September Book Club

I still love to get lost in books as an adult and I also love to learn more about life through reading.  I have read so many books that have brought so much meaning to experiences and situations in my life and others that have helped me understand myself and gain insight deep within my being. Other books were like reading about truths that I had long forgotten and as I turned each page, little by little,  I remembered the biggest truths of all.

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3 Steps to start a Daily Mindful Practice

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Mindfulness is defined as paying attention, on purpose in the present moment, in a non-judgemental way. Mindfulness or meditation doesn’t mean sit there and think of nothing. It is simply a practice of awareness. In the practice you bring your awareness to your breath, to your body to whatever thoughts or emotions are floating around and instead of being consumed or overwhelmed by them you just observe as they pass by like clouds.

snowglobe-nail-artThink of a snow globe, when you shake it the snow goes everywhere, and it is hard to see anything except the snow. When the snow globe is placed back down, eventually the snow settles and it is easy to see again. When we are stressed, anxious, overwhelmed it is hard to have clarity about the situation or life in general. However, when we slow down, breath and allow all the thoughts or emotions to settle we can see clearly again. Our mindfulness practice allows us to do this.

There are so many benefits of practising mindfulness, here are few;

  • Less stress and anxiety. Felt not only on a mental and emotional level but felt on a physiological level from the nervous system first and then the other organs.
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Makes us feel better, happier
  • Increased patience and compassion
  • Lowers blood pressure and regulates our heart rate
  • It calms and balances us in mind, heart and body
  • Increases our energy levels
  • Increases the strength of our immune systems

Apart from the health benefits on a physiological, emotional and mental level mindfulness practice can realign us with who we really are. Most people are running and racing from one activity to the next, never slowing down or pausing to check in with themselves. They become accustomed to stress, anxiety, ‘busyness’ or switching off in front of the TV for hours as a part of modern day living. They see and believe that they will feel better when they get over what happened in the past or reach the point in the future that will make them feel better.

sailboat

This way of thinking however is not very helpful or beneficial to us. When we think like this we are like a boat floating without a rudder in the middle of nowhere. Sure, we may be staying afloat and moving but we have no real direction or destination in mind.  Mindfulness helps us to stay in the present moment, to respond instead of reacting unnecessarily to things that bump off the side of our boat. It helps us to settle the boat when the water is rough. It fine tunes our awareness so that we can see the big waves coming towards us and instead of trying to fight the wave (that is coming either way) we let it pass and say, ‘surf’s up’ or get ready for a ‘wipe out’. It also allows us to take control of the oars or the wheel again and move toward the destination we want.

Mindfulness-Definition

3 Steps to getting started

  1. Commit

The first step in starting any new skill or habit is to commit. Commit to yourself first. Maybe even sit with your thoughts on this for a few minutes. Why do you feel drawn to this? What is your intention for this practice, what do you want to get out of it? Less stress or anxiety, more peace? Then tell a friend or a loved one about the challenge you have set yourself so that they can support and hold you accountable (in a non-judgemental way – if you feel you have no such person then you can share with me in the daily posts)

  1. Prepare

You don’t need any special equipment to start your mindful practice. You just need somewhere to sit comfortably with a straight spine (on a chair, in lotus position, on a cushion or bolster) where you won’t be distracted or interrupted. You can set the timer on your phone (then turn it on aeroplane mode) and bring your attention to your breath. If you want to light a candle or play some relaxing music this can help to get you into a relaxed state.

  1. Pick a time that will best suit your lifestyle and routines and try to stick that time as best as possible. Of course, things will get in the way but if you pick a time that is least likely to be interrupted it will be easier to establish and maintain the practice for the month and hopefully after.

Remember as with everything in life the practice is an informance not a performance, informing us of where we are at that particular day on that particular time.

Join me on my instagram page for the Mindful March  challenge and take 5-10 minutes each day for yourself to establish a mindfulness practice and reap the benefits in mind, body and soul!!! I will be sharing lots of tools and techniques each day to help you to create a practice that suits you best!

Love and Light,

Mel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness for Children

Children, you would probably agree, are for the most part happy and carefree, living in the present and enjoying every little minute in life. They are our biggest teachers, reminding us to live in the moment, finding wonder and joy in a puddle of water or a rainbow while the rest of us keep rushing to our next item on our to-do list.

Working with children you realise how the seemingly little things can be massively important in their little world. They may not have scary things like mortgages or high-powered jobs but trying to figure out this mad world when you are still in primary school is no mean feat. Often, they do not understand the emotional, physical and mental processes going on within them let alone have the ability or skill-set to express themselves to a parent or guardian. In fact, most adults find this extremely difficult but have learned to park these feelings or suppress these challenging emotions in some way instead of dealing with them.

I have been teaching children for nearly 10 years now (How the hell did that happen??) and I have seen children from all walks of life come up against challenges which they didn’t have the skills to deal with.

I see them growing out of their childlike wonder and amazement earlier and earlier and start using words like stress, worry and frustrated more often. They are growing up in a world where stress is a common place word in most households as parents and families in all their shapes and sizes try to hold on to and better themselves in their careers, keep a roof over their heads while paying for all the wants and needs of a family. While they struggle and strive to meet the materialistic needs of their family they try to ensure everyone is fit and healthy, cared for emotionally and mentally and at the same time share and elicit morals and values. This is a huge undertaking in and of itself and then you add in the day to day scheduling and organising and melt downs of everyday life, it is no wonder most people are dealing with stress on a daily basis.

As adults we are looking for more and more ways to deal with the stresses and strains of modern day living and we are learning these skills and trying to implement them in an already busy schedule. If we don’t see instant positive results a new habit, it usually gets thrown by the wayside. That is why I think it is so important that children learn these skills from a young age and have the ability to utilise them whenever they are faced with a challenging encounter or situation.

Mindfulness-1024x659Meditation and mindfulness has huge physical, emotional and mental benefits. Research and studies continue to prove the positive effects that meditation and mindfulness can have on the body and as adults, more and more of us are drawn to these practices.

So, what are the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on the body?

  • Less stress and anxiety. Felt not only on a mental and emotional level but felt on a physiological level from the nervous system first and then the other organs.
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Makes us feel better, happier
  • Increased patience and compassion
  • Lowers blood pressure and regulates our heart rate
  • It calms and balances us in mind, heart and body
  • Increases our energy levels
  • Increases the strength of our immune systems

One of my students in my mindfulness class was sitting at the kitchen table after school one day doing her homework with her mum and brother. As often is the case, the battle for completing homework commenced and tempers started to wear thin. This little girl instructed them to calm down, take a breath and be mindful of how they were acting. She was FIVE at the time!! She shared her awareness an instantly diffused the whole situation and brought some light and laughter to a day that could have ended in tears and frustration for everyone.

2017-11-19 20.56.24Mindfulness and meditation also helps children (and adults) become more emotionally resilient. Emotional resilience means not getting overly angry, worried, frustrated or stressed over something and if you do having the tools and techniques at hand to help you to calm down instead of reacting in a way that won’t help the situation and or make it worse. Mindfulness and meditation can help children to relax and calm down and keeps things in perspective while encouraging positive self-talk and action.

Whether your child is dealing with anxiety, emotional challenges or is happy and carefree, practising meditation and mindfulness can have many positive benefits and rewards.

Top tips for mindful practices with children

  • Chill Out Zone

cosy cornerCreate a cosy corner where they can relax, chill out, reflect and calm down if feel the need to. Help them arrange, set it up and it will really feel like their own and they will want to use it then. Have a calm down teddy, worry teddy also works really well for the little ones. This will be a great tool to help them calm down independently and be more aware and mindful of how they are feeling.

  • Take 5

Using the sense is a quick and easy way to help calm and relax your child. Take 5 – Sit down, be still, take a big deep breath and uses your senses. What can you feel right now? What can you hear right now? What can you see? (images can be inside their head or in their environment) Can you smell anything? Can you taste anything?

This is a lovely one to do when you are out and about, at the playground, at the park etc.

  • Just Breathe…

Breathing techniques are one of the best tools to use as often it is useful to have something to focus on. I use these breathing techniques in  my class all the time, they directly engage our nervous system to help calm down the whole body.

Take-5-Breathing-Exercise-for-Kids

star breathing               1+-+6+Steps+to+Belly+Breathing+Poster+(K-5)-1

  • Attitude of Gratitude

Helping children to practice gratitude everyday can help them to have a more positive outlook but also move away from frustrating or worrying thoughts. It can be easily incorporated into the bedtime routine – what 3 things are you grateful for today?

  • Quiet mindful time

Most adults are too busy to slow down and be creative or sit with their thoughts. For many it is their worst nightmare. But it is in these moments of quiet and clarity that we have our light bulb moments, our creative thoughts or emotional awareness.

Children are constantly on the go or engaged in a game, toys, TV and when they are not they have the complaint that they are bored. Encourage and enable your child to take some quiet time for themselves, to be creative. Ensure them that you are still there if they need any help while allowing them to be more aware of their responsibility in their happiness. They could do things like draw, colour, doodle, write, journal, jigsaw, cook, bake, play instruments, crafts, knitting – anything really that is quiet and calming and not on a screen.

 

HAPPYdef

Light & Love,

Mel

 

6 Ways to Change Your Lifestyle Habits

Happy New Year everyone!!

acj-2410-happy-new-year-2018We are now nearly a week into the New Year and over this weekend the last of the Christmas trees and decorations will be taken down, reluctantly by some and with relish for others.

New Years resolutions that were so confidently and adamantly set earlier in the week are either propelling us forward with abundant positivity into 2018 or hanging over us judgingly as we tuck into the last of the selection boxes or skip the gym session to binge watch a whole series on Netflix.

After the overindulgence of Christmas and the irregularity to our routines, starting fresh on New Year’s Day with a list of positive resolutions as we detox from all the festive food, alcohol and cheer (or stress) can seem like the best plan. However more often than not, we set big tasks to achieve, without really thinking through what we want or how we will do it. Meaning by the 3rd of 4th week in January we are frustrated and irritated and call off the whole resolution thing as a load of B.S.

2018-01-05 12.19.46We are creatures of habit and we operate consciously and unconsciously from this primal place within our brains all day, every day. We think, act and behave like this for years and it becomes our ‘normal’. To override these habits, we cannot rely on will power or a New Year resolution alone to change these deeply ingrained behaviours. These habits and behaviours have their own neurological pathways, some of which were created many years ago and they cannot be simply flipped overnight.

Instead we need to create new pathways, new habits and rituals but it will take time. When we repeat the same behaviour over and over we are tapping into our unconscious mind where those neurological pathways reside. We create new roads for us to travel and retrain our thinking and behaviour. Just like any skill or muscle, it takes time and consistency to see the change. If you do one cooking lesson or gym session you won’t be a top chef or Popeye.

intersectionThink about it this way, all your habits and behaviours are so deeply ingrained that they look something like a motorway, with roads leading on and off. Well maintained roads, no bumps or potholes as they are in constant use. Alongside this motorway is a forest and on New Years Day you decide to take a new route through the forest to a new destination. For the first few days, it is hard, you have to cut down all the trees and bushes in your way, to create your new path. It takes time and effort but your energy and determination are strong and you persevere. On your return each morning you see that some of the branches and bushes have fallen back to where they were originally and as you make your way along this new path you continue to clear them, so you can reach your destination. overgrown pathThis goes on for a couple of weeks and one morning, you wake up late and believe you don’t have the time to clear the path that day and instead take the motorway, the easier option. You go home on the motorway too because you are tired and what’s the harm, you already took the route this morning. For some this is the turning point in their new path, they either reset and get back to their new path with renewed motivation and enthusiasm or they call it a lost cause and get back onto the motorway where it is the same old story but at least it’s easy and immediate.

Our habits and behaviours all serve a purpose at some point and are not all negative or in drastic need of transformation. We just need to bring more awareness to the habits that we no longer need and override them to make room for new ones. When we take the time to see what is working for us and what is working against us, we can see more clearly what we need to work on, to move forward and grow.

Motivation is important too, but it has to be a REAL motivating factor that comes from deep within, at our core values and beliefs. Saying you want to get fit for the New Year because you have been sitting and relaxing for the last 2 weeks won’t serve as a motivator in a few weeks’ time. Sitting down to really think about why you want to get fit and realising you want to be able to run and play with your kids and not huff and puff as they run ahead of you, is a much stronger rooted reason that will give you that motivation you need on the day you are tired and don’t want to exercise.

Then we establish the way we can do it, the professionals we might need to call in and the support we will need along the way.

The key to starting new habits is to only take on one or two at a time. Trying to change your exercise, diet, personal development, relationship, world peace etc all on New Year’s Day is a little over ambitious. I have changed many habits and routines over the years but only by taking it 1 or 2 at a time, building up my good/new habits and behaviours until they become my ‘new normal’ and then I look for another new something to work on.

Here is how I suggest getting started…

  • Properly think about what you want to change and WHY (Tip – keep asking why and why again to each response until you run out of answers, there is always another reason behind the surface reason and this will help you to get down to the core reason.) Your why will be the driving force on days when you are tired or unmotivated. For example if you are trying to get fitter to be able to run around with your children, remembering that reason ,that ‘why’, will get you out the door and to the gym.
  • Write down what the overall goal is, be specific e.g. do you want to be able to run a 5/10 km race or lose X lbs?
  • Write down the steps you will need to get there e.g. do you have to research an exercise class or find a professional to work with? These steps will be like the directions you need to reach the destination, start at the start and keep going until you get there. If you take a wrong turn, no worries, just use your map to get back on track again.
  • Think about who is going to support you. This is a massive factor in your achievement of your goal(s). If you are cooking healthy meals every night and your family are turning their nose up at them it will get very disheartening and discouraging. Talk with your friends and family, ask them to give you the support and praise you need to keep going. Get them to join in or simply just ask (without judgement) how you are getting on.
  • Think about what problems or setbacks might arise in your master plan (because they will). Do you have a heavy workload in work approaching or a holiday away? Think about ways you can get around these setbacks or acknowledge that for that week you might be very busy in work, but you will still commit to at least 20-minute walk to clear your head and be active.
  • Most importantly be gentle on yourself. You will have days that are not as good as others but the important thing is that you don’t dwell in self judgement or criticism. If you revert back to the motorway for a few days just wake up fresh the next morning and get back onto your own path (Don’t wait until Monday).

dont-call-it-a-dream-call-it-a-plan-quote-1Instead of changing everything on New Year’s Day or in the first week of January, why not give yourself a couple of weeks to get going. I feel we are still in hibernation mode as the evenings are short and dark and January always seems a little low and flat after the high of Christmas without sprinkling self-judgement and criticism all over it too.

Why not give yourself a few weeks to really think about what you want to change and what the destination will be. Create the map and the directions to get there, then set the wheels in motion and enjoy the journey and be proud of your growth.

 

 

Best of luck,

Mel x

 

 

 

Healing in Hibernation

Tonight, the clocks go back, giving us an extra cosy hour in bed in the morning but also reminding us that winter is upon us.

Some of us may be reluctant to accept the cold, dark mornings and evenings. As the dark nights approach the shadows grow stronger, we are either running away in fear or getting ready to embrace this time of reflection and introspection of our growth and journey throughout this year.

Woman hands in gloves holding a mugI love this time of the year, the colours, the sounds, the smells, the crisp and fresh mornings. I love getting wrapped up in winter woollies and going for a walk or having a hot cuppa and a chat.

However, I also know that the darkness of these seasons can be daunting or scary as they can reflect the darkness with us all. The dark places within our physical bodies that are not illuminated in activity. The dark places within out emotional bodies that hold onto hurt, fear, betrayal and pain. The dark places that we act from when we are tired, angry, pissed off or being judgemental. The dark places within our mind that we dip in and out of in varying depths, depending on our own experiences and challenges. These dark places cast shadows that we ignore, suppress, hide from because to lean into them means discomfort, pain and necessary healing.

Instead of fearing or repressing these dark places, within us, that cast shadows on other areas of our lives, why not try to accept them?

Accept them for what they are, not good, not bad, just what is.

Accept them as without them we would not be able to acknowledge and revel in the brightly illuminated places within us.

yin and yang 2Without the contrast there is no dark or light, no up or down, no good or bad, no left or right. One cannot exist without the other to compare it against, as within everything is a piece of its opposite.

Think of the yin and yang symbol, the ancient symbol of harmony, balance and duality.

With a gentle and compassionate heart (because exploring the dark and shadows within is scary business) accept the darkness, accept the shadows as part of who you are. Embrace the shadows and dig deeper to see what is lurking behind. Maybe it is just like walking into a dark room, a little scary at first but once you turn on the light the fear seems unjustified.

Maybe you need to confront the dark shadow causing you fear, call it out and work on it by bringing it into the light.

Here are a few powerful questions for thinking about or journaling about as we embrace both the light and dark within us all in the coming months.

  • What are the traits you don’t like about yourself, the ones you suppress and pretend don’t exist?
  • What emotions trigger these traits within you?
  • How are you judging yourself about these traits within your shadow self?
  • How can you embrace them, learn from them and shed some light on them?
  • What are most scared about in acknowledging / sharing these shadow qualities?
shadow and light
photo credit @Robert W. Corkery

“Your life will be transformed when you make peace with the shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you are not. You will no longer have to prove you’re good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to live in fear. Find the gifts in you shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you always desired.”                                                       

 Author Debbie Ford

Be kind to yourself and the emotions that may some up as you write. Seasonally it is a time for letting go, maybe you too can let go of some things hiding among the shadows.

Love and light,

Mel

How to bring Harmony to your Well-Being

Wellness, the hashtag or tagline for many an online post from the knowledgeable to the influential. It is often thrown around with reckless abandonment with others such as organic, natural, superfood and the newest member, mindfulness to engage you in a product or health promotion of some sort. However, the word wellness has been around since the 60’s and 70’s, long before social media was even born. Wellness, a word coined by the leading psychologists, behavioural change therapists, counsellors and life coaches at the time who pioneered the way for the whole person approach we know today.

As this is a wellness blog, I thought it was necessary to dig a little deeper…

What does wellness mean?

And more importantly what does wellness mean to you?

I have often posed this question to individuals and groups as a Health & Wellness Coach and the answers are always similar;

Wellness is the opposite of illness.

– Wellness is being fit and healthy.

– Wellness is having a healthy diet.

– Wellness is being healthy.

All the above are true and important aspects of wellness, but not the whole picture. To bring awareness to your wellness is to bring awareness to all areas of your life, looking at you as a whole –in mind, body, soul and environment.

Wellness isn’t just the absence of disease, you can be disease free and in a neutral position between wellness and illness and still feel unsatisfied or unfulfilled. Almost like wearing blinkers or driving on auto pilot. Not really tuning into what is going on in your body, mind or heart but getting by because you haven’t started to show the signs or symptoms of illness yet.

How often have you been totally satisfied in some areas of your life such as career only to realise that your relationships or health are in total disarray? Feeling so satisfied in some areas only to feel empty and wanting in others?

Don’t worry you are not alone in feeling this way. How else can we truly know what we want without having the contrast of what we don’t want. So always embrace and be grateful for this contrast as it is there to show you what you do want.

For me, wellness is an inside job and it starts with our awareness. After all, awareness can be curative. When we bring awareness to all areas of our lives and ask ourselves a few honest questions as to how we are truly feeling about them we may be surprised at how deeply we connect with the answers.

So where and how do we start? Let’s get this wheel turning!

wheel of life

As I said when we look at our wellness we don’t just look at one area like diet or fitness, we need to look at all areas of meaning within our lives. These may vary but for the majority they can be focused around these main areas.

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. Health
  4. Career
  5. Money
  6. Personal growth
  7. Significant other/ Romance
  8. Physical environment
  9. Fun and recreation
  10. Diet & fitness

Take 5 or 10 minutes and think honestly about these areas within your life. You can add in or take out areas if you wish.

If you were to rate your satisfaction in each area out of 10, what would that look like? Shade in your wheel to correspond with your rating.

Think about each area from both sides. For example, I might rate my diet & fitness a 6/10 because although I eat very healthy 80% of the time, my fitness levels have dropped as I have prioritised other areas of my life.

Look at your wheel, the inner shaded wheel you have created and ask yourself, how confident would I feel using this wheel on my car? If the answer is not very confident maybe you can make some changes to those certain areas of your life to ensure a smoother ride.

It is not about having the perfectly rounded wheel, it is about bringing your awareness to your wellness as a whole and improving it by looking at specific areas.

It is about changing the direction of your wellness, a direction of which you are steering and not being led.

As wellness is an ever-evolving journey for everyone you could do this exercise 100 times over and have different insights each time. I have often done this and thought, I am not satisfied with that area of my life, I am going to make a conscious effort to see that person more or do this less. In bringing our attention and awareness to an area you could bump a 5/10 to an 8/10 and make a huge change to our overall wellness in a matter of minutes.

mind-body-spirit
Looking at the whole picture

Other times the change might be a bigger lifestyle change that we may need to seek help with and or set goals accordingly.

 

As I said, it starts with awareness. So, bring your attention to all of the important parts of your life, give it some honest, non-judgemental thought. The wheel should not be a tool you use to beat yourself up that you haven’t got your life perfectly balanced (Let’s be honest, who does?). It is a tool that acts as a starting point from which you can consciously improve your health and well-being.

We are the only ones who can take control of our wellness and change it for the better, we just need to make that choice.

Are you ready to take control of your health and wellness and change it for the better?

Where will you start?

From Holy Grail to Wholly Grail ….

The holy grail, a cup or a chalice of magic and miraculous qualities and power that can provide anything from eternal happiness or youth to infinite abundance of wealth and riches. This much sought after chalice took starring role in many a tale and quest for centuries across Europe…

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