John Denley on using mindfulness to deal with stress, anxiety and depression

EchoLisa, Gloucestershire Echo, March 10, 2015: Picture the scene: You’re sat in a traffic jam and you’re late. The kids were playing up this morning, you couldn’t find your keys and you’ve got a long meeting first thing.

The tension is building in your head and then when you finally hit a clear stretch of road, the driver in front of you is dawdling and breaking for no apparent reason.

Your face turns purple and you start shouting, even though the motorist in front can’t hear you.

Does any of this sound familiar?

These are the sort of problems modern life foists on us on a daily basis. Life has become so busy and our senses are assaulted with so much information, it’s sometimes hard to cope.

One simple anxiety-busting way of dealing with it has increasingly become a standard operating procedure for stressed-out people – that of practising mindfulness.

Cheltenham-based motivational speaker, John Denley, teaches people in the county how to recognise the signs of stress, anxiety and depression and offers strategies on how to deal with them.

“We all have really busy lives and busy heads,” said the former Dean Close school pupil.

“We now have such a visibility of the whole world that we never had before.

“We all have this negative chatter going on in our heads. People are getting depressed because they are looking at the world around them and thinking ‘I should be better. I should be doing more and I’m not.’

“We have all this pressure to be thinner and more successful and better at our jobs. It’s all because we are being fed an image or expectation from outside.

“We can’t all be high fliers or super mums and that’s when so many people have negative chatter.

“When you are anxious, you don’t breathe properly and not enough oxygen is getting to your brain to allow you to think.

“It’s important to learn to breath better.

“Something as simple as counting allows you to stop that negative chatter.

“Mindfulness is about being present in the moment. If you are spending too much time thinking about what happened in the past, you may be depressed.

“Anxiety is when you spend too much time worrying about the future.

“Once you have the hang of being in the present, you can be mindful of the here and now.

“Shouting at people in the other cars when you’re in a traffic jam isn’t going to help. It’s a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness.

“Notice the feel of your backside on the seat, feel the vibration of the car, notice the birds flying past and suddenly your brain isn’t thinking about your road rage.”

John knows more than most what an effective weapon the ability to practice mindfulness is to have in your arsenal.

The IT expert was faced with financial ruin in 2012 when a business deal gone bad left him £300,000 in the red.

Yet the 44-year-old has been able to bounce back from the depths of despair and turn his misfortune into a business venture.

He said: “I helped an ex girlfriend set up a play centre and 12 months later we had to go into administration.

“That left me with about half a million pounds in personal guarantees.

“People ask me how you come back from that kind of blow, but you battle on and keep going.

“I was having low moods and feeling a bit rubbish. It was like uphill skiing. I got lower and lower.”

The pressure had been piling for a while, as John began suffering from depression and society anxiety after moving back to Cheltenham from London in 2001.

John undertook a number of training courses in London to overcome his issues, which began a journey of self-discovery, then transforming into helping others through his Find Your Fire Workshops.

They are aimed at helping us perceive the world around us, how our brains process what we see, hear and feel and how to change the negative stories we tell ourselves about our lives into positive alternatives.

And the next one is due to take place at the Landsown Pub, Cheltenham on April 25.

“Now I’ ve got these issues, I know how to deal with them.

“I had a massive anxiety attack in 2012 when I realised I’d run out of money and couldn’t pay my bills.

“I’ve been through the whole gamut of picking myself up. I’m now almost through the other side.

“I’ve been on a big personal journey where I’ve read lots of books and undertaken lots of training.

“I like the idea of talking to people and helping them so I put on a workshop last October and 50 people attended for a day of personal development.

“I looked back at my business career and realised I wanted to help people all along.”

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to well-being that can help you change the way you think about experiences and reduce stress and anxiety and depression.

John’s 14 surefire ways to improve your mood every day:

  1. Every night, write down three things that you are grateful for
  2. Challenge your negative thoughts
  3. Make a positive music playlist
  4. Get outside into nature
  5. Get out of breath every day
  6. Learn to breathe better
  7. Practice meditation and mindfulness
  8. Spend more time with good friends who lift you up
  9. Do things you enjoy
  10. Avoid excess alcohol or other crutches
  11. Read more positive books (at least five pages a day)
  12. Stop watching news and rubbish on TV
  13. Take control of your finances
  14. Don’t let the outside world invade your thoughts before getting dressed in the morning and after undressing in the evening

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