INSTANT MOOD-LIFTERS

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For whatever reason – be it a busy lifestyle, watching the news, running away from uncomfortable thoughts or having unhealthy relationships – we can lose our sense of who we are and what makes us truly feel good. Unfortunately it’s often tragedy or loss that shocks us into getting perspective on what really matters, but you can be proactive and tune in to your inner voice at any time. The best way to tune in and align is by putting yourself first – all good comes from feeding yourself first – once you do this then you can truly be of assistance to your loved ones and the world.

Below I have outlined three easy things to instantly lift your mood. Making an effort to do things that make you feel good will allow you to shift away from fear-based thoughts and patterns, and make it easier for you to realise that joy is your natural right and state of being. Scientific studies have widely proven that moving, smiling, focussed breathing and singing all stimulate endorphins and hormones associated with stress and anxiety reduction, feelings of pleasure, trust and connection. Test them out for yourself!

 

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ACTIONS!

  1.  STAR JUMPS
  2.  SMILING MEDITATION 
  3.  SING ALONG TO YOUR FAVOURITE TUNE

1. Start standing with your legs together and arms at your side:

Jump your legs apart and at the same time clap your hands above your head, then jump your legs back together while bringing your arms back down to your side. Repeat for one minute (or more of course if you fancy!)

WHY? Without movement there would be no life! I always recommend that everyone moves their body daily to the best of their ability, as without daily movement your vitality will diminish. Something as ‘sparky’ as star jumps helps push blood, lymph and oxygen around your body which not only stimulates the production of your feel-good chemistry, but also helps these delights be felt all the more quickly!

2. Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably:

Close your eyes and tune into your breath. Breathe in and out through your nose for one minute while either imagining, or actually tracing, a smile across your face and throughout your body. Visualise the smile beginning behind your eyes, then imagine the smile bringing light, warmth and joy to your whole body.

WHY? This one-minute smile meditation is simple yet quite affecting. How often do we smile for ourselves? This is you dedicating and gifting yourself all those lovely messages given out by a genuine smile. Smile at yourself, to yourself and for yourself. “Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony with yourself.” -Mantak Chia

3. Find your favourite place to listen to music then choose to sit, stand, or lie:

Take a few deep breaths then hit the play button and sing! (dance if the mood takes you!)

WHY? Singing is an extremely powerful tool in shifting energy and mood. Think of singing like an internal massage where musical vibrations are able to move through you and change your physical and emotional landscape. Even sound itself can be incredibly healing; this quote by Dr M Gaynor explains the power of sound beautifully: “If we accept that sound is vibration and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears but through every cell in our bodies. One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes”.

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There are many other incredibly quick and simple ways to help us feel clear, grounded and aligned with our true selves. I hope these three help you out asap! Enjoy 🙂

‘You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection’ – Buddha

 

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HELPING TO HEAL ANXIETY

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I have previously written about stress but today I am dedicating this blog to a more specific kind of stress – anxiety. Whether you suffer from OCD, phobias, an overactive brain, panic attacks or destructive mental chatter I want you to know there are many things you can do to help manage, clear and realign these unhappy behaviours. Self-healing does exist if you want, believe and trust you can feel better AND if you commit to taking positive action. If you take medication please always consult your Doctor before making any changes.

Feeling uncertain is natural but responding with over-stimulated anxiety is not. Below I have outlined 8 tips which if slowly implemented over a month will absolutely help to ease and reframe the situations that bring on anxiety. You can come back to your natural state where you can calmly stop, consider and make a decision you feel confident about. Life is always uncertain but this is no reason to become fearful. Read and implement the following tips and feel better.

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3 QUICK GO-TO TIPS

1. Stop. Take five slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth

2. Expand your vision – make sure you can see what is below, above and either side of your focal point

3. Get out of your head and into your body, become a silent witness to your thoughts as if watching a passerby. No judgement

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10 LONG-TERM TIPS TO COMMIT TO EVERY DAY

If you truly want to dissolve your fear and recover the happy, calm and confident you, commit to following these tips. Get out your diary and schedule in time each day to learn and practise each tip, so that in a month’s time you have them down! 

MOVEMENT

1) Neck and upper-body stretches.

When you are tense in these areas, the brain takes it as an indication that you’re about to go into some kind of battle and floods the body with stress chemicals such as adrenaline. Increasing the blood flow, and thus relaxation around these tissues, helps reset the nervous system back into cruise-control by flooding the body with relaxation chemicals and endorphins.

MOVEMENT: Sitting or standing nice and tall: turn your head from side to side 10x, tip your head from side to side (ear to shoulder, keeping your shoulders still) 10x. A detailed description and images of other key stretches can be found here.

2) Six gentle hip rolls  – lying down

Gently rotating the lower spine helps to free up any tight lower back muscles which may be attempting to hold everything together in an anxious scared fashion. Freeing up the middle and lower back, and around the hips, helps calm the nervous system by massing into the kidneys (our organ that holds fear) and the adrenals (where our stress hormones are produced). Twisting also helps relax and calm digestive system or our “second brain”. Remember the gut has more neurons than the brain, so is often expressing fear, stress and anxiety.  You can stay in the twist for 5-10 slow calm breaths then slowly drag the legs back to centre using your abdominals.

MOVEMENT: Lying on your back, legs bent, feet and legs together: exhale, take the legs over to one side, stay here for 3 rounds of calm breathing, then on an exhale gently drag your legs back to centre using your abs. Repeat to the other side. You want to do around 3 to each side.

3) The Moving Cat Stretch

Flexion, or forward-bending, is very calming on the nervous system – closing off and resting the areas of the body such as the hips, lower back, neck and throat that signal us to be on high alert. The sphinx/last part of the movement  connects you into your centre line helping you feel strong, aligned and clear.

MOVEMENT: On all fours, hands under solders, knees under hips. Curl your spine into an angry cat shape – so you should be looking at your pubic bone and your pubic bone should be looking at you. Keep this shape as you move your butt back to sit on your heels. Keep your hands planted in the same spot. Place your palms and forearms on  the floor parallel to each other, roll your shoulders back and lift your chest – sphinx position. Travel the sphinx forward until your head is in-line with your hands then gently press up lengthening the arms to the beginning position. Get all the details here.

FOOD CHOICES

4) Avoid:

Food and drinks that stimulate or suppress your mood. These may feel good in the moment but long-term they will hinder true anxiety healing:

Sugar, caffeine, gluten grains and alcohol.

5) Fill up on:

Foods and liquids that help to calm and support your nervous system. These food and drink choices will be rich in good quality fats, proteins and B vitamins:

Organic vegetables, fruit, eggs, grass-fed meats, wild fish, small amounts of gluten-free grains (quinoa, rice, millet, buckwheat), coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, lard, ghee, herbal teas, freshly pressed/made vegetable juices and smoothies, water. Here is a basic list of the most nourishing healing foods.

All of the breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes on my site are perfectly suited to supporting this healing.

AWARENESS

6) Five gentle belly breaths

Notice how you are breathing – is it shallow and stifled? Try the following exercises once an hour while you’re sitting at work, on the train, in traffic…wherever suits! Of course you can also do this lying down. Breathing in through the nose and deep into the belly sends a calm message to the brain and body tissues allowing them to shift the chemistry and nervous system into a calm mode. Breathing out through the mouth helps to detox and expel the metabolic waste and negative or fearful emotions you may be swallowing down. Treat breathing like a calm internal massage for all of your tissues – your bones, muscles and organs. Read more here on swapping stress modes. And read more here on breathing.

INSTRUCTIONS: Breathe in through the nose allowing the belly to fill, breathe out through the mouth allowing the belly to soften back towards the spine. On the inhale visualise filling your whole body with fresh, clean air and on the exhale sigh out old stale air and any emotions that are no longer serving you.

7) Practise mindfulness 

Mindfulness is an activity of attention. Normally you sit in a comfortable, quiet place, close your eyes and purposely focus your attention on your breath and on the present moment – accepting all that arises without judgement. This is incredibly calming and invites space and perspective which helps reorganise and reframe any negative or fearful thoughts or behaviours you may be experiencing.

INSTRUCTIONS: Sitting there you want to bring awareness to the now, notice what’s going on – attend your life. Inevitably when left to itself the mind races through all kinds of thoughts, this is totally normal. When you find your mind wandering just return to your breath and to being the “watcher” of those thoughts – attending is more important than what you are paying attention to. Uncomfortable emotions can arise such as fear, anger, resentment, guilt and shame but you can find the courage to watch them take their course instead of being skipped past or buried. Trust that in doing so they will dissolve and be replaced with new patterns that are better aligned with your true self: with continued practice you will quiet the mind and slip into the space between thoughts, the space where you can reclaim your life. Read more here.

8) DAILY AFFIRMATION: 

Try to come up with an affirmation you can repeat to yourself at any moment you may feel your anxiety creeping in – or even make it part of your morning ritual. Have it be something that resonates with you and exudes a sense of calm and inner strength. Below is one from Gabby Bernstein that I particularly like:

‘Today I witness my ego in action. I patiently look upon my false perceptions with loving lenses. I no longer believe in this fear. I am no longer attached to this fear. Though it may seem real in the moment, all I have to do is witness it without judgement to be reminded it is not true” – Gabrielle Bernstein

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ADDITIONAL HELP

Alternative therapies:

  • Emotional Freedom Technique / EFT / Tapping

I cannot promote this therapy enough – you can use it to work on all manner of ailments but I find it is particularly incredible when dealing with anxiety as it is so quick acting.

“EFT, otherwise known as Emotional Freedom Techniques, is a type of Meridian Tapping that combines ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. It utilizes the body’s energy meridian points by stimulating them with your fingertips – literally tapping into your body’s own energy and healing power”

EFT very much aligns with my own belief that you cannot separate the mind and the body. When you are anxious your whole body feels the fear – your chest tightens, eyes widen, and so on. If you don’t acknowledge this fear and instead choose to shove it down and ignore it you will create an energy imbalance in the body that will eventually make its presence known, be it through ill physical or mental health. Tapping helps to restore and balance the body’s energy that has been disrupted by past traumas, negative emotions and physical symptoms.

I was first introduced to tapping about 10 years ago when I was studying for my Pilates exams and becoming anxious about balancing the workload and fearing I was going to fail everything. After two sessions my anxiety and fears had dramatically reduced. Because the technique is so easy to learn I was able to practise the tapping whenever I felt anything creeping back and as a result have not experienced such intense fear around this issue since. If you are interested in clearing anxiety patterns without having to pull apart and psychoanalyse your life then I really encourage you to watch this video and learn more about how it works.

  • Neurological Linguistic Programming (NLP)
  • Cranial Osteopathy
  • Acupuncture
  • Reflexology

Supplements:

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“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.”

Deepak Chopra

GET YOUR SLEEP ON

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This post has been a long time coming, as put simply, I really loved staying up late. Like most of us, I knew about the importance of a “good night’s sleep” but it never stopped my habit of coming alive at night, or my desire to squeeze a few more hours out of the day. After a firm chat with a good friend just over a year ago the verdict was in: I was balanced in all major areas except sleep – where I was majorly out of sync! So, it took a lot of motivation, but I decided to start researching and experimenting with my beloved late night sleep pattern.

For the past year or so I’ve played with the time of night I went to bed, how long I slept for, various rituals pre- and post-bedtime, and took note of the possible effects of various foods, drinks and supplements consumed that day in order to find the most affective approach to sleep. As my inner night-owl had feared, the number one most effective factor has been getting to bed early – i.e. before 11pm, every night. Not only did an early bedtime provide top quality sleep, but on waking I felt well-rested and clear-headed, which was followed by my most productive, energy-filled days. Two other factors which beautifully complement this are early morning meditations and avoiding caffeine post 1pm.

So I’m most happy to report I now LOVE getting to bed early as the way I feel when I do so just feels SO good – I promise you it really does all turn out well in the end!

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THE BACKGROUND INFO

Once again we are inextricably connected to nature:

We have evolved with the rhythms and patterns of day and night – we take our cues of when to wake and when to sleep by the rising and falling of the sun. These built-in self sustained patterns, or circadian rhythms are inextricably linked to our local environment.

In the morning when the light enters our eyes it signals to the brain that it’s time to wake up and to start preparing the body for action. Our brain then makes sure certain hormones and neurochemicals (such as cortisol) are produced so we have the energy, correct temperature and brain function to wake up and go about our days effectively and efficiently.

As the sun begins to drop and night closes in, our eyes register the low light which signals that we swap our wakeful chemistry for our restorative, sleep-inducing mix (such as melatonin). Around 9pm our pineal gland switches on and if the light continues to stay low melatonin leaks into our bloodstream inviting us to slow down and a prepare for sleep.

So why is sleep so important?

  • It is the only time when the brain is cleaned – during sleep spinal fluid is pumped around the brain acting like a dishwasher flushing out waste products
  • It helps us sync with nature’s cycles and biological rhythms
  • It keeps our own healing cycle pulses in check
  • It keeps us producing the correct repair hormones and regenerative chemicals that provide overall  physical, mental and emotional health and well-being
  • It regulates DNA repair
  • It builds healthy muscle and connective tissue
  • It stabilises moods and emotions
  • It helps maintain a healthy weight
  • It balances blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood lipid levels

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THE BEST SLEEP IS ALL ABOUT QUALITY NOT QUANTITY 

The most effective sleep occurs when you are deeply relaxed –  five hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep is far more healthful than 8 hours of wakeful, disturbed sleep.

If you can manage good quality sleep then you really only need 6.5 hours per night. However, if your sleep quality isn’t optimal then between 7 and 8 hours is preferred.

Unless you are convalescing or healing from an operation you should have no more than 8 hours – any more and the effects can be as detrimental as going with only 3 hours.

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HOW TO GET QUALITY SLEEP

  • Make sleep a priority and make a routine of it – get to bed before 11pm and sleep for 6.5 – 8 hours every day. Dave Aspery talks here about the importance of not missing the window between 10:45 and 11pm when you get tired: “… if you miss it, you get a cortisol-driven ‘second wind’ that lets you be productive until 2am, or keeps you awake until then”.
  • Get moving outdoors and soak up the daylight – tips here! Make sure each day you walk around outdoors for at least 30 minutes. Avoid sitting down for long durations whenever you can – a standing work station is ideal.
  • No vigorous exercise after dinner or close to bedtime – this will only excite your system when you’re meant to be winding down. Slow gentle stretches are a better option if you’re wanting to so something before bed.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed – or at the least stop drinking two hours before bed – despite all the old wives tales, alcohol may help you fall to sleep but it absolutely disrupts the quality of your sleep throughout the night.
  • Avoid caffeine after 1pm – drink coffee this way if you do like to have a cuppa
  • Avoid prescription sleeping pills – after long-term use these become even more of a problem in resuming a healthy sleep pattern
  • Let dinner be your biggest meal – eat protein, fats and vegetables. Avoid sugars and grains. Protein helps prepare your body to enter the sleep-cycle; fats help your body manufacture sleep hormones; and vegetables assist hormone production and removal of toxins that can impede sleep. Finish eating at least 2 hours before bed. Dinner ideas here.
  • Finish drinking any liquids 1 hour before bed – make your last drink a warm one
  • Have a bath or shower before bed – this not only helps to “wash the day away” but also raises your core temperature which triggers those sleepy and regenerative chemicals.
  • Stop using your computer, phone or watching TV 1 hour before bed and turn your lights down low – avoid LED lights, screens and bright lights to help tune in with the dark night light that is preparing you for sleep
  • Sleep in darkness – pull your curtains tightly closed, cover any night lights or clock radio screens
  • Sleep in a cool room – better to be too cool than hot in bed if you can!
  • Trouble drifting off? Try these sleep-inducing products before bed – organic grass-fed beef gelatin; coconut oil; fermented cod liver oil; Chamomile tea; MelatoninMagnesium spray

Create a luscious bed-time ritual: bed is a sacred place you want to be! 

  • Talk over your day with a partner/friend or write a journal – acknowledge and release any aspects of your day that upset you. Know you can rest peacefully after this as things will resolve as they should
  • Brew your favourite calming herbal tea while reading a good book/magazine, or listening to your favourite chilled out music
  • Take a bath with epsom/magnesium salts, or your favourite pure essential oils – lavender is a popular calming oil (avoid if you’re pregnant however)
  • Book in a massage or simply massage your own tense spots – rub your feet, massage your shoulders and neck. Here are some good upper back and neck stretches
  • Meditate or practise mindfulness or some calm breathing exercises

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Changing your sleeping patterns may seem daunting or even impossible, but I assure you that with a bit of initial discipline it quickly starts to feel natural, easy, and in fact quite exciting! Getting to bed earlier means rising earlier, allowing you quality time to slowly ease into each day physically, mentally and emotionally. I highly recommend an morning meditation which invites an even clearer, calmer, energised you who is less likely to reach for outside stimulants in excess (caffeine, sugar). I’ve also found that after an early start you feel so virtuous that those green smoothies and juices and exercise classes are all the more welcoming – the addictive healthy cycle has begun!

The better you take care of yourself the more you will be able to help yourself and others around you. After a good sleep you are more in tune with your true self and therefore have the capacity to hold more and receive more.

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STILL STRUGGLING?

If you are still struggling with your sleep after following all of the above tips then I highly recommend finding an EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) practitioner to help release any emotional holding patterns that may be hindering your ability to heal and balance. Other successful natural techniques are acupuncture, reflexology and cranial osteopathy. As always I whole heartedly endorse natural treatments that work with your body to heal the root cause rather than act to plaster over.

Also check out these tips from Bulletproof Exec and Dr. Joseph Mercola

THE END. SLEEP WELL!

KEEP IT SIMPLE THIS YEAR

I love this spoken song from 1999! Clear, simple hitting messages to help keep things in perspective, a reminder to enjoy this life and not take things so seriously.

The track was masterminded by filmmaker Baz Luhrmann after he read columnist Mary Schmich’s article called “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted On The Young”. ‘Voiced by actor Lee Perry and backed by a choral cover of 1991′s “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” by Rozalla, the song pays tribute to the learned wisdom of nostalgia and the innocent vulnerability of youth’. You can read more here if you fancy!

A powerfully simple recipe to keep it simple this year. Listen / watch / read. Enjoy.

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Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99
Wear sunscreen

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they’ve faded but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked
You are not as fat as you imagine

Don’t worry about the future
Or know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday
Do one thing every day that scares you

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours

Floss

Don’t waste your time on jealousy
Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind
The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself
Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults, if you succeed in doing this, tell me how
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements

Stretch

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t
Get plenty of calcium
Be kind to your knees
You’ll miss them when they’re gone

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the ‘Funky Chicken’
On your 75th wedding anniversary
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room
Read the directions even if you don’t follow them
Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good
Be nice to your siblings, they’re your best link to your past
And the people most likely to stick with you in the future

Understand that friends come and go
But a precious few, who should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
For as the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young
Live in New York City once but leave before it makes you hard
Live in northern California once but leave before it makes you soft

Travel

Accept certain inalienable truths
Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you, too, will get old
And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young
Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble
And children respected their elders

Respect your elders

Don’t expect anyone else to support you
Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse
But you never know when either one might run out

Don’t mess too much with your hair
Or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85

Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it
Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past
From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts
And recycling it for more than it’s worth

But trust me on the sunscreen

TUNE YOUR TRAINING: MOVE WITH MOTHER NATURE

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When I am feeling a little lost or out of tune with things I always trust in wise old mother nature to pave the way to better health, happiness, vitality, strength and well-being. She is of course the reigning force which embraces and connects all life cycles – humans, plants, animals, water, the sun, the moon, genetic expression, evolution, and so on. When we are all beautifully tuned and schynchronised everything moves and thrives with the least amount of effort. Unfortunately modern mankind confused sleeping and waking times and made poor non nourishing food choices. The resultant negative brain patterns then wreak havoc on a number of things including our ability to gauge what kind of exercise we should be taking and when. Sadly we have taken it to both extremes with people who train far too hard, fast and frequently, and people who sit all day and still fail to walk the escalators en route home.

It’s time to check in – is your exercise plan in sync with your hormonal cycle, the current season, your energy levels, emotional state, sleep patterns, as well as your eating patterns…? Below I have outlined a few of our main cycles to help get you back into mother natures arms.

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HORMONAL CYCLE which mimics the LUNA/MOON CYCLE

Men and post menopausal women still take note! as you too have hormonal and lunar influenced cycles, they’re just less pronounced.

Week 1: Follicular stage (menstruation has just ended)

Low levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone

Feeling energised

Workout: cardio / try something new

Week 2: Ovulatory phase (most fertile)

Spike in estrogen, testosterone and folicular stimulating hormone

Feeling really energised

Workout: strength training, high intensity/interval training

Week 3: Lutieal Phase (PMS)

Increase in progesteron, estrogen, testosterone in the first half of the week then all drop by the end of the week

Feeling slightly energised in the first half of the week, then decrease by the end of the week (two different feelings in one week)

Exercise: Yoga, Pilates, Gyrotonics – slow, deep, strong elasticated and focussed movements

Week 4: Menstruation

Low testosterone, estrogen and progesterone

Feeling low in energy, contemplative

Exercise: long gentle walks outdoors, gentle yoga, pilates and gyrotonic classes

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SEASONAL CYCLE which mimics our 24HR/ DAY CYCLE 

Season: Spring  

24hr cycle: it’s morning time! time to wake up and plan a new day! 

Spring is a time when energy rises from the earth, plants are growing upward and heat is rising.

During this season we can start to increase our outdoor activities with long spritely walks which may break into short spontaneous runs! Also add in some gentle dynamic movement classes – look up a primal movement class! or attend a flowing dance, Pilates, yoga or Gyrotonic class.

Season: Summer

24hr cycle: it’s the action part of our day! pay attention and get things done!

Summer is  a time for the sun to warm the the earth, for plants to flower and sprout and for energy to explode and uplift.

During this season we can be outdoors as much as possible! A lot of long distance walking and/or running interspersed with a few explosive interval or high intensity/weight training sessions.

Season: Autumn

24hr cycle: it’s time to cool down, slow our pace and contemplate the day

Autumn is a time for energy to return to the earth, to harvest and celebrate.

During this season we slow down a gear. Long, slow, gentle walks, runs, cycle rides outdoors. Iyenga yoga or choose a class that favours a lot of inward attention and focus.

Season: Winter 

24hr cycle: It’s time to rest! sleep and regenerate

Winter is the time for activity to go below ground level, all is a lot quieter and rested up above

During this season we take longer to warm up and we may feel tense from the cold so breath work becomes even more important when beginning your training. Short brisk walks outdoors and slow gentle runs with plenty of warm clothing layers. Choose classes that are paced evenly, are strong and build on intensity.

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All in all this post is an invitation to acknowledge the strong natural forces around you: to be aware of them and of how much they act like mirrors – we all have more influence on each others state of health and well-being than we realise!

PRACTISE MINDFULNESS

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Stop right now…

Be utterly still.

Without judgement,

drop in on yourself.

No right or wrong, good or bad,

just tune in…

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We know innately that everything we ever need can be found within each of us: the resolve to any physical ailment, internal conflict, or emotional upset is within us – if we just tune in we’ll find it. Unfortunately, pretty early on in life we pattern unhelpful behaviours and thoughts, and get pulled into action-packed, fast-paced living where outward reflection is celebrated and encouraged, and intelligent inward-looking is starved and devalued. Sadly this inability to look inward means we tend to never address feelings of stress, anxiety, shame, guilt, fear and sadness until they manifest themselves into pain and illness so that we can no longer ignore them.

Reasons why we struggle to slow down and go inward:

1) It isn’t recognised as valuable. We are taught to cultivate and be aware of only 5 senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. There are many, many more senses that need equal attention. What about proprioception? Our sense of where our arms and legs are in relation to the rest of the body is essential in strengthening our co-ordination and body-brain communication.  What about gut feeling? Our gut has more neurons than our brain and is passing on an incredible amount of useful information – but can we tap into the messages? And how about magnetorection – our natural sense of direction? What’s the point in tuning into this when we can just use Google Maps huh?

2) We are desensitized and numbed by the overwhelming amount of fast-paced stimulus thrust in our every direction. How often do you sit quietly without watching TV, looking at the internet, checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, listening to music, reading a book, talking… when we are always occupied with external stimulus we lose touch with what’s happening inside.

3) We take most of our cues from our brain – an organ that literally runs on programs that were set predominantly in childhood (and often out of fear). Just as we need to update our computer software, so too do we need to reprogram our unhelpful brain patterns. Next time you are stressed just notice what your response is… time for a drink? Food binge? Or perhaps time to yell at your spouse or wreck yourself at the gym, clench your jaw or tighten your shoulders? These repeated responses which attempt to give momentary “relief” by numbing, covering up or ignoring the real issue, only strengthen and loop negative brain pathways. Bringing awareness to these destructive responses helps give you space to identify triggers and program more nourishing behaviours.

4) We give up ownership of our body and problems to medical practitioners and drugs. How about building relationships with practitioners who work ‘with’ the body and help the body realize its healthy direction. Ensure that you are guided, educated and part of the healing process – ask questions, tune into your responses, give feedback… know yourself and own your well-being.

So what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an activity of attention. Normally you sit in a comfortable, quiet place, close your eyes and purposely focus your attention on your breath and on the present moment – accepting all that arises without judgement.

Sitting there you want to bring awareness to the now, notice what’s going on – attend your life. Inevitably when left to itself the mind races through all kinds of thoughts, this is totally normal. When you find your mind wandering just return to your breath and to being the “watcher” of those thoughts – attending is more important than what you are paying attention to. Uncomfortable emotions can arise such as fear, anger, resentment, guilt and shame but you can find the courage to watch them take their course instead of being skipped past or buried. Trust that in doing so they will dissolve and be replaced with new patterns that are better aligned with your true self: with continued practice you will quiet the mind and slip into the space between thoughts, the space where you can reclaim your life.

Mindfulness and cultivating attention helps you to:

  • Savour the pleasures in life – become fully engaged in activities and truly notice what makes you feel good
  • Be in a wiser relationship with yourself –  to better gauge and trust what is going on, rather than to be at the mercy of irrational fears and thoughts.
  • Bring clarity to what is and is not working for you in your life – choices related to relationships, work, health, environment are more aligned with your truth making decisions easier
  • Redirect negative brain patterns and encourage more positive and nourishing behaviours
  • Focus on the here and now – making you less likely to get caught up in worrying about the future or regretting the past, less preoccupied with success and self-esteem and better able to form deep relationships with others.

Of course there are many proven physiological benefits also, such as:

  • lowered blood pressure
  • reduced stress
  • balanced hormones
  • chronic pain reduction
  • improved sleep patterns
  • improved digestion
  • better management of mental imbalances such as OCD, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and addiction

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Tips on practising mindfulness

  • Find a time that works each day that you can commit to. Morning and middle of the day are great, and before bed can also be a good time to wind down if you are a wired type!
  • Start with just 5 minutes and if that passes easily then see if you can make it to 20 minutes each day – this would be ideal!
  • Choose a comfortable quiet place to sit or lie – close your eyes, maintain length in your spine, rest your arms wherever comfy
  • Start by following and watching your breath – don’t change your breath pattern, just watch it
  • When your mind wanders, when thoughts, emotions, sounds or physical feelings occur just acknowledge them and let them pass without getting involved and come back to your breath
  • Practise simply being mindful throughout your day – before you send an angry  email, while speaking in a meeting, before beating yourself up about a mistake you’ve made, whilst feeling pain or sadness… stand back from the thoughts, breathe, give yourself space to simply watch. Then respond authentically in the moment guided by fresh, honest thoughts that only act to serve you well.

When you enter deeply into this moment, you see the nature of reality, and this insight liberates you from suffering and confusion. Peace is already there to some extent: the problem is whether we know how to touch it – Thich Nhat Hanh

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To learn more please watch this great talk by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn. Other great experts on mindfulness are Thich Nhat Hanh, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and Gabrielle Bernstein.