Mind

Mindfulness, mental health, health knowledge

Affirmations – Good or Bad?

affirmations

Do you believe in affirmations?

When I was younger, I was very sceptical of anything I considered a bit ‘woo woo’ or hippy.  Yoga, self help books and especially affirmations.

How on earth could talking to yourself, telling yourself that you are special or loved really make any difference to how you truly feel?  My view then was that  you were either happy or sad.  A few random words weren’t going to change that.

Now I’m much older, I’ve fully embraced yoga. I  can also see the value of selective self help books in guiding people through difficult times.  But until recently, I still couldn’t get my head around the affirmation thing.

In my teens I struggled with shyness and an acute lack of confidence.  There was always that little voice running through my head – “you’re not good enough”, “everyone’s looking at you”, “you’re going to make a fool of yourself if you try something new”.  The teenage years can be pretty tough!  Over the years I have learnt to take some control over that voice but it can still get the better of me when I’m feeling a bit low.

There is increasing scientific research that’s proving that the way you think has a profound impact on your general well-being.  Your mind-set can affect your metabolism and weight, your hormones and your general physical health.  It seems your thoughts can actually influence your cellular functions.   I was beginning to think that if science could find some positives then perhaps there was more to this affirmation thing.

Then I read a recent blog post by a lady called Kris Carr which began to crystallise my thoughts (you can read it here:  http://kriscarr.com/blog/positive-affirmations-how-to-raise-your-vibration/ ).

Part of the blog describes a conversation where Kris explains to her coach, Louise Hay, a problem she was experiencing.  Kris states her words were something like “this always happens to me” or “I just can’t do it”.  Sound familiar? Words that I think we can all relate to having said at some stage in our life.

Louise Hay pointed out to Kris that these words were actually an affirmation – a negative affirmation.

WOW!

I found that really enlightening.  We all do it – using negative words when we are struggling, with the result that the outcome just becomes worse.  Whenever I’ve stopped and looked at a problem with a more optimistic outlook, the problem begins to resolve or improve.  That’s exactly the intention of positive affirmations.  They should prompt you to stop and  look at a problem you are struggling with and then encourage you to see it in a more positive mind-set to help you find solutions.

Of course, affirmations aren’t going to actually solve the problem or make problems go away.  But they are going to help you think about things differently, producing a more positive outcome.

Now, I’m not ready yet to embrace the “I love myself” type of affirmations, but I’m certainly going to be arguing with that little voice in my head when it has negative thoughts. I’m also going to find ways to implement and enjoy much more positive vibes in my thought processes.

I’ve decided that my affirmation for the next few months is going to be “let go of the fear”.  Increasingly as we age we allow ourselves to stop pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone for fear of something going wrong.  I’m going to try to stop myself doing this.

 

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I started whilst on holiday this summer.  I made myself swim across a really deep, dark river.  I’m not a confident swimmer but it was a beautiful setting and a very hot day.  My kids had already gone on ahead  of me.  In the past, I’ve just sat on the bank and watched but I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and follow after them.

It gave them quite a shock when I turned up on the bank beside them and it’s a great feeling shocking your kids!

 

Do you feel inspired to join me in choosing an affirmation to provoke change in your life?

picture of hot springs with affimation "change the way you look at things, the things you look at change" by Dr Wayne W Dyer

Let me know in the comments below or if you already use affirmations, let me know what your favourite one is.

 

 

The Power of Walking

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Struggling to fit exercise into your weekly routine?

Do you have small children who absorb all your time?

Not keen on organised fitness classes?

 

Like most people, over the years I’ve tried many different types of exercise routines.  I’m not a naturally sporty type, so often it’s been a struggle.

Now I’m older and wiser I’ve decided the activities that suit me best are:-

walking; yoga/pilates; swimming; easy bike rides and some Hiit exercises – Joe Wickes style!

Of the five activities above, my favourite is definitely walking.

Why?

  1. It’s free – on the whole you don’t really need any specialist equipment to get started.
  2. Because you don’t need specialist equipment you can just get out there and get on with it without having to change into different clothes etc –  unless you’re wearing your best Jimmy Choos!
  3. You can do it anywhere, anytime and in any weather
  4. Most importantly, when you have a tribe of kids like me, it’s something the whole family can do.  If you start kids off from a young age, they won’t think twice about going for walks, especially in the countryside/parks where they can explore, pick up sticks and splash in puddles.   We always see something interesting when we are out and about.  If you have babies, you can still get out walking with them in prams or in a child carrier on your back.
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Walking in the Lake District

What are the health benefits?

Studies show walking 30-60 minutes per day at a moderate pace can substantially reduce health risks such as high blood pressure and heart health.   If you walk briskly (i.e 3 miles per hour) for a minimum of 150 minutes per week you can significantly reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine has found that just 30 minutes per day, for six days a week, of any physical activity at any intensity can provide a 40% lower risk of death in elderly men.  Walking is one of the easiest activities that anyone can undertake.

If you add in some steep inclines, you can burn up to 60% more calories and build up your leg muscles.

Every hour you spend walking could add 2 hours to your life.

Getting outside can have great mental health benefits.  There are even mindful walking retreats available  – check out http://www.sharphamtrust.org to enjoy walking in Devon.

Ways to make it fun

  • walk as a family and add in a pub or tea garden half way round to keep the kids interested
  • walk with friends and have a good gossip
  • search for pokemon
  • take a picnic
  • walk listening to music or a podcast
  • join a walking group
  • take part in a walking challenge for charity
  • take notice of nature on your walk, maybe taking photos too.
  • walk around the shops, window shopping
  • walk round your local neighbourhood – you’ll be surprised at the number of interesting sights you discover such as hidden doorways, interesting gardens and unusual cars etc

Want to make it more challenging?

Try out Nordic Walking

This is a type of fitness walking with especially designed poles (like ski poles) that originated from Finland.

When walking you have to apply force to the poles with each stride.  This excerts a greater intensity over the whole body as you walk.  Muscles in the chest, arms, shoulders, abdominals, spinal and core muscles all get a good workout.

It will also increase your heart rate and increase your energy consumption by about 46% compared to normal walking.  Research has linked Nordic walking to decreases in the risk of heart disease, stoke, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, stress, anxiety and obesity.

Check out http://www.nordicwalking.co.uk to find a group near you.

Power Walking

If you’re my age, you will probably remember this craze from the 90’s!

Power walking or speed walking is basically walking as fast as you can without running or jogging.  An exaggerated arm swing is usually added, which helps really get your heart rate up.

Power walking offers a good low to moderate exercise which is much more gentle on joints than running.

Like Nordic walking, power walking helps to strengthen and tone muscles and burn calories.

 

Or you can set yourself a challenge to complete the UK Coast Path, tick off some Monroes in Scotland or follow a pilgrimage route across Europe.  There are hundreds of ways to make walking fit in with your interests and lifestyle.

 

Right, I’m off now to meet some friends and have a walk and a picnic in the sun – hopefully!

 

As May is National Walking Month, my challenge to you over the  Bank Holiday or school holiday is to get out walking and tell me in the comments below what you’ve been up to.  If you’re already a walker, let me know what your favourite walk is.

If you enjoyed this article, please like and share on social media.

 

Sources: Healthy Magazine Feb 2017 issue, March/April 2017 issue

http://www.wikipedia.org, http://www.nordicwalking.co.uk, http://www.livingstreets.org.uk, http://www.bhf.org.uk, https://www.youtube.com/user/thebodycoach1

 

 

 

Is super sizing making you unhappy?

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Tempted? …

Hell yeah! – aren’t we all?

I saw this banner as I drove past our local garden centre and it made me a bit mad.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a piece of cake and I’m all for enjoying “treats” now and again.

But, that’s the problem with the Garden Centre’s banner.  We are constantly bombarded by enticing offers for bigger and better portions, playing on our desire for more and our desire for value for money.

No matter what little treat you fancy, I’m sure you can get it ‘super sized’.  My favourite daily treat is a cappuccino.  Go into any coffee shop and you’re bombarded with mega size lattes, cappuccinos, frappes and coolers, with added syrups, flavourings, sprinkles and cream.  Before you know it, a simple drink which should be a maximum of 100 calories, can become a super sized 406 calories – an extra 306 calories on every drink.  Even if you only have one per day, that’s 2142  extra calories in one week.  That’s over a whole day of calories for a woman! It’s become so easy to over indulge without even realising it.  No wonder our waistlines are all expanding.

But it’s not just food that we are being encouraged to over consume.

I once went to a tradefair for homewares and gifts in Birmingham. I was staggered as I wandered around endless halls, each the size of a football pitch, packed to the rafters with “stuff” companies were pitching to shops to sell onto us.  I just couldn’t believe they could ever sell all that “stuff”.  Then I thought about how much of it would probably end up in landfill.

Companies are spending billions in marketing everyday to convince us to buy the next new thing.

Our lives won’t be complete unless we have:-

  • the latest new phone
  • latest large screen TV
  • latest ‘on trend’ clothing and furniture

So what do we need to do to achieve these life changing goods?

Usually work more and more hours or go into debt.  Both of these options are guaranteed to make our lives unbearably stressful and totally miserable.

Then there’s our addiction to technology.

The wonders of the internet are amazing.  Over the past 6 months I’ve learnt hundreds of new skills through YouTube and webinars.  I love keeping up to date with all my friends on Facebook and follow countless blogs via email.

But, have you ever found yourself losing two hours of your day just because you’ve fallen into the “internet blackhole”?

I know I have.

Are you suffering from F.O.M.O (fear of missing out) so constantly checking your Facebook feed?

Feeling constantly anxious, because you can never switch off from work emails or news updates?

Does your brain and mood feel disconnected and frazzled because you’ve wasted most of the evening looking at your phone?

It’s easy to become addicted to over eating, over shopping and over use of technology when we feel unfulfilled and seeking comfort.  They all provide an escape from our daily routine.  The problem is that these addictions tangle us in a cycle of discontent – overeating can make us feel unlovable or crush our confidence – so we eat more.

Shopping provides a momentary lift, until we dive down into despair when faced with the debts we’ve incurred and the need to keep working in jobs we hate to pay the bills.

Technology can leave us feeling more anxious and lonely even though it’s supposed to keep us more connected.

Doing any of the above means you are spending less time doing the things you actually want to do in life.  Not feeling fulfilled can lead to over consumption, which has a detrimental effect on your overall health, whether through obesity, anxiety, loneliness or stress.

So what can we do?

Blame it all on marketing companies and big business for leading us astray?

Well, that’s an easy option and whilst true, we’re all intelligent humans and know we shouldn’t fall for their marketing ploys.

The trick is to ask ourselves every time we’re tempted by the supersized slice of cake – do I actually want this?   Would I be just as satisfied/happy if I picked a smaller option.  Am I happy to live with the consequences of my choice.

Do I really need a new TV when my old one works perfectly well.

Am I looking at my phone because I need to look something up or because I’m seeking comfort or fulfilment.  Consciously thinking about what your true needs are can help you make a better decision.

If we all take a moment to consider our choices before acting on them,  we are one step closer to avoiding making ourselves unhappy and unhealthy.

Small adjustments to our habits every day can have a massive compound effect over time in improving our general wellbeing.  As mentioned above, just making the adjustment to a smaller coffee, over a week can soon reduce the extra calories you consume.

Instead of going shopping or spending an hour on the internet to cheer yourself up, phone a friend or head out for a walk or a picnic with family.

Try to focus on the things that make you feel truly fulfilled.

 

If you enjoyed this article, I would love to hear from you in the comments below or like and share this post on social media.

 

Sources:

http://www.tinybuddha.com – Samy Felice – Attached to your smartphone? How I overcame my addiction.

http://www.costa.co.uk

 

What should I eat?

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Most of us are faced with this question every day – What should I eat?

We know we should be eating healthier choices but there is so much conflicting information in the media that it becomes impossible to know what to eat.  One day eggs are bad for us, the next day they’re the next super  food!

My ethos is all about BALANCE

Just eat a balanced diet:-

Lots and lots of vegetables and fruit, some protein with every meal and small portions of carbohydrates.

I really like the 80:20 diet.  Try to be healthy for 80% of the time but with a 20% allowance for treats and good times!.  You’re much more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan if you don’t feel deprived.

Listen to your Body:-

When your stomach tells you it’s full, listen.  You don’t actually need to eat that pudding or another snack!

Remember how your body feels after you ate something unhealthy.  Most of us experience bloating, excessive wind, a lack of energy and sometimes nausea after eating unhealthy foods.  That moment of enjoyment is usually replaced by several hours of discomfort.  Remember that feeling and use it to help you make the right choices.

My most important Rule:-

AVOID processed foods, especially ones loaded with sugar or sweetners.  Sweetners are hard for the body to process and are not a healthy substitute for sugar.  I believe it’s much better to have the odd sugary treat than to be constantly consuming foods full of artificial sweetners.

Set yourself an intention to live your life HEALTHY AND HAPPY and work to achieve it.

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Perranporth Beach alters the mind!

IMG_2346Recently, we took a family day out to Cornwall, primarily to view a university for Son No.1.  After doing the necessary business of tours and lectures, we still had the afternoon free.  A quick look at the map helped us decide to pop into Perranporth Beach.  At first glance, I thought it was just a typical sandy beach, much like the ones we usually visit in North Devon.  However, after a bit of exploring we came across some fantastic caves, tunnels (with grates across them) and rock archways with deep rock pools beneath.  It was all very Rupert Bear/Enid Blyton and the kids had a fantastic time.  Well, in fact, we all had a fantastic time.  Son No 1 had just finished his AS exams, so since March there has been strict revision timetables and intense nagging going on, which turns out to be quite stressful to parents, let alone the kids doing the exams.  The mental benefits of an afternoon on the beach soon became apparent.

Whilst the environments of beaches, waterfalls and mountains are invigorating in themselves, science has found that these natural environments also produce negative ions in the air. Negative ions are molecules that have gained or lost an electrical charge. Yes, I know it’s very “science-y” – but these negative ions produce biochemical reactions on the body which increases the release of Serotonin – the feel good hormone.  Serotonin helps to relieve stress, depression and increase levels of energy.  That’s why that walk along the beach makes you feel so much calmer and relaxed.

Other research suggests that the sound of the waves on the beach can alter human brain waves, invoking feelings of relaxation. Although, I guess they need to be calm wave patterns and not stormy, crashing waves!.

If you have a paddle or swim in the sea then the salty water should help your body maintain it’s levels of tryptamine, serotonin and melatonin.  These hormones all have a positive effect on your mental outlook.

So, overall a day at the beach has wonderful benefits for helping to calm and relax the mind and body and we as a family certainly discovered this magic at Perranporth Beach.

Let me know in the comments where your favourite beach is for de-stressing with the family and why.

Notes of interest: Apparently the cliffs at Perranporth are full of smugglers caves and tin mine tunnels which aren’t always safe, so take care and watch out for the tide (more info at www.perranporthinfo.co.uk)