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EP 06: Mindfulness, Gratitude Practices, Meditation, and Exercises

Welcome to Episode 6 of The Homework Help Show. In this episode we continued our discussion of mental health and discussed mindfulness, gratitude, and meditation. Cath Anne provides tips and techniques to help address stress, discussed examples of gratitude and meditation practices, types of mindfulness exercises and more.

The Homework Help Show is our brand new show where we will teach, assist, and offer valuable insights on different topics related to students’ academic and personal lives. Want your questions answered? Ask your questions on social media using the hashtag #askHHG


Cath Anne: [00:00:04] Thank you for joining. I see someone new here, Solid3D, thank you for jumping on. Last week we talked a lot about mental health and we talked about some really serious topics like anxiety and depression. We also discussed suicide and how that can be a major issue for people and how to get appropriate help when you are experiencing thoughts of suicide. Mental health is something that’s very an area of passion for me. I really enjoy talking about it and I think it’s really important to discuss these issues because it helps to break down stigma.

Cath Anne: [00:00:50] So I wanted to go a little bit lighter while offering some practical techniques this week. These techniques can help to break those barriers to stress and overwhelm when you are in school. I know that it’s midterm season and things are kind of starting to ramp up and I’m sure that there’s a bit of stress coming on and some overwhelm. There are tons of techniques out there that you can use to navigate that stress and make things a little bit more doable for yourself. Perhaps prevent having an instance of a mental health issue in future if you manage your mental health in a proactive way.

Cath Anne: [00:01:49] So the first thing that I want to discuss is I want to give you some actual tips and tricks that can you will be able to implement into your life and maybe you guys will have some ideas too. So I really encourage this to be more of a dialogue and conversation than me just giving and spreading information. At the same time I do have a list of some pretty good techniques that I use in my life and that I’ve used with clients in my social work practice. So I have some really good information for you today.

Cath Anne: [00:02:28] First I wanted to discuss the practice of gratitude. Many of us don’t realize that our brains are not actually hardwired to practice gratitude. Although that sounds like a weird statement we’re actually hardwired to go the other way and be preventive and look for the dangers in life so that kind of prevents us from naturally seeking thoughts of gratitude. Similar to yoga practice and meditation practice, you also have to practice gratitude. That’s why you’ll hear it phrased that way because it is actually a practice it’s something that you have to work on and it’s something that doesn’t always come naturally. I wanted to give you a few suggestions about how to do that. At the same time I’m not suggesting that we always have to be positive and we always have to be grateful because that’s just not realistic. Life can be challenging sometimes. As human beings we’re always going to have a mixture of emotions. But when we do practice gratitude it can it can create a life-changing shift, if we start to see our lives in a more positive way. So one of the ways that we practice gratitude is, when we wake up in the morning before we even get out of bed, we can make a list in our head of three or five things that we’re grateful for. So before we even touch your feet to the floor we kind of think in our minds about what in our lives we are grateful for and then that sets the tone for the whole day ahead. Maybe through the day you will look for more opportunities to be grateful and more things that you’re grateful for and that is a way to reframe those negative thoughts and to look for the positive in life.

Instagram Viewer:: [00:05:00] Yes, my sister’s boyfriend bought me a gratitude journal one year as a birthday gift. It had great prompts.

Cath Anne: [00:05:05] Yes, gratitude journals can be great. It could be something as simple as grabbing your own little note book from the dollar store and writing down three things a day they are grateful for.

Cath Anne: [00:05:47] In whatever format you choose, practicing gratitude is something that I would encourage you to delve into. It’s probably not easy at first and you might forget about it. You might not want to do it but once you get into that regular routine of doing it will have a lasting impact on your life. Another way to bring gratitude into your life is to look at your whole day through a lens of gratitude. So not just in the morning but as you navigate your day. You look for things to be grateful for. So say we’re driving in traffic in Toronto and the highway is really backed up that could be a really negative experience. Perhaps instead, we frame it through a lens of gratitude. We might think: I am grateful to have a car to be able to commute to work. I am grateful to be able to have the money to put gas in my car. Thinking in this way gets you closer to a lens of gratitude and you approach life in a more graceful way.

Cath Anne: [00:07:28] Another way to practice gratitude is to vow to yourself to not complain, not to gossip, and not tell stories about other people. Sometimes we take joy in talking about other people, gossiping, or complaining. One approach to counteracting that is to vow to yourself to not do that. You can set an intention that you’re not going to gossip about anyone or that you’re not going to complain. All of these practices are difficult at fist, but that’s why they are called practices because they are something that you work on.

Cath Anne: [00:08:43] A third way to practice gratitude is at the end of your day, before you go to bed, much like you did in the morning. Be thankful and think about the things that you are grateful for in your mind whether it’s three things or five things just list them off in your mind. That can help you to have a great sleep and will help end your day on a positive note. The ends the gratitude piece I wanted to discuss.

Cath Anne: [00:09:17] Another technique I wanted to discuss is meditation. Meditation seems to be becoming more popular these days. I think that is really interesting because it’s kind of steering away from the spiritual aspect although some people do use it still in a spiritual way but other people are using more in a secular way.

Cath Anne: [00:09:50] So meditation is something that I just started practicing and as I mentioned it is not easy by any means but I highly recommend going slowly and easing into the practice. (To Instagram Viewers): Do any viewers practice meditation?

Instagram Viewer:: [00:10:05] I practice meditation using sounds. I listen to waves and visualize it.

Cath Anne: [00:10:40] Yes visualization a very powerful way to meditate. It can be really peaceful and tranquil to do that. I know that I sometimes listen to waves when I go to bed. Of course living on the East Coast I love any sound of the ocean. I think you can find it on YouTube you can just look up: ‘waves sleep music’ or ‘meditation music with waves’.

Cath Anne: [00:11:17] So let me preface this section by saying that I’m not by any means a meditation instructor or anything like that I’m training in mindfulness but I am beginning my practice of meditation. So I wanted to just kind of I won’t initiate a practice right now but I wanted to kind of explain to you the process of meditation that I’ve found it works for me and it’s very basic. So our viewer Kaur is talking about guided meditation. There are some really great guided meditations on YouTube and different applications and they’ll guide you through different steps towards positive thinking and other areas of life that you want to work on.

Cath Anne: [00:12:35] The meditation that I’ve been doing lately which I think is really beneficial is a meditation that does not require guidance. All you need is your breath. If anyone is familiar with meditation, you know that it always comes back to your breath. When you’re doing meditation you can do it just for two minutes or you can do it for ten minutes or you can do for an hour. When you’re a new practitioner you might want to start out just two or three minutes. Starting slowly is okay because it’s a practice. As you keep going with your practice it might lengthen. You’ll be surprised at how long you can sit in your practice. So what has been recommended to me is that you take a good posture. Make sure you spine is straight, make sure your head feels like it’s being pulled up by a wire, and straighten your shoulders. Then relax your shoulders, you don’t want to be tense. You can place your hands in your lap or on your knees and then just start to focus on your breath. Focus on your in-breath and your out-breath. You just breathe slowly. You’re not trying to do any intensive breathing. You’re not trying to change your breathing you just be aware of your breathing. You’re living in the moment. Now one thing that most people find difficult about meditation is that thoughts will come in. Something beneficial to me when I first started learning about meditation was that someone told me that you just label your thoughts ‘thought’.

Cath Anne: [00:14:29] So you’re in process of meditation and you’re going to be having thoughts of what you do after this; what you should have for breakfast; what test is coming up; when you have to go to work. That’s natural. Know that is natural when those thoughts come up in meditation just label them in your mind ‘thought’ and let them pass by. Don’t give them any weight. Return to your breath; you always return to your breath. Just start with this short two minutes a morning or evening whatever works for you and go from there. It’s very basic. The reason I like that basic approach is that you can always come back to your breath; you always have the breath with you. So if you are in a stressful situation; if you’re taking a test if you’re going to go for a job interview; you can just freeze and do that for two minutes and then it will kind of reset your brain and you’ll be ready to go on. As you continue to practice, not that I’m any guru, but as you continue to practice that calmness will be more accessible to you. That’s just the way the brain works. You’re training your brain in a way to form new patterns and pathways.

Cath Anne: [00:16:06] Another technique that I want to offer you is regarding the stress and tension we often hold in the physical body. There are many things we do to alleviate tension in our body. We exercise, yoga, have a bath, stretch. One of the techniques that I learned can help us to alleviate stress quickly. Sometimes we need that quick fix. We may be in a You really stressful situation particularly if you are someone who is prone to anxiety and you just need that quick fix. One technique that you can do is you lift your left arm. You want to take your right hand and it has to be your right hand underneath your left side because that’s the side your heart is on. Take your right hand you tuck it underneath your left side and you hold like that. Then you breathe and that actually has and instant physical sensation that will calm your body. It is something they can do in those moments of stress, in those moments of intensity. Just take a moment to do that and breathe and that may help you calm down. It’s a physical grounding technique because like I said we hold a lot of stress and tension in the body. So if you’re looking to instantly take yourself down try that technique. Let me know if it works.

Cath Anne: [00:18:17] If meditation’s not for you, there are some other ways that you can navigate stress and overwhelm. So one of the ways is a mindfulness technique that I would like to teach you.

Cath Anne: [00:18:39] It’s called 5 4 3 2 1 and it’s actually a mindfulness and awareness technique that you can use when you’re trying to go to sleep and you’re feeling restless. It will help you to calm down. If you’re in a stressful situation it will bring you more mindfulness and just bring you into the present moment and stop any racing thoughts that you’re having.

Cath Anne: [00:19:14] You start with the number 5 and you want to think of the five things that you see. Say you’re in a room and you might look at five things you see. So five things I see are: my computer, my phone, my microphone, my cup of tea, and my glasses. You literally name them out loud. If you’re at work or in class you may not want to name them out loud, but if you’re in your car or somewhere alone or you’re trying to sleep it might be helpful to name them loud. Name five things you can see, and then you will name five things you can hear. I can hear: the dripping tap, my computer fan running, the wind outside, my voice, the dripping tap. It is ok to name things again if you can only hear so many things. Then you want to name five things you can feel. I can feel my hands touching together, my legs on the couch, my feet on the couch, my back on the seat, and the cushion underneath me. I’m getting calm just going through this process. Then you move on to four and then three and then two and then one. Honestly, every time I do this it helps me fall asleep. This is an amazing technique that you can use. It’s very calming and mindful. It brings you in the present moment and it makes you not think about all that other stuff that’s going on in your head and also helps to be a little bit more observant which is part of mindfulness. I highly recommend that technique. It’s a great one and it’s better than counting sheep. I usually don’t make it until 2 or 1.

Cath Anne: [00:21:55] Then, as I was saying before, visualization can be a very powerful technique to use. I know counselors and therapists who use it in sessions with people when they’re feeling particularly anxious or depressed. One technique that I have heard of is one around visualizing your perfect spot. So you might be encouraged if you do attend a therapy session or you can do this on your own to visualize your perfect spot. So whether that be on a beach somewhere or in the woods or in a bath, you visualize every little detail about that spot. So you make it real in your mind the colors the sounds the smells everything that goes in to that space.

Cath Anne: [00:22:58] To begin practicing visualization you will want to picture your spot. It may be helpful to write it out or you can just imagine it. You can also have someone guide you through the process of envisioning it. Visualization can have a lasting impact for you because it’s something that if you go back to. When I was discussing those times you need that kind of instant release and that instant calm feeling, this is something that you can do. As I was mentioning there are lots of techniques and videos on YouTube around visualization so check that out.

Cath Anne: [00:24:30] I want to talk a little bit about some social work framing techniques that you can use to understand and reframe negative thoughts and beliefs.

[00:24:47] Many people refer to the idea of the ‘monkey brain’. Which is the negative and racing thoughts that come into our mind. We all have this and it is completely natural. However, sometimes we need to train our brains not to gravitate towards those racing thoughts so much because that’s when we can become a little bit unstable and potentially experience some mental health challenges. So therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is very useful in helping to reframe these thoughts. For example when we are talking about reframing, we’re talking about stopping the negative thoughts and inserting more positive. I’m not advocating being positive all the time because it’s not realistic, but the brain is elastic.

Cath Anne: [00:25:46] Though we are hard wired for that negative thinking, we can actually retrain the brain and carve out new pathways in the brain so that we are geared more towards a positive mindset. Because those racing thoughts can be really repetitive they form patterns in our brain, which are really hard to re-train. So we have to do this repetitively. We have to do it over and over and over again which falls in line with our theme of practice this week. All the techniques that I’ve provided till now can go a long way.

[00:27:28] We all have negative thoughts. It’s when those thoughts get out of control and start to overtake our lives that they become more of an issue. So we do want to reframe those thoughts. So the first step is to acknowledge that those thoughts exist and that they’re not true. We don’t give any weight to those thoughts. This process can be done with the help of a therapist. If you do feel that you need the support of a therapist to identify and label those thoughts, that may be beneficial. But, you can also do it on your own.

Instagram Viewer:: [00:28:08] Reminds me of growth mindset. “I can’t do math” v.s. “I’ll try my best to learn.”

Cath Anne: [00:28:19] Yes, that’s a very good example of growth mindset. So yes, it’s reframing those negative thoughts you have about yourself using more positive affirmations that are realistic. It’s inserting positive thoughts where you might have more negative thoughts generally. It takes practice. It can be particularly difficult when you are experiencing depression because that’s when those negative thoughts become really engrained and really entrenched in the brain. When those thoughts do become more regular and persistent and start dominating your life that might be a time that you might have to go to therapy and speak to a counselor about helping you to actually reframe. Sometimes we do need help especially when are going through a mental health crisis.

Cath Anne: [00:33:40] This can be a really good thing for sleep hygiene as well. When we are trying to get ready for sleep, that is often when our brains go on overdrive. We tend to think all of the negative thoughts and think about all the negative things that happened throughout the day. When we focus on that, it can stress us out and make us not have a good sleep. Instead, be intentional about visualizing how well your day went. Think about the things that did go well in the day and that can go along with your gratitude practice as well.

Cath Anne: [00:34:15] Now on the flip side visualization can be really powerful too. Just think about your day ahead or the next day ahead. Visualize your ideal day. It can set the tone for how your day is going to go. It’s going to make you to have a more positive outlook on the day ahead. So visualize it. Visualization can be a really powerful technique to use to think about your day.

Cath Anne: [00:35:09] That’s all I have for you this week. Does anyone else have any ideas that you would like to mention?

Instagram Viewer:: [00:35:50] The colouring books.

Cath Anne: [00:35:52] Yes, those can be really relaxing. Or drawing, if you like to draw there are tons of tutorials on YouTube teaching you how to draw and colour. I know a lot of people who use colouring as a strategy to combat stress and I think that’s actually a really good point. I think the overall idea here is that even though we’re super busy and I feel like everyone is getting busier because we’re always on our phones and we’re always on our computers and a lot of people are working from home now. If you’re a student you’re navigating so many different areas of your life: work, school, social life, and mental health. Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves and we forget to take that time out to do our practices and to do things like a therapeutic coloring book or do things we enjoy like drawing or listening to music and just actually taking that downtime in our day to spend with ourself and to give us space to do those things.

Cath Anne: [00:37:29] (To Instagram Viewer): So I thank you for bringing that up, Kaur. I really think that’s a great example of how we need to make some time for those little things that we really enjoy that bring joy to our lives and that can also help reduce stress.

Cath Anne: [00:37:45] So that’s all I have for you today and I hope those techniques were helpful.

Instagram Viewer:: [00:37:56] Can you please do a session on making our own self care case?

Cath Anne: [00:38:00] Ooh yeah that’s a great idea. I’d love to do that. That’s an awesome idea. I think next week we’re going to be focusing again the academic information. But making our own healthcare kits that is an awesome idea. So, probably in a couple of weeks maybe in November we’ll be doing that. We’ll keep you posted on Facebook and Instagram as to when that session will be coming up. Thank you so much for the suggestion. That’s wonderful. Great idea.

Cath Anne: [00:38:56] I’m glad we had a few more folks joining us again this week. That was great. And of course I love the regulars.

Cath Anne: [00:39:18] Just to remind you if you do have any questions or comments you can get a hold of us on Instagram, Facebook, Medium Google Plus. And we’re also on a lot of the audio channels as well now so we are on Google Play Music, Anchor, iTunes podcast. We’re also LinkedIn, we’re on YouTube. So we’re on pretty much all platforms. Just look up Homework Help Global and you will find us there.

Cath Anne: [00:39:57] Also just a little reminder, Homework Help Global does offer essay writing services, editing services, support services around writing essays and if you do need any support please reach out to us. We can certainly help you to navigate these stressful times as a student, if you are feeling a little overloaded with a course load. Please check out our website or reach out to us on Facebook or Instagram any of the other social media channels that I mentioned and we’d be more than happy to help you to get good grades.

Cath Anne: [00:40:45] So I suppose that is all for me for this week. I really hope that was helpful. I enjoyed that. I loved to talk about these issues and mindfulness and meditation and all those therapeutic techniques. It was helpful for me because now I’m really calm because some of the techniques we were going through. I hope you give them a try and if you do let me know next week or you can message us on Instagram on DM. Whatever works for you. Thank you so much for joining me again. My name is Cath Anne and I am the host of The Homework Help Global’s “The Learning Studio” Have a great week.

Cath Anne: [00:41:37] I will see you again next week on Tuesday probably in the evening again 7:00p.m. Eastern Standard Time. So jump on and join us. I love chatting with you. Next week we’ll be doing some work on academic content so please feel free to jump on and check out our social media channels. So you know exactly what the topic is for next week. All the best. Take care.