I'm so much better than I used to be at staying in the moment and keeping my overthinking in check, but every now and then something happens that makes me look back and dwell a bit on times gone by. I don't long for the past, I love my present and wouldn't want to change any of it, but it places me in what I can only describe as a melancholy mood.
Yesterday my eldest daughter left primary school and this has been the trigger for such a melancholy episode. It marks the end of an era and is a clear sign of passing time and I have found myself looking at old photos, remembering times when the girls were tiny and in a way, I felt some grief for the loss of all these moments that are gone, spent, never to be had again.
It can be easy for a melancholy mood to linger, to turn into sadness tinged with panic at time passing and a sense of overwhelm at so much change happening. So, it is vital to come back 'into the moment' – to return to the present and concentrate on all the great things happening now. Being in the present, being mindful, is the perfect antidote to overthinking. It calls your wandering mind back into line and stops small negative feelings snowballing into large, long-lasting negative feelings.
So, our challenge for August is to be more mindful, to be more in the moment. And I have a fun and practical way to help you start – I want you to join in a game of Mindfulness Bingo. A lot of mindfulness techniques revolve around what experts call 'grounding' – that is using something you can see, hear, touch, smell or taste to bring your senses back to what is happening in the present. It is a very simple technique which has immediate and effective results.
So, our game of Mindfulness Bingo gives you a few prompts to help you start to use 'grounding' in your every day life. The first bingo card (which you can find at the end of this post) concentrates on things you can see and hear and gives you prompts for things to look out for during your day. And like a traditional game of bingo the idea is to get a full line crossed off, followed by a full house. During the month, I will also share extra daily prompts and a new bingo card to keep you going over in the Beyond The Crumpled Paper Facebook Group (come and join us here). You can also join us there and post your bingo successes!
It's time to take charge of our overthinking, so let's play Mindfulness Bingo...
MINDSET noun A person's way of thinking and their opinions, An established set of attitudes held by someone
Our mindset is the compass which guides our every move. What we think, we become. But mindset isn't a concrete thing, it can evolve and change and we can take charge of it.
All of my work now is geared towards helping and inspiring people to develop a healthier and more positive mindset – and the #MayMindsetChallenge is part of this.
Often people have had many years (if not decades!) of unhealthy thinking patterns – overthinking, negative self-talk and self criticism – and this is the result of the repetition of certain beliefs and habits which over time ingrain themselves in our every fibre. So, to turn this around will not happen overnight and it won't happen without effort.
Having a happier, healthier mind takes practice – every, single day. It is about weaving new practices and habits naturally into your daily life – replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, taking time to be in and appreciate the moment, feeling gratitude for the small things and giving yourself permission to feel proud and excited about yourself and what you're capable of. Start small and gradually these good habits grow and start replacing the old, damaging ways of thinking.
This month long #MayMindsetChallenge 'photo a day' challenge is to help you do this.
The aim of it is help introduce a trickle of positivity and mindfulness into everyday. It is a prompt and a reminder to practice healthier habits EVERY SINGLE DAY in an easy, fun and creative way. For each day during May, there is a prompt word/statement. Use this starting point every day and create a photo to represent it and then post it on social media using the hashtags #BeyondTheCrumpledPaper and #MayMindsetChallenge – Instagram is the natural place to share your pics but any social media is great and don't forget to come over to the Beyond The Crumpled Paper Facebook group and share them with us there too! (You will also find extra help and inspiration over there too!)
There are no right or wrong interpretations of the prompts – be inspired by them in any way you choose (I have given a few starting points for each prompt below though in case it would help you to have a more detail) Get your friends involved, follow the hashtags and share ideas and challenge yourself to do it everyday (I will if you will!)
It is worth reading through all the prompts and planning a few ideas ahead of time (there is a planning sheet you can use for this over in the facebook group) as this will save any last minute snapping panics! And I may just give out a prize or 2 at the end...
So come on – take on the #MayMindsetChallenge and enjoy some fun and creativity as you build a healthier mindset!
For those of you that would like a few more ideas to get you going, here are some ideas that sprung to my mind (but like I say, please interpret the prompts in any way you want to...)
1) SPRING HAS SPRUNG As I write this it is pouring down! But Spring is certainly in the air so today you may be inspired to notice and photograph evidence of all the new life and the new beginnings that are around the place. It might be a blooming flower, a tiny lamb or a basking butterfly. Or it might be something that represents the lighter nights or the (sometimes!) better weather.
2) HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY A prompt to help you build your attitude of gratitude and develop a habit of being thankful for the small stuff. What was the highlight of your day? Was it finding a parking spot? Meeting a friend? Your favourite biscuits being buy on get one free? Let us see your highlight!
3) SHADOW Sometimes being more mindful and 'in the moment' is the perfect antidote to overthinking so this prompt is to help you be in that moment and to just look and be more aware of your surroundings. We can often be so trapped in our own heads that we miss so much beauty and interest that is right in front of us. Find an unusual shadow, a dramatic shadow or maybe even one which looks a bit rude...
4) GUILTY PLEASURE Share your guilty pleasure – is it a weird food combo, a series you binge watch or an embarrassing singer you love?
5) FAMILY Big, small, traditional, complicated, human, furry – share a pic to represent your family or maybe something that shows what family means to you.
6) SELFIE Doesn't really need much explanation this one – but I challenge you to show your face and post it proudly :)
7) CALM Maybe it's a place that feels calm or something you do that can bring some calm to your day – or maybe it's a colour or something more abstract that you think represents a feeliing of calm.
8) LIGHT There are so many positive connotations to 'light' and this one could be used as inspiration in so many ways. Maybe it's capturing dappled light through the trees, a shaft of sunlight lighting up the landscape, the lamp on your desk helping you work late or even something that is light in weight...
9) LOOK UP We spend so long looking down at our feet (or our phones!) that we forget to look up – so do it! Notice interesting buildings, beautiful tree tops, birds flying overhead – or if you're inside maybe there's an interesting cobweb in the corner that you've never noticed before!
10) HAPPINESS This one could be used in many ways – a pic of something that makes you happy or represents your happiness. Maybe happiness is sometimes elusive for you, or something you strive for. Respond in a way that is true and meaningful for you.
11) MY VIEW It could be good, bad or indifferent – but share your view at some point today!
12) ON MY MIND Maybe it's cake, maybe it's the weight of the World. Try to capture an image that shares what you're thinking about today.
13) COLOURFUL Look around, and before you take your pic, use this prompt as a reminder to have a good look round and appreciate all the joy and colour that is around us. Be it crazy socks, beautiful flowers, sweet wrappers in the corner shop – colour can really lift your mood if you stop and see it.
14) PAUSE We all need to press the pause button sometimes, so what helps you 'grab a moment' or take a break? Or maybe your image will be of something that you need to pause – something you need a break from.
15) 2PM Yup – take a pic of what 2pm today looks like for you!
16) LAUGH This prompt is all about positivity - show us you laughing, take a pic of what makes you laugh or maybe share something to make others laugh.
17) AND RELAX How do you unwind? Maybe it's a hot bath, candles and meditation. Maybe it's a run in the rain or some kick-boxing. Show us how you shake of the rigours of the day and relax.
18) SKY Again, it is time to look up! Use this prompt as a reminder to enjoy watching the sky for a bit – be in the moment and enjoy it. Is it the clouds that capture you, a beautiful sunset or maybe even a rainbow? (Or maybe it's Sky Sports or Sky Movies – like I said, take it any way you want to!!)
19) THIS TIME NEXT YEAR Embrace and be proud of your dreams and aspirations. Will you have a new job next year, learn to drive, go on holiday or maybe just manage to keep your spider plant alive! Big or small, have a goal and share it with us.
20) CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT Simply show us what you can't live without. Again, this could be light-hearted or indeed rather serious – make it meaningful for you.
21) MOOD Good, bad, tired or grumpy – however you're feeling, like us see it!
22) TODAY'S TRIUMPH Show us something you have triumphed at today – small victories to massive achievements, they all count and need to be celebrated! Maybe you did something amazing at work, perhaps you did that scary thing you've been putting off for ages, maybe you stepped out of the front door. Whatever your triumph was today, share it and be proud of it.
23) FRESH AIR A lunchtime walk, an open window, a momemt on a park bench. Grab yourself a few deep breaths of fresh air and show us how/where you did it.
24) HEART Maybe you will find a heart shape somewhere unusual, maybe you've got a 'heart' to show us hung in your house or emblazened on your t-shirt – or maybe you feel more inspired to show us something you love?
25) GRATEFUL What are you grateful for today?
26) SUNDAY MORNING? What does Sunday morning look like for you?
27) SMILE Show us your smile or what makes you smile, or maybe the smile of someone (or something!) else.
28) HOME SWEET HOME From the outside or the inside, the whole thing or a tiny detail – show us what makes you think of home.
29) OOPS Mistakes are a vital part of learning and improving so we all need to allow ourselves to make them and accept them as being an important part of success – so today, share a mistake or a mishap with us and share it without hesitation!
30) PROUD What have you got to be proud of? Maybe something today, maybe something you do all the time or have achieved in the past. Be proud, feel proud and show us with pride what it is.
31) THIS IS ME This is perhaps the most important picture of the challenge. A picture that shows us who you really are – make it a picture which tells us a bit about the real you. It could be about looking a certain way, showing your interests or revealing a hidden skill – take away the filters and the edited version of yourself and let a bit of the real you out into the World...
I love real life ambulance programmes. And ones about hospitals. It's my guilty pleasure. Ambulance, Inside The Ambulance, 999 Rescue Squad, 24 Hours in A&E, 999 What's Your Emergency... I could go on... I watch them all. Well I tape them all (ok, I know you don't 'tape' things these days but I'm showing my age and you know what I mean) and if I get some time to relax in the evening once the girls are in bed a sit a binge watch until way past my bedtime.
I love them for a number of reasons – I have the utmost respect, gratitude and admiration for all our NHS staff and our emergency services and these programmes are a great insight into the amazing work they do but they are also a great reminder for me to count my blessings and keep sight of what is really important in life – family and friends.
What really strikes me every time I watch something like this is the urgent and professional response to often catastrophic circumstances. In one such case, an emergency call is received about a man involved in a terrible car accident who has suffered life threatening injuries. Within minutes help is scrambled – emergency response vehicles, ambulances and a helicopter. Altogether, 10 highly trained paramedics and doctors arrive to help save this man's life, performing surgery and giving a life saving blood transfusion on the side of the road.
None of them knew this man, but saving his life was the priority for them all. His life was of such value that all these people did all they could to keep him alive. They didn't check he was a good husband before they gave him pain relief, they didn't need to know if he had a good job or if he was struggling with debt before they protected his airway and they never paused to check if he had been daft enough to drink before driving before they rushed him to hospital. Whoever he was, whatever his strengths or his failures were, none of that matters in the moment – his life is worth so much. No matter what the circumstances, every person is deserving of help and every life is worth saving.
So, my many hours of watching such programmes has led me to share 5 lessons we should all remember:
1) Your life is priceless
Just like the man above, if you found yourself in an accident, complete strangers would rush to your aid – saving your life, and indeed your quality of life, would be the only thing that mattered to them. Whatever it took, however many people or resources it required, they would do everything possible to keep you going. It is really important that we remember this – especially on days when we feel we might have let someone down, or cocked up at work or when we just feel a bit useless. We are as priceless and irreplaceable when we do things wrong or when we feel a bit of a failure as we are when we feel on top of the world.
2) Don't put off living your life
Another stark insight you learn from watching hospitally programmes is how quick things can change – how quickly unplanned events can cause tragic outcomes. We need to remember that tomorrow is never promised – stop waiting for 'the right time' or 'until tomorrow' – make the decision to make each day count.
3) Ask for help
Let's face it, us grown ups can be a bit rubbish at asking for help. The emergency services are there for us all in times of need, but we need to remember it doesn't always have to be an emergency for us to ask for help from other sources. We would never dream of trying to patch up a broken leg ourselves whilst putting a brave face on it, yet we somehow think we have to cope with everything else that life throws at us without any help. Maybe it is sharing problems with a friend over a brew, seeking financial advice when you find your bills mounting up, confiding in someone if you're struggling or even just asking the tall person in the supermarket to reach you a packet of biscuits off the top shelf. People are often more than willing to help if only we get to the point of asking. Life is a complicated journey – sometimes we need help, and sometimes we can be the helper. If we all ask for help when we need it, we can all be stronger together.
4) Value yourself
I know I keep harping on about it but I am going to say it again – if your life was in danger, complete strangers would rush to save it. They know how precious you are to your friends and family and they know how much you are loved. So make sure you value your own worth as much as these complete strangers would! Do something you love, treat yourself to something nice, celebrate how wonderful you are. If a complete stranger recognises your value, isn't it about time you did...
5) Take things as they come
A paramedic clocks on to a 12 hour shift with absolutely no idea of what's ahead of them. They have to take each job as it comes and deal with that job to the best of their ability before moving onto the next. They can't dwell on the job they have just done, worrying about whether they could have done something differently and they can't pre-empt any future jobs, going over things that might happen over and over because they have no idea what these future jobs will be. They have to be in the moment, just dealing with things as they happen- and this is a good lesson for us all (especially for my fellow overthinkers!) We all need to take each day as it comes, doing our best at the time and then moving on – not reliving the past or inventing a possible future.
And on that note, I am off to take the next episode of Helicopter ER in my stride...