Tag Archives: well being

5 Steps to Happiness

The many faces of emotion

Emotions – we all experience them. Some people share their emotions, they don’t try to hide them. They make it known exactly how they are feeling. Other people hide their emotions and you never quite know what they are feeling. What’s right? There is no right or wrong way, but what we must ensure if that we are not ruled by our emotions. They are fleeting sensations and experiences that we give a label to, give meaning to. Sometimes we cling to those emotions and become identified with them, sadness, anger, fear, shame, disgust. It is when we cling to those emotions that there is suffering. It is ok to feel anger if a situation warrants it but when that anger is uncontrolled, unwarranted or held on to for excessive periods then then it becomes destructive and leads to suffering. It is ok to feel fear in situations, it drives us to take action, but if we constantly live in fear then it prevents us from taking any action at all. Similarly, with sadness and grief – it is ok to mourn the loss of a loved one, but we also need to remember the joy and happiness that person brought into our life. Emotions are energy, they carry a vibration. Negative emotions really draw us down to the root chakra and our sense of survival. Positive emotions lift us up but we also need to be careful that we don’t get too attached to positive emotions. All emotions cloud the way we see the world around us.

Our main aim in life is to be happy, but that happiness has to come from within. It is not the responsibility of anyone else to make us happy or for an object to make us happy – as once that person or object is gone then so is our happiness. Take control of your own happiness.

5 Steps to cultivating happiness within

  1. Gratitude – Spend time each day giving thanks. It might be being grateful for the roof over your head, the food on your plate, the money in your pocket. The more we focus on the things we can be grateful for the more we are training our minds to focus on the positive.
  2. Meditate – Spend time each day meditating. Calming the mind so that you can see the world as it really is. Meditation allows you to witness your thoughts and see those emotions for what they are.
  3. Watch the energy around you – What is the energy around you? Remember that no one is responsible for making you happy and likewise you are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness. Are you surrounding by people that drain your energy? Take time out so that you can refocus your energy. Visualise a protective bubble around you that shields you from negative energy.
  4. Move – When we feel a negative emotion it’s important to move. How we sit or stand has an impact on how we feel. If we always walk with our head down, shoulders hunched we are sending a message to our brain that we are sad. Adopt a more positive position. Stand upright, o for a walk. This can be really hard to do if you are feeling down but make yourself shake off the emotion and you will feel a whole lot better.
  5. Choose to be Happy – Happiness is a choice. If you actively choose to be happy rather than sad, angry, fearful you are also training your brain in happiness. You might have to keep reminding yourself to start with that you choose to be happy but eventually happiness will become the default setting.

Spring Detox Part 4 – Body

This week’s detox focus is what we put on our bodies.

The skin is the largest organ of the body.  It is a semi permeable barrier and offers a line of defence against germs and toxins.  It also allows toxins to be released from the body via sweat.  But what about the products we put onto our bodies willingly?

Some products just penetrate into the layers of the skin, the molecules too big to pass deeper into the body and into the bloodstream.  Other products are able to be absorbed deeper into the body and into the blood stream.  Drugs in the format of HRT patches or nicotine patches show that products can be absorbed directly from the skin deeper into the body and into the bloodstream.

So what about all the various beauty products that you put onto your skin?  Whether it’s in the form of makeup, body wash/lotions, suncare, haircare.  Do you know what’s in them and whether they are harmful to your body?  Have a look through your products and see what’s in the ingredients.  Do you know what those ingredients are?

The body has to deal with toxins that come in via the skin in just the same way as it deals with toxins that we ingest directly.  Ultimately they end up at the liver to be broken down and processed.  So you might unknowingly be giving the liver more work to do

My bathroom used to look like an aisle in Boots but over the years I’ve become a lot more conscious about what products I use on my body.  Where they come from, how they are tested and whether they come from natural sources.

There are now many brands offering natural organic products – ranging in price from reasonable to ridiculously expensive!

I like Neal’s Yard & Korres but I also often just use plain coconut oil or some almond oil mixed with a drop of essential oil instead of body lotion.  Tropic skincare has recently been recommended to me on my search for a decent natural deodorant that works but I’ve yet to try this one.

Whatever your budget though your body is worth looking after.  So take time and look at what you are putting on your body and search for alternatives if needed.  It might take a bit of time and effort but your body, and the environment, will thank you for it.

Spring Detox Part 3 – Digital Detox

This weeks detox focus is on what you consume digitally.

Social media, TV, internet. They all have an impact on how we feel. These are the things we do to relax but are they really relaxing us?

We get totally caught up in the programmes we watch on TV. Sometimes it might be feel good dramas, but it can also be dark dramas that can induce a sense of fear. You sit down to watch the TV ready to relax, drop your filters and you’re tranced out, absorbed in the drama before you realise it.  Distorting your view of how life is without you realising it. Not to mention the adverts in between – utilising this lovely tranced out space you’re in, convincing you that all you need is that new car, that particular perfume or that shampoo in your life to make you the hottest thing alive!

Social media – the edited highlights of everyone’s life. You pop on to facebook for a few minutes and before you realise it you’ve lost an hour of your life, maybe two hours! You started off in a good frame of mind but you’ve now started comparing your life to someone you don’t really know who’s life looks amazing. And then before you know it you’ve become lost in an array of you tube videos of cats performing tricks, goats dancing……….& suddenly you think “how did I end up here”.

Or there’s the attention seeking post – it’s just one line that is waiting for comments……..
You don’t want to give in and ask what’s happened but secretly you’re intrigued so you scroll through all the comments from other people: “are you ok honey?”,     “what’s happened”,    “don’t let them get to you”.  You’re still none the wiser about what’s happened and you’ve lost another hour of your life!

And there’s also the fitbit (or similar digital device) – designed to make us healthier and fitter by logging every aspect of our lives – you’ve counted your steps, logged what you’ve eaten, analysed your sleep pattern over the last week.  Are you healthier as a result or more stressed because you’ve not done enough steps, not eaten enough vegetables/protein/carbs, not drunk the requisite amount of water, or not had enough REM sleep?

Can you switch off from digital media? The majority of us use it in everyday life but are there times when you don’t need to use it and you could do something else instead.

Maybe set a curfew to switch off digital devices for periods each day. Set time limits and stick to them. How much time would it free up?

Witness how much time you spend on digital media – does it make you feel good or does it leave you feeling lacking and inadequate?  Curate your social media feeds – you can “snooze” or “hide” posts from certain people if you don’t want to completely unfriend them!

Try it for a week.  Notice what happens when you can switch off from digital devices.  Do you sleep better? Is your mood more positive? Does it affect your relationships?

If it feels good, why not keep it going

 

Spring Detox – Part 2 – Thought Focus

Being healthy isn’t just about food and exercise.  Our thoughts also have an impact on our health and wellbeing and we tend to be our own worst critic.  The internal chatter in our minds can be harsh – we say things to ourselves that we would never say to a friend:

  • “You’re not good enough”
  • “You’re too fat” / “You’re too thin”
  • “You shouldn’t have eaten that”
  • “You’re not clever enough”
  • “You’re so stupid”
  • “You could never do that”
  • ………..The list goes on and on.

If those thoughts are repeated enough they can become ingrained and we start to believe them – then we’re in a vicious cycle – the thoughts bring us down, we don’t put energy into doing new things and so the thoughts are reinforced.  The thoughts are often so general that we start applying them to all areas of our lives bring us down further and further………….

Step back and breathe.  It’s time to detox those negative thoughts.  How?

Start witnessing and catching them when they arise – when they show up question it:

  • “What if I could do that?”
  • “How could I do that?”
  • “Who say’s I’m too thin/fat?”
  • “What can I do differently”
  • “Is that really true”

Look for the evidence that says this isn’t true – we tend to delete the positive things and focus so much on the negative aspects of our lives.  Start looking out for all the positives instead.

This can be hard to do to start with but with practice it gets easier.  If the thoughts are overwhelming, just stop and breathe, take a pause and in that pause you can question the thoughts and look for the positive aspects.

Another great way for detoxing the mind is to cultivate gratitude.  Noting down a few things each day that you are grateful for really helps you to look for the positive things.  The more you focus on the positive things the easier it is to let go of the negative thoughts.

Detoxing our thoughts isn’t just about how we talk to ourselves either.  What about anger and resentment that we feel towards others?  Those thoughts can also be toxic as we tend to cling on to them for way too long.  Getting caught up in the drama.  Telling everyone how bad someone has been to us, bringing them into the drama and getting their reassurance.  Each time reliving the experience and all the associated emotions.  Again, it’s time to stop and breathe.

When there’s anger rising up in a situation ask yourself:

  • “Is what I’m about to say true?”
  • “Does it need to be said?”
  • “Does it need to be said by me?”

Just think about how much energy you waste ruminating on negative thoughts.  if we can just allow them to evaporate – even just a few of them, think about how much more energy you’d have to focus on the good things.

Spring Detox – Part 1 – Food Focus

Spring is now here, lighter evenings, rising energy.  in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the liver and gallbladder are associated with Spring and so this is the ideal time to show your liver some love and give it a detox.

The liver performs many functions in the body – it is a temporary energy store, breaks down toxins in the body, breaks down spent hormones and medication and stores vitamins and minerals amongst other functions.  The liver does most of its work over night between 1am and 3am when we are asleep and the body is resting.  Foods rich in chlorophyll are ideal for detoxing the liver – think rich vibrant green foods such as spinach, kale, spring greens,  broccoli, green beans, peas etc.   these foods are rich in vitamins and minerals and the fibre helps eliminate the toxins from the body.

Juicing is great as the weather gets warmer but if you feel it’s not quite warm enough yet for juicing try having some delicious green soups instead – simply cook peas, broccoli and spinach in some vegetable stock and then blend.

Also cut down on processed foods with high levels of salt and sugar.  As the liver is a temporary energy store excess sugar goes to the liver for storage in the short term before being converted to fat if it isn’t utilised.

Get more vegetables into your diet – simple stir-frys are great in Spring when we aren’t quite ready for salads but want to move away from the heavier, comforting foods of Winter.

Plus, drink lots of water to flush the toxins out of the body.

Reset Your Body Clock

Spring has arrived and with it the clocks have sprung forward.  We are moving  into the more yang, higher energy seasons and leaving the reflective yin seasons behind for now.  It’s a time when we should feel like we have more energy.  The Spring and Summer months are the time when we should be at our most productive and active.   But are you feeling like your energy isn’t quite there?

The Body Clock, our bodies natural rhythm runs in a daily cycle.  Energy moving from one organ to the next in a set sequence so that our bodies can operate at their optimum.  Each organ carrying out it’s functions at a set time each day – the most appropriate time – and resting and restoring in between.  But all too easily in our busy lives our body clock can become out of sync.

The stomach has most energy in the morning, the best time to digest a nutritious breakfast to set you up for the day, whereas energy goes to the liver and gall bladder overnight when we are resting so that the body can process all the toxins from the body so that they can be expelled by the body.  Following the liver and gall bladders active time, energy passes onto the lungs and large intestine so that they can then eliminate all the waste from the previous day.

Do you ever experience that 3pm slump – this is when the energy passes to the kidneys to recharge.  The kidney’s, home to the adrenal glands, act as a battery pack and as the energy moves here we can feel that slump as they recharge.

Late nights/early mornings, little sleep, shift working, eating late, skipping meals, eating the wrong foods, alcohol, drugs, medication, travelling to different timezones, external pollutants & toxins……..all take their toll on the body.  Our bodies get confused and don’t work so efficiently and the organs have to work harder, depleting the energy reserves.  We can then get into a vicious cycle  – using caffeine, sugar, alcohol, drugs to keep us going, which the liver then needs to work harder to process, reducing the energy even more.  The cycle continues.

But you can get your body back on track…..

  • Make sure you get enough sleep
  • Drink plenty of water to help flush out toxins from the body
  • Cut down on sugar, alcohol, caffeine
  • Don’t eat too late at night
  • Eat a nutritious breakfast to set you up for the day ahead
  • Take walks into nature – breathe in the freash air, absorb vitamin D from the natural light

In addition, you can use yoga to reset the body clock – by using poses that stimulate the meridians of each organ in sequence we can get the body back on track.  With the clocks having changed its the ideal tie to reset your body clock.  Join me on Sunday 7th April, 3pm,  at Seasonal Yoga Academy where I’ll be leading an energising body clock sequence followed by a guided relaxation.  A great way to set yourself up for the coming months.

Book Here

Seasonal Yoga – Winter

Winter is a time for relaxing, restoring and recharging your batteries.  The kidneys and bladder are the organs associated with the season of winter according to traditional Chinese medicine and the kidneys can be thought of as our own battery pack.  We need to ensure they are recharged to support us through the year.

It is a time for reflecting – contemplating what continues to serve us and what no longer serves us.  But this is not a time for taking drastic action or making radical changes.  It is a time to reflect and contemplate, building a bigger picture so that we can start planting seedlings in spring that we can nurture and grow.

Water is the element associated with winter.  It reminds us to go with the flow or to be still and reflect.  When the kidneys are out of balance we tend to feel fear – the adrenal glands are paired with the kidneys and are involved in our ‘fight or flight’ stress response so if you are feeling a bit stressed or fearful practice some gentle flowing yoga or find stillness in meditation to calm the body and mind.

With the start of a new year many people choose this time of year to go on a diet but this is the time when the body is seeking warming hearty meals such as soups and stews.  That doesn’t mean you have an excuse to be unhealthy at this time of year!  Fill up on healthy vegetable with warming spices – curried parsnip soup or cumin spiced roasted root vegetable.  Check out @seasonaleats for some weekly inspiration.

Winter Recipe: Spice Roasted Winter Vegetables

  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Sweet potato
  • 2 cloves garlic – peeled
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • Olive oil

Wash & peel the vegetables & cut into large chunks/wedges.  Combine in an ovenproof dish with the garlic and cumin seeds.  Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven (180C) for 30-40 mins or until the vegetables are tender.

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Watery Winter Moon Flow

This lovely practice is great for easing out tension and gently moving the body.  Moving between child’s pose, upward dog & downward dog. Flowing through the spine, closing your eyes and taking your attention inwards.  Listen to what your body is asking you for, spending a few breaths in one particular posture, perhaps swaying the hips from side to side in updog or down dog.  Keep the focus on the watery, fluidity of the movement.

Child’s Pose – Up Dog – Down Dog – Up Dog – Child’s Pose

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There are still some spaces left at my Mini Retreat this Sunday (14th January) at Prana Yoga Hamilton.  Give yourself some time and space to relax and recharge.

Or join my weekly Restorative or Yin Yoga classes at Seasonal Yoga Academy Glasgow

I’m also starting a monthly meditation workshop which kicks off on 11th February.  This monthly workshop is suitable for beginners and those with a regular meditation practice.  It will offer a supportive space to learn more about meditation, develop a regular practice and dive deeper

New Years Resolutions

The start of a new year, a blank slate, an opportunity to make changes.  I love the start of a new year, closing the door to the old year and stepping into the unknown: 365 days ahead of opportunities, new challenges, new discoveries and adventures.

I’ve long since given up on setting resolutions though – so many years of setting unattainable resolutions that fall by the wayside by mid-January.  The majority of new year’s resolutions fail within the first 2-3 weeks because people suddenly make drastic changes without getting the mid fully on board – joining the gym/diet groups to be fitter, healthier, lighter, stronger then the initial enthusiasm wears off, it’s winter and you just want to hibernate, eat comforting food and stay at home.  We’ve suddenly pushed ourselves right out of our comfort zone, which is exactly where we need to be to make changes, but if it’s too much too quickly the mind just wants to take the quickest route back to the comfort zone – picking up a takeaway/cake/wine/beer/ etc etc on the way!  And then there’s the feelings of failure kicking in – the negative chatter, the downward spiral, before we know it we’ve eaten more cake, drank more wine, missed the gym sessions, we’re beating ourselves up even more!

Although I don’t set new years resolutions anymore I still love to plan and set goals, but not just yet.  In traditional Chinese medicine winter is considered a time for recharging, restoring and reflecting rather than taking action.  Definitely not the time to be making radical changes to diet or lifestyle.   Instead of resolutions I like to set some intentions for the year ahead that I can then build on as the year progresses.  As winter is a time for reflection it’s the perfect time to ask yourself some searching questions so that when spring comes you’ve got some seedlings to start tending.

As I was reflecting on 2017 a lesson that kept popping up for me was remembering to stay present, enjoy the here and now as the present is all we have.  Last year is now memories, the future unknown. I have to find a balance between setting my intentions and then relaxing and letting the universe take over.  So I set aside some planning time – time specifically dedicated to reflection, daydreaming and manifesting.  An afternoon or an evening, I get cosy, light a candle, make a pot of tea, put on some inspiring music, reflect, dream, & let my imagination run wild.

So grab your notebook and set yourself a bit of dream time.  Some questions to prompt you in reflecting:

  • What did you achieve in the past year?
  • What worked/didn’t work and what you can learn from the experiences?
  • Are there patterns that keep repeating? What needs to change to stop the patterns repeating
  • What would be good to take forward into 2018, what can you let go of?
  • What do you dream of doing? Let your imagination free for a while.  Let go of the ‘buts’ that stop you and let your mind be free to wander.  What steps would you need to take to make some of this a reality?

As you reflect on these you can then start to build up a bigger picture and sense of direction over the winter months so that when spring arrives and the energy starts to increase you can start planting seeds to nurture and grow over the summer months.  You’ll then be reaping the rewards later in the year.

Whatever your intentions you can start making small changes, If it’s to be healthier committing to adding a few more veggies to your diet.  Maybe some gentle exercise – going for a winter walk, some gentle restorative yoga.  By starting small & taking gradual steps you can get the mind on board much more easily, it doesn’t feel like big scary change.  It makes staying on track much easier and as the small changes become habits you can start adding more changes through the year, building and building.

So what intentions are you setting this year?  What about the intention to look after yourself, self-care, nurture and nourish?

Come and join me for some yoga where you’ll have time to relax, restore and reflect:

Tuesdays Restorative 8-9:15pm & Thursdays Yin 8-9:15pm (Starts 18th January) bot at Seasonal Yoga Academy, Darnley Street, Glasgow, G41 2SE

Plus, sign up to my monthly newsletter to be kept up to date with details of my mini retreats, day retreats, yoga holidays and yoga and meditation workshops.