Good morning everyone! Just a quick check-in to say that my Youtube channel is now live again. I have filmed a short channel intro video and I hope to be more active on there in the coming months. I want to share with you free yoga and meditation videos plus informational and motivational videos on nutrition and lifestyle for holistic health. The channel will be mainly focused on women’s health but guys you are welcome too! If you have any topic or video requests, shout in the comments below and I will do my best to make it happen.
I am not at all a natural in front of the camera but this is me getting out of my comfort zone and expanding my horizons so I also want to take this opportunity to encourage you to do the same! What is one thing you have been wanting to do but fear is holding you back? Is there one small action you can take today to move you closer to this goal? Remember that our thoughts and fears only exist in our imagination…
“Fear is nothing more than an obstacle that stands in the way of progress. In overcoming our fears, we can move forward, stronger and wiser within ourselves.”
How would you rate your self-compassion on a scale of 1-10?
What even is self-compassion?
Self-compassion has been defined as:
“the capacity to comfort and sooth ourselves, and to motivate ourselves with encouragement when we suffer, fail or feel inadequate.” Chris Germer from the Centre for Mindful Self-Compassion
“being kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings…” Kristen Neff PhD
So when it comes to your path to better health, self-compassion could look like:
Speaking kindly to yourself when things don’t go according to plan
Letting go of harsh criticisms of yourself i.e. the inner bully
Observing your “slip ups” with a non-judgmental attitude and learning from them rather than beating yourself up
Being your own cheerleader and believing in yourself
Understanding that perfection doesn’t exist and failure is part of the journey
Being kind to ourselves and showing self-compassion is becoming increasing difficult in today’s world. With a constant barrage of seemingly perfect others to compare ourselves to on social media, TV and advertisements, it’s no wonder that we can often we left feeling less than and telling ourselves we don’t measure up. These comparisons then become the ammunition for the mental weapon which we turn towards ourselves.
Sometimes the language of negative self-talk becomes so engrained into our psyche that we don’t notice it. How many times have you thought to yourself “I’m so stupid”, “I never get things right”, “What’s the point, I’m a failure”, “I’ll never be like that”. All of these thoughts create a mental environment that keep us stuck in our same old habits and routines, unable to break free and move towards our vision of better health and overall life happiness. Speaking to ourselves harshly sets off a cascade of chemical reactions in our bodies which then influence the trillions of cells and change the way they function.
Self-compassion and holistic health
Part of my coaching as a Women’s Wellness Coach involves supporting women to love themselves and believe in themselves more. Not only because having a positive self-image is part of holistic wellness but also because negative self-talk and lack of confidence can be a major barrier to change in all other areas of health improvement including diet, movement and stress management. Research shows that rather than being motivated by criticism from ourselves and others, we are more likely to feel like a failure and give up altogether.
On the other hand, self-efficacy, that is the belief that we can take action and succeed in a particular situation, is associated with positive behaviour change and health outcomes. Self-efficacy goes hand in hand with self-compassion because without kindness and understanding how can we expect to believe in ourselves enough to make change? If we believe that every time we fall off the wagon or don’t achieve the results we expect, it’s because we are a failure and not because the goal was unrealistic, we didn’t have the resources we needed or life just got in the way, how easy will it be to get back up and try again?
When we react to our mistakes with self-compassion, it is much easier to pick ourselves up and get back on track rather than enter a negative spiral. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) describes how our thoughts create feelings which in turn affect our behaviours and our physical state. Negative self-talk can make us feel worse about ourselves and not want to do things to take care of ourselves holistically. On the other hand, showing self-compassion creates more positive feelings of acceptance, gratitude and peace which are more likely to trigger us to act in ways that support our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Developing self-compassion first requires becoming mindful of the thought tapes that are playing in our minds and where we could be harming ourselves with our self-talk. Whether you realise it or not, you are talking to yourself all day long via your thoughts! These can be thoughts about what is going on in the world around you but we often also have thoughts about ourselves and our actions or how other people see us. If you are not used to paying attention to your thoughts, this can come as a shock once you realise the constant chatter that is the backdrop for your life.
A useful experiment is to carry a small notebook with you over a 24 hour period and whenever you notice a self-judgement pop up, write it down. At the end of the experiment, reflect on what you have written. How many times did you judge yourself? In what situations? Were your judgements mostly positive or negative? If you find that you are often criticising yourself and your day is packed with negative self-talk, it’s maybe a good idea to focus on developing your self-compassion. Remember, if you find that your self-talk is very negative, not to use this as yet another thing to criticise yourself about. Instead see it as a starting point and something you can improve on over time.
Thought replacement/inner dialogues
Unfortunately, we can’t simply tell our brains to stop thinking, nor can we just turn off the thoughts we don’t like. Instead, we can create balance by countering any negative thoughts with more compassionate ones. This could look like a dialogue in your mind between your harsh inner critic and your kind inner cheerleader or coach. For example:
Inner critic: “Why did I eat so much food at the party? I wasn’t even hungry, why am I always so greedy!”
Inner coach: “Ok, perhaps you ate more than you planned to today. Why was that do you think? Is there something that you need? Is there something you could do differently next time?”
Inner cheerleader: “Parties are for enjoying! You ate really healthily this week and you noticed the benefits. Let it go and carry on with your plan”
If it helps, you can actually imagine these different perspectives as characters. Naming your inner critic or your inner bully and visualising it as a saboteur that creeps around your mind can really help you to separate you from your thoughts and judgements about yourself. These are thoughts that are occurring automatically and you are the one that is witnessing and experiencing the effects of these thoughts.
If you struggle to do this mentally, you can also put the dialogue on paper. As you review your thought journal, pick out some key themes or areas where you criticise yourself and experiment with writing a response from a more compassionate perspective. This might feel uncomfortable or be challenging at first but the more you practice, the easier and more natural it will become. If you have children, it might come more easily as we usually try to see the best in our children and see the bigger picture of what might have influenced their actions rather than blaming them personally.
Another way to counter negative self-talk is to try to crowd out the negative thoughts with more positive or neutral thoughts. Affirmations are statements that we can repeat to ourselves to program our minds to think differently. We are always making affirmations whether we realise it or not. Our thoughts create pathways in our mind and the more a thought is repeated, the deeper and more defined the pathway becomes making it easier to automatically think that thought again in the future. This is why over 90% of our thoughts tend to be the same from day to day!
If our habitual thoughts (i.e. affirmations) are negative judgements of ourselves, this is going to affect our ability to feel positive emotions and create the life we wish to live. Consciously repeating positive affirmations can help by planting the seed of more positive thoughts that are in line with our goals and our ideal vision of ourselves. Affirmations don’t have to be extreme and cheesy, in fact, if they are too outside of our current view of ourselves, they can have the opposite effect.
For example, someone who looks in the mirror and finds themselves ugly might repeat an affirmation such as “I may not be perfect but I accept myself the way I am and I know I am more than my physical appearance” rather than “I am beautiful” which might feel unrealistic and difficult to relate to.
Repeating affirmations like these just for a few minutes each day can start to change the usual narrative of thoughts that we experience. Even if initially it is only 1 positive thought followed by 99 negative ones, it is a start and a foundation to build on. Like any habit, conscious repetition leads to mastery. So whilst it might seem too simple to work, practicing positive affirmations daily can really work wonders over time.
Practice acceptance and forgiveness
Self-compassion is not about believing that we are perfect and never make mistakes. It is more about understanding that inevitably, because we are human, we will have flaws and act in ways that we later regret. It is being able to continue to show unconditional love for ourselves through these moments and not to take everything so personally. Instead of that age-old saying of treat others like you would like to be treated yourself, self-compassion is treating yourself as kindly as you would others you love.
In moments where you feel the inner critic rear its’ head, take a deep breath and let it go. Remind yourself that you are only human and we all make mistakes or feel like we don’t measure up. How many times have others in your life made mistakes or been less than perfect? How many times have you forgiven or accepted others just the way they are? Start to offer this acceptance and forgiveness to yourself and you will be on your way to developing self-compassion.
Meditation to develop self-compassion
An excellent way to combine these three elements of developing self-compassion (mindfulness, thought replacement and positive affirmations) is through guided meditations. My absolute favourite channel for guided meditations on Youtube is the Mindful Movement and I always recommend their meditations to my clients. Try out this meditation for connection and compassion below.
Over to you…
Let me know your thoughts on this interesting topic! Please like and share this post to support my business and follow my blog for more useful posts on nutrition, yoga and holistic health.
If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. My specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after chronic or restrictive dieting but I also help anyone who is looking to improve their overall health and find the perfect balance for their body. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!
Health coaching is becoming more and more popular but what exactly is a health coach and how can a health coach help you to reach your goals? This year I have been training to be a women’s wellness coach and I have learned a lot about the health coaching practice and how to best support my clients. I am already a qualified nutritionist and yoga teacher but there is so much more to coaching and often it is misunderstood. In this post I want to share what I have learned through my training and through reflecting on my early health coaching experiences. I hope this will help anyone who has been considering hiring a health coach but is uncertain about the real purpose of a health coach and whether they can actually help to improve your health.
Knowledge and education
I am mentioning education first as it is usually what health coaches see as their main role. I know for myself, my first few health coaching clients I believed the same! I was so excited to share all of my knowledge and give my clients value for money by packing as much information into our sessions as possible but reflecting back now I would have done things differently. Whilst imparting knowledge and educating clients is an important part of health coaching, it is not the main purpose. Especially nowadays when there is so much freely available information online and we have access to scientific literature and endless informative books on health and wellness, a health coach needs to do more than just inform and educate clients. Yes we can share our expert knowledge and perhaps save time and effort for clients’ by streamlining this large amount of available and often conflicting information, especially in the nutrition world. However, the communication should be a two-way and collaborative exchange, rather than the typical one-directional authoritative approach from the coach to the client. As I always say, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to our health and so really understanding the client and their needs means that a health coach can offer tailored information and personalised advice.
Clarity and goal setting
One of the important roles of a health coach is to help their clients’ gain clarity on their desired health outcomes and setting meaningful goals. I wrote a post as part of my Real Health January series about setting SMART goals for your health and this is something that a coach can support clients in doing successfully. People seek out health coaching for many reasons and for the best results it is important to be clear on both the what and the why i.e. what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Yes you can do this alone but a health coach can offer a helpful mirror to reflect back your thoughts and gain clarity on exactly what it is that you want to improve about your health and your overall vision for a healthier and happier life. On any transformational journey it can be difficult to remain focused on the initial aim and become distracted by the smaller, action-related goals. A health coach can help clients to set realistic and achievable goals which are in line with your overall aim. For example, perhaps you want to lose weight to be able to play more with your children but if you decide to go about this by setting a goal to spend 10 hours a week in the gym and it takes up all of your free time. A health coach may reflect back to you that perhaps you have gone a little off track and help you to set a more appropriate goal.
Decision-making and action
As I mentioned earlier, these days most of us have access to information which, in theory, would help us to reach our health goals. A quick google search can offer you diet plans, workout routines, guided yoga and meditation classes for all sorts of health conditions and levels of fitness. Then why do so many people still struggle with their health? There is so much information available that many people get frozen at the stage of deciding on a plan of action. Often complexity gets in the way of action and a simple, straight-forward action plan is what is needed. A health coach can guide a client through this decision making process, not taking decisions for them but offering options and helping them to gain the self-awareness needed to decide on an appropriate action to work towards their goals. Another common problem is that people know the what but not the how. For example, in the UK we have a freely available Eatwell Guide which shows the recommended diet composition for optimal health but without knowing how to prepare meals using these ingredients or how to navigate the supermarket, this information often does not lead to action. Through discussing potential barriers to implementing change, a health coach help their clients to put in place strategies to overcome these barriers and continue to take action without feeling stuck and unable to move forward.
Encouragement and accountability
In my opinion, encouragement and accountability are two of the key reasons why hiring a health coach has a much better success rate than going solo. We often speak harshly towards ourselves and our inner-critic has a field day when we embark on a challenging journey such as trying to improve our health. A health coach offers an outsiders view of their clients’ actions and will understand their strengths and highlight their successes, even when the client cannot see it for themselves. A good health coach will improve a clients’ confidence and self-efficacy so that they believe they do have the skills and power to make change. On the other hand, a health coach is also there to help their clients stay on track with working towards their goals and to offer strategies to get back on track when they fall off the wagon. It is so easy for one small slip up to lead to giving up altogether but a coach can help to see the big picture that one mistake does not meal total failure and can offer a helpful reminder of the clients’ overall aim and their why to keep them moving forward. Health coaches also use strategies for accountability to help clients’ build positive habits which support better health to replace negative habits which result in poor health outcomes. Usually it is this initial phase of habit replacement which takes the most time and effort and having a coach to be accountable to on a daily basis really can improve your chances of success.
Role model and leadership
Finally, the role of a health coach in general, not only for their clients, is to demonstrate that a healthy lifestyle is possible and be a positive role model for anyone looking to improve their health. By this I do not mean that a health coach should have the perfect body, the perfect diet or the perfect exercise routine or that they should never drink alcohol, stay up late or get stressed and overwhelmed. Rather a health coach can show a realistic view of a healthy lifestyle which is achievable for everyone and show that you do not need to be perfect to be in good health but that a strong foundation of healthy habits can take you far. They can share their personal health challenges and how they overcame them to give motivation and empowerment to others to do the same. We are all humans often living in societies that do not support optimal health but health coaches can act as leaders to show that there is a way to support your health, even in a less than supportive environment. Visualisation is an excellent tool to support you in achieving your goals and having an effective role model can help clients’ to create a vision for their health and expand their beliefs of what is possible and achievable. Again, this is not to say that clients’ should compare themselves to their coach or idolise them as the perfect vision of health, but more that seeing others success can help you to create your own vision of health and start out on the path of working towards your goals.
Over to you…
These are my thoughts on the role of a health coach and how a health coach can help you to reach your goals. Let me know in the comments below what YOU think a health coach is and whether you think coaching is helpful in improving your health. As usual, please like and share this post to support my business and follow my blog for more useful posts on nutrition, yoga and holistic health.
If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I am a qualified nutritionist and hatha yoga teacher and I am currently training as a women’s wellness coach with Well College Global. My specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after chronic or restrictive dieting but I also help anyone who is looking to improve their overall health and find the perfect balance for their body. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!
Sleep is one of the major players when it comes to transforming your health. Not only can a better nights’ sleep help you to feel more energised and happier but it also has a knock on effect on your other decisions throughout the day. Ever experienced that feeling of being constantly hungry after a night tossing and turning? Research shows that poor sleep affects blood sugar regulation which can cause increased cravings for sweet foods and a tendency to over eat. Feeling tired is also not exactly conducive to a good workout either, we are less likely to want to move our bodies when we haven’t slept well and even the best intentions can go out of the window.
That said, here are my top tips to improve your sleep and wake up feeling rested and refreshed!
1. Create an evening routine
Allowing yourself time to wind down before bed is one of the best things you can do to improve your sleep! It might seem obvious but how many times have you found yourself lying awake in bed after checking emails one last time or watching an intense TV show? Our body and mind need time to shift into relaxation mode before bed and an evening routine can help to send the signal that the day is over and it is time to sleep. It doesn’t matter what you do for your evening routine but spending at least half an hour, or an hour if you can spare it, on a relaxing evening routine can reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep and greatly improve your quality of sleep. Some examples of calming activities you can do before bed include gentle yoga, meditation or breathing exercises, journaling, reading or listening to music. You can also build in another self-care habit by using this time for a relaxing skin-care routine or epsom salt bath. Having a set sleep window has been shown to help you fall asleep faster and spend more time in supporting deep and REM sleep so try to start your sleep routine within the same hour each night for optimal results.
2. Say no to technology
One of the most challenging but most supportive things you can do to improve your sleep is to have a cut off point for technology at least one hour before bed. Phones, laptops, TV can all be stimulating for the mind and the blue light that they emit can also confuse our brains into thinking it is still day. Ideally, switching off all devices and wi-fi before bed will help you to get a better nights’ sleep and improve your sleep pattern. However, if you cannot avoid using technology before bed, a good option is to install a red light filter such as Flux onto your phone or computer which will block the disruptive blue light which is so harmful to your sleep cycles. You can set them to gradually shift to red light from sunset to mimic the natural changes in sunlight throughout the evening which I find really useful. Avoiding sleeping with your phone by your bed will also help you to feel more relaxed and avoid the temptation to check social media or browse the internet if you find you can’t sleep. If you use your phone as an alarm you can still keep it in the room but move it far away from the bed. This will also help you to get out of bed in the morning so it is a win-win!
3. Manage your blood sugar
Instable blood sugar has many consequences and is a hidden but common factor in insomnia, particularly early morning waking or sleep maintenance insomnia. This is a condition where you are able to fall asleep but unable to stay asleep and find yourself awake in the early hours of the morning. When there is no acute or chronic psychological stress present, insomnia can be caused by the physical stress of poor nutrition and imbalanced blood sugar. When our blood sugar levels drop low during the night, either because we haven’t eaten enough during the day, limiting carbohydrates (e.g. keto diet) or due to raising our blood sugar too high during the evening resulting in a blood sugar crash, the stress hormone cortisol is released to bring our blood sugar levels back up. This is a normal process that also happens during the day but in some cases the cortisol levels can raise to the point where it wakes you up and gives you a “wired but tired” feeling where you are unable to fall back to sleep. Having a small, balanced snack containing carbohydrates, fat and protein before bed or if you wake up during the night is often enough to resolve this issue and improve sleep duration and quality.
4. Avoid stimulants in the evening
Any food or drink containing caffeine act as stimulants in your body which can prevent you from falling asleep or getting good quality sleep. Most people know that coffee, energy drinks and black tea both contain caffeine but green tea, some herbal teas, cola and chocolate also contain this sleep disrupting chemical! We are very individual when it comes to caffeine metabolism and some people have a higher tolerance and faster clearance of caffeine than others so it’s best to experiment yourself and find out where your limits are when it comes to consuming these foods. Generally it’s a good idea to avoid high caffeine food and drink after 2pm and limit even low caffeine food such as chocolate in the evening hours. You might find though that you sleep better avoiding caffeine all together so if insomnia and low energy are a problem for you, maybe give going caffeine-free a shot for a week or two. Aside from caffeine, other stimulants include heavy TV shows and movies, loud music and stressful conversations so where ever possible try to avoid these in the hours before you sleep and opt for your relaxing evening routine instead.
5. Supplements for better sleep
Natural substances which help your body to relax can be a helpful ally in getting better quality sleep. One of my personal favourites is herbal teas containing chamomile, passion flower and valerian root. These are traditional remedies known to support a calm nervous system state and help to improve sleep. Another useful remedy is aromatherapy, especially lavender oil which can been used for centuries to aid relaxation and help to overcome sleep problems. You can use this as part of your evening routine in the form of essential oils, scented candles or a pillow spray to create a calming environment in your bedroom. When it comes to supplementation, I prefer to keep it simple. One of the key nutrients which aids in relaxation of the physical body is magnesium and it is becoming more popular to use magnesium supplements to support a better nights’ sleep. Again there are several ways to use magnesium including liquid or pill-form oral supplements, body sprays or oils and also as bath salts.
As you can see, these are 5 tips but they can also fit together very nicely. You can create an evening routine which includes avoiding technology, drinking herbal tea or eating a healing snack and using sleep supporting supplements to create the perfect environment for a deep and restful sleep. Reflect on which of the tips you think work best with your lifestyle and your current situation and test them out to see if you can improve your sleep and wake up feeling happier and ready for the day ahead!
Over to you…
I hope you found this article interesting and feel inspired to give these tips a go. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experiences, I’d love to hear from you. Please like this post and follow along with my blog for more post on nutrition, yoga and holistic health practices to support balanced hormones and overall better health.
If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I am a qualified Public Health Nutritionist and hatha yoga teacher and my specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after chronic or restrictive dieting. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!
Yesterday marked the annual International Yoga Day as named by the UN in 2015 to celebrate the many benefits of this ancient Indian practice. This year the theme was “Yoga for Wellness” which is especially appropriate for 2021 as we are approaching two years of a global health crisis. COVID19 has affected us all, whether we caught the virus or not we have seen the impacts of the pandemic on our physical and mental health. Being stuck at home for months at a time, spending more time in front of our devices and out of our usual routine has meant for many a loss of physical fitness and vitality. The anxiety caused by the virus and the endless stream of fear-inducing news stories has affected many people’s sleep, eating habits and lead to increased use of alcohol, tobacco and other substances. Adding to this the emotional stress of the loss of loved ones or livelihoods, we have a perfect recipe for poor mental health and wellbeing.
Throughout all of this upheaval, the practice of yoga has kept me going and helped me to stay grounded and feeling fairly well, considering the circumstances. Practice of yoga asana (postures) helps to keep our bodies strong and flexible and can be practiced easily at home so it has been a lifeline during the lockdowns when gyms were closed and outdoor activities limited. The pranayama (breathwork) and meditation aspects of yoga help us to regulate our nervous system, calm the stress response and enable us to relax and sleep well even during times of stress. I really believe that a solid yoga practice is one of the best things we can do for our overall health and wellbeing. Personally, I am so grateful for the practice of yoga and it has helped me so much to develop into the person I am today. In this article, I want to share 10 benefits I have experienced through practicing yoga over the last 10 years.
1. Body acceptance
I am including this one first as it really has been the most impactful on my life! When I was younger I struggled with constant self-criticism, hating my body and punishing behaviours such as over-exercising and disordered eating in an effort to try and look the way I thought I needed to in order to be accepted and loved. I originally started to practice yoga as a way to rehabilitate my body and heal from injuries but it ended up becoming much more than that. Yoga is so much more than a workout and through the practice I ended up developing an acceptance and appreciation for my body that I never thought was possible. It helped me to stop focusing so much on the external appearance on my body and instead learn to feel myself from the inside out and develop an energy and confidence that I now see is way more important than the size of my thighs or the number on the scale. Of course I still have days when I feel down about myself or compare myself to others, as everyone does, but it no longer controls my life and when these types of thoughts and feelings arise I know how to move past them.
2. Building strength
When I tell people my main physical activity is yoga, I often get the response that “I like yoga but it isn’t intense enough for me”. This makes me laugh because when practiced with intention, yoga asana can be one of the most intense physical experiences there is. With every yoga posture, you aim for full body awareness and engage every single cell. Even Tadasana (mountain pose), one of the foundations of a beginners’ yoga practice, an be extremely challenging when you really focus on perfect alignment and engaging all of the small muscles that keep you standing tall with a good posture. Other standing postures such as the Virabhadrasana (warrior pose) series, Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) and arm balances like Bakasana (crow pose) help to develop strong muscle tone in the legs, core and upper body. Modern yoga comes in many different flavours from the more fiery and intense Astanga practice to total relaxation and bliss of Yin. I like to incorporate many different styles of yoga into my routine and through the practice I have developed a strong and agile body that helps me to make the most of life.
3. Cultivating flexibility
One of the first things most people associate with yoga is flexibility. It is definitely true that yoga practice helps to open up your body and create a sense of lightness and freedom in your physical vessel. I actually don’t consider myself very physically flexible considering the number of years I have practiced yoga. This is comparing myself to others though and compared to myself before I started to practice yoga, I have come a long way. I was very sporty as a kid and I developed quite a rigid, inflexible body. Now I can touch my toes and I am pretty mobile but I am nowhere near the splits and many other advanced poses are still just a dream for me at this point. But one thing that yoga has really helped me to cultivate is mental flexibility and the ability to let go and go with the flow of life. I remember being so rigid when I was younger, completely attached to my habits, routines and my conditioned beliefs. Over these last 10 years, yoga has helps me to loosen my grip on life and be more accepting of the natural ebbs and flows and the uncertainty that is the only certain thing we have. In particular, pranayama and meditation have been the tools that helped me to release tension and tightness in my mental and emotional bodies and create this feeling of flexibility beyond the physical.
4. Finding balance
With the modern society we live in and the fast-paced, stimulating, information heavy lifestyles we lead, it can be so easy to get carried away and burn ourselves out. Perhaps we are prone to over-working, over-exercising, over-eating, over-consuming… Whatever it is yoga can help us to find that point of balance where we are not doing too much or too little, but always “playing the edge”. Through tuning into my physical sensations and becoming aware of my inner world, I was able to stop damaging my health and happiness with destructive behaviours and create a lifestyle that was truly condusive to wellness. For me that looked like exercising at a lower intensity and taking more rest days, syncing with my menstrual cycles, allowing myself breaks from work and realising that I can’t do it all and letting go of rigid dietary rules and allowing myself food freedom. It might seem strange that yoga could lead to all of these seemingly unrelated changes but I really do believe that practice yoga starts a domino effect in your life. Once you start to become more self-aware and you engage with the intelligence within, you see clearly what is working and where things could be improved. Plus, you cultivate more energy through the practice which you can then direct towards making positive changes in your life and in the world.
5. Overcoming perfectionism
Learning to let go of perfectionism has been a key part of my journey with yoga. There is something to be said about aiming for perfectionism in yoga, particularly if you follow the thought school of B.K.S. Iyengar who is known for his focus on detail, precision and alignment in the postures. However, I think developing a healthy relationship with perfection is very important and something that yoga has helped me significantly with. There is nothing wrong with having lofty goals, in fact this can help to motivate us and challenge us to grow. But we shouldn’t let our perfect vision create dissatisfaction with where we are right now or lead to beating ourselves up for not being good enough. It is the same thing when it comes to comparison with others. It isn’t inherently bad to admire others or use their achievements for inspiration but it should be exactly that, a spring board for our own success and a way to open up our minds to greater possibilities. There have been times in my yoga practice when I believed I should be more advanced, but these days I accept my current limitations and I know that overcoming them is a matter of personal choice and priorities. I am not a full-time yogi, I have many other interests and commitments and my level of practice reflects that, which is fine
6. Developing compassion
One of the skills I have learned through practicing yoga is compassion, both for myself and for others. Through practicing yoga asana, you really see yourself and your physical vulnerabilities laid out on the table. Even the strongest, fittest person can have their ego cut down by simple yoga postures when you realise just how much tension and emotional stress is stored in the body. Yoga teaches us to be firm yet gentle with ourselves, to push ourselves when we need it but also to create a nurturing and supportive environment for growth and healing. Yoga also helps us to connect to something larger and feel like a part of nature as a whole. Through practicing with many different teachers and leading my own classes, I also realised just how alike we are as humans, even if we seem different on the surface. We share so many fears, insecurities, thoughts and emotional patterns and knowing this allows us to have more compassion for others and the struggles they are going through. Connecting with other yogis in the two teacher trainings I have been through was an amazing experience as everyone was so open and available to connect on an emotional level. I am forever grateful to these groups as they helped me to feel loved and supported through some very difficult times in my life.
7. Facing fears and embracing discomfort
Our bodies and minds both have habitual patterns and set ways of being that it can be very difficult to break. A big part of advancing in your yoga practice is learning to face the fears and overcome resistance that arises when you step out of your comfort zone. Whether this is surrendering into a deeper backbend or forward fold or letting go of the resistance towards inversions and balances, yoga helps us to locate our edges and push through those boundaries. When we find what we think is our limit and we are able to push ourselves that tiny bit further (with integrity and compassion of course) we discover new territory and expand our capacities which is a thrilling experience. My yoga practice has helped me to see the areas I hold myself back and where I resist feeling certain sensations and emotions. I always say to my students that learning to embrace discomfort and avoid bracing yourself against it is one of the important lessons that yoga can teach us. Not just on a physical level but this can help us mentally to deal with challenging situations and feelings without hardening and building a protective armor around ourselves which might reduce pain but also blocks out joy and connection.
8. Letting go
This one goes along with developing flexibility, but a huge benefit I have receive through my yoga practice is learning to let go. Letting go of the stress that builds up throughout the day, letting go of unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and conditioning, letting go of harmful habits and behaviours, letting go of past hurts and regrets.. a mindful, intentional yoga yoga practice can help with all of these and create a clean slate on all layers of your being. Not that this happens every time, I have to say. Sometimes a yoga practice highlights all of your pain points and for whatever reason you aren’t ready to move past them. Howver anyone who practices yoga regularly will understand that squeaky, shiny state of consciousness you experience after a focused asana practice and deeply relaxing Savasana. I find that yoga has allowed me to develop the ability to see when I am holding onto things past the point of usefulness (which yes I still do often) and use my breath and other yogic techniques to let them go. Without this ability, we can easily remain stuck in negative mindsets and moods for longer than necessary or hold onto outdated beliefs that no longer serve us.
9. Learning to relax
It should be the easiest thing in the world but somehow, we humans find relaxation so difficult! Perhaps it is the stress of living in society with all of it’s distractions and expectations but often it can be so hard to switch off, to stop doing and just be. Yoga, in particular Yin yoga and Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) has really shown me the importance of and the path to true rest and relaxation. I have always been an active and busy person and prone to burn-out as I get so passionate with everything that I am involved in and end up doing too much. Even this year with the pandemic and becoming unemployed I feel like I haven’t stopped and I am rarely bored. Carving out time for a regular yoga and conscious relaxation practice has been one of the best decisions I ever made. Sometimes I even write it on my to do list so that I don’t skip it, it’s that important. Relaxation allows our bodies and nervous system to rest and recover physically, it stills our minds so that we can think more clearly and creatively and it allows us to get better sleep so that we can recharge our batteries for the next day. Although it might seem like doing nothing, relaxation is an art and a skill that we need to work on to truly reap all of its
10. Following my heart
Last but not least, my yoga practice has helped to me connect with my intuition and realise that sometimes the right thing to do is to follow your heart. Since starting my yoga practice, I have made some big decisions with regards to where I live, the work that I do and the relationships I have in my life. I am a rational and logical person (for those of you who don’t know me well I actually have a degree in Chemical Engineering) so I always take my time with decisions and think things through, but there are times when you have to listen to your heart and make choices that might seem irrational to others but feel true for you. It can be so easy to keep plodding along the same path all of your life because it is what is expected of you or because you don’t know what is to be found off the beaten path, but sometimes there can be very beautiful things waiting! The appreciation for life I discovered through practicing yoga and the connection with my inner wisdom and deeper emotions where the reason that I left my engineering job and moved into environmental-protection and health related work, the reason that I moved to Greece and the reason I no longer chase relationships where I feel unappreciated and question myself.
Over to you…
I hope you enjoyed this post in celebration of International Yoga Day! Let me know in the comments below if you have experience these benefits or others from practicing yoga. Like this post and follow my blog for more content on yoga, nutrition and healthy living in Greece.
If you want to learn more about Yoga for Women you can check out my others posts here and you can also find my current class schedule here. Currently I am only teaching one online class a week but I will be updating the schedule in September and (hopefully) starting a face to face class here for any of you in Athens! I also offer online private and small group classes at a very reasonable price, just reach out by email if you are interested and I can put together a package that meets your needs.
This is a tricky subject but something that has been on my mind lately. As someone who has been in the health and wellness field for several years, I have seen this reoccurring pattern of almost a cult-like mentality around various diets. As a former vegan I have certainly fallen for this idea that there is “one diet to rule them all” and experienced this almost religious dedication to my diet dogma of choice. But this doesn’t only happen with veganism, I’ve also seen the same aggressive preaching, tunnel vision and exclusionary mentality amongst followers of the paleo, raw food, keto and carnivore diets as well as those who believe that gluten, dairy or sugar are the devil.
Why do we do this? Why does following particular way of eating give us this feeling of safety and superiority? Why do we cling onto the idea that a particular diet will save us, take away all of our suffering and lead us to an infinite nirvana of perfect health? I think advertising definitely plays a role as health, youth and beauty have become aspirational products that can be marketed and sold. This used to be a tactic adopted by food manufacturers to sell us products like diet coke and special k but now with social media, anyone can become a diet “guru” and make millions selling the new version of sermons and religious texts (aka recipe e-books and courses), sometimes without any qualifications to back up their claims, other than personal experience.
When we are struggling, either with a chronic health condition or with the belief that we aren’t good enough as we are and need to somehow improve ourselves, we become the perfect customer. These gurus become our idols and we are vulnerable to believing everything that we see and trusting what we are told. We see people sharing about how cutting out all carbs or adopting a raw vegan diet cured them of every symptom and disease and improved their life in every way and of course, we want a piece of that! But we always have to remember that we don’t see everything about people’s lives and especially when someone has a product to sell, they have an investment in promoting perfection and sweeping any issues under the rug.
We all know in theory that social media is a highlight reel and that people tend to share what is going well or their success stories in overcoming their problems, myself included! I’ve often shared stories of my past struggles and how I have managed to balance my hormones and fix my relationship to food and my body. I try to be transparent and also share the process when I am in the messy place of trying to figure something out but of course I don’t write about every single thing going on in my life. Partly because I don’t want to bore people but mostly because when you’re in the eye of the storm, you don’t have the clarity and understanding that comes with hindsight and enables you to write about your struggles. So I don’t believe that anyone does it on purpose but we all tend to show more of the positive and less of the negative aspects of ourselves. It’s human nature to want to show our best side but our shadows and struggles are what make us human.
There has been a trend over the last couple of years on social media, with vegan influencers coming out and sharing “why I’m no longer vegan” stories. Often these are people who spent years declaring to the world how good they felt, how energetic they were and how amazing their hair and skin had become on this diet, only to admit a few months later that they were struggling all along and didn’t feel able to talk about it because they felt trapped by the web they had weaved around themselves. Their online identity and professional reputation had become so tied up in their diet dogma that they found it so hard to change their diet for their health, never mind tell their audience that they were doing so. And the ones that did share this experience received so much backlash and abuse from the community for being selfish or hypocritical.
This public shaming behaviour was so shocking to me and made me realise just how far this moralising of food and diet <cult>ure has become. Food is no longer just fuel and nourishment for the body and soul but it is now a way for people to express their status as a good citizen. Yes it’s great that we are now becoming more aware of the ethical issues surrounding our food system, especially now the size of the global population is leaving our planet straining at the seams. Making more ethical choices is is a good thing and something I am totally on board with and often talk about on this blog. It’s amazing that companies are now looking at their supply chains, consumers are seeking out more sustainable, fair trade products and we want to see this trend continue. However, this is work in progress and all we can do is make the best choices where possible to meet our conflicting objectives.
A healthy diet isn’t always sustainable or ethical and a sustainable diet isn’t always healthy. And no food or diet is perfect. You eat meat and dairy and contribute to climate change and potentially animal cruelty and pollution. So you cut out animal products and instead end up eating vegan products that are shipped from all over the world, produced on farms that cause large scale eco system damage or exploit bonded labourers in developing countries. You try to eat all organic, local, plant-based food and end up with a myriad of health issues due to your overly restrictive diet. We all have a responsibility to make better choices where we can, even though with the way the food system operates right now some of this is out of our hands. But we certainly shouldn’t feel guilt or shame for our food choices when they are not perfect, or shame others who do not have access to or cannot afford to make these better choices, because let’s be honest, choosing high-quality, organic, local produce is often a privilege rather than the easy option.
Moving away from ethics and towards health and wellness, when it comes to the macro-nutrient wars of the HCLF (high carb low fat) vs. the LCFH (low carb high fat) communities, it just gets silly. Each camp has their own key pieces of research that they cite and doctors that they follow who claim that this way of eating is the perfect human diet. Each has their armies of followers with stories of healing and longevity who battle against each other in pointless debates and who circle in their own communities, brainwashing themselves and proving each other right. In reality how can we possibly know what the perfect human diet is? Humans developed all over the planet and survived on so many different diets: hunter gatherers, agricultural communities and now industrial societies like the ones most of us live in today. There is so much conflicting research out there that it’s possible to find evidence to back up almost any claim.
There is so much variety in our genetics, environment and physical health status that there’s no way there is one truth when it comes to food and diet. Plus, health is about so much more than what we eat. When we look at the blue zones (the places with the highest number of centenarians), they don’t all follow the same diet but one thing they have in common is their sense of community, slow pace of life and connection with the natural world. I think there comes a point when you have to accept that perfecting your diet can only get you so far and the simple act of trying can be a stress on the body that causes health issues to continue. It’s much better to eat food that makes you feel strong and energetic, keeps your metabolism functioning at it’s best but also brings you joy and connection with the community you live in than keeping yourself in an isolated bubble, trying to consume the optimal diet for humans.
I am saying this as much for my past self as I am for all of you out there. I have been through phases where I was so desperate to heal my body that I put all of my energy into eating what I believed was the best diet for my body as well as the planet and it only made things worse. Letting go of the diet dogma was what finally helped me to heal. Now I definitely make the effort to make ethical and healthy food choices. I buy from local markets when I can, experiment with growing my own food, eat lots of plant-based meals and choose organic, fair trade products where its available and affordable. But I’m refuse to obsess over it or feel anxious when I can’t make the ideal choice. I eat plenty of things that aren’t sustainable or health promoting just because they taste good. I also now eat animal products again as for me, veganism didn’t work out and I experienced health issues despite being very careful with my diet and supplementation (I’m sorry to any vegans reading this but this was my experience).
I would never recommend to a client that they should eat a certain way and exclude particular food groups or foods, unless they have their own ethical or medical reasons to do so. I am a strong believer in paying attention to your bodies’ response to certain foods and choosing a diet based on what makes you feel your best. One of the best ways to do this in my experience in using a food diary, not to restrict your intake but to record how you really feel, physically and mentally, after eating certain foods or meals. This way you are totally in control and rather than relying on external information, you can listen and respond to your own bodies’ signals which is what we are designed to do. And even when you do find something that works, remember that this can change! Our bodies are never stagnant, we are constantly aging and adapting to the changing seasons and environment so we can’t expect that what works for us today will work 10 or 20 years down the line.
Over to you…
Anyway, that’s enough of me ranting for one day! Please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear your opinions and have a discussion. If you found this article interesting, please like this post and follow my blog to be notified when I post something new.
If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I am a qualified Public Health Nutritionist and hatha yoga teacher and my specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after restrictive dieting. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!
It’s been a while since my last post! It’s been a busy month as I had to come back to the UK before the end of the tax year and, as you can imagine, travelling during a pandemic is not the easiest task. I can understand why it has to be so complicated to put people off unnecessary travel and to keep us all safe but when you’re the one who has to travel it is frustrating and stressful to say the least. So I’ve been I’ve not had the motivation to write until now and today’s post is another fun story about the events of my life. I’ll be back to sharing health and wellness tips very soon but for now, enjoy the saga!
If you read my post about our journey from the UK to Greece with my pet cat Teddy, you’ll know I haven’t had the best luck with travel recently and the curse doesn’t seem to have lifted yet. This trip started out innocently enough with a cancelled flight that I was able to get a refund for and push my trip back another week. Even all of the extra paperwork and the cost of four COVID tests was just about bearable. When I finally arrived at Athens airport, I felt tired and anxious but also relieved that I was finally on my way. And then I found out that there was extreme bad weather in Munich where I was supposed to be taking a connecting flight on to Manchester.
Luckily the flight did go ahead and all seemed to be fine, until we tried to land at Munich airport. We felt the pilot dive down towards the runway and next thing it felt like we were going up again. The cloud was so thick we couldn’t see a thing and didn’t know which way was up. Next there was a huge CRASH and FLASH and the plane shook as if we had landed heavily, except we were still on the move. I looked over at the German businessman who was sat next to me and he laughed and shook his head: we just got hit by lightening! The pilot announced that we would be delayed because of the storm and that the airport staff needed to clear the runway of snow. Great.
We cruised around for 40 excruciating minutes before it was safe to land and the whole time my stomach was churning as I anxiously hoped my connecting flight would also be delayed due to the bad weather. I had visions of being stuck in Germany for months like the poor souls I’d seen on TV. Unfortunately luck was not on my side, I ended up missing the flight along with a Greek man who was on his way to visit his family in the UK. After nearly an hour of traipsing around the nearly empty airport with our luggage in tow, we were able to find Lufthansa service desk and were told we had been booked on to the first flight in the morning and we’d be spending the night in quarantine hotel. At least it was the Hilton so I couldn’t complain about that. I also can’t complain about the service of Lufthansa, they organised and paid for everything (even the extortionate prices of the hotel menu – 19 euro for a basic salad!) and the flight the next day went without a hiccup.
One thing I want to say is that even though we were forced to sit apart, wear de-humanizing masks and sanitise the life out of ourselves at every turn, I could still feel the humanity between all of the passengers and staff through the journey. People did still greet each other and not just in that awkward, fearful way I’ve experienced in the supermarket over the last 12 months. There was still a spirit of us all being in this together and respecting each others boundaries whilst still being warm and friendly. I think it’s important that we don’t start to see our fellow humans as the enemy throughout all of this but keep some perspective.
I already knew I had to self-isolate at home for ten days on arrival and I had booked my home test kits for day 2 and day 8 in advance. The ten days ended up being two weeks as my second test result was delayed and I couldn’t even go out for a walk until I had the result. Luckily I did receive it in time for Easter and I was even able to visit family and enjoy sitting out in the garden in the spring sunshine now that we’re allow to meet up outdoors. I realised just how much I missed them after all of these months apart. I went for a walk on the beach at Crosby with my brother and his dog and spent an afternoon strolling along the promenade at Southport with my Nan. Even though everything is still closed in the UK, it’s so good to have some signs of normality again and to be able to see loved ones face to face. And I was definitely happy to have a proper chocolate Easter egg this year!
I’m due to head back to Greece in two weeks time but so far I’ve had 4 cancelled flights and I’m still not sure whether my return flight will go ahead. This situation is the perfect opportunity to practice surrendering control as there’s just no way to predict what will happen next. Not accepting what is is a recipe for anxiety and frustration and in these circumstances there is nothing you can do except wait and see what life throws at you. I hope I’ll be back in Athens to celebrate Easter on 2nd May as it is the biggest holiday of the year but who knows. I’m missing my boyfriend and my cat and our garden in Athens. But for now I’m just happy that I am alive and well along with all of my family and loved ones.
I hope you enjoyed my bad luck story with a happy ending. Fingers crossed that I’m not posting a third installment in the travel curse series next month! I’m looking forward to sharing some healthy spring recipes once I am back in Greece and some outdoor yoga sessions now the weather is getting warmer. I hope you’re all keeping well and looking after yourselves as best as you can in this situation. If you’re feeling stuck, my top 3 tips for clearing the slate and boosting your energy are:
Take a quick walk outside (even better if it’s in nature)
Spend 10 minutes sitting in silence focusing on your breath
Eat a juicy, colourful refreshing fruit bowl or salad
It’s the simple things that can make all the difference in the way we feel and how we show up in our lives 🙂
How often have you found yourself reacting in the same old habitual ways to certain situations? Maybe it’s reacting negatively towards a particular person, feeling shy or anxious in certain situations, or repeatedly falling off the wagon with healthy behaviours as soon as a stressor hits. So much of our behaviour is habitual meaning that we do it without even thinking. We start to actually identify with feelings and behaviours as if they are our identity making it very difficult to change. But what if that wasn’t the case? What if you had the option to act consciously and choose how you want to show up each day?
I’ve heard many times how visualisation can help to do exactly that, change your mindset so that you can step out of your comfort zone and grow into the person you want to be. I never really paid it much attention until recently. However, recently I had an interview for a position that I really had set my heart on and after reading again about the power of visualisation I decided to give it a go. I’ve always struggled with confidence speaking in front of people, and this was an interview where I had to give a 15 minute presentation in front of a panel of 5 followed by a question and answer session. Naturally my inner critic was going wild with what ifs…
“What if you stumble on your words?” “What if you go bright red in the face?” “What if your mind goes totally blank?”
These were all based on memories of past experiences of presenting or public speaking where I’ve done exactly that. Blushed like a tomato, panicked and totally forgotten everything I wanted to say – eek! When I projected forward how I thought the interview would go, these were the memories I had to help me out with visualising how the interview would go. This has happened before too when I’ve had to speak publicly. I’d be nervous and running through all my past “failures” at speaking in front of people and of course when the moment arrived the same thing would happen again, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This is something we all do, as humans we hate uncertainty and we try to predict situations based on information we already have. Sometimes this can be helpful but often it can keep us feeling stuck in a rut and unable to reach our potential. But this time I was determined that it would be different. I’d had enough of feeling terrified at the thought of speaking in front of people and I wanted to create a new possibility. Since starting to teach yoga and make Youtube videos, I’ve already proved to myself that I can get out of my comfort zone and do things I am afraid of so why should this situation be any different?
I decided that for a few days leading up to the interview I would practice a guided visualisation where I imagined myself presenting confidently, impressing the panel and answering all of their questions with ease. I allowed myself to be aware of all of the judgements and criticisms that were present in my mind but chose not to dwell on them and to focus on creating new, positive beliefs about my abilities. As I always say, it’s important to also feel the emotions when practicing meditation or any mindset work and so I really let myself feel that happy, confident, excited version of myself in my mind. If you’re interested in the guided meditation I used, you can listen to it here.
As it wasn’t “real”, the visualisation gave me the opportunity to dream up an entirely new Amy, totally separate from the shy, anxious version I had become so attached to. I did this every morning, first thing for five days leading up to the interview and let me tell you, it worked wonders! I’m not saying that I arrived at the presentation with no fear or doubt but I felt so much better than I ever have in these kind of situations before. I presented confidently (even though I was shaking with nerves), I said everything I wanted to and answered all of the questions without freaking out too much. Definitely a win in my books. It’s out of my hands now whether I get the position or not but I feel good knowing that I showed up as my best self and gave it my all.
The best thing is that now I have a stored memory of this confident version of myself who can present well. Next time I need to do something like this and I rack my mind for past experiences, amongst the embarrassing memories I will also have this one to lean on and give me hope that I can do it. And the more memories like this I can build, the stronger this new, more confident Amy will become and over time it will become my new identity. So if any of you out there are struggling with confidence or with changing your behaviours, maybe give visualization a chance. You only need to commit around 15-20 minutes a day and it really can change your life. Of course, visualization alone won’t change anything in your life but what it can do is give you the motivation and sense of personal power so that you take actions that do create change.
Over to you…
I hope you enjoyed this article, if you did please like and share with anyone who it might help. Comment below your thoughts and experiences and follow my blog for more posts on health, nutrition, yoga and creating positive change in your life!
If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.
I wanted to choose the subject of gratitude for the final post in this series to say thank you to anyone who has stuck with me this whole month. I really had fun writing these posts, I hope you enjoyed them too and maybe learned something that will help you to improve your health. If you haven’t read the other posts you can find all 31 here and feel free to share with friends or family that you think could benefit. If you really absorb and implement all of these lessons you will be well on your way to becoming your own health coach! Now back to the topic of gratitude…
Gratitude is something that is talked about so much these days and rightly so. Being grateful for the things we have in our lives has been shown to improve both our physical, mental and emotional health. It is a real super power when it comes to improving your overall health and wellbeing. Gratitude helps to boost your happiness and also reduces feelings of frustration, anger and depression. When you feel better mentally, you are much more likely to make healthier choices like eating nutritious food, getting enough sleep and moving your body which can take your physical health to a whole new level. But how exactly do you practice gratitude?
I think of gratitude as a feeling state rather than an exercise that you do once a day. Sure, writing down 3 things you are grateful for each night can help you to reflect on the day and go to sleep with a more positive mindset. It is good to be grateful for every small thing in your life, especially at times like these when things feel so dark and uncertain. But I think to really soak up the benefits of gratitude you need to feel it in your entire body. Not only do you need to write the things down but you also need to really allow the emotion of gratitude to rise up and overwhelm you. When you really allow this feeling of gratitude and love to take over, it pushes out everything else and lifts your mood.
As I shared in my previous post, to change your habits you need to change your mind but when you are stuck in a negative mindset, sometimes it can be really hard to see a way out. Spending some time in a true state of gratitude can train your body to feel those positive emotions and make it easier to access them in your day to day life. Often we are limited by how we normally feel meaning that our typical mood affects the range of emotions we can access. For example, if you are in a bad mood and something positive happens, you might not get as excited as if you were already feeling happy and cheerful. We tend to resist feeling better for some reason and it can be really easy to get stuck in a downwards spiral, at least in my experience!
But the same thing works both ways. You can also set yourself for an upwards spiral by purposely spending some time feeling positive emotions each day. Yes it helps to practicing feeling good! I’m not talking about “toxic positivity” here where you pretend that your problems don’t exist. I’m fully aware we are in the middle of a pandemic and none of us should be expecting to feel amazing all day long. What I mean is there is benefit in acknowledging that life might be difficult right now but allowing yourself to squeeze the most joy out of the things that are going well in your life. Allowing ourselves to truly celebrate the wins, no matter how small, helps to keep our spirits strong and make it easier to deal with the struggles and things we are missing out on.
As for the actual practice of gratitude, I have tried following the advice of just writing down things I am grateful for and it just didn’t have the same effect for me. I have tried gratitude journals, writing post it notes to myself and countless other techniques. I would neatly write “I am grateful for my cat for making me smile”, “I am grateful for my lamp for creating beautiful light in my room” or “I am grateful for my books for letting me escape into my imagination”. But writing those things down felt more like a tick box exercise and I got bored pretty soon. I never kept it up for more than a few weeks and it felt like an extra thing on my to-do list that I had to do rather than something I looked forward to.
So what did I do? Of course I went to my favourite channel The Mindful Movement and found a gratitude meditation (I am always recommending them and they likely have no idea I exist!) . This was the game changer for me. Listening to the guided meditation below for cultivating an attitude of gratitude really helped me to truly focus my awareness and connect with the intense emotion of gratitude. I have actually cried a few times practicing this meditation! If I am feeling really down, I know I can always go back to this practice to lift me out of a hole. I usually come back to the same few things and people in my life that I am thankful for. I never try to mix it up and choose new things, I just go for the ones that feel the most meaningful and that works well for me. Let me know what you think if you try it out.
Now it’s time for me to take a break from writing and recharge my creative batteries… I’m not sure where I want to go next with my posts now this series is over but I do want to continue sharing regularly. You can expect all sorts of topics relating to nutrition, yoga and women’s health. I am also starting to record some yoga sequences for my own Youtube channel as well as my weekly live online classes. If you are interested in trying out yoga, especially if you are an absolute beginner to the practice, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Over to you…
I hope you found this article interesting and enjoyed the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experiences with practicing gratitude and whether it has improved your health.
If you want to follow along with this Real Health blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested
If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.
We are nearly at the end of this Real Health January series and for this penultimate post I want to bring it back to where we started in post #1 What does it mean to be healthy?. Today’s topic might be another controversial one and also one that is close to my heart! I want to talk about how an obsession with health and wellness can ruin your life.
When it comes to health there are definitely two clear extremes. There of course are many people who could benefit from making lifestyle changes to improve their health and reduce their risk of disease. But there are also those on the opposite end of the spectrum who are so focused on being healthy that it actually starts to negatively impact their life. I am all about promoting balance and I really do think the meaning of true health is learning how to make healthy choices and look after your body without obsessing over it and letting it take over.
Be healthy to LIVE rather than live to be HEALTHY
When I was younger, I definitely fell into the trap of letting health take over my life. I was obsessed with clean eating and afraid to eat foods that were “bad for me” or would make me gain weight. I went to the gym religiously, sometimes exercising more than once a day and I was constantly thinking about how I could get in those extra active minutes. I would walk to the gym, do a zumba class followed by pilates and then walk home. All of this fuelled by soups, salads and low-fat ready meals. People thought I was crazy but in a good way and would praise me for my commitment and discipline. As I’ve shared before, all of this led to a lot of anxiety and totally messed up hormones.
Fast forward to my early twenties and the arrival of the wellness scene. At the time I was looking for a way to heal my body, get my period back and fix my relationship with food. I found the online vegan community where everyone seemed happy and healthy following a “whole foods plant-based” diet and I jumped right in. I was eating insane amounts of fruits and vegetables and all sorts of super food powers claiming to detoxify and cleanse my body. Thank god I let go of the crazy amounts of cardio I was doing but instead discovered weight lifting and still had this fixation on body control and fitness in the back of my mind. At the time I thought I was doing the right thing and it was almost like there was a moral value attached to this healthy lifestyle.
It alienated me from my friends and kept me focusing on health above all. I was probably pretty boring as that’s all I talked about for a while! And yes, I am aware this is a health blog and I am writing about wellness here every day. I really enjoy healthy living and sharing my knowledge and experience but the difference is it is no longer my life. My work, relationships and hobbies get much more of my attention these days. Yes I eat lots of fresh, nutritious food but I also eat cake and chocolate on the regular. I no longer buy superfoods just for the health benefits and focus on real, local foods instead. I like moving my body but I won’t push myself through HIIT routines that I hate and if I am tired or on my period I will take a break from exercise altogether without feeling guilty about it. And I feel so much healthier for it!
The one thing I am really happy about my venture into wellness obsession is that I also started practicing yoga and meditation at this time, habits that have stuck with me to this day and really changed my life. I think the question you have to ask yourself honestly when it comes to health choices is: “Will this thing make my life better or worse?”. If your diet consists mostly of pasta and takeaways, eating more fruit and vegetables will probably give you more energy and reduce your risk of disease. But if you are already eating salads and smoothies all day long, restricting yourself from having pizza with your friends once a week probably won’t do much for your health and might leave you feeling isolated and lonely. Are the benefits of a healthy diet worth it if all of your thoughts are consumed by what and when you will eat and you lose connection with your friends and family?
Same for exercise, there is no point following a strict workout regime if you hate it the whole time and feel exhausted and stressed. Chronic stress is terrible for your body and actually increases your risk of many diseases. If you find yourself saying no to social events just to go to the gym, all of your days revolve around your exercise schedule or if you find it hard to rest even when you are injured or tired, maybe it’s time to look at your relationship to exercise. No criticism here, I am saying this from experience. Like with everything it’s all about balance. We are sold this image of fitness as the ultimate ideal but is it really necessary to train like you’re going into the military or look like a fitness model in order to be healthy? I’d argue not.
You might be reading this and thinking it is unrealistic or extreme but orthorexia (obsession with healthy eating) and exercise addiction are real and genuinely impact the lives of many people. I want my contribution to the wellness industry to be a voice of reason and realism. I want to inspire you to make positive changes that help you to feel your best without all of the rules and rigidity. I want you to feel motivated and empowered by my posts and not like you have to go ahead and do all of these things otherwise you won’t be healthy. The most important thing is to stay aware of your body keep asking yourself how you feel. I recently posted a video on healing fatigue through yoga and self-awareness which is all about this if you’re interested. And stay tuned for the last post of the Real Health January series tomorrow!
Over to you…
I hope you found this article interesting and enjoyed the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experiences with health and wellness obsession.
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