Mindfulness Matters: How to create a positive mindset for 2021
By Jen Wood
Our Wellbeing expert Jen Wood explores mindfulness matters. Giving us insights into turning any negative experiences of 2020 around to start the new year with a positive mindset
Reflecting, Learning and Moving Forward
2020 – it was the year everyone wanted to be over. There was loss, challenge and uncertainty, and many dreams that didn’t come true. We have been bombarded by bad news and sensational media coverage. In my own therapy practice, I have experienced a dramatic increase in demand.
Even without the negativity of the news, this tendency to focus on threat and danger is not our fault. Neuroscience has shown us that our brains are wired for survival rather than happiness. Clinical Psychologist Dr Rick Hanson reminds us that, thanks to the negativity bias, ‘the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.’ It typically takes five positives to make up for one negative experience.
Rumi, the Sufi poet, wrote, ‘wounds are the place where the light enters you.’ I like this concept, and encourage my clients to see that difficult experiences can become gifts if we see them as opportunities for learning and growth.
Richard Bach, philosopher and writer, once said: ‘There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.’
Reflection can help us grow, refocus, stay present and positive for a new start in 2021
If you reflect on 2020, in the midst of all the challenge, I’m sure that you could find kindness, beauty, growth, connection and joy. This time last year I was mind mapping my intentions for 2020 – and it has not worked out as I planned. I certainly learned a lot about the human condition, and the fact that suffering is part of it. The Buddha taught us this.
If we develop mindfulness skills and learn to accept rather than avoid or numb out our pain and difficulty, suffering reduces. Psychologist Kristin Neff said, ‘suffering equals pain times resistance.’ Psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung said, ‘what we resist persists’. Although this sounds excruciatingly difficult, I’ve found it transformative for my clients.
My own vision for 2020 could have contributed to much of what coach Christine Hassler calls an ‘expectation hangover’. However, once I slowed down and zoned in, there were moments of beauty that I couldn’t have anticipated.
Life slowed down and I had time to reflect. I got to know my neighbours better, I exchanged smiles with strangers and told more friends that I loved them. Also, I connected more with my elderly parents and relatives, because they learned to use Zoom. When I offered my help – sometimes a little overzealously – it was often graciously accepted. I learned about the importance of boundaries, and of connection. I was even persuaded to swim in the sea. These were precious moments. I don’t want to wish them away as we dive into the promise of a new year and a brave new world.
Mindfulness Matters for Creating Feelings of Positivity
Mindfulness matters because it can help us to develop flexibility. It helps us take each day as it comes as well as reducing stress and boosting our mood. As well as accepting the difficulties in our lives, if we learn to use mindfulness to focus on positive experiences, we can rewire the neural networks in our brain. Of course, this is not about falsely positive thinking. It's more about accepting things as they are, and seeing silver linings rather than black clouds.
In my private coaching and therapy practice, I work with mindfulness and compassion focused approaches. This helps my clients see the world and themselves through a lens that’s gentler and more nurturing. If we can build an awareness of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and the world around us, we boost our resilience and wellbeing.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, known for his work as a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher, has described mindfulness as ‘the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally’.
As a result of making mindfulness matter, we learn to attend to our body and our mind. Therefore we accept things as they are, moment by moment, by using the breath, sound and our body as supports. We do this to increase our wellbeing and quality of life.
How can we find hope in 2021?
As, writer and thinker, Anaïs Nin said, ‘we don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are’. If we can approach our experience mindfully with acceptance and hope, we can change our perspective and build our resilience.
Reflective Practice For Mindfulness Matters
Try Jen's simple task to help you let go of the old year and welcome in the new
If you looked back over 2020, what would you like to let go of and what are you grateful for?
Take two pieces of A4 paper. On the first piece, write down ‘Things from 2020 that helped me grow and I’m ready to let go of.’ For each thing on this first list, think about what you learned from it. Then think about how you will take that learning into the new year.
Once you have completed this list, thank each experience for all it has taught you. Then rip it all up, put it into the fire or bury it outside in the garden. Hold onto the silver linings and as a result let go of the suffering. Even if this involves loss, thinking about what joyful memories remain, rather than focusing on the painful bits can help.
Now, take your second piece of paper and write down what you want for 2021. This includes your values and how you would like to feel. Tap into your inner wisdom. Reconnect with your compassion, creativity, kindness and fun. Think about what you would like your future to hold for you. Think about your ‘WHY’ and what really matters.
As a result, we can develop a habit of learning from difficulty. Instead of getting caught up in the rumination of the mind. This therefore allows us to find some light in the darkness. Even better, we can be the light.
How can you let your light shine in 2021?
Here are some ideas of positive things you can do to bring a little mindfulness matters into your new year
Join Our Outdoor Fitness Classes
Our inhouse Personal Trainer, Suzanne Maynard will continue with Buggy Fitness in the Park. She also will be offering one to one and Outdoors Fitness. Mindfully moving our bodies is the perfect antidote to the excesses of the – albeit it very different - festive season.
Learn Mindfulness with a Coach and Therapist (online)
On 13th January I’ll start teaching an 8-week Mindfulness Course for Restoration Yard. I’ll share the tools and techniques I've used with my clients to help them build resilience over this last year. We will learn to slow down and become present, to build our resilience. We will also reflect on what matters.
Practise Yoga & Pilates
We have an amazing team of inhouse teachers who will help you start your year feeling your best. We have new Yin Yoga and Pre and Postnatal Yoga classes as well as Pilates for Beginners. These classes will start online via Zoom from 11th January. They will transfer back to the Wellbeing Lab as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Jen Wood is a coach, therapist and mindfulness teacher with 20 years’ experience. She is also our Wellbeing Consultant at Dalkeith Country Park. Jen offers individual wellbeing coaching, therapy and mindfulness sessions via Zoom or by phone.
For more information about Jen, visit her website at jenwoodwellbeing.com.