April 30, 2017
Wrapping up the month on synchronicity and listening to your intuition, we’ve secured yogi Nicole Belliveau from the Byron Yoga Centre to take us through her little tips and tricks. Nicole started yoga at a young age now is a host and teacher at the Byron Yoga Centre. She also trained as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and is passionate about all things health and wellness.
So let’s get into the interview!
Nicole can you tell us a little about your background and how you wound up at the Byron Yoga Centre?
I am a Canadian who grew up with an active lifestyle but poor quality food. Somewhere in the transition from mcnuggets to quinoa, I took a leap and studied Holistic Nutrition. While learning about food science and the healing benefits of whole foods, real transformation happened. Now as a Holistic Nutritionist, I have a much healthier relationship with food and nourish myself with an organic plant-based diet.
I started practicing yoga at a young age almost 10 years ago. It started off as another form of physical exercise but slowly I started to feel the benefits on deeper levels. On my mat was the first time I truly connected with myself. It is where a lot of my healing and self-love happens.
In January 2016, I arrived at the Byron Yoga Centre to study and become a yoga teacher. After the course finished, I asked to volunteer for a few weeks to soak in all the knowledge I gained and the beauty of the centre. Over a year later, I still haven’t left! I now have the privilege to be one of the Retreat Hosts; I teach some yoga classes and wellness workshops, ensure the retreats run smoothly and most importantly that the guests are happy and relaxed. I feel blessed every day to be in a position that allows me to grow in a healthy environment surrounded by like-minded people.
Wow what a journey to end up there permanently. It’s funny how life takes us to the places we need. How do you keep balanced and centred with so much going on? What’s your secret tip?
I don’t have one specific tip but rather a combination of habits that make up a healthy lifestyle that invites vitality and clarity to take the best step forward. I make an effort to eat nutrient-dense living foods, practice meditation and yoga, ensure adequate sleep, spend time in nature and fill my mind with content that inspires me to be and live better. Some days I slip off the health wagon but i’ve learned to accept this and not be too hard on myself. Reminding myself what I am grateful for, to breathe deeply and be present helps me stay positive and get back on track.
It’s nice to know that even yogi’s can fall off the bandwagon – makes us mere mortals feel a little better! We’re talking a lot about synchronicity and intuition this month. That can include things like finding your own tribe with similar interests, listening to what your body needs for nutrition, choosing the movement exercises that work for you, and finding time for yourself. Can you tell us a little bit about how you have tapped into your intuition?
For me, tapping into our intuition is connecting to our true self, in the present and using it to guide our thoughts and actions. When we are aligned with this inner wisdom, it is easier to recognize what will serve our highest good and purpose. Our intuition always speaks to us but sometimes there are distractions that get in the way.
When I feel disconnected, I make an effort to get out of my head to reduce the noise it creates and get more into my heart. Often this takes place with eyes closed, breathing deeply, focusing on my heart space on my mat, immersed in nature or reading with a lit candle and herbal tea. Books such as Rebecca Campbell’s Light is the New Black and Caroline Myss’s Anatomy of the Spirit, have helped me see the world in a whole new light and tap into parts of myself I didn’t know existed.
Getting out of the “should” mentality and more into exploring how I truly want to feel, helps to gain clarity and be in the flow of life. I also find that when I let myself write organically in my journal, I connect to what I need to be reminded of. To stay true to my authenticity, I will add that I am still working on all of this. The more I practice these rituals, the more I spend time in connection with my intuition and synchronicity happens.
It seems like continuing to learn and grow is so important for all of us. So from a yogi’s point of view, what are the best ways to being open to and listening to your own intuition?
Patanjali’s Yoga sutras teach us to apply the principles of Ashtanga (8 limbs). Included in these steps are how to live a meaningful and purposeful life, compassion for self and others, self-discipline, mindfulness, pranayama (breath exercises), meditation, asana and eventually for some, enlightenment. His teachings are very in depth but some key points are mindfulness, deep breathing, reflecting before reacting, and moving the body to eliminate stagnant energy. When the limbs are practiced, openness and intuition can flow with ease.
That point you made about the “should” mentality is a trap many of us fall into! We need to really disassociate ourselves with that and focus on what we really want. So finally Nicole what would be your top three tips for a corporate worker trying to align themselves with their future goals and vision?
1. CLARITY: For true alignment to happen, the goals need to be in sync with our true desires. Once we get clear on how we want to feel, we can use this as our compass rather than what we “should” be going for. Having clarity on HOW to reach the vision is also essential to achieving the goals. There is something powerful about writing on paper our goals and the actions step necessary to make them happen. Being realistic, taking it one step at a time and writing a date to have them accomplished by will help the transition towards the end goals.
2. PERSONAL GROWTH: “To have more than you’ve got, become more than you are” –Jim Rohn. By investing in ourselves with books, podcasts, documentaries and people that stimulate us to grow and change our mindsets, our lives change radically. Happiness is an inside gig – Our perceptions, thoughts and beliefs are what shape our lives. By changing our internal world, the outside world becomes aligned with our energy and the grass gets greener.
3. SELF-LOVE: To remind ourselves that we are GOOD ENOUGH. To have compassion and kindness towards ourselves along the journey. Even if the process doesn’t go as planned or we make mistakes, all is well. Underlying the actions, there needs to be love and trust. Self-love also includes taking time for ourselves and resting (which is very different to laziness). In our busy go-go-go lives, we need to create balance by slowing down and recharging ourselves. Learning to receive, saying no to the things that do not serve us and putting ourselves first are also part of this loving process.
All points that I need to remind myself of!
Thanks so much for your time Nicole it’s been a pleasure.
Photo credit: Simon Hunter simonhunterphotography.com
Ever feel like you’re the odd one out of your tribe? Like you are trying to grow and develop yourself everyday, week, and month, and no one is there with you? You may have started (or mastered) meditating, you exercise consistently every week, and you’re eating the best foods to fuel your body.
Your tribe are the people you spend the majority of your time with – your family, your friends, your partner. These people have the biggest impact on your habits, lifestyle, and quality of life. If you are not synchronised with them, then it can make you feel a little out of whack.
For example, research has shown that obesity has become a ‘socially contagious’ disease, spreading among people like a virus. In married couples, when one spouse becomes obese, the risk to the other increases by 37%. Among siblings, the risk is 40%. And it’s worse among friends – for casual friends the risk raises by 57%; for close friends, the risk almost triples (see more on this here).
So what do you do about this? How can you get your tribe synchronised to your ideal lifestyle?
1. Lead by example. Just because your tribe aren’t eating kale, running marathons, and meditation gurus doesn’t mean they can’t be (or a more realistic version!). Share with them the benefits that you are feeling from your own healthy habits. Tell them how much more energy you have, calmer you feel, lighter you are. If obesity is contagious, so are healthy habits, so it can work both ways.
Encourage and invite them to try the healthy habits with you. Instead of going to a burger place for dinner, take them to a healthier option. Replace a morning coffee with a walk. Crowd out mindlessly watching TV or a movie with a guided meditation that you can do together.
There are lots of options out there that you already know about (and are possibly already doing!) and you can act as your tribe’s own coach to spread the good vibes.
2. Change your tribe. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If #1 fails, it may be time to take a hard look at your tribe. While you can’t choose your family, you can certainly choose your life partner and your friends.
Clara* is a prime example of consciously choosing her tribe. She moved to Sydney and got caught up in a group (and a partner) that prioritised partying and drinking over meditation and smoothies and she felt the impact it was having on her own quality of life. So she proactively started seeking out activities that she wanted to do for herself. It was here that she found her new tribe and her life was turned around.
While finding new friends or a new partner can seem overwhelming, you don’t have to leave the old ones behind immediately. Just start to venture into new activities (you can even try #1 again with some of your friends!) and see where the universe takes you.
3. Run your own race. At the end of the day, this is your life. You decide how you want it to be. If you believe that you can make the healthy choices on your own despite the fact that your partner wants to order a burger and fries, then do it.
There are people who can make their own decisions and not be influenced by those around them. If you’re happy to have a healthy meal while your nearest and dearest are having burger and fries then you run your own race!
So learn to love your tribe or leave them. Either way, make the decision that is right for you, your health, and your happiness!
*Name changed for confidentiality.
This week we’re interviewing Kat Jacob. Kat’s a passionate personal trainer who is doing some amazing things with her own training. She works with many corporate clients, so this week we’re talking to her about how exercise can help relieve stress and what types of exercise are best for that whether you’re a beginner or more advanced.
So let’s jump right into this interview with Kat:
So Kat, tell us a little about your background and how you became a personal trainer?
I’ve been passionate about health and fitness for as long as I can remember; I always loved being active and been interested in nutrition. Over the last few years I found that my ‘actual’ job – Event Producer – was impacting more and more on that lifestyle; the years of working long hours and late nights started to take its toll and I became stressed and sick.
I started questioning whether I was in the right job – I was producing amazing events, but it started to feel meaningless and the risk of giving up a safe income and changing careers very quickly became less scary than the thought of staying in the events industry for the rest of my life.
I happened to be introduced to the right person at around that time, which led me to take the leap and start on my journey to becoming a PT. I have now quit the events industry altogether and can honestly say it was the best decision I’ve made – there are challenging times and the money is nowhere near the same yet, but I am a much happier & healthier person and finally feel like I’m helping people change their lives in a positive way.
That certainly is a leap of faith! You now do a range of different training regimes yourself? Can you tell us a little more about them and why you do so many?
I love having variety in my workouts – it keeps me motivated and to me is much more fun than doing the same thing every day. I’m also a big believer in that we need to keep challenging our bodies to get stronger & fitter – by exposing it to a variety of activities & exercises we allow our bodies to grow in a much broader way. It also helps aid recovery between big sessions to give those movement patterns you just worked very hard a break and get the body moving in a different way.
The majority of my training is based on Gymnastic Strength Training – lots of handstands, bodyweight strength training, rings etc. with a big focus on mobility. There is a lot of variety within this style of training, and I love the strategic approach of working towards set goals (i.e. a muscle up) – it pushes me to get better and work hard. I like mixing things up on my rest days with touch football, surfing / swimming, hiking or the odd run.
Wow that certainly is a lot! How do you keep up with all your different training schedules with so much going on? What’s your secret tip for fitting it all in?
I’m actually German and used to be an event producer so being organised comes with the territory! But in all seriousness, for me it’s all about planning ahead and having a set schedule of what to do when & where. I plan my sessions in 6 week cycles, and each session is written down so when I go to the gym I just need to open up that notebook and know exactly what I’ve got to do that day to stay on track.
It means I don’t have to think about it when I get there but can focus my energy on the session, and it holds me accountable on those days where I’m feeling tired. I also meet up with a mate a couple of times a week and we train together – we teach each other new stuff, play with different exercises, spot each other and just generally make sure the other one pushes (or rests!) when we need to.
That’s a great tip about planning your workouts in advance. It takes the effort out of trying to think what you’re going to do when you actually get to the gym which sometimes feels like half the workout!
So this month we’re talking a lot about stress and mental health. Can you tell us how exercise helps with that?
Exercise is proven to reduce our bodies stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol – and stimulates the production of endorphins, the chemicals in our brain that act as natural pain killers and help lift our mood.
Exercise can also help take your mind off things and shift your focus, and some exercises can in fact be a form of moving meditation – running or long power walks tend to do that for me! It can be a great way to get in some ‘me-time’ to create the space to think things through or just find the time to breather and switch off.
Exercising regularly makes you want to eat healthier too, which in turn helps reducing the stress, as your body will be fuelled with the right nutrients to help cope with stress.
For some statistics on the connection between physical exercise and mental health, check out the Waves of Wellness Foundation. Interestingly, research has shown that physical activities can sometimes be more beneficial for patients with mental health than a strictly clinical approach; after working with the ‘One Wave’ charity Joel Pilgrim founded ‘Waves of Wellness’ based on this approach, a non for profit that helps people struggling with mental health to find an outlet through surf therapy.
Exercise helps people to feel better about themselves, and the community & their support that comes with sports and exercise groups can provide a sense of belonging too.
So there are a lot of benefits and some great statistics to back it up!
One of the biggest concerns our clients tell us is that they don’t have enough TIME to fit in exercise. How would you overcome that?
I think the most important thing is to find a type of exercise you love – if you really enjoy something and it makes you happy, you will find it much easier to make the time.
The gym isn’t for everyone – try team sports, swimming, cycling, yoga, tennis etc. and figure out which activity makes exercise fun and not just a chore you feel obliged to do for health reasons.
Also, think about why you want to exercise – to feel healthier, to be able to keep up with your kids, or because you want to learn a new skill? It’ll help your motivation and keep you going on the days where it gets hard.
That’s so true, you have to find something you love. Exercise can’t be seen as another chore in our lives – we just won’t do it. Plus we work with clients consistently to re-identify their ‘why’ for all their goals. It’s just one of the best ways to keep them motivated and pushing forward!
So what are the best exercises to be doing to get in a quick, efficient and sweat inducing workout?
My go to for a quick and efficient workout is a bodyweight circuit (think lots of animal movements like bear crawls, ape walks, frog squats, caterpillar walks and bodyweight pushing & pulling exercises. followed by some max sprint efforts –it’ll get your heart pumping & the sweat going while working your entire body.
And what if I’m a beginner and never really exercised before, is there anything different that I should be doing?
The most important thing is to ease yourself into it – you don’t want to go so hard that you’re hurting for days as that’s the best way to stop yourself from wanting to go back.
If you’re unsure about technique or completely new to something, I’d recommend taking a few classes to learn the ropes and make sure you’re getting it right from the outset. It’s harder to fix bad habits than learning from scratch, and the right technique can make the difference between reaping the benefits or getting injured.
Stuart McGill, a professor of spine mechanics said “First move well, then move often.” and I 100% agree with that statement. Other than that – get out there, try lots of different things and find the kind of exercise that makes you keep coming back.
That’s it isn’t it. Just try something! But don’t go too hard. So many people go out really hard in that first week and when they can’t walk think “I’m never doing that again!”. It’s just best to build it up.
Ok so the other end of the spectrum, what if I’m quite advanced, how can I keep pushing the intensity and make sure I’m making progress?
Add some variety to your workouts by taking it into a different environment (i.e. outdoors or vice versa), add new movements into your sessions, look at ways to achieve your goals by trying a new approach.
Let’s say you want to learn how to handstand – don’t just keep kicking up again and again, look at what other skills and strength you might need to achieve that handstand and work on those – for example your shoulder mobility, core strength etc. It adds diversity while still working towards your main goal, helping to get there faster.
Another option is to find a training partner or group, a bit of healthy competition can go a long way in stepping up your game and it may expose you to some new ideas.
Yes healthy competition is definitely a great way to up the anti! We’ve talked about that previously for finding your training soulmate!
Ok final question, what would be your top three tips for a corporate worker trying to integrate three exercise sessions during the week?
One thing that can make a big difference is getting the exercise in first thing in the morning – that way it’s done and no matter what the day throws at you or how tired you are after work, you will have had your exercise. Plus it’s a nice way to start the day rather than rolling from bed onto a chair and sit down right away, it’ll get your body and your mind going.
I know it can be challenging when you work long hours or have kids to get back to, so you could try to incorporate exercise in your day in a way that makes it easy and doesn’t leave much room for excuses. When I was still in events, I used to run home from work at least a couple times a week – depending on the route I’d get a good 45 – 60min run in and with traffic taking the bus would’ve taken the same time. Or you could walk the first 5km before getting on the train home, cycle to and from work or give a lunchtime class a go. Travel a lot? Pack your trainers, most hotels have a gym & pool, or you can go for a walk and explore the area.
If your week gets the better of you, get moving on the weekends! If you have kids, get them involved – go for a bike ride, play soccer in the park…there are so many options. Find the most convenient option for your lifestyle and make it a part of your routine – trust me, you will be more productive as a result and feel better for it!
There’s always a way if you make it a priority right! Thanks so much Kat that was really helpful.
Well readers we hope you all got something useful out of that and you’re all going to kickstart your workouts to feel the benefits!
The world has become a pretty unstable and unsettling place at the moment – Donald Trump is in charge of the most powerful country in the world, the UK is in negotiation to leave the rest of the EU, and war continues to rage in the Middle East. One sitting of the news and you’re likely to walk away feeling more down than when you started.
In a time where we’re experiencing the highest standard of living in history, paradoxically we’re also more depressed, anxious and unhappy.
First things first, we need to take care of ourselves. I’m not saying this out of selfishness, or from a ‘every man from himself’ perspective. I’m talking about learning to create happiness and peace from within that can radiate onto others and create a ripple effect. There’s a reason they get you to fit your own oxygen mask on a plane before others – you won’t be able to get someone else’s mask on if you’re not breathing!
So here are the top 6 things that you need to be doing for yourself regularly in 2017. I’m not saying that these things will change the world, but they will definitely help YOU to feel happier, healthier and a more altruistic human.
1. Breathe. It’s amazing how many people aren’t breathing to its full potential. I used to be one of them. I used to just keep all the oxygen in my chest, and not expand the breath into my diaphragm and lower abdomen. When you start to breathe diaphragmatically, the PNS system (learn more on this here) is switched on, and your body starts to relax. It’s great to mindfully breathe like this first thing in the morning and last thing at night before you go to sleep for about five minutes. This will help you to subconsciously breathe like this throughout the day as well. It’s amazing what 5 minutes of deep breathing can do for your mental and physical health!
2. Fuel your body. It’s easy to forget that the reason we eat is to provide fuel to the body. The balance between eating for pleasure and eating for survival has swung considerably to the former and this is having ramifications. Try to make at least one meal a day focused on fuelling for nutrition. Eat nutrient dense foods – like fruits and vegetables – and try and eat as close to the natural source as possible. Processing of foods has changed considerably, and it’s hard to know what’s been added when you can’t understand the ingredients!
3. Move more. Unless you’re an ultra athlete, we could ALL do with more movement. Our sedentary lifestyle has us sitting down more than ever. Unfortunately, one hour of intentional exercise has been shown as not enough to combat the effects of sitting at a desk all day. So we need to start integrating movement throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to/from work or a portion of the journey, or go for walking meetings instead of sit down coffees. Do whatever it takes to make that magic 10,000 step number. It’s not in any way easy, but it’s very rewarding for your body.
4. Learn to meditate. If there is only ONE thing that you do this year, learn to meditate. There are yoga studios and meditation centres popping up everywhere, and plenty of resources online that can teach you the fundamentals – I have even made a recording for you here. If you’re already meditating, make it a goal to foster your practice. I could go on and on about the benefits of meditation (and I do so here) but for the sake of this blog, just realise that meditation is one of THE BEST forms of self-care out there. It takes as little as 5 minutes a day, and it can be life changing. Trust me on this one.
5. Embrace minimalism. I have blogged on this already (and will probably continue to!) and it seems to be quite an emerging theme for me (and plenty of others) in 2017. It seems that an excess of ‘stuff’ is manifesting our discontent, and there is no end in sight in the hunt for something new. Cleanout your wardrobe (learn how to here) or de-clutter your office space. Just spend time over the next year clearing the physical to allow the mental space for growth.
6. Sleep. At the end of the day it can feel like there’s just not enough time to do any of those self-care activities. I wouldn’t blame you for telling me so! The proverbial ‘to do list’ continues to grow, and despite the number of items we tick off, it never seems to end. One thing you CAN do that doesn’t require an extra item on the to do list is to sleep. I mean, force yourself at least 7-9 hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT. I can hear you groaning through your computer “who has that much time to sleep?”. The change makers do and so do you. The plane and oxygen analogy is most pertinent here. You will be so much more productive, have so much more energy, be capable of achieving so much more in less time, IF you get more sleep. Try it for a week and see what happens…
Now this may seem like a lot but even if you just pick ONE of these things to do this year, the transformation may just surprise you.
Jennifer Scott did a Tedx Talk on her form of minimalism in the wardrobe. She talks about how we constantly add to the wardrobe yet don’t throw out things that are currently in the wardrobe. Despite this paradox how many of you have those mornings before work when you think “I have nothing to wear”? The struggle is real to find an outfit that feels comfortable but also looks good. We often have to end up picking something last minute so we’re not too late, and for the rest of the day end up feeling slightly uncomfortable in our choice. My partner – who wears a suit everyday – still has the conundrum of picking out what colour SHIRT (he only has one choice to make!) he’s going to wear that day.
So why does this inverse relationship exist between the number of clothes and the ease with choosing what to wear? Behavioural economics will tell us that it primarily relates to the notion of choice. Research shows that increasing choice actually overwhelms our brains, and too much choice has a negative impact on us. So how do we overcome it then?
Well Jennifer proposes a 10-item wardrobe. She advocates for having a small high-quality wardrobe that is in heavy rotation. There seems to be quite a stigma in Australia about wearing the same clothes. But this isn’t the case in all cultures. Look at any European film; the main lead women characters wear only a few items consistently. It allows them to demonstrate their own unique style everyday. Whereas American films are all about having a different outfit in each scene!
Let’s just think for a moment about what a 10-item wardrobe for Summer / Autumn could look like:
· 2 pairs of pants
· 1 pair of jeans
· 3 dresses
· 4 shirts
· 2 pairs of trousers
· 2 pair of shorts
· 4 shirts
· 2 jackets
Seems reasonably do-able? You are also allowed some ‘extras’ on top of your 10-item wardrobe, such as: t-shirts, blazers, and special occasion wear like for weddings or specific occasions.
I’m not going to stand here though and say that I have a 10-item wardrobe (maybe one day!) but I do a wardrobe cleanout twice a year. To make things easier, I turn all my coat hangers to face the ‘wrong way’. When I wear an item, then it is turned back the right way. This helps me identify what clothes are not being worn regularly. This cleanout has four rules that a piece of clothing has to pass before it gets to stay in the wardrobe:
1. Does it fit me today: don’t wait till you lose/put on that weight and think ‘then it will fit me’. The rule stands for ‘does it fit me TODAY’.
2. Is it age appropriate: there are some items that can last decades and still be timeless, but that tiny leather skirt you bought when you were 18 is probably not appropriate to wear to your friends 30th birthday anymore.
3. Is it my true style: I find as my wardrobe starts to shrink, it also starts to develop. You know the typical clothes that you feel most comfortable in and that look good, so I keep items that follow that trend. If you think that biker jacket looked really great in the shop but you’ve never worn it, it’s probably not your style.
4. Has it been worn in the last 6 months (you can tell by the coat hanger flipping trick!): this is the best rule for the bi-annual clean up. If you haven’t worn it in the last 6 months then it’s got to go.
On top of this, I also enforce the rule that if I buy something, then the equivalent in the wardrobe has to go. Realise that RIGHT NOW you have enough of everything, so anything you buy is excess. So for an easy example, if I buy a new pair of socks, then I throw out an old pair. If I buy a new top, I know that I need to throw out a top at home. This requires a little more thought now in the buying decision. So rather than just impulsively buying items, I now think about what will be sacrificed for this new piece.
So you may still be asking ‘why bother?’. Well despite having a lot more room in the wardrobe and not having to squish everything in, there are some real benefits to having a condensed wardrobe:
· When you need to get dressed for work, you should now be able to pick 2 items and they’ll go together.
· You can let your true style shine through that is classic and unique to you, not like everyone else.
· You will save money because you won’t be impulse buying.
· A clean wardrobe means a clean mind.
· You’ll always be able to look presentable and not default to your ‘active wear’ even though you’re not exercising.
See how you go with de-cluttering your wardrobe!
This will be the last blog post for 2016! So I thought in the spirit of Christmas I’d give you access to a guided meditation that you can listen to over the holidays (see link below).
Whether you’re a guru meditator or a first timer, meditation brings a unique and different experience to everyone each time. The Western world is finally starting to catch up with the scientific benefits of meditation that the East has been preaching about for centuries. As a consequence, meditation is no longer reserved for just ‘hippies’ (see my other blog on famous meditators!) and is becoming a more common practice among many.
While there are countless benefits of meditation, I’ve covered the top 9 below. If you’re not meditating, these are the 9 things you’ll be missing out on!
1. We all face stress at one time or another. Stress can SOMETIMES be a good thing. But not all the time. Research has found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs may help manage stress. A systematic review of 17 MBSR studies found the program to be effective in reducing stress in participants ! So when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed this Christmas, turn to meditation.
2. Anxiety is often a by-product of built up stress and can get a real grip of you if you don’t have ways to manage it. A systematic review of meditation training found that 69% of the studies analysed highlighted that meditation alleviated the symptoms of anxiety .
3. Sleep is one of the biggest issues that my clients come to me with. We all have so much on our minds all the time, and little time throughout the day to switch off. The plethora of technology available at our finger tips makes going to sleep at night a challenge for many. A meta-analysis of randomised control trials among those with insomnia showed that eight weeks of meditation training significantly improved sleep quality . So if you’re mind is racing as soon as your head hits the pillow, try some relaxation meditation to help you drift of more easily.
4. Still on the topic of sleep, the holiday season often means that sleep is the first to be sacrificed for parties, shopping, and other appointments. Among practiced meditators, time spent meditating is now correlated with a significant decrease in total sleep time needed . Some have even said 20 minutes of meditation is the equivalent to a one-hour nap. So if you don’t have time to be napping during the day, find a quiet space for 20 minutes and zone out to feel refreshed and energized!
5. Meditation has now been shown to have significant impacts on our cognition. Scientists investigated the effects of a meditation training program and found that meditating for just four days is enough to improve novice meditators’ working memory . So if you’re struggling to remember all those new names at the latest social gathering, try a meditation and you could be remembering the most important of names…
6. While December usually isn’t the month for colds and flus, having one in the blazing heat and humidity is less than pleasant. On top of that, all the late nights, less healthy food and extra alcohol all wreck havoc on the immune system. A study from Harvard Medical School showed that individuals who practiced yoga and meditation developed a higher immunity . The last thing you want Christmas Day is to be blowing your nose and all puffy from a cold, so practice some mindfulness techniques throughout the month to keep the immune system strong.
7. Christmas time is often when feelings of loneliness start to rear their ugly heads. A study on mindfulness meditation training showed that meditation helps decrease those feelings of loneliness . You don’t have to live alone to experience loneliness. Practicing meditation is one of the best ways to get comfortable with your own company, plus it gives you a hit of those feel good hormones, which Loneliness doesn’t like to hang around with.
8. Show of hands if you think you’re NOT creative (my hand is up). I like to think of myself as the more logical and problem solving type. Though since starting my own business I’ve HAD to become more creative. Research shows that meditation has positive effects in creativity and divergent thinking . There is no better place for me to come up with new ideas and services for my clients than during a meditation. If you’re looking for some creative inspiration for what 2017 will hold for you, try just shutting down the eyes and tuning into your intuition – it may surprise you.
9. This one is especially useful over Christmas. How many times have you finished a Christmas meal and felt totally and utterly STUFFED?! Scientists now believe that Transcendental Meditation (with a mantra) helps to manage emotional eating . When we’re more mindful about what we’re putting in our bodies consciously it transfers subconsciously into our everyday behaviour.
There’s so many benefits to meditation but even if you just experienced ONE of these, imagine how much better off the end of 2016 will be and the potential for 2017.
Click HERE for the guided mediation to start
 Sharma, M., & Rush, S. E. (2014). Mindfulness-based stress reduction as a stress management intervention for healthy individuals a systematic review. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 19(4), 271-286.
 Chen, K. W., Berger, C. C., Manheimer, E., Forde, D., Magidson, J., Dachman, L., & Lejuez, C. W. (2012). Meditative therapies for reducing anxiety: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Depression and anxiety, 29(7), 545-562
 Gong, H., Ni, C. X., Liu, Y. Z., Zhang, Y., Su, W. J., Lian, Y. J., … & Jiang, C. L. (2016). Mindfulness meditation for insomnia: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 89, 1-6.
 Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and cognition, 19(2), 597-605.
How does your day usually run at the moment? Do you have time for breakfast? Do you catch yourself at work wearing a top and skirt that don’t match? Or odd coloured socks? Do you get stuck in the rain without an umbrella? Left your keys/wallet/phone at home?
Or are you the complete opposite? Have everything together and the day just runs smoothly and seamlessly? There seems to be a spectrum where people fall between the Planners and the Free Spirit, but no matter where you fall now, there is always another tip or trick you can steal from these organisational hacks to up your own planning mojo.
Below are the top three hacks that other Planners are using everyday to make sure they’re on top of things, have more energy, and reduce their stress levels:
1. Prepare Prepare Prepare
There’s three of them because it relates to three levels of preparation depending on the situation. The old saying rings true that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” so below are some of the best ways people plan ahead. Creating healthy habits will get you a long way, but if you can create rituals (basically a series of habits strung together) then you really set yourself up for success.
Level One: Daily Preparation.
Planners believe that getting organised the night before is key to having a smooth running morning and reducing stress throughout the day. They check the weather forecast before going to bed to help decide what to wear and whether they need any wet weather accessories. They choose what they’re going to wear (plus all the things you need underneath!) from top to bottom and lay them out the night before. Your morning self may not pick up that two different shades of blue don’t actually match! They have their lunch and snacks in a bag ready in the fridge to just grab and go in the morning. It’s a seamless process!
Level Two: Weekly Preparation.
Planners spend time early on to save precious hours later by carving out their weekly schedule on Sunday’s with everything they want and need to achieve in the upcoming week. They schedule in meal preparation, workouts, “me time”, stretching time, meditation, appointments, presentations; all of it goes in. They treat everything as EQUAL so the practices they deemed important at the start of the week can’t be compromised on. They also allocate some ‘spare time’ for catch up in case unexpected things pop up.
Level Three: Monthly and Yearly Preparation.
This is the next level for Planners. Not only are they kicking goals on a week by week basis, but they also see the bigger picture. They set out their goals and intentions for the year broken down into the months so they know what’s next on their list. Because it’s so easy to run through life day by day, week by week, month by month, without achieving anything significant, overcoming this requires forward thinking and an understanding of the big picture to project yourself to where you want to go.
2. Embracing Minimalism
When I say “Minimalist” I don’t mean throwing out all your most prized possessions and going to live in a tree house in the middle of a rainforest. Planners are Minimalists in their daily lives. An example is their wardrobe. One of my clients Sara* is a Minimalist with her wardrobe. Most people only wear about 20% of the items in their wardrobe, so knowing this, Sara does a 6 monthly clear out of her wardrobe. If it hasn’t been worn in the past six months, it goes, to a worthwhile charity. The tip for knowing if it’s been worn or not – turn the coat hanger to face towards the front of the wardrobe and if it’s still that way at the six month check up, it goes. Having a clean and minimal wardrobe takes the stress out of making decisions on what to wear as well!
Planners also tidy as they go. Spending 10 minutes every night before bed tidying up around the house is PLENTY because there isn’t a whole heap of ‘stuff’ in the first place. A great tip is to apply the philosophy that if it takes less than 60 SECONDS to do something, do it at the time IMMEDIATELY. This frees up your weekends too so you’re not spending the whole time cleaning and tidying before the new week begins!
3. They take notes on EVERYTHING
The stores like Officeworks, Kiki K, and Typo are not just making money because their stationary looks good. There are so many things that we need to remember throughout the day that it’s easy to forget or become overwhelmed.
The process of writing notes down as reminders on either post-it notes or digitally in your phone, having an open calendar in the kitchen for everyone to see, or your meal ideas for the week, helps Planners to stay on top of everything and have others in the household also informed!
There are so many templates online and sites for advanced to do lists like Trello or Google Sites, or if you want the hard copy there are lots of amazing options within stationary retailers. Writing things down frees your mind for the more important areas you need to focus on!
Planners always seem less stressed, they have more energy, and despite their massive ‘to do lists’ they manage to get it all done. We can’t all be Perfect Planners, but we can all learn a little something from what they do…
*names changed for confidentiality
But recently, two big players have called for unprecedented action in the corporate setting to improve employee wellbeing. Jeff Kennett, former Premier and chairman of BeyondBlue, has come out saying that performance bonuses of top executives should be partially linked to the mental wellbeing of their staff. HALLELUJAH!
This wave comes to light as a new NAB/IPSOS survey showed Australians regard happiness as the topmost measure of success, followed by good family relationships, feeling fit and healthy, and being a ‘good person.’
Kennett has put mental wellbeing on the same page in significance as family violence and bullying. “At a part of Australia’s history where we’re trying to address family violence, where we’re trying to address bullying, where we’re trying to address good mental health practices, it is time for industry leaders big and small to give the mental health of their workforce the same priority they would give any other measurable figure,” Kennett said.
As a result of this passion, Kennett put a proposal in front of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) saying that companies should introduce key performance indicators (KPIs) for chief executives and other staff to ensure the mental health within organisations is maintained. BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott agreed the issue needs to be taken seriously.
In response to critics that mental wellbeing is too subjective and unmeasurable, Kennett has rejected this claim. He counters with the facts, stating that lost productivity costs the economy $10.9 billion a year. Westacott agrees saying that “These things at the bottom line result in unplanned absenteeism, they cost businesses money,” and “They’re not just feel-good things. These are real economic things. That’s why the Business Council is interested and passionate about this.”
Kennett says the way he envisages improving wellbeing includes statements like “What I would like to see in every head of department of a bureaucracy, in every CEO’s performance, and every direct report’s KPIs, is a KPI about the mental health, the wellbeing, of their workforce, of those that report to them,” and “When you talk about pay performance, when you talk about bonuses, particularly, I want to see a KPI in place that addresses this, because that will focus their mind more than anything else.”
This importance on mental health and wellbeing is not just for employees, but for senior management as well. Throughout his career, Kennett recounts countless incidents of C-Level Executives struggling with burnout. Kennett told the Australian, “I have had a number of organisations in the last two years, three years, where a CEO, a CFO, a COO has hit the wall, and the ramifications on the small leadership group is obviously quite profound, not to mention the impact on the business”.
This is a huge step for addressing the mental wellbeing of Australia, and putting at the forefront the happiness of our nation. Happy and satisfied people will result not only in a more productive workplace, but also with better relationships, more financial security, and a healthier society.
So what does this mean for your business or workplace? It means that it’s time to get serious about mental health and have programs and policies in place to be in front of the pack. Enlist the help of a health coach, exercise specialist, mental wellbeing expert (someone like me!) to help customise a program that meets the KPIs that your organisation is going to enlist to promote the wellbeing of it’s employees.
I am really excited about watching this one progress, so stay tuned for updates and we can see where this movement gets us!
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October is World Mental Health Month. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as the state of well-being in which every individual with their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to their community. Nearly half (45%) of all Australians will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime, and those that don’t will likely know someone who does. I have several close friends who suffer from anxiety and depression, and while they often can present as a fully functioning adult, there are times when they are crippled with it. The worst part is, this health issue is almost invisible. There’s still a lot of stigma and confusion around mental health, and that’s where this years theme of Learn and Grow comes in.
Suffering from a mental health issue doesn’t necessarily mean being locked in a room 24/7 refusing to leave. My friends usually meet the WHO criteria above, except its not consistent, and there are days when they don’t want to leave their house. It is a weekly and sometimes daily struggle for them to be productive at work. The stress of work, home life or their own self-confidence makes acting as a ‘productive human’ much more difficult.
That is why this year in particular is so important for mental health awareness, as the theme is encouraging people and communities to learn more about mental health and use that knowledge to grow personally and empower individuals to be in control of their mental wellbeing. The social network surrounding people suffering in their mental health is crucial for support. The workplace is one of those key areas.
Stress, daily demands, and burnout are all key precursors in the workplace for a potentially negative impact on workers mental health. Those that ‘work the hardest’ or ‘work the longest’ are often championed and praised for their dedication. But at what cost?
Beyond the emotional and physical toll it takes on the individual, mental health conditions present substantial costs to organisations. My previous blog breaks down the costs of absenteeism, productivity loss, and turnover, of which mental health conditions are a significant contributor. However, through the implementation of an effective wellness program to create a mentally healthy workplace, organisations are showing a positive return on investment.
In light of this, Energy|Body|Mind are hosting a free Mindfulness event in Sydney at Observatory Hill on October 31st. It’s during your lunch break on a Monday from 12.30-1.15pm so come along to engage with some stretching and powerful postures, learn some breathing techniques, and undertake a short meditation. You will leave feeling recharged and re-energised! Registration details below.
So what are some of the ways that you can start to integrate a healthy work environment to help you and your colleagues to reduce and prevent the ill-effects of mental health issues?
This is an important issue, and one that seems to be on the rise. But we can do something about it, and taking action in the workplace can be one of the best methods for this.
Registration for the Mindfulness event is from the Home Page of this site. Spots are limited, and the first 10 to register will receive a special gift! Look forward to seeing you there.
Ever wanted to go to a wellness retreat? Be it yoga, meditation, massage, holistic health, the choices are endless. Retreats can be an expensive expedition, and you often feel amazing while you’re away, but then come back to reality and forget to implement all your learnings into your everyday life. Before you know it, your phone is again attached to you like a third limb, your mind is wandering all the time, and you’ve been to yoga only once this week.
I recently spent a long weekend up at the Byron Yoga Centre. In light of that retreat, I wanted to share how I’ve learnt to create my own retreat here at home, and how you too can create your own oasis to escape anytime you like.
If you’re currently experiencing an overwhelming urge to pack your bags and permanently escape reality (while a supported idea!) there are a few ways to bring the retreat to your life here, and prepare you to confront the world refreshed, renewed and revitalised.
Set Aside 4-7 Hours A Week for YOU
While the movie “Yes Man” taught us a lot about embracing new adventures, society has almost gone too far in saying “yes” to everything. When was the last time you said “yes” to something, but really didn’t want to go? Learning to say “no” is both empowering and one of the main ways to help you recharge. But it is also hard! Having scheduled downtime is key to rebooting the system and making sure that everything you have said “yes” to is enjoyed. Schedule time in your diary for YOU that you treat like any other important meeting – it is non-negotiable and cannot be moved. This may just be 30 minutes before bed where you read your latest book, or an hour on Saturday mornings before heading out for brunch. Use this time how you like it and sometimes to do NOTHING. It is amazing what an hour a day can do for your overall wellbeing.
Give Yourself a Technology Detox
While in Byron, I turned off my phone for a whole 56 hours (not that I was counting!). It was blissful. Not having to answer to anyone. Not feeling the desire to check what I’d missed on all social media channels. Not needing to take a photo of everything I was doing. Heaven. It’s probably not realistic for us to all throw our phones away and revert to snail mail to communicate. However, you can integrate a technology detox into your day. Have set hours where your phone is OFF. 8pm-8am. They are my new hours. I am uncontactable in that time. I do not access any social mediums in that time. My brain is switched off from technology. Giving yourself the permission to switch off is like your own recharging time. See what hours you can play with and start to build it up till you have 12 hours of detox a day.
Work On Your Sleeping Patterns
With all the time you’ll now have away from your phone you can use it to work out your sleeping patterns. I used to be a night owl, up all hours, but felt terrible waking up in the morning. The retreat had us up every morning at 5.30am which was a big shock to the system! But its a trend I’ve continued in my daily life, and its revolutionised how I spend my time. That’s not to say everyone should be waking up at 5.30am, but it is a good reminder to look at the quantity, quality and patterns of our sleep. Figure out what your ideal hours are and stick to them like an appointment!
Integrating Meditation and Yoga
Coming home after spending four hours a day practising yoga and countless hours in the depths of meditation, I vowed that it would cross over into my life at home. None of us have the time to be spending hours in the strength of Warrior 2 pose or on a grassy patch meditating with our thoughts. But we can find small snippets of time. I now meditate on my commute – 20 minutes on the bus ride in and 20 minutes home. There is something tranquillising about the hum of the bus, and with my earphones in and sunglasses on, no one else knows the better! You also don’t need to join a prestigious yoga studio to feel the benefits of a daily practice. Even the franchise gyms have caught on, and places like Fitness First have LOADS of yoga classes. Once you know a few moves you can integrate this into your daily routine (now that you’re getting up so much earlier) and throughout the day in your breaks (see my previous blog on how to integrate movement into the office). Little additions here and there quickly add up till you find yourself managing to fit an hour of meditation and yoga easily into your schedule.
Take A Look At Your Eating Habits
I am going to make it clear up front – I am not a vegetarian. When I learnt that the weekend retreat was ONLY vegetarian food, I immediately thought I’d be eating lettuce and fruit for the weekend. The food turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. The chefs creatively prepared some amazing dishes for our meals, and without the ability to fall back on the flavour from meat, the fresh ingredients could stand alone and be relished. While the weekend hasn’t turned me vegetarian, it has made me more creative in my own cooking, and curious as to the mixture of texture and flavours that I can produce in a vegetarian meal. I now take three days a week meat free. Try it for just one day – you’ll be amazed at the flavours.
One Day A Month
When I’m feeling extra indulgent, I allow myself a whole day to do all of the above. That is really bringing the retreat to you! Once a month (usually on a Sunday but sometimes a Monday) I go into full retreat mode. No phone for 24 hours. I go to yoga classes twice a day. I meditate throughout the day in little 20 minute pockets. I prepare delicious and creative vegetarian foods that I don’t have time for during the week. I read parts of my favourite books. At times I do NOTHING. Send your better half out for the day. If you have kids send them to a slumber party. Pets are allowed. Really allow yourself to have the space and the mindset to reboot. Trust me, your family / friends / colleagues will be asking you how you look so young, refreshed and zen all the time.
Sometimes you just need to get away and go on a retreat. And you should. Research where you want to go, the classes and options they offer you, and different cost scales. Set an intention for your retreat so you really get the most out of your time away. Then dive in. Head first. Give it your all. Retreats are like unicorns; they occur rarely and provide little nuggets of gold. So embrace them and then bring everything you’ve learnt back home!