Call 020 8123 1757 or info@mindfitness.training

Exercises

Anyone who has read Unlock You or been to a Mind Fitness workshop will know the importance of the practical exercises. Here are some that we use in training that we couldn’t fit into the book. Try them out, and if you like them incorporate them into your personal Mind Fitness programme.

Identifying Beliefs

As you know from reading the book being able to identify your beliefs is very important. It’s good to practice by attempting to identify the beliefs of those around you.

Below are 6 situations in which an individual is, to some extent, suffering.  The object is to decide what their belief might be in the situation. We have filled in numbers 1 and 2. We would like you to do numbers 3 to 6. We have given the first two words; complete these sentences saying what you think the belief might be, from the information that you know.

  1. Janine spends a lot of time looking at fashion magazines and fashion pictures on line. She has a precarious relationship with food.

Janine believes – I must be thinner or I won’t be able to wear nice clothes or look like these models.

  1. Jackie is a single mum with two children and is also holding down a demanding full-time job. She rarely has time for herself and when she does she spends it on social media.

Jackie believes – I should be able to cope with a job and my children. Everyone else is able to.

  1. Darren has been revising for his A levels into the early hours, barely leaving the house. He has not seen friends for several weeks and has missed a lot of meals.

Darren believes – I must…………

  1. Jack belongs to a local football team. Recently he injured his knee in training. His doctor told him he needed six weeks off but he is planning to go back this weekend after only two.

Jack believes – I must…………………

  1. Geoff has a good job and great family but gets upset when he cannot take them on the holidays he sees his neighbours and friends on social media are taking.

Geoff believes – I should………………

  1. Poppy joined a local gym a month ago but soon afterwards experienced a difficult period at work which has meant that she has not been able to go.

Poppy believes – I should………………….

How did it feel?

How easy was it for you to identify the beliefs? It’s easy to see, isn’t it, when it is set out like this, how much a belief (often not even grounded in reality) is leading to unhelpful behaviours and causing distress. The I SHOULD be able to cope, is a very common one, across a huge range of contexts. Without even being aware of it we start punishing ourselves for not being able to cope, which leads to stress and behaviours that make it less likely that we will be able to cope, and so on.

Some of the beliefs you wrote down may seem in isolation to be positive. Is it not good, for example, that Jack wants to get back to a team that he believes in? The question is ‘are they helpful to the person?’ or ‘are they causing the person anxiety or harm.’ This may be the sixth time that Jack has had to go off because he never gives his body time to heal.

If beliefs are unhelpful but they are springing from a positive root – for example the mum that is running herself into the ground because she feels she MUST give her children EVERY opportunity – we can learn to refocus them so that our good intentions stop causing the damage and instead reap rewards for everyone. Let’s say our Mum is Polly. If Polly is barely coping it’s unlikely that she is dealing with her children in a way that is positive, encouraging and supportive even if she is ferrying them to every possible class and working all hours to pay for them.

Locus of Control

The Locus of Control will identify whether you are someone who believes that life is essentially in your keeping, or someone who believes that you are a pawn in your own destiny. Of course in reality, we are neither exclusively an “internal” person or an “external” person, but usually possess tendencies that sit somewhere on the sliding scale.

 

Circle the number that best reflects your attitudes
Strongly disagree Disagree Uncertain Agree Strongly agree  
Our society is run by a few people with enormous power and there is not much the ordinary person can do about it 1 2 3 4 5
Success is determined by being in the right place at the right time 1 2 3 4 5
There will always be industrial relations disputes no matter how hard people try to prevent them, or the extent to which they try to take an active role in union activities 1 2 3 4 5
Politicians are inherently self-interested and inflexible. It is impossible to change the course of policies 1 2 3 4 5
What happens in life is predestined 1 2 3 4 5
People are inherently lazy, so there is no point in spending too much time in changing them 1 2 3 4 5
I do not see a direct connection between the way and how hard I work and the assessments of my performance that others arrive at 1 2 3 4 5
Leadership qualities are primarily inherited 1 2 3 4 5
I am fairly certain that luck and chance play a crucial role in life 1 2 3 4 5
Even though some people try to control events by taking part in political and social affairs, in reality most of us are subject to forces we can neither comprehend nor control 1 2 3 4 5
 

Plot your total score below

Internal External
10 30 50

 

The Forest of Self-Talk

This is a creative exercise that explores how negative self-talk fills our mind and trips us up.

We’re going to use Little Red Riding Hood as a character and story which most people will know. After you’ve done this one you could take a character from a book or Tv programme that you like and do the exercise again.

Start by sketching a picture of Red Riding Hood in the centre of the page and then draw trees all around her. She is making her way through the forest to Granny’s house. Now give each tree a speech bubble.

Each speech bubble coming from a tree will be filled by self-talk. For example they might say:

‘You will never find your way to your grandmother’s cottage.’

‘You are too stupid to go through the forest alone.’

‘Your mother was wrong to trust you to take the cake to grandma.’

‘You are too slow to get through the deepest forest by nightfall.’

‘You are too scared, too weak, to deal with any animals you meet along the way.’

Think of how you might feel if you were the character. What negative self-talk and doubts might you have? Write these in the speech bubbles you have drawn.

Award Winning You

This exercise is about visualising the you that you would like to be. You are going to imagine a future you receiving an award. It can be a community award from a local group or charity,  or something much more grand.  It can be a handmade award presented by your children.  It can be anything at all, except that it must be linked in some way to something which gives your life meaning.  If, for example, you invest ‘of yourself’ in animal welfare it could be a volunteer of the year award from the RSPCA. If you are a journalist and you believe passionately in the public’s right to know, it might be recognition for an article or a photo you have submitted to the press.

Take your time with the imagining – eyes open or closed – whichever feels best.

Now write down: –

What is the award?

Who presents it to you?

What is it for?

How does it make you feel?

Then congratulate yourself for the achievement. Say it out loud.

For Procrastinators – 3 2 1

The 3 2 1 exercise is incredibly simple and effective, designed to break the habit of procrastinating.  It works best for the smaller tasks, but because you can do it oftenit also gives your brain lots of practice at change and is excellent at developing your ability to build new pathways.  You are practising acting boldly and decisively in little things!

As soon as you see something that needs to be done you say 3 2 1 and then you do it

‘The plants need watering’ 321

‘The cat needs feeding’ 321

‘The bins need emptying’ 321

It only works, of course, if you always do it. Once it fully beds in you will find that you start to do the task before you have finished counting!

Positive Poem

You are going to write a positive poem about you!

Our poem ingredients are a host of positive affirmations, the can-do statements about uourself that we looked at in the book. Grab a pen and paper.

For this exercise try to think/write them as quickly as possible, so that your subconscious creative thinking comes into play. Write each statement on a new line and don’t worry if they seem quite similar, for example ‘I am strong. I am able.’ It’s fine to let one lead to the next.

When you have written about 20 statements have a look. How much does what you have written look like a poem? If not at all, spend a few minutes rearranging the lines and adapting them slightly to give it more shape and form. When you are happy with it (it doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece) read it through out loud and try to give the lines as positive a colour as you can.

Choose a time in the day and read the poem through once-a-day until you know it. Then it’s yours to use whenever you have a minute to fill or whenever you need it.

Gratitude Video

This exercise is designed to heighten our sense of gratitude, and in turn our sense of happiness and wellbeing. Many practitioners find it possible and liberating to give thanks almost continuously. Be grateful for your cornflakes as you grab the bowl, grateful for your car as you grab the keys. This feels contrived when you start doing it but pretty soon it becomes, instead of a conscious mental attitude, simply a way of looking at the world.

This exercise can be done in your imagination, or if you are keen and artistically inclined it can be made into an actual video and kept close at hand, say on your phone.

Begin by making a list of each of the things you are grateful for, big or small, or by looking at the list if you already have one. Now take each in turn and spend a minute imagining it, seeing it in detail.

Finally create a film, real or imagined, that is a journey through these things. Commit the film to your memory. ‘Play’ this when you’re finding it hard to feel positive, or when it is proving hard to challenge an unhelpful belief.

Appreciating our Body

This is another gratitude exercise, that will also help us to be more connected with our physical body.

Write down the five things that you most appreciate about your body and how it works.

Read through your list – isn’t it amazing how much we take these completely wonderful things for granted?

Now write down five smaller things that are pretty cool – for example coordination, or small like the way your palm feels if you stroke it gently with your finger.  They can be universal or particular to you.

Try to be aware, for the next week, of the 10 things you have written on your list.

Awareness of body Position

This is an exercise designed to heighten awareness of your body, how it works and how it feels.

Choose five exact positions for your body, making them as different as they can be, for example, one sitting, one lying, one standing, one closed, one open.  Make every small detail different, the angle of your wrists, the focus of your head and eyes.

Go through each position two or three times so that you remember them.

Now go through them very slowly, staying in each one for 3 – 5 minutes.  Notice the different sensations that comes from each.  Notice how you get this information.  Notice any emotions that arise.

Using Alexander

As part of a process of both relaxation and awareness I would thorough recommend Alexander Technique.  Although commonly seen as being about posture, it is much more than this.  It focuses on the whole person, recognising that whatever is going on in one set of muscles effects every other.  It’s a technique about realignment that sits well with learning to change a habitual response to stimuli.

Take up a basic Alex position: For ten minutes lay on your back on a hard floor with a book placed under the crown of your head and your arms extended to the side on a slight stretch, your hands facing up to the ceiling.

In this position do one of the mindfulness exercises we covered in the book.

Awareness of Body Language

  1. Set an alarm a few times a day and as it goes off simply clock the position that your body is in. Ask yourself how it aligns to the thoughts and emotions you were experiencing at the time. Consider how your body language might read to another person.
  2. Enlist the help of a good friend who you can trust to be honest with you. Ask them to notice your body language through a day or evening and tell you how it reads.  Be warned – there’s often a substantial gap between (1) and (2).

Visualisation of not Responding To triggers

This exercise is designed to enable you to retain control when faced with situations that would usually trigger a negative response.

Begin by identifying something which is a common spark point for you, triggering a response of anger or fear.

Next, think of the last time that this happened.

Replay the scene in your mind, using as much detail as possible.

Now do one of the quick mindfulness exercises.

Now replay the situation, but this time with you not responding to the trigger in the way that you normally would. Instead visualise the you that is reflective, able to maintain emotional control and a rational perspective in the situation.  If you get stuck at any point in the visualisation or start to drift into the negative simply course-correct as you would in a live environment.

Creative Collage

This exercise is designed to aid the development of Creativity.

As you know, the brain essentially uses a collage system to conjure up by compositing everything which lies outside of remembered experience.  You can develop creativity by consciously following the same process.

Write 10 objects or ideas on separate pieces of paper and fold them up. Now pick any two at random and find a way creatively fusing or linking them. For example, Doctor Seuss might have picked up cat and hat.  The same two words might have created a picture of a cat using a hat as a boat in Venice, during the Festival. Or you could take ‘cat’ to lead you to a jungle creature and hat to lead you to a Victorian gentleman and end up with an anecdote about Dr Livingstone.

Surprise Thoughts

Allowing yourself to be surprised encourages adaptive behaviour, and also generates feelings of curiosity and wonder that help to keep the automatic thoughts at bay.

For a day write down every time you: –

  • Think something that surprises you (good or bad)
  • Feel something that surprises you
  • Behave in a way that surprises you

Have a look, without judging, at the list at the end of the day.

Awareness of Intentions

Developing an awareness of out specific intentions as we go through our day helps us to keep in touch with our goals and also enables us to ensure that we are fully imagining the consequences of our actions and the effect that we can have on other people.

Try to be aware of your intentions, for example, as you go into a meeting or conversation. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to achieve?
  • How do I want to affect the person that I am speaking to?

After the meeting /conversation choose two specific things that you said.

Write them down.

Then under each of them write:

  • What was my intention /the intended effect?
  • What was the actual effect?

Very often what we intend when we say something is not the way that the other person will take it.  As we have said before they will have their own beliefs, expectations, cognitive biases and intentions.  The quicker we can realise this in a meeting or conversation the quicker we can course-correct.

Exercise Videos

Looking For More Book Resources?

Extra content and additional useful exercises available for Unlock You readers.