Friday, 28 August 2015

5 Reasons September is the perfect month……. to set new goals.

September has always been the most natural time for me to re-invent myself. September is my birthday month so my renewal date. A time to look back, clear out and start afresh. (3 step SHINE programme – simple!) 
What have I achieved in the last 12 months? Where do I want to be in 12 months’ time? Am I on track with my thoughts, feelings and actions all working together?

It also happens to be my wedding anniversary so a good time to take stock of the health of my marriage; having been divorced previously, I think it’s important to have an annual relationship audit before things slip beyond repair. 
An unromantic preventative measure perhaps but it helps me to appreciate how important this relationship is to me, and reminds me to keep working on ensuring it continues to be so.

For those of you without a September birthday the following may inspire you to do your own life audit and set some new goals……

1. Post-holiday inspiration

When we have spent some time way from our usual environment, perhaps on the beach or relaxing in the countryside, the space allows our mind to wander. This can be disconcerting; thoughts we have supressed bubble up, bringing forth hopes and aspirations that we have buried under busy-ness. But when we return to reality it can be useful to reflect on what has arisen in that quiet time, what do we want to act on, what do we need to let go off?

Before getting caught back up in the daily routine look at what made you feel good when you were on holiday. How can you add that to your life more often? Rather than wait until next year for that holiday feeling augment your current life with those ideas and bask in the glow.

2. back to school memories

Do you remember the excitement of a new autumn term? Buying shoes, a new pencil case? Finding your way around a different school? The chance of reinventing yourself in a setting where the rules require you to think in novel ways?

We often confuse excitement and fear as the physiological reactions are similar, the energy from both can be unnerving. Whether you have positive back to school feelings, or recall nervous anticipation, you can draw on your childhood ‘new term’ drive to motivate adult goals. Those feelings are logged in our subconscious and the process of tapping into them can be extremely fruitful.

3. Harvest time

And talking of fruitfulness, the abundance of nature in September feels as if we are being given a gentle nudge to take the time to reflect on cycles, passing time, growth; organic progressions that are us intrinsic to us as they are to all other natural forms.

Being mindful of the rich colours, the smell of crisp morning air, and the feelings stirred up by the change of season can be powerful prompts to march on with vigour. 

4. Wardrobe edits

Taking the time to pack up summer whites and bring the black jeans to the front of the pack is a good time to think of who you want to be. Do the choices you made this time last year still resonate with who you want to be?

Do the jeans still fit? And why are you hanging on to ideas that no longer suit the frame of mind you have grown into.

Change is inevitable and should be embraced joyously…… look forward to snuggling up in chunky sweaters with mugs of steaming soup and a journal full of inspiring projects.

5. Christmas thoughts

Some say it takes 21 days for a new habit to become habitual. If you start in September healthy habits will be well and truly integrated by Christmas. Three months of change and the rewards of virtuous living will SHINE out of every pore.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Thankfulness: Mindful Appreciation

Thankfulness? Why not gratitude?

There is something about the word ‘Gratitude’ that grates on me; it makes me feel that an outside force is prompting me to look at how lucky I am, that I should be ‘bloody well grateful’. The commodification of the ‘attitude of gratitude’- buying a specific journal, having to think of three reasons every day to be grateful - feels fake to me.

However I am motivated to be thankful; a natural response for my appreciation of the good in life is to say “thank you”.Thankfulness has a lovely fullness about it; an overflowing of thanks, of being so full up with thanks that I can’t wait to share it, so full of wellbeing that I know how good it is for me without needing to be reminded.

And it worries me when I am encouraged to be grateful as a tool to increase my health rather than enjoying the experience of noticing, and appreciating, the daily pleasure of saying thank you.

Three Types of Thankfulness:

1. Giving thanks (external)

  • We say thank you for what someone has done for us – thank you for the gift, thank you for your email, thank you for unstacking the dishwasher.
  • We say thank you for what someone means to us – thank you for being you, thank you for being there when I needed you, thank you for listening.
  • We express thanks when we feel in awe of the world around us. Thank you to an external source whose creativity we appreciate but haven’t got a direct line to.
2. Giving thanks (internal)
  • Saying thank you to ourselves when we have done a good job; noticing when we can give ourselves a pat on the back, showing kindness and appreciation for all the ways in which we make it through each day.
3. Receiving thanks
  • How mindful are we when someone offers us a heartfelt thank you? Often we brush it off, we feel uncomfortable when our efforts are acknowledged. But accepting thanks is as important as offering it. Relationships are enhanced when we are equals, when we can give and take with good grace. Recognising the gift of a thank you as an act of friendship, a token of love, a sign that we are worthy, generates pleasant feelings all round.

The Relationship of Thankfulness to Increased Well-being:

Gratitude research suggests that we benefit in a multitude of ways when we practise daily gratefulness; greater emotional stability, healthier relationships, better physical health, enhanced happiness and increased productivity at work.

I am concerned that, whilst these are all valuable and positive reasons to be grateful, they are external goals that place gratitude on our ‘to do’ list. Another task to tick off at the end of the day.

Thankfulness, in the way I like to perceive it, is intrinsically motivated. Expressing thanks becomes a quiet practice that embeds itself deeply in our core values. A way of being that fosters our self-acceptance and amplifies our experience of wholeness.

When we express thanks, for ourselves or others or the wonders of the world, or we acknowledge others appreciation of ourselves, our brains respond by releasing feel good hormones. Dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin make us feel even more loved and valued, giving us more reasons to be thankful. The virtuous cycle of thankfulness, the ebb and flow of being thanked, of communicating thankfulness, generates strong relationship bonds, both to others and to the way we relate to ourselves.

Thankfulness doesn’t need an app to remind us to be grateful; it gently encourages us with every ‘thank you’ uttered that this is what feels good and right.


Sunday, 9 August 2015

10 Tips for a super Shine Sunday

How will you SHINE today?

SHINE tips & how I spend my SHINE Sundays

1.     Be mindful of every moment.

From the minute you open your eyes look, listen, observe, feel, smell, and hear; use all your senses to build up an in-depth picture of the world around you. Be aware of each tiny nuance, does the sun on your cheek makes your skin more sensitive? Does your coffee taste better if you smell it with yours eyes closed? If you open the window can you stop the traffic noise and only hear the birdsong. How does your toothpaste really taste. How do the washing up bubbles sound when they pop?
I’ve noticed that when I truly take the time to be mindful even normal routine events take on a magical feel, the dishes on the side glow with loveliness as the water droplets sparkle in the sun.

2.     Be aware of inside as well as outside.

Listen to your heart and your gut, notice your thoughts and self-talk. What is occurring outside to create that on the inside? When you feel that moment a smile begins to form ask yourself “where was my mind?” And take notice of where that smile spreads to in the rest of your body. We often pay more attention to physical sensations of unhappiness; we notice a heavy heart, than we do of joyful sensations.  When we can feel the moment that we light up and what we were doing when the feeling was created we can do more of it. My’ light up moments’ often occur when I am in my kitchen on my own baking. I go into the ‘zone’, I become focused, peaceful and operate in a space that transcends time. I get this sense when playfully creating in other ways too; cutting, sticking, collaging, making a mess with paper. I can feel like this when I dance and sometimes in a yoga class. These are the things that I go back to time and time again because I know they are guaranteed to make me glow from the inside.

3.     Step outside of time.

Some days whizz past and others drag on. On a day when you haven’t got to be anywhere or do anything in a set time it’s lovely to not to wear a watch or look at the clock. Who cares what time you have lunch or shower? Stopping, being still, being quiet, just being (some call it meditation) takes you out of normal clock time; minutes seem like hours, hours can pass in seconds. And both the speeding up or slowing down are interesting to observe. Just watching the day go by without a list is luxurious. There will always be another day to step back into.

4.     Do what you love the most just because you can.

So back to baking, cutting and sticking, dancing and yoga! Not because of the end result; the cake to eat, the image to look at, the calories burnt or the fact that you can master breathing whilst standing on one leg, but just for the sheer pleasure of doing.

5.     Do something differently (as opposed to doing something different)

There is a time for trying new things but what if you take the things you love doing most and do them a bit different, with a twist? I love drinking Rose in the summer but wanted to see what an alcohol free august would feel like. So instead of chilled wine with ice I fill a jug with iced water, lime, mint and jasmine; it is my new taste of summer. It’s the same feeling (a glass of cool refreshing fun )  but different.
I love cakes but don’t love sugar  or wheat so tweak recipes and find inspiration in alternative ways to bake; same amount of pleasure in both the making and the eating.
Dancing is a joy, I do love a Zumba class but when my normal class wasn’t available I discovered Sha’bam and now I have a choice of fun dance classes. When my hatha yoga time changed I did an Iyengar class,its now my favourite.
Try branching out rather than moving to a new neck of the woods!

6.     Share.

My ‘Sunday Best’ moments may seem solitary but I am lucky to be surrounded by people I love and when I have finished my happy making baking (or messy play) they are there to share the enjoyment.  We love to exchange our private creative worlds to gather together and reconnect. I am very lucky to have common interests with my closest family; they too like cooking, creating, dancing and yoga. We all enjoy each other’s creativity, and like to extend that pleasure by sharing with friends, and friends of friends, sometimes the more the merrier.

7.     Find time for Awe.

The world is a wonderful place. Appreciate the light and the shadow. Find the good in everything. Earlier this year, when I would usually have been readying my garden for summer, I had a pressing family issue that needed my attention. My garden is a little different this summer; left it to its own devices, it has chosen wild abandon as a theme and consequently it is teeming with butterflies and bees. Nature has stepped in and from my window I am delighted with a ‘Shabby Chic’ vision of a suburban garden. The herbs have flowered; the angelica is touching 6ft, tall grasses rustle like percussion instruments, abundance is everywhere I look.  I have huge admiration for the environments ability to generate such beauty.

8.     Be Grateful

Yes, so, it’s a bit of a cliché but it is a truism. I am lucky. There are days when I want to walk around hugging everyone and saying how much I love them; how grateful I am to have them in my life.  It can get on peoples nerves. I wasn’t designed to be cynical (yes I’m lucky… and grateful for that!)I’m lucky to be alive. I don’t want to take that for granted though; I’m very grateful for those who aren’t and who have taught me to value the preciousness of life.
Always say thank you, it’s not hard.

9.     Accept the appreciation of others.

How comfortable are you when someone shows their gratitude to you? Sometimes taking complements or hearing a ‘thank you’ makes us feel uncomfortable; we feel awkward when a friend says “I think you’re super….thank you for being there.”
I spent yesterday evening with a friend who I don’t see as often as I would like, I wanted to show her I cared by cooking supper; she showed her thankfulness of our friendship by bringing me flowers. We both know that we are there for each other.
Next time that happens allow that feeling of being loved to find a place in your body to settle; tuck it way for a rainy day when you need reminding of how special you are.

10.Have Fun

Be silly. Be inappropriate. Do daft things. Laugh. Stand on one leg or your   head if you can. Do cartwheels. Smile. Blow bubbles. Blow kisses. Chase clouds. Follow rainbows. Wear coloured tights. Go to the library. Lie on the grass. Experience life from a new angle. Love more. Eat more avocados. Finger paint (with mashed up avocado?) Make daisy chains.
Enjoy xxx