Positive Psychology in Schools

Positive Psychology, a relatively new field, looks specifically at what makes humans flourish and how best to nurture their unique strengths of character to support them to reach their full potential.

For many years schools around the world have been criticised for identifying and remediating students’ weaknesses while neglecting the identifying and nurturing of their unique strengths, resulting in a missed opportunity to build self esteem and creative thinking skills.

Positive psychology in schools know as ‘positive education’, was pioneered by Dr. Martin Seligman, the professor of psychology from the University of Pennsylvania (U.S) and his colleagues. See Dr. Seligman discuss Positive Education in the short video clip below

Positive Education in Australia has gained a fair amount of exposure due to the Geelong Grammar Program where positive psychology is taught to students in all year groups. This program supports students to understand and develop their unique character strengths, practice gratitude, optimism and build mental resilience.

To watch how Positive Education has impacted the students at Geelong Grammar click the short video clip below.

Mindfulness in Schools

In recent years, a gentle revolution has begun in schools around the world involving the teaching and practicing of mindfulness. These skills undeniably support students to improve concentration, reduce stress, build empathy and cope better with challenging thoughts and feelings.

Students who are better equiped to cope, self soothe and concentrate greatly improve the classroom learning environment and are able take these new skills out of the classroom to support them in their home lives.

So what exactly are mindfulness skills?

Mindfulness skills are a set of mind-skills, that focus particularly on building and practicing awareness of what can be sensed in the present moment. Like any skill, mindfulness is strengthened by regular practice and with time students are able greatly improve their concentration on any task or lesson, whilst being able to filter out distractions.

When difficult thoughts or challenging emotions arise, students are taught to self soothe, create space and think before they respond. In-turn, decreasing emotional turbulence that can lead to poor judgement and behaviour.

How are these skills taught to school students?

Mindfulness skills are best taught to students using a range of experiential activities including awareness exercises that are practiced both sitting and lying down, debriefing with other students and as a classroom style discussion, watching short clips and undertaking quizzes and worksheets.

One of the very first skills of taught is mindful breathing. Students are taught to breathe in a way that is proven to engage the parasympathetic nervous system which is the bodies in-built soothing and calming response. They are taught to use the breath like an anchor which keeps the mind focused on the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future.

Mindfulness skills are best taught in a secular manner, in a way that does not attempt to impose or depose any religious or spiritual belief systems. This includes ensuring that symbols, rituals or artefacts such as the use of particular hand or body gestures or using religious props are not a part of the learning material or practice. Rather, these skills should be taught to students in a way that is consistent with current scientific understandings of human psychology and behaviour.

What are the research findings into mindfulness in schools programs from around the world?

While the research into the effectiveness of mindfulness training with adolescents is not yet as comprehensive as the research that has been done with adults, a range of studies have been released in the past six years that show some promising results.

In 2013, a U.S based ‘mindful schools program’ evaluated the more than 400 hundred primary school students. They found a significant improvement in the four areas studied; Self control, concentration, classroom participation and respect for others. This was tested directly after the completion of the program and again seven weeks later which showed that students maintained these improvements well after the program finished.

Another 2013 study, looked at the perceptions of the benefits of learning mindfulness by at-risk high school students. These students attended high school in a low-income, rural area and participated in thirty minute guided sessions, at least twice per week for eight weeks. Students were asked what changes they had noticed since beginning the mindfulness practice. The major finding was that a majority of students indicated a remarkable positive change in their ability to manage stress levels.

A german study, published in 2016 looked at both the impact of students and teachers, learning and implementing mindfulness training in the school environment. The results concluded significant improvements in students; self reported stress levels, self regulation, self efficacy, and interpersonal problems. Furthermore teachers were also found to have medium improvements specifically in the areas of anxiety levels and emotional regulation. To read more about this study click HERE

More recently a UK study published in 2018, studied the effect of mindfulness training on senior high school students. After eight weeks of mindfulness practice, significant increases in self reported well-being were recorded along with an increased awareness of ‘socially relevant stimuli’ which the researchers conclude may decrease vulnerability to depression. To read more about this study click HERE 

Why I am SO inspired to do this work – My Story

I was only in primary school when I had my first thoughts of ending my life. I remember the overwhelming feeling of doom, the fear, the anxiety and the thought that nothing would ever be the same.

Before this time I was a truely happy child, connected deeply to my authentic self, without a problem in the world. Life was a beautiful playground.

I was ten years old and had recently moved schools. My parents where beginning to fight at home and little did I know, would soon seperate. I was finding it really hard to adjust to this big school after the first few years in a small school where I was liked by students and teachers, doing well academically and excelling at sports.

Adapting to this new school was the biggest challenge I had faced this far, and I wasn’t equiped to cope with it. I was only ten and I didn’t have any experience of adversity, of challenges or of the voice inside my head that said ‘ you’re not good enough’.

Over the years this voice became stronger and my marks at school began to drop. I wasn’t taking home a fistful of blue ribbons from any sports carnivals or even making the school sports teams. My self worth was low, my mental chatter was negative and I was beginning to meet the black dog more and more frequently.

This pattern continued into high school. By this time my parents had split up and my father had moved out. My mother decided it was time for a new start for me and my two younger brothers and so we moved houses, and I began high school in a new area, by the beach.

The first few months of high school were challenging as I tried hard to assimilate into this new school and surfy way of life. It wasn’t long before I did what any human does when they are faced with difficult times. I started to use my strengths in new ways, to get what I wanted and what I needed most – to be seen.

Ever since I can remember I was good at talking, at articulating what I wanted to say and not being scared of speaking up. I didn’t know at the time that this strength or this story would go on to greatly shape my life, my career and my offering to others.

So I used my strengths, I started speaking up. I became the class clown, the smart arse and every teachers worst nightmare and it worked! I got respect from my peers, made friends with the cool kids and was finally being seen.

But it wasn’t all roses. My grades were dropping, I was on a behaviour management program and I began being horrible to other students and throwing my new found power around. The black dog came to meet me more and more frequently.

I was finally being seen but I had lost touch with my personal values. I was letting my struggle guide my behaviour rather than my personal values. I was so disconnected to my authentic self,  I didn’t really know who I was.

I got through high school, just. Many suspensions and threats of expulsion but I somehow got through. I remember clearly telling a teacher of mine that I didn’t need an ATAR as I was never going to university, she smiled and me and said okay Jakob, we will see about that.

The years after high school were difficult times as I navigated  my place in the world as an adult. I was drawn to jobs where I could use my speaking and connection building skills, though I never felt truely satisfied. I clearly remember the existential dilemmas I faced with using my greatest asset to rob people blind in a commission based sales role.

I decided it was time to study at university and after some introspection and a good push in the right direction from my Mum, I enrolled to begin my degree in applied social science.

When my first romantic relationship broke down, the black dog came to visit and brought with him something new. I started to experience unhelpful and repetitive, destructive thoughts that I just couldn’t shake. I couldn’t concentrate in class or with friends and family, these thoughts were getting louder, stronger and more intrusive.

Life was once again pointing me in the right direction, but I just didn’t know it as yet.

That term we began looking at a range of psychological techniques including mindfulness based cognitive therapy, which appeared at the perfect time. I started practicing mindfulness as much as possible and reading everything I could on the subject. I finally began to have some relief from my mind. The unhelpful thoughts began to have less impact on me and slowly dissipated. I could concentrate again and for the first time since I was ten my on and off struggle with depression began to come less and less frequently.

This mindfulness stuff really worked for me, and so I started attending workshops and trainings and started doing yoga. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could.

In my final year at university I specialised in life coaching, and was introduced to Positive Psychology, the study of what makes humans flourish. I undertook a range of exercises that helped me to understand my unique strengths and values and see how these impacted my journey and how I could use these to become my best possible self.

The Mindful Coach was born shortly after university and I began helping young people and adults using the skills and techniques of mindfulness and positive psychology.

My journey from aged ten to the present has been an amazing road of ups, downs and learnings. I can see my path so clearly now and how and why every little thing that happened has got me to where I am.

Today I stand confidently and look at my future and know that I want to help people to connect with their authentic selves, to learn mindfulness skills and to use their personal strengths and values to guide them towards their highest potential.

So here is my mission to myself, to others and to the world: facilitate, help and support others to connect deeply to themselves, their bodies and their minds. In order for them to become mindfully aware of all aspects of themselves so that they can cope better with life’s ups and downs, suffer less, care more about themselves, others and the environment.

I deeply believe this learning begins with practicing awareness skills, knowing and using your unique character strengths and choosing behaviour that is grounded in your personal values.

These learnings have been the most pivotal, influential steps in my personal development and my aim is to support as many humans as possible along this journey.

My hope is that by supporting young adults in the development of new coping skills and a personal framework of strengths and values, it will make navigating these challenging years little easier, happier and more rewarding for the young people who get the opportunity to undertake my coaching or school programs.


Life Coaching Workshops @ The Plant Room Manly

The Mindful Coach, Jakob Casella, is running a brand new series of workshops this May and every participant receives a one on one life coaching session upon completion of the program.

You will learn a range of techniques drawn from some of the most powerful life coaching and psychotherapy models including positive psychology, ACT, narrative therapy and solution focused therapy.

Jakob has hand picked a range of easy to learn techniques, skills and self assessment tools that promote introspection, growth, psychological resilience and increase wellbeing.

This workshop runs over two consecutive weeks, one hour each Wednesday evening, in this time you will get to assess different aspects of your life and choose an area of focus for your life coaching phone session.

In this session you will work closely with Jakob to set a goal,  strategise and uncover blind spots. Jakob will gently challenge you to dive deeper and begin taking committed action to achieve your goals.

If this sounds like you, jump onto lifecoachingworkshops.eventbrite.com.au

Tickets are limited. Early bird tickets are available until the end of April at $105 + B.F

Plant Room Manly, is a fantastic new space filled with exotic plants and unique design pieces. This space with be transformed into a zen-jungle classroom for the Life Coaching workshops this May, 2017

Follow Plant Room

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Improve your concentration, lower your stress levels and manage those unhelpful thoughts and feelings…

Learn the skills of mindfulness meditation in 2 x 60 minute workshops

After successful workshops in February, Manly based life coach, Jakob Casella is running another two part ‘learn to meditate’ series this April.

This short course includes:

* 2 x 60 minute group workshops @ the amazing Plant Room, Manly

* All course materials

* Guided group meditations and skills building excercises

* Tea and light snacks

7-8pm Wednesday 5th & 12th of April 2017

$69 + B.F

Book your tickets @ https://learntomeditate2095.eventbrite.com.au

The Venue:

The Plant Room Manly, is a fantastic new space filled with exotic plants and unique design pieces. This space with be transformed into a zen-jungle classroom for the very first Manly Mindfulness Workshops for 2017.

Follow The Plant Room

Instagram instagram.com/the_plantroom/


Facebook facebook.com/theplantroom001/




Mindfulness is just the beginning…

Learning mindfulness skills is the first step to becoming aware of your conditioned thought and behaviour patterns. With awareness comes a new found level of control over your actions and with this you can begin to live a truly authentic, conscious life.

Becoming conscious, aware and awake

Learning the skills of mindfulness meditation can begin the process awareness of what was previously unconscious. With regular practice these skills allow you to notice the gap between thoughts, feelings, urges and behaviour.

You can notice what you are thinking, feeling and doing in any given moment. If  you are beginning to feel stressed, anxious or uncomfortable. You can do something about it, before the downward spiral begins.

You will begin to notice the birds singing, the wind against your skin and the sun shining on your face. You consciously choose to smile at the inextricable link you have with life that is all around us. That is us.

Noticing conditioned thought patterns that influence behaviour

You will notice the voice of your ego, and when it begins to judge, compare, criticise and analyse.

You will notice your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes, and how they shape your behaviour.

You might even notice that some of your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes are no longer aligned with your values. They may be old, conditioned patterns of thought that no longer serve you. Now every time these begin to play out, you can catch yourself, then choose how you truly want to react, respond and behave.

Noticing these thought patterns won’t necessarily stop them from happening or make them disappear overnight, however, they will begin to have less impact on your life.

Choosing behaviour aligned with your values whilst letting conditioned thought patterns play out in the background

Being aware of conditioned thought and behaviour patterns is the first step to creating the life you truly want to live. However being aware of these patterns will not necessarily stop them from coming up and trying to take control.

It’s taken weeks, months and years for these patterns to imprint themselves in your life and they are not going to disappear just like that.

Make room for them to be there but choose actions based on what is truly important, deep in your heart. Your unhelpful conditioned thoughts will begin to dissipate and fade away in their own time.

So begin the journey!

Sydney Life Coach, Jakob Casella is running a series of ‘learn to meditate’ workshops at the Plant Room, Manly, NSW.

These workshops will teach you the basics of mindfulness meditation and other psychological tools which will enrich your life and support you to deal with unhelpful thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Click HERE to find out more




Time Management 101

Are you feeling like there are not enough hours in the day? Is your ‘to do’ list becoming completely overwhelming and unmanageable?  Are you procrastinating and getting next to nothing done?

The following exercise will help you regain control of your time and life!

Remember the 4Ds:
Do Differently

What can you dump?  What is not truly important to your goals? Dump it!

What is not important right now? Defer it, schedule it for later.

What can you delegate to somebody else? If someone else can do it ‘well enough’, it’s time to delegate. Can you delegate to someone who has strengths aligned with the task or goal?

Do Differently
If the old way of doing things is sucking up your time, is there a different way you could do it?  Could you use technology to your advantage?  Think outside the box!

The 4D’s can be applied at home, work and to any time management issues that you may be having.

Jakob Casella is a life coach, counsellor and meditation teacher from Manly, NSW Australia. Jakob does home visits, Skype sessions and runs workshops on self improvement and psychological skill building.








Are you ready to learn psychological skills that will improve and enrich your life?

Sydney based life coach, Jakob Casella, is running a two part workshop teaching people the basics of mindfulness meditation.

This short course includes:

* 2 x 60 minute group workshops

* All course materials

* Guided group meditations

* Tea and light snacks

* Live music with guided mediation in the final workshop

7-8pm Wednesday 15th & 22nd of February 2017

$69 + B.F

Book your tickets @ manlymindfulnessworkshops.eventbrite.com.au 

The Venue:

The Plant Room Manly, is a fantastic new space filled with exotic plants and unique design pieces. This space with be transformed into a zen-jungle classroom for the very first Manly Mindfulness Workshops for 2017.





Follow The Plant Room on Instagram to see more instagram.com/the_plantroom/




4 common myths about meditation (debunked)

1.Meditation is about stopping thoughts, feelings and memories from coming into your mind

Recent studies have shown that trying to stop, block or push away thoughts, feelings or memories only works temporarily if at all, they often return with extra power and velocity soon after.

Meditation is about noticing that these thoughts feelings or sensations are there but choosing to focus your attention on one or more aspects of the present moment instead.

Examples of these aspects could be sounds, your breathing or sensations in your body. It is the continual task of re-focusing your attention on these aspects of the present moment that allow these uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and memories to dissipate, naturally in their own time.

This can be very difficult initially, however, meditation is a moment by moment experience, even life long mediators have thoughts, feelings and memories that try to distract them.

The difference between a Zen master and a beginner meditator is that the Zen master notices these thoughts, feelings and memories a lot quicker and refocuses on the present moment with minimal fuss or struggle.

2. Meditation might bring up memories or thoughts you don’t really want to think about or feel

Meditation is an observing process not a thinking process. Whilst thoughts often arise including thoughts with visual content like memories the aim is to notice you have gone into thinking and re-focus on observing.

So if memories or thoughts come up, whether they are positive or negative, the first step is to notice that your thinking then re-focus on observing and watch these unhelpful thoughts drift away as you focus on what else is going on in that moment.

3. Meditation is only for people who are stressed or anxious

Mediation is great for distancing oneself from feelings of stress or anxiety however this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Learning and practicing meditation will allow you to be aware of what you are thinking, feeling and doing at any given moment. You will begin to notice conditioned thought and behaviour patterns that stop you from being your best possible self. You will notice when you are triggered by something someone else says or does, which could begin the much needed introspection required to build emotional resilience.

Other benefits include:

  • Improving your concentration and focus whilst decreasing procrastination
  • Lifting your energy and vitality for life
  • Improving your ability to listen and communicate when connecting with friends, family and other humans
  • Improved ability to cope with life’s adversities

4. You need to meditate for long periods of time, everyday, to get the benefits

When first learning to meditate you may find it difficult to sit and focus for long periods of time. It’s important to set realistic and achievable goals and always use a stopwatch or timer.

Begin with three minutes a day for a week. If this is easy to achieve then you can slowly add extra time or do twice per day. If this is difficult then try three minutes, three times a week and you can increase it from there.

Mindfulness is a moment by moment experience. Within a three minute meditation you will likely have seconds of complete oneness with the present moment and many seconds of refocusing your mind once you catch it wandering. There’s no need to be frustrated when you catch your mind wandering. Every time you refocus your attention you rewire your brain for resilience and emotional awareness.

Jakob is running a two part workshop to teach the basics of mindfulness mediation at the brand new Plant Room in Manly NSW. For more details or to book yourself a place click the link below.


Tickets are $69 + booking fee

Jakob Casella is a Sydney life coach & therapist who uses mindfulness based approaches to help clients improve and enrich their lives. Coaching can be organised in your home or office, face to face or via Skype, For more information click here










Coaching conversations for New Year’s resolutions

A couple of years ago, three of my close friends and I were sitting on our fold out camp chairs enjoying a few drinks and chatting about the year gone past. It was New Year’s Eve and we were camping a few hours north of Sydney. As the final hours of the year began to linger I had a lightbulb moment, why not run a four-way goal setting conversation with my friends to each set a goal for the new year.

I facilitated and participated in setting one achievable and inspiring goal for the year ahead. All of my friends had different goal areas that they wanted to work on; Lauren wanted to open a small business, Ben wanted to apply for a job with the NSW Firefighters, Larissa a musician wanted to write and record new music and, I wanted to focus on health and exercise.

I used a life coaching method called ‘Solution-Focused Brief Therapy’ and worked through a scaffold for conversation that was simple and easy for my friends to understand. I gently challenged them when I believed richer information could be elicited and I asked the best possible questions to ensure I got the best possible answers. I made sure that each of our goals were not just specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound but also felt inspiring.

I asked questions like; What do you need to achieve? What is happening in this area right now? What could you do to change this?  How and when will you do this? What’s in your way? How will you sustain success? And how will you celebrate your wins?

Once these questions were throughly explored we put our goals in writing. We used the following exercise to cement our goals then read them out to one another to ensure we were held accountable.

The exercise on cementing our goals is done by writing out the following:

Set a realistic time frame – By: The 1st of July this year

What will you do specifically? – I will: Establish the groundwork required to start my own business including buying the domain and business names, create all social media channels and contact at least three suppliers to begin the product design phase.

Make it inspiring to your best possible self- So that: I use my strengths and challenge myself to create something I am truly proud of, so that I follow my dreams and create the life I imagine. 

As 2016 drew to a close I found my three friends and I together again enjoying a drink and the view of Manly beach as the sun set in the sky. I had a a memory of the exercise we did a few years earlier and a big grin began to fill my face.

We had all absolutely smashed the goals we set. Lauren launched her small business and is now selling a collection of unique home decor pieces online. Ben applied for the NSW Firefighters, which is a long and difficult process. He reached the final rounds but was not successful on his first application, however he is keen to apply again in the future. Larissa wrote and recorded a range of music including a five track EP and a number of electronic collaborations. I reached my six month goal related to dietary adjustments and exercise. I used this goal as a building block and have been raising the bar ever since.

Coaching conversations are a fantastic way to explore your new year’s resolutions and set achievable and inspiring goals.

I am offering a special for telephone coaching in the month of January 2017 at a reduced rate of $80 AUD a session. Sessions run for approximately 55 minutes and can be scheduled most afternoons and evenings.

If you are interested in having a coaching conversation via Skype or face2face please get in touch  via email Jakob@themindfulcoach.com.au

Jakob also teaches mediation and is trained in ACT, a mindfulness based cognitive form of psychotherapy. To read more click here


Three easy to remember mantras for mindful living

A mantra is a word or sound that is repeated to aid in the concentration of meditation. The following three mantras are easy to remember and use whenever you have a mindful moment to spare. They are designed to be used at any time throughout the day and they only take a few moments to practice one or all of the following.

You can practice these mantras lying down, sitting down or standing up. You can practice with your eyes open and focused on a point or with your eyes closed.

Be here now

This mantra is used to bring your attention to the present moment, to be mindful, to be aware, to be conscious.

The mantra is be, here, now: So on the breath in silently say to yourself ‘be’, then on the hold say ‘here’ and on the breath out say ‘now’… Continue this for three or more long, full breaths.

Let go

This mantra is used to accept whatever is, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, to open up and make room for discomfort, pleasure, peace, anxiety etc. This mantra is about letting go of the struggle with your thoughts and emotions.

The mantra is let go: So on your breath in silently say ‘let’, hold for a moment and on your breath out say ‘go’…Continue this for three or more long, full breaths.

Do what matters

This mantra is about taking action that is aligned with your personal values. That is, behaving in a way and making choices based on what is most important to you.

The mantra is do, what, matters: So on the breath in silently say to yourself ‘do’ then hold for a moment and say ‘what’ then on the breath out say ‘matters’…Continue this for three or more long, full breaths.

These three themes; be here now, letting go, and doing what matters are based on a form of psychotherapy called ACT. To read more about ACT jump to click here



It’s mental health awareness week, so here are a few things I have learned from my work and life that I’d like to share.

Every single person who experiences mental health issues are uniquely different, from another regardless of symptoms, diagnosis and other factors. The only expert is the person suffering, their perspective on their experience is more important than any diagnosis or label.

A loss of connection with other people is usually one of the most prominent things I see. Reasons for this are varied, however a little extra effort from family, friends and human beings in general goes a long way to strengthening these connections. Strong connections with other human beings are one of the most important factors in recovery and growth. Remember this when you are talking with someone who may be suffering, they are usually never looking for your advice, just someone who is genuinely listening without judgement.

The use of drugs and alcohol, self-harming behaviours and avoidance from social situations are so often not the cause, but an attempt to cope and self soothe. These behaviours do exacerbate the problem; however by simply asking someone to stop does not address other underlying issues. New coping mechanisms must be built and practiced for real and long term change to take affect.

Neuroscience has told us that we can re-wire the brain. We can change un-helpful coping mechanisms, but remember this takes time. It may have taken years to learn these un-helpful coping mechanisms in the first place.

Have hope, it is possible for people with mental health issues to recover and live amazing and fulfilling lives!

5 Important Points on Mindfulness Meditation

1. Mindfulness is an observing, not a thinking process

Mindfulness uses the mental process of observing or noticing rather than thinking. The observing part of your mind does not have an opinion, any desires, likes or dislikes, its only process is to observe. The observing part of your mind can only observe the present moment and can focus the inner world, the outer world or aspects of both all at once. Aspects of the inner world we can observe include thoughts, feelings, memories, urges or sensations. Aspects of the outer world we can observe include sounds close by or far away, sensations such as vibrations, the wind against our skin, tastes, smells and so on.

2. It’s normal to get distracted 

It’s normal and natural to get distracted by thoughts when practicing mindfulness, it happens to everyone. Your ability to notice that you have been distracted and refocus on the present moment is where all the learning and re-wiring of the brain happens.

3. Always set a timer

You need to set a timer or use a recording. This way you can aim to be 100% mindful for a set amount of time rather than letting your thinking mind decide ‘yeah, that’s enough’.

4. Some days are better than others and that’s okay

Mindfulness is a process that can never be truly mastered, there is always room to grow. Some days you may feel really connected to the present moment and other days you may be distracted by everything and anything. That’s okay, go easy on yourself. On the days where it’s especially difficult to focus, your repeated and sustained effort is going to teach you more than ten days of perfect practice. On these more difficult days practice self love and be soft and humble with yourself.

. supta-baddha-konasana  

This yoga pose is called ‘supta-baddha-konasana’. Putting one hand on your belly and one on your heart, whilst practicing mindful breathing, this is a great way to cultivate an attitude of self-love. This is a powerful activity to do if you are feeling frustrated or finding it difficult to focus.

5. If your aim is solely to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety or worry you are setting yourself up for failure

Feelings of relaxation and symptom reduction may arise, such as lowered anxiety, however these are just a beneficial by-product of having contact with the present moment. By all means enjoy positive feelings as they come up, but try not to make them your sole purpose for practicing. Your aim when practicing mindfulness should be to have contact with whatever you are experiencing in present moment with an attitude of openness and acceptance.

Below is 10 steps to mindfulness meditation by the Garrison Institute

ten steps to Mindfulness

The most important public health study you have probably never heard of…

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study is the largest ever investigation conducted to asses associations between adverse childhood experiences such as maltreatment, abuse and trauma and how this affects health and wellbeing as adults.

The ACE study found that certain childhood experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life. Some of these adverse childhood experiences include:  experiencing physical, sexual or psychological abuse, parental marital breakdown, parental drug or alcohol dependence, parental mental health issues, parental imprisonment or having a parent who had been involved in domestic violence.

The ACE score attributes one point for each category of childhood adverse experience included in the study. The higher the score, the greater the exposure and therefore the greater risk of negative consequences later in life.

Three of the most important findings included:

Firstly, two thirds of the adults in the study had experienced one or more types of adverse childhood experience. Of those, 87 precent had experienced 2 or more types. This showed that people who had an alcoholic parent, for example, were likely to have also experienced physical abuse or psychological abuse. In other words, adverse childhood experiences usually didn’t happen in isolation.

Secondly, there was a direct link between childhood trauma and adult onset of chronic disease, as well as mental illness, doing time in prison, and work issues, such as high absenteeism.

Thirdly, more adverse childhood experiences resulted in a higher risk of physical, mental and social problems as an adult.

Things start getting serious around an ACE score of 4. Compared with people with zero ACEs, those with four categories of ACEs had  a 240 per cent greater risk of hepatitis, were 390 per cent more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema or chronic bronchitis), and a 240 per cent higher risk of a sexually-transmitted disease.

They were twice as likely to be tobacco smokers, 12 times more likely to have attempted suicide, seven times more likely to be alcoholic, and 10 times more likely to have injected drugs.

People with high ACE scores are more likely to be violent, to have more marriages, more broken bones, more drug prescriptions, more depression, more auto-immune diseases, and more work absences.

This study began to uncover a whole new light in relation to understanding about the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world who use coping methods – such as alcohol, cannabis, food, sex, tobacco, violence, work, methamphetamines, thrill sports – to escape intense fear, anxiety, depression, anger.

Public health experts, social service workers, educators, therapists and policy makers commonly regard addiction as a problem. Some, however, are beginning to grasp that turning to drugs is a normal response to serious childhood trauma, and that telling people who smoke or overeat or overwork that these are bad for them and that they should stop doesn’t register when those approaches provide a temporary, but gratifying solution.

“The truth about childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But someday the body will present its bill” — Alice Miller


Mindfulness VS. Mindlessness

The practice of mindfulness has become increasing popular in the psychology and life coaching arena of late, however mindfulness  is in no way a new concept. Many believe its origins stem from Buddhism, however Hindus practiced mindfulness over 2,500 years ago.

So what exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness includes concentration and continual re-focus on a specific aspect or a range of aspects that are occurring in the present moment. For example, the breath, the feeling of the wind against your skin, sounds you are hearing, how your body feels, what you can smell and the sensations you can feel.

What is the opposite of mindfulness?

Mindlessness is when we have our attention focused on the past or future. We get lots of practice at being mindless, it’s our minds default setting. It includes ruminating, analysing, problem solving or day dreaming; essentially it’s on auto pilot.

When comparing mindfulness to mindlessness it’s important to understand that both functions have important roles in our lives.  One important difference between human beings and other animals is our ability to direct our attention between the past, present and future.

This has helped us survive in two ways:

Firstly, by focusing on the past we use information that we have learned to keep us out of trouble in the present. By focusing on the future we can plan or envision new ways of doing things that can be used in the present.

Secondly, we often use mindlessness as a coping mechanism, when we do not like the present moment we take ourselves to the past or future. At times this can be a sufficient coping strategy but in some cases this can cause much bigger problems especially when it is solely relied on to escape or avoid unhelpful thoughts, feelings or memories.

Being mindless is our default setting, and we are unaware when we are in this state of mind because we are not there to notice. To notice, we would have to be mindful.

There are a range of benefits of practicing mindfulness skills, including but not limited to:

  • The improved ability to manage stress and anxiety and anger levels
  • The improved ability to handle painful thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations and memories, in a way that has far less impact on your life
  • Improved concentration and attention
  • Enhanced sense of spirituality, self-love and compassion

Mindfulness uses the mind process of observing rather than thinking. The observing part of your mind does not have an opinion, any desires, likes or dislikes, it’s only process is to observe.


Here is a a quick mindfulness activity you can do anywhere to access this observing part of your mind.

Firstly set a timer on your phone or watch for a desired amount of time. If you are new to mindfulness, a few minutes will be great.

Sit in a comfortable position, or lie on the floor and take some deep breaths in and out of your nose.

Notice your stomach filling up like a balloon and gently deflating.

Now notice the sounds you can hear, once you have noticed a sound label it and refocus on your breath.

Every time a new sound comes up silently label it and re-focus on your stomach filing up like a balloon.

From time to time the sounds may trigger a thought or feeling and you may become temporarily mindless. 

Try not to get frustrated by this, this is a natural and normal thing that minds do. 

As soon as you notice this, re-focus on your breathing and any sounds in the room.

Continue doing this until your timer is up.

Take this sense of mindfulness out into your day!


A simple exercise that is proven to improve your well-being and lower depression

You will need a pen, paper and sixty seconds of silence, daily for one week.

Every night before you go to bed write down three things that went well that day and why. You can use a written journal, a laptop or the notes section in your phone, however it’s important to write them down.

If you’re having trouble thinking of three things that went well, you’re thinking too big picture! Something as simple as ‘today I got to work on time because I left the house ten minutes early and avoided the traffic’ will work. However, when big important things happen make sure to write them down too.

What Went Well

Writing about your positive events may seem a little awkward or uncomfortable at first but stick with it for one week, it will get easier and it’s proven to have huge benefits.

This exercise known as the What Went Well (WWW) journal is based on the research of Dr. Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Pennsylvania.

Positive Psychology, a relatively new science, focuses on ‘what is going right’ with people and how to nurture and develop it. Positive Psychology is not a self-help movement based simply on ‘the power of positive thinking’, it’s a science backed by thousands of studies related to the question; how and why do people flourish?

We often spend a lot of our time thinking about what goes wrong and not enough thinking about what goes right in our lives. Although it is often helpful to analyse imperfect events so that we can learn from them and correct them in the future, we tend to spend way too much time focusing on the negative.

This is due to evolutionary reasons that have kept us alive during hard times, however in the 21st century, with very different threats to our survival, it is helpful re-train our mind to notice the good things too.

So give it a go!

Seligman promises that after doing this exercise for one week you will be happier, less depressed and will probably be addicted to the WWW journal.

If you want to read more about Positive Psychology click here.

4 ways to make unhelpful thoughts have less impact on your life

Recent studies show that the average human mind has over 50,000 thoughts a day. How many of these thoughts are helpful and how many are unhelpful? Studies have shown that at least half of these thoughts are unhelpful and the more we push them away or block them out, the more they return with extra power and velocity.

How much impact do negative thoughts have on your life? Have they developed into stories that play through your mind, day in day out?

One of most common stories is the, ‘I’m not good enough’ story. Nearly all of us have some derivative of this story whether it’s the, ‘I’m not a good enough friend, employee, provider, lover etc. Other stories could be, ‘I’m a failure, I’m a fraud, I’m broken, I’m unlovable’ and so on and so on. Our mind is a great storyteller, it conjures up all sorts of unhelpful things that stop us from being our best possible selves, friends, lovers, employees and humans.

Are your thoughts

Here are four ways to retrain your mind in order to make unhelpful thoughts have less impact on your life. Different techniques work for different people, so give them all a try and determine which ones work best for you.

To begin, bring to mind an unhelpful and recurring thought, then try the following techniques.

1. Remind yourself that it’s only a thought

By silently saying to yourself, ‘I’m having the thought that I am a failure’ rather than, ‘I am a failure’, you are reminding yourself that it’s not a truth but a thought.’I am having the thought that I am a failure’ has much lest impact than, ‘I am a failure’. You can also try, ‘I am noticing I am having the thought that I am a failure’.

2. Sarcastically thank your mind

Once you have noticed a thought as a thought, silently and sarcastically say ‘thank you mind’. This reminds you to be compassionate with yourself whilst acknowledging it is nothing more than a thought. 

3. Name the story

Give that repetitive story about yourself a name. It could be the, ‘I’m a stupid failure story’. Make the name as ridiculous as you like. Every time you notice yourself having this thought, say silently in your head, ‘oh it’s the I’m a stupid  failure story’. You can then add on, ‘thanks mind’.

4. Silly songs 

Once you notice yourself having that unhelpful thought or story, sing it to the tune of  Happy Birthday, Mary Had a Little Lamb or anything else that you like. 

Some of these techniques may seem a little crazy, however the aim is to assist you to distance yourself from your unwanted thoughts rather than trying to push them away. For maximum affect these techniques should be practiced in conjunction with mindfulness practices such as mediation.

Why these techniques work?

Firstly, they allow you to notice when unhelpful thoughts have consumed you.

Secondly, they teach you to distance yourself from your thoughts and help you to recognise that your thoughts are not truths or demands and are not always helpful to obey.

Thirdly, by allowing thoughts to be there even though you might not like them, you learn to make room for them and give up the struggle with them. This makes them less powerful and have less impact on your life.

Lastly, they teach you a lightheartedness that allows you to show compassion towards yourself.

When trying these techniques your mind might start telling you, ‘this won’t work for me’, ‘this is stupid’ and so on and so on. Stick at it. Whilst you may not see drastic changes straight away, you will see changes.

These techniques come from the work of Dr. Russ Harris, an expert in ACT. This style of therapy incorporates the most helpful parts of a range of existing psychology theories in conjunction with eastern philosophies such as mindfulness. To read more about ACT click here.

Wellness is more than just the absence of illness.

Where are you on the Illness – Wellness Continuum?

The graphic illustration below, first proposed by John W Travis in 1972, is a great way of explaining wellness on a sliding scale and when coaching can be useful.This continuum echoes the view of the World Health Organisation and that of the coaching profession.


When an individual is at the neutral point on the continuum, where there is no discernible illness or wellness, they are often at a point where they are aware that some changes have to be made to keep them from entering the left side or ‘the red zone’. People at this point have often been further to the left in the past and have, through a range of lifestyle changes and support from family and health professionals, been able to make some significant changes. On the other hand people at this neutral point may have been further to the right on the continuum but have slipped, due to changing life circumstances, lifestyle, behaviors or the exacerbation of underlying mental or physical health issues.

Coaching is most commonly used with people, who at a specific time, are on the right hand side of the continuum (the normal healthy range). Having support from a coach allows the coachee to move through the stages of awareness, education and growth – towards becoming their best possible self.

Coaching can also be helpful for people who are placed on the left hand side of the continuum, as a multidisciplinary approach to health care. The support of a coach in conjunction with other health professionals such as doctors, social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists, ensures the best possible chance at making sustained changes.

desert MountainAn individual who is not experiencing any signs, symptoms or disability associated with illness is not necessarily moving towards wellness. Increased awareness of your body and mind is the first step in the right direction (excuse the pun) and involves noticing bodily cues and taking mindful action. Knowing when you are truly hungry, feeling stressed or in need of rest is what self-awareness is all about. Awareness can be built by learning mindfulness skills that can allow you to be aware of what you really need, without the stories your mind might be telling you.

For example; you’re feeling tired and stressed and your mind tells you that drinking a bottle of wine will help you get a good night’s sleep. Taking mindful action involves knowing that the story your mind is telling you is just a story, and will probably not be the best course of action. Instead you choose a course of action that is more beneficial to your health and wellness.

Awareness coupled with education and continued self development leads to personal growth. Learning more about your body and mind pays dividends as you go through life for a number of reasons. Some of these include:

– Increased awareness of, and better coping strategies for stress, anxiety and unhelpful thoughts and feelings.

– Knowing when and where to get support or help when you need it.

– Consuming foods that are right for you, that will nourish rather than suck life out of you.

– Exercising frequently and looking after your body when it needs rest.

– Becoming a more present and consistent friend, lover, mother, father etc.

– Taking steps towards being your best possible self and living the life you truly want to live.


What is life coaching anyway?


For years, psychology has focused exclusively on what was wrong with someone and how to make them better. In the late 90s, the Positive Psychology movement was born and psychologists began researching, what is going right with someone and how can we support them to become their best possible self?

Coaching shares similarities with counselling as it is a talk therapy, however, it is more focused on what can be done in the present and the future rather than what has happened in the past. Throughout a normal course of life coaching there may be times when counselling occurs, however the focus is on finding solutions to problems, making changes and taking action.


The Coach supports and gently challenges the coachee as they discuss questions around a determined focus point or goal. The coach helps the coachee to consider alternatives, uncover roadblocks and nut out a timeline for milestones, goals and celebrations of success.

A range of psychological techniques and questionnaires are used to discover the coachee’s unique profile of strengths, life values and personality traits, which can be used to support the coachee to undertake some valuable self-awareness. As the weeks and months pass by, the coach is there to hold the coachee accountable and support them through the ups and downs.

Goals and milestones often change as self-awareness increases and the steps towards becoming the coachee’s best possible self, begin to take shape. The coach assists the coachee to see their progress, re-define goals and ensure they are on track for success.

Track to beach

Whilst coaching is most helpful in a face to face setting, telephone and Skype coaching is also widely available. It’s important to find a coach that has a counselling or psychology qualifications and who belongs to a professional body such as the International Coaching Federation (ICF), as the industry is not tightly regulated and many people with no qualifications practice as coaches.

If you or someone you know may be interested in coaching, feel free to get in touch with Jakob from ‘The Mindful Coach’. Jakob holds a degree in coaching from the Australian College of Applied Psychology and is a member of the ICF. Jakob has had experience coaching and counselling adults and adolescents and runs workshops on goal setting and mindfulness practices.