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Throughout my training I talk about how mindfulness was one of the first kep steps to helping me to get a grip on so much mental malaise. Here’s the full story.

For me, Mindfulness is very personal, almost a crusade, because it’s no exaggeration to say that mindfulness literally saved my life. when I got to such a low place, and was struggling for something, some kind of lifeline, and something that would work quickly, I started reading about mindfulness.

Really trying to understand what was so special about thinking and breathing.

Now just imagine where I was coming from. A Card-carrying, dyed-in-the-wool, born bread-and-buttered cynical old Irishman, and some strangers want me to believe that by doing nothing more than changing the way I think and breathe I could permanently rewire my brain to not only help me get a grip on my stress, but so much else.

Something that can help with depression, anxiety, PTSD, Focus, memory, Alzheimer’s, dementia, cancer, the list went on and on and on.

So I said yep, but nope. Not possible, if it was so powerful why wasn’t everyone doing it. but more about that later.

Anyway, I finally plucked up the courage to bury my bias Chuck my cynicism, and give it a try. What could it hurt, it was just a few minutes of a not very busy day.

I’ve been told that to give it a chance, to be fair to my mind, I should really try it for about 20 minutes. which was immediately a problem, because sitting still, focusing, emptying my mind for even 20 seconds was a challenge for me, and my ADD, so forget 20 minutes.

But this little voice kept chirping and nagging, the science was too powerful to ignore, and I decided on a reasonable compromise. I will try just 10 minutes. So, I found a comfortable chair, closed my eyes, and tried to practice what I had read.

  • First, be in the moment, just right there, just right then, not thinking or worrying about the past or the future.
  • Second, breathing correctly so that I could tame my vagus nerve,the one that’s largely responsible for managing stress.
  • And third not trying to forget or ignore about my stress or stressors, but acknowledging them and even allowing them in and pass on. Seems like a tough call, even for 10 minutes.

Anyway, I settled in. I spent the first two minutes fighting intrusive thoughts, fighting all those things that normally race through my head every day like a wind tunnel. Not just stressors but the normal barrage of everyday business. Emails I have to send, meetings I have to prepare for reports I have to write.

After about 2 minutes I found myself slowly sinking into a pretty good place and could tell I liked it. If only because I was beginning to feel I could actually do this. And that’s so important for motivation.

And I managed to stay in that good place for about another 6 minutes. So, 6 minutes out of 10, not a bad start, a lot farther than I expected.

And The Results?

I described it to my wife, who asked me what that strange look was on my face, that I had just experienced the most euphoric sense of peace that I’d ever felt.

“I was grinning, almost giggling. For the first time in years, in spite of chronic depression, I felt pretty happy. I felt like I wanted to hug the world. The effect was that instant and that dramatic.”

And that was naturally, as expected and advised, all my feel-good hormones kicking in. Especially my dopamine serotonin and oxytocin.I was enjoying a self-induced, self-created chemical High. But this one had no down side. If this became addictive, only good would come from it.

The high stayed elevated for probably a couple of hours, but I was still in a good mood for the rest of the day.

And that triggered two things. it made me want to go back and try it again just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. And if it wasn’t a fluke, and I could replicate this, anytime I wanted, just by thinking about it, I wanted to be hooked on this.

So I did try it again and it did work again, and pretty soon I had my own system that was not only able to accommodate my attention deficit but lots of other things that were going on.

A Focus On The Breath

About breathing, I had plenty of options, from box breath and ocean breath to shining skull and the Wim Hof, some of them easy, some of them complicated, but I chose the simplest of breathing techniques,

I inhaled slowly for 5 seconds and exhaled slowly for 5 seconds. That was it. one of the ways I managed to keep out the intrusive thoughts and focus on my breathing was to imagine that I was hitting a high striker at a carnival, you know one of those strength tests where you hit the platform with a mallet and see if you can raise the steel puck high enough to ring a bell.

In my case, I imagined that my inhale was slowly raising the puck, and my exhale slowly lowering it. A great game, I highly recommend it.


Someone also taught me a technique for managing all the stressors that were racing through my brain. I imagine myself sitting by a stream, and floating down the stream are leaves. on each leaf is written something that was bothering me, stressing me, or maybe something I was ruminating, something from the past, so I’m kind of regret or guilt.

I would pick each leave out of the stream, look at the words, say them to myself, acknowledge them, don’t deny or ignore them, which is so important to managing stress words. If they are real, pretending they’re not doesn’t really help.

Anyway, once I had confronted and acknowledged these stressors, I imagined myself placing each leaf back in the stream and watching the stream take the stressors away. A metaphor, perhaps, but very effective in dealing with intrusive stressors and thought of all those worries.

Shutting Out Distractions

In order to shut out distracting sounds (we live near a railway track and there’s a train every 10 minutes) I used music. But not just any music, I used binaural beats, which I explain in another lesson. But a mixture of frequencies buried in some relaxing music that the brain loves and can synchronize with, and which are believed to help trigger an additional sense of calm or focus and even sleep.

Because of my ADD, my eyes would often fight to open, once I open I would instantly lose the focus. So I and I simply invested $10 in a pair of black out nightshades – not a good look in the middle of the work day but still, they worked.

Any time my eyes did force themselves open, there was nothing but blackness and I was still in that zone.

And Now?

So now, proven and hooked, I try to practice 15 to 20 minutes of mindfulness every single day. focusing on my breathing, relaxing my muscles from forehead to toes, allowing my stressors in, greeting them and acknowledging them, and letting them pass by without any bad feelings. I listen to my music, I wear my shades, I sit upright in a comfortable chair. And that’s it

“And the results? Well, apart from that initial sense of euphoria, I managed to almost completely tame my stress. And my chronic stress was what was killing me oh, not my Trifecta of mental illnesses. Once I tame my stress, so many other things fell away.”

I’m not saying that I have a stress free life. But now I have trained my brain to automatically cope, whenever there’s a stressful situation – a deadline, an irritating client, a new threat to be addressed – my mind automatically triggers me to engage in some reset breaths.

Just sit up straight, take my mind off what I’m doing, sit in another chair to physically disconnect from my stress, and take 10 to 20 deep relaxed breaths. It works every time, it’s like a reset button. I go on with my job and my day, and my stress is gone once again, dismissed, sent to coventry. Banished to Connaught.

I’ve seen a lot of physical results too. Within a few weeks, at a routine check-up, my doctor suggested that I no longer needed to take blood pressure medication because my blood pressure, which had been dangerously high for years, was now in the normal range.

I also noticed within a few weeks that my restless leg had stopped. If you’ve ever experienced it, it can be very very irritating. And I was beginning to experience at every night and it was disrupting my sleep.

But since I started practicing mindfulness, it rarely appears. The day it does appear is the day that I forget to do mindfulness, and so I’m assuming cause and effect.

Apart from that, I’m just generally calmer, happier, more joyful, and a little more engaged and positive.

I’m also less judgmental and less cynical, and certainly an absolute fan of the power of mindfulness. I can switch it on in an instant, get instant results from only a few minutes, and life feels so much better. That is simply addictive.