Reflection and Realignment rather than Resolutions.

Now that January is upon us, we will have countless images shoved under our nose to change our physical body and whole life (in about 30 days, so no pressure!!). We will be encouraged with ‘New Year, New You’ bullshit and led down a path of guilt and shame as we sign up for new gym membership or take the first step on the weighing scales. The weight loss/ diet industry makes BILLIONS each year (64 billion in the US alone in 2018) by marketing and selling products that we are led to believe we need to be happy, healthy and fulfilled. Advertisements and whole magazines will be dedicated to making you feel like you couldn’t possibly be happy, fulfilled or healthy if you’re not the size of the airbrushed models shown.

We know all about Photoshop and filters, but these headlines still trigger our insecurities and draw us in because that is what they are intending to do. Millions are spent creating campaigns and researching the psychology behind it all so don’t feel bad if you feel like you are being sucked back into a 30-day detox after the Christmas holidays. Our worth is not measured by the number on the scales or the measurement of our hips. Our health is not defined by what size our clothes are, I can range between 2-3 sizes in different shops. We are all made up of different shapes and sizes and often we strive for a body shape/ weight that is so far out of reach that we could spend a lifetime eating ‘clean’ and working out and still not achieve it. But rest assured there will be a continuous stream of new diets or exercises regimes to try. Diets don’t work, they are restrictive and obsessive and short lived. They only prove to cause fear, anxiety and control around our eating habits and reward this behaviour with cheat meals and binge eating.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t eat healthier or set an intention to get fitter or stronger. Making positive changes to our lives is a good thing. Growth should always be encouraged and supported in all areas of our lives. We are constantly changing, learning, growing, letting go and blooming once again. We live our lives in cycles as does nature and so as the winter cycle comes to an end, it makes sense that we would want to prepare for the spring. However, it is still winter, a time to nourish and heal, a time of introspection and reflection. A time where we can look back on the past year, take the lessons and blessings and carry them with us into the new year as we realign with our values, with what lights us up and fulfils us and with the desires for the next cycle to come.

Screenshot_20181231_142902Usually at New Year people make grand plans and resolutions because they feel they are lacking in some area of their life. They feel as if they ‘should’ be doing better. They feel as if they have failed to succeed or achieve something. They feel as if they need to reach a certain destination or goal to be happy, fulfilled, healthy or successful. They are told again and again by advertisements and media that who they are is not good enough. This conditional thinking and living encouraged by those who profit from our insecurities will actually be the rope that binds us to this way of living rather than set us free. When we make a call to action from a place of guilt, shame, lack we are acting because we think we ‘should’ and therefore we will spend our time constantly striving and never arriving at the place we so desperately seek.

This January instead of making a list of resolutions that evoke guilt, shame and resentment and low self-worth, I suggest taking a few weeks to reflect and realign with what you truly want to bring into this coming year. Let’s get the garden ready, clear the soil, get rid of the weeds and dead leaves, chose the seeds you want to grow, nourish, nurture them and tend to them daily and watch as they grow and bloom as the year unfolds. Remember the grass is greener, where you water it. We know when we tend to the garden that the seeds are growing, in the time they should, we don’t keep digging back up the soil to see if the seed is still there. Know that you are changing and growing in your own time too, trust and enjoy the process.

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Here are some journal prompts to reflect and realign on in January, to help clear the garden and decide what flowers to plant. Writing this stuff down can bring huge insights and healing, give yourself the time to write it down.

  • What are your proud moments/ achievements of the past year?
  • What did you learn this year? What lessons learned were necessary for your growth?
  • What lessons were particularly hard? Are they healed/healing/ in need of external support and if so, where can you get it?
  • What are the highlights of the past year?
  • What are you most grateful for this year? (read more on gratitude here)
  • Who was your greatest support this year? Do you need more support going forward? What or who might that look like?
  • What are you leaving behind and not bringing into the next year? What no longer serves you, your growth or your happiness? What do you want to let go of?
  • Write a list of all that things that light you up, that make you deliriously happy, peaceful or content. Think about when you were younger and what you loved to do. Write everything down from the simple to the grand e.g. fresh bed sheets to travelling to faraway countries. Make time and space in your life for these this year.
  • What feeling/ emotional state do you want to feel more of this coming year? Why? Sit with this for a few moments and really feel it in within your whole being. We want things and set goals because we think that once we achieve them, we will be happier, fulfilled. We forget that we can evoke these feelings and emotional states every day by being present and by doing more of the things that light us up. Instead of getting stuck in a cycle of set a goal, be unfulfilled and lacking in an area of our life until/ if/ when we achieve it, we can realign with the emotional state/feeling /value that is at the core of our action.
  • What is your heart and soul calling out for? More….? If you weren’t afraid of anything, what would you love to do/see/feel/ be? If failing wasn’t an option, what would you love to do/see/feel /be? Sit with this one also and see what comes up for you, you may be surprised at what shows up, the most important thing is to listen and trust what you hear.
  • Write down the baby steps you can take over the coming weeks/months/ year. This is a guide and may (most likely will) change as you move through the year. Don’t try to micromanage every step, stay aligned with what your heart and soul is truly calling out for and make small steps towards it.

Each year in our lives is like a snapshot of laughter and pain, growth and release, achievement and defeat. Some years are lighter than others, some we wish we could live again and again while others we can’t wait to say goodbye to. Whatever your past year felt like, know that a new year, with a whole set of chapters is awaiting you and you get to write and direct each one. You don’t need to achieve it all in the first month and you don’t need to spend lots of money to achieve it. You are perfectly worthy and whole as you are. All the answers you seek are within you and the guidance and support of friends, loved ones or professionals can be found. When we reconnect and realign with our heart and soul, the right people will suddenly appear to guide and support us on the next section of our journey.

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I can’t wait to see how we bloom and grow this year!

Mel x

 

What Masks are you Wearing???

In a world of filters and Photoshop it has become glaringly obvious that we don’t want to have to analyse the stories and posts we scroll past to see what is real and what is fake? Calling out, judging and shaming people in the media and our immediate worlds has become the norm for most people whether they do it openly in the comment section or silently in their minds. We are crying out for the truth in every corner of our lives. But mostly we are just living a life in drag, portraying carefully constructed, entertaining characters to the world.

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Rewriting Your Story

Your life story is important and can have profound effects on others when shared to help or inspire. However, often we get fixated on ‘our stories’ or lack thereof. We forget our stories are not who we are but what we have lived through and lived by up to this point. Our stories tell of the lessons, blessings, tragedies and miracles that have happened to date. They teach us, help us to grow and develop on our journey but they should not define us.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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