How we React is formed from years and sometimes generations of Patterns.
“It’s just the way we Always did it!” (Sound familiar?)
If you would rather Respond instead of React all the time, you need to learn how to press “Pause” on those old Patterns.
Patterns that have existed inside you for years, possibly for generations. That Autopilot inside all of us that instantly supplies us with a reaction based on passed experience. Based on what we have seen, over and over again.
How often, after the dust settles, have you wished you reacted differently?
Wished you just Paused for a second before Autopilot kicked in?
It’s not Easy.
Trying to put your Emotional Response on the shelf for a few seconds.
It takes Time and Practice to create that Pattern Interrupt between an Emotional Reaction and a Mindful Response. Growing that muscle that will kick in when you are triggered so you can Respond the way you wish you did.
➡️Where do you even start?
Sure Mindfulness is just Meditation and that’s for those Monks in the Orange Robe’s, not me! (I used to think the same…)
✨Mindfulness is not just Meditation.✨
At it’s core Mindfulness is about creating: Awareness and Acceptance inside Ourselves.
Not going through life Judging ourself for how we once Reacted, a long time ago.
Letting go of those Ruminating thoughts and Patterns.
Letting go of trying to predict what someone might say or how a situation might pan out.
Learning to gently bring ourselves back to the Person we Love to be around.
It can all start by just Pausing our Autopilot so we can check in with ourselves, to see how we are.
Pausing to appreciate those little Moments. Moments when we blinked, forgot about them and they are gone for ever…
In November 2017, I sat in the audience of TEDx Tallaght in Dublin, Ireland. I was so inspired by the speakers that night, I decided that I wanted to share my own story at TEDx some day. The only problem was, I had no public speaking experience, at the time.
Over the two years that followed, I must have applied to and received a rejection letter from almost every TEDx event in Ireland, as well as some in the UK. However, I never gave up on my dream and passion to inspire others to share their own story. Each application process was a learning experience and what I learned would feed into the next one. The goal to speak at TEDx was transforming into journey rather than a final destination. As one door closed, I would move on the next, grateful for the amazing people I would meet along the way.
I enrolled in public speaking workshops. I reached out to past TEDX speakers for advice. Each action was taking me one stop further in the journey. There are a few milestones along the journey but one of the big ones was when I joined Toastmasters.
I now had a safe space to practice speaking in public. If I didn’t have this I would have really struggled to share such a personal story without breaking down. This is actually something that happened, the first time I spoke in my Toastmasters club. The speech was called the Ice Breaker and it was opportunity to introduce myself to my club. I was really happy with the speech I had written, entitled “3 little words”. It was going really well until the part where I wanted to share what happened in July 2014.
All of a sudden, in my mind I was transported back to the emotions at the time and I wasn’t able to talk. I will always be grateful for what my club did that night. They gave me the space and respect to gather my thoughts for a few seconds and continue on. I could feel the energy and support in the room like a collective hug. When we give a speech in our club, we all receive a feedback from from the members in the audience. I could not believe the feedback I received from everyone. I thought I would get lots of “growth points” about breaking down during my speech. In fact, the opposite was true. The word that was used over and over and again was “Brave”. This speech and allowing myself to be vulnerable on stage, in a safe environment, were key to being able to share such a personal story.
We Can & We Will
Another big step in my journey was meeting the Amazing Amanda Delaney of We Can and We Will. Amanda runs a networking event like no other. She gave me the opportunity to share my story for the first time. I had practiced the speech many times at home but I had never giving it in front of an audience. That night at We can & We Will, I realised that all my visualising and actions were coming into place.
One thing I never expected was the reaction that I received that night. The talk was really having an emotional impact on people. I remember afterwards I was getting into my car while Amanda and her husband Ian were talking outside. I just jumped out of the car and gave them both another big hug. I was so excited that my dream was finally coming true and I could see the difference it was making to other people.
I continued to practice, practice, practice with my Toastmaster group and I was invited to share my story with another Toastmaster group in January 2019. It was the open night for a club in Dublin city centre and I thought it would be lots of new people interested in joining Toastmasters.
I got a big shock when the room started to fill with some of the most experienced Toastmasters in Dublin, including the divisional director. I took a deep breath and gave it everything I could. Afterwards I got some beautiful feedback from the members. Some of whom, were living with grief themselves. The momentum was building and I was seeing how much my talk was resonating with people.
At one stage, in mid 2019, a private TEDX event in the UK reached out to me after I expressed interest in speaking for them. However, I had to say no. It was a very hard decision about years of work but I knew I was making the right decision. The event was taking place the day before my daughter Ciara’s ballet show. When I checked the flights, I would never have made it back to Dublin in time. When you watch my TEDx, you will realise why I made that decision and how important my family have been to me in this journey. Without them, I don’t believe I would be where I am today.
The Day I was Selected.
It was 10th July 2019 and myself and my family were on the way home from a family day out. We had always wanted to do a cruise around Dublin Harbour so that day we book the Dublin Cruise around Dublin bay and stopped off at Howth. We had a lovely lunch but the weather was turning so we ran for the train home. I was sitting on the Dart when the email came in. It was so nice to be with my wife and kids when I heard the news.
For some reason, I just thought it would be another rejection but it wasn’t. I had been selected to be one of the speakers at TEDx Ballyroan Library. I just cried. I couldn’t believe that all my resilience had paid off.
As it happened, there was a We Can & We Will event that night and the atmosphere was just electric. Not only had I been selected but another member, the Amazing Tracey McCann had also been selected. I couldn’t get over how happy everyone was for me. Many of them had been on this journey with me and had seen the many ups and downs of my journey to get there so what a fitting place to be that night.
The Value of a Moment
The day of the talk finally came and I was 2nd last to go on. I was pretty nervous during the day but when people started to come in I relaxed a bit. As my wife, Amanda, always said when I practiced, “What ever comes out on the night, will come out”. I had practiced, literally 100s of times. Every moment I could get would be another practice.
Just before I was about to go on, there was a technical error. This would have put a lot of people off but I took it as something very positive. It gave me an extra minute to just breathe and relax my body before I went on. As a result I was very relaxed going on stage.
The TEDx Video
Some of the content could be a trigger for anyone living with grief at the moment.
Some of the feedback I have received
So powerful Stephen well done on an amazing talk, it really drives home the value of a moment 😍
This was so powerful Stephen, I had goosebumps. Thank you for sharing.
I’m blown away Stephen, you told your story so beautiful. Your truly inspiring 😘
I am delighted to share this recent TEDx talk Stephen Downey, I have just watched and truly appreciate its essence, firstly imagine having the opportunity to speak at such an event, secondly to find it in himself to share such a personal story but thirdly to find a way to embrace and honour what is truly of value at a time where it would be so easy to close down in sorrow and sadness. Thank you Stephen for your “humane-ess”. Have a read for yourself and then pass it on, it may be what someone else needs to hear today ❤️
Fantastic TEDx talk from Stephen Downey on why you should value each little moment in life that will help you see how truly happy your life is. Brilliant talk
Beautiful talk by a beautiful soul. The value of a moment and finding the joy in everyday things, something for us all to live by. Well done Stephen 💜
You Don’t need to Meditate to Practice Mindfulness
If you are new to Mindfulness but feel the idea of sitting for 20 or 40 minutes a day daunting then read on. Learn about the informal practices that you can bring into your life, to start your Mindfulness Journey today.
Mindfulness is bringing conscious awareness into the present moment. Not ruminating over the events of the past or worrying about what might happen in the future. You are simply living in the moment. Fully present in whatever it is you might be doing at the time. We tend to call this ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.
The good news is that Meditation is just one of the tools we use to build our “Mindful Muscle” but it is not the only one! So if you have been avoiding Mindfulness because you think your not ready to meditate then an Informal practice might be the place to start.
If you’re wondering what Informal Practice is…
We tend to call a regular meditation practice, where you set aside an amount of time to meditate, a “Formal Practice”. This can take on many different forms like a Sitting Meditation, Mindful Movement, Mindful Walking, Yoga.
An “Informal Practice” is where you might bring a Mindful awareness into an everyday task. You become consciously aware of the task and the moment. In fact by bringing our thoughts back to the task, we are actually meditating. It might be for 5 seconds or 30 seconds but by training the mind to return to the task at hand, you are meditating.
It is my belief that “Informal Practice” is just as powerful and a perfect place to start for someone who wants to bring Mindfulness into their life but isn’t ready to start meditating. As you build this ability to be mindful throughout your day, it may break down any barriers you have to meditating.
With that in mind, here are 5 Simple Practices that don’t involve meditating on a seat or cushion but could get you started on your own Mindfulness journey today.
Where are you when you brush your teeth?
Brushing our teeth is something that we do everyday but how often are we thinking about the day ahead as we brush our teeth? The next time you are brushing your teeth, try to keep your thoughts on your teeth. If your mind drifts off to the day ahead, don’t judge it, just bring your mind back to your teeth.
How does the toothpaste taste?
What is the smell from your toothbrush?
How many times are you moving your brush back and forth?
What sounds are you making when you brush your teeth?
Are you showering on your own?
How often do you step into a shower but as soon as the water starts, your mind is repeating a conversation you had with someone the day before? Don’t let that person into your shower. Bring your thoughts back to where you are, again, without judgement. They are only thoughts after all and the mind is just doing what it does. Here are some ways to get your thought back to the task at hand:
How does the water feel as it flows?
How does the shampoo or body wash smell?
What can you hear as the water is flowing?
Is there a sound you hear today that you never felt noticed before?
Try to keep your thoughts on the experience until you are finished.
Who are you sharing your tea with?
There are times to share and there are times that you just need to protect your space.
If you find your mind drifting off when you are having a cup of tea then bring it back to your moment. Give yourself this time. You don’t have to think about your day ahead or anything that happened yesterday. This 5 minutes will happen whether you think about them or not.
How does the cup feel in your hand?
What are you smelling?
What are you tasting?
How does feel as you take that sip?
Have a phone free commute, stop the mindless scrolling.
If you are someone who normally scrolls their way through their commute, try leaving your phone in the bag for one day a week.
Try to take in everything on the route.
If its on a bus or train, how many stops are there until your destination?
If you’re in a car, how many traffic lights are there?
What sounds do you hear on the journey.
Can you see something new, that’s always been there?
If there is something that you do routinely, our mind can move into Autopilot mode. In this mode, our mind blocks out what we don’t need to see. When we are in Autopilot mode, our mind often blocks out many things that have nothing to do with what we are trying to do. When we turn off Autopilot mode and are fully present, it allows us to see things that were always there but our mind was just blocking it out.
So next time you are in your favorite coffee shop, look out for something you never noticed. Is there something on the menu that you never realised?
If you are always go the same way on a walk, take a detour.
Open your mind up to new experiences outside your norm.
These are just a few ideas to get you started on your Mindfulness Journey. Each one is actually a mini meditation in itself. It is my hope that by incorporating some of these simple practices into your life, it may breakdown any barriers that may have about Mindfulness and Meditation. Before you know it, you could be setting aside 20 minutes a day to do that meditation that you thought you could never do!
If you have other ways that you informally bring Mindfulness into your day, please leave a comment or consider joining our group The Mindful Living Guide
When the students at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Tennessee heard that their beloved teacher Ben Ellis had stop his cancer treatment, they wanted to do something to honour him. He had been a teacher at their school for many year and touched the hearts of many.
Honouring their Friend
Up until very recently, Ben was still teaching in the school. He found that teaching was a distraction from his cancer treatment. Unfortunately, Ben and his family got some very bad news and realised that the only option was palliative care. When the principle heard that Ben’s treatment was over, he made announcement to the students and facility to stop what they were doing and board the school buses.
Anxiety affects more and more people every day. People are constantly in “busy mode” and often overwhelmed in their daily life. It can be so hard to break that cycle of Anxiety when everything seems impossible.
I just wanted to share a few simple tips that I have used in the past.
Let me know in the comments what has worked for you.
This is the most important thing you can do. When we get anxious, we have a tenancy to take short breathes. This is depriving your body of the oxygen that it needs.
A great little exercise, that you can do anywhere, is the 4-7-8 breath:
Close your mouth.
Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4.
Hold that breath for 7.
Exhale slowly through your mouth for 8.
This will slow down your breathing but will also have a calming effect on your system.
2. Talk, Talk, Talk
This is so important. Explain to someone how you are feeling about the situation. There are so many times when what we are worrying about that is not a bad as we think. Talking to someone can help you to look at it in a different light.
The person may see a solution that you didn’t think of. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.
3. Step back
Sometimes when we are so focused on the problem, we find it hard to see any solution. By stepping back from the situation. It allows you to look at the issue with fresh eyes. It may be that you are tired and returning to it after a rest may be just what you need.
This may sound like an unusual suggestion when its the last thing you want to do but when we laugh we release dopamine and endorphins. Increasing the levels in your body will help combat that anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach. I often look at comedians on Youtube to start my day with a laugh. Use your commute to work for you. I watch comedians on youtube during my commute each day. Every down and then it can be very hard to hold in the laughter on the bus but you start the day with a smile on your face.
5. Celebrate your Wins
When we are anxious we have tendency to only look at what we feel we can’t do. We often forget about all the great achievements that we already achieved.
Write down a list of 5 things that you are proud of in the last week.
It doesn’t matter how small, or big for that matter, that achievement is. Write them all down and look at all the great things that you are capable of.
Get out pen and paper and write down all the tasks that you need to compete. I use a great app called Keep to keep track of all the tasks that I have. When you get what we are worried about out of our head and onto paper, it may not seem as insurmountable as you thought.
We often worry because we are trying to juggle to many tasks at once. When you have them all written down give each task a number, from the most important down to the least important.
8. Give yourself a quick Win
Do the tasks at the top seem so big that you don’t know where to start?
Then pick one task that you could complete in less than 10 minutes. This will give you a quick win and give you the confidence to tackle something bigger. Its is so much easier to tackle those bigger task when you “are on a roll.
9. Break down Large tasks
If something seems so big that you don’t know where to start then break it down. Don’t look at all the work you need to do to get it completed. Is there a way to break it down into a number of steps that build on each one? You can then look at what one step you need to take to get you started not what you need to do to compete the whole thing. We always say that the first step is the hardest, well make that first step as easy as possible!
It goes without saying that we are not medical professionals and any advice that we provide is always based on our own experience. We would always advise to seek professional help if you feel you need it.
A few months ago my daughter came home from her ballet class and said there would be a “Daddy-Daughter Ballet” class on Valentines week. It was being organised to raise money for LauraLynn – Ireland’s Children’s Hospice.
As you can imagine, I wasn’t looking forward to it at all but I knew it was for a good cause.
All the stories in my head
How stupid I would look…
I have two left feet…
Ballet is for girls…
I can’t dance…
Then I looked at my daughter and how excited she was so…
I knew had to embrace it for her and let go of any fear I had. I reluctantly let my daughter pick out my ballet uniform for the day.
(It actually wasn’t too bad to be honest, black running tights and a white T-shirt, no tutu !)
The day arrived and when we entered the class, I could see that all the other Dads, brothers, uncles, Granddads who also came to the class They were all feeling the same as me. We are looked Very nervous.
Then something magical happened
We let go of our inhibitions.
We remembered what it was like when we were young
We stopped caring what other people thought of us.
We encouraged each other and had so much fun with our children.
We forgot about any of our problems for an hour and just had fun!
Everyone left the class that day with a big smile on their face but the biggest smiles were on our children faces. They got to show us how amazing they are and how fear never gets in THEIR way.
In doing so, our children also thought us a big lesson and inspired their Dads.
Its amazing how we let our inhibitions stop us from enjoying life sometimes. Thank you Clare Connolly Dance for helping all us Daddy’s to release our Inner Child at Daddy Daughter day 2018….
John Doran is a Guidance Counsellor in the Patrician Secondary School and author of Ways to Wellbeing a programme promoting resilience and positive mental health for students nationwide and internationally. John recently spoke at the Zeminar conference in Dublin about something that is close to my heart:
Happiness is an inside Job.
In the talk he shares his 3 Pillars for a Successful Life and Happiness:
You are, you always were and you will be Enough
This gem comes from Br Colm O’Connell who shared it with John’s school, Patrician Secondary school in Newbridge. A secret that John would like every one to know. You see we were all born with only two fears, fear of loud noises and the fear of falling over. The rest we learn. As John says, Belief costs nothing and everyone can afford it.
The most important words that you ever hear in your life are the words that you say to yourself and believe. Engage with yourself in a constructive way. When you realise this, you are free to change your emotion to effort.
Develop an Attitude of Gratitude
A lot of people are always looking for the next phase of life or the next win without showing gratitude for what they already have. John coins the phrase Entitled-itious and believes that gratitude could be a good prescription for Entitled-itious.
I am a big believer in daily gratitude and celebrating the wins that you have already achieved. By looking back at these wins, it can get us through those days when life is stacked against us and we don’t see a way through.
This is a big bug bear for me. In the race to get to the next part of their life, so many people forget to enjoy the life they already have. As John says “The destination will come soon enough for us all”. This could be as simple as just taking some time for ourselves. I am a big believer in enjoying the journey. There is no point focusing only on your end goal, if you are not enjoying the steps that will get you there. This can result in a sense of being underwhelmed when you reach your goal. You need to appriciate the person you are becoming along the way.
Life can go bye in a blur and makes no sense if its not punctuated.
Please don’t miss out on your one precious life!
John closes by sharing a great quote that a teacher once gave him and I think its so true.