Wellness

Mindfulness in our Digital World!

How and why should we be mindful in today's digital world? Check out the article I recently wrote for the new online woman's magazine @Socialbutterflies in full here;

Mindfulness in our Digital World

It’s 7am your alarm goes off, you fumble for your phone and through squinted, sleepy eyes you check your Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest accounts! Maybe even before you say ‘good morning’ to your partner! Sound familiar?

If ever there was a time we need to get better at switching off it’s now, the age of digital media is amazing but our #fomo (fear of missing out) has become obsessive possibly even affecting relationships with friends, family and colleagues. So what can we do? Do we need to change and let’s be honest – do we really want to? We live in a fast moving society that allows us to have instant access to pretty much anything. That is definitely progress, isn’t it?

Today, life should be so much easier, with just one click we can get all our shopping done (and have it delivered), get news from around the world as it happens, check the weather and do our kids homework without having to trek to a library. So why do we often feel so overwhelmed? After all, we don’t have to brave the supermarket, the shops, the banks, we can even meet friends online. So why do we never have enough time these days? Welcome to the world of the working mum where you run at 100 miles an hour, 100% of the time yet still feel like you haven’t done enough. For digitally savvy mums it is often harder as we are constantly bombarded with people posting pictures of beautiful cakes, elaborate home-made dresses and dolls their little one has had for their birthday, not to mention the sickly sweet family photos of the perfect family and the amazing holiday photos taken by professionals. God forbid you put up an image of your family arguing in the UK on a cold, wet and quite frankly dull campsite (made worse as there is no internet connection!).

Stress levels run high, energy levels are often low, juggling kids, relationships, family and work isn’t easy and quite possibly many of us are running on empty. But our mental & physical well being is vital to keep everything running smoothly. I absolutely love this quote by Anne Lamott: She is so right – our brains need a break too.

My 12-year-old suffers from anxiety and I’ve put this image on her bedroom wall to remind her to ignore Snapchat just for a few minutes every morning. No doubt you’ve heard some friends, colleagues or celebrities rave about the wonders of mindfulness and how it helps them but what exactly is ‘mindfulness’ and what are the benefits for working mums in today’s digital world?

The ancient practice of mindfulness

Mindfulness originated as a spiritual practice involving rhythmical chants, mantras and meditation to transcend emotions and live in a calm present state. Today in the West mindfulness is practiced to reduce stress and improve our health and wellbeing. It is done by focusing on ‘being in the present moment’ as opposed to worrying about our future, or being consumed by our past. Just as Lao Tzu father of Taoism famously said:

 

Mindfulness is a form of meditation, where you bring your full attention to an object such as your breath, a candle, a flower a cup of tea, anything you chose which you can really focus on. It is a fantastic way to find inner peace in your busy life, it calms your frenzied mind allowing you to function better and with more clarity of thought. All sound a bit airy-fairy, a bit too good to be true? I completely understand, when do we have time for more activities in our day? But mindfulness is simply awareness, it doesn’t have to take time as you can be mindful anywhere, anytime without changing your daily routine. Being mindful of your breath is a common form of mindfulness used during meditation and yoga. Try the breath awareness exercises below to help calm any anxiety, initially try for just one minute and see how you feel, maybe build it up to two minutes tomorrow.

Mindful meditation

Where to meditate: anywhere quiet and relaxing (bottom of your bed, if early morning is good so you don’t wake anyone up). What to wear: wear warm and comfortable clothes. How to sit: sit up straight so you are ‘actively’ sitting rather than slumping but use a wall if sitting up unaided is uncomfortable. Soft focus: or close your eyes. How is your body feeling? Take awareness to your sitting bones and then move your awareness up through your spine. How does your back feel? Now move your awareness to the rest of the body. Once you have done a full body scan take awareness to your mind. How settled is your mind? Is it busy, anxious, tired, relaxed? Breath: notice your breath, breathing in and out through the nose. Feel what’s happening within your body as you inhale and exhale. Which parts of your body move, and which parts feel stiff? What is the temperature of the air you inhale, hot or cold? Notice your breath moving in and out of your nostrils. Pick up on the subtleties of the sensation. Be aware of your breath: as you breathe more deeply you will feel calmer and more relaxed. Notice your shoulders dropping in the exhalations. Slow the breath down but don’t force it. Wandering mind: your mind will wander from time to time, try not to get frustrated with yourself but just notice when it happens, smile at yourself and gently bring your attention back towards your breath. Perfect technique: don’t worry that you’re doing it wrong. There is no perfect way of doing it – just do it regularly. Regularity: try and practice each day, even if just for a few minutes and build it up to longer.

Mindful walking

Try this anytime, anywhere (even better if you’re barefoot). Pay attention to the sensation as you walk. Take awareness to your whole foot, feel your heel touch the ground, then the ball of the foot. Notice if you put more weight on the insides or outsides of your feet? Try to feel and engage all your toes. Take note of how the ground feels beneath each foot: is it wet, dry, bumpy, smooth, warm or cold? Notice all the sensations and try not to worry what you are walking on. I did once step on a bee whilst mindfully walking across the Downs! (it certainly made me mindfully aware of the sting!).

Mindful eating

Being mindful of your food is an amazing technique to have, it makes your food taste even better. Try bringing your awareness to the taste in your mouth, the smell, the temperature, the texture and weight of your food and drinks, truly tasting it, and when your mind starts to drift off, don’t get angry with yourself simply return to the awareness of tasting your food. I like to completely focusing on drinking my morning coffee, taking awareness to its scent, warmth, and taste and how it warms my whole body. I try not to focus on the day ahead until after my coffee as then I feel calmer and ready to work, before that I am rather scatty! Challenge yourself to eat without looking at your phone, TV or computer. This is an important rule in our house (there aren’t many rules but we all try to follow this one! - Not easy with teens though!!).

Hopefully these mindfulness techniques will help you connect with yourself and heighten your senses. By learning to become present, letting go of our past and not worrying about our future we start to find a little space between our thoughts, and a little more stillness in our lives. Learning to just be (especially now in our digital world) without constant stimulation from our devices allows us to be more present for ourselves and those around us. This I believe is vitally important not just for our health and wellbeing but also for our children. They need to see life and genuinely experience living their lives and not just through Insta-filters or Snapchat stories!

As always I would love to hear your thoughts. How do you stay mindful in our digital world?

Kindest wishes

Cxx


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Meditation for Busy Parents

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How & more importantly why should we meditate? This is something I am really passionate about & when the online mums magazine "Britmums" approached me to write an article on it for them, I was overjoyed. Read my article in full here; http://www.britmums.com/2016/05/meditation-busy-parents/

As always, I love hearing your thoughts... have a wonderful week.

Much love


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Family Fun Meditation

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With new government guidelines & ridiculous expectations for our infant & junior school children, I feel that meditation is now more important than ever as we are expecting more and more from our little ones.

Meditation is equally important for our tweens and teens too as not only do they face increasing academic pressure but also the pressure of growing up with the constant presence of social media in their lives. (Sophie, my 12 yr old is forever on SnapChat or Instagram!)

Therefore, last weekend, I tried a new form of meditation with Sophie & my younger daughter Alice (6) and her best friend. - Egg Decorating Meditation!

All we used were cooled down boiled eggs, colouring pens, paint, nail varnish & glitter, but I'm sure you could be far more creative than I was!

Egg Decorating Meditation

Start by spending a few moments with your eyes closed & just acknowledge your posture. Be aware of how your body connects to your chair.

Take your awareness to your breath, breathe slowly through your nose & notice your shoulders relaxing. Now open your eyes and look at your egg, take note of its shape, its colour & how it catches the light.

Pick up the egg, notice its weight, how it feels in your hands, its texture & smell.

Look at your pens, nail varnishes and paints, enjoy the variety of shades and colours, are you drawn to one colour?

Pick up that colour & start decorating your egg.

Now the tricky bit, let go of any concerns about making your egg perfect, this meditation is about enjoying the process, think of it as making marks rather than making a piece of art !

I noticed this was far easier for the younger children who got lost in the meditation & enjoyed the process of mark making whereas the 12 year olds and myself found it much harder, we got cross if we went 'wrong'. If this happens to you simply smile at your inner critic (the voice telling you it's no good) and bring your awareness back to decorating your egg.

If your mind wanders, just acknowledge where it goes & gently bring your mind back to your egg and your breath.

When you've finished take time to mindfully enjoy it, close your eyes, come back to your awareness of your body sitting in the chair and an awareness of the flow of your breath.

Notice how you are feeling now and congratulate yourself for doing the meditation.

I hope this gives you some ideas for introducing meditation into family life, have a great Easter.

Much love xx


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10 Simple Things Your Healthy & Happy Friends Do Every Day

How many of these simple things do we really do every day?

1.   Healthy Eating.

Do you often eat nothing all day and binge at night? Do you feel hungry all the time? Do you find losing weight is an uphill battle? Remember healthy eating isn't all about diets, counting calories & eating low fat foods (many of which are laden with sugar!) its about eating a balanced, healthy and appropriate diet for your lifestyle which will naturally incorporates all the major food groups but none to excess. Try to watch your portion sizes & sugar consumption, regularly check out how high the fat content of your food is & pay attention to how much processed & convenience food you are consuming? If we look at healthy eating as a lifelong journey, rather than dieting & freaking out when we have a treat now and then, we will feel more in control of our eating & body weight & ultimately our health.

My attitude to food is generally very healthy but as a busy mum of fairly fussy eaters I do often fall back on the same meals throughout the week. My goal is to vary my childrens food more, not always sticking to what I know they like. (Easier said than done, when you know the probability of having tantrums at the table!!)

2.  Walk

Walking is so simple, good for you and free! I force myself to walk my dog daily, but I certainly wouldn't brave those rainy, cold & windy days for a long walk if I didn't have to! That said when my children were babies, I would walk in any weather just to get out of the house and have some peace!! So borrow a dog, borrow a baby (giving your mummy friend a break), grab a friend or just walk alone but walk, walk, walk!

 3.   Yoga & Meditation

Yoga has been part of my life for so long my body gets grumpy if I don't do any, however I have to ensure I do the postures my body needs not the ones I like! Yoga is (in my opinion) the best form of exercise for the majority of us, it can help an injured body heal, can help heal an overwhelmed mind and soothe your soul, it can also be a damn good workout!! Meditation however takes a lot more will power, I love meditating when life is good but as soon as I'm stressed out or have too much on my mind, I find it very difficult to sit still & meditate- this is of course is the time I need to meditate the most! So I hear your struggle with this one but keep with it, I promise it is worth it :)

4.   Positive Thinking!

Trying to think only of positive thoughts throughout the day is tough isn't it? Especially when we continually have those nagging & negative thoughts popping in & out of our heads!

5.   Love & Accept Your Body!

Perhaps like me, many of you at some stage will have struggled with this one - loving & accepting your body. In theory, this should be easy, if our bodies function as they should and we are in good health, then why are we so hard on ourselves & dislike our bodies so much? The best advice I could give on loving our bodies is to be thankful for them and everything they do for us, as soon as I started to love and accept my body for what it was rather than what I wanted it to be I started to take greater care of it (eating well, drinking lots of water, breathing properly, meditation & exercising etc.) it was only then that I realised how amazing my body actually was, regardless of its shape or size :)

6.   Let Go of Resentment!

Letting go of resentment can take a long time and like many people I found letting go quite a painful journey, however, in the end feeling lighter, happier & not carrying around negative emotions & baggage was definitely worth it!!

7.   Trust Your Heart Over Your Head!

"Sometimes your heart defies everything you know is right. Sometimes it overrules your head and it wins the battle between love & logic. Let it happen, love will always be more important than logic." Anonymous

8.   Have Compassion Towards Yourself!

Be kind, gentle & understanding to yourself especially when your suffering, be mindful and observe life as it is without being judgemental, try not to suppress your thoughts & feelings, let them go.

9.   Listen To Your Body & Trust Yourself!

Slow down, relax & breath deeply allowing your mind to free itself from the constant chitter-chatter of day to day tasks. Close your eyes and take your focus inwards, continue with your slow, deep breaths for at least 5 minutes, now continuing with your slow deep breathes take your mind to the problem what is your gut telling you to do?

10. Focus On How You Feel Rather Than How You Look!

Oh, this is a difficult one isn't t?!

It has taken me many years to be compassionate to myself, listening to my body and trusting my own instincts, yoga & meditation have really helped me come closer to achieving some of the points on the list above.

I am now mindful of this list, my intentions are set to try and focus on one or two daily, why not try this too, so that you can become that Friend who is Healthy & Happy.

Good Luck, I hope this helps!


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Look How Far You've Come!

It is so easy to focus on what we haven't achieved in life, that we often forget all the wonderful things we have done! How often do you celebrate your achievements, however small, rarely I'm guessing?

Do you give yourself a hard time for not doing certain things?

Do you really acknowledge & appreciate how wonderful you are when you have achieved something or done something well?

I am willing to bet you have come a long way (much further than you think) in the last 5 years, but perhaps you spend too much time focussing on what you still haven't achieved.

 

The combination of Yoga & Mindfulness can help you celebrate your growth, focussing on you achievements, however small & appreciating and understanding yourself. Allowing you to praise yourself for all your hard work and the challenges you have overcome to be where you are now.

Why not give it a go, it will make you feel wonderful, thankful & happy.

Here is short mindful self-appreciation practice which allows you to have balance and perspective so that you can see yourself without distortion. 

A short mindful self-appreciation practice: 

  • Closing your eyes and becoming aware of sitting
  • Bringing your awareness to the sensations in the soles of your feet, and then slowly to your bottom on the chair
  • And then becoming aware of the movement of your breath in the body – perhaps at the chest or the belly, feeling the body expand and contract with each in and out breath, allowing attention to rest here with the breath for a moment or two
  • And then, when you’re ready, thinking of one thing you appreciate about yourself, that really deep down, you like about yourself (could be your sense of humour, loyalty, kindness, creativity, courage, friendliness)
  • Now considering….are there any people who helped you develop this quality? (friends, family, teachers, authors of inspiring books)
  • If so, sending them some gratitude and appreciation
  • when we appreciate ourselves, we’re also appreciating all the people who have helped us become who we are today
  • Letting yourself savour feeling good about yourself…letting it soak in for a few moments
  • And then, when you’re ready, opening your eyes and end the practice.

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Anxiety & Panic Attacks

The recent Mental Health Awareness Week #MHAW17 really encouraged people to share information & talk about mental health issues whilst raising public awareness & break existing taboo's. So I thought I would blog about my experiences raising a son with severe anxiety and panic attacks.

Worryingly, The World Health Organisation estimates that one in four of us will experience some form of anxiety during our lifetime! I'm sure we all have close family or friends who are suffering right now, often in silence....so let's be there for them by listening, taking their fears seriously & letting them know they are special, loved & important.

 

Although it is normal & indeed natural to feel anxious from time to time, if you regularly experience these symptoms start addressing your lifestyle before the anxiety really starts to dissabilitate you. Chest pains, dizzyness, feeling faint, breathing becoming laboured, breathing becoming faster and shallower for no reason, faster heartbeat, sweating, sheer panic for no apparent reason and unable to focus or concentrate are all symptoms of anxiety.

Over the past 20 years, I've worked with clients suffering with anxiety, eating disorders & other mental health issues, indeed my son has suffered with terrible panic attacks since the age of 7 (he's now 14). Yoga & breathing exercises have been a great tool & have really helped.

But do you know how to breath correctly? This may seem a ridiculous question, but most of us need to re-educate our bodies to breath correctly, especially if you are or have suffered from anxiety, panic attacks or any other mental health issues.

Acknowledging when you feel anxious & using breathing techniques as a tool to prevent the anxiety developing is the first step in taking control over your fear & anxiety.

On a very personal note, seeing my son suffer with dissabilitating panic attacks was incredibly upsetting, luckily his school was very supportive & so were his friends. When attacks did happen, he would sit on my lap in the rocking chair and we would just sit in silence, breath & rock often for over an hour! (even at 12, he was much bigger than me!)

If your child is suffering from anxiety there are fun techniques to help them learn to control their breathing & ultimately their anxiety. With my daughters, I regularly do mindful colouring & have recently tried egg decorating meditation with them, even though they don't suffer like Ben did, I believe it is so important to have the toolkit ready, just incase they ever need it. Here is a link to mindful colouring for kids. http://www.yogimums.co.uk/family-fun-meditation/ ‎ 

During times of stress, we tend to take shallow breaths from our chest, often resulting in hyperventilation, it's paramount that we re-educate ourselves to breath correctly. Yoga places a great emphasis on breathing correctly & controlling our breathe so we don't hyperventilate.

Hyperventilation or over-breathing occurs when our breath is too shallow and quick and as a result we breath out carbon dioxide quicker than our body can produce it (therefore taking onboard too much oxygen). Another problem with hyperventilating is it actually makes us feel like we need more oxygen, so we start to breath faster and shallower which is the worst thing to do!

As yoga and breath have a direct link with your mind and emotions it can empower you when you are feeling nervous or upset, therefore when you feel your breath is becoming more shallow and laboured, you can use techniques to ensure a full panic attack will not occur. It is therefore vital to ensure you have the right techniques to deal with anxiety before it flares its ugly head.

Breathing from your belly (Belly Breath) is a great technique to use, click on this link for details. http://www.anxietycoach.com/breathingexercise.html

Read my newsletter for regular breathing tips and suggestions to help you ground yourself and take back control of your anxiety or follow my Facebook page for regular updates. http://www.facebook.com/theyogimums

Good Luck & keep up the deep breathing :)


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10 Simple Things Your Healthy & Happy Friends Do Every Day

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1.   Healthy Eating.

2.   Walk (a dog, a buggy, a friend or alone).

3.   Yoga & Meditation

4.   Positive Thinking!

5.   Love & Accepting Your Body!

6.   Let Go of Resentment!

7.   Trust Your Heart Over Your Head!

8.   Have Compassion Towards Yourself!

9.   Listen To Your Body & Trust Yourself!

10. Focus On How You Feel Rather Than How    You Look!

How many of these simple things do we really do every day?

I force myself to eat healthily and walk my dog daily (but I certainly wouldn't brave those rainy, cold & windy days for a long walk if I didn't have to!)

I love the third point (obviously!!) but the other points aren't quite as simple as they look!

Trying to think only of positive thoughts throughout the day is tough when negative thoughts continually pop in & out of my head! But perhaps for many of you, like me, number 5 is one of the hardest of all, loving & accepting our physical body!! In theory, this should be easy, if our bodies function as they should and we are generally in good health, then why are we always so hard on ourselves & dislike our bodies so much? I found once I started to love and accept my body I started to take greater care of it; eating well & drinking lots of water, breathing properly & exercising, it was only then that I realised how amazing my body actually is, regardless of its shape or size :)

I found letting go of resentment took a long time and was quite a painful journey, however, in the end feeling lighter, happier & not carrying around negative emotions & baggage was definitely worth it!!

It has taken me many years to be compassionate to myself, listening to my body and trusting my own instincts, yoga & meditation have really helped me come closer to achieving some of the points on the list above.

I am now mindful of this list, my intentions are to try and focus on one or more a day, why not try this too, so that you can become that Friend who is Healthy & Happy :) xx