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My first book Minding Mum is all about understanding that self-care is not selfish in fact it’s probably the most selfless thing you can do.

I learnt this lesson the hard way after I had my son James who is now just nearly six. I completely neglected my own needs post birth and was certainly not Minding Mum. I pushed myself way too hard, didn’t eat properly and it came at a huge cost to both myself and my son as I became very ill with postnatal depression. What I have realized the past seven years on my wellness journey is that if our own tank is empty we have no strength and energy to give to others.

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SELFCARE

Once I started to value myself enough to eat well, exercise, talk kindly to myself and practice daily happiness habits I began to understand the power of self care. I learnt what it truly means not only for ourselves but for those we love.

I now have more time (believe it or not), patience, energy and vitality for James since Minding Mum. Practicing self-care does not mean you are shirking your responsibilities. In fact as a parent there is no better way to instill confidence and self-esteem into your kids than to be a healthy and happy role model.

I know the first thing mums say is that they have no time for Minding Mum and since they have had their children they can’t even go to the bathroom alone anymore. The only time I have had a shower alone without 20 questions is when I’m away.

I was an impossibly stubborn Mum and thought this too. However when I was unwell I found it incredibly difficult to get dressed most days and knew something had to change. There is real power in self care and even more power in taking small steps to get there.

BABYSTEPS

Rome wasn’t built in a day and sometimes we need to relearn or learn in my case to like ourselves and value ourselves. The small changes I have made over the past few years have led me on a path of true wellness. Not only that I have discovered the true contentment I have always craved but never been able to find. After I had James I stopped placing my worth in external things like property, boyfriends and job status but I started to look within and face my fears.

It’s been a rocky road and some days I’ve felt brave and others scared but every day I have been giving life my best shot. I am now living an anxiety and depression free life, which is something I never thought, would be possible. I have daily happiness habits and if you scroll through Facebook for 10 minutes you can do this too.

TIPS FOR MINDING MUM:

  1. THANK YOU

Say thank you every morning as you wake and keep a gratitude diary. This should take no more than 3 minutes each day. Recent research from Harvard happiness researcher and author Shawn Achor says that if you pick 3 different things each day that you are grateful for not only does it help your optimism but also it actually rewires our brain. This is one of the most powerful tools I use daily and this habit helped to drag me out of some dark times. Sometimes we can become too focused on what is going wrong and miss everything that is going right!

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2. FIND YOUR WELLNESS FORMULA

We’re all different which is the beauty of life and what’s works for one will not work for another so have fun and find a formula that works for you. In life we tend to focus on just one area at a time like diet or exercise but what I have found is that a little of everything is better than a lot of one thing to help you find that balance. (PG 23 in my book)

Minding mum, gratitude, book, author, be complete, family, parenting, mums, gill books, self care3. EAT REAL FOOD

We’ve made food very complicated and there are thousands of diets out there now. My advice is keeping it simple so eat fresh wholefoods. Remove the word diet for your life, as they simply don’t work! Steer clear of processed foods and ease up on sugar. Stay on the outskirts of the supermarkets (usually where fresh produce is) cook and freeze for the week if you are short on time and try to eat a variety of colour.

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4. KEEP HYDRATED

You will never realise how bad you feel until you start to feel good, and hydration or dehydration can be the cause of so many illnesses [so too much hydration could make you sick too?]. For the past fifteen years I have started my day with lemon water. It all started at a photo-shoot one day, when my skin was bad as I suffered with adult acne. A make-up artist told me that drinking warm lemon water every morning would help. It is something that I have done ever since and since studying nutrition I have come to realise that the benefits are far greater than I could have ever imagined.

So my first tip for hydration is to wake up your body with a glass of warm water and lemon each day. This will kick start your digestive system and metabolism. It’s small changes like this that will make a massive difference to your health. Just think of how dehydrated you are after a night’s sleep. Does it not make sense to drink fluids first before putting more food in? When I take a break from drinking warm lemon water in the morning I really notice the difference in how efficient my digestive system is and I also notice a difference in my energy levels.

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LEMONS

Lemons are great because they contain bioflavonoids, potassium and Vitamin C. Bioflavonoids are super antioxidants that contribute to good heart health and have powerful anti-carcinogens. Potassium stimulates the brain as well as helping keep your blood pressure under control and the antioxidants from the Vitamin C will really help your skin (healing, especially after a C-section). Vitamin C is required to produce collagen, a protein that plays a critical role in the structure of our bodies. Collagen is the framework for our skin and our bones and without it, we would quite literally fall apart. Vitamin C also aids the absorption of iron and if you live in a big city just look at Vitamin C as a giant fire extinguisher for all the pollution and nasty toxins out there.

TOP TIP: Get more water into your day by keeping a bottle with you all the time and by drinking herbal teas (caffeine is a diuretic). Eat your water by including water-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet, like cucumber and watermelon.

5. CATCH NEGATIVE THOUGHTS AND SWITCH THEM TO MORE POSITIVE ONES

This sounds easy but some of us are in a pattern of consistent negative thinking without even realizing it and it’s a habit that we can break with practice. I use my STOP- CATCH – CHANGE formula which is Stop your negative thought, catch it and change it to a positive one. This might seem unnatural and hard in the beginning but it becomes easier with time. I use it to catch negative thoughts about myself, others, work and life in general. Building good self-esteem means appreciating yourself and treating yourself with compassion.

6. FIND AN EXERCISE YOU ACTUALLY LIKE

Fitness is meant to be fun and if it’s not for you then try something new. Life is hard enough without dreading our exercise class or the gym. There are 100’s of options to keep moving and keep fit. I get bored so I switch it up all the time from yoga to Pilates and the gym. You need to feel good about what you are doing as our body, mind and spirit are all connected.

7. MY TOP BEAUTY TIPS ARE

Keep it simple and keep it real. Make up should be used to highlight your features and I’m definitely a “less is more” girl. From a health perspective I have also started to use more natural and paraben free products after all, a lot of the chemicals in our beauty products are absorbed by our skin and enter into our bloodstream.

When I was recovering from depression and anxiety I started to understand that the products we use disrupt our endocrine system and our hormones, which is all related to mental health. (CouleurCaramel.ie and Phyts are great brands) Try switching up your deodorants to a more natural alternative too. It’s the cumulative effect of all the products that causes the problems as our bodies are actually very good at detoxing naturally but they just can’t cope with being overloaded with environmental toxins, product toxins, bad food and a bad lifestyle!

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8. ALWAYS CLEAN YOUR SKIN PROPERLY AND WASH YOUR PILLOW CASE REGULARLY

I have suffered from adult acne so my rule with my pillow is

SLEEP-TURN-SLEEP-WASH

So you sleep on one side, then turn it over the following night and sleep on the opposite side, and then wash it. It’s simple and effective.

9. USE YOUR BREATH

Stress is our biggest killer these days and using mindfulness and meditation can help. Its simple, if you can breathe you can meditate. Our breath is our most powerful asset yet it is the most underused resource we have and its free and available all the time. As a busy mum you can feel overwhelmed quite often and very often just taking a moment to stop and breathe can make all the difference.

Stop, breathe and be

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10. STOP JUDGING AND START SUPPORTING

I have one rule and that’s always try and be there for another mum who needs you. All mums are working mums whether you stay at home or go out to work. There is no ideal situation as each one of us are completely different. To create a good work/life balance you need to do what’s right for you. There is a full chapter on PND (post natal depression) in the book, which is honest and offers great tips on asking for help and helping yourself!

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There are many more tips in my book ‘Minding Mum’ which you can buy here which you can buy here.

Consciously practicing gratitude has been a huge part of my healing journey.

My journey to discovering gratitude was interesting. I was never ungrateful as such, but I did have a tendency to see all the things that were going wrong in my life quite easily and I could probably have listed 10 things or more in 10 seconds that I perceived to be missing from my life when things weren’t going my way.

Consistent and constant gratitude practice means that I find it difficult to focus on any negatives nowadays but like everything it takes work.

If you would like to begin writing a gratitude journal simply follow these steps and build on them as you become more comfortable with the practice.

NUMBER 1: BUY A GRATITUDE JOURNAL

It’s nice to have a dedicated journal for your daily gratitude list. I also love checking back on how many wonderful things happen to me every day that we can easily forget. Any notepad will do.

NUMBER 2: START

Start each day with gratitude by writing down 3 things you are grateful for. These can be anything so for example:

  • I’m grateful I can nourish my body with good food
  • I’m grateful for my beautiful son
  • I’m grateful it’s a beautiful day
  • I’m grateful for my job
  • I’m grateful for all the opportunities I have each day
  • Download sample page here

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When you are comfortable with that list take it one step further and explore why you are grateful so for example:

  • I’m grateful for my son because he teaches me to be present and being a parent has taught me about the power and meaning of unconditional love
  • I’m so thankful for the good food available to me that I can choose to nourish my body with as good food helps to keep me health in both body and mind
  • I’m grateful for my job because I love what I do and I feel fulfilled and energized after a good days work.
  • I’m so grateful to wake up in good health everyday and for my family’s health and wellbeing. It is something we all value and cherish.

NUMBER 3 GRATITUDE STONE

gratitude stonesEvery night before I go to sleep I pick up my gratitude stone (choose a stone from a garden, park or beach that has meaning for you. Mine is from Dzogchen Beara which holds a very special place in my heart) and I think of what I am most grateful for each day. I absolutely love this part of my day and it means I always go to sleep with a positive thought and a smile on my face.

Remember if you are practicing gratitude it is very hard to have negative thoughts. Saying thank you mindlessly and really feeling grateful are two very different things so try and really feel it in your body and sit into that feeling. The more you do this the easier it will become and I promise gratitude makes life easier even on tough days!

Try it for 3 weeks and let me know how you get on. I would love to hear from you

Comment below

Shine Bright,

Ali xxx

I like to refer to it as ‘the practice of being present’ as it truly is a practice and something we have to work on every day. Being present to me means being aware and feeling fully alive. Do you feel present in your life or does life generally feel chaotic?

What I have learned is that it’s not about ticking off a to do list but rather being more present with the things I am doing each day like reading a story to my child or working on one project at a time and not juggling six different things at once. Multitasking might work for some but over time I have found that it’s distracting and leads to many jobs being nearly finished instead of properly finished and done well.

Becoming a mum was the first time I was forced to be present because that’s what children do – they live in the present. They anchor you in the here and now. As James grew I learnt to really live in the here and now whereas before I ran from problems and the thought of being alone with myself was quite terrifying.

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I saw the true beauty of the world through a child’s eyes after James was born and realised just how much we take for granted or miss when we become adults. The first time he saw a bird in the sky and a plane flying it was sheer amazement and I remember when he was a toddler he kept saying mum – wow!! One day as I walked over to him he was looking at ants on the ground and he was simply stunned watching them. His little face looked up at me and I felt really emotional at how powerful the moment was.

However practicing being present caused me to feel very emotional in the beginning as it was so awkward for me to really feel my emotions? When you are present you feel and see things more clearly and when you have been suppressing that aspect of yourself for so long it can almost be like freeing all these emotions that are hyperactive after having been locked away for too long. They can be unruly and unnerving and you need to figure out how to deal with them.

Having struggled with mental health and addiction problems for so long, working on being more present in my life allowed me the space to finally heal. It’s an awareness that I have built up and something I work on daily. Some days I’m better than others but that’s life and I try to take the rough with the smooth, have fun with it and ease off beating myself up for not doing everything right.

For years I strived for perfection (whatever that is) and it’s exhausting and unrealistic. There is no such thing as perfection as we are all so different and our standards and views of the world differ so greatly that its ridiculous to do anything other than work on our own internal happiness and contentment.

Through my daily meditations, gratitude journals, food, fun, fitness and therapy being present has become the single greatest gift I have ever given myself. It’s like slowly discovering life’s elixir. Over the years the more I got the more I wanted and the better my life became.

journal

What I realized is that I had become an obsessive list ticker desperately trying to get through different tasks in an effort to be supermum but in reality I was missing out on actually being a mum or really living. During my recovery from postnatal depression I became emotional because I had finally allowed myself the time and space to simply just be with my son. You almost feel guilty initially as if allowing yourself to do this means you are lazy.

I now realize that we attract what we are into our life. I now look back and realize my run of incredibly bad luck with work, boyfriends and life events was actually caused by me and how I was living. Our life changes when we choose to live differently. Our life changes when we choose to be present.

[bctt tweet=[bctt tweet=”Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment. Deepak Chopra” username=”alicanavan”] username=”alicanavan”]

Here are some simple ideas to help you become more present:

  • Focus on your senses – how does your food taste?  What can you see when out in nature? Tune in to smells and colours!
  • Savour your shower and start the day mindfully. Tune into how the water feels on your body and in turn you will tune into how you feel.
  • Notice the miracles in each day by practising gratitude. Gratitude helps to ground us and bring us into the present. Start to notice the small things like someones smile or a refreshing glass of water.
  • Stop, breathe and become fully aware of the moment.
  • Take a short meditation break.
  • Write in a journal.
  • When in conversation give the person your full attention.
  • Have digital free time with loved ones and for yourself.

How do you practise being present? I would love to hear from you – Share in the comment box below

Shine Bright

Ali xxxx

#mindfulmonday

Some days just run like clockwork, things fall magically into place and you feel aligned and connected.

But then there are days you feel out of sync and have a run of bad luck and on these days it can be hard to stay positive and get back of track but fear not as I have some tips to share.

Anyone who follows me knows I’m a huge fan of living a positive lifestyle. That does not mean avoidance and seeing the world through rose tinted glasses. It means that I feel, deal, heal and get real.

I believe that tough times make us stronger and ultimately no one gets through life without some struggle or hardship, no matter who you are. We will all experience grief, failure, disappointment, heartache and much more at some stage throughout our lives but its how you bounce back from these times and what you learn from the experience that determines the person you will become in the future.

  1. THIS TOO SHALL PASS

Sometimes when we are in the middle of a crisis its hard to see a way out but things change every second, every minute of every day so I always find it comforting to think that no matter how bad you are feeling it will pass and things will get better.

 

  1. BREATHE

Our breath is one of our most powerful tools especially when we don’t know what to do. It calms the nervous system, lowers our blood pressure and according to yogis and ayurvedic medicine practitioners our breath is the carrier or prana, which means energy! So help to move that energy around your body by breathing better.

 

  1. BE KIND TO YOURSELF

No one needs help taking out the stick to beat ourselves with. Being unkind to ourselves is an all too familiar habit for a lot of people these days and does nothing but create a negative behavior pattern and lowers our energy and vibration. So use my golden rule: if you wouldn’t say it to your best friend then don’t say it to yourself.

[bctt tweet=”So use my golden rule: if you wouldn’t say it to your best friend then don’t say it to yourself.” username=”alicanavan”]

 

  1. PRACTISE GRATITUDE

Without a doubt, gratitude is my superpower that keeps me sane. It helps to ground me and no matter how bad things are gratitude helps me to see the miracles even when they are hidden. Start your day each day with gratitude by saying ‘Thank You” upon waking. Then choose 3 things you are grateful for and why and really feel into that energy of appreciation. When you consciously start your day in that energy, anything is possible.

[bctt tweet=”Without a doubt, gratitude is my superpower that keeps me sane.” username=”alicanavan”]

 

  1. KEEP GOING

No matter how much you want to give up you must keep going. Never throw in the towel no matter how much you feel like it. Life is a journey and what goes down must come up and vice versa. When you stop trying you become stagnant and life starts to happen to you as opposed to you happening to life. When this happens the victim mentality can creep in. I used to be a victim! Nothing was ever my fault. It was always someone else’s. If I didn’t book a big job it was my agents fault, my sisters, boyfriends or whoever was lucky enough to be standing to close to me at the time. If I missed work because I was out drinking it was the fault of the people I was with, not mine. So my message is just keep going and know that every morning is a chance to start again.

[bctt tweet=”No matter how much you want to give up you must keep going” username=”alicanavan”]

Having an attitude of gratitude is a daily habit that has literally changed my life. It’s a key player on my wellness team and got promoted to team captain early in its career. It works hard in the winter because lets face it that when I need it most.

The thing about gratitude is that it’s fun and easy to include in our daily lives. It gives us something tangible to work with that effects real change quite quickly and it works. Psychologist and best-selling author Shawn Achor has made a career out of studying the science of happiness and it just so happens he’s one of my favourite authors too having penned books like ‘Before Happiness’ and ‘The happiness advantage’ that make me smile before I even open their covers.

Having suffered from depression for most of my life I always placed my happiness on external factors like work, money and success but real happiness is an inside job and one that needs to be worked on daily and taken seriously. I never realized that I could choose to be happier as I always thought that you were either a happy or a sad person. I had written myself off and labeled myself until I discovered the world of positive psychology and neuroplasticity (rewiring the brain). The fact that the brain can rewire itself through experiences is a relatively new discovery but a very exciting one. It basically means that you can alter the structure and function of your brain through mental training. Working with many different therapies like CBT cognitive behavioural therapy and including some mindfulness, meditation and gratitude in my day I soon discovered that it’s possible to rewire your brain at any stage in your life. The thing is though just like exercising your muscles during exercise you do have to use it or you will lose it. So you need to be consistent with your happiness habits.

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(READ ABOUT GRATITUDE IN MY BOOK – MINDING MUM)

[bctt tweet=”Saying thank you mindlessly and practising gratitude mindfully are two completely different things: the latter will set you free” username=”alicanavan”]

Just think of gratitude as your psychological hot water bottle to get you through winter and its great fun for the family too. The health benefits include better sleep, less illness, better mood, increased empathy, improved self esteem and it has even been shown to have anti-aging benefits too! Every evening I ask my six-year-old son James to go through his day and pick the one thing he is most grateful for. This is my favourite part of the day as not only do I get an insight into his world but it’s also an important habit that encourages him to see the good things that happen each day. When I pick him up from school I always hear the negative stories about who is in trouble or what went wrong but this way I get to hear about the good things that happen too. It can be a fun game at dinner and a great way to start the morning too.


Psychologist and author of ‘Hardwiring Happiness’ Rick Hanson says “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones”. I have found that working with my brain and on my happiness has brought contentment and an energy of appreciation into my life in a more natural way. Keeping a gratitude journal has also helped me to keep my life in perspective and see beyond the seemingly bad stuff. So why not give yourself a mindful break and try keeping a gratitude journal this winter.

MY TOP 5 TIPS:

  1. BUY A DEDICATED GRATITUDE JOURNAL– Having a thankful or gratitude journal makes the practice special and it’s a lovely way to read back on the good things in your life on bad days. My mantra: On days you feel blue have a read back through!
  2. GO FOR QUALITY RATHER THAN QUANTITY– Choose 3 things you are grateful for and then expand and write why in a journal. This way you get to create a deep energy of appreciation within
  3. GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL– research has shown that focusing on whom you are grateful for rather than what you are grateful for can have a bigger impact
  4. INCREASING AWARENESS – The key to personal growth is awareness and keeping a gratitude journal helps you to learn more about yourself
  5. ENJOY IT – Its for your eyes only so be personal and be true

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Happiness levels, alison canavan, positive life, smile more, exercising, gratitude, meditation, life coach, wellness coach,So we all want to be happier but some days it really feels like we’re playing tug-o-war with ourselves. However, did you know that YOU actually have a huge part to play in how happy you are! According to research happiness is like a muscle that needs to be exercised daily.

“It’s a choice and it’s a practice. “according to author and Harvard trained researcher of positive psychology Shawn Achor

 

But how many people do you know who are addicted to negative thinking and why is it that negative thinking seems to be a much more comfortable space for a lot of people? Well it’s actually a bad habit that people have become very good at after all they practice it non-stop.

So according to Shawn Achor, we can actually retrain our brains to be happier and the best news of all is that it only takes 5-10 minutes out of your day.

So, if we are what we attend to in this life, here are some simple happiness habits you simply must attend to every day:

 

  1. GRATITUDE

Practicing gratitude every single day can have enormous benefits for our health and happiness. Choose 3 different things every day that you are grateful for and really feel the gratitude. I keep a “Thankful Journal” and writing in it each day is very simply just another habit like eating and sleeping for me now. In research studies even people testing as low-level pessimists after practicing gratitude for 21 days became low-level optimists. A 2-minute habit for 21 days can change and increase your happiness levels. (Martin Seligman) Gratitude has even been shown to trump your genes and environment and it also changes your vibrational frequency in the world.

 

  1. SMILE MORE

A simple smile can actually change your brain chemistry. Yes it’s that powerful so smile more today and every day for yourself and others. You never know you might just brighten someone’s day.

 

  1. STRETCH AND MOVE YOUR BODY

Build muscle and happiness by moving your body every day. Get out for a walk; take a class or just dance around your living room! Your body was made to move. Jump up and down for a few minutes and see how different you feel. As I always say its possible to shake your booty and dance your mood away!

 

  1. EAT FOOD TO FEED YOUR MOOD

Good fats feed our mood so make sure you are getting your omega 3’s daily and if you are not eating oily fish 3-5 times a week you should probably consider a supplement. I take ESKIMO OMEGAS daily because I know I don’t get enough in my daily diet and during my recovery from Post Natal Depression Omega 3’s helped greatly.

Omegas are what we call Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) The term ‘Essential’ in nutrition means that your body cannot synthesise/make it itself so you need to get it from your diet or supplement. I also love avocados and I use a lot of coconut oil daily too along with nuts and eggs. Eating fresh wholefoods in a variety of colours is also important and essential for good health and mood so my top tip is – shop and eat the rainbow.

 

  1. MAKE REAL CONNECTIONS

We have some of the loneliest people living in the biggest cities in the world. It’s imperative that we get back to nurturing our deep connections with each other. Real life relationships have a powerful affect on our happiness. Friendship and love are so important but these days some of us are so busy we forget to connect so pick up the phone to that special someone today.

 

  1. MEDITATE

All you need to do is stop, sit and focus on your breath from as little as 2 minutes a day to see a real difference. Meditation has infinite positive benefits for our health and wellbeing. Check out my beginners video right here.

Does starting your day the right way make any difference?

I decided to do a couple of short videos about starting your day the right way. As our brains are primed for survival and not happiness we need to make a conscious effort each day to help put us on the right track! Consistency is key and small happiness habits each day can make a big difference.

SO WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Well even simple things like saying thank you as soon as you wake up (practising gratitude), taking a few deep breaths and even some gentle stretches can get your day off to a great start.

For years I used to roll out of bed and hope my day would go well. What I have realised through the years is that when we consciously start our day on a positive note it gives us a pep in our step and helps get our day off to a great start.

Starting your day the right way also helps you to feel more centered and calm which gives me you the ability to cope with stress better.

So why not try and implement some simple tips! Try simply sitting on the side of your bed as soon as you wake and take a couple of moments for yourself before your day begins. It’s these small changes that start to add up and make a big difference in our lives.

These are some simple ways to get your day off to a great start – but figuring out what works for you is the key. Have fun with it and switch it up.

When you are done with part one check out starting your day the right way part 2 below. Let me know how you start your day. I would love to hear from you. Please comment below

Shine Bright

Ali xx

 

 

https://alisoncanavan.com/starting-your-day-the-right-way-part-2/