Gratitude, great soup, grounding and a good mood!

There are many small things we can do in our day that can boost our mood, improve our mental and physical health and energy levels. Without making a big effort these small changes can also help us to maintain a healthy weight, waist size, blood pressure and cholesterol level.

You may remember me mentioning the chakras, spinning wheels of energy in the body. Seeing red in your daily diet may help improve physical energy. Tomatoes are a great red food especially when in soups! Cooked tomatoes are a great source of lycopene an antioxidant important for heart health and has been found to lower the risk of some cancers. Home made soups offer the opportunity to add lots of immune boosting and energy enhancing spices such as paprika, turmeric and chilli. A warm bowl of soup on a cold January day can feel like a hug in a bowl! A great way to increase vegetable and water intake as well as fibre when using pulses and beans. Fibre in pulses and beans is great for our blood pressure and digestive health. Beans and pulses added to soup are also a good source of protein to help us feel full.

My homemade go to recipe is:

  • Two tins of tomatoes
  • 1/2 a tin of cannelini or butter beans
  • 1 vegetable stock cup
  • 100ml water
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon of tuneric
  • 3 dashes of worcestershire sauce

Boil for 5 minutes and blitz in a food processor or with a hand blender. It makes 4 hearty bowls of soup that can last in the fridge for 2-3 days. Having soup either for a working lunch or an evening meal with a bright salad helps keep saturated fat and refined carbohydrates and sugar intake low, balancing blood sugar levels, mood and energy!

Taking a few minutes either every day or a set day each week to write down what you feel grateful for really can help improve mood, energy, positive emotions and motivation to follow healthy eating and exercise behaviours. Either on a post it note or in a note pad, writing 3-5 things you feel thankful for and that are different each time has been evidenced to make a positive difference to peoples mood. The act of writing down what you are grateful for helps to rewire the brain stimulating the part of the brain (pre frontal cortex) that deals with positive rational thinking.

Feeling grounded isn’t as hard as it sounds. Taking just a minute or two each day to notice your feet connect to the earth as you walk, noticing the birds sing, the colour of the flowers, leaves and trees, feeling the breeze, noticing the sky and clouds all help you connect to the present and the wonders that earth gives us everyday. Just taking the time to taste your soup all help to draw you into the present moment and away from busy doing thoughts. In doing so we give our brains the space to feel calm and peace, we feel less emotional and reactive to food, people, events that are happening and are less drained in energy.

All of these small techniques help build energy from within, strengthening the root chakra so that we are more resilient, better able to adapt to challenges we face each day and more aware of our physical and mental wellbeing.

Let the rainbow guide you!

We have all become familiar with the image of a rainbow in 2020 as it is a symbol of hope. The rainbow is one of nature’s natural wonders that stops us in our tracks, makes us notice the present moment and can make us wonder in the spectrum of colours displayed in the sky. It doesn’t matter how many rainbows I see they all make me go WOW! I have set out on a personal quest to learn more about rainbows and I would like to share with you how important having a rainbow in your mind each day is important for our physical health and mental wellbeing.

You don’t have to see a rainbow in the sky every day. Having the rainbow in your mind each day may help you notice the colours in your food and help to increase nutrients, vitamins and minerals in your daily diet. Having a rainbow of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables at least 5 a day is part of the recommendations of the Mediterranean diet. This diet has been studied in many populations and is the most recommended way of eating to lower your risk of depression, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Having a rainbow every day in your diet helps increase vitamins A, C, D and E and a heap of antioxidants important for immunity and reducing inflammation internally. What does red look and taste like: sweet or sour or hot? Strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, chillies, peppers? Adding orange each day through butternut squash, sweet potato, oranges, satsumas. Yellow in peppers, bananas, mango, pineapple, lemon, sweetcorn green in spinach, broccoli, kale, peas, lettuce, cabbage, avocado, celery, cucumber, green beans, kiwi, green grapes, green apples and pears. Blue and purple (indigo & violet) are a bit more tricky each day but possible with purple grapes, blueberries, blackberries, black currants, figs, prunes, plums, raisins, purple sprouting, aubergine, purple cabbage and purple carrots!

What we see can have a big impact on our mood. Noticing the colours of the rainbow in nature each day is a good way to be present, looking for different colour leaves, flowers, birds can all help build the rainbow picture in your mind each day.

What we wear affects how we feel. Have you noticed if you wear grey and black often? Adding a colourful scarf, hat, gloves, socks, underwear and being mindful of the colours we wear and have in our home can help lift our mood. Exercising in a bright colours, eating and drinking from coloured crockery can all help keep the rainbow with us every day.

Having taken the time to stop and notice the rainbow I realised the colour spectrum is the same as the seven chakras in yoga! Having taught yoga for a few years in my 20’s even I was amazed that the rainbow is a sign to us to help us heal and become more in tune with who we are and support are mental wellbeing. You don’t have to be into yoga (yet!) to continue reading but understanding the rainbow colour spectrum and the healing powers of the chakra system may be the bridge to self -healing and self- discovery. The chakra system helps connect our mind and body and represents the energy centers that exist in us all. You may have noticed the rainbow is not a straight line but a bridge shape! ‘Crossing the rainbow bridge’ is a mythic metaphor, reconnecting to ourselves, our environment and the world around us.

The chakra system originated over four thousand years ago in India. They are forces of energy like a spinning wheel and are rooted both within the body and the mind. Yoga, pilates, breathing, meditation, mindfulness and exercise of any kind you enjoy all help us tune into the seven coloured chakras and can have a profound effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. Like a computer program, we can reconnect and adjust our internal programming through the things we choose to do to improve our physical and mental wellbeing.

Join me in January 2022 on a quest to heal, feel connected to yourself and others through connecting to the rainbow in our mind and body. Learning new ways to build resilience to adapt and overcome the daily challenges we all face. With over 20 years experience in health and wellbeing, I want to share my knowledge to help you understand how exercise, nutrition, sleep and meditation all affect your rainbow and your resilience! Gaining a greater understanding of how to be resilient and what drains your physical and emotional energy may help support your mental and physical wellbeing in 2022 and beyond.

Notice the colours in your food…..

……. and you may see that having a rainbow of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables each day improves energy, mood and wellbeing.

The festive season is a great time for feasting on foods we wouldn’t always choose to eat. Without hesitation we may reach for more sugary foods, higher fat foods, snacks and alcohol to celebrate and enjoy others company. In doing so we have changed our eating habits and may continue to do so for quite a few days. Only after we have over indulged, feel sluggish and lethargic and the ring of New Year do we feel inspired to again change to healthier habits. The festive season gives us the opportunity, if we choose to to pause and notice the foods that make us feel well, give us energy and those that don’t. Whilst Christmas and New Year can be stressful and overwhelming, there are many variables in our day that affect how we feel, think, focus and behave. We can’t control other people, events at work and at home that all affect how we react, how anxious we feel, our mood, energy levels and focus. What we can control is what we choose to eat and drink. They play a huge part in our mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing helping reduce anxiety, depression, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers.

What we eat has a big impact on our mood, anxiety levels, health, waist line and weight! If we choose foods high in sugar, white and refined carbohydrates then we may notice that we have moments of great energy and focus, we feel happy, but we may also notice that through the day we snap, have low mood and feel less focused. We may then choose to reach again for these foods but breaking this cycle may help you balance your blood sugar levels, stop the highs and lows of mood and energy. Eating natural foods low in sugar help release energy (glucose) slowly so that we notice stable energy levels, a stable mood, less anxiety and in the long term a smaller waistline and healthy weight.

When we eat has a big impact on our blood sugar levels, mood and our digestion. If we miss meals our blood sugar levels drop, we may then reach for the high sugar foods, we may notice we can’t focus and concentrate. The act of not eating also affects the blood supply to our digestive system. When we eat it stimulates the part of the nervous system responsible for rest and digestion. Eating every 4-6 hours helps maintain energy, mood, digestion and a healthy waistline.

How much caffeine we drink can have a big impact on noticing a racing heart, difficulty relaxing, and consequently may be interpreted by the body as anxiety. Ensuring we moderate our caffeine intake after lunch may help regulate our energy and sleep. Ensuring we drink water regularly through the daytime is vital for energy, cognitive function and wellbeing. Being dehydrated is associated with higher levels of anxiety.

Why we eat is really important! We may mistake dehydration for hunger, we may not recognise when we are truly hungry. We may be eating out of habit, not consciously engaged in what and why we are eating. We may be in a habit of eating when we are bored, stressed and feel emotional and these may significantly impact our food choices. Mindful eating is about being kind to yourself, not judging yourself but recognising patterns of eating and being aware that if you choose to you can change them.

Connecting to our senses helps us to come out of automatic pilot and connect with the foods we are eating. noticing a rainbow of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, seeing red, yellow, orange, purple and green in your day really does help increase vitamin and mineral intake. These are important for brain function, mood, anxiety and memory. They are also super important to support our immune system. Noticing the taste, texture and aroma of foods all helps you connect to what you are eating in that moment. When we are mindful as we eat we may eat less, enjoy our food more and make different choices about what we choose to eat.

It only takes a few seconds to connect your mind to the present, to be fully aware of what you are eating a drinking. Focusing on this for a few minutes may help you increase your understanding of what, when why and how much you eat, helping to manage both physical and mental wellbeing longterm. As we approach the New Year making small changes that you can maintain for the rest of your life is much healthier than looking for short term fixes that in the long term may not support mental and physical wellbeing.

Your centre of strength

The muscles that support the abdomen and pelvis are known as your core stability muscles. They comprise of of 5 deep abdominal, waist and lower back muscles that help to stabilise the spine and pelvis to reduce the risk of back pain long term.

Pilates, Yoga and tai chi are mindful forms of exercise focusing your attention on your breath as you move. Pilates main focus is to develop core strength alongside improving spinal mobility.

Being mindful of your body makes you more aware of what muscles you are using each day. You have to consciously engage your core muscles they don’t automatically work! Being mindful of engaging your core when you sit, lift heavy items (and children), exercise and move may all help improve upright posture and reduce back pain.

How do I engage my core?

  • place your hands on your lower abdomen, just below your belly button like a fan shape with your fingers touching in the centre
  • imagine you are doing up a zip or belt and visualise your hip bones being drawn together even though physically they won’t move
  • as you do this you will feel your belly button start to move towards your spine
  • you should aim to tighten your internal belt/zip a third of the way (30% contraction)
  • It is important you breathe. To maintain the connection to your core breathing wide into your rib cage (lateral thoracic breathing)
  • aim to hold the connection whilst breathing for 10 seconds repeating 10 times building up over the weeks until you can hold for 30 seconds

Pilates based exercises help challenge core engagement, reducing waist size, improving your posture and reducing back pain long term. Pilates is great for beginners and people looking for a gentle way to exercise.

You can now join me on Facebook for Pilates classes- search 5minutes2wellness.com and join the group!

Why do we do something?

This could apply to anything we do in life from what shower gel we choose, when we brush our teeth, whether we choose to exercise, what we choose to eat and drink. It could be our work and hobbies and if we choose to include mindfulness and meditation into our daily routine. Why? What is our intention? We may never have really sat back and thought about it, as life quickly moves past, things just become part of daily routine, we are not really consciously aware we just get on and do things.

Mindfulness can really help us identify what are intention is and in doing so this may significantly impact our choices during each day and even bigger life choices.

When we understand why we are doing something we may then start to realise the benefits or negative affect those activities can bring. We all know that if we don’t brush our teeth this can cause teeth decay and costly and painful visits to the dentist. Therefore from an early age we get into a routine/habit of brushing our teeth and could easily do this whilst doing other things.

Mindfulness can help us become more consciously aware of our food choices. Why do choose what we eat during the day? Do we eat when we are hungry? Do we take time to notice the colour, smell, texture and taste of our foods. When we eat mindfully we may be more inclined to choose foods higher in nutrient content, eat smaller portions and eat for hunger rather than boredom and emotions.

Why would we choose 5 or minutes out of our day to focus on being peaceful and meditate? Once you have chosen to meditate and feel a sense of calm and peace in the mind it is easy to see what the purpose is, yet so many people choose not to even try. If you notice you feel angry, irritated, overwhelmed, anxious, low in mood what do you currently do to help yourself? There are many ways to manage these feelings, mindfulness and meditation is free and takes a few minutes a day. So many people I have taught both in corporate and home environments have found that even just 5-10 minutes makes a difference to how they feel. If your intention is to feel calm, happy in and manage optimal wellbeing then is mindfulness part of your daily routine?

Mindfulness may also help with our work and sense of purpose in life. Without a feeling of purpose this can significantly affect our mental wellbeing. My intention and purpose has always been to help people and this is reflected in the different roles I hold now and have done in the past. To me, kindness and compassion are the greatest gifts we own. Mindfulness helps increase our sense of compassion to ourselves and to others by strengthening the part of the brain (the insula). Whatever your intention is for work or home life staying true to what is most important to you means there is less internal conflict that may affect mental wellbeing. Being mindful of where and how you work an also affect our wellbeing. Mindfulness allows us to pause, notice the present, our environment around us and see what is happening in that moment. For me seeing nature, seeing people smile, helping people feel comfortable in a medical environment and helping people be active mean that the different roles i choose to do allow me to feel fulfilled. Take time to notice what you do, is it with intention and aligned to what you want to achieve whether this is through your work or personal life?

If we take the time to step back and notice our intentions we may realise actually we need to make some changes in our life. Change can be good or bad it is how we view and respond to the challenge of change. Mindfulness can allow us to let go of resistance to change and feel more comfortable with accepting new ideas, new directions of growth. To evolve and grow we may need to change direction, branch out into something new and unknown. But if that is what needs to be done and is done with the right intention this may open up a whole new world of inspiration, clarity, peace and contentment in what is only one life.

Nature and the environment

This week is mental health awareness week, with the focus on nature and the environment. Mindfulness can really help us become more aware of the huge benefits being in and around nature can improve our physical and mental wellbeing. Mindfulness can also make us aware of our own immediate environment and how this may be affecting how we feel, react, relax and focus when working and living a busy life.

Our immediate environment may not be something we may have taken the time to pause and notice. When we are busy rushing around in automatic pilot we may not notice the little things in our room that may have a positive or negative affect on the way we feel and work. Being in a cluttered environment really can affect how we concentrate. Bringing nature to our immediate environment through pictures, patterns on cushions, flowers, house plants all help use to see our environment in a different way. If we have access to a window taking a micro break to look outside, to see the trees, flowers or look up and see the sky and clouds.

Bringing natural scents into our environment can all help subtly change our immediate environment to a place of calm or help uplift a low mood. using hand creams, essential oils, diffusers with Lavender or lemon really can help bring your attention to the present.

Noticing what we hear in our environment can also affect our concentration and stress levels. We are all unique with some of us wanting silence and others working better with noise. Taking the time to hear nature, to hear the birds, the rain, the wind just for a few minutes helps us come out of doing mode and into being present.

Taking time to notice what we are wearing the feel of natural fibres like cotton, wool or metal in jewellery all help the mind to focus on being and letting go of busy doing thoughts.

When we have the opportunity to be outside taking the time to be mindful in nature can have a powerful affect on calming the mind, easing anxiety and lifting our mood. How many times have you gone for a walk and thought about a million different things? Taking the time when you step outside to connect to your senses, notice the blossom, trees, birds, butterflies, clouds and sky. Listen to the sound of nature through bird song even when close to noisy traffic! Notice what your body feel like when you move outside, feel your feet connect to the ground beneath you.

Nature offers amazing daily gifts, being mindful allows us to notice them, appreciate and feel grateful for them and in doing so boosts our physical and mental wellbeing.

Self-reflection

How often do you find yourself spinning multiple plates in life? Juggling home life, work, family, friends, health issues, getting enough sleep and exercise and paying the bills can feel like an endless to do list that 24 hours just is never enough time! Constantly trying to do everything you can to keep everything and everyone in your immediate family going can drain your physical and emotional energy. So how do we keep our energy and resilience topped up so that our busy lives don’t affect our mental and physical wellbeing?

Mindfulness meditation is a great way to find stillness in a frantic day. Just a few minutes taking time out to press pause, focus on you, being in the moment with the all the plates on freeze is so important. If we can master the art of pausing, taking in the peace and stillness then we may find our energy levels topped up for the rest of the day.

If we are able to spend time reflecting on why we are doing all the things we do, how we ensure we don’t burn out and how we take care of ourselves we may also find that on reflection we may be using energy we didn’t need to. Understanding what is important to us can easily get mixed up when bills, family and health issues take over. Our true self and what we want to achieve in life may get lost. We may not pursue those ideas and goals and working away from our true self may drain us. Learning to say no, for many is very hard, especially if you are someone like me who wants to help as many people as you can.

How do you find solitude and peace? Mindfulness and meditation can help the mind quickly switch from doing to being and with practise even the most frantic of days can have calm still moments.

Using a journal to reflect on your achievements, thoughts, and how you apply self care each day may help enhance your personal and professional growth. Self reflection can help us recognise our strengths and unique gifts. It can help us self regulate our emotions by taking the time to reflect on how we react when under pressure and whilst all our plates are spinning. Most importantly when we reflect allowing yourself to be non judgmental, not to criticise or judge yourself, but to evaluate and take notice of how to lead a resilient and peaceful life in an ever changing world.

Loving you!

Mindfulness has also be termed ‘ kindfulness’ as it helps us become more self – aware of how we treat ourselves and others.

Our internal voice can be very self critical, reminding us of what we don’t like about ourselves, what we haven’t done or achieved and this eats away at our confidence, self-belief and self-worth. Practising mindfulness makes us more self -aware of our internal voice and if we choose to, to focus on the things we do like about ourselves, what we have achieved and what we feel happy and grateful for in our lives. When we do this we become kinder to ourselves, we learn to love who we really are rather than what we think other people want us to be. Mindfulness helps us to reduce our judgements about ourselves and become more aware of noticing the present in a non- judgemental way.

When we love ourselves a bit more when may then find we judge other people less, and find we feel more kindness, love and compassion to friends, family, work colleagues and strangers. If we wish everyone we meet love, happiness and kindness each day we reduce judgement, bitterness, anger and irritation all emotions that cause us to feel stressed, anxious and unhappy. Having positive emotions each day such as feeling love, kindness and compassion actually helps our bodies lower our internal stress response (fight or flight). Positive emotions towards our selves and others helps to lower our heart rate, blood pressure, reduce stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol and helps our body release immune boosting hormones DHEA.

Whilst Valentines day may be seen by some as a commercial enterprise it also gives us all a nudge to remember to be kind and loving to everyone as we would wish they were to us.

We can’t change the world but we can change how we react to it : Part 4

Being mindful after a busy day to help you sleep!

How do you wind down after a busy day? Many of us use technology to soothe our over thinking minds. The stimulus of the lights in technology and what we are looking at and reading may affect our mood, energy levels and sleep. We may disconnect with how we feel through using technology. Then when faced with the silence and darkness of bed time notice our minds race with busy doing thoughts, fearful thoughts and we struggle to sleep.

Building time later in the evening to focus on either formal or informal mindfulness techniques may help as part of a healthy sleep hygiene routine. A sleep hygiene routine is basically what you do in your evening routine to help prepare your mind and body for bed. We may not have thought we do anything specifically, but taking time to wind down, lower the lights, reduce technology at least an hour before bed, go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time are all part of this routine. Mindfulness could again be added to evening activities such as cooking, reading, colouring, house work, taking a bath and listening or playing music. Being fully present and engaged in what you are doing. Noticing if your mind wanders off and bringing your attention back to the present.

Taking time to focus on specific mindfulness exercises such as the body scan or visualisation exercises may all help promote and change in brain wave active. Meditation and mindfulness helps slow down the alarm bell.

Taking the time to write down what you feel grateful for and have noticed in your day also helps train our brains to focus on positive thoughts and feelings and stimulates the prefrontal cortex. When we rush round in automatic pilot we may not notice all the little things that bring joy, make us smile, make us go wow! Taking time through your day to notice those moments and to acknowledge what you feel grateful for has been evidenced to improve our mood and mental wellbeing. Whether you use a small note pad or piece of paper on the fridge. Write down 3-5 things each day you noticed, felt or heard that made you smile, made you feel thankful. Noticing the stars if they are out, taking time to open the curtains and look up, or noticing the rain drops on the leaves, the sun rays through the window all these small beautiful things can really help you feel differently, build your resilience and support your physical and mental wellbeing.

We can’t change the world but we can change how we react to it : Part 3

Mindful nutrition

Do you notice what your food really tastes like, see the colours on your plate, feel the warmth of your cup when you drink a coffee or feel the cool temperature of what you drink? For most of us we are just to busy, eating is part of our daily function to keep us going with all the things we need to do. We often eat in automatic pilot, not really consciously aware of what we are eating, why, what it tasted like, how full we feel. We might eat out of habit, boredom or to soothe our emotions when we feel stressed and anxious rather than hunger affecting our weight and waist size.

Taking the time when you eat is really important to help us be present. Use your senses to notice the colours, take time to notice the taste, aroma and texture. Just for a few minutes, it may transform what you eat, when you eat and why you eat!

What we drink also affect our mood, energy levels, sleep and waistline. Being dehydrated increases anxiety levels. Simply being mindful of sipping a glass of water and noticing how much water you have had each day (ideally 8 glasses) may help improve mood and energy levels. How much caffeine do you drink? A tea or coffee in the morning helps us to get going. But too much caffeine and drinking caffeine after mid day keeps our body in a state of high alert, adding to the already high circulating levels of Cortisol, which affects our energy, sleep and mood.

Over time and with daily practise just these little changes can make a difference to your brain. You are training your brain it is ok not to always think about doing things, it is ok to be in the moment, to be fully present. If you do this without judgement acknowledging when your mind wanders that, that’s OK too but focusing back to your senses the neural pathways in the brain begin to change. The part of the brain (pre frontal cortex) that deals with ration logical thinking becomes more active. When this part of the brain is active we are generally in a brighter mood. The pathway to the brains internal alarm bell (amygdala) that fires up every time we feel anxious, overwhelmed and fearful becomes weakened. We start to feel lees reactive to situations, events, people that may have affected our mood. In turn we feel and behave in a calmer way, feeling less anxious, less overwhelmed but still with everything around us staying the same! We can’t change the world but we can change we react to it. If we change our reactions we become more resilient, things affect us less, we can sleep better, feel motivated to eat healthily and exercise regularly and feel both mentally and physically well.