The New Year is here and many of you will be setting your New Year's resolutions soon and probably wondering how you can do so in a mindful way. In mindfulness we are taught to experience life as it happens, in any given moment. But how do we create reachable and flexible targets, that also take care of the mind? In this post I want to explore with you how practicing your intentions will free you from your own pressure AND you'll still see the results you're after.
The first step is to take away the word "goal" from your vocabulary. That word is what we call a 'sticky' word in mindfulness. Most of us set ourselves overly ambitious goals that we struggle to reach and often end in negative consequences. Instead, we want to focus on setting our intentions and creating positive habits, that ultimately lead to working on some of our goals. But what is the difference between intentions and goals? Where goals are usually how you wish to get from point A to point B, an intention is a direction you wish to pursue. When you start shifting your mindset from achieving something to working towards it and understanding the intention behind it; you'll start to feel less weight on your shoulders, less pressure on what you think you need to have in order to be happy, and you'll feel more comfortable with where you're at now.
Now we have set an achievable intention with some small steps to practice towards it. In life we're always learning and practicing, and despite what we're often taught, there's no linear path that we can all follow. So when you're ready to set some resolutions, really think about your intentions behind it and how you're going to break it down, or whether you think it's something you must do in order to be happier.
Mindfulness can be taught at any age, so maybe think about sharing your practice with your wee ones. Proven to improve focus and classroom participation; teach life skills such as compassion and kindness; and help guide them through dealing with difficult emotions, starting mindfulness at an early age can be pivotal to how your kids grow as little people. We all know how difficult adding in new habits to our kids routines can be (hello tantrums!), so let’s explore some fun ways to sprinkle some mindful habits into their days:
Happy practicing 🧘...
Do you often feel drained by the end of the day but still struggle to get a restful night's sleep? Do you often feel like life is a constant struggle and you do not have enough time for activities you enjoy? Then your energy ratio might be unbalanced. In mindfulness when we talk about nurturing and depleting activities, we simply mean activities that give you energy (nurturing) and activities that take your energy (depleting). Now, we can't pretend we live in a paradise land where we only engage in nurturing activities. Unfortunately we all need to partake in depleting activities. But with a little bit of adjustment, we can get the balance right and leave the day feeling fulfilled. So, what are we waiting for?!
Regularly checking in on your energy ratio is a great way to get a better picture of what you spend your time on and brings a lot more awareness to your day-to-day. It will also encourage you to prioritise those wonderful nourishing activities that leave you feeling a boost in energy. Self-care is really important so make sure you find some time for yourself.
If you need some help finding nurturing techniques to practice throughout your day, I'd love to help! Get in touch directly on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more on what I can offer.
If you've ever caught yourself rerunning the same unwanted scenario over and over again in your brain like a stuck record - wishing only that it never happened in the first place - you're not alone. Known as 'sticky' thoughts for their ability to stay put no matter how much you try to move on from them, it sometimes can feel like we spend way too much time in our own heads.
Whether you want to be free of the constraints of your mind or just want to practice more awareness, I want to share with you a simple practice of observation. With a little practice and some compassion, we can free up more space in our heads and break our minds addiction to the story.
This simple meditation technique is a really effective way of practicing your own mental awareness and can help you build more resilience against unwanted distractions. Remember, we are not our thoughts and we do not always need to know their story.
If you'd like to practice a longer, more advanced version of this observation meditation then get in touch with me at email@example.com to arrange 1-2-1 sessions in person or online.
Most adults experience insomnia at some point in their life and, in this day and age of technology and increasing pressures, it can feel impossible to shake. Sleep thrives on a regular routine, so how do we get our routine down so that we can hit the pillow and our brain stops? The secret is in those few hours before bed. I'm going to share my top tips for creating an easy and relaxing wind-down routine that will have you asleep in no time.
Dim the lights
Before the invention of lights and set routines, people used to stay wake when the sun came up and sleep when it was dark. Simple, right? Unfortunately we still have to get up at 6am and get ready for work whether it's sunny or pitch black. But, we can still use light to our advantage. Our brains still react in the same way, so try dimming the lights about 2 hours before bed to start the wind down process.
Turn off the screens
This goes for your technology too. All of our technology uses LED screens and can trick our brain into thinking it's daylight, especially if they emit a blue light. Although many modern devices boast of their 'warm screen filter', we still recommend you switch the devices off at least 2 hours before bed. Whether the warm filter works or not, our phones and TVs are filled with distractions and are designed to engage you.
Cut the caffeine
Coffee is great right? But you really shouldn't have it before bed. Even if your bedtime choice is milder such as a cup of tea, any stimulant isn't good to have before bed. Why not opt for a milky hot choc or a cup of peppermint tea? Both are naturally free of caffeine and relaxing. Some people may be very sensitive to caffeine so you may need to cut the caffeine in the early afternoon to get it out of your system.
Try a relaxing exercise
There's such thing as a relaxing exercise you ask? Of course! Activities such as evening specific yoga or a wind down meditation are a great way to start slowing your central nervous system down. Spending some time on exercises that focus on stretching and working with your breathe will quieten your mind and body quite rapidly. They will also bring your awareness to the present moment and stop your mind wandering off. There are lots of free resources on YouTube and in apps to get you started.
My final tip is to approach your routine in a "non-striving" attitude. It's all good and well planning these relaxing activities into your evening but, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed to complete them or disappointed if you don't, this will impact on their effectiveness. Why not try just one of them for a few weeks and see how it impacts your sleep?
Something I’m often asked by clients in our sessions is “how do I incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life?”. We often have plenty to fit into a day as it is, and the thought of cramming in another task for the to-do list can feel overwhelming. Mindfulness isn’t about committing to an hours meditation everyday, but how we bring intention and presence to each activity. I teach my clients techniques and tools to use throughout their day, so that they’re always being mindful. Whether it’s taking 5 minutes to set your intentions, using breath work to keep us grounded or bringing our concentration to individual tasks - let’s talk about how we can bring more awareness to our daily routine.
1. Set your intentions
There’s a lot to be said about starting your day with intention. As the unconscious part of our mind does a lot of the steering, we can bring a richer experience of fulfilment if we set intentions for our day. Whether our intention is to eat healthier or simply to take our full lunch break, you will already be starting your day off with more focus as you work towards actioning it. Sometimes our intentions can just be to be kind to ourselves when we have a busy day ahead. Remember, intentions are not goals and are there to bring us more clarity, not to be punishable if they’re not achieved.
2. Mindful eating
One of the most pleasurable experiences for us as human beings is eating food and hydrating ourselves. But how many of us gulp our coffee down and scarf our morning toast on a regular basis? One way to bring mindfulness into our day is to practice eating mindfully. Take some time out to enjoy your hot beverage. Feel the warmth in your hands as you hold the cup and how the liquid warms you up as you drink it. Turn your devices off at lunchtime and focus on identifying each flavour as you enjoy mouthfuls of your food. Sometimes it feels like we do not have time to be with our food, and sometimes that may be the case; but when you can find the time, take a moment to awaken your senses as you have your morning porridge.
3. One thing at a time
It’s estimated that 95% of our brain runs on autopilot. Living in a fast-paced world, we’re taught to be successful multi-taskers and the more you do - the better you are! But I’m here to tell you, being the multi-tasking wizard you strive to be, isn’t all it. Like the tabs open on your computer browser, all of this distraction is cluttering your mind and you will not be giving each task the full attention it deserves. So close down all of the tabs on your computer (or the metaphorical ones in your mind) and bring your focus to one task at a time. You’ll find you’ll awaken some creativity, your memory will improve and you’ll feel less overwhelmed. Win win!
4. Pause and reset
Our brains are magnificent machines that keep on running even while we’re asleep. But they need a rest too! Whether you need to bring a refreshed perspective to an old problem or struggling to get yourself into the right mindset - try taking a mindful pause or take 5 minutes to walk away and enjoy a cup of tea. I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro method which is a popular time management technique and widely used to boost productivity. Simply pick a single task, remove all other distractions, set yourself a timer for 25 minutes and work away on that task until your time is up. Once the timer goes off you should take a short break to ‘reset’ your mind. I often use it to break down big tasks and have found it really effective.
5. Exercise awareness
Whether it’s on your lunchtime walk, daily run or your Zumba class in the evening - try bringing your awareness to physical activity. How does your body feel as you take each step? As you lift and place your feet on the ground. Can you notice how each individual muscle contracts and relaxes as you shift your weight around? What smells and sensations can you notice? Try making a mental note of the colours you see on your walk or how your heart rate shifts as you speed up and down. You may even notice you feel more invigorated!
Mindfulness doesn’t need to feel like a chore and should be used to bring you fulfilment. It’s different for each individual and should be made personal to you. Maybe try sitting down and thinking about your typical day to see what little mindful habits you could drop in to your regular activities. If you have any questions or need some guidance, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d be happy to help!
Choice is a powerful act in mindfulness and is the purest form of freedom. Often most of us forget that we have options in nearly all situations we find ourselves in. In this post I want to explore with you how giving yourself back choice, instead of succumbing to the feeling of obligation, is the most fulfilling way to true self-awareness.
I recently stumbled across this old article in Psychologies magazine by Edith Eger, holocaust survivor and author of her book The Choice, on how to be truly free. In this article, Edith explains how it was her choice to set herself free from her painful past that gave her true happiness. It's often our reaction to what we perceive as a negative situation that we struggle to shake off the most. This usually causes us to harbour deep-rooted feelings around that said situation and can lead us to avoid any situation that could cause us to feel that way again. But what if we decided to give ourselves the choice to feel differently or to let go? Or even to be OK in our own uncomfortableness? Just because you feel a certain way about something doesn't mean you do not have the choice to change the way it effects you. Edith tells us that we can experience our lives more fully if we accept that bad things happen and embracing it. That's some great advice.
The choice mindset isn't just about how you chose to feel. It's also about what you decide to take on. How many of us have never said no to a work colleague or a family member in fear of rejection? But we're often left feeling overwhelmed and overstretched. This unhelpful belief that people will think you're unhelpful and unkind when you do not take them up on their request is sticky for a lot of people, and it doesn't factor in your own self preservation. Next time you find yourself in this situation, think about how this will impact your mind and energy, and then make your decision from there. Saying no does not mean you are a bad person and you'd be surprised at how understanding others will be of your decision. They're human too after all!
No matter how difficult a situation is, you always have your choice. Chose to feel your emotions and bring new perspectives to a problem. Chose to say no when you do not want to do something. Chose to do nothing for a day. Chose self-compassion and self-love. I promise you it will be one of the best things you've ever done.
When I was asked to put a proposal together for Brown-Forman's BenRiach distillery I was in fact 'cacking my pants'. This wasn't my first corporate 'gig' but it was my first distillery. How would a traditional trade industry take to my 'hippie thinking'? (ref, direct quote from my father). Proposal sent, session underway.
What I hadn't appreciated until now was the creativity, curiosity and openness that the wonderful employees of BenRiach would have. I was so happy to see that a book regarding the Company's diversity and story on the reception table and on the wall emblazoned was be CURIOUS. What a great start to my session.
The session was created to get to know people as human beings. What was there values, skills, nature. Sometimes when we forget the truth of the situation as we are wrapped up in the reaction/feeling and sometimes we forget who as humans, we are. We are conditioned by society, by people, by our corporate culture. We forget that our reactions as humans to a situation may be very different to our reaction to a situation in work.
There were some surprises, some laughs, some great discussions and not once did we discuss job titles or our roles in the organisation. How refreshing to be discussing ourselves as people. For some this was uncomfortable, how unusual to be speaking about our feelings and our though processes with people that we work with. However, how refreshing that we could start to see these people, that we spend a huge amount of time with, for who they really are and what makes them tick.
We meditated a lot. We looked at how our breathing can counteract the fight or flight response in all situations. This concept of meditation was completely new to most of the group and everyone gave it a go. We finished with a gratitude practice which counteracts our negative bias. By practicing gratitude we start to see the good in things, the good in life, the good in the moment.
I certainly found a lot of good in working with BenRiach. What a great bunch of people, a great story, a great future and in the moments that we spent together - for this I am grateful.
If you would like to know more about the corporate sessions I can run for your business, please get in touch with me directly.
I have recently returned from an amazing weekend in Lochgoilhead. Carrick Castle Estate was the base for a wonderful wellness retreat run by Dynamique fitness and I cannot recommend this weekend highly enough.
I am your typical guilt ridden, frazzled working mum. Whilst my mindfulness teachings and techniques certainly make that bearable, the normal, human worries and stresses do pop in to my mind now and again. I also find myself falling off the wagon with my health and fitness when either Andrew (my husband) isn't around and when the childcare comes first, then the dog care comes second and by the time the house is a disaster zone I've forgotten about that class I signed up to do.
Enter Coach Cha and her wonderful Wellness Weekend. My friend sent this over to me, thought it would be right up my street and she was bang on. Having looked at the schedule I was sold. Although, I also had not sold enough of my time to fund it either. So it was a no. Lucky for me I managed to manifest some good fee paying work and I immediately booked my spot :-)
As you can see from the schedule, there was hiit workouts, yoga, sleep yoga, meditations, hill climbs, running and exploration. All available to you, if you wanted to or not. You had time to chill out in the hot tub, the sauna, or in bed, reading. You chose to partake in anything you wished. I have to admit, it's the most exercise I've ever done!! Feeling great for it though. Cha's hiit workouts don't leave you feeling that it was horrendous like most classes I attend. I was definitely sweaty though. If you wanted you could have a massage by the most lovely girls who work at Hampden Sports Clinic. Just what you need after a tough hill climb which was HARD but a great laugh.
I must mention the food. Cha's husband, brother and sister in law were a superb catering team who provided choice of chicken, fish or vegetarian dishes, well balanced and healthy. For every meal we had selection, delights and great recipes. They have started their own business and you should check them out Fuel Kitchen Scotland.
The most amazing thing about this weekend were the people I met. All normal and inspirational in their own way. We weren't all vegan loving yogis. We were real people, with real jobs, with real trauma and stress, babies, super careers, super athletes, jewellery designers, wives, mothers, cyclists, teachers, calligraphists, wedding planners, supply chain managers, physios, accountants, ski instructors, rugby players, lawyers...and little ol me. It was amazing. The people were amazing. Coach Cha was amazing and I'm now well signed up to her programme as I can fit it into my world.
INSPIRED, reset and renewed. One weekend, one great bunch of people with a cleverly thought out, well balanced programme of fitness and health. I highly recommend. Get in touch with Cha at Dynamique Fitness here for the retreat details for September.
We all seek a reduction of stress, anxiety and negative moments and by reducing these we manage to have a more balanced, somewhat happier life. The pace of modern life has an important impact on our wellbeing and our sedentary life is one of the main cause of the stress we feel regularly. That's where getting out in nature, is one of the simplest and most intuitive activities to improve these increasingly important parameters for happiness and well-being.
We spend too much time in the office, in front of screens with artificial light: all conditions that make us feel tired, off- centre and bored. Interacting with nature in nature is one of the best tools for self-improvement. I mean get out, take a walk, breathe in that clean, fresh air and look up and out to what is in front of you. This interaction with green spaces offers other therapeutic benefits. For example, by appreciating the sounds of nature or the silence outdoors, you can lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol, the stress hormone and acts like it's own little meditation.
Bring nature in to your own life whenever you can. Time spent in nature has in its entirety a great deal of beneficial effects, regardless of the activity in which it takes place: a daily walk in a park or a Saturday afternoon on a local path, is as beneficial to clocking up the miles on a training run.
Go with friends, go alone, put the right clothes on, take your furry friend and get out there in the green. A study in 2014 found that walking in a group in nature is as effective as hiking alone in terms of reducing depression and stress and improving overall mental health. Nature can have a powerful effect on our mental state and there are many ways to draw on it. The best (and only) way to experience the effectiveness of eco-therapy is simply to spend more time outdoors, trying to interact with other living beings.
Among the proven effects on wellness of eco-therapy here are some more from the clever people out there studying such things:
It can be difficult in Scotland to get out there when the weather is bad and the snow is coming straight at you. But as my favourite comedian, Billy Connelly says, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little."