'Introduction to Mindfulness & Resilience' Course for Men
Session 2: Working with your mind
During challenging times, you may experience all kinds of difficult thoughts and feelings.
You wouldn’t be alone.
The good news is that mindfulness-based approaches offer some really helpful ways of working with these kinds of difficulties.
Noticing and changing patterns of thoughts
Your thoughts may feel like they are ‘the truth’, including the really unhelpful and difficult ones you may often have. But the actual truth is that….thoughts are not facts. They are merely events happening in your mind: they come and go. This doesn’t mean that everything you think is wrong, or has no truth in it all. Rather, it’s a cue to help you start to relate to your thoughts in different ways.
Confronting unhelpful thoughts with cool logic often doesn’t work – it doesn’t get rid of them, but just puts them off for a while. The mindful way to loosen the grip of thoughts is to step outside of them, and simply watch them come and go in their own natural way. This is far more effective.
Here are some other tips for working with difficult thoughts:
Ask yourself where this thought takes you.
Remind yourself that your mind is like a good story teller
Imagine your thoughts as leaves floating down a stream.
Repeat the thought using a silly voice
The good news is that if you can simply notice these thoughts patterns, and get some distance from them, it’s easy and natural to encourage new and different thoughts to take their place.
Applying this wisdom to your life
Reality check: using your wise mind to correct ‘scare’ stories
Mindfulness teaches us how to stand back a bit from our experience and gain a broader perspective. In particular, we can check if we are buying into any very negative storylines that are not completely in alignment with truth. How true are the things we are habitually thinking? What might be a more accurate version that doesn’t contribute to negative thinking and feeling loops?
Be vigilant around news and social media
It’s easy to get drawn into consuming a lot of news and social media. That’s understandable, as it’s a very natural human need to want to know what’s going on. But it can be really helpful to take care about how much of this you engage with, as the constant repetition of bad or threatening news can be quite anxiety-provoking. One dose of news a day is enough.
Notice strongly triggering thoughts and write them down
It’s also really useful if you can find people to share difficult thoughts with. Chances are you’re not the only one to have had them.
Suggested home ‘practice’
We invite you to do some more regular mindfulness practice in between this session and the next one. This is about continuing to build your ‘muscles’ of awareness, and applying them constructively to your thinking processes:
1. ‘Working with your thoughts’ meditation: Follow the instructions on the audio meditation. (Every day, or as close to this as you can manage)
2. Three-step breathing space: This is a great ‘mini-meditation’ that is the human equivalent of rebooting a computer. You can do it several times a day if you like. Follow the instructions on the audio meditation.
3. Jot down some notes about how certain events trigger automatic thoughts, emotions and body sensations. In particular, you might find it helpful to notice any automatic thoughts in relation to how you think you should be as a man. You can use the format of the table below to capture what you discover: