Home » Mindfulness

Tag: Mindfulness

MOOD BOOSTING CHALLENGE WEEK 3 : GRATITUDE

Challenge of the week : start a daily gratitude practice if you don’t have one already!  Share your gratitude journey, something your grateful for, to lift yourself & others up. Every time you share tagging me & mentioning hashtag #moodboostingchallenge you become eligible for a free ticket to the Mindful Circle, a self-compassion workshop or a private coaching session.

Gratitude is a simple yet powerful mood booster and the beauty is the more you are grateful, the more what you attract what you are grateful for. Really, don’t take my word for it, experience it for yourself.

How to practice gratitude? For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving you may have had a wonderful opportunity recently  to reflect on and share what you are thankful for. You can continue experiencing lasting benefits by taking this on as a regular practice. Take a few moments daily to reflect or preferably write down 3 to 5 things you feel grateful for. Research shows that the simple act of journaling 3 times a week about things you are grateful has amazing benefits on our well-being.

 

Extra Tips : And you can get more creative with your gratitude practice. Fill a gratitude jar with 1 thing you are grateful for a day. For families you can have a gratitude circle at the dinner table where everyone shares one thing they are grateful for on that day.

If you are practicing already, that’s amazing, please inspire us by sharing your gratitude practice or its benefits for you on social media using #moodboostingchallenge

If you are starting on your gratitude journey, it is not unusual that the practice can feel forced and unnatural. There’s nothing wrong with that, just carry on a few weeks with an open, non-judgmental mind and you will likely actually start feeling grateful.

When gratitude arises in a daily moment bring your full presence into this moment. Notice how it feels, how the mind is at ease, the body relaxed and warm. Chances are the experience will become even more enjoyable through your presence. The more mindfulness we cultivate, open and full presence, the more gratitude arises.

Book recommendation : The Gratitude Project : How the Science of Thankfulness Can Rewire Our Brains for Resilience, Optimism, and the Greater Good

Articles for further motivation on the benefits and science of gratitude 

How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain (berkeley.edu)

Is gratitude the secret of happiness? I spent a month finding out | Health & wellbeing | The Guardian

How will this boost my mood?

Gratitude is really offering a perspective shift focusing on all that is right with us instead of what is wrong. Our minds have a tendency to focus and ruminate on things that are not as we want them to be.  We can tend to magnify our problems, blow them out of proportion. Gratitude helps restore balance and change our outlook on life.

Need more inspiration? Gratitude has tremendous benefits on health & happiness. A gratitude practice is associated with increased wellbeing, protects people form stress and depression, allows for more fulfilling relationships, better sleep and greater resilience. This is a powerful practice to increase life satisfaction, decrease worry and improve body image with long-lasting benefits.

 

Exciting Update: Awaken Your Potential City Retreat

Early October, I will be co-hosting a special city retreat at the Centre of Mindfulness: Awaken Your Potential. This 2-day immersive experience will combine mindfulness, coaching and conscious movement practices to support you into living a more fulfilling and purposeful life. 

For this city retreat, I have partnered with lovely and talented colleague Anne Gélébart. Anne is a certified life and leadership coach at Angel Coaching Int. passionate about uncovering people’s potential. In these powerful 2 days we’ll explore your purpose, clarify your vision and support you to assert your values and what you are committed to. We’ll uncover limiting beliefs & conditioned tendencies that may limit your potential. You will learn many tools & practices to work with these and build resilience in challenging situations. We can guarantee that you will leave this retreat inspired, empowered and with increased clarity on how to align your actions with your vision. 

We have an early bird offer until the end of the month so make sure you register in time. Read here for more details and registration.   

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you are” – Carl Jung

Interview with Delphine, Kraamzorg from Aide Maman Amterdam

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Delphine Petit, kraamzorg (maternity care nurse at Aide Maman Amsterdam. Read her interview of me below.

Can you please tell us who you are and what exactly is a Doula and Mindfulness.

Firstly, thank you Delphine for this opportunity to highlight the work I do, which I feel very passionate about.

My name is Marjorie Lumet. I am originally from France and have been living in Amsterdam for 12 years with my South African partner and my girls who are now 5 and 9. I am a mindfulness coach, mindful birthing & parenting trainer and doula.

A doula is someone who supports the birthing woman and her partner physically and emotionally during the process of giving birth. This can be at times very hands-on: massage and acupressure for pain relief or relaxation, supporting with positions, breathing techniques and general comfort, facilitating and guiding partner support. Emotional support is also key in this intense moment, encouraging words, cheerleading, reassurance. A doula’s role is to support the birthing woman and her partner to feel safe and remain centred and calm. This also entails creating a peaceful environment in the birthing room. A doula does her best to ensure the mother’s wishes are respected as much as possible.

Birth is a very intimate and special moment in a couple’s life so the role of the doula is to be of service, to observe what is needed, give support where required and hold space when desirable. Research shows that continuous support from a doula shortens the length of labour and very significantly reduces the need for pain medication and for medical interventions, such as administering Pitocin or cesarean birth.

Usually, a doula’s role begins before birth with prenatal preparation sessions during which the birthing couple share their concerns and wishes around birth. A doula provides information and resources so that the birthing couple can understand their options and make informed choices.

A doula is also sometimes skilled to give a birth preparation course. This is my case where I train couples in mindfulness skills which are of great support in birth and well beyond.

Mindfulness is present moment awareness with a non-judging and curious attitude. Paying attention in this way is deeply transformative. It allows us to open up to our full potential which is often limited by stress and unhelpful mental beliefs & behavioural patterns. Cultivating mindfulness allows us to develop another way of looking at ourselves and the world around us, a more positive, open and kinder way. Instead of spending considerable amounts of energy replaying the past, stressing or worrying about the future, our work, relationships and all the things we need to get done, we are able to gather our attention to fully enjoy the moments of our life as they unfold. Through non-reactive observing, we respond consciously to stress and difficulties that arise rather than react automatically. Over time we liberate ourselves from a lot of unnecessary stress and release unhelpful beliefs or habits we’ve developed over the years. We begin to make space for what really matters and supports us to thrive. Mindfulness supports us towards more well-being, joy and harmony in our lives as we live them.

And it is not just me saying all this, mindfulness is very widespread nowadays because the need is huge. There is an extensive body of research demonstrating the many benefits of mindfulness on physical and mental health as well as emotional resilience

That said, you can probably imagine that inviting the practice of mindfulness into your life before becoming a parent is of immense support. It’s more than just a good idea to “sort yourself out” before becoming full-time responsible for a cute being that is totally dependent and fused with you.

Parenting is very much about being in the present moment, paying attention to our children. Children thrive on compassionate attention. It is a solid foundation for them to develop on. However, if a person doesn’t relate to themselves with kind presence, it will be very difficult for them to bring this compassionate attention into their parenting.

Additionally, becoming a parent is probably one of life’s biggest transformations. As joyful as it may be, this rapid change also comes with its fair share of stress. And stress and pregnancy isn’t a good combination as we know. Learning mindfulness in pregnancy allows to reduce stress, to slow down, relax and tune into the amazing pregnant body that is transforming rapidly as well as honour its needs.

Last but certainly not least, mindfulness is an invaluable skill in birth itself. Birth is all about remaining centred and breathing through intensity as well as relaxing as much as possible in between contractions. Our conditioned reactivity to pain, which usually consists in ignoring it, pushing it away or fighting it isn’t helpful obviously in birth. The mindfulness skills couples learn support them to be with discomfort, to relax into the pain. To keep attention focused on the body and breath rather than get caught up in emotional reactivity or fearful thoughts. We do a few series of pain practices together (holding ice cubes) and use a variety of techniques to work more skilfully with the fear or pain that may arise in birth. These techniques include mindfulness, focused attention, breathing and sounding, touch & massage, visualisation and positioning. In childbirth the pain is part of a transformative process allowing a child to be born. The less we fight it, the less pain we actually experience and the more we support birth to unfold optimally.

I teach private individual courses but also group courses based on the “Mindful Birthing” program developed by Nancy Bardacke, an American mid-wife and mindfulness teacher who has been a pioneer in bringing mindfulness skills to expecting families.

How did you come up with the idea of working especially with mothers?

Through my own experience really. Becoming a mother, propelled my journey into mindfulness. Before being a mindfulness coach, I worked in the corporate world for 15 years in media agencies. When I became a Mom the corporate environment I was in, including the rhythm and structure, just didn’t fit with my needs, values and concerns in my new Mom life. I felt frustrated. I was always running trying to keep up with my life rather than living it, enjoying it.

For a long time, I lacked purpose in my job but I felt this more strongly when I became a Mom. I questioned increasingly what my contribution to the world was and how was I shaping the future. And becoming a mom was a radical life change of course. I found myself wanting to spend more time with my daughter, slowing down to enjoy her and watch her grow rather than outsourcing that as much as I was to childcare. I wanted to be healthy and happy and juggling motherhood and a demanding corporate job I didn’t feel passionate about wasn’t delivering on that. So, in my desperation I discovered mindfulness. I attended an 8-week course and was so inspired that halfway through the course I decided to train as a teacher so I could share these skills with my environment.

I now know through my clients that my own journey of adjusting to motherhood is certainly not isolated but shared by most women. There’s a name for it ‘matrescence’, the process of becoming a mother, encompassing all the many physical, psychological and emotional changes after birth. New parents often feel inadequate, insecure, guilty as if they aren’t doing anything right. I feel passionate about equipping mothers with solid mindfulness skills and guide them through this transition from pregnancy to early parenting. To encourage them as they enter this nurturing role to nurture themselves too. Many of us haven’t learned this and our modern environment often depletes rather than nurtures with its distractions and hectic pace at times.  Dad’s obviously go through an immense shift too and the more connected couples are, the better equipped they are to grow together and support one another.

I love working with pregnant and new Moms for all these reasons but I don’t work with them exclusively. I also cater to students, plenty of men and women with or without families, high-achieving professionals suffering from stress-related complaints or wanting to bring about positive transformation in their lives. I love having that diversity and I feel it helps me keep an open mind. Plus, I get to witness how the skills I teach are precious for anyone regardless of their life situation.

Can you tell us what a family can expect from your sessions? How do you work?

I give a lot of different courses and workshops but I’ll focus on my offering to expecting parents.

I work both in a group and individual setting.

The gold standard mindful birth preparation course is the 8-week course that combines mindfulness and childbirth education. In this course, couples learn in depth the practice of mindfulness and also have a solid birth preparation course including attention to early parenting.

I facilitate this in a group setting and sessions last 2,5 hours. Each session offers a combination of mindfulness meditation, childbirth theory & education and group sharing and questions. The body needs to move so we always have time for stretching, I integrate movement practices, combining prenatal yoga postures and Qi Gong. Sometimes we do specific birth practices that can be quite hands-on, for instance birth positions and partner support where we use touch, massage and acupressure points. In a group setting, group reflections are also important to the learning process and create a sense of community.

I also offer shorter courses and workshops to cater to different needs, a 5-week course as well as a series of 3x workshops to prepare together for birth.

For private sessions I come to the family’s home and adjust the course content to their specific needs. I can also offer a pregnancy relaxation massage.

My group courses are mostly in English but individual courses can be in French. And I also speak pretty fluent Dutch and Italian which is handy to know

What is “Nouvelles Mamans “?

Nouvelles Mamans’ is a community aimed at making the journey into parenthood just a little bit smoother through offering support, connection and information to new and expecting parents. We host regular events always around a specific theme relevant to pregnancy, birth or early parenting. There is some knowledge sharing around the theme and plenty of space to share stories, concerns and experiences in a warm, informal and non-judgmental setting.

The events we host are in English and French language depending on attendees. We cater to French families as well as a larger expat audience. Starting a family away from home, in a different culture and system can be disorientating, isolating and challenging at times so I believe the power of community is important. Dutchies are very welcome of course too and we’ve had the pleasure of having quite a few locals attend. We love having babies, kids and partners so the whole family is warmly welcomed.

I launched this initiative earlier this year in January. A group of birth workers offer their regular support as well. We are a team of 4 at the moment and have expertise in different areas: mindfulness, yoga, massage, Chinese medicine, dance and have in common a holistic approach.

On top of our professional experience, we are all mothers and have experienced what it is like giving birth and raising our kids in the Netherlands. We share our personal experiences where relevant and offer professional support and information where needed and possible. Finally, most of us have quite an international background but we have a French connection in common, hence our name

Why the name “Experience Mindfulness”?

That’s a great question which no one has ever asked me before so thank you for bringing it up.

I believe it sums up the essence of Mindfulness. Mindfulness or presence if you will is not something that can really be cognitively explained. You could read 100 books on it and yet not fully grasp it. We tend to get so stuck in our heads and forget that there are other ways to know. It is something that needs to be experienced directly, it is a felt sense of the experience of being alive. When you experience mindfulness, practice it, feel it, understand how it is impacting your body and mind, then you can go beyond the concept.

In mindfulness we move from thinking to feeling which is all about experiencing what is. We pay attention to our senses, to sensations in the body, we connect to our whole being. The body is an anchor to our awareness, always available, always giving signals.

Bringing more present moment awareness in our lives may sound simple but it is not easy, this process requires commitment and regular practice or experience !

Can you tell us what makes you Happy?

YES!

Every morning, I spend about an hour practicing mindfulness and yoga or Qi Gong. sometimes I go running and then meditate. I enjoy this morning ritual and it helps me start the day with positive energy. If I skip it, I really feel the difference.

My kids make me happy, although sometimes they really irritate me too of course

But what I really enjoy is when we have quality time. I notice that this is facilitated by having nothing on the agenda, just unstructured play or connection time. I try to make room for a short moment of real connection every day with both of them, mostly following their agenda.

Being in nature is also a great source of happiness, nature calms and energizes me. I am definitely an outdoors person and I really need my daily walk in the park.

Traveling and backpacking, learning new languages and discovering new cultures used to be a passion of mine, nowadays I enjoy our family holidays. My partner is South African and I love visiting there. The nature is so grand and wild, these big open spaces help me feel free and even more alive if that makes sense.

And my work makes me happy. For years my work was not a source of joy or even satisfaction. Now I love what I do I allow my curiosity and intuition to guide me as I further develop my skills, they are my new “boss”, it is so liberating! I enjoy guiding and coaching clients. I witness sometimes amazing transformation which is very inspiring and rewarding.

Finding the good in the situation – NL Corona Lockdown Day 2

Strange times aren’t they? There has been such a sudden shift in life as usual and many of us are still in the midst of processing, making sense of what is going on and adjusting to these new parameters of working remotely, closed schools and social distancing.

Yesterday on Day 1 of the NL Lockdown I facilitated my first ever mindfulness session on Zoom. It was an amazing experience, the experiences shared were deeply touching and insightful. I am very grateful for the opportunity to hold space and guide communities through the process of mindfulness especially right now. I went into this online format with some resistance certainly. And on the other hand, I felt ignited with purpose knowing that staying connected, mindful and grounded is more important than ever.stay presentThese times are challenging in many ways, a significant rise in disease & death is certainly no light territory, many face financial hardship or even collapse. And … these times are also fascinating in so many ways. I’m sure you hear enough about the concerns in the media and we cannot ignore or dismiss the bad. However, my mission in this post is to help you focus on the good and the lessons that we can learn collectively in this time of transition.

We are forced to surrender our illusion of control and reminded how vulnerable we are. The only power we really have is to choose how we relate to this situation. The rise of solidarity, community and connection, random acts of kindness is moving. Awareness and deep learnings come from pausing and these give us immense clarity on what it is that really matters : enjoying good health, well-being and feeling connected. LOVE is at the core of our humanity, this is what makes us feel alive and happy. We all want to be healthy, happy, peaceful and be loved and many of us have lost the roadmap to experience this in modern life. We need to find our way and mindfulness can provide us with focus and direction to cultivate a supportive mindset.

With every change comes opportunity. With chaos comes creativity. Any major transformation comes with its challenges and is also a huge opportunity for growth and healing.

Resisting the situation by denying it, not taking it seriously, numbing, indifference, fighting, resisting, judging, complaining, being a victim or a bully, getting caught up in fear or anxiety isn’t helpful. We may experience these emotional reactions at times, understandably with the overwhelm of the situation, but it is also quite intuitive to see how these reactions are simply not helpful and causing more suffering. These are stress reactions and stress and anxiety supress our immune systems making us more vulnerable to disease.

“To diminish the suffering of pain, we need to make a crucial distinction between the pain of pain, and the pain we create by our thoughts about the pain. Fear, anger, guilt, loneliness and helplessness are all mental and emotional responses that can intensify pain” – Howard Cutler

The mindful attitudes can serve as a compass to find the good in the midst of obstacles big or small. They can help reframe our perspective and navigate turbulent times.  

Beginner’s mind – We are being faced with uncertainty. Our minds don’t do well with uncertainty. Uncertainty brings fear. The more we are afraid, the more we need to exert control over our environment.

“We want things to be clear, so we can maintain our illusions of safety. Certainty breeds tremendous smugness. “– Gunilla Norris

When we learn to become comfortable with not knowing, our minds open, becomes more perceptive, we see with fresh eyes. This expansive state brings us into our creativity.  

beginner'smind

Non-Judging – We are constantly formulating judgment about ourselves or others. This is deeply harmful, unnecessary and limits us in many ways. In this situation, while there has been huge displays of solidarity, there has also been “othering”, racism, judging of cultural approaches and ways of handling the situation. Everyone has an opinion on everything it seems. Some don’t feel threatened personally by the situation and disregard completely national guidelines continuing to hug, kiss and shake hands defiantly for instance. It is our collective responsibility to protect the most vulnerable. These are not only the elderly but also a much larger group, those already battling with disease, cancer, cardiovascular, auto-immune diseases, etc. I found out in the last days that a few of my friends are asthmatic, have chronic bronchitis or have contracted serious lung disease in the past, I had no idea until now. Not everyone enjoys the same level of health. We are all invited to realise how interconnected we are and to practice caring for the most vulnerable. This is not a time to be self-absorbed but to wake up to our unity. The actions of one impacts the whole. “It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us” – Jackie Mutcheson

Trust – Trusting in ourselves and trusting life. Trusting in our resilience. Trusting that even if we don’t have a clue somehow things will work out. Something good will come out of all this. Trusting others. The current atmosphere of social distancing can bring mistrust, with others potentially being “infected” Other aren’t the enemy. When we get trapped in fear, there can be no trust and no empathy.

Taking time to listen within, to our intuition, to what we are being called to do. How can we serve? This is a time that is inviting us to be more internally focused and less reliant on the external world for guidance. There is opportunity for us to create our own structure, tune into our own rhythm, listen to our needs, follow our curiosity. What is it you need? Surrounding ourselves with positivity is important in these times, reading or watching news headlines multiple times a day probably isn’t serving you and just creating more anxiety. How much information do you really need? Notice what triggers your stress response vs what grows your trust. Make sure you are privileging the latter.  There is much to discover if we can apply curiosity and see this as an opportunity to discover something new!

Patience – This situation is temporary and invites us to slow down and look inwards. Can we take this moment for self-exploration, stay curious rather than become impatient? This moment will pass just like everything else in life will. Life is impermanent. Being in a rush creates restlessness and unhappiness. We are only here for a short while, what are we sprinting for? As best we can, trying to appreciate the unfolding moment and what is here to learn in difficulty rather than wanting to be somewhere else. Beauty can come from the darkest and deepest places if we just are patient and remain strong “no mud, no lotus”- Thich Nhat Hanh

Non-Striving – in modern life, we are often in a striving mode. We are most often trying to get somewhere. This creates in us, a state of unbalance, of relentless striving and struggling for the next thing. We can become very absorbed in how we should be, what we should be able to do, what we should achieve, etc. rather than just allowing ourselves to be as we are. We are being forced into BEING and presence, taking things day by day. Mindfulness invites us to be present with what is and embrace things as they are, with all their imperfections. To try and be as content as you can now, because now is effectively the only moment you have to live. 

Acceptance – Acceptance is clear seeing. It is allowing the situations to be as it is because that is the reality. It is not about passive resignation but simply recognising that fighting what is, is not only draining but a lost battle. Acceptance of things as they are brings with it a certain peace. We can focus our energy on being with what is and creating from there rather than resisting it which is completely wasted energy and potential.

Letting Go – Once we accept what is, we can surrender to it. This situation is calling for us to surrender. And when we do, it can feel quite liberating. Many experience this slowing down as a relief to an extent, a chance to reset and recharge. The pace of life is quite hectic and pausing can be deeply nourishing. Often we don’t allow ourselves to slow down because we feel guilty, that we shouldn’t take it too easy, we compare ourselves to others and their achievements or we try to meet or even exceed other’s expectations. Being given the permission to slow down is a gift. Also knowing that we are not alone in this can release feelings of guilt or fear of missing out. We are all in the same boat (albeit some may have a more comfortable seat).

Kindness

More than anything this situation calls for kindness and compassion to ourselves and everyone. It is a time to connect to your heart and practice radical self-care. The more you care for yourself, the more you can be there for others. I need to keep reminding myself of this too personally. I have a burning desire to be of service for others, my family but if I don’t have enough personal space that becomes challenging.  

we stand together

Even if we practice social distancing, we can smile and greet people in the street. I’ve had more people pause and smile back at me today than in a long time. I’ve also spoken to more of my neighbours than I have in the last year. This situation is connecting people in new ways. Many of us are spending more time with our family. Sometimes this may be online if they are far or vulnerable. And some elderly or younger single people may be feeling on the contrary very lonely and isolated which is a recipe for depression. Plenty of online support groups and communities are popping up here and there to support those who are alone and in need of support. Many companies are offering their services free to support working at home and kids out of schools. Tonight at 20h we clapped for 3 minutes to celebrate the amazing work done by caregivers to look after our sick, the sacrifices they are making, the risks they are taking, the importance and vitality of their work _ their dedication is simply amazing.  

It is beautiful to witness how this crisis is bringing out the best in many of us. What an amazing opportunity for us to evolve collectively.

“Whatever you frequently think and ponder upon, that will become the inclination of your mind” – The Buddha

We all have this incredible capacity to use our mind to become self-aware as humans yet it is often underutilised unless consciously cultivated. The core qualities of mindfulness, non-judging and kindness among others, are essential pillars to become better versions of ourselves, more fulfilled and shape a brighter future in which we understand and nurture the interconnectedness of everything. 

I hope these mindful attitudes can help you focus on the good and find the hidden gems in this situation.  I’ll be facilitating many sessions online in the coming days and sharing more recordings to do what I can within my community to support people in staying mindful, compassionate and positive. Please stay tuned on my website, Instagram or Facebook. 

Hope to see you there. I’d love to hear how you are experiencing this, what you find challenging as well as what the lessons learned are for you so far. 

Wishing you well and sending you love.

Nurture peace inside and out with this loving kindness practice

Earlier this week, I closed another rewarding 8-week MBSR journey with a beautiful group of people. It was my last mindfulness session for the year and the last meditation practice I guided was a loving kindness practice. I recorded it during our session and wanted to share it with you. (please note that as this is a live recording with a large group in the room, the sound quality isn’t perfect, there is some background noise but I am ok with imperfect, hope you are too?).

With the holiday season approaching, often connected to peace, joy and shared moments with loved ones, don’t you agree it is the perfect opportunity to nurture and spread some love and kindness?

Why practice Loving-Kindness? 

If you are unfamiliar with this practice,  below is a bit more context:

Loving-Kindness is originally a Buddhist practice (sometimes referred to as metta-meditation). It involves mentally sending kindness and warmth towards others by silently repeating traditional phrases (or mantras).

Loving Kindness is one of the most direct routes to happiness. It is a powerful practice in dispelling negative emotions such as anxiety and depression. It encourages us to be less self-absorbed. Furthermore, it actually makes us more inclined to react positively to others (there is plenty of research to support this).

How do you practice Loving-Kindness?

In this practice, we begin by sending compassion to ourselves. Developing self-compassion is an essential first step to allow us in turn to become a more compassionate person. After that, we can express this compassion increasingly outwardly.

If we feel inadequate or insecure, we harm ourselves by beating ourselves up. Furthermore, we also tend to harm others around us, either by taking out our anger, irritation or frustrations on them. Sometimes by needing or expecting them to love us in ways that we are not able to love ourselves. On the other hand, if we suppress our feelings, we keep ourselves from really, truly connecting with others in a meaningful way as we are too absorbed with our own ill-being.

Mindfulness and self-compassion can free us from past painful and self-limiting beliefs. Learning to open our heart to the loving-kindness within us and in the world around us will eventually help us live more freely and fearlessly.

 We cannot achieve world peace without first achieving peace within ourselves … inner peace. In an atmosphere of hatred, anger, competition and violence no lasting peace can be achieved. These negative and destructive forces must be overcome by compassion, love and altruism which are the essential teachings of the Buddha.” – Dalia Lama

Reduce stress during the festive season

Here’s a special blog post I put together for Lorna from Wilson’s Workouts about reducing stress during the festive season

Is the end of year stress getting to you? Well you are certainly not alone.

On one hand, December is a very busy time of year with all the festivities and family reunions involving plenty of preparation, extra planning and shopping in what is for many of us an already pretty busy schedule.

On the other, the lower amount of natural sunlight can significantly impact our mood, sleep and energy levels. Many of us can find ourselves experiencing winter blues, feeling more lethargic and down overall.

This combination can leave us feeling run down and stressed. The good news is that there is a lot we can do to nurture ourselves and preserve our well-being in the midst of Winter.

Firstly, some acceptance of the reality that our environment affects us profoundly and we don’t have quite the same energy in winter than we may do the rest of the year is key. Winter is a season to slow down so getting more rest and adjusting your schedule to your energy level where possible may be wise and leave you feeling healthier and happier. Not overdoing it, letting go of whatever isn’t crucial or serving our well-being can help in any time of year but especially now, giving yourself the gift of imperfection ?

Starting your day without rushing or checking your phone but instead taking time for some gentle stretching and/or a few minutes of mindful breathing can support you to start the day with clarity and vitality

To preserve your energy and clarity throughout the day, try to insert restorative breaks every now and then whether it be breathing, stretching, walking. Make sure you plan these in as it so easy to get caught up in being busy, neglect our basic needs and go over our boundaries.  

Going for a brisk or mindful walk (ideally in nature) is guaranteed to recharge your batteries and combat the winter blues by maximizing your natural light intake. Spending time outdoors and walking increases serotonin production, reduces anxiety and supports better sleep.

Whenever you feel you are getting wound up or overthinking, this 3-step breathing space practice is only 3 minutes and it is a powerful way to give yourself a vitality boost and step away from stress. 

When our mood is low and we experience stress, we have a tendency to engage more easily in negative thinking and self-criticism, often variations of feeling insecure or inadequate in some way. While this is pretty common it certainly isn’t helpful and actually makes it harder for us to deal with what is stressing us in the first place. Countering this natural tendency with some self-compassion can work wonders. When you notice you are stressed, pause, acknowledge how you feel and ask yourself “how can I be kind to myself in this situation?”. It is not easy at first and requires a conscious commitment but if you can practice this for a few weeks you could actually transform stressful situations into a self-care moment and in doing so boost your performance, confidence and resilience.

Finally closing the day with a gratitude practice can reframe your thinking, give you a mood boost and facilitate a peaceful, restorative sleep. Most of us have a natural tendency to focus more on what doesn’t go right and focusing on that actually makes it grow so doing the opposite can bring radical transformation. Just writing down 5 things you feel grateful for every night and leaving space for feelings of gratitude to emerge is one of the healthiest habits for well-being. You’re actually inviting more of what you feel grateful for in your life to emerge! 

And as this is a celebratory time, you may want to take some time to also celebrate yourself. It is easy to get caught up in all the things we don’t do right or haven’t yet achieved but how about shifting that and taking time to acknowledge all the little things that have gone right and in particular what you feel proud of or have achieved, no matter how small. In this end of year also taking time to reflect on all this has its own significance as we transition into a bright new year. Celebrating actually rewires our brain.

All the warmest wishes for this festive season, may it be mindful, peaceful, bright and restorative!

 

 

 

 

My journey to mindfulness

I thought it was about time I share my personal mindfulness journey so here we go.

I discovered mindfulness in 2013 and I’ve been dedicated to supporting people towards greater well-being with the practice of mindfulness for almost 5 years now. As any major life transition, it has been quite a journey to become a mindfulness trainer, one that started with a big leap of faith and surrendering to the unknown with plenty of ups and downs along the way.

Before walking the mindful path, I worked in the corporate world for 15 years, in media agencies, in a rather fast-paced, deadline-driven environment _which I suppose is pretty standard nowadays in any corporate jobs especially in a senior role, as we take on more responsibility. My last client was Heineken so I was involved in the process of selling beer to people. It was fun, the parties were great and I worked with a lot of nice, smart people, many who felt really ok and sometimes very passionate about selling beer. However, I was really missing connection with what I was doing and found it difficult to just ignore that and go on as if it didn’t matter all that much. I never really fit in that world and was always fantasizing about doing something else with my life, something different than selling the latest range of shampoo or beer, something that actually made a difference and added value in people’s lives. This wasn’t new, for as long as I can remember I had always been searching for meaning and thinking there must be more to life. Becoming a mom propelled my journey into mindfulness. I began to feel the lack of purpose in my work more intensely, becoming a mother made me even more conscious about my contribution to the world was and how I was shaping the future. And of course, becoming a mom was such a transformation and a radical lifestyle change in itself. I found myself wanting to spend more time with my daughter, stressed with juggling the demands of work and parenthood. My old work rhythm didn’t fit my new mama life. I was frustrated that work was so often in the background in the moments I had with my girl. I left the office early to make it to day care at a decent time but work was never finished and I resented turning my laptop on again as soon as my daughter was asleep. Everything was ok on the surface but I wasn’t happy. I felt I was always running trying to keep up with my life rather than living it, enjoying it.

I registered to a mindfulness course in my desperation and this was a huge wake up call for me. Practicing mindfulness made me look at my life with new eyes and experience things differently. I realized I wasn’t really present for a lot of my life, very caught up in my head, as if almost sleepwalking through life. Nothing in my life had changed except my presence & perspective, but simply by practicing and applying mindfulness I could enjoy the day more and make small steps to improve my daily routine. My focus and efficiency at work improved, even my relationship with my boss was better. I started setting boundaries, really disconnecting from work when I got home, being fully there for my girl, enjoying the moment and not checking my emails in the evening or in the morning. I could actually enjoy the cycle to work and the scenery. All these little things and the fact that I was present for them made a big difference in the quality of my day.

I was so inspired by mindfulness that I decided that I wanted to find a way to share these amazing tools. The concept of mindfulness wasn’t completely new to me: I had already been practicing yoga for quite some years and was somewhat familiar with Buddhist meditation, I had read many books and attended many workshops around personal development.  More importantly I had lived, known all sorts of joys as well as challenges. I had also experienced mental health challenges in my early 20s, lived in 5 different countries, adjusted to different cultures, etc. I knew what a gem mindfulness was to hold everything, all the beauty as well as curve balls that life can throw at you.  The mindfulness practices I had finally discovered were so profound and at the same time simple and applicable in modern life.

Mindfulness gave me a huge amount of perspective, it put me in touch with what it was that really mattered to me, what made me happy and I started honouring that and making it a priority. I discovered my intuition and started listening, slowly but surely mindfulness has allowed me to create a life more in accordance with my values rather than one driven by external pressures or what I felt I should be doing.

What mattered to me was clear:

–          Being a mom: I realized I didn’t want to outsource childcare half as much as I was doing, I wanted to see my kids grow up

–          Being of service: contributing positively to the world

–          The freedom to live my life my own particular way

–          My well-being and happiness was a priority and also what was going to enable me to actually be a good mom and contribute positively to world.

It dawned on me that deep inside we all feel this way, that our well-being is the foundation for everything we do. Happiness is something we all seek and need and are sometimes equally confused about how to find it. Mindfulness, creating the conditions in your mind for contentment, is certainly a very powerful practice for greater well-being.

Because mindfulness was transformative in my life it gave me the inspiration to share these tools with others knowing that it would benefit them too. Now my hugest source of motivation comes from simply witnessing people transform right before my eyes. It is amazing what loving attention can do and it warms my heart to see the magic happen time and time again! Through facilitating mindfulness courses and workshops, I have touched more lives positively than ever before and it feels extremely rewarding to get to do this beautiful work.

In a “nutshell”, that’s the story of what brought me here. Of course there are a lot more layers and depth to it that I can write here. Since I have begun, I’ve expanded my experience and skill set to increasingly support people towards thriving.

I continue to support open groups with mindfulness and have recently extending my offering to include self-compassion practices and tools in workshop formats. The relationship we have with ourselves, our sense of self, is the source of everything. Self-compassion is a super highway into healing and transformation.

On top of open groups, I have specialized in supporting expecting and new  parents. My path to supporting expecting parents was born through my own experience of falling pregnant a second time and witnessing how immensely supportive mindfulness was in the transformative process of pregnancy, birth and parenting. Since 2018, I teach the Mindful Birthing & Parenting program and have become a doula. I also host plenty of workshops for new and not so new parents.

I feel passionate about women empowerment and sustainability (which are very much related) so I am increasingly involved in those areas as well in the form of workshops, nature walks and speaking or attending events.

Finally, I have recently started my journey as a coach to support people increasingly on an individual level. My aim is to support people experiencing high levels of stress, burn-out or personal difficulties as well as those in life transitions looking for support and direction (whether it be becoming a parent and/or adjusting to parenthood, looking for more alignment in professional life or creating a heart-centred business).

This mindful path is not a destination but a continuous journey of exploring and discovering, learning and deep diving, integrating and applying, sharing and spreading where creating more harmony in and around me is the heart of the matter. It is not always an easy path and I’ve had some bumps and falls but it is an adventure that is empowering and liberating and makes life much more enchanting and interesting. Hope to meet you soon along the way!

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels – that´s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that´s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one. The often surprising results of that hunt – that´s what I call Big Magic” – Elizabeth Gilbert