Living yoga and travel in the gorgeous Evia Greece

Sometimes when I’m away from home in the middle of nowhere and haven’t stepped on my yoga mat for a while, a thought pops into my head that “I need to get back to my yoga practice”. Then I smile and laugh because I am more in my yoga practice than ever in these moments! It doesn’t matter if there are no yoga poses, complicated breathwork practice or meditation cushion involved. For me yoga and travel naturally go together.

Being in tune with the seasons and cycles of nature and my body and connecting deeply with loved ones feels just as “yogic” as the formal practice. Actually it’s kind of a short cut to that relaxed, blissed out state. That’s not to say that the traditional elements of the yoga path aren’t important. They help us to stay grounded and connected to our spirit in the middle of otherwise chaotic lives. But neither do we have to limit ourselves to one strict path.

Even the yoga sutras offer many suggestions and leave it open to us to find out own path to enlightenment. For me nature plays a big role in my spiritual health. yoga and travel, spending time in nature is when I feel most grounded and connected to my true self. I try to travel as much as I can to experience the healing powers of nature!

Incredible nature in Evia Greece

This weekend we visited one of my favourite places in the whole of Greece. The island of Evia which is just to the East of the mainland and connected by a bridge. It’s a stunning place with huge mountains, forests and gorgeous turquoise waters. Compared with other Greek islands, it has a less touristic and a much more local feel. Whenever I arrive there I take a big releasing exhale and feel my body, mind and spirit relax.

The beach at Limnionas is a combination of dark sand and pebbles with mountains and trees to provide much needed shade. Actually it is known for it’s burning sand which is impossible to step on in the middle of the day! The sea is perfect for swimming and gazing out at the seemingly endless horizon. I love just floating in the water letting my whole body relax and release tension. The sea has this magical capacity to cleanse and purify my whole being…

The area around the beach is calm and quiet with just a few cafes and taverns where you can find amazing local food. On the first evening we ate in Μανταλενας Ταβέρνα (Madalenas Taverna) which is a lovely outside terrace right at the beach. We tried all the locally grown salads and home cooked Greek specialities. Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, after the meal they brought us the juiciest, sweetest watermelon I’ve ever tasted!

The second night we drove up into the nearby village Μύλοι (Mili) to eat at a tavern recommended to us, Η Μαρδίτσα (E Marthitsa). The food was fantastic again and we even got a tour of the vegetable plot with heirloom tomatoes which had been in the family since the Ottoman Empire over 100 years ago. As we left the tavern, we saw a beautiful wild deer watching us from the trees. There was a moment of stillness were we watched each other before he galloped away into the forest. Such a magical moment!

At night we sat and enjoyed a beer on the terrace at the Lithoktiston Guest House where we stayed. It was still quite quiet as it’s early in the summer season but it was perfect. So peaceful with views across the whole bay and the mountains and the owners were so sweet. The temperature actually dropped quite a lot at night so we could sleep well without air conditioning. It definitely made a nice change for me as someone who will never get used to Greek summer weather…

Yoga and travel in Evia Greece

Usually when I go to Evia I fit in at least one yoga flow on the beach during the sunrise or the sunset. This time I felt like my body was asking for a complete rest. Instead I took some gentle walks on the beach and enjoyed lots of time reading and resting. Less formal practice but plenty of conscious deep breathing and a continuous mindfulness practice For me this is part of yoga, living in tune with the inner and outer seasons and becoming fully immersed in the present moment.

Saying that, I would love to organise a yoga and travel weekend in Limnionas as it really has the perfect atmosphere to drop in and go deep with the practice. If you would be interested in something like that, do let me know! There is something special and healing about this place and I’d love to share it with you. I hope you enjoyed this short insight into my yoga and travel adventures in Greece. For now, namaste.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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restorative yoga baddha konasana

How to reduce overwhelm and fatigue with restorative yoga

This weekend I have really been feeling the dark moon energy. I know many of my female friends have been too. Last night I taught a restorative yoga for the dark moon phase class. I practiced the sequence myself as I was planning the lesson and it was exactly what I needed to ground myself and restore my energy.

Dark moon phase and menstruation

The dark moon phase is the few days either side of the new moon. This moonless sky was on Monday here in Athens. This lunar phase brings with it a more gentle, slow paced and inward facing energy. We often feel more tired, less motivated to work and play and need time to rest and reflect. Just as the moon disappears from the sky, we also want to retreat away from our responsibilities and obligations.

When we align this with our menstrual cycles, the dark moon phase represents menstruation. This is the time when we feel our lowest energy levels. Some women experience cramping and pain as the uterus works hard to shed it’s lining. We often feel more tired and overwhelmed than usual. We might feel like we need a break from work and social activities.

It’s fascinating to me how many women seem to be bleeding with the new moon this lunar cycle. I started my period on Friday and so my menstrual phase spanned the dark moon phase this cycle. I also have friends in Greece, the UK and Germany who have told me that they were bleeding this weekend. Some of them told me they were experiencing more pain and exhaustion than usual. Collectively there seems to be a craving for rest and healing.

Cycle syncing in the dark moon phase

As much as I try to listen to my body and live in sync with my cycle, it can be difficult at times! In Athens right now it’s over 30°C. It’s quite challenge to reconcile that need for cool and calm energy with the fiery hot summer energy that we have right now. I want to do all of the things and sometimes my body just say no…

This weekend I had plans to go and visit an island with some friends. Even though I was bleeding I wanted to make the most of the trip. We went to the beach, ate great seafood and travelled all over the island. We saw endless pistachio groves and a beautiful temple. It was such a lovely weekend but of course when I came home I was exhausted as I hadn’t been able to take the rest I really needed. I experienced cramps into the 3rd and 4th day of my cycle which is unusual for me. Plus I still feel tired a couple of days later.

At first I started to blame myself for not taking more care when “I know better”. But really, there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to living in sync with your menstrual cycle. Sometimes it is just bad timing and there is nothing you can do about it. As much as you would like to hit pause on the world for a few days and continue were you left off, the world keeps on turning. We just have to do our best to take rest where we can and show ourselves some compassion.

Some ways we can nurture ourselves when we are busy during menstruation include:

  • Making time for a daily nap or yoga nidra practice
  • Spending at least an hour alone to reflect and dream
  • A short meditation or breathwork practice to connect with the pelvic space
  • Going to bed early or lying in if possible
  • Switching off electronics and all notifications for a while
  • Taking time to write in a journal or doodle
  • A daily restorative yoga practice

Yoga for the dark moon

One of my favourites is of course restorative yoga. I have incorporated this into my health regime over the last 3 years or so and it has done wonders for my wellbeing. Restorative yoga aligns well with the dark moon energy as it is a very slow, soft practice. We use lots of pillows and props to support the body and hold postures for 5-20 minutes at a time. The practice is designed to restore energy and stimulate healing within the body mind. It really is a transformative practice!

On Tuesday evenings I teach Yoga for Women’s Health at the Mala Centre in Holargos, Athens. With all of these energies in the air, I decided to offer a slightly different style class last night in honour of the dark moon phase. Some yoga practices can be very intense, building heat and strength in the body. It particular, vinyasa and ashtanga styles of yoga can be very dynamic and need a lot of stamina.

These practices are great for creating a strong and healthy physical body and focus and discipline in the mind. But it’s important to also balance this kind of yoga with a slower, cooling and calming practice. This is especially important for women as we cycle through our own monthly ebb and flow of energy. I love how the yoga practice has so much to offer us and can meet us where we are right now.

Healing new moon yoga sequence

With this in mind, we practiced a kneeling version of lunar salutes or moon salutations instead of the usual sun salutations in a hatha yoga practice. This sequence has a lovely grounding energy to it and includes lots of lunges to open the hips and side bends to create space in the side body. I also included more restorative yoga postures than usual using pillows as props.

As usual, we practiced some postures and breathwork to support healthy menstrual flow and to ease pain in the pelvis and lower back. This includes Badda Konasana (cobblers’ pose), Upavistha Konasana (wide legged seated forward fold) and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (supported bridge pose). The class ended with a short yoga nidra practice to support deep rest, healing and restoration of that yin, lunar, feminine energy that we are craving right now.

The students left the class with a healthy, happy glow. It’s a good job the class was in the evening as we were all ready for bed afterwards! I plan to teach a similar restorative yoga class for the dark moon next cycle too as it’s such a beautiful practice.

If you live in Athens and want to join me for yoga in Holargos or Filothei, you can check the schedule and book your space HERE.

Until next time, Namaste…

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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low cortisol causes

Low cortisol causes and how to feel better

High cortisol gets all the limelight because of its reputation as a stress hormone. But when our cortisol levels fall too low or when they are low at the wrong times of day (i.e. in the morning when we need it to wake up) then it can be just as debilitating. Low cortisol causes us to feel tired, weak and unmotivated.

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Blood sugar irregularity
  • Low mood and irritability
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Often sick

Basically we can feel in a zombie state because our body needs a certain amount of cortisol to get up and go.

Low cortisol causes

How can we end up with low cortisol? It can happen due to organic problems with organs such as the adrenal glands which produce cortisol or the pituitary gland which sends the signal to stimulate cortisol production. In this case there are dectectable inflammation or damage to the tissues which can be measured with medical tests. Low cortisol causes can also be functional conditions where there is no visible problem with the tissue but it is not functioning as it should be.

There are several causes of low cortisol including:

  • Addison’s disease (adrenal)
  • Congenital hyperplasia (adrenal)
  • Pituitary gland failure e.g. brain injury or tumour
  • Chronic stress

The first three low cortisol causes are conditions you need to work with a medical professional. Today I will focus on the final one – stress. Low cortisol can occur after a long period of stress (high cortisol) when we reach what is commonly known as the burnout state.

low cortisol causes

In this case, cortisol levels will be unlikely to fall to levels that your doctor would consider a “medical emergency” but still low enough to affect the way you feel and function in your life.

The mechanism of low cortisol in the burnout state is not fully understood even within functional medicine. One theory is that either the adrenal glands which produce cortisol and other hormones can’t keep up and eventually fail to produce enough. This is known as adrenal fatigue in the alternative health world.

The other theory is that you continue to produce cortisol but after a while our cells become resistant to its effects. You might be left with that “tired but wired” feeling or feel like every minor stressor sends you into a meltdown. Without adequate cortisol to give us that warrior mentality we become much less resilient and more sensitive to stress.

What to do if you have low cortisol

Whatever the cause of low cortisol, it’s not a fun state to be in! If you think you might have low cortisol, you can consider a saliva based test. Forth offer these as postal tests for any of you living in the UK, I like the phrase “test don’t guess” and it can be helpful to have a baseline measurement before implementing any changes. That way you can more easily see what is working and what isn’t.

However there are some helpful lifestyle changes you can make to help raise cortisol naturally. These are generally low risk so you can try them even if you aren’t sure if you have low cortisol. The most important thing to do if you are experiencing low cortisol (besides speaking to your doctor) is to reduce your stress levels as much as possible. You can also support your body with good nutrition and nourishing practices such as restorative yoga and yoga nidra.

For nutrition I recommend the same protocol as for high cortisol to restore the nutrients lost through stress – check out this post for more info. Eating regularly to support blood sugar balance is also especially important when dealing with low cortisol. By this I mean balanced meals and snacks every 3 hours, making sure to combine carbs with fat or protein (or both) every time you eat. Making sure to incorporate adequate electrolytes too and by that I mean don’t be afraid to salt your food!

Some other lifestyle tips for boosting low cortisol:

  • Dance or zumba to raise energy levels and cortisol
  • Get enough sunlight especially in the morning hours
  • Relaxation and gentle yoga before bed to improve sleep
  • Breathwork practices focusing on the inhale to boost energy

Supplements for low cortisol causes

My favourite 2 supplements for adrenal health are Ashwaganda and Shilajit. Ashwaganda or Indian ginseng is an adapagenic herb which is used in Ayurveda to support the body during times of stress. It may help to reduce anxiety, improve sleep and balance cortisol levels. Shilajit is an amazing natural supplement for remineralising after periods of stress. It contains the full spectrum of natural elements plus fulvic acid which supports delivery of nutrients to the cell.

I really don’t recommend taking a lot of supplements as it can overburden the liver. It’s much better to take one or 2 high quality supplements targeted to your needs. I found a great supplement from a UK company called Nature Provides which includes both Ashwanganda and Shilajit and it’s now my go to. The recommended serving is 2 capsules but 1 gives 500mg of Shilajit which is already enough and means this bottle lasts 3 months.

Another great supplement for low blood pressure related to low cortisol is licorice. This can be taken as licorice tea or in tablet form if you don’t like the taste. These could be very useful for any of you dealing with stress, adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue but make sure to do your research and check with your doctor before adding any new supplements into your routine. Especially licorice it’s important to make sure you don’t have high blood pressure already before taking this supplement.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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What I did to stop feeling tired and dizzy

I dealt with chronic insomnia and fatigue for several years in my mid-twenties. Just when I should have been at my peak health I felt like everything started to fall apart. I would struggle to sleep through the night (sometimes not at all – eek!). Then I would spend the day in a haze of brain fog and physical exhaustion feeling tired and dizzy. Thankfully I discovered a healing lifestyle and I am now fully recovered!

Healing is never linear and I still feel like my body is still sensitive at times. But overall, I am very happy with my health right now and how dramatically I have been able to increase my energy over the last three years. I no longer am feeling tired and dizzy on a daily basis. I rarely experience sleep issues and I have the energy to follow my passions, work, move my body and have an active social life too.

How a low metabolism can leave you feeling tired and dizzy

Now you’re probably wondering what I did to get here and I have to say it was quite a journey. There wasn’t one simple change that fixed everything but rather a complete lifestyle overhaul. But the element at the centre of all of the changes I made was focusing on energy and metabolic health. Most importantly, I learned that feeling tired and dizzy can be a result of a low metabolic rate.

Like many women who grew up in the 90s, I spent my teenage years dieting and working out trying to stay skinny. On top of that, I was a high achiever. I threw myself wholeheartedly at getting top marks at school and university. The combination of coffee fueled library and gym sessions followed by late nights of with friends drinking eventually led to my body to crash and burn big time.

Even after I left university and settled into a calmer work life, my health didn’t improve. I was still feeling tired and dizzy on a regular basis, although I continued to act like everything was normal. During this time I switched to a high carb vegan diet. I thought that it would help me to heal my body but actually the opposite occurred. Without realising, I continued to spiral down into a metabolic hole.

Eventually I discovered the basic fact: our bodies need A LOT of energy and nutrients to function and thrive. The attitude of deprivation that is so prevalent amongst women (i.e. the idea that we should constantly be fighting our natural appetites and cravings) coupled with the “do it all” mentality is exactly what is causing us to feel fatigued, irritable and miserable. We are asking too much of our bodies and not giving enough in return!

How I stopped feeling tired and dizzy: phase 1

Once I discovered that my body was seriously in need of support, I took the first steps towards restoring my energy balance by:

  1. Eating more and good quality food (I was still mostly vegan at this time)
  2. Quitting intense exercise
  3. Daily walks outside and gentle yoga
  4. Implementing a supportive morning routine
  5. Practicing yoga nidra or guided mediation daily
  6. Taking a break from caffeine
  7. Releasing emotional stress through journaling and TRE
  8. Tracking and syncing with my menstrual cycle

These steps worked synergistically to increase my energy input (through food and constructive rest) and decrease my energy output (from physical, emotional and mental stresses). This really helped take some of the load off my body. It got me to a point where I was more stable with my energy levels and moods. I stopped feeling tired and dizzy so often and having a total meltdown every month before my period. Best of all, I was able to get enough sleep to make it through the day.

However, I knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be long term. Firstly I had a vision for my health which included being active on a regular basis and spending quality time with friends. I love hiking, dancing and of course yoga. But at this time I was quite limited as to what I could do and without feeling wiped out afterwards. I never stopped these things throughout my healing journey but I wanted to fully enjoy them without feeling limited by my energy levels.

I also felt like my health issues were showing in my physical appearance too and I really hoped that healing would improve this. My skin was dry and I often got minor acne breakouts. My hair had become noticeably thinner and broke more easily. I would get upset when I looked in the mirror because I saw the the fatigue was aging me rapidly, especially around my eyes. Call me vain but I didn’t like it – the eyes are the window to the soul and I felt like mine looked dead!

How I stopped feeling tired and dizzy: phase 2

So once we moved to Greece in October 2020, I decided to take my healing journey to the next step. By this time I had discovered Morley Robbins and the Root Cause Protocol as well as the work of Ray Peat and Broda Barnes on the importance of optimal thyroid function and good metabolic health. They were all speaking about minimising the stress load on the body as well as increasing mineral availability through diet which really made sense to me.

I started to implement some of the supportive practices that were recommended, particularly:

  1. Reintroducing high quality organic dairy
  2. Drinking daily adrenal cocktails (orange juice with salt and potassium)
  3. Adding back coffee but in a supportive way
  4. Eating liver and seafood on a weekly/monthly basis
  5. Reducing refined vegetable oils and processed food
  6. Eliminating all unnecessary supplements
  7. Adding in magnesium supplements (transdermal then oral form)
  8. Focusing on specific breathwork practice to increase CO2

It’s important for me to say here that I wasn’t obsessive about these things. I knew that being too strict would only lead to further stresses so I did my best each day and focused my attention on enjoying life. During the never ending lockdowns I threw myself into hobbies including gardening, learning to play guitar and sewing projects as well as my work supporting women through teaching yoga and nutrition and wellness coaching.

It has been a gradual, continual improvement over the last year and a half. I would say that it was after about 6 months of implementing these things that I really started to feel like my body had healed. Eventually I stopped waking up in the night completely and now get 7-9 hours of sleep per night (unless life gets in the way). Rarely am I feeling tired and dizzy as I was before.

I feel passionate about my work and hobbies plus have energy left over for my friends and family. Finally life looks bright again and I am excited for the future!

Over to you…

If you have any questions or if you would like to work with me to overcome fatigue and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach and we work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs. You can read more about my training and qualifications here.

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Signs of spiritual awakening and personal growth

We have finally reached the final post of the Women’s Wellness Challenge 2022! So far we have covered nourishment of the layers of your being, connection to yourself, others and the world around you and cultivating compassion and wisdom. Today’s final post in the series is about signs of spiritual awakening, personal growth and self-actualisation.

What is self-actualisation?

Self-actualisation is defined as reaching your full potential as a human. I understand it to mean realising your purpose in life and then walking that path with confidence and humility. Once we have taken care of ourselves via all of the other steps I have shared in this challenge, we will feel nourished, energised, connected, compassionate and wise – ready to be of service to the world and reach our full potential.

One of the signs of spiritual awakening is realising our true self, connection with the divine and reaching our full potential. Self actualisation is at the very top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is the final stage of development we can reach after we have satisfied our needs to:

  1. Physical wellbeing i.e. food, water, sleep and warmth
  2. Feel safe and secure
  3. Feel connected and that we belong
  4. Experience self-esteem, status and achievement

I love this simple diagram from Simply Psychology which shows the different needs. I consider each layer as steps toward spiritual growth.

When can we see signs of spiritual awakening?

We can start to see signs of spiritual awakening at any of the layers. But is is harder to focus on “higher” aspects of life when we are struggling to meet our basic needs. If we are stuck in striving patterns because we don’t have enough food, money or security to feel safe, we are going to see the effects in our relationships and other endevours. I know I have certainly experienced this myself!

Self-actualisation is not something that is easily obtained but it is for sure something we can all aspire to. It’s so easy to become trapped by poor physical health, anxieties and fears that hold us back or stress-filled life situations which don’t leave time or energy for exploring our potential. Sometimes the best we can do is to try to create a nourishing life for ourselves and to make the most of each day.

Of course it’s important to acknowledge that many people in the world simply cannot meet even their basic needs. When we are living in a crisis (and it seems like there is one after the other across the world these days), we are simply in survival and reaction mode. But imagine how the world would be if everyone had access to good food, shelter, security and connection and could reach their highest potential!

What it means to grow spiritually

Depending who you speak to, growing spiritually can mean different things. To me, the first signs of spiritual awakening are starting to become aware and attuned to our inner world and our connection to the world around us. Spiritual growth also looks like moving beyond the mundane, ordinary aspects of life and starting to see the magic and beauty around us. Living spiritually means living with purpose rather than on auto pilot and finding meaning in the things that we do.

As we say in yoga, spiritual awakening or enlightenment is realising that “we are the awareness in which everything is arising”. This means we are not our bodies, our thoughts, feelings or our life circumstances but we are the witness to all of that as we experience in deep meditation when we move beyond the ego mind. Those who have chosen a particular religious path might see signs of spiritual awakening as becoming close to God, Christ or another religious figure.

Everything that I have shared in this series so far is a step along the way to becoming more awakened and growing spiritually. I think this is a path we are all walking in life whether we realise it or not. Some might walk faster and others prefer to take their time. There are some slight detours we might choose to take that lead us along slightly different routes but at the end of the day, the destination is the same: realising who we are deep inside and becoming stronger, more content and of service to the world in the process.

Signs of spiritual awakening

In their personal wellness course which inspired this challenge, Well College Global shared some signs that you may be awakening or growing spiritually.

  • Experiencing a shift or deepening into your values
  • Feel like you are living your life with intention and purpose
  • The desire to support others in some way
  • Stronger connection to nature or a higher power
  • Noticing synchronicities and symbols
  • Listening and trusting your intuition
  • Being drawn towards nourishing practices and lifestyles
  • Expressing gratitude and curiosity
  • Dreaming more vividly
  • Cultivating nourishing healthy relationships

Remember though, these are just ideas. Spiritual growth can of course look different and depends entirely on your beliefs and the path you choose to take.

Final note

So that is the end of the Women’s Wellness Challenge 2022! What I had originally intended to be a 5 week challenge has ended up as 2 months but I am glad that I gave it the extra time it needed. I hope you have enjoyed following along with this journey. If you did please like and share your favourite posts with friends and family who might benefit from them.

If you got something out of this series and you are interested in going deeper, I would love to support you! I offer nutrition consultations and health coaching services, both online and face to face here in Athens, Greece. My passion is to guide women like you to nourish your body and take care of your self to find true health, abundant energy and balanced hormones which I believe is the root of feeling well in our female bodies.

I use a combination of western nutrition, coaching psychology, Ayurveda and yoga to support you in connecting to your self and becoming the best version of you. These are the tools I used to heal myself from chronic anxiety, digestive issues and missing periods and I believe whole heartedly in the power of a healthy lifestyle. You can also read testimonials from my lovely clients.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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How to use gratitude practice for ultimate wellbeing

Welcome back to the Women’s Wellness Challenge! I took a week break due to some personal challenges so we didn’t quite finish in January. But now we are back and ready to take on the fifth and final week of the challenge. Today’s post is about the importance of cultivating the a gratitude practice to experience transcendence to higher state of wellbeing.

It might sound a bit woo woo but transcendence is simply the quality of being able to go beyond normal limits or boundaries. When it comes to your wellbeing, I see transcendence as going beyond what is considered “normal” in society. It is the power of positive psychology which focuses on taking yourself from surviving to thriving rather than just aiming to relieve suffering. Gratitude practice is an important tool which can support you on this path without you having to make major changes in your life.

What does gratitude practice mean?

Gratitude is a positive feeling that we can experience ourselves or express to others. It is the state of feeling thankful for something or someone in your life or even for life itself! When we feel grateful, we focus on something good that we have and we allow those positive feelings to grow. Sometimes gratitude can be a powerful and overwhelming emotion which can even bring us to tears.

We can start a gratitude practice by priming ourselves to see and acknowledge the good things in our lives rather than only noticing the things we want to change. This can be easier said than done because as humans we naturally want to look for problems and find solutions! But there are some simple habits we can build which can help us to experience feelings of gratitude more often in our lives.

For example:

  • Being in the present moment during our daily tasks e.g. enjoying a cup of tea or the process of getting ready in the morning
  • Going out of our way to thank others in person or writing thank you notes when they do something for us (or just for being them!)
  • Visiting beautiful places in nature or in the area we live and truly soaking in the view
  • Taking a moment to connect with the food that we eat at every meal and appreciating how nature created it to sustain us
  • Showing gratitude for our physical bodies through self care routines, healthy eating and appropriate movement
  • Leaving positive reviews to support a company after a good experience with purchase or service
  • Writing a daily gratitude journal of the things we are thankful for
  • Practicing a gratitude meditation such as the one in today’s challenge

These are all small things we can start to build into our lives to help us to start to feel more grateful and appreciative of the good things we have. Shifting your attitude towards one of gratitude can create momentum and become an upward spiral of positive emotions. On the other hand, forgetting to be grateful can lead to feelings of lack, disappointment and dissatisfaction.

My recent experience with cultivating a gratitude practice

Recently I lost my way (as we all do from time to time) and found myself overly focusing on a couple of particular negative situations. Instead of appreciating the things I did have, I became overly attached to fixing what I thought was wrong with my life. I started to blame specific things for my negative mood and I felt like unless they changed, I could not feel well. I found myself justifying my feelings and indulging in my own pity party when in reality I needed some tough love!

My feelings of lack resulted in a decision which led me down a misaligned path. Only when it descended into chaos did I finally come full circle and realise how good things were to begin with. Nothing had changed except my perception. My experiences had changed my perspective and in the process I found a new sense of gratitude for my life situation. I didn’t even need to write a gratitude journal or gratitude practice mediation. Sometimes it is simply life that gives you the medicine you need.

Gratitude practice and positive emotions

Once I experienced this feeling of appreciation and gratitude, it was like a light came on inside of me. Where it had felt heavy and shadowy before was filed with a sense of lightness and ease. My physical and mental energy increased immediately, despite not having a good nights sleep, eating well or having time for my yoga practice over the last week. It really demonstrated to me the power of the emotional and mental bodies.

Research has showed gratitude is associated with improved mood, reduced stress, healthier relationships, more resilience, better sleep and lower inflammation – just to name a few! Cultivating feelings of gratitude for the beautiful things in our lives is therefore a natural medicine we can use to support our health and wellbeing at any time we choose. Sometimes it can feel difficult when our lives are not going the way that we wish they would. However, there is always something to hold on to and be grateful, no matter how small.

This little guy always gives me something to be happy about on challenging days!

Today’s challenge: Practice a gratitude meditation

Today’s simple task to immediately improve your wellbeing is to take 5-15 minutes to experience a gratitude practice meditation. Find a comfortable place to sit and listen to the guided meditation below. Observe your feelings before and after the practice then take a few moments to reflect and write down anything that came up for you. Listen to this guided mediation daily whenever you feel stuck in a rut and I guarantee you will at least feel a tiny bit better!

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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what's the definition of compassion

How to choose compassion over judgement

Following on from the previous topic of self-compassion, today I want to talk about choosing compassion for others over judgement. Showing compassion has positive impacts on our wellbeing as individuals but also for society as a whole. It helps to strengthen our character and build resilient and connected communities which support our health and wellbeing.

Compassionate thoughts and behaviours help to:

  • Improve your mood
  • Reduce anxiety and stress
  • Increase feelings of connectedness
  • Promote trust and bonding in relationships
  • Increase your overall happiness and wellbeing
  • Boost your life and work satisfaction

See Psychology Today: 20 Reasons Why Compassion Is So Important in Psychology

Why is judging others bad for our wellbeing?

On the other hand, judging others leads to conflict and separation. Instead of healthy and supportive communities, we create divided ones that feel unsafe and untrustworthy. Not only that, if we think unkindly about others, those thoughts remain inside of us. If we critise others, we are more likely to criticise ourselves and attract criticism from others too. Next time you feel like judging someone, ask yourself how you would feel in their situation? We are all part of common humanity and yet we have our individual differences and life circumstances which shape our beliefs and drive our behaviours.

When someone says something we don’t agree with, we can often mistake these feelings for a dislike of the person as a whole. They could be the kindest, most interesting person but if we disagree on a core level (e.g. religion, politics) we can disregard them and even feel hostile towards them. We are seeing this today with the “vaccine wars” with friends and neighbours becoming aggressive towards each other because they disagree on a fundamental level about this one thing. Such conflict is driven by fear and by not seeing the whole picture. We tend to focus in on the small things and forget the things that do connect us.

Can we become more compassionate?

Compassion is a natural trait that we are born with as a result of evolution. Children show compassion to different degrees but research shows that compassion is also a skill that can be learned and refined. There are many education programs aimed at increasing compassion amongst school children or in the workplace. The outcomes of these interventions show increased levels of compassion and wellbeing amongst the participants.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, check out this interesting report on compassion and wellbeing from the Dalai Lama Centre for Compassion.

Ways to show more compassion to others

We don’t have to become Mother Theresa or Gandhi to receive the benefits of compassion for our own wellbeing and that of those around us. Small actions that we take daily can have a huge effect. Some ways in which we can show kindness compassion to others:

  • Truly listen to a friend (without distraction or interruption)
  • Smile and say hello to a neighbour
  • Volunteer for a local charity
  • Help an older relative with shopping or housework
  • Support a colleague with a difficult task at work
  • Celebrate and share the joy in others’ successes
  • Comfort someone going through a difficult time
  • Buy a hot drink for a homeless person
  • Donate old clothes to a charity
  • Adopt a stray animal and show it love

Sometimes it might feel like we don’t have time to show compassion. We are so busy with work, families and the thousands of other demands of modern day living. But simple acts of support and kindness to others will energise you and boost your mood, helping you to get these things done with a smile. In addition, as the old saying goes, what comes around goes around. If you offer compassion to others, they are more likely to behave compassionately towards you too.

Rather than a negative spiral of judgement and conflict, you will create a positive spiral of understanding and mutual support!

Today’s challenge: Random act of kindness

Today’s task to improve your wellbeing is to choose one small act of kindness you can do to show compassion to someone in your life. You can use the list above for ideas or think of your own. Pay attention to your feelings before and after – hopefully you will experience a boost in your mood and happiness as a result of showing kindness to another human!

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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The power of connecting with nature

To finish off week two of the Women’s Wellness Challenge, which is all about connection, I want to share the importance of connecting with nature for our wellbeing. Connecting with yourself, with others around you and with the natural environment are all essential elements of creating a healthy and balanced life. When we are feeling low or stuck in a rut, getting out into nature and remembering we are part of this greater whole can be just what we need to come back into alignment.

These days, it’s so easy to get caught up in the artificial environment we have created in cities and through technology. We can spend all day working in front of a computer and our leisure time on the phone or watching TV. If we aren’t careful, we can easily go a whole day without seeing the sun. Especially at this time of year in Northern Europe! However, making the effort to get out into nature, to feel the sun on our skin and breathe fresh air (i.e. life!) into our bodies is so important.

We are a part of nature

Despite being highly evolved beings, we are still a part of nature and our bodies are designed to operate within her cycles. We have our circadian rhythm which pushes us to be active during the day and sleep at night. We are also influenced by the lunar cycles, especially in the case of menstruating women who experience monthly cycles with phases which can align with the phases of the moon. Every year we experience several seasons that impact us in obvious and more subtle ways.

As much as we try to separate ourselves from nature and make our lives more convenient and predictable, we ultimate depend on it and remain part of it. We rely on natures’ eco-systems to provide the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. The energy from the suns’ rays brings life to our planet and to us humans too. Sunlight regulates our endocrine system and helps us to make vitamin D to keep our bones strong and preserve our immune system.

Nature represents the feminine energy that we all have within us that brings the qualities of surrender, flow and spontaneity. It reminds us not to take everything so seriously and to live in awe in the wonder that is our Earth. Not only that, but spending time in nature has been proven to improve our health by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and anxiety and calming our nervous system. Distancing ourselves from our home, the natural environment, can leave us feeling lost and spiritually empty, whether we realise it or not.

Ways to connect with nature

The beautiful chaos of nature is the perfect antidote to the over-rational, linear lives that most of us live these days. If you feel like you need to connect with nature, here are a few simple ideas of how you can do so:

  • Watch the sun rise or set whenever you can
  • Ground your bare feet on the earth
  • Go walking in any natural environment you have access to such as the forest, mountain or beach
  • Watch out for wild animals in the area that you live
  • Take note of the changing phases of the moon
  • Go out on a clear night and look at the stars
  • Let go of artificial lights in the evening and try candles instead
  • Open the window and let in fresh air every morning
  • Try a weekend break in the countryside with no smartphones
  • Do a nature photoshoot in your local area
  • Plant a seed and watch it grow

If you have any other ways you like to connect with nature, please share in the comments below!

My natural world

I love going for daily walks in the local park and getting out to hike in the mountains or stroll along the beach whenever I can. With my partner we also like spending time with the garden and have been experimenting during the pandemic with growing our own food. There is nothing better than drinking fresh juice made with fruits you just picked from the tree. Or maybe building a salad with vegetables and herbs you watched grow from seeds. For me, it connects me to the magic of nature and makes me feel like a kid again

Today’s challenge: Get out into nature

Your challenge for today (and over the weekend as it is Friday!) is to pick at least one way to connect with nature and go out and do it. Even if it’s cold and rainy, get yourself out there and connect with Mother Earth. Pay attention to how you feel in the natural environment. Watch your breathing slow, your nerves soothe and a smile arrive on your face.

Over to you…

  • Comment: What is your favourite way to connect with nature?
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self kindness

How to nourish your mind with self kindness

So far we have covered in depth the topics of nourishing yourself through food, movement and rest. Today we are shifting the focus slightly onto nourishing the more subtle bodies, particularly the mental or emotional body aka Manomaya kosha. Specifically how to nourish your mind with self kindness.

Having the perfect diet and workout regime can only get you so far if your mind is full of toxic thoughts, stress and fear. It is just as important to take care of your mental health as it is your physical body if you want to experience true wellness. This includes managing stress but also regularly checking in with the way that you speak to yourself. Words are powerful!

Facing your inner critic

One of the most harmful mental programs that we all experience to one degree or another is that nasty inner critic. You know that mean girl voice that hides out in the corners of your mind and likes to tell you you’re not [Insert society standard here] enough or you don’t deserve [Insert goal/dream here]? Perhaps your inner critic speaks loud and clear and you are very familiar with what she has to say. Or maybe it’s a more subtle whisper that you don’t even notice.

Either way, listening to your inner critic is a fast track way to low self esteem and feeling stuck in your life or unable to make change. If you feel that you are constantly bogged down by the opinions and demands from others then it’s likely your inner critic is in control. Because that is all it is in reality. If it weren’t for the influence of others, whether that is people in reality or media messages, you would have no reason to criticise yourself. Without a standard to compare to, there can be no comparison.

Learning to face your inner critic head on and understanding that what she says is not reality will help you to release self-judgement and find true inner peace. The truth is that we are all unique individuals. We have different strengths and weaknesses, dreams and desires. If we were all the same, life would be extremely boring! So whatever trait you have that you dislike or you feel is socially un-acceptable is really nothing more than part of the interesting spectrum of humanity.

All thoughts are energy, therefore allowing your inner critic to run wild is a waste of your precious life force and will leave you feeling exhausted and drained, both physically and mentally. Releasing the bonds of this self-judgement will free up that energy for your creativity, relationships and your community.

Are your thoughts ones of self kindness?

Practice observing your inner critic and realise that you are the witness of your thoughts, not the thoughts themselves. As my yoga teacher tells me “You are the awareness in which everything is arising”. Get in touch with this part of you, the part that is separate from your appearance, identity, personality or life circumstances. Once you have created distance between your Self and your thoughts, you will be in a position to start questioning whether they are true and replacing any critical thoughts with those of self kindness.

I am sure you have heard before the idea that your thoughts create reality… I would take it a step further and say that your thoughts are your reality. We all experience the world through the filters of our senses and our mind. We rarely experience true reality as unfiltered conscious awareness, although this is a goal of yoga and meditation practices! Rather, we perceive everything based on the inputs from our senses and what our brain interprets them as based on past memories, knowledge and stored emotions.

Our minds love to be right and often play tricks on us. We can believe that something is true without a doubt, even when it is not reality. Optical illusions are a great example of this! Even when we’re told that the two lines in the image below are the same length and even if we take a ruler and measure them to prove it, our eyes cannot see anything different than the top line being longer than the bottom one.

So next time you are experiencing an unhelpful or self-critical thought, think of this illusion. Know that no matter how real it may seem, your mind does not always see things as they really are. You can CHOOSE to see events and experiences through the lens of self kindness.

Practice self kindness in your thoughts

Once you know you have the power to change your thoughts, you have the choice to think differently and create a new reality. Filling your mind with positive thoughts of self kindness will nourish your whole being and leave you feeling energised and confident. Perhaps this will not happen over night but gradually over time you can train your mind to be your ally and not your enemy.

One tool you can use to practice self kindness is a mantra or affirmation. These are positive statements that you repeat either in your mind or out loud which can help to:

  • Break the habit of negative self talk
  • Create new mental pathways
  • Improve your confidence and wellbeing

That’s not to say that you will never have another negative or critical thought again. But when you do, you will be able to let it go and come back to your affirmation rather than getting sucked into a downward spiral. You can choose affirmations that are appropriate for you and your goals.

When I was going through eating disorder recovery in my early twenties, I used self kindness affirmations whenever I felt fear around food or my changing body or doubted my ability to make it through hard times.

Top tips to practice self kindness

Here are some top tips for creating self kindess affirmations (based on advice from Well College Global):

  1. Use “I am” statements
  2. Keep it short and simple
  3. Use positive (I am/I will) not negative (I am not/I will not) statements
  4. Be specific to you and your goals
  5. Invoke emotion

Affirmations can also be future-based, if it feels unrealistic to affirm something in the positive right at this moment. This way you are acknowledging the journey that you are on and the progress you are making without saying that you are there yet. For example:

“I hate my body” becomes “I am beginning to accept my body”

“Why bother” becomes “I deserve nourishment”

“I can’t do this” becomes “I am learning to do this”

“I am so stressed” becomes “I create my own calm”

Repeating these statements might feel unnatural at first but like anything, persistence creates a habit. Notice any changes in the way you feel and celebrate even the slightest improvements in your mental wellbeing. Once you realise you have the power to change your thoughts through self kindness you will know that anything is possible!

Today’s challenge: Create a self kindness mantra

Your task for today is to choose a self kindness mantra that feels relevant to you and your goals. Write it down on post it notes and stick them anywhere you might see them throughout the day e.g. the car dashboard, the fridge door or inside your diary. You could even create a graphic and save it as your phone or desktop background as a constant reminder.

For me, I am starting a new job on Monday which I am equally excited and nervous about. I am anticipating the rise of the inner critic with all it’s fears of failure. So my mantra for the week will be:

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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The importance of deep sleep and rest!

Over the last couple of days, we have covered two foundational topics for your wellbeing. These were eating nourishing food and moving your body. Today we are talking about the third factor: getting enough rest and good quality sleep!

We all know that a good nights’ sleep can do wonders for our energy and mood. During sleep, both your body and mind undergo a full recharge and reset for the day ahead. Unfortunately, most of us have experienced the horror show that is trying to get through the day on very little sleep. Lack of sleep can affect your energy levels, mood, concentration and cognitive abilities. You can have the best diet and workout regime in the world but if you aren’t getting enough sleep you will likely feel terrible!

How much sleep do I need?

We often hear the magic number of 8 hours per night, but is this correct? In truth, the amount of sleep you need depends on your age as when as your individual make up. Babies and young children need the most sleep, sometimes up to 18 hours per day! Adults over the age of 65 need much less sleep and may get by on 5-6 hours per night.

Most adults need between 7 and 10 hours per night. However, that’s quite a big range and only you know the amount of sleep that is right for you. If you go to bed at a reasonable hour, wake up feeling refreshed and have energy throughout the day, you are probably getting enough sleep.

What if I’m not getting enough sleep?

Sadly, many people are not able to get the amount or quality of sleep that they need to support their physical and mental wellbeing. If you are one of these people, there are several reasons why you might not be getting enough sleep:

  1. You sleep late and have to get up early for work or other activities
  2. Your sleep is disturbed by external factors (including kids or pets)
  3. Internal factors prevent you from falling or staying asleep (insomnia)

If you fall into the first category, I highly recommend that you try to rearrange your life to make space for more sleep. This is particularly important if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of lack of sleep. But even if you feel fine now, consistently missing out on sleep can increase your risk of health issues down the line. If you really want to take your health, wellbeing and energy levels to the next level, I strongly advise you to gradually shift your bedtime earlier by 15 minutes a week until you have time for a minimum of 7 hours sleep per night.

For those of you in the second category and your sleep is disturbed by having young children or a job that requires you to be awake during the night, there is probably not much you can do at this moment in time. In this case, I recommend getting enough good quality rest (more on that later) as well as taking naps wherever possible throughout the day. Adding extra stress and worry about your lack of sleep will only make things worse. Instead, focus on nourishing your self and supporting your energy levels in other ways and trust that your body will catch up on sleep when the opportunity is available.

Finally, for all of the insomniacs out there, I recommend getting really honest with yourself about what is affecting your sleep. Perhaps it is something as simple as not having a comfortable sleeping environment. In that case, ensuring you follow the sleep hygiene checklist below might be enough to have you sleeping like a rock again.

If it is something in particular that is stressing you, whether that is work, family or other personal issues, I highly recommend getting in touch with a professional therapist who can help you to work through your struggles. Sometimes getting things off your chest and having a safe space to discuss your worries is enough to calm down your nervous system and allow you to drift off into a peaceful sleep.

Tips for getting a good nights’ sleep

The following sleep hygiene checklist are the tips I recommend for everyone who want to improve the quality of their sleep. Are there any simple changes you could make to get a better nights sleep?

  1. Ensure your bedroom is quiet, cool and calming
  2. Only use your bed/bedroom for sleep and sex
  3. Avoid caffeine (tea, coffee, dark chocolate) 8-10 hours before bed
  4. Avoid drinking alcohol 4-6 hours before bed
  5. Switch off all electronics 1 hour before bed and put your phone on flight mode
  6. Implement a relaxing and calming evening routine
  7. Create a consistent sleep routine (max 1 hour difference in sleep/wake times)
  8. Avoid heavy meals 3-4 hours before bed (consider a bed time snack if needed)
  9. Keep naps to 1 hour minimum and not after 3pm
  10. Don’t lie in bed awake if you can’t sleep, after 20 minutes get up and leave the room until you feel sleepy enough
  11. Make sure you get enough natural light during the day, especially in the morning hours
  12. Use an eye mask and/or ear plugs if your sleeping environment is bright or noisy

I know for myself that if I eat a big meal too late at night, drink coffee in the afternoon or I have too much screen time in the evening then my sleep will suffer. I also shamelessly take my eye mask and ear plugs wherever I go! As someone who experienced he effects of poor sleep for many years, it’s a subject close to my heart and sleep is a top priority for my wellbeing. I have written several other posts on the topic of improving your sleep for those of you who need more support:

Top tips to improve your sleep

Dealing with sleep disturbances

Bedtime snack ideas for better sleep

How to get a good nights’ sleep: a new perspective

Whether sleep is a major issue for you or you just want to get better quality of sleep to feel even better, the tips in this post will be supportive for you!

If you can’t sleep then at least REST

Rest is also an important factor to improve your wellbeing. If you can’t sleep, then at least focus on getting enough rest. By rest I mean time where you allow your body and mind to relax and unwind. We live in a society full of stimulation and tasks. We “relax” by watching intense TV shows, reading educational books or scrolling through social media. These things might feel like relaxation but we are still being stimulated by artificial light and strong emotions.

It is important to take time to rest during the day to allow your body and your mind to let go of stress and tension that builds up. I recommend at least a 30 minute period of rest each day, either in one block or as separate smaller blocks. During this time you can lie down, focus on your breathing, listen to relaxing music or the sounds around you.. anything that focuses your attention on the present moment. Worrying about the future or ruminating on the past can create mental stress and tension which if not addressed can affect your sleep at night.

Taking the time to check in, notice what is present and let it go throughout the day can help to prevent stresses building up to the point that they over flow. I love guided relaxation tapes and Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) practices for the ultimate experience of rest. All you need is a comfortable place to lie down, a set of head phones to listen to the recording and maybe an eye mask to completely block out the outside world. For a quick relaxation practice, I love this guided meditation:

Or one of my favourites when I have a bit more time is this one:

If you try them out, let me know what you think in the comments below! I can’t be more grateful to The Mindful Movement for all of the supportive guided meditations they create.

Today’s challenge: Create a calming evening routine

Your challenge for today is to create your own simple evening routine that you can do every night before you sleep to help you to wind down and relax. It takes some discipline to create space for relaxation when there are so many other things you should or could be doing. But once you experience the benefits of a better mood and energy the next morning, it will be a habit you want to create!

Steps for creating an evening routine:

  1. Based on your wake up time and the amount of sleep you need, count backwards to find the latest bedtime for you to get enough sleep
  2. Decide on how long you have available for your evening routine (I recommend at least 30 minutes)
  3. Set an alarm for 15 minutes before and use this time to brush your teeth and get into your pyjamas so that you don’t have to do these after your routine
  4. Pick 1-3 relaxing activities that you enjoy doing to wind down

Some examples:

  • Reading a good book
  • Gentle stretching or yoga
  • Meditation or breathwork
  • Playing relaxing music
  • Lighting a candle
  • Having a cup of herbal tea

Commit to your evening routine every day for a week and reflect on any differences in how you feel in your body, mind and spirit.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

  • Please like this post and share to support my business
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