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HOW (& WHY) TO START A JOURNEY OF SELF CARE IN 2019

HOW (& WHY) TO START A JOURNEY OF SELF CARE IN 2019

What is this mania with “self care”? And what even IS self care??

 

Strangely enough, #selfcare means taking care of yourself!  But what I really mean is truly taking care of yourself with little acts of kindness to YOU. To my mind it is a huge comment on the life we are living that we have to consciously stop & think about engaging in self care: about being kind to ourselves, and giving ourselves a little hug…

That “little hug” can be anything that equates to giving a little special time to yourself. It might be stealing some time in the afternoon to indulge in reading a favourite book, or getting up half an hour earlier to start a practice of mediation in solitude, or treating yourself to a long ramble in the woods once a week. It can be ANYTHING that genuinely feels like a little “me time”. This fact is important: if you don’t actually enjoy reading, then reading a book will NOT constitute me time for you; if the thought of lying in the bath for 20 minutes just makes you feel frustrated and bored then that isn’t self care for you. Choose wisely: select something you will genuinely enjoy, and something which will be a true “switch off”. Time to “park” everything else for a while and simply focus on YOU: on doing something you like whilst not even thinking about anything else…

 

 

In today’s society our day to day lives are such that we are forever being pulled in different directions. We have constant demands on our time, from a work ethic that (largely due to our digital world) often demands 24/7 availability, to children whose clubs and hobbies have become a full time job, to the “MUST DO” habit whereby we MUST fit in exercise/meditation/self development too. It can all seem totally overwhelming, & it can feel nigh on impossible to fit in anything else, but I promise you it is possible to carve out an extra 5 or 10 minutes in your day if you set your mind to it. It is YOUR choice, and it has to be YOUR commitment: if you make that commitment, the benefits to be had are endless…

 

THE BENEFITS OF SELF CARE

Giving a little back to YOU makes you feel less resentful of ‘giving’ to everyone else. If we’re honest, we’ve all been there. That feeling that everyone always wants a piece of us: the kids, your partner, work, neighbours – even the dog! It is impossible to achieve this without some degree of resentment unless we find a way to give a little back to us too.

Breathing space: time to “switch off”. In a society of constant demands – from the “ping” and “woosh” of notifications on our phone, to the endless stream of info for our kids activities – the chance to “switch off” or “unplug” for a while becomes a luxury. It is a NECESSARY luxury: one we need to make time for.

Welcome release from from mind chatter. The idea of “mind chatter” goes back to the Buddhist concept of “monkey mind”. Buddhists observed the never ending restlessness of a monkey and compared this to our own restless minds. Our minds are never still, (it is believed humans have around fifty thousand separate thoughts each day), and when this is added to the stresses of modern day society, we can see how real a NEED we have for this release.

Improved health. Taking time out for ourselves will enhance both physical and mental health. When we are forever “on the run” our bodies and our minds feel the pressure. Both end up “running on empty” and this can lead at best to feeling a little run down, and at worst to burnout.

Lowered stress levels. If we are a little clever about which activities we choose as self care, we can succeed in significantly lowering stress levels (see below).

A chance to be mindful. There is a very good reason why “mindfulness” has become such a buzzword: it is SO very necessary as an antidote to what today’s world throws at us. But how easy is it to be mindful in the midst of our never ending day-to-day? Not at all! Giving yourself a few minutes each day for self care however can double up as an opportunity to be mindful as well.

Feeling better about YOU. Giving yourself a little time, a little kindness, equates to giving value to yourself. If we don’t believe we’re worthy of that, then we are really not respecting “self”: not awarding ourselves enough self worth. Committing to a regular practice of self care gives value to YOU, thus increasing self esteem.

AN EXTRA “PLUS”

An added advantage of elevating self esteem is that feeling better about yourself can be the first step to start to doing other (perhaps more challenging) things to make you feel better still: to make you the best version of you that you can become! So we’re talking the biggies like exercise and nutrition, which are themselves a hugely important aspect of your self care. If you start with simple “me time” activities such as those discussed above, this will get your self esteem back where it belongs. This in turn will do wonders for your ability to tackle the bigger challenges a little further down the line: just think what that might do for your 2019 New Year’s Resolutions, and your ability to stick to them…

 

 

 

 

HOW TO “UP” YOUR SELF CARE TO THE NEXT LEVEL

If you can include some activities that are more specifically related to stress management, then this will enhance ALL of the above even more. Some examples might be:

  • Getting out in nature (scientifically proven to lower stress hormones)
  • Practising “Belly Breathing”
  • Starting a daily practise of Gratitude
  • Starting a daily meditation or mindfulness practise

Once again, ALL the above are pleasant things to do: I’m not asking you to go clean the house, I’m asking you to find the time to do something lovely!

 

I am well aware that for most of us, the most challenging part of this whole article is actually FINDING THE TIME. I get it: I’ve been there. But I PROMISE you that ANYONE can find five minutes extra in their day. It is about prioritising YOU, and that is the very first step in self care. There is a wonderful Zen saying which states:

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy: then you should sit for an hour”

…no more need be said!

 

 

HOW TO PUT ALL THIS INTO ACTION

Your first step has to be believing you are worth it, remembering your own self value, and therefore finding that time. The second step is COMMITMENT: make the decision that 2019 is going to be the year that you give back to YOU – and therefore to everyone around you. Write down your commitment to a self care programme, sign it & place it somewhere you will see it regularly. Tell other people about it: telling others increases accountability. Then jot down a list of activities that you consider to be true self care for YOU.

If you’d like to take it all a step further and to engage in a daily 5 minutes of stress relieving self care, then do grab my FREE download here. This is where the real turnaround happens. The guide will take you through a simple, manageable, step-by-step process to carve out that time and practice self care activities that will truly address your stress levels as well. In the space of just seven days you will start to see the difference, and THAT is the turning point: the point at which you realise that SELF CARE WORKS: that it is oh so very worth putting in that time. And you’re not thinking it because you’ve read my article: you’re BELIEVING it because you’ve tried it yourself, and you’ve seen the results .

 

MOOD FOODS

MOOD FOODS

I am delighted to welcome Lisa Patient as my guest blogger for this week! Lisa works together with my friend and colleague Emily Fawell. Both are registered nutritionists, and you can learn more about their work at Vital Health Nutrition here. I know you will love reading this post about ‘Mood Food’ from the Spring 2017 edition of the #ion_nutrition Optimum Nutrition Magazine. Lisa writes about how different foods affect our mood, and investigates whether swapping comfort foods for healthier choices could make us feel much better in the long run…

 

‘I was feeling low so treated myself to a cake/glass of wine.’ If I had a pound for every time a client has said this, it would amount to a tidy sum. But why do we turn to sugar and alcohol to cheer ourselves up? And are there healthier ‘mood foods’ available? 

 

THE SUGAR HIGH 

Saliva and digestive enzymes rapidly break down sugary foods such as cakes and biscuits so that they quickly enter the blood stream as glucose. But before you’ve even swallowed your first mouthful, the taste of sugar on your tongue has already activated the release of a hormone called dopamine in your brain. 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for feel-good feelings, particularly those associated with reward, which is why that doughnut may indeed make you feel happy. But it’s not the doughnut itself that cheers us up, more the chemical reaction in our brain. 

The bad news, however, is that over-activating the dopamine reward mechanism with too much of any pleasurable substance can begin to desensitise it, so that we need more to get the same response, in the way that addicts require more of a drug to get the same level of high. Studies have found that switching to a ‘normal’ diet after following a high-fat or high-sugar diet can lead to sugar cravings, feelings of anxiety, and low mood.(1) This may be a biological response to the rapid release of insulin, as a result of the surge of glucose in the bloodstream, which is then followed by a crash in blood sugar levels. Taking all this into account, and the fact that it can contribute to us piling on the weight and rotting our teeth, sugar is not a good mood food after all — long-term. 

In the case of alcohol, we might use it to celebrate or cheer ourselves up, but it is described by the NHS as a ‘depressant drug’.(2) Although alcohol may relax us initially, heavy drinking affects levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, leading to anxiety and depression. Like sugar, it also wreaks havoc with blood sugar control; so an alcohol binge results in low blood sugar, which can lower mood. 

 

 

HEALTHY BOOST 

Most anti-depressants work by altering the balance of serotonin in the brain. If we want to eat foods to naturally improve our mood without the side effects of sugar and alcohol then, ideally, we would look for foods that would boost both dopamine and serotonin. 

However, we don’t get serotonin itself from food. For our bodies to produce it, we need to consume sufficient amounts of the amino acid tryptophan. Soya-containing foods such as tofu and miso are particularly high in tryptophan, as are eggs, edible seaweed, spirulina, and most seafood. But to get the maximum benefit, think about combining foods: research has shown that ingesting tryptophan with carbohydrates makes the tryptophan more available to the brain. 

 

TYROSINE

Turkey is definitely not just for Christmas. As well as being a lean form of protein, it contains both tryptophan and a high concentration of the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine increases levels of dopamine in the brain, improving mood, and has also been shown to promote deep thinking, which may be particularly beneficial for the creative among us.(3) Other foods high in tyrosine include most fruits (particularly apricots, cranberries and kiwi), soya beans, chicken, cheese and eggs. 

 

ANTIOXIDANTS

Research has linked depression with inflammation in the brain.(4) This has led to interest in the role of antioxidants in the diet, which help protect cells against damage caused by inflammation. For example, a small number of studies found that the antioxidants in a tart cherry juice provided a protection mechanism for tryptophan, ensuring that a greater quantity of tryptophan from food was available for the brain to use.(5) 

Curcumin, a powerful antioxidant in turmeric, also shows the same ’neuroprotectant‘ mechanism, and there is evidence that it also has mood-lifting properties.(6) Turmeric is used extensively in Indian cooking and is now widely available in its root form. It’s becoming increasingly popular to add fresh turmeric to smoothies, while turmeric powder can be sprinkled into soups, stews and curries — although in Indian cooking rarely more than a pinch is used because of its bitter taste. 

Saffron, a fragrant herb derived from the stamens of the flower Crocus sativus, is traditionally used in paella, biryani or cakes, and has been used for centuries in traditional herbal medicine as an anti- depressant. In fact studies have found that saffron extract can be as effective in raising serotonin levels as the anti-depressants imipramine and fluoxetine.(7) 

 

 

MAGNESIUM

Magnesium is nicknamed the calming nutrient, with some studies showing it to be beneficial if you feel tense and anxious. Other research has suggested that low magnesium can be linked with depression.(8) A systematic review of studies into magnesium and depression concluded that magnesium appeared to be effective in easing depression, but that further studies were needed to properly understand the mechanism. It also suggested that oral magnesium supplementation might prevent depression.(9) So to keep calm, add magnesium-rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, nuts, spinach, beans and wholegrains to your daily diet. 

 

VITAMIN D

It is now widely acknowledged that vitamin D deficiency is commonplace in winter when the sun’s UV light is not strong enough to trigger the synthesis of vitamin D by the skin. Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression. While this could be an association, with depression being due to lack of sunny weather rather than vitamin D itself, there is some evidence to show that supplementing vitamin D does improve mood. (10) 

According to the US Department of Agriculture, trout is one of the best food sources of vitamin D, only pipped to first place by wild salmon. Trout contains a whopping 635IU [international units] of vitamin D in a 100g serving,(11) which is considerably more that the recommended daily allowance of 400IU. Vitamin D is also found in other types of oily fish, eggs and tofu, and in mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light or grown in sunshine. Other food sources include processed foods such as bread and cereals, which have been intentionally fortified with vitamin D. 

If in doubt about your vitamin D status, a blood test will help you decide whether you need to take a supplement or to eat more vitamin D-rich foods. 

 

OMEGA-3

Omega-3 fats are critical for the function of the central nervous system, and a diet that is out of balance by containing more omega-6 foods from meat and vegetable oils and less omega-3 from nuts and oily fish has been linked to depression.(12) 

Walnuts, which have the highest amount of omega-3 compared with other nuts, make a terrific snack, and walnut butter can be added to smoothies or rye toast for a delicious breakfast. Flaxseed oil and oily fish are also great sources of omega-3 fats. 

 

B VITAMINS 

The beautiful pink beans called ‘pinto’ (painted) in Spanish are second only to lentils in richness of the B vitamin folate. Folate is essential for the creation and function of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Broccoli, leafy greens and all other beans and lentils are great sources. 

Women planning pregnancy should supplement this vitamin, as deficiency can lead to problems with the development of the baby’s nervous system. 

Hand in hand with folate is vitamin B12, a B vitamin that, along with vitamin B6, is used to create serotonin. One serving of lamb, sardines, salmon, tuna, cod, or scallops provides your daily allowance of vitamin B12, but a sufficient intake of vitamin B12 can be harder to achieve for vegetarians and vegans. 

So although it might be tempting to reach for fast, comforting food, in the long-term, adding healthy, natural foods to our diet is more likely to keep us feeling good in ourselves and about ourselves. Add that to exercise, which is shown time and again to improve mood, and who needs that doughnut? 

 

  1. Singh M (2014). Mood, food, and obesity. www. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4150387/ 
  2. www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/alcohol-and- health.aspx 
  3. Colzato, L. S., de Haan, A. M., & Hommel, B. (2015). Food for creativity: tyrosine promotes deep thinking. Psychological research, 79(5), 709-714. 
  4. Setiawan, E., Wilson, A. A., Mizrahi, R., Rusjan, P. M., Miler, L., Rajkowska, G., … & Meyer, J. H. (2015). Role of translocator protein density, a marker of neuroinflammation, in the brain during major depressive episodes. JAMA psychiatry, 72(3), 268-275.
  5. Liu, A., Tipton, R., Pan, W., Finley, J., Prudente, A., Karki, N., … & Greenway, F. (2014). Tart cherry juice increases sleep time in older adults with insomnia (830.9). The FASEB Journal, 28(1 Supplement), 830-9.
  6. Tizabi, Y., Hurley, L. L., Qualls, Z., & Akinfiresoye, L. (2014). Relevance of the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin in neurodegenerative diseases and depression. Molecules, 19(12), 20864-20879.
  7. Hausenblas, H. A., Saha, D., Dubyak, P. J., & Anton, S. D. (2013). Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of integrative medicine, 11(6), 377-383.
  8. Eby, G. A., & Eby, K. L. (2006). Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment. Medical hypotheses, 67(2), 362-370.
  9. Derom ML, Sayón-Orea C, Martínez-Ortega JM et al (2013). Magnesium and depression: a systematic review. Nutr Neuro, 16(5), 191-206. 
  10. 10.Lansdowne, A. T., & Provost, S. C. (1998). Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter. Psychopharmacology, 135(4), 319-323.
  11. 11.ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/
  12. 12.Deacon, G., Kettle, C., Hayes, D., Dennis, C., & Tucci, J. (2015). Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the treatment of depression. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, (just-accepted), 00-00.
MY TIPS TO CUT BACK ON CAFFEINE…WHY YOU SHOULD & HOW TO DO IT!

MY TIPS TO CUT BACK ON CAFFEINE…WHY YOU SHOULD & HOW TO DO IT!

This is something my clients talk to me about so regularly…& if I’m honest that’s probably because they know how much I love my coffee!! I so love the smell, the look & the feel of that early morning boost with the froth on top, BUT I do know that it isn’t great for my health, & I know that if I’m not mindful of coffee consumption it can very easily creep up, and actually make me feel pretty wretched. Hence I have become somewhat of an expert on how to cut down!

Some of you may want to cut down your intake, whilst others may want to cut it out altogether. Either way, you all know my belief that KNOWLEDGE IS KEY. If you increase your understanding of what it is that caffeine may be doing to you, you have conscious reasons to try to at least cut down (rather than doing it simply because it’s the “right thing”: human nature is such that this alone rarely works!) I am a huge believer in drinking (or eating) mindfully, so that you become more aware of whether you actually need that coffee/biscuit/chocolate bar…and then believe me, you will be half way there in terms of actually achieving your goals and cutting down.

If you feel you need to make changes to your caffeine habit, you might like to download my FREE Coffee Challenge Guide which will give you some great tips to get started. If however you’re still not quite ready to take the plunge, then do read on for a little further inspiration from my own top reasons to think again…

MY TOP REASONS:

1. The two most basic facts to remember are that caffeine is a stimulant, and it is also addictive. These factors form the basis of just about everything else you’re about to read…

2. Caffeine can cause sleep problems. We all know that drinking caffeine too close to bedtime may stop us from getting off to the land of dreams, but did you know that drinking too much caffeine will also disrupt the general quality of your sleep? Most of us are blissfully unaware of just how large an effect caffeine can have. Did you know that:

“half of the caffeine you take in at 7pm is still in your body at 11pm”

Additionally a recent American study concluded that:

“even caffeine consumed 6 hours before bed reduced total nightly sleep amounts by more than 1 hour”

3. Caffeine can increase anxiety. As caffeine is a stimulant, it can evoke the body’s stress response (a primitive, physiological response to threat, often referred to as being in “fight or flight mode”). This means it may make our body respond as it might to a scary event. This may simply make us feel a little jittery, but for someone predisposed to anxiety the effect may be much worse (heart racing, sweaty palms, ringing in the ears): it may even bring on full blown panic attacks. In short, drinking caffeine regularly & long term will increase rather than decrease stress levels.

 

 

4. Caffeine is addictive. I am a firm believer that anything that is addictive holds hidden dangers for many of us – and also holds a silent message: “time to be mindful”. The point here is to stop and think-before-you-drink. Be aware of whether you really need that caffeine kick. (A great way of persuading yourself to start cutting back is to remember that if you do drink it less often, you will feel that ‘kick’ all the more on the occasions you do!)

5. Caffeine intake can adversely affect the digestive system. As caffeine is acidic, drinking a lot of it may damage the lining of the stomach and intestines. It can also work as a laxative (and some people consciously use it as such, but there are FAR more healthy ways to keep on top of those bowel movements!)

6. Caffeine stimulates the heart muscle. Once again, for those in good health this shouldn’t be a problem, but for others it certainly may be. Regardless of heart health though, it is worth stopping and thinking for a moment: why would ANY of us do something regularly that might become detrimental to our heart…?

7. If your daily coffee hit tends to be from one of the many high street chains that offer endless options for extra froth & flavour, then you are very probably consuming a considerable amount of sugar on top of your caffeine fix…

8. If you are used to drinking takeaway bottled coffee, tea, energy drinks or fizzy drinks then you are probably taking in a large amount of preservatives in addition to the caffeine…

 

  

9. Caffeine can cause headaches . This is an odd one, because for some it can actually help relieve headaches (hence caffeine is found in various painkillers). The answer then is simply to experiment and see whether headaches are a symptom of caffeine intake for you or not.

10. Caffeine prevents calcium absorption. Again, this is of more concern to those that are already predisposed to osteoporosis or joint problems, but it is still worth all of us noting it for our general health. Calcium is key to building and maintaining healthy teeth and bones, regulating muscle function, ensuring effective blood clotting and enzyme activity. It is involved in transmitting messages through the nervous system, and is needed for healthy heart functioning…so all in all, it’s pretty important!

11. Caffeine is a diuretic so can lead to dehydration (especially if we drink it first thing in the morning, when the body is already dehydrated). If you are grabbing a coffee first thing in the morning it is always advisable to drink a glass of water beforehand.

12. Caffeine intake can have a negative impact on dental health. Coffee and tea both stain teeth – and fizzy drinks and energy drinks contain caffeine, are acidic AND contain added sugar…none of these bode well for your next dental appointment!

13. If a trip to the high street coffee shop is a necessary part of your morning (and/or your afternoon) have you ever stopped to consider the effect on your finances? Just take a moment out to think how much you may be spending weekly on this addiction (and how much you could save by putting that money aside…)

14. The sheer amount of plastic cups and bottles that are produced to supply the endless high street coffee vendors is surely contributing to environmental damage. This one is a personal plea from me: if you do continue to grab a caffeine kick in this form, please, please do so with your own, reusable cup...

 

 

SO WHAT IS IT THAT STOPS US FROM SIMPLY GIVING UP? 

One of the most common reasons people are reluctant to give up or cut down on caffeine is the apparent lack of energy we suffer without it. We are simply convinced that we NEED that caffeine kick to get us through the day, but is this a real need, or is it more about habit? In actual fact, the more coffee we drink, the less we will feel its effect. Add to that the many side effects listed above and we can see that caffeine is definitely NOT the best way to get that boost, especially not on a regular basis. A fabulous reason to give up caffeine is to prove to yourself how ‘false’ that supposed boost was. After an initial withdrawal period, you will in fact start to feel more energetic WITHOUT the caffeine, and you’ll also enjoy much greater mental clarity. 

 

A FINAL NOTE…& A FREEBIE!

As a last note I have to remind you that caffeine offers no nutritional value whatsoever, AND it may cause the effects listed above…so what more reason do you need to at least cut down a little? Do be aware that if you decide to start cutting down dramatically, you are likely to suffer withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, irritability, and tension. If this makes you think twice about reducing intake, simply take a moment to stop and take stock: ALL these symptoms are in fact a result of slowly removing toxins from the body – and that has to be a good thing. Drinking plenty of water & getting moving will help to flush out those toxins. If you’re sensing muscular tension try some gentle mobilisation exercises, and get out in nature & try some deep “belly breathing” in fresh air. If headaches are an issue, try rubbing a little peppermint essential oil on your temples to relieve the pain. Do you notice a common theme in these last few lines? All the suggestions I have given for easing the withdrawal symptoms are entirely natural. Just think: cutting down on caffeine can be excellent motivation to move forward to more positive, healthy habits such as these!

 

 

If you are keen to give all this a try but are still feeling hesitant, please do download My Coffee Challenge. It gives you some simple hints and tips to get started on cutting out OR cutting down on caffeine, and will also provide aids to help you to COMMIT: to ensure you really do stick with it to genuinely see results. Go on, why not give it a go!

 

HOW AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE BRINGS MORE OF WHAT YOU DESIRE

HOW AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE BRINGS MORE OF WHAT YOU DESIRE

This week I am thrilled to share a blog post by Amelia Critchlow from her own site SoulSpaceHealers. Amelia has been a guest blogger for me in the past, and I know you’ll all love reading more of her material…

 

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Melodie Beattie 

This post will walk you through becoming aware of your thoughts and how to start focusing on the things you DO like in order to bring more of what you desire into your life.

SO, WHAT IS GRATITUDE?

Gratitude is recognising what you already have and acknowledging and expressing appreciation for it, through thoughts, words, and action.

How often do you think about what you have got versus what you haven’t got? And how often do you think about what you don’t like versus what you do like in your life?

We know that what we focus on we get more of, and what ‘we think about we bring about’. Therefore, watching where our focus goes (because that’s where energy flows), we become aware of our thoughts and what we would like to create more of in our lives. I call it conscious creation.

However, are we really aware of what we are most focused on and therefore drawing to us? All of us are energy hubs vibrating our own personal frequencies. The frequency you vibrate will be drawing to you the experiences you have in your life.

 

GRATITUDE NOW

Ask yourself; what do you love about your life right now? What are the things that are going well and you’re really grateful for? Can you list more than three things?

By thinking about what you do have you move your thinking and feeling from a place of lack and scarcity to one of abundance and fulfilment. By focusing on the things we are grateful for we also create new neural pathways in our mind and shift our energy into a higher vibration – knowing that like energy attracts like energy (we are all essentially magnets!). The best things that come in to our lives come from a higher vibration rather than a lower vibration. If you’re not sure about high or low vibrations, think about when you feel sadness or anger (lower vibration) versus when you feel happy or elated (higher vibration), accidents and negative experiences are more likely to occur in our lives when we are in a lower vibration state or mood.

Start now, today, by bringing your awareness into your life and listing out things you are truly grateful for. If you are struggling then ask yourself, ‘what could I be grateful for?’ (Tony Robbins asks this question in his book Awaken The Giant Within).

 

AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE JOURNAL

Find a journal or notebook you love (always has to be one you love of course!) and make it ‘Your Journal Of Gratitude’ or ‘Attitude of Gratitude’. Make it a practice to write in this journal as often as you can, ideally every day. List out 3 things at the end of the day that you are grateful for – it doesn’t matter if you write the same things down over time, this will just be drawing more of it to you remember 🙂

In the morning when you awake, lie quietly and think in your mind about the things you are grateful for and the things you look forward to that day – you will be sending a message to your mind to look out for good things and you are more likely to experience them.

You can also use social media to acknowledge and express what you are grateful for, demonstrating it on a wider level, whilst at the same time encouraging others to adopt the same positive habit too.

Then, in your journal, begin to note if over time your default focus is moving from lack to gratitude. Notice how more of the good stuff is showing up in your life. It’s important to make note of when you seeing good things showing up.

What you acknowledge in gratitude from today, (present), will begin to form your experiences for tomorrow, by focusing your thoughts on positivity and abundance we begin to draw more of precisely that to us.

**Remember you can always contact us at soul.space.healers to discover how to uncover your deeper sub-conscious beliefs with Theta Healing to see even more abundant changes in your life. Check out our soul sessions here.**

 

Amelia has also just launched the dates for her 1 Day Retreat – not previously run before! This is your chance to meet Amelia in person, learn more about Theta Healing® whilst getting creative and understanding more about how to manifest what you want in your life (and gratitude is a key ingredient!) 

TEEN TOOLS!

TEEN TOOLS!

I had such positive feedback from last week’s blog post that I really felt I needed to do a follow up post to suggest a few more ideas and some further inspiration on how to make these “Teen Tools” really work. So do take a look at the video below (yes, it’s a vlog this week as opposed to a blog!) I will talk you through two of the methods that I believe are the simplest yet most powerful strategies we can give our kids, tweens and teens to move forwards in life with positive mental health…which is surely a gift we would all love to pass on. 

 

TEEN POWER FOR TEEN WELLBEING

TEEN POWER FOR TEEN WELLBEING

We all know that parenting TEENS can be hugely challenging as hormones race, and the beginnings of independence mean that peer pressure takes on a whole new meaning. It was ever thus, and OUR parents surely dreaded this job back in their day too!

As a mum of a soon-to-be-teen in today’s world though, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the endless statistics in the press for mental health issues in this age group, and about our responsibility as parents to be able to recognise these:

“Normal teenagers are often moody due to hormonal and physical changes that happen during puberty. However, when mental illness is involved, it may be difficult to differentiate “normal teenage behaviour” from the symptoms of depression, anxiety and other emotional difficulties”.

If we look at the world we are living in, it is perhaps not surprising that these issues are rearing their heads. As adults we find it hard to manage our tech ridden world in terms of emails and being “wired” 24/7, and we know that when it comes to social media or digital games it is often easy to get “stuck”. Our kids meanwhile have never known a different world: to them, creating “selfies” and videos for Facebook & Instagram, or playing intense and all-consuming games on the PS or Xbox is the norm. But it isn’t normal life: social media equals watching others’ lives as a ‘voyeur’ – and indeed having your own life watched over – both of which can be incredibly dangerous for vulnerable teens who are still developing their own sense of “self”.

 

Meantime whilst we all probably remember it being difficult to switch off from “Space Invaders” or “Mario Kart” in our own days of computer games, if we compare these to the constant bombardment of colours, sights and sounds in today’s gaming graphics there simply is no comparison. If “Space Invaders” on a black and white screen was addictive, then today’s “Fortnite” and “Battlefront” are surely the cocaine of video games…

 

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

I believe the ideal way to solve any problem is to preempt the situation before it becomes an issue: in this case, to promote mental well-being in our kids and teens from day one, just as we would promote physical wellness. Those of you who remember my post from back in September will know that I thoroughly believe our need to somehow balance out the modern world of tech is what has encouraged today’s interest in age old concepts such as meditation and paleo diets (click here to read more). These are concepts we can introduce to our teens as well. It is vital we help them to understand that we all have mental health just as we all have physical health, and we MUST take care of both. If we are open and honest about this from their early years, the results will be twofold. We will at least start to help remove the stigma around mental health for coming generations, AND we will help our teenagers to put in place simple, daily activities which whilst helping to enhance their mental wellness will also actually be enjoyable…

I teach a series of simple strategies for mental well-being in my stress management courses. By gently encouraging some of these practices in our kids (and practising them ourselves so that we lead by example), we will set them up for better well-being, improved self awareness, and a happier future. All it takes is just a few minutes of time and effort to ensure at least some of these tasks become a part of their daily routine…

 

MY TIPS FOR TEEN WELLBEING:

1. Starting a journal can be done in various ways: the simplest option is a to keep “Gratitude Journal”. Encourage your kids – whatever age – to jot down 3 things that have made them happy each day. They may like to do this first thing every morning or last thing at night: the choice is theirs. Help them along a little further by prompting with questions such as “what has made you happy/smile today?” What have you done to make someone else happy today?”

2. Practising belly breathing is a great way to calm anxiety as it actually brings the heart rate down and encourages the whole body to relax. It can be done anywhere, and it only takes just five minutes a day to make a difference. Encourage your kids to do this daily: they can choose the time and place they wish to practice and make it into a little “me time”. Beware: it does take patience and practice for anyone who has never really thought about HOW to breathe – click here for a video with step by step instructions AND an audio guide.

3. Regular exercise has long been recommended for improving mental health, and for helping those “happy hormones” to kick in. During the teen years there can be a tendency for even the most active of kids to become a little “lazy”, so it’s important to gently steer them towards whatever form of physical exercise is likely to be most motivating for them. Remember there is a huge range of possible activities to choose from, from football to hockey, dance to ice skating, archery to martial arts… Try to consider your teen’s general interests first. If they like water try swimming, or maybe rowing or paddle boarding. If they are especially peer aware, encourage some of the more “cool” activities such as street dance or skateboarding. If they can be persuaded to be outdoors in nature as well, then this will provide a further boost…

 

4. Getting out in nature is incredibly powerful for our mental well-being, and once again, is something that many teenagers rarely do. If they hate the idea of “just” going for a walk, then switch things around a little. Suggest walking to the cinema, or take a walk in the woods with the aim of going for a picnic, game of rounders or whatever may entice them. Even if it’s a walk that ends in them sitting with headphones on listening to their fave music then let them be: you may feel that headphones will isolate them once more, but if you can at least connect whilst walking there, why not give them a little “me time” once they’ve arrived – that way everyone gets a little of what they want, (and they will still be out in nature whilst listening!)

5. Connect, connect, connect. If you say these three words to your kids, they will invariably think you are talking about the internet. We need to explain to them that in fact CONNECTION is the exact opposite of what the net offers them, which – more often than not – is ISOLATION. We must find a way to gently encourage chatting and connecting. It is not essential that kids regularly discuss their innermost feelings or their worries at an age where this may feel intrusive, but it is essential that we keep channels of communication open, so that as and when they do feel the need to communicate further the option is there. Chat over dinner, chat in the car, chat before bed – whatever works best for you and your kids. Let them talk about music, films, their mates or (inward groan) their favourite computer games, as long as they TALK. (It is worth noting that if you are aware of a subject that may be causing anxiety, it can often be good to initiate chatting whilst driving so your teen is able to avoid eye contact if it is a subject they find embarrassing…)

6. Practising meditation once daily is scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety. It is a way of quieting the mind, and in today’s age of tech dependency, where our peer-aware teens are surely awaiting the next “ping” or “whoosh” of a reaction on Facebook, or a new level passed on their latest game, their minds are rarely “quiet”. The degree of “buzz” this creates in their heads is surely cause for concern, but I personally believe this is also why meditation has such a powerful effect today. Setting aside just ten minutes a day to allow the mind to become still is the exact antidote we need to balance out this tech overload, and by encouraging our kids and teens to learn to meditate we are truly setting them up for life.

7. Mindfulness and meditation are similar, but not identical. The former is a way of training the mind to be fully aware, fully awake to the present moment: unlike meditation it can in fact be done anytime and all the time. This is surely another powerful tool to counteract the over stimulation that the world (and especially tech) often offers our teens, hence mindfulness courses for teenagers are proving increasingly popular. We can utilise this concept on a daily level too, by encouraging our kids to choose one activity to practice mindfully every day: this is something which will serve them for a lifetime. Whether it’s their morning shower, their walk to school, or eating breakfast, committing to practising one act mindfully at the start of each day is truly relaxing and therapeutic. For more ideas, click here.

 

8. Considered nutrition is so important when it comes to stress and anxiety: many of our Happy Hormones are produced in the gut, and in addition the majority of our immune system is actually located in the gut. It is not difficult to make small nutritional shifts and changes that can start to make a big difference in terms of stress management, but it can be challenging to change habits. For more ideas on what to aim for and what to avoid, click here.

9. Essential oils are a simple yet effective way to boost mental well-being, and they take no effort whatsoever! If your teen is open to the use of a diffuser then try having one in his or her room, otherwise try using them elsewhere in the home to see how they react. Alternatively just a few drops of oil placed on a tissue or cotton wool near a radiator (where the heat will encourage the aroma to be released) will scent the room, or a few drops sprinkled directly on a pillow may help induce relaxation at night. Encourage your child to choose a scent they like, and feel would be most helpful for the result they want to achieve: relaxation / calm / focus / energising. Oils provide a simple, natural remedy (and if they are using them at home they needn’t feel exposed: no one else need know anything about it). Lavender is great for relaxation; frankincense for anxiety; mandarin or rose is calming, peppermint and rosemary encourage focus, and ylang ylang can be good for aggression and for anxiety. To learn more about how to use essential oils click here. (It is also worth noting that if your teen comes to enjoy the use of essential oils, they can then pop a tissue in their pocket for when they are out and about, and drink in the scents and their power whenever they feel the need…again, noone else need know anything about it).

 

We all probably feel it would be wonderful to live in a stress free world, but sadly in Real Life this isn’t about to happen. All of us – and our children – suffer stressful situations to a greater or lesser extent, and there is no shame in this: it is simply part of what life throws at us. The first step then is for us as parents to admit to the stresses in our own lives, rather than presenting ourselves as all-invincible: this is surely the best way to encourage our kids to slowly relax into the knowledge that it’s “okay” to feel stressed. Next, we should encourage them to understand that it’s actually GOOD to admit to stress…and that this will always be the first, essential step towards managing it.

If meantime we can encourage our kids to regularly practice at least some of the above tips, we will be providing them with an invaluable toolbox which will allow them to move forwards in life. They will progress in the knowledge that mental health matters, that it’s “okay” to talk about it, and that just as you take vitamins to help physical health and prevent colds and flu in winter, you can “take” Journaling, Breathing and Connection to help your mental well-being and to build a foundation of positivity, calm and self awareness…which together are more powerful than any pill or tablet the chemist will offer you.

 

 

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