This month’s guest blog is from my delightful friend and colleague, Naomi Charles. We run Gabriels Wellbeing and Education together and have so much in common. Here’s her story.
“I have always felt most at home whilst out in nature. It is my healing place; the place that makes me feel most alive. I always knew that I wanted to work in nature but I also loved working with children and loved sharing my passion. I now combine these two passions and I feel like I’ve truly found my purpose.
From a young age I loved observing the seasons, being drawn to collecting parts of nature and smuggling them home. The washing machine would often be found with a conker, a leaf or a flower inside left behind from my collections! After university and travelling around the world, I went into Primary teaching: it’s in my bones, I love watching these wonderful souls grow in so many ways, teaching them skills that they can use for life. I took children to learn in the outdoors as much as I could and could see the difference that being in nature made to their well-being as a whole. By providing children with a safe space to learn, adapt and grow, they were building resilience, self-confidence and a deeper understanding of themselves and the world they live in.
After having my two beautiful daughters (who unsurprisingly are little nature wildlings), I decided to leave the mainstream school system and follow my dream of working with children fully outdoors. I joined the amazing team at Gabriels Wellbeing and Education back in 2018 and have never looked back!
Alongside Lisa and Joanna, I now run a range of successful groups that allow all areas of our community to learn within, about and from nature. We work with children of all ages to develop lifelong social, emotional and behavioural skills that enable them to lead a fulfilling future with meaning and purpose. Love, kindness and well-being is at the heart of everything that we do and I cannot wait to get back to running face-to-face sessions in early April!”
Many people believe that it is very difficult to be positive in a negative world… and a part of me agrees. Yet just as an open window or a pleasant smell dispels bad odours, the power of unpolluted and positive thoughts can transform the negative attitudes and atmosphere of any person or place.
This week, I shall mostly be opening windows (metaphorically and literally, for double the benefit!) and allowing positive thoughts to linger like a good smell.
How many windows can you open? Or how about spritzing a room with something fresh and positive?
Try it out and see how fragrant things can be.
This week, I’m posting about how being active can have a positive effect on how you feel, physically and mentally.
And today’s blog is about the psychological effects of being active.
I love a bit of research to confirm things we might already know! Here are some recent and very honest reports of studies into activity and mood.
The Journal of Psychology, Interdisciplinary and Applied researchers collated evidence from 38 relevant studies that examined the associations between exercise intensity, duration and modality and any effects on mood. They found lots of contradictory results so the information this is a run-down of the main bits.
As with anything to do with health and feeling better, you need to do what works best for you!
This week’s blog is all about communication. Don Miguel Ruiz, author of ‘The Four Agreements’, writes about this succinctly and clearly, so over to him:
“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.”
So often, we don’t ask enough questions, nor do we say what we really want or need. In my experience, clarity comes with brevity, so keep it short, simple and brief.
It’s guest blog time! This month, it’s Katherine from Positive Canine Coaching.
Katherine and I met in a hotel lobby in New York 20 years ago. We travelled through America and across Canada together and have been friends ever since. She has always been an animal lover and three years ago she left her former career to become a canine coach. Here are her thoughts about human/canine well-being.
“Right now, getting some fresh air and being at one with nature seems to be on lots of people’s minds, especially if they don’t have a garden to potter in. I live in a first floor flat with my pooch, Zelda, so getting out and about is something we do on a regular basis.
As a dog trainer, I like to walk my dog in quiet spots away from busy dog parks where you can guarantee there will be hundreds of dogs off lead and people throwing things to try and tire their dog out. I sound like I don’t like dog parks: I do, I just wonder when we started to call them dog parks; and it bothers me that people let their dogs off lead when they haven’t spent time training a reliable recall.
I love dogs, big or small, and it’s one of the reasons I became a dog trainer (as well as to help the humans), but I am fully aware that not everyone shares my passion. When you have a dog, you want to be able to let them run, sniff and have a good time, but making sure you’re ‘present’ is so important. Being present means knowing exactly where your dog is and what they are doing all the time. If they are heading towards an unsuspecting person, you need to make sure you’re able to recall even if you believe ‘It’s OK, he’s friendly’.
Not everyone likes dogs and some people are scared of them. Just because we adore our own dog doesn’t mean other people should and if your dog is not used to other people, they are not going to be particularly comfortable with that person either and may bark or even growl.
If you need any help with training your dog, why not get in touch?”
I heard a great phrase many years ago:
“No one else is going to blow your trumpet for you.”
Of course, this might beg the question of whether anyone needs to blow their own trumpet as it could be a little bit boastful. Yet aside from this rather measly way of thinking, I believe it is necessary to acknowledge yourself, what you enjoy and what you are good at.
This week, I’ve been featuring client testimonials on social media in a bid to blow my own trumpet. My clients have been sending me lovely comments about my work so I am sharing them. For me, it’s motivating to continue, it’s affirming to know that what I do is valued, and I believe it is good practice to acknowledge skill and hard-earned talent. I am shunning my old way of thinking that ‘no one likes a show-off’ and instead celebrating achievements.
How about you? How will you blow your own trumpet?
Do you like to multi-task?
For many people, the ability to multi-task is like a badge of honour, as if they are saying, “Look how many things I can juggle at once! Aren’t I impressive and capable?” But increasingly, they are finding that they don’t do any of these tasks particularly well. They can flit between several different things and think they’re doing something pretty special, when really, they are not doing anything very effectively. It all becomes a bit tiresome.
I like the phrase ‘mono-tasking’, when only one thing is done at any time. By focusing on just the one job, it can be done efficiently; and increasingly, I’m finding that I enjoy it more too. I can relax out of the whirlwind of being ever-so-busy and lean into the singular task in hand. It’s a great feeling to corral my thoughts and actions into one task, staying focused and in the flow. It takes a bit of practice, but like all skills worth having, I need to put the time in. From now on, it’s one thing at a time.
I know so many people who started 2021 by trying to change an aspect of their behaviour: doing more of something, doing less of something, or trying something new. And then, because of all the events of the past week, resolve can begin to flag, which is to be expected.
Being compassionate with yourself can help with keeping motivation and energy levels up:
It’s guest blog time, and this month’s comes from a very special person – Jenny from @hellolovelyplanners (with help from Daisy the dog!). I’ve known Jenny for a loooong time and we have talked about countless ways to help improve health and well-being – always being open to new ideas, no matter how alternative or niche. Jenny is artistic and creative, and her Etsy shop is beautiful (to which she has offered all blog readers a generous discount!). Do have a look after you have read her lovely words about Wabi-Sabi.
“How often do you find yourself chasing perfection? Whether it’s wanting to look younger, feeling that you should be happier, comparing yourself to others, having to achieve a certain lifestyle, or whatever pressure you consciously or unconsciously put upon yourself. When you base your perceptions of life through this idea of perfection, you miss out on the beauty that lies in the imperfections.
The Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi allows us to consider that anything we perceive as wrong, a failure or not being at a good enough standard, can actually contain a wonderful sense of peace, acceptance and joy.
It’s about understanding that life can never really be perfect because it’s impermanent and ever-changing. We are all on a journey of growth, and growth at its essence is imperfection in motion.
When you make this mindset shift, you’ll notice a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression. So, take a little time today to think about what pressures you’re putting on yourself to be ‘perfect’ in all areas of your life. Allow yourself to reconsider that the beauty lies within the chaos, the incomplete or the in-between stages of life which are all perfectly (or imperfectly!) OK.
If you’d like to explore this concept further, I’ve created a Wabi-Sabi Journal that you can find in my Etsy shop, available in digital format for printing or using in your stylus-friendly tablet.”
Shop Link: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/HelloLovelyPlanners
Discount Code: CLEANWB30 to use at the checkout.
A little challenge for you…
How about choosing one day per week as your time to live simply? Perhaps you could talk less, and listen more, with your full attention. Do something incognito and kind for someone you’re close to. Eat simple and natural food. Switch off devices and screens when you don’t need them on. Create pockets of time for not doing anything - just walk, look around, live the moment. Open your mind to a more profound and silent way of being. Appreciate each scene and each person as they are.
Try it for a day and observe the impact on your well-being.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, about how life is all about choices. When you remove all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you respond to situations. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. You choose how people affect your mood. You might not like the choices you have, but they are still choices. (Of course, I’m referring to choices made as adults, not ‘choices’ that are foisted on children or the more vulnerable, who have no actual choice.)
This is where I stumble a little: it’s difficult when I allow other people’s strong (often negative) moods to affect my own – but I still have a choice. I can descend with them into a pit of despair, or I can decide to go my own way. It’s up to me and only I have the power to make that choice – no one else.
And the trick is finding what helps you make the right choice at the time, what helps you keep momentum and drive to be able to choose what’s best for you. It’ll be no surprise to regular readers that ensuring I have enough sleep is my ‘magical’ power, as my brain seems to suffer on too little sleep. So, if you find yourself being affected by others’ moods, consider what helps you function well and do more of that.
It’s guest blog time!
This month’s blog comes from my colleague and friend, Lisa Bedlow, who I met over 10 years ago when I was working for the school improvement team at a local authority. Since leaving her role as an executive head teacher, Lisa has set up a social enterprise called Gabriels. Here’s more about it:
"Gabriels Wellbeing and Education supports children and families with balancing emotions, creating self-love, success and happiness using nature to encourage children to be self-confident, sociable, interactive and not bound by technology. We have a range of wellbeing sessions from toddlers to teenagers. We have a highly successful programme offering one-to-one support for a range of conditions from anxiety, eating disorders, depression, autism, ADHD and others.
As a former headteacher, I am so passionate about helping children to release any limiting beliefs so that they can shine and achieve in whatever way they choose.
One of my most powerful techniques to share with children is the power of deep belly breathing. When we are anxious, we tend to breathe shallowly, which is a throwback to our caveman roots, preparing for fight or flight. However, we are not in danger: we just sense that we are, so to breathe slowly and deeply into the tummy for two minutes reassures the body that all is calm and well. It truly is our very own super power. As a qualified and advanced Pranic healer, I have many more strategies that I share when treating clients."
Find out more about Gabriels here: www.gabrielseducation.com.
One of my mottos with exercise is ‘little and often’. In fact, this maxim can apply to many different areas of life. As the weather gets colder and the nights draw in, the motivation to exercise can wane…
So, here are some interesting facts about the benefits of exercise that might help.
· Taking daily moderate exercise (like brisk walking) for 30 minutes five days per week is associated with improved brain structure and function (University of Maryland, 2014).
· Regular resistance exercise with light weights — enough to make you sweat — can increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, crucial for growing new brain cells (Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, 2017).
· Walking briskly, running or cycling — cardiorespiratory exercise that makes you breathless — is linked with sustained cognitive power in older age (Norwegian University of Science and Technology cardiac exercise research group).
· Circuit training for more than three months boosts cognitive ability and blood flow in the brain (University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, 2013).
· One or two hatha yoga sessions per week over six months offers a range of benefits to areas of the brain that are associated with clear thinking, memory and emotional self-control, according to an analysis of 11 studies conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois.
Keep going! Exercise is beneficial in so many ways.
After a particularly busy-with-work October, I’m now relishing a slightly less frenetic November, and with it comes the recognition of silence again. The modern world can feel loud: constant beeps, pings and other alerts, the chatter and the clatter, and the hum of electrical equipment. It’s why, for so many people, silence is the most sought-after experience. Even Jane Austen was said to have written: "Let us have the luxury of silence."
Here's a few ideas of how you might like to carve out some time to experience silence, every day.
• Try immersing in the stillness of an early morning, or late at night, with no one else around.
• Aim to still your attention for a few minutes in the middle of your day.
• Process your day and quiet your mind before bed, to aid sleep.
Of course, some might say that you don’t need actual silence to experience peace and quiet, and if that works for you, it’s an added bonus. Focusing on a quiet mind and a still body can manifest the benefits of actual silence, wherever you are, whenever you like.
This week’s blog offering is all about ego – and just like the word itself, this is a short one.
For many people, ego is about being big-headed (“She’s got such a big ego!” when someone is being boastful or pompous).
But that’s not the whole story. Ego is present every time we feel any kind of fear, or hear ourselves saying "That's mine!" perhaps when we describe a relationship with someone else, or an area that we work in.
But these things can’t be owned. If we detach from things that we might like to think belong to us, we can then get rid of ego and be free from the idea of ownership.
If we are truly secure in ourselves (my current favourite phrase) then we can let go of petty ownership and realise there is enough for everyone.
This month, it’s my friend Julia’s turn to take on the guest blog spot. Julia and I met when working in education consultancy and have also run well-being retreats together.
"I was absolutely delighted to be invited as a Clean Well-Being guest blogger this month. I was poised to write a gentle blog about autumn and daylight. Naturally, after Saturday night’s announcement, cruelly impinging on our Strictly escapism, any blog about mental health takes on a more urgent tone. Protecting our mental health at this time is an absolute necessity in order for any other part of our life to work effectively.
As a Solution-Focused Hypnotherapist, I use deep relaxation, visualisation and positive language patterns to help clients banish anxiety and develop strong self-esteem. Unlike a talking therapy such as counselling, Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy is fast-acting and forward-thinking, encouraging clients to move into the life they want, without dredging through past experiences to get there.
I have central tenets to my work, which I’ll share here. They appear painfully obvious, but, as Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy is grounded in neuroscientific understanding of the brain, they really do work!
1) Get good sleep. Ensure that you are asleep before 11pm in order to benefit from the optimum amount of R.E.M. as your brain processes the days events. Hypnotherapy creates the same effects in the brain as R.E.M. sleep.
2) Think positively. An anxious brain automatically looks for danger, but there is always good to be found. A daily practice of gratitude also releases feel-good hormones and aids sleep.
3) Interact with people you like and make you feel good. While many of us are supporting family and friends who are struggling, ensure that you seek out the ‘radiators’ in your life: the people who lift you up.
4) Make small steps forward in things that matter to you. Priorities have changed and our worlds have been brought into sharper focus. Suddenly, the play you always wanted to write, or finally learning an instrument is a burning necessity. Whatever your commitments, take tiny steps towards achievable goals. These ‘fripperies’ are the things that make life worth living and bring expansive joy into our lives as our world gets physically smaller for the time being.
Schedule these essentials into your life as you would exercise, nutrition or medication, knowing that they really are the difference between merely surviving and emotionally thriving."
For more from Julia, visit www.oxfordfamilyhypnotherapy.co.uk.
As the clocks went back last weekend, I heard so many comments about how dark it is now in the evenings. So, this week’s blog is about light.
When someone lightens up your life just by their presence, it’s a wonderful feeling to bask in that light. When someone is a bit of a downer, there is usually some hidden inner baggage which contains sadness and darkness. Which do you bring to the party? A little light or a little dark? A lot of optimism or a little pessimism?
Before the days of flicking a switch to light up a whole town or village, one candle had to be lit by another. If you are aware that you are holding some darkness, it might be useful to spend time with someone whose light is already lit, and stays lit in most situations. Eventually, we may learn the art ourselves, and then act as a candle to others.
I’ve written many times about being busy and how it can take hold of your life, your thoughts and actions. I’ve been in the grip of ‘busy-ness’ so many times, I’ve lost track. And the conclusion I have come to? I have to choose to be less busy. I have to get off the busy-treadmill, the busy-hamster wheel, and decide it’s not for me. The world still turns regardless of how I operate.
Brené Brown sums it up beautifully:
“’Crazy-busy’ is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.”
It might not be easy, but I’m trying to stay alongside my life, rather than out in front, so I can catch up with myself. And this means I have to plan well and let some ‘vital’ things pass me by…
What do you think about this?
The quickest way to unhappiness is to compare yourself to others.
I think this is so true: comparing yourself to others will leave you feeling one of three things – inferior, superior or impressed. All three of these states are tricky because they all disregard the underlying principle of our true connection with each other - mutual love and positive regard, based on independently-generated self-esteem.
What to do? Be pleased for someone else and who they are/what they can do, and recognise all that you are/what you can do too. Being grateful for what you are and what you have is a great place to start. And if you must compare yourself to someone, try comparing yourself now to who you used to be – and see how far you have come!
As it’s the first Wednesday of the month, it’s guest blog time. It ties in really nicely with Clean Well-Being’s 8th birthday celebrations, as I’m looking back on all the work I have done over the past years, including working with charities. I have focused on those which have causes that mean a lot to me – from mental health, domestic violence and bereavement to sport, cancer care and the environment.
This is where Sport in Mind comes in. I’m currently working with this excellent charity on a couple of supercool projects and wanted to share some of the work they do.
With World Mental Health Day 2020 approaching this coming Saturday, I’m handing over the blog reins to a key member of the team from the award-winning Berkshire charity Sport in Mind that delivers sport and physical activity programmes to help aid the recovery of people experiencing mental health problems.
Someone once asked me, “What do you want to do with your life?” And my answer was simple – I want to help people. Today, so many years later, and my mission in life remains the same, but the difference is now I’m in a position to not just help one or two people, as through my work with Sport in Mind I can help and empower thousands of the people experiencing mental health problems each year.
World Mental Health Day on 10th of October is obviously an important day in the calendar for my charity Sport in Mind, but it should be a really important day for all of us because every year at least 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem. Despite the fact millions of us will experience mental health problems this year there’s still a great deal of stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness so it’s really important to talk about how you’re feeling, particularly with life as it is at the moment.
Since lockdown, I’ve spoken to so many people who have been struggling mentally and feeling isolated. If there’s anyone reading this who is feeling the same, I just want to let you know you’re not alone, there’s millions of people feeling exactly the same as you so try to connect with friends or family and let them know how you’re feeling. It’s also really important to be active as it’s one of the most effective ways to lift your mood; so many of the people I’ve spoken to during lockdown have been able to improve their mental health by taking part in physical activity regularly. The term physical activity can of course be scary to many of us, but when we talk about physical activity that doesn’t have to mean hardcore fitness workouts or sports sessions, it can be things like going for a walk, dancing in the living room or digging in the garden – anything that will increase your breathing rate. Doing something simple like going for a brisk walk and dancing around the living room really helped my mental health through lockdown.
Since Sport in Mind was established in 2010, our charity’s mission has been about providing accessible and supportive sport and physical activity opportunities to improve the lives of people experiencing mental health problems. Our sessions are never about how good you are at sport or how fit you are, they are simply about HAVING FUN and giving people are bit of a break from everything else that's going on in their lives.
If you’re interested in Sport in Mind’s work, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
And here is a video about Sport in Mind’s new dance session: https://www.dropbox.com/s/caop9doynsab1xp/MUM%20BABY%20TEASER.mp4?dl=0 .
It's a question that we might not ask ourselves very often, if at all. But it's something that I've been thinking about this week. If it feels good to be me, do I need external stimuli to help me feel better? Surely external stimuli are needed only when it does not feel good to be me.
In my work in education, I see this so frequently. Without a strong sense of being 'enough', children grow up to be adults who search for the thing that will make them feel better about themselves, be that constantly buying new stuff, dependence on substances, lack of self-care, or self-destructive behaviour.
But what if they didn't need to do that? What if they felt they were enough?
Many people think it's too late to change once they have reached adulthood ("That's just the way I am!"). Yet all it takes is having a word with yourself and realising that you are in charge of your mind and you make the decisions, not the other way around – and you are worth looking after. You might discover that you are enough without the external stimuli, and that the world still turns without them in your life.
Have you made some time for yourself today – just for you, to sit quietly, refresh yourself and feel renewed? Not escaping to the television, or pounding the streets, or even reading. Just time to sit quietly, focus your thoughts, check your priorities, and make sure there is nothing negative knocking around in your own mind. Take some time and be with yourself.
If you find this difficult, it can often help to have a bit of guidance, and many people are big fans of guided meditation. There are lots of examples online and YouTube is a great place to start. Try starting small, listening to something short and succinct. You can then build up to more when you feel ready. Remember there is no ‘right’ way of doing this. Being mindful is a personal thing – it’s your choice how you do it.
What’s the most valuable thing you have ever owned?
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, our bodies will always be the most valuable thing in our lives. Imagine if you had to try and piece your own body together, sourcing and paying for each part! It would be astronomically expensive… Without getting into the ethics and possibilities of such a notion, the crux of this blog is (no surprises!) about looking after your body – as it is the most valuable thing you will ever own.
So, what is it worth to you? Not monetary, as that’s too tricky to calculate. But in other terms, like reliability or function. If a part of it broke down, how would that ‘cost’ you?
And what are you doing to ensure that your body retains its value to you?
It’s been said so many times before, by me and countless others: look after your body with good food, sleep, exercise, rest, relaxation and fun to help it stick around for as long as you need it.
I’m hijacking this week’s blog with a reminder about my charity fundraising event being held this Saturday, 12th September, on Zoom. Everyone is welcome to come, and if you can’t make it please do make a donation.
At the Fling, you get to try different types of online fitness class with Katie and me, while raising money for Sport in Mind, an independent multi-award-winning mental health charity based in Reading. Their aim is to improve the lives of people experiencing mental health problems through sport and physical activity.
You can join in online for as many classes as you like, all from the comfort of your own home!
Donations welcome via www.sportinmind.org/fundraisers/fitness-fling-goes-online.
Sign up here: www.cleanwellbeing.com/charity-fitness-fling.html. I will then send you the Zoom link. Thanks!
Guest blog time! I know many inspirational people so I’ve asked some of them to write a guest blog. The first one is by my friend and colleague Tessa Venuti Sanderson. She is an extraordinary person and we share so many interests and ideals. Do look her up!
“You have all the answers. Ultimately, I really believe this is true. You might need some guidance and signposting along the way, but you can feel when something is good for your body. You’ve probably seen conflicting advice about what the best diet contains. Perhaps you’ve seen information about the latest exercise craze and wonder if it will have the same effect on your body.
What I’ve learnt over 16 years of teaching yoga, through completing my MSc in Exercise and Nutrition, and teaching menstrual cycle awareness to women of all ages, is that we are unique. And we change through the course of our lives. We need tailored approaches. I’ve become suspicious of anyone who claims to have the diet or ultimate exercise routine for everyone.
The key to supporting your well-being is feeling empowered to change what you’re doing. Information + empowerment to act = transformation.
My passion is empowering children and women to be body positive. To listen deeply to what their bodies tell them. I do this through the books I’ve written, including my latest one for pregnant women. Rather than another how-to book on birth, this book aims to support women to fundamentally shift their mindset, to transform the birthing journey and parenthood too.
The illustrated children’s books about puberty are for younger readers. They give children a language about their bodies and normalise body talk. This empowers them to speak about what makes them nervous about growing up. And to tell someone if they don’t have the body sovereignty that they have a right to.
Well-being is more than skin deep! Cultivating it is a life-long practice.”
Tessa’s book Pearls of Birth Wisdom is released on the 5th September. Pre-order it now for a pregnant woman in your life at www.amazon.co.uk/Pearls-Birth-Wisdom-Insights-Practices/dp/0993375189 or buy it direct from me for a signed copy: email@example.com. To find out more about Tessa’s work, visit www.cyclicalwisdom.com or follow her on Instagram @tessayogawomanality.
Hi, I'm Joanna from Clean Well-Being.
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Clean Well-being blog