Yoga and Mindfulness – Retreats for the mind, body, soul

Yoga and Mindfulness – Retreats for the mind, body, soul

I have been on a few yoga retreats in my life…and looking back, they’ve always been at transitional  or turbulent moments of my life. My first experience of a yoga retreat was in December 2004 in Thailand….my best friend had died 6 weeks before, and I was in the deep visceral clutches of bereavement and waves of grief. I felt a real pull to a yoga retreat I had seen signs for on the beach in Koh Phangan (a beach where I had been a few times since 2001, always noticed the sign, never plucked up the courage to answer my curiosity and see where it take me), and doing yoga on a gazebo in the middle of a coconut jungle was exactly what my broken heart needed at that time. And also where I decided that life was too short to waste time, so had an epiphany to train as a Pilates teacher.

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Retreat number 2 was in France the following summer, 2005, and happened to be booked to coincide with the day after splitting up with my boyfriend of 8 years. The week of barefoot walking silent meditation, secluded corners to read books and ponder life, within a beautiful chateau’s garden, daily yoga, gorgeous food and wine was, looking back, definitely the right place to be going through the very early phases of surreal heartbreak. Yoga to heal the broken soul, once again.

Retreat number 3: Ibiza Retreats for my 40th birthday. Four nights of blissful peaceful sleep, after 15 months of having been woken every hour or two by a beautifully sleepless Freddie babe. Not so much broken in soul but definitely in spirit. Heart full but mojo AWOL, identity muddled, the new mum survival mode phase of motherhood where everything is like pieces of a puzzle scattered around the floor with no real time or focus to put them in the right place. This few days gave me a bit of puzzle-orientation.

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And now this retreat I’ve just had the pleasure of being on, in the rolling hills of Andalusia, Lunar Lemon Retreats. I can’t describe how nourishing and soothing this retreat was. Run by gorgeous Brighton-based yoga teacher Mel Melvin who weaves in her experience in dance, movement therapy, mindfulness, this retreat was a tonic for body, mind, spirit, soul. Two yoga sessions a day, the morning one was energising and strengthening, the evening was the purest of Yin yoga, nurturing, balancing, calming. The food at the villa was beautiful to look at and to eat. And my days were spent reading, swimming, enjoying the exquisite peace….I feel lighter and rejuvenated from 4 days of being cradled in the mountains around Malaga and I cannot recommend Mel’s retreats enough.

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Have you ever been on a retreat? What was your biggest take home memory/feeling? Mine has been to rediscover a love of that soft meandering summer holiday feeling of savouring a good book. And the wonderful feeling of waking up and honouring my body with yoga, breath, movement. Namaste…. xxx

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The Elastic Brain – benefits of meditation

The Elastic Brain – benefits of meditation

“Mummy I never change my mind. I always keep the same mind.” Maurice said this to me yesterday, when I suggested that he *might* change his mind about a sartorial decision.

It made me think about the elastic brain. Up until fairly recently we thought of our minds as “fixed”, set in place in our early years: our character traits, core beliefs, personality all shaped and moulded forever. Our bodies were seen as the only thing we could potentially “work on” and change the shape of.

It’s true that our core beliefs tend to feel fixed: developed in early childhood and through formative experiences, one-off comments that brand you deeply into your soul like livestock branded by a cattle prod, etched into your psyche, immovable like a chicken pox scar. An internal stone manifesto. “I’m not popular”, “I’m crap in social situations”, “I’m really bad with money”.

And this fixed belief can lead to lowness and depression when internal Criticism FM is turned up to full volume and ignores any other evidence around. You might start to dislike aspects of your personality and despair that you’ll “always be like this”. But recent research has shown that through cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness therapies you can “re-wire” your brain to improve everything from your mental wellbeing to your perception of your quality of life and how content you are.

It’s not just rethinking stuff – it’s re-experiencing things. Changing the way you see things: experiences help to require your brain and form new beliefs, over time. And, just like that 5am boot camp to get a toned bum and honed waist, it takes hard work – and is easy to shirk. It’s much easier to settle in on your stone manifesto and think “this is just the way I am”. It’s challenging not to believe every thought you think. But it’s worth it. Thoughts are not facts. The more you calm an anxious mind by disciplining the stream of automatic thoughts, the more positive you’ll feel overall.

Challenge your mental habits, and your behavioural habits. In the same way that Pilates encourages you to lengthen out of bad posture/ingrained habits which create tension and aches and pains – you can overturn mental aches and pains by gently overturning behaviours that aren’t serving you well.

A meditation practice is the first step in redrawing your mental patterns. By setting aside some time to focus on your breath, on organising your thoughts and letting them bubble up like when you open a sparkling water bottle – you are releasing your body out of fight or flight mode and into rest and repair. Even simply doing that has profound effects on the ability of your brain to access the more reasoned area, allowing for calmer responses to situations and events. Over time, the amygdala, the brain’s fight or flight pilot, actually appears to SHRINK over time with meditation practice. So you are much less likely to get yourself all tied up in knots as you’re already rewired to react slightly differently.

I’m loving the Calm app at the moment, it’s fab for enabling you to fit in bite-sized easy meditation pockets in a normally chaotic day. I’ve been trying it a lot during this half term – so if that’s not a litmus test I don’t know what is! But even taking a few moments to breathe deeply, soften your body and tune in, listen to your internal thoughts, is enough to kick start a soothing meditative habit.

My book The Supermum Myth, written with clinical psychologist Dr Rachel Andrew, offers lots of ways to begin to notice your internal dialogue, and plenty of activities to try and shift your perception, retread those paths in your brain creating new positive furrows. It takes practice and just because it sounds simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. As with any physical fitness programme, we need to stick with it – which human beings find quite tricky don’t we, we’re constantly on a quest to self-sabotage…. But committing to working on our inner peace – and knowing it’s alway a work in progress – is always going to reap benefits by making us happier and more balanced day to day, and crucially make us a nicer person to be around, so I reckon it’s worth a shot, right?

Do you currently have a meditation practice of any kind? Movement meditation, breathing, walking…? What is your go-to meditative habit? I’d love to know! xxx

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 13 – Nicky Clinch

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 13 – Nicky Clinch

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Balance. Wholeness. Purpose. These are the three overarching themes which greet you when you visit Nicky Clinch’s website. Comforting words in themselves, which reflect her mission as a Transformational Life Coach, Macrobiotic Nutritionist and Chef. Her Instagram feed is full of inspiration and deliciousness for heart, body and mind.

She shares her wellness journey and tools with me here. Enjoy. Let me know what you think!

Tell me about yourself, what is the “day job”, and how did you come to do what you’re doing?

My official work title is Transformational Life Coach, Macrobiotic Counsellor & Chef.  Which I know is the longest work title in history and makes me giggle often!

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I am also a teacher, public speaker and a qualified Specialist Healing Cook, which means I am qualified to cook for people who are trying to naturally heal from illness.

So as you can imagine, my day job gets pretty versatile and certainly keeps things interesting.

In any given day I may be giving one-to-one Counseling/ Coaching Sessions, teaching one of my Being in Heart Workshops or my 6-week Feed Your Inner Warrior Programme.  Creating Recipes or writing, either for my website or for other brands. I now have an amazing team of 3 beautiful powerful ladies that work with me, and we are just starting to build some urban and international retreats, which I can’t wait to share with everyone soon.

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How did I come to do what I do?  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  When I look back on everything I realise I couldn’t have ended up doing anything else, I do what I do because I can’t NOT do it.  It is just what I am meant to do.

After about 15 years of recovery from my own drug and alcohol addiction and eating disorders, working hard to overcome some very destructive habits and patterns, I came to a crossroads in my life: my step-father died very suddenly.  Just one morning he didn’t wake up, and it broke my heart.  I came away from his funeral with a real sense of awareness that my life wasn’t permanent and could end at any moment.  I decided then and there I wanted to do something that really meant something to me, and started looking into going back to school to retrain as a healer in some form.  I ended up training at The International School of Macrobiotics to qualify as a Macrobiotic Chef, Counsellor and Coach.

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Since then I regularly continue my training and growth. I even flew myself off to Peru back in 2009 and spent 5 weeks working in the jungle with Plant Medicine, Ayahuasca and Shamans. I can never stop learning and growing in myself, and the more I do that the more I can help others.

Do you find that modern life is increasing people’s sense of disconnect with their bodies? Tell me about the 3 Pillars of your philosophy. 

Absolutely.  I think in this day of social media and phones, Facebook and iPads we are more and more disconnecting from our own bodies and living much more from our heads.  To connect with others through a screen is instant gratification, but energetically can really disengage the actual physical body and heart.

I mean we’ve all done it right?  Scrolled and scrolled for hours on our screens. There is nothing more eye-opening is there than putting the phones down and turning the screens off and just coming back to being in our own bodies.  Connecting: connecting to our own breath, our own feelings and needs, through our own conversations, our own hearts, through touch and actual person-to-person connection.

That is why I love to teach people my three pillars because they all bring you back into the body and to begin really ‘being’ with all that lies there.  In my experience the real transformative shifts can happen only once someone is really back home in their own body.  To feel and be, to breathe and be present, to reconnect to where the energy is stuck in the body or where it is flowing.

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My three pillars are simple, but not necessarily easy.

  1. Conscious Cooking – Introducing wholefood cooking back into your life. Not only reconnecting to natural seasonal produce which allows us to reconnect to nature and the environment we live in, but the cooking itself slows us down.  There is a difference between throwing a meal together and cooking.  To really cook can be simple, it doesn’t need to be cordon bleu, but it forces us to be back in our bodies and back in the moment.  To cut and prep veg, to stir a simmering pot, to create a nourishing meal which we will then feed ourselves with.  It slows us down back into our earth energy and our body and can be very grounding and nurturing.
  2. Relationship to Body & Movement – Moving the body regularly or daily. You’d be surprised how often we ‘exercise’ in a way that we use it to disengage our body.  Trust me I did it for years in my eating disorder days.  Running on the treadmill for hours so that I didn’t have to feel anything.  What I’m talking about in this pillar is to spend time each day to be present in our own body, to move it, stretch it, be connecting to our breath.  To be in relationship with our own body so that we are not strangers to each other.
  3. Emotional & Spiritual Wellbeing – This one for some reason tends to get missed out the most, and yet to me seems to be one of the most important. But it is our emotional wellbeing and spiritual wellbeing that tends to dictate everything else. If we are bypassing this part we are disengaging from ourselves.  But if we can really allow ourselves to feel again, to be present and available for our emotional needs and spiritual callings, then we can really begin to feel much more empowered in this relationship we have with ourselves and begin to feel much more peaceful and joyful in our lives.  What’s the point in being physically healthy if we are full of anxiety all day underneath, right?


What are your own non-negotiable tools within your personal mental health/vitality toolkit?

Since becoming a mamma things that used to be non-negotiable for me have now had to become more flexible!  Any mother reading this will understand that!

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What is non-negotiable is this constant inner dialogue and check in I have with myself each day to stay connected to where I really am and what I may be needing.  Each day may be different: some days I may need to get up early and meditate, do yoga, journal, other days I may really need to negotiate a lie-in with my hubby.

Regular tools I always ALWAYS come back to and are touchstones for me are cooking something nourishing, getting on my yoga mat or moving my body, journaling, meditation and sharing my heart honestly with someone I trust (friend or hubby).

The biggie: How do you balance work/life/motherhood and family? 

The honest answer is each day is really different and there is NO perfect answer to this.  There is a piece of advice that I was given when I went back to work as a mother that really helped me:

“The more you really own who you truly are Nicky and the more you take care of yourself, the better example you are setting for you daughter”  
I was told this when I went back to work and I was racked with ‘mothers-guilt’ for not only going back to work but actually LOVING my work.  I kept feeling guilty whenever I needed to take time to take care of myself or whenever I got excited about starting a new project that inspired me.  When I was told this advice I finally relaxed.  I surrendered to the fact that I personally am a woman that both loves my work and loves my daughter.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Owning who I am, taking good care of myself gives me the opportunity to teach my daughter how to also be a girl/woman who follows her heart and takes care of her needs.

And so the balance of work/life/motherhood changes each day depending on what needs to most attention.  One rule is when I’m with my daughter I try to be fully available with her and not half in my work, and when I’m working I try to be fully available with that too.

And when I need to take a bit of time to take care of myself I actually explain it to my daughter telling her why and that it’s important to me, and she understands.  One thing I do want to say though is I couldn’t do any of this without the support and care of my amazing husband who is a great father and is always supportive to hold the fort if I have to work long hours.

To connect more with Nicky, head over to her website www.nickyclinch.com or enroll for one of her amazing transformational workshops:

Being In Heart is taking place Friday 15th September and her next Feed Your Inner Warrior 6 Wk Program starts Thursday 14th September.  Click here for more info.

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Keeping mum mighty – the importance of self care

Keeping mum mighty – the importance of self care

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There are some wonderful things going on on social media to champion the cause of self-care, encouraging us all to take a bit of ownership of our lives and not let ourselves be buried underneath piles of laundry and self-imposed internal negative stress.

I’ve been an avid listener to the Supermum Podcast, Mindset Tips for Busy Mums, since discovering it a couple of weeks ago when i started my Route 66 journey of 66 days to create positive habits. (ahem, how’s that going by the way? I haven’t blogged about it every day but it’s been gently there powering away on the back burner. How are your habits going?)

And on Instagram i’ve connected with Sara from Keeping Mum Mighty, a wellbeing blog aimed at mums, showing them how to navigate nappies and meltdowns with calm and positivity. I’ll be contributing to her blog in the future, and as part of that she asked me to answer a few questions for her about the importance of self-care and what it means to me. Here are my answers! let me know if any of it resonates with you.

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In your opinion, why is it important to Keep Mum Mighty?

Because our life is how we feel today, not how we want to or think we’ll feel tomorrow. We scramble through some days as mums kind of wishing our lives away, waiting for bedtime, waiting for a moment when we feel calmer, when things are smoother, when we have our shit together, when we’ll be a better mum. And actually, that’s a perpetual displacement of living life: postponing to a future fictional time where we’re suddenly Topsy and Tim’s inanely positive mum all the time. We only have today, yet we sometimes live our lives as if watching through mottled glass, rather than actively taking part: on survival mode, just getting through the day.

So taking small steps to create that better life, mindfully, through living your intentions, simply makes you enjoy calm within the craziness a bit more. Our children don’t want stressed shouty mama, and she is more likely to be present when her tether is pulled away. We are human, we will be shouty and stressed, but if we notice and develop strategies for dealing with this natural normal human behaviour we can catch it before it spirals into self-criticism and feelings of failure. We can live with our behaviours without clinging on to the negative responses that we develop about them. And in turn, this will make sure that the “negative” behaviours may start to visit us less often, and we’re more like to be on an even keel more of the time. Win not just for us, but for our kids too.

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We’re always modelling behaviour for our children at heightened moments possibly more than at any other. So by developing strategies to deal with what craziness life inevitably throws at us with a bit more awareness, grace and poise (occasionally) will be a great learning tool for them to carry through as well.

Your identity is pulled and stretched and reshaped when you become a mum. Sometimes you don’t recognise yourself in your reactions, your emotions after having children. Keeping Mum Mighty is essential as a way of maintaining that connection to yourself, to who you are, to how you are. Being able to ride the stormy weather with slightly more grace and humour. For your and your children’s sake, not for perfection’s sake.

Have you always been good at prioritising self-care? If not, was there a trigger?

I have possibly always had an awareness of nurturing self. I’m basically a hippie: yoga, peace and love and transcendental meditation, man, and I probably am most at home in a hammock in Thailand. I have an inherent tendency towards Buddhism: this too shall pass. I used to tell myself before exams etc that “this will be over, tomorrow is a new day”. I’m naturally empathetic and very (arguably too) sensitive. All of those traits are very positive and nurturing but can also mean hyper alert, hyper self-critical, painfully self-aware/conscious. So it took a while to throw a more caring spotlight to myself fully.

I experienced a seismic bereavement when I was in my late 20s, my best friend died suddenly. And that absolutely gave me the insight that life is precious and brief, and that you need to try and foster and notice moments of pure happiness when they arise, because ultimately all we have in life is moments: dark and light, yin and yang, in balance. And full appreciation of good moments is like creating a big lifeboat of resilience for when the waters are more choppy.

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A happy life is not necessarily a life that doesn’t experience low points. That is unrealistic. It’s how you deal with these low points which characterises whether or not you’re “happy”.

Since having children, it’s been a harder journey of prioritising. I had a traumatic birth, and then a few miscarriages, one of which was very traumatic. I was in “keep calm and carry on” mode and didn’t offer myself any respite – I am self-employed which I think sometimes doesn’t help with the self-care prioritising though, when work tends to have to usurp self-care in moments of non-parenting duty. But after this particular miscarriage experience I was anaemic, depleted in body and spirit, and severely run down.

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I continued to teach pregnancy Pilates classes which, looking back, was the purest form of self-flagellation. I ignored my body’s whispers of suffering, then shouts. I got a shoulder injury. Then a knee injury. I had a persistent cold which just got worse rather than better. And I finally dragged myself to the doctor where I was promptly told I was suffering the worst ear, chest and throat infection she had ever seen, and given industrial strength painkillers. She suggested that she wasn’t sure how I’d even got myself to the surgery that day. My immediate thought even then was that I was supposed to be covering a whole load of Pilates classes that week for some other teachers and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to cancel and let them down. I felt that being clearly sick wasn’t a “legitimate excuse”, and worried that people would be upset with me.

That was a big red flag for me that I had (necessarily) been striving to create an income for myself but without an adequate support structure for what I was taking on, and without listening to my body when it was unhappy.

It made me realise that, occasionally, something has to give and THAT IS OK. Sometimes you have to ask for an extension of a deadline, you have to say that you won’t be able to help someone, you have to admit that you need more time. That you are vulnerable. It’s not a sign of failure.

So now, I recognise immediately when I am getting to the point where I have reached full mental and physical capacity. I notice when anger starts to visit me more frequently. When I start to let a negative thought loop twirl around with gusto in my head. I see when I’m beginning to feel shattered, when my reactions to my boys are heightened with frustration and without gentleness. And I give myself a bit more of a break about it. I hate cancelling classes, but I have learnt that to cancel one class due to feeling under the weather is much better than soldiering on and then having to cancel two the week after. I feel like I hit a kind of Amber WATCH OUT phase, and rather than allow myself to run towards RED without noticing it, I am able to pull back, tell my husband that I’m feeling too stretched, articulate what it might be that is pushing the accelerator towards depletion and see what steps can be taken to slow it down.

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What are your top 3 go-to self-care essentials and how do you fit them into your busy life as a mum?

Without doubt for me the Number 1 is movement: when I’m rolling towards the Amber warning sign, one of the first things I notice is that I haven’t made even 3 minutes to do any Pilates over the course of the previous few days. I ALWAYS do at least 5 minutes of Pilates a day. It doesn’t have to be a full class. Just daily snacks to check in with body and mind. And inherently Pilates is inextricably linked to my number 2 which is: breathing. Taking full, mindful, deep breaths. I can see it with my clients that they arrive slightly burnt out and stressed but they leave rejuvenated and energised yet softened. That is the effect of movement and breath. It’s a non-negotiable.

My number 3 is SPACE. So whether that’s getting out to my Sunday morning yoga class which I try to diarise (although writing I have actually missed the last 4 weeks because life gets in the way sometimes), getting some green therapy with a run (•when I say “run”, I wish I was a runner but often I am just a brisk walker. I’m working on it…) in the park or by the river. Or if you can’t actually escape the house, taking time to have a hot bath when the kids are either not there or are in bed. No phone. SPACE. Creating some mental and physical space. I have recently been dipping my toe into meditation, and for me that is about creating the mental space, allowing feelings to be, to release or assimilate rather than linger and fester.

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If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your pregnant or new mum-self?

…..Oooph. So much. But mainly, in a nutshell: be kind to yourself. You’re doing ok. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Don’t allow yourself to feel like you’re being judged. Be kind to yourself.

 

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 11 – Jody Shield

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 11 – Jody Shield

I’m literally grinning from ear to ear writing this post as I’m so excited to share with you the words of wisdom that I’ve been offered from this latest wellness guru/expert/shining light.

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Jody Shield needs no introduction arguably, but for those of you who may not have heard of her yet, she is a modern-day healer, a meditation teacher, spiritual mentor, a guiding light for the spiritually curious. If you’re feeling lacklustre, like your life is chugging along on a track you weren’t quite sure about but you’re not sure how to find the turntable to find a new direction, she has a wealth of tools to empower you, to change or to simply take ownership of the choices you’ve made and view life more positively: inspiration to spark action.  She’s meditation ambassador for Lululemon. Oh and she’s also written a kick-ass book called Life Tonic. 

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Her Instagram bio encourages you to “Find your voice & ROAR 🐯 be fearlessly you!” which the tiger in me loves.

Jody agreed to talk to me while I was making bolognese for my two boys at peak potential witching hour post-school run, when they were whining in the background (along with an incessant PAW Patrol soundtrack…). It shows her professionalism and grace that she put up with me saying “what do you need sweetheart?”, “yes, you can watch the next episode”, “Do you need a wee?” and “Have you done a poo?”  intermittently during in our conversation without batting an eyelid or losing her flow.

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This is our chat, hastily scrawled in my notebook while creating dinner with the other hand, so some of her answers may be generally paraphrased through the mists of spaghetti, but the gist is there, even if I lack some of the eloquence (forgive me Jody).

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Life Tonic is a “modern toolkit to heal your life and soothe your soul”. I love how the tools are easy to dip into in the moment, or explore on a  deeper level. What tool would you recommend for someone experiencing heightened levels of anxiety in their day to day?

When we experience anxiety, we lose all sense of our rational being, the logical reality that we’re in, and instead the world becomes a very scary place. We tend to want to escape our body in that moment, to flee from whatever is scaring us. So, it’s good to have a tool which will bring us back into our body, and back into the moment.

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A great tool for this is from Emotional Freedom Technique: make a fist, and with your fist, begin tapping on your collarbone. It brings you back into your body in that moment; it’s calming – it can bring you back to a space where you were a baby being soothed by being patted on your back.

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Often anxiety is a manifestation of a fear of lost control: by tapping, we feel like we’re regaining a sense of control over our body and our emotions. It sends calming signals to the Amygdala structure of the brain – the area that controls emotions, feelings, memories. When we’re anxious, the amygdala sends us into fight or flight mode, creating a whole load of emotional and physical stress responses.

Tapping resets your energy, and brings you back into the present moment. It’s also really easy to do: you can do it anywhere, at any time.

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[by the way I tried this tool with Maurice when he was having a 5 year old anger explosion, and it really worked. Magic]

The Ego mind is like a badly behaved puppy, it’s slightly crazy and energetic, and you wouldn’t want it to be in charge of your thoughts and feelings. By tapping, you can regain control over your yappy dog.

Another tool which takes a bit longer to explore, so more useful for a deeper connection to your anxiety rather than for using in the moment, is this: When I’m feeling anxious, I place my hand where I can sense my anxiety rising. For me that’s often my belly. I actually take time to feel it, to hang out with it. I don’t want to suppress it or ask it to leave, I actually give it space to release on its own.

This, of course, is really uncomfortable. It’s not fun to sit with emotions which cause you discomfort, so we usually push them away. Sitting with it, observing it, offers it a real space for growth and might spark some understanding of action you need to take, changes you need to make. Or simply give you the understanding of your emotional response in a more rational, calm way.

That’s all anxiety is: it’s like excitement but with more unknowns. Basically our bodies are excited and the Ego starts to question it, and as there are no immediate answers we read it as fear and label it negative. It’s in that potential room for growth where we are most scared, which is why we avoid it. Raw emotional responses make it feel like a bad thing. When actually, if we soften our response and sit with it, it can actually bring great things forward.

 

I love that. I’m going to try to sit with challenging feelings to allow them to release and see what stems from that from now on! Another emotional minefield that tends to plague women is imposter syndrome. What would you suggest to someone who is struggling with feeling like they are a fraud who can’t quite compete, doesn’t match up to her colleagues/fellow mums?

These feelings and thoughts come from a deeply held belief system around your worth. Your narrative which links all of your experiences together, creating a story woven around your outlook on life. Imposter syndrome, and feeling like you fall short of ideals, is a symptom of your outlook and your own narrative thread.

When you’re in a moment of doubt, saying things out loud, like “I’m here!”, “I’m back!” enables you to notice the negative patterns of thought, and brings you back. Grounds you.

Also – it’s so important to understand that we’re ALL figuring things out. Everyone is struggling on some level, about something. Just do the best that you can. Show up. Be vulnerable. Lift yourself out of negative patterns by reframing the energy that you’re putting out around things.

I always try to reframe by being grateful for these challenges: for that difficulty, that “stuckness”. A grateful acceptance that this means that things are moving and growing, pushing you. Struggling is ok  – it signals growth and change. Reframe it as curiosity and challenge: doors are opening. You just have to choose to go through them.

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I love the idea of reframing responses to reactions. What are your own personal non-negotiable wellness tools? Things that you never allow yourself to shirk?

For me, meditation is without doubt the non-negotiable. I make time to meditate every day, without fail. For me, it’s almost a directional piece: I begin to meditate without concrete intention usually, and use it as a mind space to allow what’s troubling me to speak up and find room to release, to ask myself questions, and to find those answers offered up.

Meditation is, above all, about creating space. We are so bombarded with ideas, with jobs, with busy-ness. What we all need to cultivate is some calm and space so we can observe our creativity and allow ourselves room to grow. Meditation offers that space.

 

Jody is a true inspiration, not least because she is an unashamed tree-hugger and I love her for this alone. Find out more about her events and speaking, and her book, here. And connect with her on Instagram here.

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 10 – Eminé Rushton

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 10 – Eminé Rushton

I met the lovely Eminé last night at a Psychologies event at the Neom store on the Kings Road  – a place I would gladly while away many hours, its array of scents and general atmosphere of space and serenity are good for the soul. Eminé has an ethereal beauty about her, and a calm wisdom about all things wellness. I wanted to tap into some of that wisdom, to share with you wonderful people. Enjoy!

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Tell me about yourself – what’s the day job?

I’m Wellness Director at my favourite magazine, Psychologies. I took the role 7 years ago, when it was ‘Beauty Director’ and swiftly engineered it to include health, and then, last year, moved the role, and our content, into whole-hearted holistic wellbeing, which is where my heart is too (never been a ‘beauty’ girl!).

I’m now also running my own little conscious consultancy, LEAF, which is all about helping the most ethical natural brands find a voice, and working to get them out into the world in intelligent and thoughtful ways. I also run the wellness blog, The Balance Plan with my husband Paul – a home for our recipes, ideas, beliefs and a fresh look at living Ayurvedically (which we are passionate about) in the modern age.

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I love your Psychologies 360me campaign, encouraging people to become more aware of their health in a truly holistic way, Tell me more about that. Do you find that people are more keen to nurture their souls, more aware of their mental health nowadays and understanding of modern life’s potential effects on it?

The shift in our collective conscience, in just these last few years, has been remarkable. People only ever used to talk about health in relation to weight loss, dieting, bikinis… it was ad infinitum and ad nauseam and wholly disheartening.

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When I launched #360me, the aim was to focus on how we would all FEEL, not look, and to understand that we are not just a body – we are a nourishable soul/spirit, a beautiful mind and a complex gut too… wanting to knit all the pieces together, to say ‘I shall aim to join these dots within me, to enjoy doing so, to celebrate my variousness and all of my multitudes’, was the starting point. No diminishment – no diets, calories, formulaic exercises. Our health should never be based on a formula!

The reception to it has been utterly amazing. I think it’s so rare to find a magazine that talks in a solely wholly celebratory way – that offers practical advice without making you feel insecure in any way. There is so much more conversation around our mental health these days – we’ve seen a huge conversation starter with the royals, and it’s being picked up over and over again.

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We’ve long known that 1 in 3 people experience significant mental health challenges in their lives, but it’s never been the case that 1 in 3 would openly TALK about it. We’re not robots, we’re ever-shifting and changing beings, and it makes perfect sense that we will all experience extremely trying, upsetting, challenging things and go through dark and sad times.

There should never be any shame in that. It’s also about realising that some very small things can have a very big impact on how good we are able to feel. Being kinder to yourself. Creating a sleep routine. Eating nourishing food in season. I think we’ve woken up to the fact that we can’t batter our bodies and bruise our spirits and then expect to make it all better with a spin class and a multi-vitamin. We have to start from the ground up – inside our selves.

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When I became a mum, one thing that immediately slipped by the wayside was my skincare regime. Up until then my skin had been something I nurtured and loved to look after, so it made me feel quite low that my skin really suffered from the lack of sleep/care/time and hormonal storms, suddenly my face was something I was ashamed of, and wanted to hide  from the world (which is quite hard to do…). Skin is the first thing that starts to show imbalance in body and mind. As a qualified facialist, what would your top tips be for sleep-deprived busy mums to try and keep their skin at its optimum (under the circumstances)?

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Oh I know that very well, as someone who was sleep-deprived without respite for 3 entire years. I was lucky I suppose, as worked in the industry, so would still make time (even on a lunch break) for a facial, massage or an infrared sauna… and these things helped keep me feeling more well than I would have done without them. I also found that if I was able to continue to nourish my skin through my diet – lots of omega 3, vitamins, antioxidants (and topping up with Wild Nutrition or Pukka too), my skin saw the benefits.

But let’s be honest: when you’re exhausted and very low on sleep, not much can replicate what you’re missing. I learned the art of napping, several times a day, with my youngest (I took 8 months mat leave), but with my first, I went straight back to work and didn’t get a full night’s sleep for almost 3 years… no pot of cream will help with that! So, when I could, I took magnesium baths, practised a bit of yoga, and got to bed as early as humanly possible.

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Even if I was woken 3 or 4 times (or 10!), I’d still have had a bit more sleep at the start of the night. Lack of sleep also really raised our cortisol levels and can imbalance our hormones, so I’d also recommend taken pure and high grade Ashwaghanda (an adaptogen that combats stress) and Shatavari (which balances the female reproductive system), every day. Pukka and Wild Nutrition, are, once again, my go to brands here.

What are your personal mental health tools in your own toolkit?

Learning to meditate with Will Williams, last year, was a big turning point for me. Prior to that I had attended this retreat at 42 Acres with Tony Riddle and Carly Grace and Alan Dolan, and meditation came into my life at a time when I really needed it. The difference I felt after a few days’ rest, meditation, breath work and sound baths, at 42, was unbelievably profound. I could have taken every single spa trip over my 15 years as an editor and the level of wellness I felt after just 3 days at 42 Acres was deeper and more powerful than the whole ‘spa’ lot put together. That’s when I really realised that I was missing a big trick – that pampering, spa-ing, eating well, are all wonderfully salubrious and relaxing, but to really make a big change, and one that then flows into every other part of you, it needs to work on another level – you need to get into the mind, in a significant way.

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I’ve since done long meditation weekends with Jody Shield, have taken up more regular yoga with a great online company, Movement for Modern Life, and meditate every single night, in bed, just before sleep. Meditation levels me out and buoys me up more significantly than anything else. It’s my ultimate tool, and I recommend Vedic Meditation to anyone who’s struggled with other forms… it’s the simple repetition of a sound, over and over, in the mind, which gives you a focus and makes it so much easier to allow that wandering mind to free itself from the unrelenting babble.

The big question: How do you balance work and life?

Oh my, I am still trying and learning, every single day. Some days I nail it – but that often relies on the kids playing ball – going to sleep on time, not waking, and all of us being happy and sympathetic to one another! There are some really simple things that do help… trying to wake up with a smile, ‘hey, I get another day! lucky me!’ and waking the children with positivity too. We always sit down to a family breakfast – that’s my husband in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, while I get kids dressed and ready for school. Sitting down, eating, chatting about the day ahead, is a nice way to begin. Arguments can easily kick off between my two children who are both pretty fiery and headstrong, but sometimes I’ll do something funny, like open a window and tell them to waft their worries and whinges outside, and that can diffuse things!

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I work very dedicatedly all day long – some days I am at my computer for hours – stopping only to stretch or eat – but I try to balance this with days where I am very mobile and in meetings, hotfooting it across London. If I have to work in the evening, I’ll do no more than 90 mins once the kids are tucked up, and then it’s a real strict shutdown. I turn my phone off, laptop off, and leave them upstairs in my study. I then light a Neom candle downstairs and get the diffuser going in my bedroom, so that soothing scent starts to waft through our space, as I potter around tidying, washing, organising, cleaning… then lights go off, candles flicker, I may bathe or do a short yoga class, but I am strict about always doing my 20 minute meditation just before bed… I may fall asleep mid-med, which is lovely too… the biggest thing that derails me is feeling overwhelmed. That sense of HOW ON EARTH AM I GOING TO MANAGE ALL OF THIS?

What life has taught me is that I do manage. That the time it took to worry and dwell and fear is much better used DOING. Even just making a list can help you feel as though you’re a bit more in control. Sometimes too, the things you dread doing are almost pleasurable once you get down to them – there’s always a sort of satisfaction to be gained from the action – so much more satisfying than the hypothetical phase of worrying about it! Being very strict with my diary is another one. Some people must think me so rude – they’ll email to ask to meet up (and I love meeting up with interesting people!) and I’ll say that I can’t see them for two months. It’s not that I am so utterly busy every single day, but that I need to build breathing space and non-travel days into my life too.. days when I can sit at home, write, think, mull, create… rather than go into another day of back-to-back meetings.

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That’s working for me, with two big work roles to balance  (and that doesn’t include motherhood!), and a sense that I don’t want to be swallowed whole by it all. Pace is important I think and we don’t tend to give it much thought – but I’ve learned that if I have one very busy on-the-go rushing day, I like to follow it (if I can) with one calmer and stiller day.

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Route 66 – setting intentions and the S word

Route 66 – setting intentions and the S word

It takes 66 repeated acts for the human brain to register a new habit. So, I’m on a 66-day mission to create positive body habits and beliefs. Join me on Route 66!

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Day 4: Today: setting intentions. I woke up this morning shivering, despite it being 27 degrees C in our bedroom due to this heatwave we’re having in London Town. A raging sore throat and swollen glands. A recipe for feeling low and crappy? Well, weirdly, I don’t feel as bad in spirit as I do in body. And I think that that is the emerging resilience that has been developed over this past year of understanding and working with my internal dialogue a bit more positively. Through therapies I learnt while writing The Supermum Myth, through mindfulness and generally caring for myself a bit more through yoga and self-compassion.

For me, the mind is definitely on board. Sometimes it’s still hard for me to put that into action so that my body will catch up. But that’s what Route 66 is all about.

So today I woke up perky of mind if not of body. A lot of the perkiness is due in part to Freddie having learnt finally to sleep at age 2 and a half…I’m always wary of bandying the S word around with mums, as if you’re suffering from sleep deprivation reading this it can make you want to bash the screen in with frustration and envy. it’s such an emotive time when you’re having your sleep sabotaged either by small people or by anxiety-induced insomnia. Freddie has been sleeping relatively reliably overnight now for about 3 months, and the difference it has made to my resilience is profound and palpable. So, if you are feeling sleep deprived and exhausted – give yourself a break. Be kind to yourself. It is HARD to have any resolve or resilience when you have lost the cloak of armour which is a good/reliable night’s sleep.

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With that in mind: for me, setting an intention for the day, which I became aware of as a yoga practice of sankalpa (setting an intention and dedicating your yoga practice to someone or something else) is a powerful way of creating a positive trajectory for your mind and behaviours for the day. I’ve gradually started to see benefits of visualising an intention at the beginning of the day.

This morning, feeling groggy of body, I decided that my intention was to feel as positive as I could today. I took lots of deep breaths, then coughed a lot at that effort, and lifted my spine which immediately creates positivity. Often our posture reflects our emotional and physical wellbeing in a way that we don’t even notice. Collapsed shoulders and sunken chest depict low mood and squish your heart and lungs. So, open, breathe, nourish your heart centre. Even if you’re exhausted and sleep deprived, this will help you to feel more open and positive.

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Setting this intention has meant that every decision I’ve made in terms of the choices about nourishment etc for my body have been influenced by this. My throat is full of razors so I’ve made myself a banana smoothie with coconut water, to nourish and soothe. I’ve tried to drink a bucket of water – not least because it’s bloomin’ hot.

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Setting intentions encourages you to be more aware of the details of your daily life. To notice the silver linings and foster a grateful attitude, which can build your resilience for the days when everything seems to be derailing and you wish you’d never got out of bed. It means you’re more likely to be able to see what’s in the half empty cup.

What intention will you set today, tomorrow? It’s an empowering tool to add to your vitality toolkit.

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I’d love to know how you’re doing on your 66 days to vitality and wellbeing!

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Heart and Sole

Heart and Sole

Last night I went to the Yellow Kite Books inaugural summer event, The Exciting Future of Wellness. It was a panel discussion involving 4 major influencers in the “wellness” scene: Jody Shield, Hazel Wallace (aka The Food Medic), Shona Vertue – founder of the body and mind-honing Vertue Method and, I was happy to discover last night, a strong feminist and coffee devotee, and lastly Rhiannon Lambert, a Harley Street nutritionist specialising in eating disorders and mental health–nutritional links (who, incidentally, used to be a classical singer). All highly inspirational (INSPOGRAM) influential women with fascinating and varied stories to tell about how they came to be in the wellness industry. All passionate about educating the masses and offering them tools to take their health and wellness into their own hands.

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I’ve been a huge fan of Jody Shield for a while, and have been using her Life Tonic tools for a while to help lift my spirits and connect to my soul. I’ve always been a bit of a hippy, unashamedly so. And something she said last night reminded me of a blog post I wrote 4 years ago after Maurice and I had returned home after having spent 2 months in Canada, mainly running around barefoot. Coming back to London concrete as opposed to Canadian soil made me think about connecting to the earth with bare feet.

Last night Jody was talking about one of her favourite wellness tenets being kicking off her shoes, walking around on the earth and hugging trees. Shona Vertue talked passionately about how we all need to MOVE MORE and humans simply weren’t built for sitting at desks all day. Functional, playful, life-affirming movement. The kindred spirits on the panel made me smile and reminded me of my blog post: So I’m sharing it again here:

We’ve had a busy time since being back in Blighty. Maurice got the bends quite badly on landing back in the city from PEI, he seemed discombobulated at not having a football-field sized-expanse of green to run around and the freedom of the windswept red cliffs right on his doorstep. I’ve been feeling quite mournful that in London we haven’t got a garden and so haven’t been able to offer him the same delicious joy of running around unfettered, with nearly no boundaries and plenty of cats to disturb. So we have filled our days with plenty of trips to the swings, soft play areas, and generally anywhere that Maurice can feel joy in being active and unfettered. Unfettered, within limits…

It’s made me think a lot about the way that we connect with the earth in the city… or don’t. A few years ago I went on a yoga retreat in the south of France, near Perpignan. It was run by the lovely Vicky Oliver at Whyoga (whyoga.com), who I used to have the pleasure of practising yoga with every week when I lived locally to her classes (Wandsworth). My sister and I booked ourselves on this French yoga retreat as a frivolous indulgence. But when the time came around, I had had a bit of a shocker of a year, within 6 months my best friend died and I split with my boyfriend of 8 years, and the retreat hove into view on the horizon as a real form of relief and healing.

Every morning, Vicky took us through a walking mediation in the dewy sunny gardens of the beautiful chateau we were staying in. We had to walk barefoot, silently, for half an hour. Connecting to the ground through the soles of our feet, and to others only through eye contact and no words.

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I personally have always found meditation quite tricky as an activity whenever I’ve tried it. I’m the kind of person who has to really work hard to stop the buzz and hum of thoughts, worries and to do lists from whirring around my brain. In a yoga class setting, stationary meditation has always left me feeling slightly like the dunce in the class, not able to quite lock onto the same groove as everyone else and constantly flittering and fluttering between thought paths and trying to rein my brain back to the point. [Which – as Jody Shield affirms, doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong and should give up: no no, you just have to give your mind time to release the stresses it’s built up inside]

This walking meditation actually took me by surprise. Walking bare foot with care and attention on the soft wet grass every morning, making full contact with the earth, felt like a very soothing and calm way to begin each day. There is something inherently grounding about connecting your body to the world via bare feet. It makes you feel better. You are, quite literally, providing an earth for yourself, bringing your electrons back into order.

PEI allowed us to return to this every day, wandering around Country House and its grassy setting, or on the beach in bare feet, it seemed like an unnecessary chore ever to put socks on again. And I realised that it’s just so wonderful for Maurice’s developing feet to have had that pure unblocked contact with the ground, allowing his muscles to react to the undulating landscape under his feet.

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This has amazing health potential, doing this every day…without being too hyperbolic about it, the Earth can offer amazing healing powers and is possibly the best antioxidant you can access. Apparently connecting through to the ground reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your bloodstream, reduces inflammation, brings a levelling effect to your heart rate, encourages good sleep patterns (this didn’t appear to be the case for Mo…). And yet, in our daily life in the city, you’re so much less likely to connect to the earth without the barrier of concrete or shoe sole.

I can’t offer Maurice a daily walking meditation on grass while we live in this flat in Peckham, sadly. And I suspect it would have to be a running meditation with him anyway. But, I am trying to make sure that all of his walking around at home is done in bare feet while his little feet develop and beyond. At least so he maintains a connection to the ground underneath him, directly feeling the ground beneath his feet which physically and metaphorically will hopefully encourage him to feel grounded not floating…and which will encourage good development of the muscles of his feet.

Whenever I practise and teach Pilates, this is done barefoot. Working barefoot offers greater challenge for your muscles, working all the muscles around the ankle joint and leg, and challenging your balance and coordination. It means that you need to work everything a little bit harder than if you were wearing chunky trainers. But it also means you have to connect with your feet in a way that you might never think to in your daily life. My Pilates teacher used to spend about 20 minutes at the beginning of each session on foot exercises. Isolating the mobility of your toes, working the arch of your foot. We have the same number of bones in our foot as in our hand, so technically can achieve the same dexterity within the muscular structure. But how often do you do play the piano with your toes?

Try a mexican wave with your toes now. Even if you’re wearing shoes (although it’s better without), try to create a mexican wave from big toe to little toe. You may be surprised by how difficult this is. My Pilates teacher always used to say that any lack of mobility in the feet over time travels up the body and creates a shuffling old person with a humped back. Alarmist, maybe. But possibly also there is truth in it.

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So, every day, try and have some consciously barefoot time. Connect through to the ground, even if that’s through to wood/tiling/laminate. Connect and lengthen all ten toes down. Then lift them all up and wave them down individually. Draw up through the arch of the foot as if you’re trying to suck something up from the ground, that lifting feeling connects directly to your central pelvic floor engagement. It runs with the idea that Pilates delights in, that there is no superfluous element of your body’s muscular system, everything is equally important and contributes to good movement patterns and a healthy supple body and mind.

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 6 – Nicky Duffell

Series: What’s in Your Toolkit? 6 – Nicky Duffell

Nicky Duffell is one of my favourite Instagram wellness accounts: so uplifting, calming and aesthetically beautiful. Her blog is even more inspirational – I could spend hours browsing there if given the luxury, so I was really excited when she said she would take part in my series and to hear more about her various strands of work.

1. Tell me about yourself! Tell me more about your job(s), how long you’ve been doing what you do. 

I’m a registered nutritional therapist. I qualified in 2009 and in 2015 I set up my business Nicky for Life. I specialise in looking after Mums. There’s so much emphasis on our little ones (as there should be!) and I encourage Mums to look after themselves so they have the energy and wellbeing to look after their little people and to deal with life in general.


2. Do you find that people are more keen to nurture their souls, more aware of their physical and mental needs nowadays and understanding of modern life’s potential effects on health and vitality?

I think there’s a huge emphasis on health and wellbeing. Social media has definitely impacted and it’s changed a lot since I qualified in 2009. I think Mums put so much pressure on themselves to be the perfect Mum, work, run the house that they can actually forget to look after themselves and their health can impact. Mummy guilt comes in there too.


I think the impact social media has had on health is great. But there’s a downside as there’s so much misleading information out there now. I always say, trust yourself, find what works for you and your own body as we’re all so different. And be careful about what you read in the media!

3. What are your personal physical and mental health non-negotiable tools in your own toolkit?

Yoga is my number one non-negotiable. I have a session with my wonderful teacher Shelley Bloom every week and I do that without fail. The other things in my toolkit are meditation, acupuncture, Alexander lessons and homeopathy. I’m also a big believer in having fun, so going out with friends, having date night and doing something that brings you joy, no matter how big or small – a couple of my things are enjoying some chocolate and buying some beautiful fresh flowers.


6. How do you balance work, motherhood and life?

This one is always tricky, for anyone, myself included. I make sure I set clear boundaries. I don’t over commit myself. I say no when I need to. And I listen to my body, if I’m starting to feel tired and run down, I rest. The other thing I try to do is have some me time, I’m the kind of person that needs my own space every now and then.


And I want to say that it’s OK to be you sometimes. Not Mummy, wife/partner, work colleague or any other hat we wear, just to be you. I think you can sometimes get a bit lost in motherhood and it’s good to find yourself again.

8. What are your favourite things/wellness tools and  strategies? Instagram accounts that you follow?

Here are a few of my favourite things:

Favourite breakfast: a smoothie, I love a smoothie!

Favourite time of day: coming home to my kids after a day at work

Favourite book: so many to choose from but I love ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo.

Favourite place: home

Favourite instagram accounts: @theyesmummum @jigsawnutrition @drjessamy (a lot of love for these ladies)

Favourite food: I think I have to say chocolate. Food should be enjoyed, there’s a good balance to be had in eating well and enjoying the things you love (health is so much more than food).

Favourite quote: She believed she could, so she did

Favourite word: balance


I’m so passionate about women looking after themselves. I’d love anyone to get in touch and say Hi. I love to chat and meet new people, so if you have anything you want to talk about you can find me in Instagram @nicky_duffell (my favourite place to be) and Facebook but feel free to drop me an email too nicky@nickyforlife.com.


And if you need any inspiration, have a read of my Strong Women series on my blog. I interviewed 5 amazing women about their journeys in motherhood and through adversity. And I also shared my story, warts and all.

Power of Touch

Power of Touch

It’s selfcare Sunday: a day which should be in indelible ink in everyone’s bullet journal. I had an aromatherapy massage today, a long overdue use of a birthday voucher.

It sent me into a blissful meditative state and made me question why I don’t make time and space for this kind of therapy regularly.
When you’re a mum in the early days, we tend to fall on the sensory overload end of the spectrum, with someone constantly “on” you:  pulling, climbing, grabbing, sitting on you… so our desires for being touched feel at full capacity (and then some). At the last Mothers’ Wellness evening I ran with Zoe from Hypnobirthing Place  some of the mums talked about avoiding any kind of physical connection with their partners as they were all touched-out.

But massage therapy can reset the dial of your mind maybe free up a bit of space for your partner again. I discovered the healing power of touch when I went through a crappy tornado of a time in my life 12 years ago: my best friend from school died suddenly, and then 6 months later my 8-year relationship finished. So essentially the scaffolding of the past 15 years of my life toppled down around me. I wandered listlessly carrying my grief around in my pocket for a long time, crying alone on the top deck of buses a lot.

Then I headed to Thailand for a bit. Anyone who’s been to Thailand will know that getting a massage there is about as commonplace as buying a pint of milk. I realised after my relationship split that I hadn’t really been hugged very much, that regular inconsequential loving touch that you take for granted in a long term partnership was gone, and nothing had replaced it. And that along with the loss of a beloved friend meant I was feeling really rudderless, nothing at all to anchor me. So in Thailand, I had a massage every single day. And I realised at the end of my trip that some of the grief of the past year began to be assimilated, I felt lighter, brighter, a bit more “me”, and a sense of equilibrium began to settle on my soul.

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Wanting to harness this healing power of touch into my regular life, coupled with a slight anxiety about turning 30 (hah, my salad days!) I promised myself then that I would treat myself to an Organic Pharmacy Rose Crystal facial once every couple of months. Bliss time, always resulted in leaving me feeling rejuvenated, renewed and glowing, and very much helped to lead me out of the dark months of bereavement – and meant that my skin was bloomin amazing.

Alas, that disposable income and time of those days is no longer mine, and these kind of treatments are but a fond and wonderful memory. But knowing the benefits of massage and feeling them anew today has made me pledge that I’ll try to incorporate touch back into my life, even if just with a self-neck and shoulder massage with oils such as jasmine, lavender, neroli, every evening.

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So what are the benefits?

Manage anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression, the diseases of our modern age. A massage can soothe these feelings by reducing cortisol levels. Deep levels of relaxation lowers cortisol and triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, a cue for our fight-or-flight response to calm down as if soothing a flighty horse. That floating on air feeling. Now the trick is to be able to imprint this feeling into your daily responses and come back to it when you’re in times of stress. That’s where a mindful breathing tool comes into play. Breathe in deeply for 5, out slowly for 6. Picture your mental space when you’ve had a nourishing treatment like a massage or facial. Aahhh.

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Massage boosts immunity

Getting a massage not only helps us relax, but also gives our immune and endocrine system a boost. Receiving a 45-minute massage has been found to increase the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that help defend the body from disease. It can also result in lower levels of cytokines, molecules that play a role in inflammation, and a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol.

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Improve Sleep

Sleep, ahh, sleep. A crappy night’s sleep can be but a distant memory in your soul, with massage therapy. Several studies have found that getting a massage can reduce fatigue and improve sleep – not just for adults but babies too. Lots of studies suggest that massages increase delta waves, brain waves connected to deep sleep, which would explain why it’s common to drift off on a massage table and wake yourself up with a snort (hey, I’m sure all masseures/masseuses are used to that…).

Humans desire touch, it’s a fundamental need. A massage is one of the most simple and effective ways to feel a sense of intimacy and human connection, especially if you’re single or going through any mental health turbulence.

My book The Supermum Myth is available for preorder now!