for the presentations.”

Team member: Lucie – Life through a lens

After Pam had warmed the group into a atmosphere, Lucie set up a projector to share a selection of “urban photography”. Sharing why she loves photography – the message in general was to take notice; to capture moments; to see in different ways. She thinks it is important, to see the world around you rather than being too absorbed in tasks or thoughts all the time. To stop, to notice and to create!

As well as a projector presentation showing images and things to look out for when out taking photographs (or simply all day, every day!), Lucie brought printed photographs, mostly square prints of pictures edited on and taken directly from her Instagram account. This allowed the team to see them in a different format, touch them and see the richness of the colours. She talked the group through looking out for things such as weather, times of day, layers and point of view to create an interesting image and perhaps a new perspective. Most importantly – explore! Keep your eyes peeled; you can always crop later! And never hesitate or feel embarrassed to take a photograph.

“I’m one of the newest team members and often work in isolation with a focus to get things done, so it was great to meet with people I don’t know very well yet. The presentations gave me a window to peek into their lives and what matters to them. I enjoyed the mix of subjects and how they were shared, I loved trying a new art form led by Lauren – I’m always keen to try something where I have to let go! I also liked documenting the day through photography and hearing about Jess’ emerging wild and wise womanhood!”

Team member: Jess – Finding the plot

Jess shared her ideas and plans with the group for a double allotment space from which she wants to not only grow plants, herbs and vegetables, but also run community events around creativity, eco-friendliness and sustainability, perhaps some in partnership with The Owl and The Coconut potentially called “Finding the Plot”. Jess’ enthusiasm and passion for the project was clear because of how she talked about her ideas for workshops and events (such as the recycled plastic art workshops she has planned at The Nest) from the plot and her collection of photos in a digital journal. She also talked about the growth she has experienced as a woman and as a person and how her activities and experiences are aligning with the plans for the space. She wanted to share it with the group because she believes it is something that could potentially “be amazing and benefit all”, and she wanted to gauge enthusiasm and energy from others about it.

“I absolutely just love being in the building. The Nest is a lovely environment to be in, with its beautiful high windows. There’s nothing better than coming to a place amongst a group of likeminded and mindful lovelies, which in turn brings me serenity and comfort knowing I’m in a safe environment. It gave me a snippet into my fellow colleagues’ lives, a fraction of the hobbies shared with us, it was mindfully inspiring. It topped any team minutes I’ve ever attended. I loved learning more about other team members, I’ve never done that in the workplace, though this seems far from your usual workplace.”

Team member: Gemma – REFLECTION ON AN IMPORTANT TIME OF LIFE

Gemma was next, and she has chosen to share photographs and memories of her 8 or so months travelling and living in Thailand during her 20s whilst studying for a BA in Photography. She told us about the people she met and how it had impacted her life since. Her photos of smiling faces and foreign lands painted a rich picture of her friendships and experiences there. During Pam’s ‘circle time’ Gemma shared how she was at a point in her life now when her favourite place to be is at home spending time with her son, husband and dog, chatting and watching TV, and that though she enjoyed experience living in a place that has a slower pace of living learning how she might be able to do that here, she is content with her life and doesn’t feel an urge to travel anymore because she loves her home and area she lives.
She said she chose this to so she could share with the team an experience in her life that was important to her. “It influenced my interest in meditation, creativity and living life in the ‘middle lane’; the Buddhist idea of the middle path or equanimity.” Lauren loved seeing Gemma’s treasured photography paper box, filled with a collection of photos and tokens; shareable memories from an incredible adventure. Jess is keen to visit Thailand, so was really interested to hear about the country.

Gemma said the special Team Time helped her to feel closer to the group. She particularly enjoyed hearing people tell what they appreciated about each other and found it heartwarming.

“It was lovely to see everyone lighting up when sharing their interests and passions and good to share time outside of ‘work’ mode.”

Team member: Lauren – Letting go of control with MINDFUL painT play

Last, but by no means least, Lauren asked us to “let go”. Despite being mainly a digital artist since getting her first drawing tablet more than a decade ago, getting her hands into paint and chalk and ink has been one of Lauren’s favourite feelings for as long as she can remember. Generally working with “tidier materials” and enjoying the abundance of control that digital art allows, the way that Lauren works rarely allows space for play.

She chose to share “fluid art” with The Owl and The Coconut family for Team Time not because it’s intentionally Mindful Art, but because it’s a kind of messy and playful art that just happens to also be mindful – and one that she’s grown fond of. She discovered when she started researching acrylic pouring techniques last year, that it is a satisfying way of playing whilst making something that always ends up with a great result but is also messy, and – as much as you can try – it’s pretty uncontrollable.

“I find helps to break me out of the structure of the way I usually work. It’s a kind of art-making that you have to be patient for, that you can guide but mostly develops on its own, and that often uncovers all sorts of secrets and happy accidents as the paint mixes and shifts and settles. I knew that even if we went in with the exact same colours on the exact same coasters we’d all end up with results as individual as we are, and end up with a lovely little souvenir as well.”

“Just like the coasters, everyone at The Nest is wonderfully individual too, but also – somehow – crafted from the same materials. A bright streak of kindness and compassion here, a whorl of sparkling creativity there, all layered on top of our own palettes of personality and knowledge and passions, which pull together to complement each other in a collaborative exhibition; one that hadn’t been planned or intended, but happened naturally – and a bit like it was meant to happen all along.”
She relished the opportunity to find out a little more about the team, to share and learn something more about each other throught individual ways of visualising, collecting, and sharing information.

“Just like each colour we used in our acrylic paint pours, we as a team all found each other and added something new and unique to the canvas that is The Owl and The Coconut – I think that Team Time was a great reminder of that.”


Thanks to MACC’s HOUR Manchester for enabling us to have such a wonderful Self-Care Team Time! If you’re interested in The Owl and The Coconut, read about our work here!

The Nest: Wellness Centre

Creative arts and Wellness Centre

We are delighted to have set up home in the beautiful 1900s Carnegie building of Levenshulme Old Library in Manchester, where we host our Mindful Meditation and Mindful Art courses, events and workshops. We also have an amazing bunch of Nest members who share their great work at The Nest creative arts and wellness centre too! Come and have a look around and learn more about what’s happening at The Nest at our open day Sunday 22nd September 11am-5pm, as part of Levenshulme Jumble Trail. Find us on Cromwell Grove, M19 3QE or have a look around in this virtual tour now!

Here are a few of the fab people and wellness experiences on offer here at The Nest:

MASSAGE THERAPY

Fancy a massage? Then Simone Tunney, Massage Therapist from Olympians Lounge is your woman! Simone is an award-winning Massage Therapist and I can personally confirm that her massages are absolutely amazing! Simone says: “I’m here to inspire you to prioritise your wellness and boost your strength, so that you can continue in whatever you wish to succeed in, the right way!”

HEALING GONG BATHS

Have you ever had a Gong Bath? Don’t worry, you won’t have to take your clothes off! We are delighted to host monthly gong baths from the amazing Martyn Cawthorne at Gong Spa, who says: “Hi I’m Martyn. I’m a qualified gong practitioner having completed a 1-year gong course at the College of Sound Healing.

I offer large, group gongs baths at various venues around Manchester and Cheshire. Gong baths are wonderful for your well-being, a completely unique way to spend an hour or so in harmonic luxury, enveloped by frequencies that can stimulate profound inner journeys and awakenings. I’ve been a musician and meditator for over 25 years and my passions are of sounds, silence and sharing.” 

LIFE COACHING AND PSYCHOLOGICAL THERAPIES

Is your life on track? Could you do with some impractical support to help you life your best life?! We have a number of fab therapists and a life coach at the nest ready to offer you the help you need. There’s life coach lucy from brighter prospects who says; “My name is Lucy Bull and I am a certified life coach and founder of Brighter Prospects Coaching.

I completed my formal qualification as a personal performance coach with The Coaching Academy, which is the world’s leading coach training provider. My background is in technical arts and I have been practicing mindfulness for the last eight years. Balancing practicality, creativity, focus and compassion, I offer personally tailored coaching sessions that facilitate positive life changes. Whether there is a goal to accomplish or an obstacle to overcome, I can support you in navigating the most effective path to beneficial results.”

There’s also psychotherapist Nina Bradshaw who says: “I have been on my own psychotherapy journey, and I understand how challenging life can seem at times, and how therapy can help. I can offer a listening ear, a place for you to reflect, to feel heard, and together we can look at the things that cause you pain. Perhaps in the safe space of the therapy relationship, you can start to make some sense of the things you struggle with and begin to find a way to move forward and into a more fulfilled and enjoyable life.”

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Alex Linley, therapist, says “I’m dedicated to creating a stigma-free and non-judgemental environment in which individuals may access personal therapy.”

nvcDo you use your voice as a tool for work? Then Northern Voice Collective (NVC) could be a great shout for you! (Get it?!). NVC is a team of experienced professionals, dedicated to delivering quality voice and performance training via 1-2-1 sessions, drop-in classes and workshops. Offering regular, affordable training in: Vocal technique, Accents, Text, and can help you with a big audition, to build vocal confidence before a big presentation or nail that Bolton native with a hint of the Kiwi accent! They host voice workshops at The Nest every month. Click here to book. 

For the creative in you, fancy Life Drawing? Join Lisa at Levenshulme Life Drawing. Who says this class is “for experienced & novice artists alike, this relaxed arty social is a chance to use your chosen medium to capture the ultimate subject: an actual human person. Pencils & paper are provided, however feel free to bring the materials you like to work with. There’s no bar, but you are more than welcome to BRING YOUR OWN BOOZE (BYOB), interlude snackage and a Jazzy Jazz playlist included. To book email levenshulmelifedrawing@outlook.com 

Essential Oil Mixing

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Emma from Essentially Emma says: “I’m here to share how essential oils can improve you and your family’s overall wellness.”

 

Hire the nest

Are you looking for lovely and affordable space for hire in Levenshulme for your health or arts business’ next session or event? We are now taking bookings from freelancers, businesses and groups looking to run wellness or arts workshops, wellbeing groups or one to one counselling sessions at The Nest creative arts and wellness centre​.

We have a beautiful group room, 1-2-1 room and a meeting room to hire – visit this form for more info or get in touch at owlandcoconut@gmail.com

 

The Owl and The Coconut Turns Five!

Mindful Art in Manchester

2019 marks our 5 year anniversary at The Owl and The Coconut and we couldn’t be happier! We have been sharing Mindful Art in Manchester for over five years! To celebrate this milestone we have a brand new shiny logo and here’s a sneak peek!

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Although we are sad to say goodbye to our old cute owl and wonky coconut logo, fear not they are still at the heart of all we do and will still be popping up at our events. We feel our new logo reflects our growth, we are maturing, we are growing up and we are celebrating our achievements with a splash of gold!


5 years of Mindful Art

When we first started out, not many people had heard of mindful art but now it seems to be everywhere! We believe that what sets us apart from the rest is our social impact, how we help and invest in people to help reduce stress and increase levels of health and happiness for social good.

Our most successful way of doing this is our Mindful Art Practice 8 week Course MAPS. Where we take people on a creative healing journey. Each week we stop to explore the work of a different artist. We use meditation to notice our thoughts, feelings and automatic reactions and we use mindful art to create new neurological pathways to move from auto pilot reactions to creative mindful responses. Regaining power and steering our lives the way we choose, building our networks, confidence and connections to common humanity along the way.

The organisation is lead by Gemma and Pam who are qualified therapists supported by our amazing team of dedicated and passionate freelancers and volunteers who all have first hand experience of the benefits of mindful art. Working together to share mindfulness and creativity to increase health and happiness for all! 

Connections

Over the last five years we have shared mindful art with  thousands of people! Taking to the streets to meet people where they are including festivals, markets and even bus-stops! 

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Last year saw us move into our first home: The Nest in Levenshulme Old Library where we have been able to put down roots, grow plants and build a network for health and wellness with like minded souls.

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                The Nest at Levenshulme Old Library Manchester

We have partnered with charities and big organisations including DePaul UK,  Mind and Manchester Art Gallery. We have shared mindful art at Manchester’s first ever Mindful Living Show and the Science and Industry Museum as part of their Cultural Late special exploring the connection between Health and Art. What amazing experiences they were!

We have received support and funding from the Big Lottery, The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Greater Manchester Mental Health Service NHS, Manchester City Council, Santander and the School Of Social Entrepreneurs.  We have also had invaluable help from Lucie at Salford University, who has lead us on creating our new logo and refining our use of social media to support and share our work.  

Impact: Social Value

Along the way we’ve stopped to ask people about their levels of wellbeing using an evidenced based measure called WEMWEBS. and we have been blown away to see the increase in health and happiness reported back to us. It’s said that an increase of 3 points marks a significant increase in wellbeing. The average that we have had reported by people who attended our 8 week courses is 6 and we couldn’t be prouder!

Louise says: “The Mindful Art Practice course changed my life. It took me from being stuck in living in my head to the happiness of living in my heart.” Read Louise’s full story in her blog post here

We were stopped in our tracks when Local GP Dr Arora from Ashcroft Surgery knocked on our door and said “What is The Owl and The Coconut and how have you been helping so many of my patients?!”. Since that day we have been working with Dr Arora to help more and more people join our Mindfulness course to regain power over their health and happiness! Taking time to evaluate the impact of our work on peoples wellbeing. 

What’s Next?

As we reflect on the last five years and plan for the next, we have big ambitions! We want to begin to train people to deliver our Mindful Art Practice Course so that we can share this with more and more people!

To do this we are working closely with Dr Arora to bring together the evidence of our work and linking up with YMCA Central in London who have amazing ambitions in their Eudaimonia supported by Charles Leadbeater; a leading authority on innovation and creativity.  We are continuing to work to break down mental heath stigma and make tools for health and happiness available in every day settings for positive social impact and world change. If we were all a bit more mindful, creative and happy,  wouldn’t the world be a better place? We certainly think so!

Join us!

If you’d like to join us to try Mindful Art we have taster sessions coming up click here  to book and come and have a try for yourself. You don’t have to be good at art or to have ever meditated before! All you need to bring is your self!

To have a chat get in touch via social media or email us at
owlandcoconut@gmail.com

My journey from being in my head to my heart …..

 

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Mandala Mindful Art by Louise. Original illustration made for The Owl and The Coconut by Lauren Kelly.

 

By Louise

Growing up I was a shy and introverted child, who was very self-conscious. Entering my twenties, I was diagnosed with depression and had developed anorexia. Luckily for me I had a supportive GP who helped me to start to eat, but battling my thoughts was so much harder.

Throughout my adult life I was absorbed with believing myself to not be enough. I had various episodes of crippling anxiety and depression. I tried everything to fix me-under eat, over exercise, moved jobs and home, too much alcohol, no alcohol and so on… nothing helped. As a nurse, the only time I felt worthwhile was with my patients – I was being further depleted emotionally and physically. At home, an episode of domestic abuse confirmed for me my feelings of worthlessness.

Continue reading “My journey from being in my head to my heart …..”

Silence

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5 Day Silent Retreat

At the end of 2018, I was lucky enough to go on a 5 day silent retreat. I say lucky, but to be honest, I didn’t really want to go. I didn’t have the funds to go. Or the time. And I didn’t want to leave my young family or my work family for that long. But I had to go really, as part of my Mindfulness teacher training. So booked it and shut up, literally.


In booking it, I was met with my working class edges of thoughts, “sitting in silence in a country manner in Devon – *eye roll* – how’s that gonna help anyone or anything?” So I chose the specific retreat and teachers very carefully. In my research I found Zohar and Nathan, the founders of SangaSeva: “sangha-” a group of people who feel connected to a similar cause, a community of spiritual friends, a body of heartful activists.
“-seva” means offering the best we have to give. Often it is translated as selfless service: An action which benefits another as much as it benefits us, as long as we wish to cease being self-centred, that is.

Continue reading “Silence”

Digital Detox

profile picGoodbye internet, we’re taking a break! This Christmas all of us at the The Owl and The Coconut will be turning off push notifications and turning on our out of office reply.

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Stop


Because it’s time to stop. Not forever! Just for the Christmas break! When you are really passionate about what you do it’s tempting to never stop. But is that healthy? In October we worked our socks off on social media to get votes for an Aviva Funding Pot. The vote opened while I was on holiday with my family; I felt I just had to be on social media pushing the cause. This wasn’t great as it meant every time my phone connected to the internet I was overwhelmed with updates and calls for my attention, taking me away from the beautiful beach I was on. My mind wasn’t on holiday at all.

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Adam Sandler in Film Click

We received some very challenging messages and my mind began racing with replies, who to turn to for support, and how to look after the team thousands of miles away back home. I couldn’t believe how the worry thoughts grew like vines in my mind and pushed out my present moment connections and experiences. Auto pilot kicked in, like that pretty bad Adam Sandler film ‘Click’, and I began to fast forward through my family time to get back to sorting out work stuff.


But how could my mind be hijacked in this way?! All this mindfulness work! I’m the boss of my mind, right? I have a toolbox full of skills for coping with stress! So I made extra time for my mindfulness practice because it was a time I needed it most.

Continue reading “Digital Detox”

Reflections on 2018 at The Owl and The Coconut 

Gratitude

Thankyou

As we reach the end of 2018 I’m feeling grateful and reflective as I arrive home after an intensive few days on the Paul Hamlyn Foundations Ideas and Pioneers retreat. Um retreat, well that fooled me! It was less pamper and more Big Brother meets the Apprentice with added layers of social value and ethical trading for pioneering social change. Amazing and exhausting! I met loads of absolutely amazing people doing amazing things to change the world for the better!

It’s now 5am on my first night home, I’m back to the happiness of being with my husband, son and dog but I can’t sleep. My mind is buzzing with all the thoughts and actions inspired by the whole event and the amazing social entrepreneurs I have meet.

Reflecting back to January 2018, just eleven months ago Pam (Co-Director of The Owl and The Coconut) and I sat in Trove cafe, in Levenshulme, with no funding and no base to work from. Two therapists with a dream that mental health services must evolve and break out of the confines of ‘clinical settings’ to get to everyday people before crisis point. With higher and higher levels of people experiencing disabling symptoms stress, anxiety, depression and chronic pain, that change is needed now.

Continue reading “Reflections on 2018 at The Owl and The Coconut “

My experiences of mental health and mindfulness – Luke, 25

Growing up I’ve often struggled with low moods and a general feeling of low self-worth. I internalised all of my negative emotions and as such never received specific treatment. At 22, my mental health reached its lowest stage and I was diagnosed with depression.

Since then I have developed a much better understanding of mental health and its importance. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions helped me to question my negative thoughts for the first time. I came away from the sessions with a kinder, more empathetic approach to daily life and myself than ever before. The CBT sessions led me to some reading around mindfulness and its benefits. Despite being extremely sceptical initially to an activity I saw as only for ‘spiritual people’, I was persuaded by my councillor to enrol on to an 8 week mindfulness course.

My preconceptions were only validated during the first session when we were asked to stare at a raisin for 5 minutes. My initial thoughts were what on earth could be achieved from staring at a piece of fruit. As people started to talk about the raisin’s creases and how it felt on their tongue, I was close to making a sharp dash to the exit; away from these ‘spiritual folk’.

I did though persist with the course and soon began to understand and reap the benefits of an increased awareness. I now regularly practice mindful meditation which helps me to stay firmly anchored in the present and enjoy all aspects of life (including raisins). I am kinder to myself and those around me and am accepting of emotions that I previously tried to block out; sadness, anxiousness, vulnerability etc.

I believe what I have learnt about mindfulness will help me in every aspect of life for as long as I am around. For that reason, I would encourage anyone who hasn’t done so already to give mindfulness a go!

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