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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How to Live a Happy Life of Meaning & Purpose

There is so much to gain from writing out your thoughts about anything and everything or about something more specific. The words flow, the mind, heart and soul release simultaneously and together in some beautifully intertwined dance. The mind understands more, the heart heals deeply, and the soul gently says, ‘you have all the answers, you know the way’.

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Retreating into Nature and Practice

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Eagles Rock Retreat, Carlingford

 A couple of weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of visiting and teaching at Carlingford Yoga at Eagles Rock Retreat. Nestled amongst the Cooley and Mourne mountains and rolling fields with spectacular views in every direction, it really is the perfect place to switch off and unwind.

 

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Carlingford is in Co, Louth and is part of Ireland’s Ancient East, sharing energy and history with scared sites such as Newgrange and Lough Crew. For me Eagles Rock Retreat exudes that magic and energy making it almost impossible for anyone not to unwind, relax and reconnect with nature and themselves.

 

 

 

Stuart and Martina host yoga weekends at Eagles Rock and are so warm and inviting that we really didn’t want to leave. Their house has beautifully decorated bedrooms and living areas where you can chill, read a book or have a chat. The food provided all weekend is fresh, wholesome, vegetarian and most of all delicious. Let’s just say we were never late for any meal and we wanted all the recipes to try and recreate them at home.

 

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The yoga studio sits at the back of the house, east facing to catch the rising sun for early morning meditations and practice.  With windows all along one side of the room, you will be blown away by the amazing views and peace that perpetuates the studio. It was the most amazing place to teach and hold space for the ladies I shared the weekend with. Martina teaches the classes if you are attending without a yoga teacher and she is a wonderful teacher.

(I attended a retreat with her a couple of years ago and she really is amazing!)

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When we arrived on Friday evening at the long and winding driveway, I knew it was going to be a special weekend and I wasn’t wrong. It was my first retreat to teach at, usually looking for that peace and solace myself, now I was part of creating that for the women who came with me. This was a hen weekend with a difference, this hen (a very good friend of mine) wanted a weekend to relax, unwind and practise yoga and I was delighted to be able to facilitate the yoga for the group.

We arrived at different times and got settled into our new, cosy rooms. We didn’t all know each other so we spent the evening walking around the countryside and chatting over dinner.

The rest of the weekend was spent practising Hatha yoga in the morning, a strong flow to energise the body for the day and gentler Yin practice in the evening with some deep relaxation known as Yoga Nidra.

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There are plenty of tracks and trails around the house for both the avid hill walker and the slow-paced stroller. On Saturday, we ventured down to Templetown beach and into Carlingford town for some tea and cake.

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Strolls along Templetown Beach

 

DSCN1836I created a journal for the weekend, with some insightful questions and techniques to use over the weekend or when they got home. Surprisingly colouring the mandalas was the biggest hit, lots of creative energy wanting to be expressed with this group. Often, we spend so much time looking after others and getting things ‘done’ that we forget to check in with ourselves and the things we want and need in our life. Then get frustrated when we get into a funk and can’t comprehend or articulate why we feel off centre. Journaling can really help us understand, express and let go of things in our lives that no longer serve us.

 

 

My stay brought me lots of peace, growth and gratitude for time spent in great company, in a spectacular venue with beautiful energy. I will be definitely going back again soon as a guest or teacher, either would be bliss!!

 

 

I can’t recommend Carlingford Yoga, Eagles Rock Retreat highly enough for anyone who needs a weekend to unwind, relax and connect with mind, body, spirit and nature.

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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.

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  • 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

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

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‘Just think more positively…’

Easier said than done and not the best advice if you’ve a had a crap day, week or even year. It is the last thing you want to hear in that moment and probably the least helpful. Especially if you are up to your eyes with work, you feel like your relationships are falling apart and life continues to throw curve balls right at your face (or so it seems). We’ve all been there, when it all gets a bit too much and we just want to hide under the covers. Cue Positive Polly, telling you to ‘think positive’ and you may feel like doing something unquestionable to poor Polly.

Thinking positive and being positive is great, don’t get me wrong. I try to look at most situations I find myself in positively but are positive thoughts or quotes enough to stop the momentum of a bad mood, day or week? Stopping that momentum is like trying to stop a car speeding down a steep hill, when it is nearly at the bottom of the down the hill. Instead of trying to stop the car midway down the hill, why not try stop it at the top before it gets going?

same-thinking-PRIf we change the way, we view things we can change our lives. Some of you may think that this is a bold statement, but I have seen so many examples of this that I know it to be true. Our perception of things, people and situations can trick us into believing something that is not as it seems.

Wayne Dyer says it best, ‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change’. Our perceptions are not a case of one being right and another being wrong, we are just seeing things differently. It makes sense that we would view things differently from our friends or colleagues when our values, experiences, upbringings have all been different.

I have shifted my mind-set in many ways in different areas of my life, using different techniques and strategies but my secret weapon is gratitude.

When we are in a bad mood, unmotivated, fed up or in a bit of a funk we are operating from a place of lack. From a place where there is the absence of something material, emotional, spiritual etc. When you are thinking, feeling and acting from a sense of lack, then that is what you will see mirrored back to you in your daily encounters and experiences.

gratitude 2When you start to shift your perspective, and see all the great things that are present in your life and be grateful for them, you start to make room for more of that to flow into your life. Often when we start to notice the things we are grateful for each day, we notice that they quickly start to outweigh the bad.

Gratitude is like a muscle we have to build, to give it power and strength. The words, written, spoken or thought can be powerful in their own rite. However, if you really want to amplify their power, you must FEEL the gratitude within. Sit with your list of things you are grateful for, for as little as 2 or 3 minutes and feel that gratitude spread throughout your whole body.

When you start to practice gratitude, you will be surprised at how quickly your mind set will shift. You may find that you are feeling brighter or happier. Your encounters with your family, friends and colleagues will adjust and change for the better. Once you start thinking, saying, writing about the things you are grateful for in your life, your list of things to be grateful for will grow and grow and your life will become so much more abundant in every which way.

Here are some ways you can practice gratitude in your daily life;

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  • Start simply, count your blessings right now.
  • At the start and end of your day think or 3 things you are grateful for. If you are stuck, try this affirmation – I am so, so grateful for all that I am and all that I have.
  • Say thank you to others, sometimes we’re too busy to take the time to say it at all. I don’t only mean in a mannerly sense, say thanks to the people in your life for the support, help, love they show you. Don’t wait for an occasion like birthdays or Christmas, tell them now. Kind words or a smile of thanks can change a person’s whole day.
  • Be grateful as you sit down to eat or drink.
  • Think / write about what you are grateful for in the different areas of your life – your mind, your body, your soul, your home, your family, your friends, your work, your finances, all the amazing things you have and are right now. Block out the past and future as you count your blessings now, in this very moment.
  • Start a gratitude journal, write down what you are thankful for each day. Even a list in a notebook is just as powerful if journaling isn’t really your thing.

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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!

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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.

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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?