Early intervention is key: Youth Mindfulness

Early intervention is key: Youth Mindfulness

Due to multifactorial issues, there is a growing mental health crisis in young people in Northern Ireland and in the rest of the UK. Prescriptions for anti-depressants are up by 6% for under 18s in NI (15% in England) and the CAHMS services are overstretched with many young people waiting too long for effective treatment.

From my work with young people within the clinic, we know that early intervention is key- and that kids need better emotional resilience before they reach their teenage years, when the pressure they feel often increases.

Mindfulness is one way to help young people manage and understand their thoughts, feelings and emotions and build up their emotional intelligence before issues arise. It is a skill that once taught, can be accessed at any later stage in life.

The Youth Mindfulness Kids Programme was featured in the All-Party Parliamentary Group Report: Mindful Nation UK, and is recognized as one of the leading mindfulness programmes in the UK for children and young people.

Aisling is now fully trained in delivery of the Youth Mindfulness programme and will be available to deliver in local Belfast schools. This course would be particularly useful for children in P6-P7 who are dealing with testing for entrance into secondary school and also for creating resilience for when the transition to ‘big school’ a challenging time for many young people!

The Youth Mindfulness Kids Programme consists of 16 lessons (two lessons per week). Each lesson is 1 hour long and packed full of inspiring videos, games, and kinaesthetic activities, bringing mindfulness to life in a way that is fun, relevant and engaging.

Each lesson includes mindful sitting, lying and movement practices as well as continual feedback – a powerful way of exploring experience in classroom discussion.

The Youth Mindfulness Kids Programme is an in-depth foundation in mindfulness enabling children to:

  • have a deeper sense of self

  • building emotional intelligence

  • increasing concentration

  • handling difficult situations

  • building kindness and understanding for others

    We understand that, outcomes are better if we can bring the staff on board as well as the young people! As part of the programme Aisling also offers a 2 hour workshop specifically for teaching staff to help them have a greater understanding of this area. This can be delivered on a staff training day, preferably before the 8 weeks begins.

    Please get in touch with Aisling to find out more around costs and times, she will be available for delivering the programme in your school on Mondays and Fridays.

Mobile: 07866929487

or call clinic on: 02890641111

The Second Rule when creating Change. Get out of black & white thinking.


The second most important thing to realize is that if you want to make a change you need to get out of BLACK & WHITE thinking or the “all or nothing mentality.” Many of my clients who have struggled to create change in their life are stuck in this thought process.

It is relevant for many issues, the pupil who knows they cannot get 4As in their A-levels so they lose all motivation, the person who cannot sort out their desk paperwork as it just seems too big a task rather than just focusing on sorting out the top drawer.

And yes I have been known at times to be a skilled procrastinator as well….

But I have taught myself how to get out of that frame of mind (if I choose to that is!)


I see this a lot with people in that they are trying to start way too big!  They have got into black and white thinking.  If we think back to the ‘January Gymmers’ (I just made up that word) they have set themselves an unachievable goal of 5 days a week at the gym as a punishment for overeating for Christmas, and when they miss it for 2 days or miss a week for holidays they will say “well that is that ruined! I may as well just stop completely now.”

This happens classically with weight loss and eating healthily, I try to get my clients to see that everything they do is just lots of tiny decisions, nothing is ever ruined, one scone or one hungover Dominoes is not the end of the world, draw a line under the guilt, let it go and move on.

Maybe this is one time in our lives when we need to live life more in the ‘Grey!’

If I think to any of my very successful weight loss clients this is the mentality I try to copy from them to teach to others:

They keep their expectations realistic, they enjoy eating the way they are eating and things are moving in the right direction overall.  They know too that life must go on, their life cannot stand still while they lose the weight, so yes sometimes they are at weddings and eat a feast, sometimes they end up grabbing something rubbish when there is nothing else but then at their next meal they have the opportunity to do something differently.  They let go of beating themselves up, Forgive themselves, tell themselves well done anyway, drop the guilt and move on.

So how do I get out of Black & White thinking right now?

What if you made changes so small that there was no way you could fail? 

The only way you will ever fail is if you stop trying…

The Process

Ask yourself this essential question for one change: If I already made this change, and had been living this way for a while, and feeling good about it- how would I be as a person?

Exercise example: close eyes and imagine how you would like to feel in the present tense…

Now I am exercising regularly I feel really strong, my muscles feel good, I look better, I have more energy, I enjoy getting out of the house, I love being in my body!  Use your imagination to feel all those good feelings now, build it up as much as possible with the most senses you can as how it would be!

Feel all the feelings that come up into your mind make it as emotional as possible. These are important; it is these that you want to aim towards. It is not the numbers on the weighing scale, or even the behaviour itself you are seeking, but the positive feelings you will get when you do it. This is what will maintain your energy in the long term.  Wouldn’t it therefore be easier to make and maintain that change if you already have those feelings NOW?

Then with ALL this present energy and feeling about this one change

Ask yourself:

What is the smallest next step I could take?

Go with the thing that seems like it just ‘pops into your mind’ (that is an unconscious response) don’t try to analyse it, go with the flow of those good feelings.

For some people, that may mean just eating a decent breakfast, for others it may mean making an appointment, or sorting out their diary, or walking to their friends house instead of driving, it might mean preparing a lunch the night before.   These small changes are so tiny that there is no win or lose but you build energy with them and your brain begins to generalize these little changes that bigger ones become more possible. 

Start small. Tiny. always.

This is an NLP process called the ‘End state energy’ and from it getting the smallest next step.

When you are in your end state energy then things flow from that positive place and your mind will always know where to go next.

Rule Number 2: Don't make goals too fixed.  Just know the direction you want to go. Get into your end state energy then ask yourself what the smallest next step is you need to take?  Do this any time that you feel lost or you need a boost.

The First Rule When Creating Change Don't put the cart before the horse...

Don't put the cart before the horse.

Don't put the cart before the horse.

When I head to an evening class this week at my gym on the Ormeau Road, I know I am going to see loads of new faces there, frantically working off excess pounds and committing themselves to going 5 days a week….

The problem is I know that for most people it is only a matter of time until old habits creep back in.  Come February, people drift away again and the gym returns to the core group who consistently go throughout the year.  What happens to everyone else?  I see with my clients that past failure to maintain a change often leaves them feeling stressed, anxious, guilty and disappointed in themselves, making further attempts appear too difficult.

What do some people do differently to maintain a change?

A lot of the NLP work I do is finding what techniques and thought processes people use when they are successful at something and helping my clients learn to use the same skills.  So what is the difference between January people and those at the gym who go all year, despite being mostly working parents or young people who have busy lives?

It is really very simple, so simple that people often don’t recognise it

They turn up at the gym or go running because they enjoy it.

because it makes them feel good, it makes them feel energised and strong and fit.

This becomes their measure for whether they want to do it or not.

They unconsciously ask themselves….

“How good do I want to feel this evening?” VS “I HAVE to go to the gym because I HAVE TO lose weight”

Which of these would motivate you more?

This same idea can work for any change, people who consistently maintain a healthy real-food diet do so because that is what makes them feel good.  They enjoy eating real food so that is their motivator, they sometimes have junk food but ultimately they know they like real food more.

Any change that you want to make needs to have enough emotion behind it.  Whatever is the stronger emotion will always win out.  So if your thought for making a January change is “I should do this” trust me, you won’t last for more than 2 weeks. Why do you want to do it?  You need enough strong emotional reasons and feelings about making the change before you will make it a reality.

What we do wrong in the Western World

We have been taught from an early age to put things out in front of us,  such as the person who says “I will put in all these hours because when I have that new car THEN I will be really happy…”  “When I have that big house then I will have showed them all I have really made it!”

Effectively this puts the cart before the horse and means when they get there they still are not satisfied.  Well what about finding how to be happy now and then asking yourself if you really still want the car?

The classic case of this happening is around the area of weight loss, especially in women.  Clients of all ages come to me saying, “I feel shit about myself, I am disgusting. If I could just lose this 3 stone then I would feel amazing”

Would you?  Remembering that a 3 stone weight loss could be 1 year-18months away if done sustainably.

What is that really saying?  “I have planned to feel shit about myself and hate my body for the next year and a half, until I have dropped this weight.”  Always remember the many celebrities or models that are very thin and yet are not happy, are never content.

What is your chances of maintaining all the things it is necessary to do to lose weight while feeling horrible about yourself?  That means months and months of cooking real food, preparation, saying no to cake, drinking less…do you really think you will have the emotional strength if this is your driver?  If your body is that horrible why would you even bother making change to look after it?

As a weight loss coach, I know what a destructive thought process this is to get into and if this is your mentality for making a change, I am telling you to stop now as you will not achieve it, and probably feel worse for having failed or you risk developing other much more dangerous behaviours such as binge eating or severe food restriction.

My answer- find out how you are going to be HAPPY now, find out how you are going to FEEL GOOD now and respect and love your body, lumps and bumps and all as it’s the only home you will ever have.  This may take some time: maybe that requires doing some deeper emotional work with me or finding other ways to build up self-esteem that will work for you.  Focus on all the food things in your life, be grateful for what you have.

Work on loving yourself and your amazing body, not in a few months, or in a few years but NOW.

Then when you are feeling good ask yourself then, do I still want this change?

Tip Number 1:  Work out how you are going to be happy now, how to feel good about yourself now.  Then the actions you take are supporting this feeling.

So how do I begin?  Find out in the next article.

How can Aisling help you make a lasting change? 

If you want to make it stick the best way to do it is to attach enough emotion and motivation to that change by engaging the deeper parts of our minds. 

I help you teach your deeper mind everything that you will gain if you make and maintain this positive change. This can be done by tapping into emotions, reframing the situations, finding alternative behaviours and helping your imagination to see all those happy future memories that you will experience when you do it!

Do you need help in making sustainable change of any sort?  Don’t make things harder than they need to be!   Make an appointment today with Aisling Cowan by calling 02890641111