Taking a leap!

Leaping isn’t something you will often see me doing I’ll be honest! I am trying to do it more often though.

Not long ago I wrote a post about achieving your potential which touched on this subject a bit. I have been trying to say yes to things and then working out how I am going to actually be brave enough to do it after.

I know that I am not alone in liking the comfort of familiarity.

It’s so easy to only agreed to do things that you have done many times before and know you are capable of, but there are a few problems with this life.

By definition it means that you don’t experience anything new. This is sad. There are so many amazing experiences out there waiting for you to sample them, why would you only ever do what you have always done.

 So why is this on my mind this week?

Well, I like to draw inspiration for my blogs from my recent experiences. We have been having lots of new experiences as a family and well and truly leaping out of our comfort zones!

Last week we went to Italy for my best friend’s wedding. 

My son (9) has never been abroad and my daughter hasn’t since she started school (she’s now 14) so this was a huge deal for them.

In order to get to Italy we had to go in an aeroplane, my husband HATES flying, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him being there for such an amazing and memorable week.

In addition to this my son is very close to my husband at the moment so because Dad was scared, he was too.

 

While we were in Italy the children tried foods they claim they hate at home and loved them, they went to places they have never been before and experienced Italian life to the full.

It wasn’t just my plane-hating husband and children who had to take a leap out of their comfort zones though.

I volunteered to drive one of the hire cars we needed (there were 10 of us altogether so we needed two). I love driving but I hadn’t driven a left hand drive for over 10 years.

I was also asked to do a reading in the church service for my friends Callie and Emilio. I do a lot of public speaking but I’m not catholic, and I’m not usually recorded and it is rarely for something so memorable!

I also agreed to sing at the reception.

I know! But this is all part of my saying yes to opportunities thing. I used to do a lot of singing but haven’t done much at all apart from in the car since I had the children. This is my best friend in the world though, I’m not going to say no when it’s for her big day!

This not only meant singing though, it also meant meeting the musician who was playing at the reception the day before in Florence at his studio for a very quick rehearsal. Finding new places, meeting new people, singing in front of total strangers, all things with the potential to induce panic once upon a time.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m cool about it all now, cause I still have butterflies and what ifs, but nothing like I did once upon a time. 

I try to do something everyday that is out of my comfort zone whether it is making that phone call, contacting a potential client or doing an extra 5 minutes on my rowing machine.

I do think that the more we do it, the easier it gets.

I have heard about 2 people in the last week who are at extremes of this attitude. A man in his 70s who has never owned a passport and will barely leave his home town. Think of all the amazing opportunities he is missing. All the major events, all the sights, sounds, smells…

“There are many talented people who haven’t fulfilled their dreams because they over thought it, or they were too cautious, and were unwilling to make the leap of faith.”

 

James Cameron

Film Director

At the opposite end of the scale though, my friend’s daughter turned 16 yesterday and she did a skydive to celebrate! She loved it! What an amazing memory to have made and an incredible way to celebrate her birthday. Now that is literally taking a leap!

Don’t be one of the talented people who doesn’t make our mark on the world because you don’t take that leap of faith, that step out of your comfort zone.

 

How can you exercise your courage and step out of your comfort zone today?

 

If you are intrigued about my singing you can watch the video below. Apologies for the quality of the video it was taken on a phone but you get the idea. (I’m also really cross with myself for holding the words but we had only sung it through 3 times with the guitarist and it threw me a bit 🙁 ). Adding this video to the post is my “stepping out of my comfort zone” for today so please be gentle with me.

Taking time out -Why adults need time out too!

As adults it is easy to forget that we need to take time out sometimes in order to recharge and feel re-energised. Without this time we inadvertently turn into toddler versions of ourselves, having tantrums about minor issues and doing a grown up version or the tired cry all parents are familiar with.

We may not throw ourselves on the floor and kick our feet any more, but we do stamp about, moan about having to do everything ourselves, and refuse to stop even when ever part of our being is screaming “BUT I’M TIRED!”.

 

Different response (although only slightly!) but with the same trigger – overwhelm.

 When life gets busy we push ourselves to do everything and then eventually it all gets too much.

So what should we do when overwhelm strikes?

Well, I can’t really tell you that. 

You are probably wondering what the purpose of writing this is if I can’t give you any advice – am I right?

Well, I didn’t say I couldn’t give you any advice, I just said that I couldn’t tell you what to do.

Not the same.

You see the magical thing about living creatures is that no two are the same. You might be very similar, but you are never the same.  

My sister and I look alike, we sound identical, we like the same types of music and films but we are also very different.  

When my sister feels tired and overwhelmed she goes for a run or reads a book. I have a bath AND read a book – you see, we’re nothing like each other! *giggle*

The point I am trying to make is that we are all different, so what is relaxing and a real indulgence to one person is another worst nightmare.

It isn’t what we do that is important though, fortunately, it is the fact that we step away form the to do list and the never ending chores and allow ourselves time to relax and unwind. Whether that means playing a round of golf or knitting, it doesn’t matter, as long as you feel nurtured and happy.

You may want to be alone or meet up with a group of friend.

Your idea of chilling out might be going clubbing, or it might be walking up a mountain and sitting quietly.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are doing it because you want to not because you feel you should. 

 

It is also important that you do not at any time; before, during or after, feel guilty for taking this time for yourself.

This is where self care can be a challenge for many people. They know they should spend time relaxing but the whole time they are “relaxing” they are feeling guilty for doing it.

THAT’S NOT RELAXING!

By doing this you are neither getting through your jobs or giving yourself the time out you so need.

“You shouldn’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. Every so often, everyone needs to give themselves a big ol’ bear hug and treat themselves to some TLC.”

Sean Covey

Author

Today I am working. It’s a weekday and I do most of my work while my children are at school. Am I sitting hunched over my desk?

Nope.

I’m sitting with my MacBook on the patio table enjoying this beautiful weather we are enjoying the UK. Dreaming of my upcoming holiday as I type.

Find moments of joy even in the jobs you do. Maybe you have to do some weeding. Make sure you take time to appreciate the beauty of the garden as you do. Feel the sun on your back. Listen to the birds singing.  

Maybe the job you need to get done has no obvious pleasure associated with it. Get back to the basics. I am grateful I can see well enough to mend these trousers. I am grateful I am able to stand for long enough to clean the mirror. Whatever you are doing, remember that there is someone somewhere wishing they were able to do it. Find the positives in the jobs you do but make sure you take time to relax and recharge too. You will get those jobs done quicker and with more energy and accuracy if you aren’t tired and angry doing them.

Female Friends – Why they are so important

When we are little friendship is probably THE most important thing in our lives. We fall out with our friends and make new friends constantly. It is all part of working out who we are and what sort of person we want to be. As we grow older we usually have few friends but they are often deeper and more meaningful. 

Throughout our lives we are thrown together with people and we build friendships with the people who fit us best. As children our friends are the people we are in the most classes with, that we do clubs and extracurricular groups with or our parents friend’s children. As adults we throw the net wider, but for many people their closest friends are people from work or whose children go to the same school. 

 Often as adults we discover who our true friends are in times of hardship. Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying; “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo—what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” I found this out when I was ill. Friends who I thought would be there for me no matter what disappeared off the face of the earth and people who I had only recently met walked over hot coals to help me and support me.

Without my female friends I would have given up many years ago.

I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start my business, to grow my business and I would have been drowning in parenting challenges. Without my female friends who would help me see that all the things I struggle with are normal and all women go through them? I am fortunate that I am close to my Mum, sister, and my mother in law and I was very close to my Grandma, but friends fill a different role.

Friends make you laugh and cry. They tell you home truths when you need them and they act like giggling 8 year olds when you need cheering up. Women are, for the most part, nurturing and we all need a little nurturing. 

Last weekend I was on my best friend’s Hen weekend in London. We have been friends for almost 10 years and we talk nearly every day. She is one of the first people I tell when I have exciting news and whatever happens she is always there for me. A very, very special person. Despite being friends for almost a decade I have met relatively few of her friends, she lives 125 miles away. 

I was reminded during our fabulous day of fine food and haberdashery (yes we made fascinators for the wedding at a fabulous workshop!) that women have an amazing ability to bond in a very short space of time. I had only met the Hen and one other friend before the big day. I had spoken to people by email and text as I had helped to organise it but despite this within minutes of being thrown together we were all sharing details of our lives and bonding over stories of adversity. 

Good friends can make the difference between drowning and gliding like a swan through life's challenges. Click To Tweet 

When we get together with our girl friends it is like the best informal counselling session ever. We can get things off our chest about our families and work and anything else that we need an opinion on or someone to sympathise.

Most importantly though our friends make us laugh. 

So what?

Laughing is SO important for our physical and emotional health. It reduces stress and anxiety and is even good for your heart. We all need to laugh more and I don’t know about you but I laugh a lot when I’m with my friends.

This quote from Tanja Taaljard sums up my feelings about female friendship perfectly. We do just instinctively understand the struggles of other women.  It is a very special gift.

I’m sure men cater for each other’s needs too, but their needs are different. Men need male friendships just as much as women need female friendships. They need someone to joke with, to talk about their worries, or just someone to distract them from their challenges.

Friendship is friendship.

“Women instinctually know how to nourish each other, and just being with each other is restorative”

Tanja Taaljard

Author, UPLIFT

Girl Code

Recently I have been reading Girl Code by Cara Alwill Leyba and it raised some brilliant and beautiful points about female friendship. This quote particularly resonated with me; “You know a woman is strong, beautiful, and secure by the way she empowers and inspires others.”

So often women tear each other down. Watching the royal wedding a few weeks ago I realised how easy it is and how quickly I commented on outfits or the look on someone’s face. I’m a friendly, generally non-judgmental person, but when faced with rows and rows of women in such a wide array of hats and dresses my first reaction was to judge.

I’d like to think that that behaviour was out of character but I wonder how often we are all guilty of judging quickly based on appearance?

When it comes to supporting other women though it is so important that we look past first impressions, that we listen and nurture. I understand more than most that our physical appearance isn’t always something we can control. If someone is struggling with depression or mental health issues the last thing they care about is putting on make up and what outfit they are going to wear. Instead of judging we should take time to look deeper and offer support and advice.

It is also important not to judge other because they have different priorities to us. When we see someone wearing very expensive jewellery or designer clothes, or conversely wearing old clothes that have seen better days, let’s try as a society not to immediately make assumptions about the reasons for those choices.

We all have a story to tell and no-one ever truly knows what another person is going though Click To Tweet

Let’s support each other and teach our children to love each other and look for the similarities in others not the differences. But above all let’s celebrate out friendships. Male, female or animal! Friends are so important and we must never take them for granted.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and buy the product/service associated I will receive a small payment in return. The product/service will not cost you any more. I never recommend anything I have not experienced myself. I always appreciate any purchases made using my links as they enable me to continue writing and helping more people.

Feminism – What does it mean to you?

FeminismFeminism. It is a word which means different things to different people.

According to definition Feminism is:

  1. noun
  2. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
  3. (sometimes initial capital letter)an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
  4. Older Use. feminine character.

(Dictionary.com)

The word only came into use at the start of the 19th Century with suffrage and then the rise of the women liberation movement, lead by Simone de Beauvoire, but only became used frequently in the 1970’s with the rise of modern feminists like Germaine Greer.

Women were treated as second class citizens for centuries but at during the late 19th and early 20th Century they began to fight back.

The suffragettes risked everything for the right to vote and to be seen as more equal in the eyes of the law. Their children were taken away from them, they lost all their material security. They were tortured, beaten and ostracised for their actions and beliefs. But they never gave up.

Last week there was a wonderful programme on the BBC, “Suffragettes with Lucy Worsley”. It was part dramatic re-enactment and part documentary. It was beautifully made. I have read and watched quite a lot about the Suffragettes over the years but every time I discover something new or I’m reminded of something I had forgotten.

Every time I think about it, I wonder whether I would have been brave enough to risk losing my children and my home for the right to vote. I wonder whether I would have been brave enough to face the beatings, the arrests, the tube feeding… for the right to put a cross on a piece of paper.

It is so much more than that though, it is the start of equality. The small snowball that escalated and eventually gave us the right to financial independence, the right to have a say in our own future, the right to equal education, equal job opportunities…

Don’t worry, I’m not deluded enough to think that we have fully achieved equality, and of course there are parts of the world where women are far from equal, but suffrage started the change.

What is modern feminism?

During my lifetime feminism has managed to get itself a bad name in some circles. It has been used to describe men hating aggressive women who don’t want equality buy supremacy. It may not be what the word actually means but many people still have that image when the word is used. Because of that many women struggle to identify themselves as feminists.

I believe that women are equal to men. Not better, not worse, but equal. I don’t however, believe that they are the same. I firmly believe that women have strengths and abilities and so do men. As a generalisation they are not the same skills and abilities but they are equally important and equally valuable to society.

When women are given the same opportunities as men they achieve incredible things. When women work together they are a real force to be reckoned with, even with all the restrictions the Suffragettes had to overcome.

When we support and encourage each other, men and women, so much can be achieved. When we fight against each other, everyone loses out.

“Feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean you hate men, it does not mean you hate girls that have nice legs and a tan, and it does not mean you are a ‘bitch’ or ‘dyke’; it means you believe in equality.”

Kate Nash -Singer

This quote from Kate Nash sums up how I feel about feminism. I don’t often refer to myself as a feminist, but when used in its true meaning I would definitely identify with the definition. I love that over the last decade it has become a word which is also being used by men to identify themselves as supporters of equality of the sexes. Equality shouldn’t just be something women are supporting and working towards.

Should we still be fighting for equality in the 21st Century? Shouldn’t it just be a given? Why is it even a subject that needs discussion?

What are your views on modern feminism? I would love to know.

Do you think we need a new word, one without the negative connotations that “feminism” has now?

Feminism isn’t about not wearing make up, it isn’t about cutting your hair and drinking pints. It isn’t about training to be an engineer or not breast feeding your baby. It is about having the choice to do all those things without judgement. It is about supporting women with whatever their choices are. Whether they want to return to work after having a baby or stay at home and care for them until they leave home.

It is about the freedom to choose. True equality.


Does your lack of self belief hold you back?

Self belief is something I have struggled with throughout my life. I have never believed that I was as good as everyone else. Always felt that I had to prove myself more than others. Always needed a certificate to tell me I was capable of doing something new.  

It took my many years to realise that some skills can’t be taught and some skills we come pre-loaded with. No-one taught me how to be a teacher. yes I spent 4 years doing a degree so that I had the qualification I needed , but I was born with the ability to teach. Teaching is such an intrinsic part of who I am that I can’t not teach. When I spend time with children I can’t help guiding their experiences so that they learn something new. Even when I spend time with adults I love passing on knowledge I have gleaned from something I have read or heard that might be of interest.

I thought everyone could teach. I genuinely did. Then I went on some training courses when I started learning holistic therapies and realised that not everyone can teach!

I sat through a three day course where having been given a beautifully printed workbook the “teacher” hopped from page 52 to page 3 then page 87 and back to page 12, while writing in virtually illegible writing up the edges of a flip chart and talking in a monotonous voice.

At that point I had an epiphany!

Teaching is one of my superpowers.

This person was clearly making a good living delivering training and yet they were disorganised, there was no flow to the sessions and even as a sympathetic and interested student I was bored and knew I wasn’t taking as much information in as I wanted to. This person was teaching adults. In a classroom full of children or teenagers they would have been eaten alive.

For years I had allowed my inner voice to prevent me from taking chances, from putting myself out there and taking on new challenges because my inner critic would shout: “Who do you think you are? Do you really think you could do that? Other people can do that but you can’t” 

Since that day I have acknowledged that my ability to impart wisdom is a gift, and probably my most valuable skill. I allow myself to say out loud that I am a teacher and a good teacher, for years I saw this as a job description, but it is so much more than that.

I have also realised that it isn’t my only super power. I have loads!

Do I always radiate self belief? No.

Do I sometimes allow self doubt to flood my body and paralyse me? Occasionally, but not very often these days.

Am I making progress every day? Oh yes!

Every single day I try to make myself do something I think I can’t do. Whether it is digging the garden when I know I’m tired or saying yes to a business opportunity that scares me, I make myself do it and prove to myself that I can.

The Yes Woman!

Do you remember Danny Wallace’s project (and subsequent book and film) “The Yes Man”. “Wallace vowed to say yes to every offer, invitation, challenge, and chance” (credit: Amazon.co.uk). This one change totally transformed his life. I may not be in a position to say yes to every opportunity, I have my family to consider, but I decided a few years ago that I would say yes to every business offer that came my way and work out how to make it happen after. It has brought so many amazing opportunities into my life. 

Like so many things, self belief is something that only you can change. 

You have to make a decision to change, to start believing in your own ability more, no-one can do it for you. Click To Tweet

It isn’t easy and there certainly isn’t a quick fix.

“Believe in your infinite potential. Your only limitations are those you set upon yourself.”

Roy T. Bennett

Author, The Light in the Heart

What can you do to improve your self belief?

Use your Superpowers

My superpowers are teaching, learning, caring and overcoming adversity. These are just the first few that popped into my head, I know now that I have many more. Sit and think about what your superpowers are, make a list of all your gifts. If you genuinely can’t think of any, ask someone you trust, they will tell you in a heartbeat. 

Use power poses

Power poses have been proven to make you act and feel more confident. Standing with your shoulders back and your head high automatically makes you feel more confident.

Use Visualisation

See yourself looking and feeling confident in your minds eye. Close your eyes, picture a situation that you find intimidating and see yourself looking happy, calm and confident. Keep using the same visualisation until you believe that it can be no other way.

Do one thing that scares you every day?

It doesn’t have to be something big. It might be that you don’t like using the phone and you make yourself ring the dentist. You might not like being in busy places and decide to go to a shopping centre. Perhaps you are scared of driving in unfamiliar areas, make yourself take a trip somewhere new. Whatever it is for you, just do something little every day. Flex your self confidence muscles.

Challenge your inner voice

We all have an inner critic who tells us we can’t do things, and makes us doubt our ability. However much that inner critic thinks it is helping us, it is often holding us back. Evolution taught us to be wary of situations that have caused us to be scared or anxious as a way of keeping us safe, most of the things we are scared of now are not physically dangerous though so we need to find ways to shut that inner voice up. The quickest way I have found is to question what the voice is saying; Is this true? Is it definitely true? How do I know? Can I prove it? Really challenge your inner voice and make it prove itself.

Read about others who have built their self belief

There is no better teacher than someone who has experienced what you are going through. The reason I teach relaxation and mindfulness is because I suffered from crippling anxiety in my late teens and early twenties then went on to suffer from depression when I started teaching. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through without strategies and support. By learning about other people who have overcome the challenges you face it enables you to learn from them and also reminds you that it is possible. A quick search on Amazon will bring up lots of self belief books, choose one that looks appealing.

Be kind to yourself

It is so important not to beat yourself up for feeling self doubt because that isn’t helpful. Challenge yourself and reward yourself for taking baby steps in the right direction. If you don’t achieve your target, take a deep breath and decide to do it tomorrow. Make time to relax and look after yourself. If you aren’t getting enough rest you can’t function at the level you need to to make real progress. 

Final word

The most important thing to remember is that nothing is permanent. Nothing. You can change anything if you decide you want to. Making that choice is the hardest part, if you are reading this, you’ve already taken that step.

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and buy the product/service associated I will receive a small payment in return. The product/service will not cost you any more. I never recommend anything I have not experienced myself. I always appreciate any purchases made using my links as they enable me to continue writing and helping more people. Find out more in my Terms of Service.

Being Mindful in a Crisis

There are times when life really challenges us. When it asks us to use every drop of strength and courage we have to cope with a situation or crisis. 

Whether it is a short term upheaval like an accident or a long term challenge such as a bereavement, we have to gather all our tools, all our strength and find a way to get through.

If you are above school age, chances are life has challenged you at some point. It may have been the loss of a loved or beloved pet. It may have been a serious illness you had to battle against. Perhaps you lost your job and been worried about your financial future and security.

Whatever challenges life has thrown at you, you have survived. I know that because you are reading this.

Why am I mentioning this?

Well, this weekend my family had their coping strategies challenged and it was fascinating watching the range of responses to the situation.

 

To give you some background we were having a day out; my husband and children, my parents, my sister and her family and her in laws. Everyone was having a lovely time, enjoying the weather and each other’s company when something happened which changed the entire course of the day.

There was an accident involving one of the children. I feel able to talk about this now because they are ok, but I won’t go into details.

Everyone present loves that little bundle of joy so much, and we are all equally besotted with her.

The range of reactions was interesting though.

The parents jumped into action and doing what needed to be done along with one grandparent who was driving – the rest of us had walked. The remaining adults comforted the children and each other. There was a brief period of panic and, in some cases, hysteria and then there was nothing further we could do. 

Some of the adults, and older children, were clearly reliving the experience and trying to predict the outcome – impossible.

The youngest child, once recovered from the drama, carried on as normal, playing, chatting and eating ice lollies. 

The remaining adults, for a variety of reasons, just carried on until there was news and something to be done, practically to help.

This is the very essence of mindfulness.

Living in the moment. Reacting to what is happening, not what we imagine might happen. 

When life challenges us it is easy to get lost in a sea of “what ifs” and “if onlys” but it is only what we can do differently now that matters.

Even at the most desperate times we always have a choice about what we think and how we react.

We could have chosen to abandon the day out and sit panicking in a tea room somewhere but we chose to entertain the children and keep ourselves busy to pass the time until there was more news.

Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor

Thich Nhat Nanh

Author

Passing the time and focusing on what we could change was the only option we had. The children were already upset and distraction is a powerful tool for young minds.

It is important that when life presents us with obstacles and situations to deal with which feel like they might break us, that we take a deep breath and use that time to make some choices. We can choose to be a victim of circumstance or we can choose to be the captain of our own ship.

Even at the most challenging moments we can ask ourselves; what is the most beneficial thing I can do for myself right now? It may be to have a cup of sweet tea and a piece of cake (we did that on Saturday too!), sometimes that is enough to steady our nerves and give us the energy to carry on. It may be to create an action plan to get us out of the crisis we have found ourselves in. Or it may be to sit in self care; have a bath, go for a run, treat ourselves to whatever our soul needs right now.

Life is precious and if we don't live every minute as though we mean it, we're wasting the most valuable commodity we have, time. Click To Tweet

When we take time to breath and really think about what the best course of action is, we can amaze ourselves with the resilience and strength we have within us. We all have it, we just have to find it and mindfulness is a great map to help us find it.

 

What do I mean by mindfulness?

Well, I have already said that in essence it is just being present but I appreciate that that is an abstract concept. Why not try this easy mindful breathing exercise next time you are under pressure.

 

Calming breath

Close your eyes and relax your shoulders.

Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel the breath entering your nose. Does it feel warm or cold? Did you feel your breath anywhere else as you took the breath in, maybe the back of your throat or your chest?

As you breathe out pay attention to your breath again.

This time as you breathe in imagine the air entering your body is a beautiful calming blue and it makes you feel so relaxed as it enters your body.

When you breathe out imagine that calming blue breath is removing any stress and tension from your body.

Repeat this 3-5 times or as many as you need to begin to feel more calm and relaxed. 

 

The Restorative Benefits of Nature

This is not what I was intending to write about today but after three days of glorious sunshine I couldn’t resist basking in the beauty of nature for just a little longer.

It was May Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK this weekend and miraculously the weather has been amazing! The sun has shone for three days straight. There hasn’t been a cloud in the sky, the birds have sung and the shops sold out of ice cream and barbecue food.

We have had my sister and her children staying for the weekend, escaping their building work and we have made the most of every minute of sunshine. We have spent time at the park, been for a walk and a picnic on Cannock Chase (a beautiful woodland), had another picnic and a walk at Stafford Castle and spent time in the garden.

 

 

 The benefits of being out in nature 

I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you how lovely it is to be outside in the sunshine. The healing properties of that big ball of gas in the sky are powerful indeed. My children and I were discussing the fact that just the smell of suncream puts us in a good mood because you know that if you need suncream then it’s a beautiful day.  There are so many smells of spring sunshine; blossom on the trees, fresh cut grass, barbecue smoke and washing on the line.

Then there are colours. The bright green of new foliage, the blue of the sky, the pink and white of blossom on the trees. The feel of the breeze on your skin, the sound of the birds in the trees, lawnmowers buzzing and of children playing. The senses are truly brought to life in this weather. 

The science bit…

It isn’t just the mindful, sensory experience of being in nature that is so beneficial though – although that is wonderful for our well being. There are sound medical and scientific reasons why being in nature is beneficial too.

When we visit the seaside the air is full of negative ions, which despite how it sounds is really beneficial in helping us feel more positive.

When we spend time in trees we feel happier, the air is cleaner because the trees are natures air purifiers, the green colour is even believed to make you live longer, trees are natural healers.  

When we go paddling the pebbles massage our feet and the water cools and washes them. Our feet feel instantly revived.

Just to add to the list of benefits, when we spend time outdoors we aren’t inside staring at a screen, we are usually walking or paddling or playing. 

You don’t really need me to tell you that being in nature is good for you though do you?

You only need to do it, to feel it, to remember it to know that its calming, magical powers can take away even the heaviest of burdens and make you feel calm and happy again. If you are fortunate enough for that time in nature to be with loved ones then the benefits are ten fold. 

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”

John Muir

American Naturalist and Author

When was the last time you took time to be in nature? To sit and relax in the garden, to walk through the woods, to paddle in a stream or in the sea?

If you can’t remember, then it’s time to get out there again. Go for a walk during your lunch break, walk to the shop instead of driving. Take time to visit your favourite garden, woodland or seaside spot. Your body and your well being will be glad you did.

 

Are you achieving your potential?

Are you achieving your potential? This is a question I ask myself all the time. We are being told all the time that life is short and we have to live every minute to the fullest. I know deep in my soul that that is important, really important. It was one of my most fundamental shifts after I was so ill. I felt deeply that I needed to live and be fully present every day.

I do… most of the time!

But I’m human. Sometimes I am tired and I have to allow myself to rest. Occasionally my family life takes over and I have to be there to care for my children and my work takes a back seat a little bit. At times I have to put self care first. When I have my 6 weekly injection it can really wipe me out for a day and there is little I can do about that.

Should I beat myself up at these times?

Absolutely not!

Is it frustrating at times? Yes!

Do I have to accept that that is life? Yes!

Would I be happy, healthy and walking my talk if I pushed through and chained myself to work every time something came up to derail me a little? Of course not!  

Could I stand up and talk about the importance of giving our children the love and support they need, and preach about how vital they are to the future, if I locked myself in my office every time my own children needed me? Well, I could try but it would be inauthentic and you would see through me in no time.

Would I be able to tell you how important self care is, and how crucial it is to look after yourself, if I didn’t stop and allow my body to rest when it is being challenged? You’re getting the idea aren’t you?

If I don’t listen to my own advice, then how can I give it?

Do I always rest when I’m tired? Honestly no, but do I make sure I rest as soon as I can? Yes I do. Because I have learned the hard way that if I don’t my body takes matters into its own hands and forces me to.

Does the fact that I am giving myself time out from my work mean that I am not achieving my potential? 

No! If I pushed through and worked 24/7 I would burn out really quickly and then I wouldn’t be any use to anyone.

Are there times when I could do more?

Yes there are. I work hard to create the best resources and provide the most helpful information possible, but I am phenomenally bad at shouting about it once I have finished creating. I am learning that it’s all very well working hard and creating brilliant resources, but if no-one ever knows they are there, then there is really no point.

It’s all well and good being knowledgeable, but if you can’t share that with other people it has no value at all.

So what am I going to do about it?

Well, I’ve already started. I am putting myself out there more. I am more active on social media, I’m writing for new audiences, I am responding to journalist requests, I even applied to be on a TV show! I know!

I truly believe that I have a lot to share with the world, and I am trying to be brave and tell everyone about the amazing work I do.

Is it easy? NO!

Not even a little bit! Would I be happier hiding in a cave writing and making beautiful resources?

Yes, most days!

But knowing that the people who need my work most will never see it or being able to benefit from it if I don’t tell someone and learn to step into my own power and achieve my own potential definitely drives me forward.

Every day when we wake up we have a decision to make about whether we make the day count or we allow it to wash over us. If you decide to read a book or go for a walk is that making the most of your day? Yes if it makes you happy and if you really benefit from it. If you sit watching TV all day? Well, if your body needs total rest then yes, in some circumstances that might be the best use of your time. If you are watching brain chewing gum and just distracting yourself from all the things you know you should be doing, then it really isn’t helping you to build the life you want to live is it?

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Philosopher

So why am I sharing all this with you?

Well, partly because I think it’s important for you to know that I too am a work in progress. We all are, forever, so get used to it. But I also want you to stop and think about your own life. That’s what this is about. It doesn’t matter to you whether I achieve my potential.

It makes no difference to anyone but you if you achieve your potential. Click To Tweet

There was a study done many years ago where end of life carers were asked what they were most often told by patients on their death beds. It was always things they wish they had done, people they wanted to have had more time with.

According to the Independent the most common regret was:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”

Achieving our own potential, isn’t always about earning the most money, having the biggest house or the most expensive car, it may be knowing that you have really helped someone every day or that you were the best mum/dad/nurse/teacher/plumber you could be. Whatever you need to do to really feel that you have given it your all and you will have no regrets when it is your turn to lie in that bed and look back over your life.

Live in the moment. Be your best self every minute. Be aware of your impact in the world. Make sure you are changing the world for the better – not someone else’s idea of better, your idea of better.  

What are you waiting for? Take a deep cleansing breath and step out of your comfort zone and into you creative arena!

I can’t wait to see you shine!

The Power of Working from the Heart

I am a teacher. 

I know that might sound like an obvious thing to say. I spent most of my childhood playing at being a teacher, 4 years training to be a teacher after which I began working in as a teacher in many schools. But for a long time I couldn’t say it.

In my mind, calling myself a teacher had to mean that I was working in a school teaching classes from 9-3 and working crazy hours planning and marking. A combination of my early experiences of teaching in the inner city with an unsupportive Headteacher and my illness later on in life meant that I knew I couldn’t return to that life. My body wouldn’t allow me to and I didn’t feel like it was the right choice for me.

In my heart I still felt like a teacher though. I wanted to impart wisdom. I still felt drawn to teachers at social gatherings. I felt like I belonged every time I went into my children’s school. Going into schools felt safe and like coming home. 

By the time my daughter was at school and settled I had done all my training in holistic therapies and mindfulness. Every time I visited her school I wanted to offer to do some training or teach the children some relaxation techniques, but something held me back.

When I was teaching full time, only a few years before, it would never have been acceptable to teach the children anything so “new age”, so I suppose I hadn’t picked up on the changing attitudes.

I was delighted when I was chatting to her teacher one day and we were talking about what I was doing now, she knew I had been a teacher because we qualified the same year and had discussed it previously. I explained that I was teaching relaxation and mindfulness and, at that time, still doing treatments. She asked whether I could come in and lead an INSET session for the staff. I was delighted and jumped at the chance. That led to me going in and teaching a lesson the the Y6 class before their SATs and at that moment I realised that I could create the job of my dreams.

Teaching relaxation in schools.

I immediately started creating Calmer Classrooms as a concept. I formalised the lesson I had created for the Y6 class and added it to my website and created a few lesson plans which I offered for free on my blog. The one day I decided to just do it and make the switch from being a therapist who did some work in schools to focusing all my energy on Calmer Classrooms.

I created a downloadable ebook and set up a new newsletter list. Changed the name of my Facebook page and joined a few teacher Facebook groups. Knowing that many teachers get up early to plan on a weekend I woke at 6:30am and shared a link to my free ebook and resources in the biggest teaching group I could find.

I waited.

Would anyone even notice my post?

No-one replied. No-one liked it. I turned over in bed and decided to see what had happened in a little while.

I fell asleep.

When I woke up an hour later I checked the post. Still no-one had liked or commented but I decided to check my newsletter list.

I had 400+ subscribers!

I’d like to put this into perspective for anyone who doesn’t have a newsletter list. I know we hear about people with thousands, even millions of subscribers, but I had just spent 4+ years building my therapy and natural parenting list and I had 273 subscribers!

By the end of the weekend I had over 2000 subscribers. At one point I was literally watching the numbers roll round. It was like magic.

I knew there and then that I was doing the right thing.

Since then I have put all my energy into helping teachers. To say it is my passion would be an understatement. I love doing the other aspects of my work; giving talks, my work with Become the Force, writing etc but helping teachers and helping them to help our children is my raison d’être.

It is my everything.

It gives me so much joy to hear from teachers who have seen their class transform before their eyes from using my resources. Or hear how a class have breezed through their SATs using the breathing techniques I taught them. There is no greater joy than helping people achieve their potential, and staying calm and focused is the quickest way to ensure they do just that.

When you find your life’s purpose. When you really love what you do. When you genuinely care about the people you are working with, it isn’t work. I don’t work, I create and I nurture and I share. I was asked by someone yesterday what I want to achieve. It’s simple. I want to change the education system. I want to be seen by enough people to have the authority to change the current climate in education and really make a difference to teachers and children. Not just in this country but globally. 

“If you do what you love, it’s the best way to relax”

Christian Louboutin

Designer

Today I want to ask you, what do you want to achieve?

Who do you want to help? What can you do to ensure that you are working from your heart?

Christian Louboutin said: “When you do what you love, it’s the best way to relax” so find what you love, and do it every day. You will feel happier and more calm than ever before.

 

If you want to know more about my work in schools please go to www.calmerclassrooms.co.uk.

I don’t have time to be mindful…

There is no doubt that we are living at a busy time. We dash from work to housework to activities to social gatherings with barely time to breathe.

Don’t we?

We have no choice.

 

Life is busy.

 

Working hours are no longer just 9-5, Monday-Friday, as they were when our parents were working. Now we work longer days, more days and between that and juggling family and trying to get enough steps on our Fitbit is killing us.

Literally killing us.

When we live in our heads and don’t give ourselves time to stop and just be we are causing so much stress to our bodies and our brains. 

 

What can we do about it?

 

Mindfulness. (I know, isn’t it the solution to everything?)

 

By being more mindful as we go about our busy lives we allow our brains to rest, our physiological stress reactions to calm, and we become happier and more present.

 

I know what you are going to say. 

 

“But Kate, you have just agreed that we are all busy. How on earth am I supposed to find time to be mindful too” 

 

Well, it’s easy. You’re not!

 

The beauty of mindfulness is that you don’t have to do anything more than you are already doing. You just have to do it a little differently.

 

Instead of thinking about the presentation you have at work tomorrow while you are doing the washing up, you think about the washing up. How does the water feel on your skin? Are your fingers going pruny yet? Aren’t our plates pretty? Oh look there’s a robin in the garden, how lovely. I can hear the birds singing.

Instead of dashing about doing the weeding and cutting the grass, thinking about whether the kids have tidied their rooms yet, you think about the weeding and cutting the grass. How does the grass smell? Is pushing the lawnmower making any of your muscles feel sore? How does the grass feel under your feet? Can you hear the neighbours dog barking? The soil is lovely and soft today. Look how beautiful those flowers are looking. 

 

Be present.

 

Do one job at a time and put all your energy and attention into that job. I have compiled a little list of jobs I do mindfully, maybe you can too:

  • baking
  • cooking
  • cleaning
  • gardening
  • making a hot drink
  • brushing my teeth
  • decorating
  • knitting/crocheting
  • washing the car
  • jigsaws
  • colouring/painting
  • singing

 

What would your list look like? Grab a pen and write it now. 

So now you have your list all you have to do is choose one thing and start doing that one thing mindfully. Try to choose something you do regularly, preferably every day. Maybe making a hot drink. Maybe washing up, brushing your teeth. Whatever it is, commit to doing that mindfully for a week, then add another habit and keep going until you don’t even notice all the activities you are doing mindfully.

“Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance.”

Amit Ray

Author

Becoming more mindful is a process. It isn’t something you just wake up one morning and decide. Like anything it takes time.

Apparently we have to do something for 21 days for it to become a habit. Of course that is a what research has decided, it may only take you 5 days, or it may take 45 days. I know that if I make something part of my morning routine I am much more likely to keep it up. Mornings are fairly consistent in my life at the moment so that is the easiest time to add in new habits. But whatever you decide, if you do it every day for 21 days you will keep doing it forever.

Whatever you choose, really work hard at being as present as you can. Really focus on what you are doing and all the senses associated with it. As you make your morning coffee watch the steam curl, smell the coffee, see the milk disperse in the mug, feel the heat as it approaches your lips. Really savour it.

Research shows that when we eat and drink more mindfully we lose weight because we notice when we are full and we don’t just keep mindlessly putting food in our mouths. The benefits to living more mindfully are pretty extensive but for me the most important benefit is the feeling of calm and the appreciation it gives me of the amazing things I am fortunate enough to have in my life. Whether it is really being present when my son gives me a hug in the morning, or being present as I scrub the tiles in the bathroom, I am grateful for all the blessings in my life.

Feeling calm and feeling thankful, are two of the most amazing feelings in the world.

If the traffic is busy, can I change it by getting frustrated and angry? Will I get there any quicker if I huff and puff and sigh?

No of course I won’t. If I stay calm and arrive a little late but safe and grateful that I wasn’t involved in the incident that caused the hold up, that is a blessing. Being present and reminding yourself that there is no need to react the way society has taught you that you ought to, leads to a happier and more contented life. When this situation arises, take a few deep breaths and be grateful you are safe.

If all you do is change how you react to these minor frustrations you will see such a change in your life.

How often does one thing happen early in the day which puts you in a bad mood for the rest of the day? Do you really think that everything is against you today? Is today really any better or worse than any other day? Of course not, but you have already told your brain to focus on the negatives because it is going to be “one of those days” because you spilt the milk when you made your morning coffee, or you couldn’t find your keys and left the house 5 minutes late. Focus on the positives, take a deep breath and reset. You might surprise yourself with the results.

The more you focus on being present, the more you will notice your reactions shifting away from knee jerk responses of anger and frustration and towards compassion and calm. You are training your brain to respond to what is really happening, not what you perceive to be happening.

 

If you feel that you would benefit from some guidance as you take your first few mindful steps why not sign up for my 8 week daily email course, “and breathe…”. It has helped so many people to be more mindful in only a few minutes a day and it teaches you to build your practice gradually.

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