Posts

 

BREATHING, MEDITATION, MINDFULNESS, CONNECTION, BREATHWORK, PEACE, INNERWORLD,

BREATHING MEDITATION:

For this meditation we are going to use the breath as a support.

I find it helpful to take 3-5 really deep breaths as I start to help calm my system down (as most of us are always rushing around)

So

 

  • Chose a quiet place and sit in a comfortable position either on a chair or on the floor
  • Keep your back straight
  • Close your eyes gently and relax the face, jaw and shoulders
  • Place your palms face up or down on your lap, whichever is more comfortable
  • Take 3 deep inhalations and exhalations through your nostrils
  • Then settle and start to notice the natural flow of your breath. You don’t have to breathe in any particular way here just breathe as you always do
  • As you breathe in and out it can be helpful to focus on one point like the tip of your nose where the breath enters and leaves again
  • It’s completely natural for your mind to wander so don’t get frustrated when this happens just gently say to yourself “whoops there I go again wandering off” and come back to the breath again.
  • Continue with this breathing meditation for 5-10 minutes each day and build from there

MY TOP 3 TIPS:

START YOUR DAY THE RIGHT WAY

I meditate in the morning as I find it helps start my day in a positive and intentional way. It’s a great way to settle yourself before the madness begins and I find if you give yourself 5-10 minutes in the morning your ability to cope with stress and any obstacles you encounter during the day is much better. Focusing on our breathing is a very powerful tool to help with anxiety and depression.

 

SMALL STEPS EACH DAY

Real change happens when we are consistent with our habits. 5-10 minutes each day is far better and more beneficial than 2 hours once a week. Even though small changes might not feel like a lot, trust me they make a big difference and the kind of difference you are really looking for = REAL CHANGE.

 

BE EASY WITH YOURSELF

As you begin your journey into meditation be kind and compassionate with yourself. It’s too easy to beat yourself up for wandering thoughts or unwanted emotions arising but this is not the time for that, we do that too much anyway. Instead, this is your time to focus on the present in a non-judgmental way to increase awareness, which in turn helps to calm the body and mind.

Join me on Facebook in my Minding Mum Group for live weekly meditations

Shine Bright

Ali xxx

As everyone who reads my blog knows I’m a huge fan of mindfulness. My first brush with meditation was in my late teens and I never looked back. I am been very lucky to have had some incredible teachers from all over the world since then including Kadam Morten In New York and Sogyal Rinpoche who wrote the beautiful book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

As a daily practitioner for many years now I couldn’t imagine a life without meditation. It has given me the ability to really connect with myself daily, get sober, cope with stress and become more creative and focused. In my book “Minding Mum” I place a special emphasis on both meditation and simple mindful ideas for new mums. You can listen to the meditations here.

Mindful Life - Join 700 + Save $300In April I will travel to Washington to The Mindful Life Conference to speak alongside an extraordinary group of 25+ presenters including Sharon Salzberg, Fleet Maull, Wendy Palmer, Frank Ostaseski and Diana Winston.

The schedule of speakers is here. 

I will be speaking on the following topics:

– Minding mum – Why selfcare and presence is the key to real balance as a mum 
– Sitting with emotions good and bad and how understanding that part of myself finally helped me to heal

 The conference takes place on April 21-22, 2017 at Gaylord National Resort, DC Metro Area

Don’t miss out on this annual gathering for the Mindfulness Movement. Mindful Life explores mindfulness and compassion in many different areas including work life, family life, civic life, education, health & wellness, social activism and culture. There will be talks, roundtables, workshops, yoga and mindful movement, contemplative practice, social events, and optional day long intensives.

Some Topics to be explored include:

·  How to bring mindfulness and compassion into organizations and schools

·  The state of the mindfulness movement and where things are heading

·  The core skills needed for conscious living and loving

·  What’s new in mindfulness technology

·  The latest science on mindfulness – and what the research says about how we can improve our well-being and performance

So why not be part of the excitement as hundreds of people from around the U.S gather in the nation’s capital area to explore big-picture topics, learn practical tools and best practices, share success stories, make one-on-one connections, and build community.

Visit AllThingsMindful.org for more information.

In my opinion meditation is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and a very powerful tool to have in your wellness toolbox. I have been meditating for many years and have a daily practice, which enables me to reconnect with myself each day. Most of us are distracted and live too much in our heads. Very rarely do we check in and come into our bodies and notice how we are feeling. For years I focused on external things like money, career and boyfriends to bring me happiness but I’ve learnt that true happiness and contentment actually comes from creating peace from the inside out.

MEDITATION, growth, space, inner being, spiritual growth, alison canavan, mindfulness, be completeIt’s almost like reversing everything we have been told in our western culture and truly understanding that we actually have everything we need to be happy within us already, we just need to tap into it and work with it. This takes time, patience and practice but with some consistency and work its one of the most worthwhile and rewarding practices to include in your daily life.

It has been said if you want more wellbeing, inner peace, happiness and less stress in your life then learn how to meditate. Researchers at Harvard University even found that during the practice of meditation the body has what they call ‘the relaxation response’ that gives the body deep rest, which is actually deeper than the rest we get from sleep.

[bctt tweet=” Meditation is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself” username=”alicanavan”]

Now I know that beginning a meditation practice can seem intimidating and often confusing because there are so many different types and trends out there today. Trying to quiet your mind can also seem like an impossible task or if you are anything like me when I first began I thought I had to stop my own thoughts! The good news is that not only do you not have to stop your thoughts but you can let them come and go with ease during your practice after all its impossible to stop your thoughts unless your are enlightened or indeed dead.

MEDITATION, growth, space, inner being, spiritual growth, alison canavan, mindfulness, be completeI have been trained in many different types of meditation and it’s important to find what works for you because we are all so different. There is plenty of support out there today in the form of apps, websites, online courses, books and more. I personally don’t believe that one type is more superior to another and in my own practice I use different supports like mantras, visualization and breathing techniques when I feel I need them. It’s important to note that you learn to meditate by meditating and you will grow with your practice.

[bctt tweet=”Meditation allows us the opportunity to work with our mind and understand that we are not our thoughts” username=”alicanavan”]

Meditation allows us the opportunity to work with our mind and understand that we are not our thoughts and that we can change them and in time even catch them before they catch us. In a study by The University of Wisconsin-Madison they found the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation. This is truly amazing because it shows us that your genes do not automatically determine your future. This is called epigenetics and it is actually mainstream science and not on the fringe as you might think.

Basically how you live can have an effect on your genes almost like a volume control button. Based on your day-to-day experience the dial either gets turned up or down. By including meditation in your daily life it has been shown to have a positive effect on your gene expression and this expression can be passed down through generations if you have children, which means changing your lifestyle habits today can help the next generation become healthier too.

So not only can meditation change our brain activity and structure it can also have an effect on our genes too. But wait there’s more: because we know each aspect of us is interconnected recent research is also looking at the connection between meditation and our gut health too. Because meditation elicits a relaxation response it has been shown to have a significant impact on clinical symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 

I didn’t fully appreciate all the research until I started to experience the real benefits for myself. My life has been transformed through meditation and yours can too.

MEDITATION, growth, space, inner being, spiritual growth, alison canavan, mindfulness, be completeHere are some of my top tips and a over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some meditations so sign up to my newsletter below if you’re interested.

TOP TIPS:

NO EXCUSES: The biggest obstacle to starting is YOU. The most frequent thing I hear is the excuse that we have no time. This is also the excuse I used for many years although I found time to do plenty of other wasteful things for hours on end! If you can scroll through Facebook for 10 minutes you can gift yourself the essential 10 minutes to meditate and practice self-care.

JUST DO IT: Don’t overthink it too much just begin. We all have to start somewhere so choose an app or a class or a guided online meditation or simply follow my easy guide below.

GOOD WEBSITES: www.10percenthappier.com www.zen12.com www.omharmonincs.com www.freemindfulness.org, www.chopra.com, www.fragrantheart.com, www.tarabrach.com

GREAT APPS: Sattva, Buddhify, Calm, Headspace, Take A Break, Mindbody Connect, Omvana, Relax Melodies, Smiling Mind

I also have weekly live meditations for mums on facebook (join here) every week and there are 3 meditations available free to download from my website in the resources section for my book.

START YOUR DAY THE RIGHT WAY: I meditate in the morning as I find it helps start my day in a positive and intentional way. It’s a great way to settle yourself before the madness begins and I find if you give yourself 5-10 minutes in the morning your ability to cope with stress and any obstacles you encounter during the day is much better.

SMALL STEPS EACH DAY: Real change happens when we are consistent with our habits. 5-10 minutes each day is far better and more beneficial than 2 hours once a week. Even though small changes might not feel like a lot, trust me they make a big difference and the kind of difference you are really looking for = REAL CHANGE.

BE EASY WITH YOURSELF: As you begin your journey into meditation be kind and compassionate with yourself. It’s too easy to beat yourself up for wandering thoughts or unwanted emotions arising but this is not the time for that, we do that too much anyway. Instead, this is your time to focus on the present in a non-judgmental way to increase awareness, which in turn helps to calm the body and mind.

MEDITATION, growth, space, inner being, spiritual growth, alison canavan, mindfulness, be complete

Please feel free to comment below with any meditation questions you have…

Shine Bright,

Ali xxx

Its Monday, a day where the blues can seem all too real. Fear not because there are a lot of things you can do to avoid feeling blue primarily practicing self-care. One aspect of this means really caring about what you put into your body.

Forget fad diets and temporary fixes if you choose deeply nourishing foods instead of depriving yourself of a list of foods you can’t have you will feel fulfilled in every way helping to alleviate the cravings and avoid the pitfalls that come with a poor diet and lifestyle.

What you eat also affects your immunity, your mood, your sleep patterns and of course your weight. So even though it can be tempting to indulge in processed, high carb and sugary foods on dark cold nights it will only lead to dark days because your body needs good nutrition to be happy and every cell counts!

So what do we need to do during colder months? Well we need to eat more cooked and warming foods, include more soups and stews in our diets, use more spices, eat seasonal veggies and fruits, eat a rainbow, have more wholegrains and of course get more rest. I’ll be sharing some recipes over the next couple of weeks so keep an eye out.

There is another major reason though for cravings and overeating, which is outside of our control and that is we have less sunlight in winter. This can cause some people to suffer from SAD or seasonal affective disorder. It is said that up to 20% of people can suffer from seasonal depression or mood change so lets look at ways that we can help ourselves fell better naturally with diet and lifestyle choices.

probiotics, terranova, selfcare, winter, nutrition, BLUE MONDAY, SPIRULINAGET OUTDOORS

Making sure you get some natural light during the day is really important during the winter months. A lot of people leave their houses when it’s dark and return after work when it’s dark. If you are working in an office environment, stores, hospitals etc with artificial lights you might go all day in the winter with no natural light of any kind. For this reason it’s really important that you get outside during your breaks for a short walk. Wrap up warm and take a short walk at lunchtime when the sun (if we have it) is brightest.

probiotics, terranova, selfcare, winter, nutrition, BLUE MONDAY, SPIRULINA, meditation, mindfulness, kids meditationsMEDITATE

Taking as little as 5 minutes to work on your inner world each day can have an enormous difference on your health. Meditation has so many benefits including stress reduction, better mood, better sleep. It boost immunity, helps with craving and personally I find it gives an overall feeling of inner peace. Check out my guided meditations here or if you are a mum join my Minding Mum group for weekly live meditations and don’t forget that kids can join in too!!

PICK THE RIGHT CARBS

Less sun means a drop in your “feel-good” hormone serotonin, which can cause depression and food cravings. To help combat this you can boost your serotonin with healthy complex carbs like wholegrain breads, brown rice, veggies like sweet potato, corn and pumpkin, beans, lentils and peas. Your children will probably be craving carbs too so try and steer them away from the bad carbs like white breads, rice and sugar. These foods have little or no nutrients and they actually wipe your energy levels. They can also contribute to SAD and mood swings and can be a factor in brain fog and your ability to concentrate. Tryptophan also coverts to the neurotransmitter serotonin so increasing foods like eggs, nuts, turkey, banana, seeds and spirulina may improve depression symptoms too.

probiotics, terranova, selfcare, winter, nutrition, BLUE MONDAY, SPIRULINA

SPICE UP YOUR LIFE

You can thank the Far East for the sensory delight that spices bring. Spices not only introduce vibrance and colour into your diet but they also boost immunity and circulation during the winter months. Cook with onions, turmeric, cinnamon, chili peppers, cardamom, curry, cayenne pepper, ginger and garlic to add a little warmth to your meals and to help winter proof your body from the inside out.

probiotics, terranova, selfcare, winter, nutrition, BLUE MONDAY, organic turmeric powder, SPIRULINAEAT FOR IMMUNITY

The guys you need on your team here are vitamin C, Zinc and probiotics yes you heard me probiotics. Not all bacteria are bad in fact we have millions of bacteria in our gut that help us to stay healthy by stimulating the immune system and helping with the absorption of essential nutrients. To help these guys grow in numbers and keep your digestive system healthy feed them with foods like kimchi, live yogurt, kefir and kombucha or you can take a supplement too Terranova probiotics are great.

probiotics, terranova, selfcare, winter, nutrition

Another tip to help families boost their immune systems is to eat foods that are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta-carotene (vitamin A). So citrus fruits are fab as well as broccoli, sweet potato, spinach and cabbage, green leafy veg and frozen peas.

sweet-potato-1241696_1920I find frozen peas great for kids and they can be added to most meals. These foods are front line defense against colds and infections. Zinc is important too so again your green leafy veg, pumpkin and sesame seeds, lentils, tofu, almonds and wholegrains. Chicken, eggs, fish and dairy products also contain zinc. Zinc is responsible for 100’s of biochemical functions in the body and because of nutrient losses in the soil these days and in food processing deficiency or depletion can be common. Among its many important functions one in particular is that it is part of alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps the liver detoxify alcohols so post christmas this could be useful!

OMEGA 3 AND VITAMIN D

Recent research demonstrates that the consumption of omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin D can play a role in reducing depression. Studies have found that people who consume fish frequently exhibit fewer depressive qualities than those who didn’t consume fish. Essential fatty acids EFA’s are a crucial part of a healthy diet, because our bodies cannot make them. When the word essential is used in a nutritional context it means that the body cannot synthesize (make) it itself and it must therefore be obtained from the diet.

If you eat oily fish twice a week it will provide a healthy dose of omega 3. However a massive 89% of Irish people are not consuming sufficient oily fish in their diet so there is often a need to take a good quality supplement such as *Eskimo Brain 3.6.9 which combines the unique stable fish oil, *Eskimo-3, high in DHA, with plant oils omega-6 and omega-9 along with Co-Q10 and vitamin D3.

eskimo_brain_caps vit dVitamin D is the sunshine vitamin so no prizes for guessing why we don’t have enough in Ireland. This sunshine vitamin is gaining a lot of attention recently (www.vitamindcouncil.org) and may be the most important “missing vitamin” for your brain and mood. It regulates the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin so as you can see nothing works in isolation in our bodies. It’s a proper team sport internally and for all our systems to function correctly they really need each other, which is why a large and varied diet is important. You can your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor but Irish people have been shown to be quite low especially during the winter months. Low levels have been connected with S.A.D and therefore supplementing can help ease symptoms and improve your mood.

B COMPLEX VITAMINS

B Complex vitamins help your body convert proteins from your diet into the neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, etc.) needed for mood and energy.  B-complex vitamins also support heart health and improve your response to stress and help boost energy levels.  While most B vitamins have some benefits for mental health, in terms of depression, the most important B vitamins include vitamin B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12. Looking to supplement, check out Terranova B Complex.

probiotics, terranova, selfcare, winter, nutrition, BLUE MONDAY, organic turmeric powder, water, hydration, SPIRULINAHYDRATE

Did you know that it is just as easy to get dehydrated in the winter as it is in the summer? Staying hydrated is so important because we lose water all the time even through breathing. Just think of your breath in those frigid temperatures!! Some of the effects of dehydration are a slower metabolism, fatigue, muscle pain and dizziness. By the time you are actually thirsty your body is actually well on its way to being dehydrated. So here are my top tips:

  • Start each day with a glass of warm lemon water or  warm water to get your digestive system moving and rehydrate after a nights sleep
  • Always carry water in your bag, have it on your desk and in the car.
  • Set hydration reminders in your phone 3 times a day. This is just a gentle nudge!
  • During the winter months hug a mug of soothing and calming herbal teas, hot cocoa, warm apple cider and my winter warmer in the recipe section.
  • During exercise sweating releases potassium, sodium and calcium- which are known as electrolytes- these are not found in water so you need to replace these in winter months too; coconut water or ¼ of Himalayan salt in preworkout smoothies or juices is a good idea
  • Eat your water in soups, stews and hydrating fruits and veggies like cucumber, celery and pears

If you have any tips please comment below. I would love to hear from you,

Ali xxx

Any products with a star * beside them means that I am collaborating and working with them. I am the brand ambassador for Eskimo Omegas

When we talk about mindfulness people can get stressed thinking they have to allocate large amounts of time and energy to it. The trick is to simplify it and bring it naturally into your day. For me being more mindful is learning to pay attention more to what is happening in the moment. We can do this while driving, cleaning, and exercising or indeed during conversations with friends but one of the most important times to really try and become more mindful is at meal times.

We are always being told about what we should eat but what about HOW we should eat? How many of us eat on the run or at our desks or in front of the TV. This mindless form of eating is actually wreaking havoc on our health. We have lost our connection to food and food is our life source so it’s important that we understand the value of not just eating right but also eating mindfully.

A lot of people view food as the problem in life and are constantly on diets and restricting the very thing that nourishes us physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually. When we switch this up and see food as a solution it can help us to reconnect to ourselves our emotions and our habits around eating. Health is all about balance and the winter months are the perfect time to reconnect with food in a deeply nourishing way. Christmas time is also about food and connecting with those we love. It shouldn’t be about feeling bad or even guilty afterwards.

[bctt tweet=”How we eat is how we live and how we live is how we eat.” username=””]

How we eat is how we live and how we live is how we eat. In other words our relationship to food and eating represents our relationship to our lives. Think about how you eat, keep a food diary for a week and start to notice how you are treating yourself through food. If we eat artificial, processed and fast food than we become that. Do you eat for emotional reasons, which is basically eating instead of feeling, this is something most of us do on a day-to-day basis so don’t worry you are not alone. The trick is to tune in, slow down and pay attention.

[bctt tweet=”The benefits of mindful eating are plentiful but most importantly your digestion is improved.” username=””]

The benefits of mindful eating are plentiful but most importantly your digestion is improved. When you are stressed and busy you are in what’s called fight or flight mode or “stressed mode”. This is when the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated leading to all sorts of digestive problems starting with your digestive system being shut down and fewer digestive enzymes being released. There is also less hydrochloric acid in your stomach released which is not good as you need HCL to break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins into the vitamins and minerals that are needed for optimal health. If you are stressed, your hormones and mood will also be deranged and your immunity compromised.

MINDFUL EATING, MINDFULNESS, EATING WELL, HOW YOU EATSo here’s some of my TOP TIPS:

  • EAT SLOWER AND BREATHE– Most of us eat too fast so even slowing down a bit will help enormously. Take three deep breaths before each meal too as this will help encourage your body in a para-sympathetic mode AKA the one you want! When you slow down you are more likely to notice when you are full too.
  • CHEW, CHEW, CHEW– Most of us barely chew these day but chewing allows your food to be mixed with digestive enzymes in the mouth which helps to begin the digestive process. It will also help you to eat less too.
  • NO DISTRACTIONS – Turn off the TV, phone and step away from the computer. All of these distractions encourage mindless eating so instead of tuning into your devices tune into to the taste, smell and colour of your food, which helps to stimulate senses and connect your body and mind with your food.

For this weeks wellness wednesday I’m chatting to Lee Tracey whom I met at the launch for Wellfest. I absolutely loved her energy. Then I took a look at her website and her smile and love for life and yoga just shone through. I’m so excited to try one of her classes, as she is the first Irish qualified Jivamukti teacher!

Originally from a financial services background, Lee decided to commit to her true passion; Yoga and bring classes and workshops to people that are interested in Self-expansion and growth.

She has travelled the world in order to study with masters and gurus. In New York she trained with world-renowned teachers Sharon Gannon and David Life of the Jivamukti Yoga School. She has also spent time training in the jungles of Costa Rica & has completed workshops with international yoga teachers such as Patrick Beach, Claire Missingham and Tara Judelle among many others.

As you’re about to find out she hits the mat to unwind, distress and practice mindfulness. She’s found her passion and is living it and here at Be Complete we just love that!!

Yoga teacher, jivamukti yoga, lee tracey, wellness wednesday, health, be complete, alison canavan, wellfest, mindfulness, meditation,How would you describe your lifestyle?

Yogic! 

What’s your favorite food? Naughty or nice.

I do have a love of dark chocolate but at the mo I’m pretty in love with Avocado!

Do you exercise and if so what do you do to keep fit?

Yes! It’s a huge part of my life. Yoga every day. Boxing and running about 3 times a week.

How do you find balance in your day-to-day life?

Yoga and meditation. I have never found anything as life changing as Yoga.

How do you manage stress in your life? Do you meditate? Have you ever tried it?

Same as above!!! Sometimes when I am stressed I get on my mat and when I leave it I feel like a different person. Being able to tune in to what is making you stressed and then having the ability to let go of that is a big benefit of the practice. 

People often set goals or intentions as they go through life. Is this something you do?

Yes! I think this is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. If you don’t know where you want to be, well then how can you get there? I often look back on older goal setting lists and see where I am and how I’m progressing towards them. Sometimes they need to be adjusted & sometimes I need a kick start!

How do you unwind after a busy day?

Yoga again!! Also a love having dinner and chats with my boyfriend. He is a good listener and I always trust his advice.

It’s the weekend, what do you do for fun?

I love music and a good gig is always great to go to. I love the energy & the feeling of connection. I also love food, so a nice meal is always welcome!

What’s your top health tip for our readers?

Find whatever makes you happy & do more of it… It could be Yoga, cooking, dance, crochet, writing, running etc. Keep doing it!

Finish the sentence – Being complete for me means…

Having the ability and freedom to pursue the things I am passionate about & having love and support from my family and friends.

 

You can find out more about Lee on her website and she will also be at Wellfest in September

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/

I wanted to make a very simple video to introduce everyone to the idea of meditation and take away some of the preconceived ideas of great difficulty that can sometimes get attached to buzzwords.

I have been meditating for many years now and I have had a great many teachers from all over the world. Some teachers made it easy and some made it incredibly complicated. I practise daily now and its very simply just a part of my day like sleeping and eating. Very few of us even get a chance to stop and breathe each day so maybe just try and take a few minutes for yourself each day and check in.

This quote really sums it up for me:

“One who does not touch the stillness of his life, one who does not touch the stillness of his being, one who does not know or has not tasted the stillness within and without, will invariably get lost in the movement.” Sadhguru

Sometimes the greatest power is in keeping things simple!

Have you tried meditation? Do you like it? I’d love to hear from you

Namaste

Ali xxx

ALL VIDEOS PROUDLY SPONSORED BY COULEUR CARAMEL IRELAND

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

Some tips on how to transform your stress this holiday season

We all know that Christmas is a big opportunity for stress—the combination of having to appear to be having fun, while coping with all the frustrations and extra work can be a real downer.

One of the things we need to know about stress is that it closes things down. It’s hard to feel joyful and enthusiastic when you are stressed. We tend to close in on ourselves and set up a kind of survival regime to get us through. Maybe it does help us to struggle along but it does not help us to care for ourselves, to open our hearts to others, to learn anything about the habits that lead to the stress in the first place.

Let’s take a look at some ways we could set about making connections this Christmas instead of going into survival mode.

Connecting with yourself first of all

 making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

Do you ever feel like this gingerbread person at Christmas—all in your festive gear but not able to communicate how you are really feeling? The holidays can be a strangely lonely time, even when you are surrounded by people.

As the lead up to Christmas gathers pace, why not take some time to check in with yourself and see what you are hoping for from the holidays.

Whether you are religious, or not you can ask yourself what is important to you about this holiday. Is it having family around and lots of good things to eat and presents to share? Or is it about having a few days off from work and routine in the middle of winter. Whatever it is, it will help you to set an intention for yourself—a kind of inspiration for the holiday.

Then at the other end of the scale, try to see what it is that triggers stress for you. Take a moment to sit quietly and then ask yourself these questions:

  • At what times do I experience a high level of frustration over relatively small events?
  • How does it feel in my body?
  • What do I do about it?

Going through this exercise will help you to identify the times when stress can creep up on you, so you can prepare for it and hopefully, avoid it. Allowing yourself to use your body like a stress barometer shows you the effect that stress has on you. Spending time thinking about how you deal with stress helps to get you off the survival treadmill and really consider how you can ease your stress.

Connecting with the present moment

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas, cake

So often when we are busy our minds are just rushing away with us thinking ahead of all there is still to do. That’s particularly sad at Christmas when there are so many enjoyable rituals in getting ready—like making the cake.

So one way we can ease a feeling of stress is to connect with the present moment. For example, instead of hurrying to make the cake while worrying about the mince pies, a present for grandma and whether you have enough wine in the house, try focusing on simply sorting your ingredients for the cake, weighing and adding them in the correct order and mixing it all to a delicious consistency. Take time to smell the fruits and the brandy. Allow yourself to enjoy the texture of batter. Remember to make your wish and just be with the making of the cake. When it is in the oven, you can go on to the next task and approach it in the same way. 

Connecting with a sense of enjoyment and celebration

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

The more we can get our stress into perspective, the more chance we have to enjoy some of the magic that there can be around Christmas. We said earlier that stress closes things down and one of the first things to go is any sense of enjoyment and celebration.

Allow yourself time to look around you and see the things you enjoy. I am a big fan of Christmas trees both indoors and out in the open. There is something about all the lights and glitter on a dark winter evening that just says home and love to me.

What is it that you enjoy most at Christmas? 

Connecting with family and friends

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

Probably if we are honest, one of the biggest sources of stress is how the family is going to manage together over the holidays. It can get complicated with all the in-laws and the extended family. We all know that awful tense feeling that can come when uncle George manages to come out with the opinions that we know will drive our teenage daughter to distraction, or when grandma insists that we don’t know how to out on a Christmas like they did in her day. You dread the moment when your sister-in-law, who always manages to make you feel like bargain-basement wife, arrives for dinner looking as if she just stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine, along with her two immaculate children. You, on the other hand, hot and bothered from the kitchen feel less than glamorous.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind while the family dinner is underway.

Everyone around the table wants to be happy—just like you do. None of them want to be anxious, or worried, or miserable and yet, inevitably they all have times when they are—just like you. Chances are that each one of them have their own insecurities about the family gathering—just like you do. Perhaps some of them are even intimidated by aspects of your behavior–what a good cook you are, how you juggle family and career—who knows? It can help so much if before your irritation arises you can put yourself in the shoes of the person irritating you—perhaps they are more like you than you think.

Connecting with the rest of the world

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas, As well as closing things down, stress makes us loose perspective. Whatever is going on with us seems so much more important than anything else that is happening in the world—which in the scheme of things, really does not make sense.

During the holiday period you can counter-act any tendency to feel that getting the lights working on the tree is more important than, say, global warming by consciously allowing yourself time to think about what is going on for everyone else in the world. Many millions of other people are celebrating Christmas around the world, with traditions that may be very different from your own. There are also millions who are not celebrating Christmas and it is just another ordinary day for them. Then there are the millions who whether or not they wish to celebrate Christmas are not able to because of poverty, or war, or persecution. Keep them in mind also.

So, a very merry stress-free Christmas to everyone!

 

Maureen Cooper is the author of The Compassionate Mind Approach to Reducing Stress. She combines more than thirty years of experience as a professional educator and senior manager in a non-profit organization with a hands-on education in Buddhism. In 2004 Maureen founded Awareness in Action, a consultancy dedicated to the secular application of mindfulness, meditation and compassion in the workplace.

www.awarenessinaction.org

Meditation for anxiety and depression, alison canavan, mindfulness for anxiety and depression, Mindful monday, prescriptions, why pills don't work, health and wellness, positive mental health

Is breathing good for you? Well of course it is we need to it to keep us alive but have you ever noticed in situations that are stressful our rates of breathing change and some of us even hold our breath without even realising it!

Down through the years I have struggled to find something that really works for my depression and anxiety. Don’t get me wrong I have found lots of things that have worked temporarily, but I was sick of being on a roller coaster and simply craved consistency in my moods and my ability to cope with everyday life.

Regular meditation practice has given me the just that! Through meditation I have received the most precious and priceless gift of peace both in myself and also in the world I live in. It helps me to cope with stress, depression, anxiety and the everyday challenges that come with daily life.

In a study called: The effects of Mindfulness based therapy on anxiety and depression, Published by The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, they found that mindfulness based therapy was moderately effective for anxiety and mood disorders and the results suggest that mindfulness-based therapy is a promising intervention for treating anxiety and mood problems in clinical populations. Their meta-analysis was based on 39 studies totaling 1,140 participants who received mindfulness-based therapy for a range of conditions, including cancer, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and other psychiatric or medical conditions.

But too be honest the clinical evidence backing meditation and mindfulness now is plentiful and hard to argue with. The reason I actually chose this study was because the results said moderately effective. Sometimes people expect miracles but in my opinion the miracle is the ability to cope with life a bit better.

If we do a lot of little things that are moderately effective imagine how powerful they would all be when they work together?

I really wish I had been given the kind of prescription in this picture when I was a teenager rather the usual pill filled kind we have become so used to today.

Meditation for anxiety and depression, alison canavan, mindfulness for anxiety and depression, Mindful monday, prescriptions, why pills don't work, health and wellness, positive mental healthDon’t get me wrong I know that there’s a place for medication but there is no way we need the amount of medication being prescribed today. I have swallowed or drank my emotions for well over half my life and making changes is hard, in fact it is very hard at times, but the thing is those changes are so worth it in the long run even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

It costs nothing to try meditation and if you are struggling to sit still and focus on your breathing try some guided meditations from websites like Zen 12 or Omharmonics I find these great if I’m very hectic and stressed or in an airport, on a plane, bus or train.

But try my simple “first steps” approach and see how you get on:

Meditation can be done anytime and anywhere and the busier you are the more you need it.

quotes, mindful monday, meditation gives peace, meditation can help depression and anxiety, alison canavan quotes, health and wellness, how to prevent depression

START BY:

Sitting in a comfortable position with your back straight

Start to notice the natural flow of your breath

Inhale and exhale slowly and keep repeating

Don’t try and stop your thoughts, instead just observe them and let them go by almost like watching a motorway and if your favourite car drives past, let it go and don’t follow it!!

Start small and build – so even a couple of minutes a day building in more time each week. This way you will be able to incorporate it into your routine without you even noticing.

Finally Enjoy it!!!

#MindfulMonday