Dalai Lama: Smiling more important than meditating

Dalai Lama laughing away

The Dalai Lama spoke in London's Lyceum Theatre recently. I was lucky enough to see him and volunteer to help organise the event, hosted by Action for Happiness.

What struck me most out of all he said, was what he said about smiling.

The Dalai Lama said:

“My practice when I see someone, is to smile”

That’s his actual practice! He does it as an act of kindness - to help lift people’s spirits.

And he knows very well that it makes him feel great too. It’s what he calls ‘wise selfish behaviour’. 

No wonder that dude is so popular. He must have smiled a million times.

The Dalai Lama even said smiling can be more valuable than meditating. Amazing coming from someone who wakes up at 3am to meditate for several hours.

I’d recommend you watch this little video of the Dalai Lama sharing a joke and showing his humanity - he’s not perfect too. Hopefully you can crack a smile after watching this story about a poor parrot!

Someone in my current training program met the Dalai Lama as a teenager in a small group. She said his smile was so contagious, it lifted the whole group every time they met him. A huge lift in positivity and energy each time he smiled to the group.

So a very simple and easy way to lift your mood and others, is to smile!

In future posts, I’ll share more about the science of smiling - the 'Act As If' principle.

Do you make an effort to smile everyday? What do you know about the power of smiling?


The Dalai Lama, as Patron of Action for Happiness, helped them launch their happiness course. Join me to support their Crowdfunder here. They need the money to share their wonderful course around the world.

Happy International Day of Peace

"I call on all warring parties to lay down their weapons and observe a global ceasefire. To them I say: stop the killings and the destruction, and create space for lasting peace." 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The UN General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.

The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All” which aims to highlight the importance of all segments of society to work together to strive for peace.

I hope you find a few moments of peace today and share some peace with those around you. 

Here in London, I'll listening to the Dalai Lama's talk in central London on creating a #HappierWorld with Action for Happiness. I'll share his wisdom with you in future posts. 

I shall then be joining thousands of others in Trafalgar Square for 30 minutes of peace starting at 6.30pm. See you there, either physically or in spirit. :-)

Wishing you peace of mind and heart.



How to Mindfully Balance Ambition with Contentment

Balancing Ambition with Contentment

Balancing Ambition with Contentment

The Buddha emphasised the ‘middle way’. And people often propose the value of ‘nothing in excess’.

So...with these principles in mind, how do you balance ambition with contentment.

This was a great question I had from @axzr on Twitter.

Contentment means satisfaction. Happiness with things just the way they.

Ambition is the drive to do. To succeed. To achieve things in life. It's about action. 

Too much ambition combined with doing mode is certainly a problem, which I wrote about in my last book.

But, a life of complete contentment would mean you’d never even get out of bed in theory (if you ever made it to bed in the first place!).

What's the answer?!

There needs to be a balance of these two opposing ‘forces’.

When I was studying Chemical Engineering at Imperial, I was highly driven in the first year. Highly ambitious. I worked my socks off. And it wasn’t easy, but I got a 1st class grade. Then, in the second year, again I was ambitious, but maybe it was waning a little, and I got a 2:1 (that’s like a grade B rather than A). Then, in the third year, I practised contentment...too much contentment. Not only did I not turn up to lectures, I hardly revised at all for the exams. Somehow I scraped through with a 2:2 (probably the equivalent of a grade D I think ). By the time I got to my final year, I’d worked out the right balance and left with a 2:1 and a smile.

So it seems balance is possible to find.

But can contentment and deep happiness really be balanced with lots of activity, drive and ambition?

Let's take another example. Matthieu Ricard. In brain scans, he was rated one of the happiness people ever tested. He was off the scale, content! And yet, he’s ambitious too!

Matthieu Ricard

Matthieu Ricard

He’s working hard everyday to serve others less well than himself in Nepal and Tibet and other countries. He has created an amazing charity and does much good.

So, ambition and contentment are not mutually exclusive.

Make time everyday to just be content...and make time everyday to reflect on what you want to do to make the world a better place, in your own way.

Finding time for contentment and ambition seems to be the secret - not choosing one or the other exclusively.

What do you think? Please use examples (made up ones if necessary) to illustrate your thoughts - thanks!

How to Stop

How to Stop by Shamash Alidina


I’d like to share with you the story of John.

John has not stopped for a long time. He’s always on the go.

After graduating he went from one job to the next. Eventually landing a well-paid corporate job, he worked hard and saved for a home.

He got married, but that didn’t last more than 3 years. After the divorce, he decided to quit his job, sold his home and travelled the world. He kept searching for something - happiness I suppose, but he didn’t say it.

Returning home, he found himself another job in the same field, but a smaller company. He’s now working away, building up his capital, to buy another house…maybe get married again….you get the picture.

If you look at your own life, it may not be that dissimilar. You may be busy working away, to achieve your next ‘thing’ - whether that’s a home, partner, job or whatever else. In itself, the next thing is fine. But is there a time to ever stop this striving? And how could that possibly help?

This digital age could also be called the anxiety age. When people keep rushing on and on, anxiety is the end result. I define rushing and busyness as the opposite of stopping.

Constantly running, striving, seeking to achieve this or that. Chasing whatever it may be - from money, love or peace and happiness.

The seeking keeps you as a seeker. Although the old quote ‘seek and you shall find’, I’d say it’s more like ‘seek and you shall keep seeking’. Stopping is the answer.

Levels of stopping

There’s two aspects to stopping - physical and mental. The most important is mentally stopping, as that leads to physically stopping. But they can feed into each other too.

Physical Level - One way to calm your mind down is to reduce how much you move around. The more you begin to still your body, the more you begin to still your mind. But as you may be rushing around a lot, practises like yoga can help you to gradually come to a stop.

Alternatives can be walking that you begin at your normal pace and gradually slow down. Or other mind body practices like tai chi, qigong and the like.

Mental Level - Your mind can stop. I know many mindfulness teachers disagree. But I have experienced it and so have many other teachers.

Your mind can become so calm and quiet, that even a single thought ceases to arise. In fact, it’s the nature of the mind to be calm and still. You disturb the mind through desire..through wanting.

As the Buddha said, suffering (unhappiness) is due to attachment (wanting). And then he said to eliminate suffering (to be happy) let go of clinging (wanting).

To let go of wanting means to be content with what is. So effectively the Buddha was teaching, be happy by being content with things as they are.

That’s what true stopping is about - contentment.

Why Stop?

From doing to being mode

Doing is also the opposite of stopping. Doing is about striving and achieving. And obviously you need to do stuff! You’re not gonna get much done by simply chilling out all the time. And sometimes stuff needs doing. Kids do need feeding…and more importantly, need loving. Bills need paying. And text messages need answering.

But…too much doing all the time wears you out…you get tired. There are times when you don’t need to do anything, and yet, you keep going. The momentum of the all the busyness keeps you moving.

Most people think mindfulness develops through will power. That’s actually not true. Experiment with this yourself. Will power can only last so long. Mindfulness actually develops naturally through non-doing. When you stop being so busy, the mental energy that you normally use into getting stuff done, starts pouring into mindfulness. You notice more.

As you begin to grow in mindfulness, sadness and anxiety reduce. Depression is partly due to low levels of mindfulness. As you begin to do less, your energy levels begin to return and you don’t feel so depressed anymore. You begin to notice the good stuff. And with less doing and more being, anxiety goes down too.

More peace and happiness

Mindfulness leads to the (almost) ultimate stop.

My nature is to be busy. I’m often thinking about ‘what next?’ Eventually this lead me to working too hard. And then I sought out an antidote. Meditation was the solution. The ultimate stopping. Whilst you’re still alive anyway! At some points in my career as a teacher, I was so busy, there was hardly any time to sleep! Lack of sleep led to lack of efficiency. I took longer to get the work done. That meant even less sleep. More tiredness led to impatience at work. Frustration with the job. And the cycle would have spiralled out of control if it wasn’t for holidays and knowing how to stop. This negative cycle happens to so many people - probably has happened to you too.

How to Stop?

1. Really enjoy the stop

As I write these words, I’m in a very special place. I’m sitting on a balcony overlooking a beautiful lake near Orlando in Florida. A nice place to stop. And yet, I easily find myself busy doing one thing or the other.

Stopping needs to be seen as a good thing in your mind. And to your mind. Stopping is something to look forward to - not to dread. Many people, me included in the past, sometimes think of meditation as a chore - something you have to do for your health and wellbeing.

Flip it! Instead, see stopping as a real joy. A treat. Like chocolate or a nice dinner or a nice massage. Meditation is to be enjoyed as a pleasure. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, putting joy into meditation is what I’m all about.

2. Change your company: Digital Distractors or Mindful Monks?

I spent some time with colleagues at a fast growing startup in London. Now, most of their friends are kinda hyperactive! They don’t stop. Ever. Always on the phone, texting, checking emailing every few minutes…and even when they don’t really have much to do, they’ll find some new app to explore with on their phone. 

I find if I spend too much time with agitated people like that, I start to get agitated more quickly. I’m checking my phone more. I’m walking fast and speaking faster.

I find that the company I keep makes me stop more…or less.

When I was on a retreat, spending time with monks and other retreat participants, the opposite was true. Life slowed down and was more peaceful.

So, chose your friends carefully. If you easily get anxious, too stressed or low, spend time with people that meditate or that are generally good for you. You know the type - nice people.

Mix with everyone of course, but choose the people you spend most time with, wisely.

3. Take Micro stops

I just stopped for one full in and out breath. Before I wrote this paragraph. The short stop made me drop my shoulders. And that started off a little chain reaction. I then adjusted my posture. Smiled more. Made myself more comfortable. And stopped again. Can you see how a micro stop can set off a chain reaction of positivity? I hope so! Why not try a micro stop right now - just for a breath or two?

4. Get back to the fundamentals

In my 17 years or so meditating, I’ve found one way that’s more powerful than any other for calming the mind. And here it is: let the mind go.

Controlling the mind, trying to make it silent has the opposite effect. But when you stop controlling, let the mind wander as it wishes and just sit back and watch…magic happens. First of all the mind keeps wandering, but eventually it comes back. The mind stills. And you enter into a very powerful and peaceful state of mind. Energising, uplifting and unforgettable.

If this sound impossible or unattainable, please don’t fret. Join our email list if you haven’t already, and I’ll keep offering mindfulness, compassion, wisdom and wellbeing tips and sharing stories to help you happiness. I’m here to help you.

What's your tips? How do you stop? Let's chat below!

Overcome Fear in 6 (easy peasy) steps (part 2 of 2)

Many of you struggle to stop.

To stop doing. To stop rushing around. To stop the mind buzzing around like a crazed beast...maybe.

That’s something I’ll be teaching you how to do very soon in one of my posts...but back to today….

Today, I’d like to officially create a new word, since failure and success go so closely together.

Failure + Success = Fuccess

It sounds a bit rude. But that’s all part of the fun of it :)

Every time something goes wrong, think of it as a fuccess. You 'fuced it’. You took steps towards success...that’s a fuccess.

Who knows, one day you’ll be really fuccessful?

It’s time our society embraced failure. Changing the word is a step forward in the process.

Changing attitudes is the bigger step.

Here’s a six step process to achieve fuccess:

  1. Think of something that you want to achieve, but are struggling with it at the moment. A book you want to write, a relationship you want to start, a few pounds you want to lose.

  2. Practice some meditation. You could use the audio from this book, or any other audio. This helps to clear the mind. e.g. Listen to some relaxing music without judgement.

  3. What steps would you take, if you knew you couldn’t fail? e.g. Go for a jog every morning for 20 minutes.

  4. Take the first, tiny tiny step, and see if you’d willing to give it a go. e.g. Go for a 5 minute walk.

  5. Take the step and know that you’ll be definitely be fuccessful (either it goes right or goes wrong)

  6. Keep going till you fucceed.

So, what will you try to fucceed in today? Let’s chat about it in the comments section below.

I’d like to think of this email/blog as a conversation, not just me sharing my fuccessful ideas. So please share your fuccesses here….let’s make fuccess viral. :)

Overcome Fear in 6 (easy peasy) steps (part 1 of 2)

My first taste of failure was my driving test.

I’d taken 20 lessons and my instructor thought I was good enough to do the test…he was wrong. Big time!

I waited in the test centre and eventually the examiner appeared. ‘Surname?’ he commanded, peering over his glasses for just long enough to make me temporary forget my name. ‘Alidina’ I eventually replied, in as friendly a tone as I could muster…hey, I hadn’t heard of mindfulness at this point!

We got in the car, and I fumbled with the key before driving out of the car park and on the road. Within minutes, he hit the brakes using the dual control. The car came to a screeching halt. Screeeeeechhhhhhhh (ok, I’m being dramatic). He turned to me and said ‘You need to stop at a red light signal. Where you going to stop?’ ‘No….oh….oooops’ I replied. I hadn’t noticed the temporary traffic light…which was unfortunately showing red...apparently.

I failed the test..

That’s my first strong memory of a failure…and wasn’t my last failure by any means.

I failed my second driving test too. It was because somebody else also doing a driving test pulled out in front of me…we both failed that one!

I eventually passed. I’ve been driving safely ever since, so you can relax if I ever give you a lift… :)

Failing my driving test was the first of a series of failures in life. And as I’ve failed more in life, I’ve begun to embrace the experience.

I’m writing about failure due to a book I’ve been reading.

The book is called ‘Creative Confidence’. It’s by IDEO founder and Stanford d school creator David Kelley and his brother Tom Kelley, a partner at IDEO. IDEO is one of the world's leading innovation and design firms. In the book, the brothers share the importance of failure in success. They remind us of Thomas Edison and his many failed attempted to design the light bulb. They also cite loads of examples of people that were considered creative geniuses - and how they actually achieve this through LOTS of failed attempts.

I believe failure and success go hand in hand. The more you fail, the more you succeed.

And what is failure anyway? If I did go through that red light during that test, I may not even be alive to write this…surely that was a success!

This very post is written by embracing failure. I don’t think of myself as a writer at all, and my English teacher through I was pretty average.

However, I’ve sold over 100,000 books now. And my last book, The Mindful Way through Stress, was published by the renowned Guilford Press, who have published mindfulness books by Professor Mark Williams and Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. I’m proud of that. That took some guts and a willingness to embrace possible failure.

So, my dear friends, I urge you to have a go and fail at something.

Is it scary? Yes. But attempting something new is empowering too, with this attitude.

Start with a small failure. Something that only you’d know about, perhaps.

Then keep failing, knowing that failure doesn’t actually exist. it’s something we create in our minds.

Do trees think they failed when they don’t grow straight?

Do lakes feel they failed when they are murky rather than crystal clear.

Do kids give up if they fall over when trying to walk?

Did you give up when you couldn't be bothered to read this post any more? ;-)

To learn is to fail.

And so, to succeed is to fail.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing a new definition of failure, and 6 easy steps to overcome good old failure.

Until then dear friends.


PS - Today is last day for application for Teach Mindfulness 2.0 at a discounted rate.


The Secret of Happiness

The pursuit of happiness

The pursuit of happiness

I read a bit of Dr. Seuss the other day. It was super fun. He’s a great writer.

The cool thing about Dr. Seuss is that he wrote in his own style. Did his own thing. Awesome! I love that.

I want to do the same with my own writing. Write however I want. And freely. It’s more fun that way, me thinks.

The other cool thing about Dr. S is that his words rhyme in a fun kinda way.

So, I thought I’d have a go at that in this post on happiness. I hope you enjoy it!

The Pursuit of Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is futile,

Especially if you run run run.

Instead calm down and chill a bit,

And have some friggin' fun!

Have you ever tried chasing your tail,

It makes you go round and around.

And you think if you chase harder,

Then the tail will get closer to you.

But yet the opposite happens,

The tail just moves faster with you.

And that’s because the tail is,

Stuck to the back side of you!

I’m not big on chasing,

It’s futile, childish and lame.

Much better, stop the chasing game.

And instead smile and don’t blame.

Too much desire is the real enemy,

Because it’s based on untruth.

The untruth is desire brings happiness,

Just look at spoilt children, will you?

So if happiness is the destination.

The place you want to be.

Then aim for happiness direct,

And that’s by contentment, okay?

Contentment. There lies the answer.

Peace. That's the way.

No chasing after happiness.

Just let go and relax away!

Shamash Alidina

Positive feedback always welcome… ;-)

More interesting insights about happiness will be coming in my next post...and not in a dodgy poem form, so don’t despair…

You can see and share your own poem and comment on my blog post of this post right here below.


Shamashing it.


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The Incredible Power (and the 6 Benefits) of Writing Meditation

I’m writing this blog post whilst in a state of meditation.

I’m not going to edit it.

Just correct the spellings.

How am I achieving this?

Here’s how:

  • My eyes are closed. Luckily I can touch type so i don’t have to look at the screen. I open my eyes only from time to time to check my computer is still there.

  • I set a timer for 30 minutes. That way I know how long I’m going to be doing this for. Otherwise I may be in danger of going all night….i’m weird like that. :-)

  • At the end of every single sentence, I stop for a full in breath and out breath. Really. Every single full stop means: 'stop and breathe in and out'. And I feel each in and out breath with warmth, kindness and friendliness. I love it. For the first fifteen minutes or so, I was just yawning. It shows I was tired and needed the rest and this writing meditation. It’s a fascinating experience - I highly recommend you give it a go.
  • I started with no clear aim. I wasn’t planning to write this particular blog post. The first 15 mins of my writing was pretty funny and random and centred around my present moment feelings in my mind and body. And then this blog post emerged. That was the beauty of the meditation. No forcing. Just letting things emerge naturally.
  • Find your own way. Just ‘cause I used this method, doesn’t mean you need to copy. You may prefer to write on paper. And pause every paragraph rather than every sentence. You may like to start with a clear aim. Or at least a general idea of what you’re gonna write about. Use your gut feelings and do what feels right for you.
  • I write a sentence after every breath. By that I mean, I keep writing. I don't just sit in the silence waiting for inspiration. I write whatever emerges in my head. And if there’s nothing in my head, I write that there’s nothing in my head! That helps to keep the flow. Sometimes, especially at the beginning, when I stopped writing to breathe after every sentence, I felt like I was losing my flow. But after about ten minutes or so, I got used to it. My body relaxed and words emerged.

So that’s how to do writing meditation according to yours truly.

You may be wondering ‘What the point, Shamash?’. I’m so glad you asked. Here’s the benefits I’m enjoying right now:

  • My body feels really happy and relaxed. 
  • My mind feels so calm and peaceful.
  • I’ve gently entered into a meditative state without having to fully stop ‘doing stuff’.
  • I’m creating something awesome whilst also being in a meditation - that’s unusual and super cool according to me!
  • I’m doing something different, so it feels fun and exciting. And having fun is a really important value and experience for me. 
  • I need to write anyway. By meditating at the same time, I’m achieving two things at the same time, and also doing them both really well. In my opinion anyway!

So that’s meditative writing. Or mindful writing. Or writing meditation.

Whatever you wanna call it, give the practice a go. It feels really good!

Ok, I’ll stop now, my 30 minutes are up.

What did you think of this unusual post? Looking forward to chatting to you about it in the comments below. :)


Our creative Mindfulness Teacher Training will be starting again soon. Apply for free or download our free ebook at Teach Mindfulness today.

Mindfulness and the Luck Factor



You’ve either got it, or you haven’t. Is that true?

I was really lucky the other day. I went for my daily walk and decided to leave all my money and cards and phone behind. I just took my keys and left the house. 

After an hour or so, I started to think 'I wish I had some money on me. I'd love a cup of tea after this long walk.'

I just kept walking in a mindful kinda way. 

And then it happened. I saw a 20 pound note on the street! Just lying there staring at me.  

I looked around and no-one was nearby that could have dropped it....I was slightly in shock! 

I lent over to pick it up. There were more notes underneath. It was 50 pounds altogether!

I managed to find some people nearby and asked them if they'd lost money. They all said no.

So.....I decided to celebrate with a cup of tea, a nice piece of cake. And gave the rest to charity and as presents. 

The lucky experience got me thinking. Does mindfulness make me luckier? 

And is luck completely down to chance? 

No, actually. Ten years of research by Professor Richard Wiseman and colleagues has found that luck is a skill you can learn!

Wiseman discovered four principles of luck. These are just made up facts - they were tested and checked after looking at thousands of case studies.

Here’s an important point - don’t think about what you’re not already doing and try to improve them....Instead, consider which of these principles you already do and how you can enhance them even further. 

Principle One: Maximize Your Chance Opportunities

If you’re more relaxed, smiley, hang out with other people and try out new things, then lady luck is more likely to be on your side.

So, my personal example here is when I got to stay in a cool, Italian villa last year. I happened to make friends with him on the flight, and he ended up helping me out when I forgot my drivers licence and couldn’t easily get to my hotel.

When you’re mindful, you’re much more likely to spot chance lucky opportunities.

Principle Two: Listen To Your Lucky Hunches

If you want to be luckier in your life, listen to your intuition - your gut feelings.

When my brother asked if there was a book out called ‘Mindfulness for Dummies’,

I immediately had a look online. When I didn’t find the book, I emailed dummies.com and one thing led to another.

Mindfulness boosts your bodily awareness, which links up with a stronger and more accurate gut instinct.

Principle Three: Expect Good Fortune

Expectations have a direct effect on your actions. So if you’re expect good from other people, they’re more likely to give that to you.

luck 3.jpg


I do expect good from other people. But not always from situations and life. I put things out there and if they work, great. And if they don’t, I don’t push.

Maybe low expectations from life makes me less lucky, but I feel it makes me less stressed and more happy too!

Mindfulness makes you more positive. This helps to raise your expectations and makes you more kind and understanding of others.

Principle Four: Turn Your Bad Luck Into Good

Everyone experiences some bad luck. The question is, how do you see and handle when life doesn’t go your way?

Lucky people see the positive from seemingly bad luck. They see the positive in negative situations and circumstances.

I recall a time when I missed a bus by just a few seconds. I had to wait half an hour for the next bus. I had recently read the book ‘The Luck Factor’ and thought about the positive - how I had more time to relax, how it may somehow mean I get a better bus etc.

Then, when I did get the bus, on the journey I noticed that the bus I missed had broken down! So I was lucky after all. It just didn’t feel like that at the time.

Mindfulness helps you to be aware of moments of bad luck, and helps to catch negative rumination in its tracks.

Luck School: Keep a lucky journal

This is where Wiseman’s work gets really interested.

The question was: can unlucky people be trained to be lucky. And can lucky people become even luckier.

The answer was a resounding yes!

Simply start a luck journal. Jot down every day, for a month, whenever you follow any of the four principles of luck. Remember, do more of what you already do well, rather than trying to improve areas that just don’t feel natural to you.

For example, if naturally just don’t like socialising, but like trusting your intuition, focus on making more use of your intuition to start with. Journal about that. Notice when the decisions you make based on your gut feelings lead to lucky outcomes.

Wiseman’s book has lovely strories of people who have had perpetual bad luck and unhappiness. And yet after a month of ‘luck school’, found better luck and more happiness for the first time in their lives.


So….shall I prepare for the next lottery win?

Not quite. Lotteries are effectively completely random, and these principles don’t work in that area. Annoying, I know!

But, when it comes to applying for job, building a career or business, finding a partner or just having a great day, these principles really do work.

Final tip - People who are lucky believe they are lucky people. So, simply thinking of yourself as a lucky person is more likely to make you luckier!

Good luck!

Are you a lucky as well as mindful person? Have any stories of luck in your life? What are your tips for living a lucky life? Share in the comments section below. Who knows….it may lead to a lucky outcome!


Kindfulness is HOT HOT HOT right now...

In my last blog post, you discovered that mindfulness without kindness and compassion….kinda sucks.

teddy bear

In this post, you’re gonna discover HOW to mix up your mindfulness with kindness.

So, number one, notice the effect of your ‘practice’, whatever that is - meditation, yoga, mindful movement, consciously swimming backwards with one arm. 

Whatever your thing is, notice how you feel afterwards.

If you feel warm, fuzzy, relaxed, calm and generally happy with yourself, you’re probably mixing a mindful awareness with compassion. Well done you! You’re awesome!

If you feel relieved that you can finally stop meditating or mindful walking, or whatever your thing is, you’re probably trying too hard. And lacking in friendliness.

If that’s you, try these three easy peezy steps to get you lovin’ your daily ‘me time’:

  1. As you’re meditating, place your hand on your heart. The warmth of your hand encourages a compassion feeling to whatever you’re focusing on.

  2. Smile (please). This is mindful time for you, not self-tourture. And if you can't smile, use your two fingers to push up the corners of your mouth and hold them there for a while….I’m serious!
  3. Pay attention to whatever your focus is, using your heart, not just your head. Feel the breath with emotion if you can, rather than noticing the sensation in a cold, non-judgmental way.
  4. Cuddle more. Cuddle a teddy bear as you meditate. Cuddle your laptop when it stops working. Cuddle yourself whenever you feel a bit down. Cuddling rules.
  5. Soften your self talk. Say soothing words to yourself. Stuff like 'relax', 'take it easy', 'breathe Shamash....breathe.....' Obviously don't say Shamash....unless you're with me and I've stopped breathing!

How do you mix mindfulness with kindness? What practices work best for you personally? Let me know please!

Mindfulness is SO last year

I recently attended a retreat by my favourite monk, Ajahn Brahm.

He spoke at Google Headquarters in California - a cool place for a forest monk to hang out.

Ajahn Brahm expressed the problem of separating mindfulness and compassion - they work far better together.

Check out the video when you have a sec - you may spot me getting told off for laughing too much. :)

Mindfulness on it's own is simply a present moment awareness. But to develop the beautiful peace, gentleness and stillness of meditation, a kindly awareness is required. So he's developed a new term - Kindfulness. And I like it!

Mindfulness and kindness are the two wings to help you soar to the dizzy heights of wisdom, insight, joy and freedom - wow, that sounded wise AND poetic.

Most good meditation teachers encourage a warm, kind, friendly awareness. But I think rather than using the word mindfulness, perhaps kindfulness is better - it reminds you to be forgiving and friendly as you practice.

What do you think?


Want to deepen your self-compassion? Secure your place on our self-compassion retreat on Holy Isle off the coast of Scotland (11 - 15 September 2015)

Why Practice Compassion

Scientists have found when you feel compassion, your heart rate slows down, you release a hormone called Oxycontin that promotes bonding, and the part of your brain involved in care and pleasure is activated. You are then motivated to care for and help others. Compassion also increases resilience to stress and boosts the immune system to accelerate healing.

You can train yourself to be more and more compassionate with practice--it’s not a fixed trait, but more like a muscle. Researchers at Emory University have found people who did a compassion training course had greater levels of compassion and lower levels of stress hormones in their blood and saliva.
Self-compassion in particular trumps self-esteem. Research by Kristin Neff found that people with high self-esteem could end up in traps like narcissism, self- righteous anger, prejudice, and self-absorption. Consider those who have high self- esteem and see themselves as high achievers. This self-image can cause them to believe they are above others, and their arrogance comes at a cost: when things go wrong in life, their self-esteem naturally drops as their self-image as superior crumbles. This is a stressful way to live.

Self-compassion, in contrast, is about being kind to yourself and seeing your imperfection as human. With this tendency, you’ll refrain from criticizing yourself and not be vulnerable to seeing yourself as worth less when things go wrong. You'll have greater resilience against future life challenges and therefore lower levels of stress.

I experienced self-esteem issues myself. For example, when I was a high school student, I was top in the class. My sense of self-esteem was high, built on my academic achievements. But in university, I never achieved the highest grade in the class. The more I tried, the more frustrated I got. I felt low and wanted to give up. By good fortune, I discovered mindfulness halfway through my studies. I learned the value of self-compassion and finished my studies successfully without pushing myself too hard.

Other fascinating recent studies have found compassion to heal, but empathy to hurt. Empathy is a way to feel other people’s suffering but can lead to emotional burnout. For example, health professionals or caregivers can become distressed themselves and suffer greatly. Empathy activates areas in the brain associated with unpleasant feelings like sadness and pain. Compassion is very different. Compassion activates the more warm and caring parts of the brain, like a loving mother toward her crying baby.

World-renowned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard has been collaborating with Tania Singer, neuroscientist and Director of the Department of Social Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute. Preliminary findings suggest those in the helping professions should do compassion training to help protect them from burnout.

Shamash Alidina - extract from his book ‘The Mindful Way through Stress’.

Do you want to be 10% better, or shoot for the moon?

President J.F. Kennedy took the bold step of promising a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s – a literal moonshot.

That big dream motivated thousands of people to work day and night to make it a reality. But it started with the dream. Moonshot thinking is a concept often spoken about at Google, and now many other organisations. The concept revolves around making the world a radically better place to live in.

You can read my interview here which will give you more information

Shamash! Tell us about you and the power mindfulness can have on the success of entrepreneurs

I’m a mindfulness teacher trainer and author of several books on mindfulness.

Mindfulness is being accepted in mainstream corporations. Google, offers mindfulness in many different forms for its staff. They do this not because it’s the latest fad, but because it works! The evidence base is hard to deny. It increases mental resilience, boosts focus whilst making you feel more relaxed. Mindfulness improves emotional intelligence and communication, and above, makes you feel more happy. There’s hundreds of other companies using mindfulness.

Entrepreneurs are under pressure to succeed. It’s a pressure that both internally generated as well as the external pressures from supplier, customers and staff. Working under high pressure is fine. As long as you know where the release valve is. Mindfulness is the best release valve I’ve ever used to help relieve pressure and improve performance long-term.

Lots of successful entrepreneurs now practice mindfulness and meditation – I’d urge you to have a go if you haven’t tried it yet!

Can you tell us more about the concept of moonshot thinking and how it can help businesses?

Moonshot thinking is the opposite of the way most people think. Most entrepreneurs think about how they can make their service 10% better, not 10x better.

But 10% better is what all your competitors are doing too. And the way 10% growth is often achieved, is by working harder. This leads to burnout and you’re still left competing with your former competitors who are also working harder! 10% improvement isn’t very exciting, is it?

There is a different way. But it requires brave, bold thinking. Not harder work.

Think about how your service could be 10x more effective. To achieve that, you need to think wayyy out of the box. You need to put the box in the bin and start again.

This very idea of thinking creatively and starting again is what can make the difference in your industry.

Without moonshot thinking we would never have had any new technologies like: radio, television, digital camera, mobile phones, the internet, the self-driving car, planes, the new electric car ‘Tesla’, wifi etc.

I also believe in personal moonshot thinking.

How can you make your life a radically better one? Going on a mindfulness retreat? Totally changing career? Moving to a different country? Taking action to build that app you’ve been thinking about? Creating personal moonshots and the challenges around actioning them are all things we’re revealing in our London workshop in May.

Do you have a moonshot in mind, how are you working towards it?

I’ve got a few I suppose! It can seem arrogant to share moonshots, but that’s the whole point of this workshop – to give you the safe space to share radical goals (that may likely fail, but that’s fine!) to help you make a bigger positive difference in the world. They may sound impossible, but so did inventions like the radio – it seemed completely crazy that music could be transmitted without wires!

Okay, here’s some of my moonshots:

  • One of my big dreams is to help build a Museum of Happiness in every city in the world! I’ve taken steps to start gathering an initial community and have organised a couple of events. We’ve even been given a building in London to start the first one! This is what moonshots are about – having big dreams and then taking the necessary small actions.
  • Another is to deepen my personal mindfulness, as best I can. I do this by prioritising to attend as many retreats with whoever I consider the best mindfulness/meditation teacher in the world. I’ve been doing that for the last few years, learning with the Dalai Lama, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Ajahn Brahm. Not sure I’m radically more mindful, but at least I’m hanging out with the right folk! I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to spend time with such wise and kind teachers.
  • Finally, I endeavour to live each year as if it’s my last year on the planet. This helps decision making for me. None of us know for sure how long we have on this beautiful earth, so it's important to make the most of the present moment. Living each year as if it’s my last has taken me to some interesting, fun places all over the world, from New Zealand to Mexico. However, I try not to spend everything in my bank account every year…that’s the other challenge! More important than travel, is attitude. If you live each year as if it's your last, you're less likely to get into stupid arguments or worry about the future too much. Looking after the present moment is the best way to look after your future.

I’ve been very fortunate to be able to take the above steps on my moonshots. But everyone’s different and your moonshots may be far more conservative, or wild for that matter. Whatever they may be, we each start from where we are and go from there.

What was the first workshop in Brighton like for you? what did everyone leave with?

I had a wonderful day, and the participants said they got a lot out of it too.

I loved the combination of a relaxing start with little mindfulness meditation exercises, followed by radical ideas around 10x thinking with Laurence, getting creative juices flowing through the vision boarding with Claire Holgate, and finally getting down to setting some concrete goals and actions with Carlos. A perfect day for me – I felt energised, uplifted and inspired to take action, which I did! Following that day, I set up the Museum of Happiness’ first event, which was a sell out!

“An amazing day. I felt a huge shift in my energy, motivation and clarity.” Attendee, Brighton workshop

Even if you come away with just one new idea, one new friend or one new tool, it’ll be worthwhile to come along. I met some really cool people making a big difference in the world. I really can’t wait for the next one, and would love to meet you too!

Come shoot for the moon with us in London on Friday May 8th. Join Shamash, Carlos & Laurence for a fun, interactive day. You’ll create a vision that inspires you (and your team) to do great things and move from ideas to action. Early birds available, and get 3 tickets for the price of 2 (limited availability). View website & booking info » 

How to make friends with stress by Shamash Alidina

Stress has got a bad reputation. A quick stress for the term ‘stress’ online, and I find the first five websites are about reducing stress and dealing with anxiety and depression. Magazines are full of tips for reducing stress. And even mindfulness was researched initially through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.

But is stress really that bad? If you watch the talk by Health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal on TED, you may be pleasantly surprised. She highlighted a huge piece of research at University of Wisconsin-Madison that shocked many people. The research on 29,000 people over 8 years discovered that your view of stress impacts your health far more than the stress itself!

The research found you think stress is always bad for you, then your prediction will come true. But, if you think stress is a good thing – it energises you, challenges you and gets you moving – you’re also correct. People with a positive view of stress lived many years longer than those with a negative view of stress – an amazing fact!

So stress itself isn’t so bad after all. Part of the reason I titled my book ‘The Mindful Way Through Stress’, was to emphasise that it’s about discovering how to move within the feeling and experience of stress effectively, rather than just reducing stress.

Short term stress has the following potential benefits: it boost your immune system, makes you more social, improves learning and may improve memory.

But here’s an important point. We’re talking about short term stress. Chronic stress isn’t such a good thing. Exercise is good for your body, as long as you’re not exercising all day and every day. So a bit of stress is fine from time to time, as long as you know how to let go of that stress – mindfulness meditation is one excellent way to achieve that.

Mindfulness can help you to spot not only when your stress level is rising, but what your personal reaction to that stress is. Imagine you have an interview coming up. Do you think ‘I love this feeling. I feel so energised and pumped up to do this interview!’ Or do you think ‘Oh no, I’m so stressed! I need to meditate away this feeling as soon as possible!’?

Hans Selye, the renowned researcher who discovered the dangers of the stress response, later coined the terms eustress and distress. He was keen to emphasise that all stress is not bad. Eustress is a positive experience, the stress you feel when you’re having fun on a rollercoaster, or down a ski slope. Or even in an interview for that matter. And distress arises when you tell yourself you don’t like the feeling and experience that you’re having.

I’ve developed a simple, short exercise to help you to re-frame your stress, next time your heart begins to race. Give it a go now if you have time, and again when you feel your stress levels rising:

1.  Find a place to comfortable sit or lie down, and close your eyes if you can.

2.  Spend the first minute being aware of your body and getting comfortable. As time passes, you’ll notice more body parts that are tense and begin to relax them as far as you can.

3.  Notice the physiology of the stress response in your body. Your heart racing, the tingling in your stomach and/or fingers. Any tension in your body.

4.  Say to yourself ‘There is a positive side to stress. Stress can be energising and uplifting. In the short term, stress can boost my immune system, improve performance and optimise learning.’ Combine this with a little smile on your face.

This combination of mental reframing with a little smile on your face will help to start changing the feeling of stress to be a more positive experience.

Hopefully, you don’t feel a failure for feeling stressed – stress is a natural feeling to have from time to time. Discover not just how to reduce stress, but how to reframe that very human experience.

My new book, the Mindful Way through Stress is available here

3 gentle secrets to an awesome (+happy+successful) life


Guess what? If life's a bit of a struggle right now, you


gently make things better. You can be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Even if you currently think you can't. Even if you're in a situation where there seems no way out. Why? Because today is a new day. Because this present moment is fresh and unique and full of potential. Here's a few ways that'll immediately and easily begin to create that change.

Treat yourself really nicely
You can call this self compassion, self kindness or self love.

Whatever word or words that work for you. Be nice to yourself. I mean super nice if you can. Hug yourself. Put your hand on your heart. Smile big and smile often. Treat yourself like you'd treat your bestest of friends. No need to be embarrassed about this - it's all the negativity in society that's embarrassing. It's time to take a positive stand!This activates the nurturing and caring part of your brain to ease excess anxiety. See talks by Professor Paul Gilbert to learn more about this. 2.

Take really TINY steps and celebrate them big

Feeling stressed all the time? Take a few deep breaths. Want a new job? Google new jobs in your area. Want to meditate daily. Start with a few seconds today. And after you've done that, celebrate. Literally say to yourself 'yippee. I've made a super tiny step to less stress. I'm so cool.' Small steps are giant leaps in disguise. You can quote me on that one. :-) 3.

Let EVERYTHING be your teacher.

I woke up a bit tired this morning. So today, I listened to my body and took a rest and didn't push myself. The other day, a random person insulted me. I used the chance to learn to smile at him and practiced some forgiveness. Whatever adversity comes your way, big or small, be grateful ASAP. Maybe you have cancer, or maybe you have a cold. I'm not saying it's easy, but I'm suggesting a way to a bit more peace and happiness. If you don't feel grateful, just write down what you've learnt from the challenge. It won't always be easy. That's where the self kindness and tiny steps comes in. You can even take this to the next level and think - everything that I experience is specifically sent to me to teach me a lesson in life. To help me grow. To offer me a chance to help others. Thanks for teaching me this lesson, dear Universe! Your friend, Shamash PS - I'm happy that you're here, sharing your precious moments of life with me. Thank you! PPS - if you haven't heard, my latest online mindfulness teacher training is on early bird offer. See http://www.teachmindfulnessonline.com for the latest info

Four Steps to Laugh Easily and Mindfully


They say laughter is the best medicine. Can that be true? Last week I successfully completed a laughter yoga leader training (I'm not joking here) and I must say, I probably laughed more in those two days that any other time in my entire life. And I laugh quite a lot!

The concept of laughter yoga is to laugh for no reason. It was discovered by a medical doctor and now there's 16,000 laughter clubs in over 70 countries. No need for jokes or comedy. Just fake it till you make it. And your body benefits from the laughter as if it was real. A great boost for your immune system and lots of extra oxygen for your brain - yummy!

So I've come up with the idea of 'Mindful Laughter Yoga'. Why not give it a try right now?

1. Start with a few minutes of mindfulness of breath. Or just three deep breaths if you want. With a smile.

2. Do some laughter warm up exercises by clapping your hands and saying 'ho ho ha ha ha, ho ho ha ha ha'. Walk around as you do this to help energise you.

3. Now do a laughter exercise. For example, pretend you're opening up your credit card bill and instead of worrying, make the sound of laughter for about 10-20 seconds. Or pretend you're talking to your friend on the phone and start doing a fake laugh as if you heard the world's best joke. Or pretend you're a witch stirring her cauldron and do a witch like laugh as you stir your frogs legs and spider potion.

Try and let go of your inhibitions and discover your inner child. And let go of those self-judgmental thoughts.

4. Finish by lying down and practising a mindful body scan, as described in most of my books.

Laughter yoga is similar to mindfulness in the following ways:

  • You disocver how to be non-judgmental of yourself and others
  • You let go
  • You discover your inner joy
  • You accept yourself just as you are
  • You learn not to take life so seriously

You can do it! Here's a TED talk on it.

Image by Marc Kjerland 

3 Simple(ish) Ways to Make 2014 your Most Mindful Year EVER


As the year draws to a close, perhaps you're reflecting on ways to make mindfulness a bigger part of your life in 2014. Here’s my three tips for you.

1. Treat yourself as if you’re your own best friend

New year resolutions may be something you use to beat yourself up with, when you fail. This year, don't.

Instead, use this time to be nice to yourself. Imagine what a kind, wise friend would say to you, if you didn’t manage to stick to your goals. ‘Don’t worry about it’, ‘try again next time’, ‘these things happen, don’t be hard on yourself’. Those are the sort of words I'd suggest you try on yourself.

You’ll feel better, and believe it or not, the self-compassion will make you better able to stick to your resolutions.

Tip - to remind yourself to do this, put a subtle message on your screen saver, leave a note in your purse or wallet, or place a picture of family or friends at work. These cues can be helpful.

2. Take one mindful breath a day

You probably know that meditation is good for you.

And you may be one of the millions of people that just didn’t manage to do their meditation, no matter how much you wished you could.

So, try one breath meditation. Resolve to take one deep in and out breath, in a focused way, everyday.

Anything else is a bonus.

That’s easier to do and can help to build your willpower for a longer meditation, if you so wish.

You may think that's not long enough, but there's only ever this breath and this moment. A mindful breath a day is a great way to start the day! And if you didn't manage to do your 10 minutes or 30 minutes or whatever length of meditation you were planning, why not just start with the one breath and take it from there?

3. Book time off now

Look at your calendar in 2014 and book some time off. Long weekends, vacations and regular days off. Time off from work or home responsibilities are nourishing for body, mind and soul. You’ll feel better afterwards and your work and home life will improve as a result. You could even book a retreat. We have one in Morocco in May.

Mindfulness, above all, is about living with awareness in the present moment. So, no matter what your goals for 2014, remember that you can only be mindful in the here and now. Stop, look and listen is the order of the day.


Thanks for reading! Do share your comments if you have a sec, and if you don’t know how to practise mindfulness, check out our bestselling online course, LiveMindfulOnline.com

image by Rudolf Getel

Easy Steps for (Incredible) Focus - tips from Daniel Goleman [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

I recently interviewed Dr. Daniel Goleman. He's famous for his book called 'Emotional Intelligence'. Today, he's talking about his new book, called 'Focus'. Here's a recording of my interview with him, and a full transcript below too.

For listening to the audio of interview

Hello and welcome back to the show. Today we are honored to be speaking with Dr. Daniel Goleman, renowned Psychologist and author of the book, Emotional Intelligence. He's currently in the UK partly to talk about his new book, called Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence and we will be talking to him about the book Focus shortly on our discussion today. So first of all, thank you very much for joining us today Dan.

Alidina: So, what prompted you to write a book on Focus at this particular time?

Goleman: Well, I think that attention is a mental capacity under siege which has never been seen before in human history because of, well largely because our technology is so clever, it's seducing us away from that thing we are supposed to be looking at. And I also think that it's time for Western culture to get more serious about the training of attention, something that's been very advanced in Eastern cultures for a millennia. But something that, somehow we hesitate with in the West, but now that it's under attack in this way I think it beholds us to get more serious about training ourselves in attention.

Alidina: Interesting, I've been reading your book and you talk about three particular forms of Focus. Could you just talk us through those three types of focus to start with?

Goleman: Well, I talk about inner focus, other focus and outer focus. And these are places we put our awareness. Inner focus refers to paying attention to our inner world, to our thoughts, to our feelings, and of course, mindfulness is the training in how to do this. Mindfulness and the sense, that's called metacognition, being able to witness what's going on in the mind instead of just being carried away by it. But this inner focus has a very important application for instance, in terms of managing our inner world. One of the strong predictors of how well a child will do in life is what's called cognitive control. And cognitive control is something meditators know well, it's being able to keep your mind on one thing and ignore impulse or distraction to go somewhere else. It turns out that the child's cognitive control, which is again part of inner focus is a better predictor of how well they'll do in adulthood than IQ or the wealth of the family you grow up in. So it's quite important.

The second kind is other focus, empathy, tuning into other people knowing their feelings, their thoughts and being able to then have compassion for them or be able to help them if they are in need. It's extremely important to have with anyone, but particularly the people closest to us as it determines how rich our connections are, our relationships.

And finally there's outer focus, which is a sense of the larger forces that are at work in shaping our own lives, our organizations and in fact the future of our species. One of the things that troubles me now is the fact that even though it's our daily activities by large, what we buy, what we do it's slowly degrading the global systems to support life with global warming being the most obvious sign. We really don't have a good way to tune into that. We must get better at that if the species is to survive.

Alidina: I came along to talk to you a few days ago, The Actions for Happiness event in London, and with regards to cognitive control, you tell people about the marshmallow test. Some people might not know about it, could you just briefly go through that one please?

Goleman: It's a rather legendary experiment in psychology which was done at Stanford University. Children came to a room and sat down at a small table, and the experiment is to put some marshmallow in front of the child and say, "You can have these now if you want but if you don't eat it until I come back from running an errand, you can have two then," and then she leaves the room. It's a real predicament for any child, and about a third of them just grab it gobble it down on the spot and the other third wait the endless ten, twelve minutes until the experimenter comes back, they get two. The two groups are tracked down fourteen years later, they were about to go to University and the ones who waited still are able to delay gratification to pursue their goals. They had a huge advantage, a 210 points advantage on the University entrance exam. There are ten out of sixteen hundred, so they learned much better and it wasn't due to the differences in IQ because all these children were -- the children are people of Stanford University.

Alidina: Wow, okay. So what is exactly happening on a neurological level? So what's happening in the brain when we're actually focusing, could you look into that?

Goleman: Well, when we're voluntarily focusing, that is when we're being mindful or we're keeping our mind on our work. It's a choice we've made, there's two general systems in attention, one is a top-down system as it's called, this is where we choose, it's voluntary, it's intentional. The other's bottom-up, these are the things that capture our attention. Our emotions are flashy at that thing you get on your smartphones saying that there's a message for you. These are things that involuntarily that we follow and those are a constant tension within the attentional system between top-down or bottom-up.

Alidina: Okay, so let's say for example, I go to watch a movie and I find that movie really fascinating, would that be a top-down approach?

Goleman: The only top-down there is, is that you chose to go to see a movie, the rest of it is the movie's playing your emotional brain.

Alidina: Okay so all forms of entertainment are as interesting as possible as I'm trying to capture attention.

Goleman: Entertainment are things we choose to manipulate in our brain because they are pleasant. The problem with bottom up attention which is manifest as mind wandering, is that in the wild, if we just leave it to go where it wants, it tends to go to things we're concerned about, problems in our life. So we end up being a little less happy than we were before our mind wandered, so if you choose where to go, "Oh yeah that looks like a good movie!" What you're saying is, I'm going to give my bottom-up system…a pleasant experience.

Alidina: Okay, that's interesting, So now, this may link to the next one question. I understand Professor Richard Davidson is a pioneer in research in the field of meditation. I was just wondering what you've learned in your time with him, about focusing and about other things in general.

Goleman: Well you have to understand my time with Richard Davidson goes on from graduate school. We were fellow students together at Harvard, best friends from that time so I've been following his research quite closely and it was his work on others on what was then called Affective Neuro Science that prompted me to write the book, "Emotional Intelligence" because I saw there was a critical mass of new exciting findings on emotion in the brain. And more recently, Dr. Davidson has been doing research on Contemplative Neuro-Science which is the study of what goes on in the brain during meditation and that was one of the other factors that prompted me to write this book, "Focus".

Alidina: You also mentioned something about him being involved in making a game which helps people to focus.

Goleman: Well, I write about it in Focus, it's a very encouraging development because today is -- video games has rather random sets of impacts on the attentional system, in the psychological system generally of children who play them a lot. One is that you do get a bit better at attentional capacities like vigilance, but on the other hand if you play one of those battle games, where you're constantly vigilante for some enemy or alien that's going to kill you if you don't kill him. It gives you a certain psychological ban which manifests then when you're at school and someone inadvertently punches you in the hallway, your immediate assumption is that this kid has a grudge against you. In other words, you get a hostile attribution. So a rather unfortunate aspect of video games as they are now but Davidson has teamed with a group of game designers to come up with a game which teaches children how to strengthen their attentional circuitry in a very positive way, one game that I saw called Tenacity has children on an iPad tapping as they breathe. Then they get a visual reward, flowers bloom in the desert, something like that. And kids love it and the better you get at it the more challenging it gets so it's a very systematic way to strengthen attentional circuitry.

Alidina: And you also mentioned Sesame Street in your book!. Apparently it has got a lot of Neuro-science in the program?

Goleman: Yeah I paid a visit to the Sesame workshop where they put Sesame Street together. The day I was there, the writers were all in the meeting with two cognitive scientists and what I learned was that every segment on Sesame Street is a lesson from cognitive science wrapped in entertainment. So one that's airing this season which is actually about cognitive control, there's this is character Cookie Monster who loves to gobble cookies and he wants to join this club, you pick up the cookie and you examine it for imperfections and you sniff it and then you take a tiny nibble which for him is very hard but then he learns that if he can just resist gobbling and it just take a nibble he's going to be able to eat all kinds of cookies and that helps him learn the lesson. In other words what they're doing in Sesame Street is modeling for toddlers, a number very good emotional lessons.

Alidina: Wow! It's really nice to hear that. So Cookie Monster's turning into a mindful eater, that's amazing. [Laughter]

Goleman: At least for that segment!

Alidina: So I suspect you've talked with other leaders in the schools and thought about bringing a great level of focus into schools as well as previously mentioned emotional intelligence. Also tell us of best practices have you seen in bringing a great level of focus in schools.

Goleman: Well I visited a school in Spanish Harlem which is in a very impoverishing section of New York City where they have what's called the breathing buddies. It's a daily session, every child takes a favorite small stuffed animal, lies down on a carpet and put some animal on their tummy and watch it as it rise and falls as they breath in and out and watch what they're doing, they count one, two, three on the out breath, one, two, three on the in breath. What they're doing is basically learning to concentrate and to keep their attention there. It's a very basic lesson in cognitive control. And I think it's rather exemplary, more and more schools are bringing mindfulness into the curriculum in one form or another. Usually in this developmentally appropriate way where for the very young children you do just a little bit in an easy way to do then you make it more challenging, children develop through the grades.

Alidina: That's really interesting. Just one in particular example that comes to mind from your book is the traffic lights approach.

Goleman: Well this is something that comes from a program called Social and Emotional Learning which is called SEAL here in the UK, and the traffic light is a poster of a stop light; red light, yellow light, green light. This is when you're upset remember the stop light, red light, stop, calm down and think before you act. Yellow light think of the range of things you might do and what the consequences would be and then green light, pick the best one and try it out and what it does is actually teach children to have a mindful pause, not to just to act on the first impulse when they get upset, angry or anxious, but to notice how they're feeling and to take some control of that and then to make a more thoughtful decision on how to act.

Alidina: That's really nice model, great. Well we've been talking about schools and you say SEAL is one kind of approach and mindfulness would be another one. But also one organization is trying to take hold of using mindfulness in improving focus. For example, Google, which you mention in your book, with their program, 'Search Inside Yourself' and we had an interview with Meng a few weeks ago. So that program integrates both mindfulness and emotional intelligence from my understanding. Just wondering what's your involvement in that and how you recommend organizations train employees to heighten their focus?

Goleman: Well, the program was developed with Meng and the very dear old friend of mine, of Miabai Bush. Google is an ultra-high IQ place to work and I think it's because the emotional intelligence skills determine how well people do in an organization. It's IQ to get you into Google, but it's your ability to collaborate to be a member of a team or to manage yourself and persist toward your goals and code writing there that's going to get you ahead. Those are emotional intelligence factors, so Meng whose from Singapore, and he's been I think a long time meditator, saw a real opportunity to blend mindfulness training with emotional intelligence because mindfulness is a skill builder from emotional intelligence, it cultivates your ability to witness what's going on to your mind, to manage it and I think to be emphatic too which is another key component. So he put together a program that has been really popular at Google but he has also taken it out on the road to other companies. More and more companies, at least the states are bringing mindfulness into the workplace. For several reasons, one is it helps people manage their stress and helps them keep their attention where it needs to be despite all the distractions. And it also helps group performance so it's a kind of win-win-win.

Alidina: And I know there's lots of mindfulness people keen on mindfulness into companies and organizations. How do you recommend people do that? Do you have any suggestions?

Goleman: Yeah, I think they should give my book to the CEO.

Alidina: [Laughter] because it got lots of research in it?

Goleman: It makes the business and scientific case for doing this.

Alidina: Okay, it's interesting. What about the connections between one's level of focus and one's happiness and well-being? There's a lot of books out there on happiness now, people are really interested in that. What's the connection and why is there a connection --?

Goleman: Well you know the better you can manage your upsetting emotions, and increase the positive ones more, the happier you will be and real happiness is not having ways and ways of ecstasy, it's just having more and more moments that are really pleasant during the day. And fewer and fewer that are upsetting, so it's that ratio, positive to negative that matters.

Alidina: Okay. Going back to technology, do you think that kind of massive use of technology nowadays is actually changing the way our brain is shaped?

Goleman: I don't know if it's changing the shape of the brain but we have to be careful that it doesn't de-skill us in attention because our machines are seducing our attention away and taking it from top-down to bottom-up continually or at least trying to, and this means that our attention circuits maybe getting more flabby than they've been in the past. That's one reason actually why I wrote Focus, to advocate, intentional, purposeful, attentional training to make sure that particularly for children but actually for all of us, that our circuitry for paying attention when we want, and where we want and how we want and stay strong in the middle of this onslaught from technology.

Alidina: And is this use of technology, I haven't seen you come and talk about multi-tasking that much but how was our ability to pay attention, focus links with a desire for multi-tasking?

Goleman: Well, you know, multitasking doing many things all at once is a little bit of a fiction from the point of your cognitive science and that attention doesn't expand to take on more tasks, it switches from one to the other. May switch quite rapidly but every time you switch you're losing a bit in the momentum you had in the original things. So if someone's concentrating on getting something done at work and then you start, you know you go online and you read your email, whatever it is, it takes ten or fifteen minutes to get back your full concentration on that first task. So it's much better to do, to put aside until later the things that don't really matter now like reading your email, unless there's an urgent one you must look at. And do that thing you have to get done and then decide, okay, now I'm going to do this and this and this, rather than try to do everything at once because it diminishes your ability to do each thing individually.

Alidina: So if you are in charge of a large organization, let's say multi-national organization, how would you set that organization up so that people would improve their ability to focus, reduce multi-tasking and improve all these different things you've been talking about?

Goleman: Well, I would do a couple things, one is I would probably have a mindfulness session at the beginning of the day and encourage mindfulness breaks. Secondly, I would use, implement apps that close down technical distractions like little things that indicate you have a text and little pop ups that show you have emails to help people, people stay focused because you need to, that kind of protection cocoon for people to get the task done. And this is very rewarding to get a task done, people who are working on projects will tell you that every day if I have small win toward that big project that I'm working on, I feel good at the end of the day, it was a useful day and if you've been invaded by all these distractors and multi-tasking, whatever, that doesn't help you get that small win, you just don't feel this good.

Alidina: Yeah, I mean I find for myself off those notifications is really important otherwise I would get distracted and go and tap on it.

Goleman: Exactly.

Alidina: What is it about it that makes it so addictive because you can see couples in restaurants using phones, you see people on the phone constantly using phone wherever they are?

Goleman: Yeah, I think we get a small hit of dopamine which is a pleasure chemical when we get up a message that we want like, someone saying something nice to you or hearing from a friend you get a dopamine hit and the brain acts to rewards you for that. And in Reinforcement Theory, in the old Skinnerian framework, they said reinforcement is key. That means you know you may only get one of those out of ten emails but it still highly reinforcing, so it keeps us looking for that hit and it's very seductive and I think we have to be very intentional in not following it forth.

Alidina: And the best approach would be to kind of turn off notifications for a short period of time.

Goleman: And then turn them on once you want them.

Alidina: Yeah, okay. So you've mentioned mindfulness is one approach in a way in developing a better level of focus. Is there a best form of mindfulness or meditation practice to improve? What would you recommend?

Goleman: Well, there's several kinds of focus but I think that mindfulness is key for all of them because mindfulness allows you to step back from what's going on in the mind and monitor it. And to monitor it you can see when your mind has wondered off. The most explicit training in focus attention is a concentrate of method like watching your breath, staying with the breath and then bringing it in back when your mind wanders actually strengthens the neuro circuitry for attention. So I think, that is the very best training for concentration.

Alidina: And what sort of length of time would you recommend people put into doing that?

Goleman: As much as you can.

Alidina: [Laughter] Okay, so even a few minutes is better than none?

Goleman: Start with a few minutes particularly if you find it difficult at first. Don't make it too hard, just do a minute or two and then extend the time as you find it easier. And then you know what becomes more natural for you, you can do whatever your schedule allows. I like to meditate in the morning, you know if it's a busy day, ten, twenty minutes, if it's an open day maybe forty five minutes or maybe an hour.

Alidina: On a mindfulness course, people would often say I can't meditate because my mind is all over the place no matter how much I'll try, my mind keeps wandering off, I can't do it. Well how would you response on question like that?

Goleman: I would tell people that's actually a sign that you may be becoming more mindful because usually in life when our mind wanders, we just go right along with it, but when you start to try to keep your focus on your breath for instance, all of a sudden you notice, "Oh my gosh my mind's wandering!" So it seems at first as though you're mind's going crazy, actually that's the way our minds always are, we just don't notice it until we try to manage it.

Alidina: Okay, so it's actually seeing it as a positive sign that a mind is wandering a lot of the time.

Goleman: Exactly.

Alidina: Okay, now for people who don't want to do the kind of closed eyes, feeling the breathing kind of approach, you have come and talked about the positive aspect of this top-down attention, so when you're deciding to intentionally pay attention to something. What about if people went around their day and they just did as best as they could trying to pay attention to what activity they were doing, would that be just as helpful in a way as mindfulness meditation?

Goleman: Some people find that they can focus better or be mindful if they're doing, say a walking meditation or eating mindfully, that is if they do it in the midst of an activity and other people more naturally take to just sitting still and watching their breath. I think the key point is to find what suits you. I did some research project years ago with Jon Kabat-Zinn who was one of the real Fathers of Mindfulness in the West, looking at two kinds of anxiety, some people experienced anxiety inside in their body, so automatically some in their mind, cognitively can't stop thinking these thoughts. And people who experience it more on the body we found did better at managing that anxiety by doing mindful yoga, people whose minds just were racing found it more easy at first to just watch their breath and bring their mind back to their breath. So I think there's a lot of individual variation. It's important to find what works for you.

Alidina: So for some people, meditation is the answer, for others, it may be mindful running.

Goleman: Well, I think so but I also would say that at a certain point in the practice, it's good to get to the point where you can sit and watch your breath. As well as merge mindfulness with other activities.

Alidina: Okay. As we come towards the end of the interview, one question which may not be quite directly related, I'm just curious about it. You have spent some time out with the Dalai Lama, I was just wondering what sort of things you've learned from your time with him?

Goleman: Well, one thing that he's made very clear to me at least, is that mindfulness is a great beginning but if you add to that a compassion or sense of loving kindness toward people, it enriches what you can offer to the world and I find that a very valuable lesson.

Alidina: I know you recently spoke about Compassion at a Conference in London too, so did you link up on how Focus is connected with compassion or do you see them separate?

Goleman: Well, empathy that is other awareness is a kind of focus and it's empathy which is a necessary component and precursor of understanding what's going on with the other person, if they're suffering in some way or in need, what you can do to help them. Wisdom then leads to the compassionate action.

Alidina: Wonderful, great! Well, I would just like to finish by saying thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate it and if people want to find out more obviously I would recommend this book, Focus which is out in all book shops now in the UK as well. But do you do any kind of newsletter or blog that people can continue to follow you at?

Goleman: Yes, people can find what I'm doing in two places, one is morethansound.net, and the other is danielgoleman.info - those two websites will keep you up to date with what I'm up to.

Alidina: Fantastic! Well, thank you once again for your time and I hope this book goes on to revolutionize the world just like emotional intelligence did as well.

Goleman: Thank you Shamash. Thanks for having me.

I hope you enjoyed the interview! Some of our top interviews are available exclusively for our subscribers. Join up by subscribing at the top of the website. Thanks for reading and I hope you keep in touch!

5 (Essential) Tips for a Mindful Christmas


Okay, okay, I know it's only November, but the holiday season is not far away! And although some of you may not be celebrating, almost all of you will be very busy

The Christmas period can be manic. You could find yourself running around trying to get the shopping done, worrying about all things from money to who you’ll be spending the day with. This kind of pressure, on top of an already busy life, can lead to a miserable December full of anxiety and stress. If you’re feeling the pressure here are some ways to help you have a mindful Christmas.

  1. Try some mini mindfulness meditations. It might be difficult, but find some time to sit still and think about what is good in your life right now. Sit comfortably and focus on your breathing. Try doing this before you go Christmas shopping, as it will help you to stay calm.

Later, when you’re queuing to pay for your presents and starting to feel the stress, focus on standing tall, and breathing slowly and deeply. Accept that it’s okay to feel frustrated in the queue. Who likes queuing? It’s natural to be annoyed. Try to realise you are annoyed, and then look around you to appreciate the present moment aspects of Christmas. Smell the pine trees and cinnamon.

Appreciate the colours - when else do you see so much sparkle and glitter?  Feel your breath filling your lungs, and appreciate how good it fees to correct your posture and stand still for a short while. Resist the temptation to get your Blackberry out and check your messages. Are your feet throbbing? Feel the throbbing, and visualise your blood pumping around your body and breathe deeply to slow it down.

  1. Make giving more mindful. When you write your Christmas cards this year, take the time to include a few words that express the reasons why you love or appreciate the recipient. Thank people for what they have done, and show gratitude for any kindness.

Write them for those you have lost, or fallen out with too. This will help you to accept your life as it now is. Also, write a card for yourself, listing all the good things that you are experiencing in your life. You don’t need to post this one of course, but keep it somewhere obvious, and read it when you feel anxious, or need a reminder about what is important here and now.

Write your cards slowly, and concentrate on forming each letter. Handwriting is usually rushed these days, if it happens at all, so take time to feel each curve of the pen and each full stop, be mindful of your handwriting.

  1. Volunteer. You don’t need to be a practising Christian to appreciate what the Christmas spirit is about. Practise mindfulness and help out at your local homeless centre, or offer your services to a charity. My co-author and I have put ourselves down to volunteer in a local soup kitchen for a couple of days after Christmas. There are many worthy causes, and in return, you’ll find a sense of wellbeing that outshines any expensive gift you may receive. Keeping up this activity into the New Year will really help you to focus on what you already have, and highlight the good aspects of your own life.

If you don’t have time to volunteer, then try little things such as feeding the birds in your garden, or the ducks at a local park because they will certainly appreciate it in the cold weather (unless you're in Thailand!). Which leads us nicely to....

  1. Take a walk in the fresh air and live in the moment. Look at the leaves, are there any left at this time of year, what colour are the trees now? What are the clouds doing? When did you last look at the clouds? If it’s raining, then wear a waterproof coat and take an umbrella. It may snow – after all it is Christmas! Just try to go out, the rain won’t hurt you. Listen to the birds; they still sing in the winter. Breathe in the winter air. It’s so clean, it will blow out all those central heating impurities.

If you have a child, take her/him with you. Don’t tell them off if they get wet though, just try jumping in puddles or throwing snowballs with them. Chase the leaves and laugh. Appreciate them being this young, They won’t be like this again. Create a moment and enjoy it. 

  1. Yes, you can enjoy Christmas dinner. Christmas dinner is often the climax of the Christmas period, but do you really enjoy it? Even if you had to cook this year, and are so stressed and sweaty that you don’t feel like eating, try to sit back and look at each person around the table. Think of the ways in which you have been close to them, and the reasons you choose to spend time with them. Even if you don’t get on particularly, there is a reason they are sat at the table with you. Think about them, appreciate their good points and accept their failings. Nobody is perfect.

Christmas is a good time to practice mindfulness. Your family may visit, you are seeking out gifts for your friends and relatives, and using a variety of decorations, fabrics, music and foods. Take notice of each person, material or sensation over Christmas. Each time you do this you will focus fully on the present. Each step you take is a step away from your former anxiety-avoiding self. Use this Christmas period to kick-start yourself into the New Year – a New Year where you practise mindfulness and feel happier and healthier!

How will you ensure your Christmas is a mindful one?  

Best Websites for Healthy Living


I've recently been searching for a list of websites that help to improve health and wellbeing to be able to pass onto my mum, but couldn't find a good list, so I've created one here. All these websites have information that is based on good quality scientific research rather than just being made up by the author of the website.

Help Guidehttp://www.helpguide.org

One of my favourite websites on the internet. Very easy to read and great quality information.


The UK's NHS website is packed with great information, and continues to improve everyday.


This website is often recommended by doctors. Not so easy to navigate, but some of the links from there are brilliant.

Web MDhttp://www.webmd.com

Great, easy to follow, evidence based advice and tips from doctors and health professionals.

Net Doctorhttp://www.netdoctor.co.uk

Similar to Web MD but based in UK

Mayo Clinichttp://www.mayoclinic.com

Vast amount of information in an easy to follow writing style.

National Institute of Healthhttp://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

This is a well-funded US based site. I don't use it much, but the quality of the content is well-researched.

British Heart Foundationhttp://www.bhf.org.uk

This is a charity in the UK for keeping your heart healthy - something we all need to do!


Bupa is a private health organisation, but offer quite a bit of free information here.

Action for Happinesshttp://www.actionforhappiness.org

This is a charity and movement based in the UK but offered globally. Lots of great ways to raise your level of happiness which turns out to be extremely good for your health. Very easy to follow information here.

Please let me know if you know of any more that are easy to use and full of evidence based medicine for body and mind. Thank you.