May Motivation: Aspirations are your Possibilities. How to Take Action on your Hopes and Dreams.

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At this time of year, I think it is important to take stock and look back to five months ago in January when we were all probably budding with new ideas for the year ahead. No doubt, we were full of enthusiasm and motivated to make the year ahead different to that of the one that has passed. If you haven’t accomplished what you thought you would have by now instead of berating yourself, take stock and simply start again. Here is some motivation to get going.

Uncommonly, I have always loved January. I love the start of new weeks, months and the feeling of having a fresh start. This year, in January my motivation for the year ahead was at a different level. I felt so inspired and eager to change my habitual life. I love my job and all that it encompasses however the whole nine to five, Monday to Friday, living for the weekend routine was crushing my spirits. Yes the security of being paid monthly, having paid annual leave days all have their perks but the mundane nature of the constant routine was so mind numbing . The only way I can describe it is like I was living the same year over and over again. I knew there had to be more to life and I made a promise to myself that this year I was going to step outside of my comfort zone and experience new things that moved away from the rituals of everyday life. Don’t get me wrong, I know the reality is that we need  to work to pay the bills, but this year I just want to experience it a little differently than before. I figured that providing myself with this opportunity it would also enlighten my practice as a social worker and I hope that I will return to work feeling rejuvenated and re –inspired. This quote is ultimately what has given me the courage to pursue this adventure. 

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So in that breath, I am taking two months off work this year from April to June to pursue all of the above. I fly to India (Goa) in a few days to commence yoga teacher practice training. It has been a dream of mine for years now however I have never had the courage to take the plunge. I have always wanted to travel alone also so I am combining the two and I am so excited for all the learning and inspiration that will  hopefully unfold.

As highlighted, this January something changed I shifted gears and instead of having all of these wonderful dreams and aspirations I knew it was time to take action. To achieve this I did a few things to continue the momentum, which I hope by sharing, may ignite some passion within you also.

  • Having a good morning time routine is so important.

Insuring that you have a few hours to yourself before having to engage with the world is crucial to productivity and self-care.  Being an early riser comes naturally to me now and morning time is definitely my favourite part of the day.

  • Write down your goals and most importantly give yourself a time frame for achieving them.

Physically writing down your dreams and aspirations is really powerful as it makes them tangible. Setting a time frame also concretes the commitment you have made to yourself to achieve these goals. Having a notebook to look back to use as a reference point when you have achieved your goal is also very inspiring for future goals as it increases your self-belief. When you see concrete evidence of what was once a vision, turn into a reality you see what you are capable of achieving when you put your mind to it.

  • Schedule three monthly reflection dates with yourself.

I go to my local favourite coffee shop (where I am sitting now), order the most delicious porridge and green tea and sit down and review the previous three months. I figure out if I have been living my life in accordance with the goals I set. Look at the positive steps taken towards the goals that you have made (do a little happy dance about them) and then look at any barriers which you may have experienced which prevented you from achieving the anticipated outcome. Following this, make a plan to get back on track with which ever goal may have gotten sidelined. I have to admit I was highly impressed with Pippa’s new journal as this system is naturally incorporated into the plan of the journal. Any excuse to compliment this lady will be taken because I am her biggest fan and I’m not even going to try to hide it.

  • Work backwards from December to current month

This is really helpful in planning out what you want the year to look like and what you want to achieve by certain time frames. I work my way backwards through the year and ask myself what I want to have achieved by December 2018. This approach really helps me plan for the year ahead and breaks down what might seem like a very large task into something manageable and achievable. ‘Step by step we get ahead’.

 

  • Develop and stick to having unconditional actions every day

Pick one thing that you have to achieve no matter what happens each day. These actions build up and you can accomplish a considerable amount by committing to doing one thing every day to advance with your goals.

To provide context, I have a few every day, like I have to drink three liters of water a day no matter what. I also ensure to dedicate an hour to myself a day whether that is through exercise, mindset work or treating myself. I know some may see it as being excessive and think I don’t have time for that but I often have to get up at the crack of dawn to insure this is achieved. ‘Where there is a will there is a way’. I have prioritised this because my job requires me to be fully present with the people I meet in the same way that most jobs do.

 

  • Figure out your why.

When you set a goal ask yourself, why is this important to me? Why are you inspired to achieve this? What does it mean to you and your family? When you think you have the answer ask yourself again but why is it important to lose weight, to start a new business, to commence a new relationship etc. When you have found your real ‘why’ this will inspire and motivate you. On the days when you are lacking in motivation you can then use your ‘why’ to push yourself.

  • Let go of the fear of failure.

Last but not least and possibly the most difficult to achieve. As humans it is in our nature to seek approval from our family and friends and to care what people think of us.  I was so nervous to put my content online, available for everyone to see despite having loved writing since I was a little girl. I am so afraid of going to do yoga teacher practice training because I compare myself to people who are so much more advanced than me at yoga. I am petrified of travelling to somewhere so far away on my own. I am heartbroken leaving Hugo and Bruno (Doggy babies) and Ian for a month but the possibility of the self-learning I hope to achieve inspires me to just keep going.

What has changed is that the fear of failure is not as scary as the fear of not trying is. It got to the stage where I had no choice but to move forward and do the things that scared me because anything less is no longer an option.

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Think about some of the most successful people in the world they started with one tiny step forward and have built empires. Listen to the voice that whispers inside you. It knows what you are capable of.

I hope that by reading this I have ignited a little spark in you to go back to the goals you set at the start of the year, re-evaluate them. Are they still important? Do you still want to achieve them? If so, write down a plan as to how to get there and remember small baby steps. It is a new day, a new week, a new month you don’t need to start at the start of the year. Start now, Start today. 

Thanks for reading and good luck.

Lia x

Yoga Yoga Yoga! Sampoorna India Yoga Teacher Practice Training.

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There is no other way to start this without saying I adore Yoga, it has greatly enhanced my life. I have practiced it for more than twelve years but only intensively recently. I remember my first ever class, I was eighteen and struggling with Leaving Cert exam stress. My mother Deirdre suggested that we try yoga together in an attempt to lessen the pressure I was feeling and to provide an outlet. My relationship with yoga was love at first sight. Within the first five minutes, I had an overwhelming feeling of amazement at the practice. Its ability to quieten my mind and the awareness it brought to my body was something I had never experienced. I knew Yoga was something wonderful and meaningful but I didn’t engage with it fully at this time.

Throughout my twenties, I intermittently went to yoga classes whenever I felt I needed a break from my regular intense training in the gym or when experiencing anxiety in life. Last year in 2016, my local yoga studio instructor announced an upcoming yoga retreat in Crete and I asked Deirdre if she would come with me given it was she who first introduced me to yoga. Following a difficult year in which Deirdre successfully battled breast cancer, I thought it would be a nice treat for us both and a chance to spend quality time together. We had an absolute ball and met some really lovely people. Molly Mc Keever (Yoga Teacher) is one of the kindest people you will meet. There is an upcoming retreat in October 2018 with a few spaces remaining. Following this experience, I promised I would deepen my practice when I returned home and this was the real beginning of my yoga journey.

At the start of this year, as explained in a recent previous post I craved an escape from the humdrum routine of daily life. An appetite to come out of my comfort zone and do something different burned within. Following a recommendation from a close friend and not really knowing what I was getting myself into, I decided to go to India to do a 200 hour yoga teacher training course in Sampoorna. Having never traveled on my own, I was both excited and petrified. The night before leaving, I nearly decided not to. The reality of leaving Ian and the doggies for a month was overwhelming and I questioned my ability to go through with it. Using my own advice that I frequently give to others, I told myself to just take the next step that was needed; ‘Just go to the airport Lia and come home if you need to when you get there’. This continued the whole way to Goa ‘Just get on the plane Lia, when you land at the next airport you can get a return flight home’. I cried for most of the journey but the minute I walked through the gates of Sampoorna, I felt an overwhelming sense of security and calmness. I knew it would become a home away from home.  In this moment, while knowing, I had made the right decision, the life changes that would occur during the four weeks spent there were unimaginable at this point.

The style of yoga teacher training is Ashtanga and Vinyasa. Anyone who has practiced Ashtanga yoga will know how intense it is. During our first class, while sweating like never before, I thought to myself ‘Oh god what have I gotten myself into. I am way out of  my depth here’. Other class members were standing on their heads and easily getting into very advanced poses. I really questioned if I had made a mistake in coming. As I increased my knowledge on yoga’s philosophy and origins, I quickly realised that the asanas (poses) are only one aspect of the practice and everyone is at their own level. As the weeks progressed, once my ego subsided and my mindset shifted from focusing on my limitations to my abilities, I stopped comparing myself to everyone else. In doing so, I quickly began to see slight advancements in my body’s ability to get into poses that were not in my practice before this intensive training. While this was physically rewarding, more importantly it positively impacted my emotional connection to my body. I had a new appreciation for the work my body does day in day out, without ever even having to be asked.

Course Schedule

For anyone thinking of going, it is important to know that the course itself is intense. The day starts at 6.30 Am and classes continue until 7.00 Pm every day. Within that time, you are physically practicing yoga for at least three to four hours a day. Outside of Asana practice there are classes in philosophy, anatomy, meditation, posture clinics and teaching practice. These are all very interesting and assist in the overall understanding of yoga. Without the added knowledge that these classes provide, insight into yoga is only at surface level. There are also exams at the end of the course however, I can only describe them as a ‘none event’ so don’t let them cause anxiety and disrupt the overall learning and experience while there. The exams consist of; teaching one half hour class, a practical exam and a written exam. Students begin teaching in the first week of the course so by the last week, teaching for half an hour is easily achievable. The teachers in Sampoorna are very supportive. I have every confidence that they would go above and beyond to assist your learning in any way they can throughout the four weeks.

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  • Philosophy

Philosophy was my favourite aspect of the course and its teachings have had the most life changing impact. This is mainly as a result of the dedication of the teacher Sudhir Rishi who is the leader of the school. He is one of the kindest and most knowledgeable humans I have ever met and the quality of the school’s teaching is evidence of this. Sudhir has dedicated his life to understanding the totality of the universe and the many different philosophies and religions of life. Sudhir’s knowledge on nearly all topics is extensive and he shares this throughout the course during both philosophy classes and Satsangs (sacred gatherings) which are voluntary evening discussions about a range of topics. The subjects we covered were the afterlife, issues of control, reincarnation, Buddhism and food. Sudhir is also available to have one on one discussions with anyone who may need guidance on particular aspects of their life. Each of us described how we would love to share his knowledge with family and friends at home. Since then, he has started a podcast which you can listen to here:

https://anchor.fm/rishi-sudhir.

I am delighted that his teachings will now be available around the world.

Food and Facilities

Yes, I am giving the food in Sampoorna its own section because it was amazing! Since returning from India, I am a vegetarian. This decision is as a result of a shift in mindset from learning about the philosophy of yoga but also because I witnessed firsthand how tasty a vegetarian diet can be thanks to the wonderful chefs in Sampoorna. Sampoorna’s kitchen has a very high standard of hygiene and I did not experience any sickness while there. The food is vegetarian with vegan options. Breakfast is served at 10.00 Am every day followed by lunch at 1.00 Pm and dinner at 7.00 Pm. There are snacks of bananas (the nicest banana’s you will ever taste they just aren’t the same here). There is a large variety in the foods offered and everything is very tasty. Most importantly, the desserts are delicious, in particular the vegan banoffee pie and chocolate balls. I continue to fail at my attempts to replicate them since returning home. There is safe water available on tap at all times. I really encourage you to increase your water intake while there. Usually I consume three litres a day but in the Indian heat five litres were necessary. Sampoorna offers clothes washing facilities for as little as the equivalent of €3. You can also buy good quality yoga mats for €30.

Location

Sampoorna is based in Agonda a picturesque little town with the most magnificent and clean beach. The beach will become your second home while there. The beach is about a three-minute walk from Sampoorna and you can hear the waves as you fall asleep. The waves are very strong and not what we are used to on this side of the world so be cautious. There are lifeguards along the beach and it is cleaned daily. Agonda’s village has lovely little stalls, shops and really tasty restaurants. My two favourite were Zest and Mandala which both have vegan and vegetarian options. The people of the village are also very kind, helpful and welcoming. By the end of the four weeks you will know a lot of the villagers by their first name.

A Few Things I Wish I Had Known Before Going

Sampoorna’s website is really informative however there are a few things they don’t mention.

  • Tub a wear – If like me, you love snacks from home and tea bags make sure to bring sealable lunch boxes to store them in. I didn’t and had to throw them away because ants get into everything and are everywhere.
  • Clothes – I changed my clothes three times a day because it gets very sweaty doing yoga in 35 degree heat. Be mindful to bring enough sports attire to allow for this. As highlighted, there is access to washing facilities nonetheless, a lot of sports clothes are useful. Specifically shorts appropriate for yoga.
  • Family members who may be accompanying you on your travels or joining you after the course are allowed visit, stay over and eat the food provided in Sampoorna. This is because of the generosity of the school and I am sure this act of kindness is not to be taken advantage of. A few of the classes’ family members stayed with them for one or two nights and were welcomed into the Sampoorna family.
  • WiFi -The website says that WiFi isn’t great however it was much better than I anticipated. It may not be as fast as we are used to here but it enabled clear communication with family members and friends at home. Nonetheless, to fully benefit from the experience and engage in the tranquility of Sampoorna an occasional digital detox is recommended.
  • Safety- As it was my first time travelling alone I was apprehensive about my safety. The minute I arrived in Sampoorna I felt secure and questioned why I was nervous at all. The staff are so welcoming and friendly. There is twenty-four hour security at the gates. The villagers are also very kind and there was never a time that I felt vulnerable or in a dangerous situation. Obviously, it is important to take the usual precautions and be wise nonetheless.

If anyone is considering yoga teacher training all I can say is ‘JUST GO’. You don’t have to be an expert in yoga asanas or be able to stand on your head. I couldn’t recommend Sampoorna more highly to embark on this adventure. It was one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. This is mainly as a result of the impact it had on my understanding of acceptance, growth and Suidir’s teaching that ‘our true nature is uninterrupted joy’ Having always had a tendency to try to control everything that is controllable in life this new awareness has enabled me to let go of living a life of rigidity and self –criticism. Being present and extending gratitude for life’s experiences and adventures is a much more frequent state of being for me now. I have learnt that acceptance occurs when we simply acknowledge ourselves or situations as they are without any critique or justification. It takes practice and patience however the rewards are very valuable. I recognise that non-acceptance depletes energy sources and leaves feelings of regret, guilt and shame. These feelings can quickly present themselves as a pattern in our daily life, if we don’t intervene. Acceptance must happen before growth can occur. This is because with acceptance a sense of peace is achieved. Always wanting to progress prevents us from appreciating what we have in the here and now and ultimately prevents us from experiencing joy. Once acceptance occurs there is a lot more room for growth. My yoga practice has also been influenced positively. I now accept and appreciate where I am in my practice, in my own body in this moment in time, equipped with the knowledge that through acceptance and practice, all is coming. Last but not least, I met the loveliest people and will forever carry a little piece of each of them with me on my way.

If anyone has any further questions about my experience or needs more details just contact me below. I have attached the link to the Sampoorna website for further information.

Namaste

Lia xx

http://www.sampoornayoga.com/

 

 

The Mental Health Benefits of Physical Activity

The positive mental benefits of exercise are majorly underplayed. Physical activity is often the first thing to be sidelined when things get busy or when one is feeling stressed. I personally have grown to see exercise as a form of self-care and by neglecting it I see it as neglecting myself. When you change your mind-set about exercise and realise that it is not so much about the workout as it is about spending time, with yourself it changes everything. For many people, it is one of the few times during the day that they have time to themselves where no one expects anything from them. If you are reading this, it might be a sign that it is time step outside of the hustle of everyday life that consumes us all and begin to prioritise yourself.

I hear very regularly that people struggle to find the time to engage in physical activity and I can completely resonate. However, I guarantee that if you prioritise exercise you will reap the rewards. Along with gaining some head space, serotonin is produced which immediately gives you a surge of happy energy to set you up for the day. If you train in the evening, it can give you a second wind and provide energy to enjoy the remainder of your day. The impact of serotonin on regulating mood, appetite and the sleep /wake cycle are immense. Its levels in the body are influenced by sunlight, exercise and diet. Aerobic activity such as walking, running and cycling are the most effective in increasing serotonin synthesis. The physical results are also very motivating as when your progression becomes noticeable you begin to be cognisant of the capabilities of your body and its strength. This recognition often provides incentive to continue and before you know it exercise easily becomes part of your daily routine. My intention in talking about this is to highlight that a consistent practice incorporated into daily life which is solely time for your mind and body is paramount for survival in this fast paced world that we all live in. Find an exercise that you love to do. Gyms and running aren’t for everyone but you might enjoy swimming, cycling, boxing or yoga whatever it is, find it and do it over and over until it becomes like breathing.

Exercise and fitness is something I only began to practice in my twenties. I was the one in school who dreaded PE and was always picked last for every team sport. Growing up in a community in which GAA was life, I always felt excluded from the world of sport. In my first year in college, I was feeling the pressures of looming exams and one day while out walking I thought to myself, I wonder could I run to the next lifeboat? That is how it began, I ran to one, walked to the next until I gradually built up stamina to run consistently. Now at the ripe age of 28, I couldn’t imagine my life without exercise and fitness. I engage in many forms; weight lifting, yoga, spinning but my real passion is running and yoga. Having only found exercise in my twenties I feel so strongly about promoting its positive impact because I believe that I missed out on a lot of valuable time where it would have been of benefit.

The practice of yoga is something I have only recently become acquainted with and I mention it here in case it might evoke interest in you if you haven’t tried it. It is a fast track way to teaching yourself how to listen to your body. A good teacher along with a space which allows for this connection is really important. The one I have found is ‘Sweaty Soul’ in the IFSC in Dublin. The classes are taught by Molly Mc Keever who is an amazing teacher. The space and light in this studio are very conducive to creating a safe space where the relationship between body and mind can begin to connect. Yoga practice brings an awareness to one’s breath which is something that we all mindlessly ignore the majority of time. This bodily performance is one that keeps us alive day after day. Before practicing yoga, it was an aspect of my biology that I gave little heed to. While you are in a yoga posture your mind and body have to unite in order to withstand the urge to crumble to the floor. This simple act of connecting teaches the body and mind that they are united and supportive of one and other. The practice of the glorious Savasana (resting pose usually done at the end of practice that is aimed at being awake yet completely relaxed) is proven to literally calm the nervous system and promote equilibrium in your entire body. Again, this pose enables you to sit with your body as one. Some days I really struggle with the practice of yoga because of the challenges of this connection. Often, I would much rather pound the footpaths running than have to sit with my body however, as we all know it is often what challenges us most that we need. My mother and I enjoyed a magnificent yoga retreat to Crete in June 2017 with instructor Molly Mc Keever for the purpose of increasing our ability to connect with our bodies as it is something we both feel very passionately about. This retreat provided more than one can imagine and it’s a lovely memory for us both to always treasure.  I have recently returned from Yoga Teacher Practice Training in India and I am now a qualified yoga teacher. There is another post coming all about this experience aimed at anyone interested in pursuing yoga teaching. I was both petrified and excited about embarking on this adventure but there was a burning desire to learn more about yoga and I felt it was something that I couldn’t ignore.

Exercise in its many forms, have gotten me through the hardest of days and I feel like it is always an available escapism if needed. It is like having a best friend waiting for you at the ready.  In times when I feel helpless or overcome with anxiety, I will put my runners on and just take off. The challenge for the body to run means that the mind has no choice but to quieten and the bliss this incurs is what is known as runners high. Running has helped me to cope with so much in life and can help you. It has now become part of my every day routine now and is my favorite time of day. To enable this, I like to exercise in the morning before the day starts and the sun has risen. In doing this, I can insure that life doesn’t get in the way and push exercise down the priority ranking. I used to hate getting up early and I was a real night owl however changing this routine has had one of the most positive impacts on my life. By getting up early, I can get my exercise done before going to work.  The best part, is getting to see the sunrise every morning. I always feel so privileged to get to experience this and find that it really helps set a positive mindset for the day ahead.

Of course, there are days that I enjoy spending time with friends and family and I stay up late, drink alcohol and dance the night away. On these days exercise is not a priority. This, to me is balance and it is completely about fitting exercise into your own schedule and lifestyle. If there is no time in the day, and you can’t get up any earlier than you already do think about going for a quick fifteen minute walk on your lunch break, get off a stop early on the bus and walk the rest of the way to work or do a fifteen minute home workout. There are so many accessible ways to incorporate exercise into your daily life and I guarantee it will have a positive impact on your mental health.

Humans make everything complicated with all of the many fad diets, personal trainers proclaiming different opinions when really it is much simpler than we give it credit: ‘Drink water and get sunlight you are basically a house plant with more complicated emotions’. Find something that you are passionate about and it won’t feel like a chore.

I hope I have highlighted the importance of our bodies and minds being in harmony with one and other. My intention is that I have sparked some interest on how you can start yourself wherever you are in life to begin to appreciate all that your body does for you every day. If your inner voice is one of criticism; change it. Learn to love yourself bit by bit. Your body is the one permanent home you have been given so appreciate it, treat it well and most importantly love it.

 

 

Podcast Recommendations for Happy Heads!

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Podcasts have brought me so much joy and are one of the few things left in life which are free. They are a really quick way to absorb a lot of information and a chance to learn about any topic of your choice. They act as a great motivator to exercise as I look forward to sticking in my head phones and getting lost in the narrative. Not only does it provide motivation, it acts as a distraction and before you know it you have had an hour of entertainment and exercise.

To the uninitiated, podcasts are essentially like modern-day versions of radio recordings that you can listen to on your smart phone.  There are so many podcasts available to choose from and it can be a minefield to know where to begin. I have created this to recommend some of my favourite ones which will help you to gain insight into achieving a positive mindset, motivation to engage in exercise and some other just basic entertainment podcasts. I have classified them into groups depending on your partialities:

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Podcasts to listen to when you want to zone out, similar to the same effect of watching your favourite soap:

This section is all home-grown from Irish talent

  • How to be Sound

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Rosemary Mac Cabe’s podcast ‘How to be Sound’ is a podcast where she sits down with a guest and they discuss how to be better at life. It covers topics such as the environment, body positivity, endometriosis, romance, issue of consent and careers. Rosemary is one of the few people who also transcribes each podcast so that people who are hard of hearing can also follow along which I think is really admirable. Rosemary continues to present a very real persona online which is very hard to find in this day and age. She is not afraid to discuss taboo topics and is very honest and open about her beliefs and values.  She is the first to admit when she is experiencing a difficult time, not everything is portrayed in the high gloss façade that occupies so much of the online world.  I don’t think she realises how witty she is which makes her even more alluring. Rosemary is someone we would all benefit from time to time to give us a real dose of reality.  Give it a listen.

  • Girls with Goals 

GIRLS WITH GOALS

This is Her.ie’s women’s podcast which covers a whole host of different topics. They have really great guests none other than Simon Harris himself. Niamh Maher, the narrator, seems really nice and creates a very fun and welcoming atmosphere. She recently had the Skin Nerd (Jennifer Rock) on which enlightened my knowledge about the importance of looking after our skin an organ we often pay little heed to. Other interviewees have been Cassie Stokes form Xpose, Milie Mackintosh and Rosemary McCabe as above to name but a few. The guests discuss really interesting topics and there is always lots of laughter.  A feel good podcast for easy listening.

  • Before Brunch 

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It is presented by Megan Cassidey and Cassie Delany and released every Sunday. The topics of discussions basically synopsises discussions that you might have with your best friends over Bunch. It is similar to listening in on a little gossip session about occurrences in the celeb world with the odd serious topic thrown in to raise its intellectual standard from time to time. It is a really easy listen and again the girls seem really sound and fun. 

Fitness Motivation Podcasts

Again my selection is biased and very Irish based but we really have a lot of talent on our shores.

  • The Real Health Podcast with Karl Henry

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This is a healthy living podcast produced by Karl Henry who we all know from Operation Transformation. The episodes inform the listeners in very simple and clear terms what you need to be doing to live healthier every day. Karl is joined by experts in the field and unearths the science behind the advice which makes it understandable and achievable. He discusses in basic terms easily achievable and maintainable life swaps that can make a massive difference to health. Topics discussed include mental wellness, the importance of sleep, nutrition and exercise. Karl presents as being someone who genuinely wants to make a difference to Irish people and he is really passionate about sharing his acquired knowledge. There are no frills attached to this podcast; it is clear, evidence based, factual information which really inspires its listeners.  

  • Brian Keane Fitness Podcast

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Where do I start with this one? I have been following and listening to Brian for over a year at this stage and his depth of knowledge on a broad range of topics is incredible. He prides himself on continually educating himself and reads a huge number of books to maintain this. The wisdom he shares is worth paying for so it’s amazing that it is shared with listeners for free. I particularly recommend this podcast to anyone who has adolescents in their life who may not be able to afford personal training as it provides the information that could enable someone to create their own diet and fitness plan. Brian interviews leaders in the word of fitness, health, mindset and natural wellness to share tips about all things that can support you on your journey to becoming the best version of yourself. The discussions on mindset hold the most value in my perspective as he really understands the everyday challenges we face and having been through a lot of the hurdles we each face Brian offers incredible life changing advice. Similar to Karl Henery’s podcast this advice is offered with a no-nonsense tone and is based on either his own personal experience or from significant research into the area. Brian recently completed Marathon Des Sables which is the toughest foot race on earth of 250km through the Sahara Dessert. When he puts his mind to something there are no limits and he shares his immense knowledge on how to achieve your goals. I have really benefitted from the copious amounts of advice he shares and you will too as there is something in it for everyone. 

  • The Food Medic Podcast by Dr Hazel Wallace

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This is the most recent brainchild of Dr Wallace and it has shot to the top of podcast charts in no time which is a credit to her and the quality of the information being provided. This podcast is hosted by Dr Hazel Wallace who is a Doctor, Personal Trainer, Blogger and Author. I have followed Hazel on Instagram for a few years and really admire her drive and determination to promote diet as a form of medicine and to increase the public awareness of the impact of diet on overall health. For her young age, she has achieved so much and also appears to be beautiful inside and out. In the podcast Hazel interviews guests who provide evidence based advice on how to live healthier lives. So far the topics have included; skin health, what to eat and when to eat, lifestyle, medicine, clean eating and orthorexia.

 Mindset Motivation Podcasts

  • Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations  

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My favourite of all podcasts. If you haven’t discovered this one yet you are in for a treat! It genuinely has a life changing impact. I find that I almost have to have a pencil in my hand to write down the pearls of wisdom offered from these. Oprah has again evidenced her absolute brilliance in her ability to spread positivity around the globe. The episodes will feed your soul and make you question your value systems. The deeper world around us all is illuminated through these conversations with like-minded soul searchers. Oprah interviews; thought leaders, bestselling authors, spiritual luminaries, as well as health and wellness experts all designed to help guide you through life’s big decisions, challenges and enable you to become the best version of yourself. The likes of Caroline Myss, Eckhart Tolle, Bene Brown, Dr Phil and my favourite of all Dr Maya Angelou share their depth of knowledge and ignite sparks of hope, resilience and coping to the listeners.  This podcast is a must.

  • Happy Place Fearne Cotton

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This is a podcast I have only recently come across however it is a treasure. Fearne’s bubbly engaging personality is inviting and welcoming. Fearne talks to an array of different people about life, loss, love and everything in between as they speak about what happiness means to them. It is a very thought-provoking podcast as you hear the personal struggles of some of the most well-known people in the world. It is a stark reminder that all is not as it appears to be on the outside. A lovely one to switch off and unwind to while cooking the dinner. It will definitely leave you with food for thought along with a more positive grateful attitude.

  • JT fitness Guide 

Jacqui Twohig doesn’t have a podcast but I couldn’t not include her here as her presence and message is so important. While she is a fitness instructor she is so much more and it is her in-depth knowledge on mindset that sets her apart from the thousands of other personal trainers. While Jacqui doesn’t have a podcast she speaks on Instagram stories in detail and provides a wealth of knowledge about so much more than just fitness. She motivates and inspires listeners to live a life full of appreciation for life’s small blessings, encourages a deeper understanding of your own goals and why they are important to you and also provides a wealth of knowledge in enabling change in our lives. Another really inspiring Irish woman whose motives are real and true.
I listen to podcasts in the morning time, usually during my walking commute to work or while engaging in exercise. I really think that they have a massive positive impact on my mindset for the day ahead. One of the lovely pleasures in life that I hope you also benefit from. Let me know if you yourself have any that you would add to the list.

Happy Weekend! Have a great one!

Lía xx

Book Recommendations for the Soul

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In my last post I referred to the importance of having tools to use to boost our spirits on difficult days. Books have always been a great source of comfort and motivation to me. I want to share some of my favourite ones which have had the most impact on my life in the hope that they can also inspire you. Is there anything nicer than ending the day snuggled up with a book? The mere act of taking a book out, the touch and smell of it immediately ignites a sense of calm. I am anti kindle and have not progressed from the Stone Age in this regard. I love the serenity of physically having a book to hold in my hand. Being able to make dog ears to mark where you put the book down is one of life’s simple pleasures. When we go on holidays; Ian always asks are you really going to read all of them. The answer is maybe, but I need them with me regardless. God forbid I might run out of reading material. As you can tell, I am an avid book lover and have been from a young age. We didn’t have a television in our house until I was sixteen which meant a lot of idle time which I filled with reading.  As a teenager, this was of course very unfair however looking back with adult hindsight, it is a decision my mother made that I am very grateful for as it ignited my passion for reading.

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I am inspired to write this because sometimes a book speaks to you in a way that is life changing. They can present themselves to you just at the right moment in your life. Comfort doesn’t always have to come from people and sometimes a book is the quickest way to unwind. I find it intriguing that books will speak to you in different ways at separate stages in your life. It is for this reason, that I re-read some of the most inspiring ones as I get different pearls of wisdom from them each time.

There are certain books I can pinpoint that have altered my life by enabling the achievement of a certain goal. Others have transformed my mindset on topics. Books can inspire you to believe in yourself in ways that you may never have thought possible. Obviously, we all have different topics which spark our interests. In the recommended books below, I have insured that they are applicable to all areas of life so hopefully they will spark some interest to the majority of people.

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First up is:

‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne.

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This book is one I return to in times of stress or when I feel I am lacking in motivation. You can pick it up and open it on any page and it will speak to you. This book is incredible but it needs a fourth step added to its core philosophy which is ‘Action’.  Ask, Believe, Receive’ on their own will not provide results or changes in your life. In my opinion it is a necessity to its functionality. I am a firm believer in the power of visualization and positive thinking in general. These combined with intentional action have the power to help you achieve your goals and also maintain a positive mindset. It is often in times when we are struggling that we forget the importance of positive thinking. The ‘Secret’ is a reminder that, what we think about most we bring about. I have seen the benefits of re-framing frustrating, difficult situations so that valuable lessons are learned. Having one positive thought in the morning can change how your day goes. By taking control of your thinking time it has the potential to positively change how you view situations in your life.

The law of attraction referred to in the book, simply purposes that ‘like attracts like’. The theory is referred to as being scientifically proven as it alludes to our thoughts being on a magnetic frequency highlighting that what we put out, comes back. In short, our thoughts become things. Being quite a literal person this really grounded my confidence in using this technique to attract desirables into my life. One of its most inspirational quotes which I often remind myself of is ‘he who thinks he can and the man that thinks he can’t is both usually right’. You really are the architect of your own happiness and success. It is a must read to discover yourself and fulfill your ambitions.

‘Life Lessons from the Monk who Sold his Ferrari ’Robin Sharma

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I only recently read this book despite it sitting on my bookshelf for years. It is such a little treasure. I was instantly hooked and looked forward to going to bed to read it’s snippets of optimism. If you are interested in incorporating routines and habits that can transform your life I would definitely give this a read. I just wish I had read it ten years ago. It is one of my all-time favourites.

It is a book about fulfilling your dreams, defeating your fears and discovering happiness that lasts. It encourages you to question your life goals and to consider how your daily habits are either enabling you to advance or regress. In the 101 life lessons shared, the reader is showered in profound wisdom to simplify their life, beat procrastination and to remain positive in difficult times. The snippets of advice are short and memorable which enables the reader to practically use the advice in the coming days.

One of the stand out lessons for me personally was on developing your talents. Sharma recounts what Norman Cousins wrote ‘The tragedy of life is not death but what we let die inside of us while we live’ and in the same vein Ashley Montagu wrote ‘the deepest personal defeat suffered by human beings is constituted by the difference between what one was capable of becoming and what one has in fact become’. There is a difference between simply surviving and really thriving. It is so easy to forget that there is an abundance of potential and ability waiting to be awakened within us all, if we only allowed ourselves to tap into it. By ignoring our unique talents we are not only doing a disservice to ourselves but also to the world that may benefit from them.

‘The Goddess Revolution’ Melissa Wells

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This is another of my favourite books and one which I re –read. It is a really easy read. The author speaks to the reader as if she is one of your closest acquaintances. At different times in our life most of us have battled with body image. This book normalises these feelings that boys, girls men and women experience worldwide. It really makes you realise that a lot of time is wasted worrying about food choices. My favourite quote from the book ‘Life is short. Don’t miss out on 95% of your life just to weigh 5% less’. It changed my thinking about food and the culture of dieting that so many of us are now exposed to, with the rise of social media and the unrealistic strive for perfection.  

The main intention of this book is to assist the reader to connect with their body. It brings awareness to the importance of giving our bodies what it requires through food but also through our individual emotional conversation with it day in day out. It reminds us that self-love is a journey with ebbs and flows. This book will teach you more about yourself than you might expect. It helps you feel happy from the inside out and once this occurs the benefits remain long after you finish the last page.

‘Tuesdays with Morrie‘ Mitch Albom

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This book is a major wake up call regarding our mortality. It reminds us above all else that we are ‘time poor’ not money deprived. It discusses topics such as humanity, self-pity, regrets, fear of aging, death and forgiveness. It provides us with an all-encompassing message that we need to develop our own set of values and reduce our exposure to popular cultural belief systems and pressures. It makes us reassess life and reconsider what we experience as fulfilling and why.

This story continues to resonate with so many people because of its universal truths about life and happiness. It is now part of the English curriculum in schools which even further substantiates the valuable lessons it embodies.

‘Get your Sh*t Together‘ Sarah Knight

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If you feel stuck or have a million and one aspirations and want to start doing rather than consistently dreaming, this is the book for you. It provides a clear system in the form of a useful allegory of phone, keys and wallet. Keys are your ability to strategize because they unlock the next step. Your phone is the ability to focus, to make important phone calls and mark off significant dates on the calendar. Your wallet represents commitment and your ability to put your money where your mouth is and follow through with your proposed plan. Knight explains that if you can manage to stay on top of these three life management tools you can use them to achieve your goals.

The writer’s ability to communicate with the audience as if you are in the room with her is immediately captivating. Sarah Knight teaches how to build solid foundations to begin to construct a brighter future for yourself. The big and the small life matters such as, managing your emails, creating to do lists and ‘grown up’ aspects of life are also discussed with great wit. She presents very practical, easily applicable strategies which stem from her own life experiences. The author takes difficult life situations and shows us how to use them to our advantage. It was this book that provided me with the tools and motivation to write about my experience of being a carer for someone going through cancer which I hope to share on here soon. As I was working full time while writing it, it provided me with a strategy to break what seemed like a huge task into manageable chunks, which resulted in the intended outcome within the specified time-frame. You won’t regret picking this book up.

‘What I Know for Sure‘ Oprah Winfrey

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Last but not least, I couldn’t write a post about inspiring books without mentioning this one. As an Oprah enthusiast, a book with her most cherished lessons was a real treat.  Again, it is similar to Robin Sharman’s book as it is a collection of easy to read, short snippets of potentially life changing lessons. This book is organised into themes; joy, resilience, connection, gratitude, possibility, awe, clarity and power. It is an amalgamation of the best parts of her monthly columns published in the Oprah magazine. Oprah’s consistent message shines through in this book ‘be your best self, live your best life’. Who doesn’t need encouragement to achieve this?  Oprah’s words of wisdom offer truth and motivation that readers will turn to again and again.

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I could add many more to the list. Perhaps, I will do another one on the same topic with some of your recommendations. Without a doubt, if you are looking for an inspiring read or need some guidance in life these books are your best friends. There are many lessons to be learned from each of these books which can be incorporated into your daily life. Spread the word! Share these with your family and friends. Everyone deserves to experience the joy they bring. If it is your first time reading any of the above, know that I am very jealous that you are experiencing these books for the first time.

Please also comment below with any of your own recommendations to spread the book love.

Happy Reading,

Lia xx

 

Anxiety: Friend or Foe?

 

This post is more personal than previous ones. The intention which created this forum is to help people and it is this which has motivated me to push through my apprehension and fear of judgement. If you feel drawn to reading this and are currently struggling, it will hopefully outline some techniques which you may benefit from. It might be an emotional read so grab yourself a cup of tea and do something nice for yourself afterwards.

Anxiety presents itself in many different forms which are individual to each of us. While I experience it a lot less frequently nowadays it still presents itself from time to time. With the tragic death of designer Kate Spade this week it is a stark reminder that our mental health is something we have to unfailingly give cognisance. When it comes to looking after mental health, complacency is not your friend. It is often when we feel great that we pay little heed to past negative experiences which may need attention so that they aren’t internalised negatively.

Firstly, it is important to have some understanding of what anxiety is and the impact it has on the body which is surprisingly very physical. The commonly spoken about ‘cortisol’ is a stress hormone which is often presented as having negative connotations. However, it is actually crucial for our survival. It is necessary for the function of our circadian rhythm which is how we know when to sleep, wake and run from dangers we encounter. Our bodies react to the cortisol levels present and respond appropriately. If there are high levels of cortisol present our bodies react in ‘fight or flight’ mode. This reaction in our body is meant as a short-term response to acquire safety. However, in the stressful era we live in full of rushing and running with little time for relaxation, the levels of cortisol in our bodies are increasing. This leads to negative outcomes such as decreased immune function and digestion. When this occurs cortisol prioritises the energy we have to ensure that we have enough to remove ourselves from the dangerous situation it perceives to be in. Overtime, this build up can have a very negative impact on our bodies. Opposite to cortisol, is serotonin more widely known as the happy hormone. Unfortunately cortisol is more powerful than serotonin and can deplete serotonin if levels of cortisol are high leading to increased feelings of low mood. Methods of increasing levels of serotonin in the body will be discussed below however are mainly through exercise and nutrition.

Like I highlighted, anxiety presents itself in many different ways in people namely, panic attacks, irrational fears, acrophobia, OCD tendencies, PTSD and depression. For me personally anxiety usually appears as an irrational fear that seems completely rational to me. For someone who hasn’t experienced this, it can sound ridiculous and something that can surely be fixed with a good dose of logic. This is unfortunately not the case and for someone going through this, the grasp it holds is immense. Active steps have to be taken to counterbalance its capacity to become all-encompassing.

 

 

These irrational fears have come in many forms; the most significant occurred when I was in the final year of my Masters in Social Work in my early twenties. I was convinced that I was having a heart attack however I later realised that I was however experiencing my first panic attack. What I found surprising is that at the said time, nothing specifically frightening or upsetting had happened. The cause, I later realised was as a result of disregarding a previous trauma and not giving it enough attention. In this instance, I went to leading Cardiac Consultants in the country because I didn’t believe the doctors that my heart was thankfully perfectly healthy. Despite their reassurance, I was convinced that they were missing something because the pain was so bad. In the end I was diagnosed with costochondritis (chest wall pain caused by the inflammation of the costal cartilage). I was in fact experiencing a physical pain but it was being caused by emotional stress as a reaction to mask a painful experience. Looking back, I have had many irrational fears throughout my life .I have only become aware of this as an adult because I researched and delved into the world of anxiety out of interest and now openly speak about these irrational anxieties. It is important to note that this was not always the case and the first few times I had this experience I was petrified to voice it, for fear of judgement. Over the years, I have learnt that talking about fears quickly removes their power. Many more irrational fears have loomed their heads but I have thankfully learnt coping mechanisms to prevent their negative impact. These tools are ones I wished I had known about earlier. So despite the difficulty in sharing this personal experience, I hope that it reaches someone who needs to read this today.

If anxiety presents itself in your life in whatever form, I hope that these tips might help:

  • Get to know the form in which anxiety appears for you:

As highlighted, for me anxiety presents as ‘irrational fears’ but for years I didn’t identify them as this. I didn’t know that there was a name for what I was experiencing nor was I aware that it is something that happens other people and most importantly that there is a solution. Once I was able to name my anxiety, I learnt more about it. This knowledge gave me power in the way that it often does. It can be upsetting and frightening to admit that you are potentially experiencing a form of anxiety but once you admit and name it, it is the first step in owning it and recognising the individual way it presents itself in your body and mind. It is important to note that it is very normal to experience anxiety at different times in our life however if symptoms persist consistently for the period of six months or are preventing you from going about your usual daily routine it is important to seek professional help.

  • Slow down:

I laugh when I write this one, as I recall a recent conversation with my mother when I was telling her she needs to slow down. She roared laughing at me saying if I slow down anymore I won’t get up at all. My mother no longer works full-time and loves her sleep. She is an artist and while she works very hard at this, I notice that she often finds it difficult to switch off and set boundaries around her working hours. The reason for sharing this story is that it is all relative to your own circumstances. Don’t compare your sense of progress to those around you. Your natural tempo is specific to what is usual for you and there is no judgment in that. The presentation of anxiety in whatever form is often a cry from the mind and/or body to slow down and give it attention. The presentation of anxiety in a physical form often occurs to grab your attention. Think about it, you won’t ignore a physical reaction like heart palpitations in the same way that you might brush off a negative thought. Your body and mind are sending a plea to sit down and give it some time to figure out what is really going on so that it can decipher how to manage these new experiences. So what does slowing down mean for you? Some methods I use to slow down are;

  • Skipping a gym session and instead doing something which consumes less energy like taking the dogs for a walk.
  • Dedicating some time to meditation or mindfulness.
  • Practicing yoga (I find it is the quickest way to connect my mind and body).
  • Cancel plans. This can often be the hardest to do but learning to put yourself first is an action which can really help create space for calmness. Sometimes we spread ourselves too thinly in an attempt to please everyone but it is ourselves that get neglected. If you work full-time and can’t take a break during the week, the weekend needs to be prioritised as being a time to relax, particularly if you are feeling overwhelmed
  • Writing out your thoughts and feelings can really help you make sense of what is happening and the simple act of writing is very therapeutic in itself. Give it a go.
  • Simply rest. Sit down and have a cup of tea. Slow down and take a few minutes for yourself. The housework can wait!

You know yourself what slowing down looks like to you. It is specific to everyone. The hardest part is to give yourself permission.

  • Routine:

If you are someone who thrives on routine and consistency instead of berating yourself, welcome this coping mechanism to enable you to manage fretful feelings. Maintain routine and consistency for the coming days and give yourself a chance to overcome the negative feelings before you feel robust enough to negate from your habitual tendencies.

  • Share your thoughts and feelings:

A problem shared is a problem halved’. This is really true. There are many ways to do this. You can share it with a physical person, a loved one, a professional, a pet or simply a piece of paper. The outcome is the same, negative thoughts are taken out of your mind and communicated decreasing their power over you. Never be afraid to ask for help. Everyone needs it from time to time.

  • Nutrition:

This may come as a surprise but you can feed your body with nutrients which help to regulate stress and anxiety in the physical body. Stimulant foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, alcohol and processed foods should be reduced when feeling anxious because they cause havoc with chemical reactions in your body. These reactions may already be struggling if you are feeling stressed. An increase in tryptophan snacks such as oats, bananas, eggs, turkey and almonds can have a positive impact as tryptophan is an amino acid which is a precursor to serotonin which makes it very helpful in counteracting feelings of anxiety.

  • Physical movement:

As highlighted in my previous blog post based on the benefits of exercise which I will leave the link for below; moving for twenty minutes a day can massively impact the production of serotonin. If vigorous exercise feels out of reach for you, with the way you are feeling right now engage in a downtime activity that might help you switch off like yoga, meditation, or a slow gentle walk by the sea. As above, cortisol is released so that we can run from danger fast therefore levels in our body deplete if we use the flight mechanism for the purpose the body intended by simply moving.

  • Read a positive book:

This can instantly change your mood and shift your mindset from positive to negative. I keep my most motivating reads beside my bed so they are easy to grab on a difficult day.  I am working on a blog post on my top ten recommendations for uplifting books which will be coming soon.

  • Treat yourself :

Lastly but most importantly, be kind to yourself. Do something nice that you enjoy. I love clothes and dressing up so on days where I feel low, I will make sure to wear something that I feel good in. The simple act of washing my hair, putting effort into my choice of outfit and applying make-up instantly gives me a boost. I know one particular very special lady (My boyfriend’s mother) who no matter what is happening will always make sure that she allows time to get her nails done. For you, treating yourself may mean something different. Maybe go to your favourite coffee shop and have your favourite desert (Banoffee pie every time for me) FYI ‘Fade Street Social’ on Fade Street has the most delicious one in Dublin.

This all comes with a disclaimer and it is important to note that I am not a therapist or medical professional. I have had personal experience and as a mental health Social Worker promoting positive mental health is something I feel very passionately about. I am simply sharing mechanisms that I have found to be effective in the hope that it may also help you. If any of the above is something you struggle with and feel that you need professional help. Please see the list of organisations at the bottom of this page which provide professional support. Don’t hesitate in asking for help, there is no shame in it. We are all in this together; no one escapes life without hurt. It is important to remember in these times though, in order to recognise the highs of love and happiness we have to have known the depths of despair. I hope you have found this helpful and thank you for taking the time to read this. Look after yourself and one and other.

https://www.samaritans.org/

http://www.pieta.ie/

http://www.rapecrisishelp.ie/

http://wellwomancentre.ie/crisis-pregnancy/

https://www.womensaid.ie/

https://www.aware.ie

https://www.ispcc.ie/childline

https://www.alustforlife.com/

 

The Mental Health Benefits of Physical Activity

 

Vegetarian Life

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Some may wonder how the lifestyle choice of becoming a vegetarian has anything to do with mental health wellbeing however for me they are intertwined. Knowing that I am not causing harm to other living creatures has massively increased my positivity and decreased my sense of guilt around food. I was reared to save insects from the bath, ponds and sinks. Anytime I saw an insect drowning I’d scoop it out, and monitor it to see if it survived. I have always had an appreciation for life no matter how small the size of the creature. However, as I grew up I became disconnected from the food that was on my plate. Simply viewing it as something to wolf down to provide energy, without a seconds thought that what I was eating was once a living creature. That was until I went to India and was surrounded by people who were living a vegan lifestyle. I am always intrigued by people who are passionate about a topic. As a result, I began enquiring about their vegan lifestyle. It opened my eyes to so much. 

For as long as I can remember my taste preferences have always been more herbivorous than carnivorous. One of my earliest memories is hiding hamburgers in my pocket at the dinner table and giving it to the dog later to cover up the evidence. Vegetarian options on menus have always appealed the most to me. Two years ago, I made the decision to stop eating red meat as it doesn’t suit my constitution. During my stay in India while training to be a yoga teacher the diet was vegetarian. I therefore didn’t consume meat for the duration of my stay and simply decided to continue this. A few things changed for me while in India which solidified this decision:

  • Meat is no longer appealing:

It is like anything, when you give something up, after a few weeks you no longer crave it. Since returning from India, while dining out I began to notice that instead of longing for meat around me which is what I suspected would happen, it instead made me feel queasy. The aroma, texture and carcasses on the plate continue to make me nauseous which is something I never experienced before.  I can’t help but think to whose body did that belong? How much did that animal suffer? I think of the fear that was in the animal’s eyes before being killed. When these thoughts occur it is obviously really easy for me to choose not to eat meat

  • I realise how tasty and fulfilling food can be without meat:

Indian food is really flavorsome with the wide array of spices available. I genuinely didn’t notice that the dishes were meat free. Prior to this experience, I always thought that I wouldn’t feel satisfied without meat as a component of my dinner however this misconception changed in India. Despite the fact that I was engaging in four to five hours of yoga a day and my energy expenditure was significantly high, I always felt full and nourished after every meal.

  • My energy levels rocketed:

While doing the YTT in India we were up at 6.00 Am every morning and engaged in really physical days. Not once did I feel sleepy or exhausted despite the intensity of the course. I notice now that I no longer have that lethargic feeling after meals as my body doesn’t have to overwork in its attempts to digest meat. People are often concerned about lack of meat having a negative impact on their energy levels and I was too.  However, when you think about it, many animals such as horses that eat plant based diets are able to compete in high energy sports such as horse racing. So if an animal of that size can survive without eating meat I figure we can too.

  • Ahimsa:

Ahimsa is one of the eight limbs of yoga’s social code of conduct. Ahimsa means ‘non violence’. It encourages non violence towards oneself but also to others and the environment. It made me very aware of my inner self talk and its impact on my overall well-being. On average, we speak up to 300 words a minute to ourselves. I realised that the way in which I speak to myself is not always very positive. This realisation ignited a spark for change and highlighted that one of my core values is to move away from ego related concerns of me and mine towards a lifestyle of service where motivations are less ego driven and more selfless. The attempt to approach things in a spirit of kindness, compassion and harmlessness to fellow beings is important to me which ties in with my decision to not eat meat. It comes down to individual choice. We as humans in this society have the choice to healthily live happily without needing to eat animals or cause harm to other living creatures.

  • Health:

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Vegetarian diets are lower in saturated fats and cholesterol. Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesitycoronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and some forms of cancer. (Safefood, EU2018)

Our bodily make up is not designed to eat meat. Human’s intestines are 20 feet long and carnivore’s Eg. tiger, lions are much shorter in comparison being only 4 feet in length. This is intentional so that carnivores’ consumption of meat can swiftly pass through their intestines. For us humans the meat sits in our intestines for significant periods of time given their length and essentially rots as we digest it. This process is similar to that of meat being left in a fridge that is switched off. Our bodies can endure a lot and obviously succeeds in digesting meat but the long term impact of this on our systems is worrying to me. Another aspect of our biological make up which is not conducive to eating meat is that we don’t have sharp canine teeth in the way that carnivores do. This again indicates that we are not naturally supposed to chew something as robust as flesh. Animals release toxins as a reaction to fear before they are slaughtered in the same way that we produce cortisol when stressed. We subsequently consume these toxins as a result of eating them. I also learnt that farmers began feeding cows meat for the purpose of bulking them up to increase their value. As a result, mad cow disease occurred. This makes me question the impact it is having on our individual organ systems and their susceptibility to diseases. It is these five reasons which impacted my decision to cease the consumption of meat and I continue to enjoy and benefit from this lifestyle choice.

If you are considering a vegetarian lifestyle there are a few things which are important to know. People choose to live a vegetarian lifestyle for many reasons, health, animal welfare, religious beliefs and concerns about the environment. As highlighted, for me it happened quite organically which made the transition very easy. I have received a lot of opinions on my lifestyle change some positive and some negative but the main appropriate comments and questions I get asked are:

Where do you get your protein?:

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There are many delicious plant based options which include; lentils tofu, hummus, beans almonds quineoa sunflower seeds, spinach, broccoli, chickpeas and avocado. We are also under an illusion that we need a massive amount of protein at the moment as it is a current fad. The world health organisation recommends that we actually only need two portions a day.

What do you eat?

In a nutshell I eat vegetarian versions of what non vegetarian people eat. The national healthy eating recommendations (The Food Pyramid (ROI)The Eat well Plate (NI)) still apply which includes:

  • Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Consuming starchy foods such as bread, cereals and potatoes.
  • Eating moderate amounts of alternatives to meat and fish (e.g. quorn, kidney beans).
  • The incorporation of some dairy foods or alternatives (e.g. fortified soya milk and yogurts).
  • The intake of sweets and fatty foods should be kept to a minimum. E.g. chocolate, biscuits, etc as these foods are low in nutrients and high in calories.

Are there specific nutrients that need to be considered?

Yes

Protein The recommended daily intake is two servings per day. Protein can be found in non meat sources such as eggs, dairy, lentils chickpeas tofu quorn, soya and nuts.

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Iron It is important to eat vitamin C rich foods at the same time for absorption. Non animal sources of Iron can be found in dried beans, peas, lentils and dark green leafy vegetables.

Vit B12 can be found in dairy products, soya milk, soya yogurts and yeast extract. I take a supplement for this to insure that I am getting adequate sources.

Calcium It is recommended that you consume three servings per day which can be found in milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium, enriched soya based dairy alternatives, dark green vegetables, nuts, beans, peas, lentils, tofu and dried fruit.

Omega Three Can be found in canola oil, walnuts, soya oil, ground flax seeds and soya beans.

Do I struggle to refrain from eating meat?

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Absolutely not and If I did I would reconsider this decision. As highlighted it happened organically for me and it was a slow transition over two years. I don’t miss it at all. The contrary actually because the thought of eating meat now makes me feel unwell. If I did struggle with it however, knowing the pain animals go through would enable me to overcome these cravings because any difficulty I might experience in not eating meat is nothing in comparison to the pain they endure in being slaughtered.

Last but not least, isn’t soya bad for you because it has estrogen in it?

There is widespread skepticism regarding this. As it is quite a new form of nutrition, like all foods time will tell. However what I do know is that it doesn’t have estrogen but phytoestrogen which is a plant version of estrogen. Phytoestrogen is on thousand times weaker than the human version and it also doesn’t have the same effect on the body. Research suggests that you are one hundred percent more likely to get affected by the sex hormones in dairy than that in soy and it is one of the contributing factors that girls are commencing puberty earlier. Soy has many benefits as it has 10 grams of protein per 100 grams. It is also the best plant source of leucine (essential amino acid) which is important for muscle repair and growth.

I strongly believe that our planet doesn’t need more successful people; it desperately needs more peacemakers, healers and lovers of all kinds. I am fully aware that there is a lot more that I can be doing. For me it’s not about perfectionism it is a way of living which reduces ahimsa. I am fully in support of reducetarians, flexitarians and adopters of meat free Mondays.  Intense extremists can do more to hinder the progression than improve it. However, if you struggle to understand why someone would prefer to not eat meat perhaps ask yourself why you do choose to eat it.  For me personally, aligning my choices with my values is the most effective way to move forward. I am reluctant to label myself because I am aware that the integration of these principles may not be lifelong. For now, they are right for me. I would encourage you to engage in discussions you don’t understand not just the ones you do and always be open to changing your mind. I’ll be arriving at my own conclusions with a wholehearted respect for yours.

I hope this was useful if anyone has any questions or comments feel free to add them below. Thanks for reading and Happy Sunday! I wish you all a wonderful week ahead.

If anyone wants more information the documentaries and websites listed below are really informative:

  1. ‘What the health’ is available on Netflix. It examines the link between diet and disease.
  2. Earthlings (Available on YouTube). Warning I cried watching it and almost got sick but it is life changing.
  3. https://issuu.com/vegsoc/docs/new_veggie_guide_v3_forweb
  4. https://thehappypear.ie/
  5. http://www.safefood.eu/Healthy-Eating/Food,-Diet-and-Health/Eating-      In/Vegetarian-diets.aspx

Burn Out: You can do Anything but not Everything!

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I can’t help but laugh to myself as I begin to write this because before my career even started I experienced burn out as a student studying Social Work. It affected me so badly that I ended up in hospital as I thought I was having a heart attack. I was however experiencing my first panic attack. The good news is that six years into my career as a social worker it has never gotten as bad since. It was a very hard lesson to learn and I had to retrain my brain to manage stress differently which has served me since which is why I want to share this with you. Another inspiration for writing this is because two of my favourite people are on the brink of burn out. It has reminded me that so many people mindlessly and endlessly accept this as a way of functioning for far too long, until unfortunately, something happens which insists that you simply stop and slow down, whether that be a physical illness or an emotional breakdown.

For many years the phrase burn out has been associated with professional caring careers.  More recently there has been warranted recognition that it can become an issue in all walks of life whether or not you are a stay at home parent, self-employed or experiencing any form of external overload.

First up, it is important to differentiate the difference between stress and burn out. Stress is something that we all experience most days in some form or another. Being stuck in traffic, rushing to a meeting, attempting to meet a deadline the list goes on. On the most part stress is beneficial because it provides us with that added oomph that we need to excel in a new situation. Burn out on the other hand, occurs when stress is chronic and extends over a long period of time. It happens when the demand being placed on you is in excess of the resources available to you at the time to deal with the external overload you are faced with. As highlighted before in previous posts stress is a healthy and normal occurrence which happens in the body however our bodies are not designed to be in a constant state of stress. If stress is prolonged, receptors in our brain translate this as being in danger and chemical reactions are initiated to attack this threat. If these reactions aren’t used for their intended purposes, we are left feeling overwhelmed, panicked and physically unwell.

The types of people burn out impacts most frequently are the perfectionists. The ones who decide to get into work early to get a head start with the day however still end up working late, all the while obsessively worrying about performance and their career’s future. The mother/ father who is excessively anxious about whether or not they are doing a good enough job. It doesn’t take long before this type of behaviour can quickly begin to impact your overall job performance but more importantly your relationships, health and happiness. The signs of burn out are very visible from the outside but often the person experiencing it are the last to notice the decline in their wellbeing.

How to tell if you have reached the point of burn out:

A preoccupation with work when not at work

workAre you at home longer than an hour and find your mind drifting back to the office or an event that occurred at work? Are you worrying about a work related activity that is happening the next day? Are you a parent at work who is feeling guilty about their baby being in crèche? Are you a stay at home parent judging yourself for not furthering yourself in your career? The list is endless but there is an issue if you can’t be present at work or at home as result of a preoccupation with competing demands.

 If this resonates with you it can be helpful to first identify that this is an experience you are having. I appreciate after a stressful day at work it can be hard to switch off. There are times when no matter what mechanisms you put in place it can be very difficult to leave work at work. However, again if this is occurring over a prolonged period of time it has the potential to be very damaging. If you are at home mulling over the working day then your work is interfering with your ability to recover from the stressors of the day because there is no let up.  A practice I have found to be very useful which I incorporate into my daily working life is; picking a place on the journey home where I leave work behind and enter into my home life. I walk through a tunnel on the way home and use this as my metaphor to travel into the other part of my life. I make a conscious decision to leave any worries or thoughts about work at the end of the tunnel and assure myself that as I walk through it the following day I will pick these thoughts back up and deal with them at work. This takes practice but it really works if you are persistent.

 A reduction in self-care. Consuming unhealthy food, drinking excess alcohol and letting physical activity fall to the waste side

A change in what your usual habits consist of are major warning signs of the commencement of burn out. Are you using the excuse of being too tired to cancel plans with friends, to engage in cooking, exercise? The simple reality is that you haven’t prioritised self-care in your life and instead continue to give precedence to the hamster wheel of working yourself into the ground. Do you find that you are craving alcohol more as a mechanism of escapism? It doesn’t have to be as extreme as excessive alcohol use, be mindful that even healthy self care practices which become excessive as a way of coping have the potential to be damaging. These shifts can appear slowly initially but can quickly escalate into long term coping mechanisms.

 Digestive issues

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In recent months I have become increasingly interested in the connection between the gut and the brain. A significant amount of research has been carried out which illuminates the close connection. I am currently researching this for another blog post coming shortly. If you begin to notice a change in your digestion in the form of unexplained constipation, diarrhoea, reduced or increased appetite be cognisant that these symptoms can also be your body’s way of alerting you to the excess pressure it is under. 

 Deterioration in your mental health and an increase in irritability

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If left untreated burn out can lead to depression and or anxiety. If feelings of satisfaction in things which used to excite you diminish it can be a precursor to a more long term mental health issue. Any semblance of a balanced life can easily go out the window if you let it. Social activities are often the first to be neglected. Cancelling plans with friends and loved ones because you are simply exhausted should make you question where your priorities are.  As you bury yourself in work and deadlines your social circle of support can be neglected and the support system you once relied on may not be as available to you which can further increase you sense of isolation and enable you to continue distracting yourself instead of addressing the problem.

If you notice that the above warning signs speak to you it is time to do something about it before it worsens.

  • First up, know when it is you and when it is them. Burnout can be motivated by internal factors and can also simply be as a result of external ones. Learn to know the difference, is it the job or is it you? A quick way to answer this is to look back over your career history. Do you frequently experience the above symptoms despite a variance in your place of work? If so, then burn out may be as a result of a habit you have formed to shy away from the real issue. Excess demands and fewer resources are most likely going to be issues wherever you work. On the other hand, sometimes it genuinely is the working environment and if so discuss this with your line manager or HR and if it isn’t resolved leave. Life is too short to maintain a life of constant stress at the expensive of your own mental health and relationships with your family.
  • Take Relaxation Seriously. Plan relaxation it into your day. Everyday make sure that you are blocking off a period of time that is for self-care. Do something you enjoy during this time. I literally block off days in my diary every month where I am not allowed make any plans. These are days were I prioritise just living and spending time with Ian and the doggies. It has been the most beneficial tool I have used to sustain a busy lifestyle.
  • Find something outside of work that you are passionate about which engrosses you so that you aren’t consumed by your thoughts. Learn a new instrument, start a new hobby, engage in a new sport.
  • Prioritise Sleep! As I always say ‘sleep is the mother of all medicine’. Lack of sleep is a major risk factor for burnout as it decreases your motivation, makes you more sensitive to stressful events and over all makes it more difficult to juggle competing demands. Make sure that you are getting eight hours a night. It is amazing the difference an extra hour of sleep a night makes to your energy levels. If this seems unattainable for you currently, start by turning off the lights fifteen minutes early and gradually increase it. Do not live a life of banking on the weekend to catch up on your sleep as your rhythmic cycle does not work in this way. Have a read of my other blog post on the ‘importance of sleep’which has much more in depth information about its importance.
  • Ask yourself, is the way you are feeling emotional or rational? Separating these two can be useful in assisting yourself to see the wood from the trees. If it is emotional burnout it is usually related to internal factors such as an underlying sense of low self-esteem. If it is rational it can usually be solved by a conversation with your manager or someone in your social network of support.
  • Question what it is that you need to do to deserve the life you want? Are your actions every day matching your ambitions? If they aren’t then don’t complain about it. It is up to you to change things. You need to lean into discomfort to change and to accept the real reasoning why you are in this situation. No more sugar coating! Be real with yourself!
  • Get in touch with what actually makes you happy. We so often make things far more complicated than they really are. Identify what makes you happy in this life and do more of it. 
  • Make sure that the coping mechanisms you are using are not just simply enabling you to escape. Coping mechanisms should assist in disconnecting so that you can relax and switch off but they shouldn’t provide a form of escapism because a life that you need to escape is not the one you want to be living.

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Bottom Line always always give yourself the option of leaving the; job, the relationship, the country whatever it is that is making you unhappy. This is something my mother taught me from a young age and it really is a valuable piece of advice. It’s okay to quit. Having always allowed myself this option, I have never yet had to use it but I think that has a lot to do with knowing there is always a way out.  Don’t forget that nothing in this life is worth your happiness and well being and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. You have to look after you, because no one else will. Know your limitations and adhere to them. Push yourself yes, but never to the point of exhaustion. Achieve your goals and ambitions but always make sure whatever you are working towards is worth it. Be real with yourself and if it is too much, begin to build a way out today.

Happy Sunday !

Lia xx

 

Gut Health:Happy Gut, Happy Mind

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Gut health has become a very popular topic over the last year. The body of research that surrounds it is really very interesting. Given the close association between gut health and mental health, I thought it would be valuable to explore it on this forum.

I was surprised to learn that 70% of our immune cells reside in our gut. This therefore proves the importance of giving gut health a second thought. I know, I for one paid little attention to my gut and just simply expected it to continue to do what it already does. However, the more I learn about it, I realise that there is a lot that can be done through diet and lifestyle to enhance its effectiveness and strengthen its well-being.

The Gut has begun to be seen as the powerhouse of our body systems and as being of second importance to that of our brain. This is because the gut can communicate to all of our other organs. Unlike any other organ in the body our gut has its own control center. It doesn’t need the brain to tell it what to do. It is often referred to as being the second brain. This is because every couple of seconds the gut and brain are conversing with each other attempting to determine whether we are hungry, how stressed we are and if we are safe.

So why is gut health important?

  • Digestion

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Digestion influences everything about how our bodies work. A strong digestive tract, extracts nutrients from food, fuels activities, builds and repairs your body, removes toxins from the body and energizes your brain. Ten trillion bacteria and fungi live in our digestive tract and are called our microbiota. Most of the microbiota in our guts are beneficial to our bodies and aid digestion. They have the ability to increase energy, increase nutrient harvest and alter appetite signaling. Microbiotas also combat bad bacteria that enter our guts. Weak digestion results in an accumulation of toxins, tissue inflammation and is the precursor to every chronic disease (5). As a result of our stressful lifestyles, westernised diets and medication such as antibiotics our gut bacteria sometimes get thrown off balance.There is increasing evidence to suggest that the prolonged impact of this is associated with Parkinson’s disease, arthritis and allergies (1) & (2).

  • The connection between gut health and mental health

Secondly and most interestingly to me is the connection between gut health and mental health. Dysfunction in the gut influences dysfunction in the brain and vice versa. The gut has a mind of its own which is called the enteric nervous system. The ENS is a network of neuro transmitters, proteins and support cells called ganglia like those found in the brain. It is well-known that stress has a huge impact on intestinal issues and is often a trigger for the worsening of Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms. When we look at this more closely, the worsening of symptoms occurs for a very logical reason. When in fight or flight mode our central nervous systems instruct blood to move away from the gut (where it perceives that it is not needed) and encourages it to move towards our heart to promote adrenaline pumping. When our systems perceive that we are under attack our digestive systems do not take priority in keeping us alive. The effect of this over a long period of time increases our chance of developing digestive issues and negatively impacts our gut. Therefore stress has a negative impact on gut health but poor gut health also negatively impacts stress as people with IBS tend to experience anxiety and depression at a higher rate than others.

If stress impacts our gut health negatively a diet that makes you unhappy has the potential to be damaging to gut health. While we might think we are promoting a healthy body by sticking to a rigid food plan the positive benefits from the diet may be outweighed by the stress we are incurring on our gut. This highlights the importance of balance in our life. For optimal gut health, it is so important to focus on other aspects not just diet related ones such as yoga and mindfulness or any other stress reducing techniques. A study was carried out which evidences the impact of non-diet related methods of enhancing gut health. This study focused on the power of Yoga on the gut (I know I am obsessed, I bring yoga into everything). A randomised group of people with IBS were provided with a gold standard diet suitable for their diagnosis and another group were prescribed yoga therapy. The Yoga group didn’t change their diet. Both interventions lasted 12 weeks and found that both of the group’s interventions had equal effectiveness on their symptoms. 80% had their gut symptoms under control. This highlights that Yoga is yet again another powerful mechanism in increasing our general health. It is thought that the improvement was mainly associated with the breathing aspects of yoga as it stimulates the nervous system’s rest and digest mechanism which encourages the body to calm and digest more successfully. Along with this, the gentle stretching on intestines in poses such as warrior 3 and simple seated twists also help to relax the digestive organs (6). This shows that diet is not always the answer to managing gut symptoms and again evidences that gut issues are massively impacted by stress in the body which yoga also combats.

Along with the outlined connection between the brain and gut I was surprised to read that gut bacteria produces 95 % of the serotonin in our bodies and just as much dopamine as our brain produces. These chemicals have a profound impact on our moods and even our personalities (5). A higher amount of inflammation in the gut is linked to increased anxiety and depressive behaviors in people. A clinical trial was published in Australia called ‘Smiles’ which randomised 67 people with moderate to severe depression to receive 7 dietary consultations with a dietitian versus 7 social support sessions over 12 weeks. The diet group received dietary advice in line with the Mediterranean style eating (high in gut loving fiber, antioxidants and olive oil). Those randomised to the gut diet group had significantly greater improvement in depression scores compared to the social support group. It is important to highlight however that these people had moderate to severe depression and remained on medications throughout the study. While diet has a very real role in mental health well-being, medical management is still also important. Both of these studies outline the positive effect of both diet related intervention and stress reducing intervention such as yoga on the health and well-being of our guts.

Top tips for increasing gut health.

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In order to reset our brains from an addiction to overly processed foods and sugar we need to start with enhancing our gut health. To your brain a chocolate or chip binge doesn’t feel all that different to a cocaine binge. As we know, Junk food takes sugar, salt and fat way too far. It is like sugar on steroids, fat to the max and the saltiest salt. It is food transformed into an addictive drug. Worse still is that it is, always available and cheap in any season. If you are experiencing regular tummy pain, bloating, or irregular bowel movements (normal stool frequency is anything from 4 -21 per week (3) than you should seek the advice of your GP to rule out conditions such as coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Symptoms of IBS are often mistaken for gluten or wheat intolerances. When making healthier choices, it can be helpful to think about our microbes as like our inner pet. At every meal we could ask is there something here that is going to feed my gut.

  • Increase Prebiotics and Probiotics in your diet

Prebiotics are foods that promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. They are in foods which are high in a specific type of fiber, such as bananas, leeks, artichokes, onions, garlic and wheat bran. Adding in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables into your diet will help promote gut health, and also give you a healthy dose of fiber, vitamins and minerals whilst keeping you fuller for longer.

Probiotic foods are certain types of fermented food which contain a wide variety of bacteria.Examples of foods that typically contain these beneficial bacteria include; live yogurt, kefir,kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, tempeh, miso and some types of cheese made from unpasteurised milk. Fermented foods have been proven to lower blood pressure and create healthy live microbes in our gut. They are really flavorsome but the tangy taste can take a bit of adjustment. They only need two ingredients to make, however take more than 24 hours to ferment. If you are already basing most of your diet on a plant-based one, it is likely that you are getting enough prebiotics and probiotics every day.

  • Eat the rainbow (vary the vegetables you consume )

This insures that you are getting all of the required nutrients instead of the same ones over and over again. In our house we have a vegetable of the week and it encourages us to eat and try a new vegetable. Sometimes, even including other colours of vegetables that you like for instance get red, green and yellow peppers instead of just red ones all the time. We should be aiming for 30 different types of plant-based food a week. These include whole grain pulses, rice, quinoa, beans, lentils chickpeas, humus, and different types of mushrooms, nuts and seeds.

  • Increase the amount of whole grains in your diet

Including whole grains in your diet is an important way of helping you meet your recommended fiber intake for health. UK dietary guidelines recommend that adults aim to eat at least 30g fiber per day, but according to national dietary survey data, we only manage to get about 18g. Recently the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) specifically recommended that including fiber-rich foods is essential for gut health as it reduces the risk of; Colorectal (bowel) cancer as it binds carcinogens and regulates glycemic responses (4).

  • Instead of sugar laden snacks during the day, try and snack on plain popcorn,  oatcake and peanut butter or rye crackers and humus
  • Have oats for breakfast as porridge, muesli, or homemade granola
  • Increase stress reducing activities in your life such as yoga, meditation and gentle exercise.
  • Swap white flour in some of your recipes when baking for whole wheat or spelt flour, or do half and half. It really doesn’t change the taste as much as you might think it will.

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If you have relied on processed food for a considerable amount of time it can take a while for your body to adjust to the change. Changing the composition of your gut bacteria will not only directly affect how well the gut works but will also make cravings easier to manage.  If you are committed to making some of these changes, it is important to remember that any change we make to our systems should be slow and gradual as this gives our gut time to adapt and also makes these changes more long-term and sustainable.  I hope you found this helpful and if you have any of your own tips please feel free to share them also.

Happy Sunday

Lía xx

(1) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.parkreldis.2016.03.012

(2) https://doi.org/10.1186/gm469

(3) https://thefoodmedic.co.uk/2017/02/gut-health/

(4) https://thefoodmedic.co.uk/2018/02/why-choose-whole-grain/

(5) Chaudhary, K (2016) The Prime, Harmony Books, New York.

(6) https://www.drmeganrossi.com/portfolio/

World Mental Health Week: Yoga for Anxiety .

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As you may be aware it is World Mental Health Week starting on Monday the 8th to the 14th of October. I think it is a great initiative to encourage us all to not only mind our own mental health but to also take a moment to consider the needs of those around us who may benefit from a listening ear or an offer of support. Globally more than three million people experience depression and two hundred and sixty million people live with anxiety disorders which is just the tip of the iceberg along with those diagnosed with schizophrenia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bio Polar Disorder and Personality Disorder.

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Recently, at the end of a yoga class I taught one of the lovely participants spoke to me afterwards to confide that she is experiencing anxiety. This lady specifically asked if there are certain yoga poses which are beneficial for anxiety. Having a keen interest in this area myself I agreed to design the next class specifically around anxiety. My research into the benefits of yoga for anxiety while preparing for the class uncovered valuable information which is worth sharing. Before I go any further, by no means am I trying to belittle the extent of pain caused by mental health issues and I am fully aware that a few yoga poses aren’t going to solve the depths of hurt you may nor may not be feeling. However, my hope is to offer something that might help even for just a few moments.

Yoga practice has many benefits in helping to calm an overactive brain. As we know anxiety is worrying about a future event that hasn’t happened yet. On the other hand, depression is often caused by focusing on past events which are upsetting. However, if we can attempt to remain in the present through grounding exercises such as the ones below and learn how to become one with our breath we can insure that we are present in a place of stillness. When this happens we are reminded that the ‘here and now’ is all that any of us have.  Being more present in our daily life takes practice before it starts to feel more natural, give it the time it deserves to reap the benefits.

The practice of yoga reduces anxiety in six very clear ways:

  • It lowers tension and promotes relaxation.
  • It regulates the breath and calms the nervous system.
  • The practice of yoga increases body awareness and enables a sense of grounding.
  • Yoga Interrupts the worry cycle.
  • It teaches the skills of demonstrating self-compassion and acceptance.
  • Yoga also eases discomfort in the body.

To complement the six ways in which yoga reduces anxiety, I have compiled a list of six yoga asanas which are known to reduce anxiety in the body and dispel tension which I would like to share with you. If you find that you are experiencing anxiety or increased feelings of stress lately simply practicing these six poses for ten to fifteen minutes a day will really help.

Cat cow – Marjaiasana Bitilasana

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The relaxing and releasing nature of this pose relieves tension that accompanies anxiety. As anxiety creates rigidity in the body people find the fluid flow of this motion to be liberating. Sequencing your breath with the movement adds the added benefit of calming the nervous system. Do ten to fifteen rounds of this to really feel its calming abilities.

Tree pose – Vrksasana

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This standing balance pose promotes concentration, focus and awareness. It brings you out of your head and into your physical body. I find this to be a lovely pose to do as I go through my day while standing doing the dishes or waiting in a queue. The anchoring impact of this pose is immediately very beneficial in calming an overactive mind.

Plank Pose – Phalakasana

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Not only are planks excellent for your core and full body strengthening, they also teach us how to respond to a mildly challenging situation in a calm way through the use of our breath. It teaches us to keep our breath calm even when things are difficult. If we can learn to carry this practice into our daily life it is a tool which is attainable to neutralize symptoms of anxiety in the body and can also prevent the onset of a panic attack. Unfortunately, it is one of the exercises that is most commonly done wrong which can have a negative impact on your lower back health. To fully benefit from the effects of this pose it is important to set up right. To do this, draw your shoulder blades down, slightly tuck the pelvis and brace the core throughout specifically the tummy, bum and upper thigh area. A plank is straight so too should your body be. Be careful not to hang the head down as it is very heavy and can easily take you out of alignment.

Bridge Pose – Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

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This pose creates space in the heart area and takes energy away from an active mind. The gentle back bend incorporated into this pose brings a sense of calm to the body. It can also be really nice to place a block under your sacrum to deepen into the relaxation of this pose.

Child’s Pose – Balasana

yoga3-1This is one of my all time favourite poses. I come back to this pose so regularly throughout my day and genuinely use it as a reward if I have completed an intense workout or have had a tiring day. It is commonly known as resting pose and once you are in it you will know why. It creates such a lovely calming experience to the whole of your body and you can almost feel your mind expressing gratitude for allowing it to unwind. The pose in itself releases tension in the back, neck and shoulders. It also encourages steady conscious breathing which positively impacts the central nervous system.

Savasana with feet up against the wall – Viparita Karani

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This is probably the most beneficial pose for anxiety. Viparita Karani means ‘inverted inaction’ which we can interrupt to mean that the pose inverts the typical actions that naturally occur in our body when we sit and stand. It can be really nice to elevate your pelvis with a blanket also to make this pose more comfortable. When you do this pose, you encourage lymph and other fluids which cause swollen ankles, tired knees and congested reproductive organs flow into the lower belly. This refreshes the legs and the reproductive areas. It also gives blood circulation a gentle boost towards the upper body which helps re-balance after you have been sitting or standing for long periods of time. Along with the above this pose has many more positive impacts as it also:

  • Eases anxiety by calming the central nervous system.
  • Reduces insomnia.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Helps arthritis.
  • Helps menstrual cycle pain.

As I always say to those who attend my yoga class it is your practice and while I might guide you into poses, I encourage you to get to know what feels good in your physical body and mind. If there are poses that you know have a positive impact on your mental health please share them below to spread the healing.

For the week ahead please pay a little more attention than usual to your mental health and those of you around you. Have a lovely Sunday everyone!

Lía xx

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: An Extract from the ‘Book of Courage’:

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As it is October, Breast Cancer Awareness month I thought it would be good timing to share the below extract which was published recently. This is an abstract of a much longer piece I wrote with the intention of helping those caring for someone experiencing cancer. I don’t feel quite ready to share the full version yet as it is quite personal however for now I hope this suffices and gets the important message out there! One in eight women develop Breast Cancer in their lifetime and four hundred men are diagnosed each year. Look after yourself and do monthly breast examinations you are far more likely to notice a change in your breasts than a doctor. Checking your breasts and knowing the signs and symptoms of Breast Cancer is the best way of detecting Breast Cancer early and getting treatment. For a detailed guide on how to do this please follow the link at the bottom of the page provided by the Irish Cancer Society.  Also please take care of those in your circle if they themselves or their family members are impacted by cancer.

Unfortunately, too many people have become familiar with cancer whether it is, as a result of being directly affected themselves or watching someone they love go through the roller-coaster of a journey that it brings. My mother Deirdre was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2015. Given our great bond, I automatically took on the role of being her supporter. My intention in writing this is to help other supporters in similar circumstances. The effect of cancer’s influx is monumental. The loss of control that comes with it is scary and it is these emotions that require the support of an army.

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I am an only child and my family has always encompassed Deirdre and me; mother and daughter. Deirdre is the type of woman who walks into a room and holds it in the palm of her hand. In terms of being a mother she out did herself in her abilities to provide me with all the love, care and encouragement I ever needed. Deirdre generates love at a spectacular level and I am lucky enough to have been the biggest recipient of this love. Her love has always been a substitute and therefore any gaps in my family were never obvious.

It was a normal Thursday, I had come home from work and was busy getting the dinner ready. Ian turned to me and said ‘I need to talk to you about something’. Immediately my mind jumped to ‘what did he do? I bet he forgot to put the clothes out like I asked’ however when I looked into his big brown eyes I knew it was something more serious. Ian told me that the doctors were concerned about a recent mammogram that Deirdre had. It was this pivotal moment that I recall nothing as ever being the same again.

Fast forward two weeks and we were sitting in the consultant’s room with the results of Deirdre’s biopsy. The tone in the room was bleak. My mother was informed that she had stage 2 breast cancer. The fear that those words evoked literally felt like someone had physically punched me. My mother being the strong woman she is simply asked ‘Am I going to die?’ and she was thankfully answered with a big joyous solid ‘no’.

At this point I can only describe that it all became very medicalised. By the time we left the hospital that day we had been given every type of scenario imaginable. I understand that ultimately it is a medical emergency and the saving of ones’ life is what takes priority over the emotional trauma that is experienced. However, as a social worker by profession this gap in service provision is too great. I think it is something that hospitals can and should improve. Getting out of the hospital and walking to the car, I could not fathom how everyone was just getting on with their day. All I wanted was for everyone to just stop, for everything to remain still while we digested this information.

Deirdre’s treatment plan was 6 rounds of chemotherapy followed by 33 sessions of radiation. Throughout her journey, I noticed it was when her body was weak that she struggled most with her mind. My mother’s emotional strength has always been rock solid however after her operation her body was trying to heal and this vulnerability along with the mental challenge of having to prepare for chemotherapy was very overwhelming. Throughout the treatment my mother was still the positive beautiful woman she always was however went through her days at a slower pace, still continuing to work as an artist, walking, tutoring a little girl and most importantly and admiringly continuing to enjoy life. As the treatment progressed Deirdre’s patience and tolerance for feeling so weak and unwell began to understandably dwindle. The simple act of rationalising how someone is feeling without offering advice is often much more beneficial. Often advice sends the message that there is a better way of dealing with a situation and when one is feeling low and vulnerable this is unhelpful.

On other occasions, it was advice and support that my mother was seeking which often took the form of breaking things down for her. ‘Bit by bit, step by step’ was our mantra it was the only way to cope with the enormity of the road ahead. We also celebrated each stage and found this to be very effective in dealing with the challenging times. We planned little days out in which we would enjoy a lovely walk together or simply reading a book or doing some meditation. When Deirdre was in pain I encouraged her to express it, to describe it to me and herself; not only the physicality of the pain but what it brought up for her emotionally and mentally.

Throughout the journey, a quote my mother used to tell me really resonated. As she would say, ‘this time shall too pass’ and pass it did.  Thankfully, as planned my mother finished her treatment ten months later and was told that it was successful. The women returning home to Ireland was very different to the one that left a few months previous. She now has a profound understanding of the true meaning of life, is driven and focused, more emotional than ever but in a human way. My mother no longer sweats the small things in life and dedicates her attention only to positive aspects of the day.

While her sense of self was definitely illuminated the transition back into normal life came with its difficulties. Everything has changed, the patient’s body has been altered physically and emotionally the mind has been put through a roller-coaster of emotion. Having felt the depth of sadness this experience in sued I now know the importance of feeling and appreciating the happy times. I feel them with every emotion in my body. I don’t just let them pass by I get involved with them. I insure that I am present in them, I smile at them, reminisce on them. Also, in the hard times, I feel the sadness. I don’t run from it in the way I used to. I have the strength to do this now because I have a newly found confidence in my resilience. As cliché as it is, life is short but it is also the longest thing we will ever experience so don’t remain in situations which do not serve you.

The care of an unwell person should have two strands; the physical side and the emotional.  It may require different professionals to carry out the tasks involved but the overall physical and mental health of all of us are connected and intertwined. To fix one or the other they both require interventions and go hand in hand. Care pathways which respond to both necessities need to be implemented and developed so that a patient is supported, protected and cared for throughout their treatment and the aftermath. That is my hope for the future of cancer care that it is developed to teach patients the unity of their physical body and intellectual mind. That the care is implemented in a way that offers healing for both unanimously. Cancer is just as much an emotional disease as it is physical and both need care, treatment and intervention of the utmost empathetic and compassionate nature.

We were very lucky to have received a huge amount of support from our amazing family and friends.  We are forever grateful to each of them.

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Deirdre Carr has created a project documenting her experience called ‘Momoiro’ which will be exhibited around Ireland in 2018 & 2019. It is currently in Culturlann Sweeny Kilkee until the 26th of October and Clare Museum, Ennis until the 26th of October 2018. It will then travel to Galway City Library from July 1st to 31st 2019 during the Galway Arts Festival and onto Ballinasloe Library from the 12th of August to the 28th of August 2019. Pop in and have a look if you are in the area. 

Here is an image of one of her pieces  : I know I am biased but how beautiful is it. I am so proud of her in so many ways.

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Thanks for reading and feel free to reach out to me if you think there is anything I can help you with.

Lia xx

https://www.cancer.ie/reduce-your-risk/health-education/cancer-awareness-campaigns/breast-cancer-awareness/breast-aware#sthash.nnnuXeqy.xRn1cKVc.dpbs

 

 

Body Image and Self Love

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Following a four month break from the gym in eight years, I went back this week because my pause on membership was up. I took the above picture because I had a feeling my regular gym sessions were nearing an end. This place used to be what I considered as being my safe place. More recently, the four corners of my yoga mat are now what I consider a more wholesome, safe place. Since coming home from India, I have been practicing yoga most days along with running every other day. There was no room for the gym nor did it appeal to me. After a week of going to the gym instead of running and yoga, I realise that it’s no longer a place of contentment. I don’t enjoy how stuffy it is in there, how gloomy it is and how sad and tired everyone looks. Surprisingly, I don’t enjoy how sore I am either after a week of intense training. I used to love the feeling of fatigued muscles and saw it as a sign of progression but for the first time I questioned this. Why do I enjoy my body being in pain from something I caused? As if it isn’t doing a wonderful enough job at simply keeping me alive through my breathing and heart beating. With this new respect for my body, I no longer feel that I can wear DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) as a badge of honour.

My friends often question how I maintain consistent dedication to gym attendance. I considered this to be a ridiculous enquiry because I thought I loved it so much and at the time maybe I did. Don’t get me wrong, I love the release from a hard gym session but this isn’t necessary all the time or as my main form of exercise. When I compare it to the joy that running out in the open air brings, its benefit is minimal. What I really notice is that there is little or no social connection in the gym. As an only child, I have always prioritised time alone and found the gym provided this. However I now realise that it’s the connection with my students when teaching yoga or the smile that runners share as we pass one and other that evokes joy and enhances the benefits from exercise. Nothing makes my heart smile more than when Bruno and Hugo join in on a yoga pose with me. My interest in exercise sparked from an organic desire to be out in fresh air and to enjoy the mental benefits it provides. Somewhere along the way this positive experience malformed into a preoccupation of how many times a week I worked out, how many calories I burned, if I pushed myself hard enough, was I progressing. The answer was always no, I was never advancing enough because I didn’t even had a goal to begin with. Without even noticing it happen, I got wrapped up in the world of comparison so many are subjected to. As our fingers scroll through Instagram we constantly see pictures of people who have deceptive bodies which are for the most part unattainable because they are photo shopped. I am shocked that this happened to me because I consider myself to be very self-aware and it therefore scares me that this is what the little people of our society are being moulded by. Whether we mean it or not these images have a way of worming themselves into our unconscious minds, affecting our self-perception and self-worth. For me, Osmosis effect happened and my brain was wired to believe that this is what I should look like or aspire to look like. Similarly we have been programmed to believe that foods are good or bad. The descriptive words used to describe food: clean eating, gluten free, good, real, serve none other than applying a moral compass to the food we consume. They all carry an inherent judgment, pretentiousness and elitism. While all the while it is important to simply remember balance. One salad won’t compensate for a lifetime of unhealthy eating in the same way that one bar of chocolate won’t negate a lifetime of healthy eating. By beginning to look at the bigger picture of life as a whole, I am very quick to realise that I am not willing to live a life restricted by the, calories in calories out mentality or continue to live a life of measurement of whatever form. Life is for living and enjoying whether you engage in exercise, eat healthy or unhealthy. No one way of eating or exercising makes a person superior to any other. Whatever makes you content with the choices you make is what is important.

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Disconnection can occur so easily, especially when a specific action is repeated regularly. Going to the gym became an aspect of my day that was repeated on auto pilot almost without a second thought as to how it was impacting my body or my mind. The initial benefits experienced in the early days of gym attendance soon became so familiar that they were barely noticeable. Sometimes it felt like I was living in a day dream never really enjoying the ‘here and now’, but instead always looking to the future with ambition and plans. I think a lot of people walk around in this mental state of continual planning. Overtime, this on-going detachment from yourself, even in a positive light, can only lead to feelings of engulfing anxiety.  It has made me realise the importance of being aware of destination addiction – a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job, the next weight, partner the list goes on. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else it will never be where you are. I no longer value the constant measuring of how heavy a weight I can lift or what number I am on the scales. I can’t continue to equate my happiness to something as frugal and inconsistent as a number staring back at me. I now choose to focus on how my body feels, how my energy levels are and how easily I can touch my toes when I wake up. My measurement of happiness is now based on the encounters I have throughout the week with people I love and the moments I spend with myself in harmony attempting to live a life in uninterrupted joy. Yoga has taught me all of this and I am forever grateful for it.

For me on this journey, the walls of my comfort zone are always lovingly decorated with a lifelong collection of my favourite excuses. It has taken me this long to change this mind-set because it had become familiar and safe. I knew it would take a lot of work and unravelling to amend it. However, ‘nothing changes if nothing changes’ so on that note; I have binned my Fitbit. To many this may not seem like anything significant but for me it signifies the letting go of control I so often cling onto. No more measuring, no more counting just simply more living outside of the walls of restriction. Thankfully I have caught this mind-set before it progressed into something more sinister and I am actively working on it to change my outlook and reignite self-love and acceptance. Nonetheless, years of certain thinking patterns do not disappear overnight. It takes time to unlearn things you thought were supposed to be, to throw out the rule book you believed you needed to live by however I am adamant to break the cycle of self-criticism for myself first and foremost, but also for the little people in my life that I am already an influence to, and hopefully the ones I am yet to become one to. There is no fast lane to a finish line here; every experience, every thought and every learnt behaviour is forever teaching us new things and leading us in new directions.

My point in sharing all of this is because I think it is something a lot of us struggle with but rarely share. I encourage you to not settle for anything less than an enhanced version of yourself, not aesthetically but fundamentally the essence of yourself. Only be in comparison with yourself, yourself of yesterday or last week or last year. Ask the honest questions; where was this behaviour learnt? Why has it adapted into being an aspect of daily life? Does it continue to serve me? Try to understand the root cause and unlock it because this knowledge will give you the power to let go. I am now instead much more focused on questions such as; am I a kind person? How can I serve more to others, am I a good friend, daughter, partner, doggy mammy because ultimately these are the things in my life I respect and love the most, even if my previous behaviour may not have always prioritised these aspects of my life. Again as always it comes back to balance. When something is out of balance in your life your body will give warning signs and it is up to you to heed them. Independently all of these aspects hold merit and value if they are balanced and in line with your own specific goals and core values. If you feel you have been side-tracked I hope this helps you get back ‘on track’. But don’t forget that real life with all of its variations and flaws is the track and we are always on it. In the end, we won’t remember the most beautiful face and body; we will remember the most beautiful soul and heart, the ones that are kind and vulnerable.

Lia xx

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Black Friday Shopping for your Mental Health :

So Black Friday is looming and there is a great buzz around it this year. I thought I would do something a little different and focus on Black Friday deals which have the potential to positively impact our mental health. Shopping in itself is cathartic but the effects are often time specific. Hopefully the suggested purchases below will have a long-lasting impact on creating a calmer and happier you.

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Waxpert’s Candle- Lavender scent

This candle is divine. I bought one last year and cherished it. It is so calming and really good quality. The scent surrounds your house and has such a relaxing impact on all of its inhabitants. Even Our Doggies, Hugo and Bruno adore it and it sends them straight off to sleep. I also bring it with me when I have to stay away over night. It really helps me settle into my new surroundings as I bring a small piece of home with me. It came to India with me this year when I completed my yoga practice teacher training.

There is 15% off these candles from Friday 9 AM until Monday through the Waxperts website.

https://waxperts.bigcartel.com/product/waxperts-original-lavender-candle-esscentially-yours-from-waxperts

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Holland and Barrett

Holland and Barrett are doing a great sale for Black Friday and have 387 products on sale with discounts of up to 50%. Stock up on all of your natural medications. They have Vitamin D supplements on offer which are so important to take at this time of year to increase your mood. Lots of healthy snacks are also available to keep our sugar cravings at bay. Essential oils such as peppermint and lavender are on sale to sooth and relieve stress or tension from the day. Also lots of the uncommon ingredients required in healthy baking are available at a reduced cost. So if you love baking and find it therapeutic use this time to stock up on some of the key ingredients such as cacao powder , chia seeds., organic hemp, Manuku honey to name but a few.

https://www.hollandandbarrett.ie/shop/offers/black-ticket-sale/?utm_source=Responsys&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=111918_Blackticket_top10_IE#page=8&sc=22096&rilt=SHOPNOW

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Eason

There is nothing better than snuggling down with a good book if you have had rough day and need to escape. There is something so calming about turning the pages and it immediately instigates a sense of relaxation for me. Eason currently has 30% off everything online plus free delivery with the discount code BLACK. Some of the books include ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama. I am really excited to read this one as I have heard great reviews. ‘The Importance of Being Aisling’ is also on sale if you need a good laugh or Holly White’s Vegan-ish’s cook book if you are thinking of commencing a healthy lifestyle change and turning your nutrition on its head .

See the full sale here:

https://www.easons.com/black-friday/?utm_source=episerver&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ecommerce_black_friday_curated_themes_bargain_books_Nov18&mobile=1

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Renew Skin Clinic

It can be so nice on a day when you are feeling low to indulge in a relaxing pampering night with a nice face mask to perk yourself up. So, why not stock up for a dreary Monday when you deserve to give yourself some extra self-care. The Renew Clinic is offering 10 % off all their products in their Dublin, Naas and Drogheda Clinics Starting from 9 AM on Black Friday.

https://renewclinic.ie

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Havana Skin Clinic

Are also offering up to 55% off the clinic on Black Friday and also have deals on Image Skin Care products in the clinic and online.

Https://click.havanaskinclinic.com/havana-black-box

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MMB Robes

Melissa Mills Bari from MMB has designed her own robes which are so luxurious and soft on the skin. They also look very chic and are lovely to wrap yourself up in after a relaxing bath or shower if you are feeling like you need some extra TLC. She is offering a 25 % discount off the Grand Baie, Port Louis, Bel Air and Riveria style robes. This discount is starting from today until Friday.

https://melissamillsbari.com/collections/robes

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Floating Frames

Floating Frames are a lovely Irish design company which make bespoke frames with huge sentimental value. If there is someone in your life that you feel deserves a thoughtful present they have some beautiful collections to choose from.  They are offering 10 % off on Good Friday.

https://thefloatingframe.com

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The Stork Box

This Irish company have beautiful gift boxes for expectant mothers and their babies. If you have a friend or family member who is expecting a baby and is feeling a little worse for wear during the pregnancy it can be a lovely little pick me up. This company was founded by two Irish sisters one of whom is a consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist where I work. The Stork Box’s ethos symbolises purity, longevity and protection which I think is very imaginative. Their products help and support the adventure of parenthood.

The Stork Box is offering 25% off their products on Black  Friday with the code BF18

www.thestorkbox.ie

 

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Himalayan Salt Lamps

Salt lamps create such a lovely atmosphere in homes and reportedly have a positive impact on our mental health by increasing our energy levels. The theory is that once the salt is warmed by the light it releases negative ions into the atmosphere. Electrical items such as computer screens, hair dryers and mobile phones release positive ions which can be very draining on our energy and the negative ions released by the salt lamp counteract them.

The Himalayan Salt Lamp is currently on offer and is reduced from €49.99 to €29.99 on the Carraig Donn website . I am definitely going to be grabbing this offer while it lasts.

https://www.carraigdonn.com/search?q=himalayan+salt+lamp

I can imagine us all, curled up with a good book in our new robe with a face mask on, Waxperts candle lighting and some healthy treats from Holland and Barrett. We will be like new people in no time. I hope you enjoyed and benefited from some of the great deals out there.

There is no affiliate links used in this post.

Happy shopping everyone!

Lia xx

Sleep Smarter

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In recent years, a lot of emphasises has been placed on nutrition and exercise as being the pillars for good health. More recently sleep has begun to gain recognition and rightly so as sleep is the foundation of both of these pillars and actually massively impacts our health and well-being. During times of stress in life it is really common for people to experience sleep difficulties. Lack of sleep and anxiety fuel one and other and are interconnected. During difficult periods in life, night time can be the hardest time of  day for people. Any of life’s worries can feel exaggerated at night and loneliness and fears are often exasperated. Similarly sleepless nights can trigger anxiety about the day ahead. My intention is that the below information may provide some further understanding of the importance of sleep for our health and mental well-being. There is so much to learn about this topic and I have found it intriguing researching for this post. France and Finland are the leading experts in sleep analysis and any of the data mentioned in this comes from studies carried out in these countries.

Thankfully, my own personal experience with sleep has been mainly positive. I strive to obtain approximately eight hours a night. Some people can manage on little sleep however I find it incredibly difficult to cope if I haven’t had a peaceful night’s rest. If sleep deprived, I find that I am much more emotional, cranky and hungry. As spoken about on here before I have always attempted to control aspects of my life which are controllable, in an attempt to reduce anxiety and limit my exposure to stress. Paradoxically, the contrary happened and the obsession to control further inhibited my ability to live with minimal stress. The area of sleep served to be another aspect of my well-being that I attempted to control. This started from a young age. Being an only child I never had to share my room and was used to snuggling down to go to sleep in a pitch dark space with no disturbance of anyone else’s presence or movement. When I reached the age of sleepovers with friends, sharing rooms with another person caused immense apprehension. I found it difficult to fall asleep to the sound of someone else’s breathing or preference for brightness in the room. I recall lying awake focusing on nothing other than the repeated sound of their breath and it frustrating me no end. Further on down my life path, I moved to Dublin to attend university. The city noises at night were something else I was unfamiliar with which impacted my ability to fall asleep. The purchase of ear plugs was the method I used to attempt to control this outside noise. While they worked magnificently at the time they became something I could not manage without, so much so that I always had to have a spare pair with me.  During my time in India, this was something I managed to let go of. I purposefully left my ear plugs on the plane when I landed at home and haven’t used them since. Once I realised that they were just another crutch I was using to enable this controlling mentality, I quickly understood that they were no longer serving me and were unnecessary. Despite my relatively positive experience of sleep it has always been a very important aspect of my well-being and the whole science of it has always intrigued me.

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Sleep and Health: Why is it so important?

The study of sleep is a contemporary phenomenon. Our understanding of the correlation between sleep and health is beginning to be understood at a more quantifiable level as sleep can now be studied by measurable outcomes.  The old saying ‘sure you can sleep when you are dead’ is in fact counterproductive advice as studies show that the shorter you sleep the shorter your life. Unfortunately sleep is not like a bank account. You can’t neglect it during the week in the hope that you can catch up on it at the weekend. Shockingly one out of two people aren’t getting the recommend seven to nine hours of sleep. A mere six hours and thirty one minutes is the average amount of sleep we are obtaining on a nightly basis. This has many negative impacts on our overall health as; lack of sleep is one of the primary contributors to diseases such as heart attacks and Alzheimers. As mentioned by Mathew Walker’s in his book ‘why we sleep’, scientists have noted a 24 % increase in the amount of heart attacks that occur when the cocks change as people lose out on one hours sleep. While a one hour reduction in our night’s sleep hopefully won’t result in something as detrimental as a heart attack, insufficient sleep across the lifespan is one of the highest determining factors in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Wakefulness actually causes low level brain damage and it is sleep that provides reparatory function to counteract this which is why it is so important. In France, a considerable amount of effort is currently underway in attempting to lobby doctors to prescribe natural sleep to their patients. Currently during medical training only two hours of sleep education is provided. I find this shocking considering that sleep consumes a third of a patient’s life. Similarly, in hospital settings where sleep is a necessity for recovery it is one of the least likely places a good night’s sleep will be obtained as a result of the bright lights and noise levels on units. It is being suggested that all admission forms to hospitals should include a question about sleeping patterns so that attempts can be made to provide medical treatment around patient’s natural sleeping patterns.

  • Sleep Disorders

There are many types of sleep disorders however the two that are most commonly referred to are insomnia and sleep apnea.

Insomnia is defined as ‘difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep that has become persistent’. To be categorised into this group a person must struggle with this six to seven nights a week and it must be persistent over a four to six month period. Twenty percent of the population will suffer with insomnia at some point in their life. Particular causes are periods of life in which worry and anxiety are dominant. The bereavement of loved ones can also be a common trigger. This disorder often persists even when the issue that caused it may have been resolved as maladaptive habits have been formed. Frequently people misinterpret how much sleep they are actually getting and while they may feel that they are experiencing insomnia they are in fact falling asleep but are unaware of how long they have maintained sleep.

Sleep apnea is the second most common sleeping disorder. It generally effects the male population as they are more likely to collect body fat around their tummy area and neck which impacts their respiration capacity. Other risk factors in developing sleep apnea are being over the age of 40 and individuals who snore. Sleep apnea affects breathing capacities while sleeping as airways are closed off. For mild cases the usual recommended treatment is lifestyle changes relating to nutrition and weight management. Medical procedures such as throat surgery can be required in the more moderate and severe cases.

Should you suffer from either of the above or experience any difficulty in obtaining sleep, I can’t resist recommending some yoga poses. Yes I know, it is my answer for everything. The practice of yoga itself can enhance sleep massively as it calms the mind, central nervous system and body. Here are three poses which only take 8 minutes to do. This yoga sequence is ideal for preparing your body for sleep.

Begin yogic breathing and maintain throughout the exercise. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your nose with a slight restriction in the back of your throat.

  1. Legs up the wall
    Lay on your back on the ground. Put the back of your legs up against a wall keeping your legs straight so that your body is in an L shape pose. Hold this pose for two to three minutes. This pose gives your heart a break and slows it down assisting your transition into a relaxed state.
  2. Lying butterfly
    Lay on the ground on your back. Press the soles of your feet against each other and let your knees fall out to the side. Place pillows under your knees for increased relaxation. Hold for two minutes.
  3. Corpse Pose:
    Lay on the ground on your back with legs straight, arms by sides, and palms facing up. Breathe slowly, focusing on your inhales and exhales. Hold for three minutes.

Stages of sleep

The two stages of sleep are Non Rapid Eye Movement and Rapid Eye Movement. REM sleep is  a deep state of sleep which enables body replenishment. During this period of sleep, immune system repair is initiated and the stabilisation of our individual metabolism occurs. Contrastingly, evident from brain scans during REM sleep, thirty percent of the brain becomes more active than when we are awake. We often think of sleep as static state where everything drops down in terms of activity when in actual fact some things become more alert. Visual and motor parts of brain function increase and memory sensors intensify which is why sleep is so important for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the pre frontal cortex which is the CEO component of the brain responsible for rational thinking, goes in the opposite direction. This part shuts off in REM sleep which is why everything feels so emotional and utterly illogical in dream states.

Another valuable aspect of sleep is the quality of sleep people are obtaining. Despite getting enough hours of sleep sometimes we aren’t getting good quality sleep and can still wake up feeling drained and lethargic. The quality of sleep is frequently impacted by strange or new places. REM is the deep stage of sleep that our brains will resist going into when in a foreign environment. Similarly to animals such as dolphins whose brains remain half alert and awake to protect them from attack, humans also prefer to remain in a lighter stage of sleep as a defense detect system in unknown environments.  Hence, why many people find sleep difficult in hotel rooms or on the first night of holidays.

Sleep, Nutrition and Exercise

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The timing in which we eat is also really important and is linked to our circadian rhythm which is the internal clock in our body. Anyone who has experienced jet lag will be familiar with this. We have means of synchronising these rhythms to our environment. In order for us to tie what is going on in our bodies to what time of the day it is we need external ques such as light to communicate with the rest of the body how well to digest food. The waking phase is recognised in the body as being when it is bright outside and this is when our digestive processes are at their best. Nowadays the increase in artificial light has created a different environment as people are staying up late and eating late. Eating later on in the day when your body is getting into rest mode between eight PM and midnight makes it harder for your body to digest. The bulk of our food should be eaten earlier in the day however our lifestyle can make this a difficult task. Dinner should be consumed as early as possible and attempts should be made to maintain a regular meal patterns to assist your body in achieving its circadian rhythm.

We are all familiar with the three o clock slump. I always associated this with food and feeling sluggish after lunch however surprisingly it is not solely dependent on diet. Mathew Walker (Sleep Neurologist) suggests that we are genetically hard wired to feel this lull in energy to remind us that we should be sleeping bilaterally. The lull exists organically and is why so many countries have siesta time in the middle of the day. So, now with this information we no longer have an excuse to snack at three Pm 🙂

If you do find yourself feeling hungry in the middle of the day despite having a substantial lunch it may be beneficial to look at the amount of sleep you are obtaining as lack of sleep greatly impacts our appetite. If we are sleep deprived Leptin the hormone responsible for feeling satiated is reduced and Ghrelin the hormone which controls feeling hungry is increased. This impact on hunger hormones can cause an increase of calorie consumption from anything between two hundred to three hundred calories a day, which over the course of a year can equate to the mass of ten to fifteen pounds. Along with this, if you are dieting and not losing weight, lack of sleep may be the cause of this. As a defense mechanism our body becomes stingy in giving up its fat when it has under slept and seventy percent of weight loss will instead be extracted from muscle and not fat.

If you want to improve your sleep it is important to understand that there are certain foods that hinder and assist sleep. As spoken about in the anxiety post there are foods that put us into states of mild fight or flight such as highly processed foods and ones high in additives. Polyalcohols found in protein bars and chewing gum mimic the production of insulin to the brain and cause cravings. If these substances are consumed late in the evening it can be difficult for the body to wind down to obtain a good night’s sleep.  It is beneficial to stick with foods that your body understands and avoid foods that do not react well with you before bed time. For me, these include sugar and dairy. Similarly your intake of caffeine also influences sleep and it is important to remember that it has a seven to ten hour shelf life depending on your metabolism.  As we know Caffeine is not just in coffee and therefore we should limit our intake of tea and chocolate in the hours leading up to sleep also. Beneficial foods to consume before bed are slow complex carbohydrates. Oats for example can enhance a night’s sleep as it causes the slow release of glucose into the brain. This is turn, causes little releases of dopamine in the brain which causes sleepiness. Along with the types of foods we consume, it is advisable not to go to bed on a full stomach as your body undergoes a considerable amount of work while digesting which impacts its ability to initiate sleep. The recommend time to eat prior to bed is at least sixty to ninety minutes before resting our heads on the pillow. Despite this widespread knowledge regarding the benefits of sleep on our overall health, there is little public health campaigns based on the importance of sleep yet there are many diet related promotions which, I find surprising given its monumental impact on many aspects of our overall well-being.

Along with nutrition, exercise has many positive influences on quality of sleep and in very basic terms, energy expenditure causes tiredness. However, if you are struggling with sleep, the time of day you choose to train has an impact.  If you go to the gym after work it may easily be eight PM before you are getting home to eat and unwind which does not leave much time for digestion or mental relaxation to occur. Along with this, after any tough training session cortisol is released, your body’s response to this can give you the feeling of having a second wind of energy which subsequently can impact the onset of sleep as the body is in an elevated state. If you feel this is impacting your ability to sleep you may want to try switching to morning or lunchtime training.

Sleep and Alcohol

Alcohol and sleep also have a relationship which is not always conducive to one and other. Alcohol blocks deep REM sleep and the brain’s appetite for dream sleep increases as result of not getting this during the hours in which our kidneys and liver are excreting the alcohol. Within a typical eight hour sleeping cycle our brains have been deprived of dream sleep for the six hours it takes to excrete alcohol so it increases in the last couple of hours which is what causes the vivid dreams following alcohol intake.

Top Tips for a  Good Night’s Sleep

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  • Regularity is key. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time irrespective of whether or not it is the weekend.
  • Try to stay away from light an hour before bed. This includes screen time with phones and gadgets. Have a technology curfew. It is also important to start to switch of the lights around the house. Melatonin starts being produced earlier it if is not exposed to false light.
  • Keep sleeping areas cool. Your core body temperature is also linked with your circadian rhythm so when it is higher your body’s internal working mechanism signals that it is day time. The brain needs to drop its temperature by two degrees to fall asleep. The paradox is however that your feet and hands need to be warm to radiate the heat out of your core.
  • Also let’s remind ourselves about the true meaning of the phrase midnight – middle of the night. In modernity we have become dislocated from natural rhythms and often we are only beginning to get ready for bed at this time. Try to go to bed earlier to allow yourself time to unwind and fall asleep.

I hope you have found this interesting and helpful. If you would like to gain more information on this topic I highly recommend reading Matthew Walker’s  Book ‘why we sleep’ which describes the science of sleep and dreams. Feel free to add any of your own tips for sleeping to share the sleep love.

Lía xx

 

We are Getting Married: Suggestions for a Stress Free Wedding Planning Experience.

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As most of you are aware Ian and I got engaged recently. We are over the moon and in being totally honest, have loved planning a wedding so far. I hadn’t spoken about this here because I didn’t think it fitted however a recent conversation made me realize that actually, weddings can be a really stressful event for some people. During a night out recently while chatting about our wedding someone said to me ‘I am so glad it is all behind us, I found it very stressful’. While I appreciate everyone’s experiences are different and big events in our life can at times become stressful, my own experience so far couldn’t have felt further from this description. I appreciate that we are only five months in but we really haven’t gotten frazzled about anything yet and we have most things booked. Nonetheless, this comment hit a cord and got me thinking. On further investigation, I realized that the event of a wedding is a common cause of feelings of overwhelment and increased pressure in our life. According to the pain doctor in the UK, 23 % of people say that getting married is the most stressful thing they have done. Therefore, I thought I would share my top tips to help prevent this wonderful time becoming anything else but joyful. Before I get started, it is important to highlight that just like most people there are parts of the day that will be difficult and there are people who won’t be there that we would love to be. Nevertheless, it is important to focus on the abundance of love available on such a joyous occasion without giving too much heed to things that we wish were different. Life changing events, positive or negative are experienced in different ways however so much of our coping is based on our reactions to scenarios. I think the way you view things in life always impacts how they affect your mental health. For me personally getting married has always been something I have dreamed about from a young age. I have a shoe box (boot box – big box) of cuttings and memorabilia I have been collecting for as long as I can remember with the hope of one day getting to experience a wedding. Therefore from the minute we got engaged, I have embraced every celebration and decision with complete joy.

We were both discussing it recently and agreed that we have never received so many lovely wishes of congratulations, kindness and love from our friends and family. It has been amazing and so lovely to experience. This showering of happy wishes really wasn’t something I had anticipated. As significant as it is in our life that we are getting married, we appreciate that everyone else is busy with their own life therefore we are really grateful that people have taken the time out to celebrate with us.

In the hope to dissipate some of the notorious wedding stresses, I am going to share what we have found helpful so far:

  • Financial Cost

I used to often wonder if the massive expenditure for one day is a waste. Last year, I had the pleasure of being bridesmaid for my best friend Aoife. Through this lovely experience, I quickly realised that the expenditure is not just for one day. It includes all the lovely days you spend with your bridal party picking dresses or suits, celebrating the engagement, enjoying countless bottles of champagne together, dinners, hen parties and stag parties etc. Each of these days are mini wedding celebrations and they provide the chance for you to spend time with the people you love most in the world. Once I changed this thinking, the cost of the wedding no longer held as much significance because it is more than worth it for these wonderful experiences that I will always cherish and remember.

  • Do Your Own Thing Be Your Own King’

One of my favourite quotes has always been ‘Do Your Own Thing, Be Your Own King’ or in this instance ‘Be Your Own Queen’. It has never felt more important than when planning our wedding. Everyone has an opinion about what a wedding should be like and whether that comes from a place of love or judgment it really shouldn’t influence the day or the couple’s decisions. You are never going to please everyone despite your best efforts so make sure to remain true to your wishes and values first and foremost before you take anyone else’s on board. I think having self-awareness and being clear about the types of things that stress you out is important so that you can pre-empt any possible anxieties and manage them early on in the planning.

The most important thing to both of us is that people enjoy the day. There is no pressure in anyone to perform in keeping with usual traditions such as speeches, prayers, night before routines unless people actually want to partake in the day. One example of how I did my own thing is that I went wedding dress shopping on my own. I was really nervous about wedding dress shopping because I even sometimes find it difficult to find a dress to wear as a guest at a wedding. I had visions of not being happy with any dress. I didn’t know how I would react seeing myself in a wedding dress and I wanted to get a sense of the styles that suited me before inviting my lovely bridesmaids to share the experience. I told no one and happily went to the first wedding dress shop. It was such a lovely relaxed experience which I really enjoyed and would highly recommend doing if you are worried about this aspect. I really think it enhanced my enjoyment of wedding dress shopping with the girls when it came to it.

  • Try Not to Argue About Any Decisions With Your Partner

I understand with so many decisions it can at times easily lead to a disagreement. In our experience if our conversations about wedding planning ever get heated, we remind ourselves of the actual meaning of the day and refuse to allow planning become something that we are disagree on.

  • Share the Load With Each Other

While we have loved planning for our wedding there is no denying that there is a lot to be done. I have been pleasantly surprised at how hands on Ian has been. To be honest he has probably done more than me. It has made everything so much easier and less stressful. We are both very similar with what aspects are important to us and have really enjoyed discussing ideas together. It is so important to be supportive to one and other and understand why different aspects of the day are important individually and collectively.

  • Know the Experts to Call on For Advice

Ask fewer people but the right people for advice as it is often more valuable. We were torn between two venues and requested the assistance of my trusty uncle Frank and his wife Ruth as they are big entertainers and are very familiar with both venues. They really helped us weigh up the pros and cons which assisted in making this decision.

Also trust the people you are paying to provide a service on your wedding day. Try to use professionals who are familiar with the venue. This will save time as the photographer will know the most idyllic spots for photos. Trust that the florist knows what flowers will suit best and the stylists are well capable of insuring you and your bridal party look their best. Let the experts lead their area of expertise so that you can enjoy the day that is; what you are paying for after all.

  • When Choosing Suppliers Make Sure That You Like Them and Trust your Gut

When picking your florist, band, photographer, videographer, makeup and hair artists, cake artist, wedding coordinator make sure that you like them. They are going to be around you on one of the most important days of your life so make sure that they are positive people who will enhance your day. This has been really important for us when choosing professionals to be involved on the day. We have decided to not use certain suppliers because We just didn’t find them warm so go with your gut and know what is important to you and your husband to be. It is also important that the suppliers work well together particularity the videographer and photographer.

  • Celebrate All of the Little Things

You only get married once so make sure to enjoy the process. We have made a conscious effort to celebrate all of the little milestones like choosing a venue and they have been some of the nicest evenings spent together. Just yesterday I said yes to the dress. I had taken my beautiful bridesmaids with me dress shopping but was torn between two dresses. I needed my lovely mammy’s advice to make the final decision. We had the most magical day together and she knew straight away which one suited the best and clarified what my heart was already saying. Memories that last a lifetime are made and I’ll always remember the look on her face when I came out in the dress. We celebrated with a lovely lunch and champagne in the Shelbourne Hotel. Ian’s parents are coming to Dublin in a few weeks so that we can take them to see the venue and I will show his mother my dress and create meaningful memories with them also. These types of days are so lovely and are what makes getting married so magical so make sure to cherish them; so that you will add to your memory bank with those you love the most.

Most of all don’t lose sight of the fact that this is a very happy and joyous occasion. What matters is who is waiting for you at the top of the aisle and having your loved ones with you on the special day so if you find yourself worrying about the smaller details always bring yourself back to this.

I hope you found it helpful and if anyone would like to share their wedding planning tips and tricks please do so below.

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Happy Sunday everyone,

Lía xxx

Yoga for Thyroid Health

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One of my favourite Yogis that regularly attends my classes asked if there were particular yoga poses which improved thyroid health.  Not needing much of an excuse to jump back into my India yoga notebook to do some research, I went on my merry way and designed a class around yoga for thyroid health. I taught this class last Monday and received some lovely feedback. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the poses and knowledge behind them here for anyone who would like to practice at home.

An awareness of the general functions of the thyroid, while working on this area of our bodies is important.  The Thyroid gland is also known as the metabolism manager. It is responsible for creating energy, warmth and digestion in the body. Having a thyroid disease means that people experience many of the following symptoms:  fatigue, low energy, weight gain or loss, slow or fast heart rate, dry skin, constipation or diarrhea, sluggish type feelings, depression, irregular menstrual cycle. Each symptom depends on which type of thyroid dysfunction is occurring. Any interference with the process of the production of thyroxine and triiodothyronine made by the thyroid can cause any of the above symptoms.  There are some common possibilities which cause this to occur in the body which are worth investigating further if you are experiencing thyroid issues.

  • Mineral Deficiency: Particularly iodine and selenium which are essential to thyroid hormone production. Be mindful that foods high in antioxidants vitamins A,b,C and omega 3 fatty acids all support the thyroid and its functions.
  • Hormones: Disruption between the balance of estrogen and progesterone impedes normal thyroid hormone production which is why pregnant women and pre-menopausal women are particularly at risk as they experience extreme fluctuations in their hormones.
  • Stress: Cortisol and Adrenaline hormones made by the adrenal glands rise excessively with unrelenting stress which have a negative impact on thyroxine and triodothyonine production and its utilization in the body.  Practicing deep meditations focusing on breath helps your nervous system transport itself from a ‘Flight or Fight’ to a ‘Rest and Digest’ state. (I go into a lot more detail relating to this on a previous blog named Anxiety: Friend or Foe)
  • Environmental Toxins and Drugs: Exposure to pesticides, radiation, fluoride and smoke can contribute to thyroid problems also. Try to minimise your contact with the each of these.  

As described above, a stressful lifestyle can be a major contributor to thyroid dysfunction. From a holistic perspective and from Ayurveda schools of thought, learning to express oneself is often the key to unlocking any thyroid issues. The Throat Chakra is the centre of creativity and expression. Therefore try to encourage self-expression to heal this imbalance in your health. Learn to express yourself in whatever way might be necessary for you in your life right now. Are you suppressing anything that you feel you need to say? Perhaps you may literally need to use the tool of your voice to create change in the world or to stand up for something you believe in. You can have fun with this; go ahead and sing out or shout. Take up a theatre course or join a choir. Try and get those creative juices flowing and experience true self-expression.

Again like I always say yoga can be used as a complementary therapy so please don’t treat it as an ultimate solution to any medical conditions you may have.  Be sure to honor the limitations of your body each day. Bring awareness to your practice that your range of motion will not be the same every day. Most of the yoga poses below are considered throat stimulating as they include flexion and extension of the neck. They are thought to improve circulation and energy flow around the thyroid. Yoga asanas are good for both hypo (caused by not having enough thyroid hormones) and hyperthyroid (caused by having too much thyroid hormones). You don’t have to do all of the poses in one session. You can try a pose or two throughout the day to reap the benefits.

Marjaryasana, Bitilasana- Cat Cow Pose

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I like to start with Cat Cow pose to firstly warm up the spine and get all the lovely juices flowing. The fluid motion in Cat Cow is thought to stimulate the thyroid area. Exposing the throat chakra brings blood flow to this area which is not often stretched. Focus your awareness on the throat area while completing this movement and recognize the mental clarity and enhancement of energy it brings.

  • Come on to all fours. Your Joints need to be in a closed kinetic chain with shoulders, elbows and wrists in a straight line. Make sure you have equal weight on all fours points touching the ground.
  • Inhale and let your belly fill with air and drop to the mat.
  • Look up towards the ceiling and lengthen your neck and throat.
  • Exhale and draw your navel into your spine.
  • Tuck your chin towards your chest as you lift and round your spine towards the ceiling.
  • Allow your breath to guide the movement and complete a few rounds at your own pace.

*If you are pregnant only do the cat pose and come back to centre and neutral position. The pressure on the lower back in Cow is not recommended in pregnancy.

Salamba Sarvangasana Supported Shoulder Stand:

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This is often the first pose recommended for any thyroid issues since it is an easier inversion which is achievable by most. This position stimulates blood flow to the glands in the upper body which is believed to have a positive impact on the efficiency of the thyroid. Having your chin tucked similar to the above position is also believed to have increased benefits as it is using the muscles in the neck’s range of movement.

  • Lie flat on your back with your palms facing down on the mat. Press your back and your arms into the mat for support.
  • On an inhale lift your legs up to ninety degrees.
  • Exhale and bring your legs up over your head.
  • Bring your hand behind your lower back for support.
  • Raise your legs straight up towards the ceiling.
  • Keep your chin tucked as you keep your neck in the same position throughout.
  • To come out of the pose slowly release your legs back over your head.
  • On an inhale slowly roll your spine down towards the mat vertebrae by vertebrae.
  • Exhale as you lower your legs to the floor

Halasana Plough Pose

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Following shoulder stand it can be nice to do plough pose as they are similar. Some may find it easier than shoulder stand. Your thyroid is believed to get the same stimulation as when it is in Shoulder stand.

  • Lie flat on your back with your palms facing down on the mat. Press your back and your arms into the mat for support.
  • On an inhale lift your legs up to ninety degrees.
  • Slowly exhale and bring your legs over your head.
  • Bring your hands to your lower back to support your body.
  • Reach your legs behind you so that your toes touch the floor.

*I find this pose quite claustrophobic. It is one of the yoga poses I really struggle with. Nonetheless, the ones we struggle with are often the poses we need to practice the most. I have found putting a cushion or a bolster behind my head and under my feet for support and as a reference point helps me overcome the suffocating sensations associated with this pose.

Matsyasana Fish pose

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This is the perfect counter pose to both Shoulder stand and Plough pose as it again encourages the muscles in your neck to use their full range of motion.

  • Sit on the bony part of your bum with your legs extended out in front of you.
  • Face you palms down with fingers pointing towards your toes
  • Draw your elbows in close to the side of your chest and expand your chest area
  • Slowly lean back onto your fore arms and elbows
  • Press into your arms to stay lifted and slowly drop your head back to open up the throat chakra area.
  • To come out slowly lift your head, release your hands and relax back down onto your mat.

*you can expand on this pose by clasping your hands in Ksepana Mudra reaching out in front of you and lifting your legs off the ground pointing your toes towards the front of the room. However make sure you are not dumping too much weight into your neck by engaging you core and you thighs while doing this.

Bhujanga Cobra Pose

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This pose provides gentle stimulation to the thyroid compared to other poses and is a good one to do before coming into Camel pose as it brings a gentle stretch to the neck area without tilting your head all the way back. It also warms up the muscles in the lower back.

  • Lie face down and centered on your mat.
  • Press into the floor with both hands.
  • Activate you thigh muscles.
  • Pull your shoulders slightly down and away from your ears.
  • Engage your core by drawing your bellybutton in.
  • Lift into a cobra pose by using your back and abdominal muscles to bend your back slightly backwards.
  • Hold the pose for four to five full breaths before releasing back to the floor.
  • On each round try to push yourself a little higher with each exhale however remember that proper form is more important than a deeper stretch.

Ustrasana Camel Pose

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The strong neck extension in Camel pose is said to stimulate the thyroid gland and increase circulation in this area.

  • Coming onto your knees inhale and lengthen your spine reaching your head towards the ceiling.
  • Bring your hands to you back as if you were putting your hands into your back jean pockets.
  • Inhale here and broaden your chest area lifting up from your collarbones.
  • Exhale slowly walk your hands down to either your calves, ankles or soles of your feet. If this isn’t comfortable you can bring your hands to blocks at either side of your calf muscles.
  • If you are comfortable here you can reach your head back and open up the Throat Chakra.
  • Hold for a few breaths.
  • Come out of the pose in the same way that you came in by placing your hands back on your bum tucking your chin and walking your hands up your back to slowly come out of the pose.

*It is really common to see stars after doing this pose as we are not used to being in such a strong back bend. Don’t be alarmed by this simply come into child’s pose for a rest if this happens.

Lastly my all-time favourite pose

Viparita Karani- Savasana with Legs up the Wall

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This is a restorative inversion. It is an excellent choice to help with thyroid function as it is passive and helps to restore balance. This pose is thought to relieve stress that can contribute to thyroid imbalance.

  • Sit with your right side against the wall.
  • Lift your legs up against the wall at the same time as you lie back.
  • Your bum can be right against the wall or a few inches away from it.
  • Soften your throat as you relax your throat and chin.
  • Keep your arms in any comfortable position beside your body or above your head.
  • Remain here for at least 10 minute to really feel the benefits.
  • To come out of the pose simply push against the wall and slowly bring your feet down.

I hope you found this helpful. If there is a particular area of yoga practice you would like me to expand on further please get in touch. I hope everyone is enjoying the lead up to Christmas. There is a lot more to come in the coming weeks on Smiling Soul relating to Christmas and how it can be a difficult time of year for many and also some goal setting strategies for the New Year ahead.

Happy reading and Yoga-ing.

Namaste!

Lia xxx

Christmas 2018; It is Okay not to be Okay!

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Firstly I think it is important to outline that I love Christmas so I feel like a bit of a fraudster writing this. Nonetheless, I appreciate that it can be a very difficult time for some people which is why I wanted to reach out to you if you are one of them.  Without meaning to, I think that Christmas puts everything on stilts. It exaggerates every feeling you may or may not have and there is a huge expectancy on people to be in jolly spirits and to have a positive mind frame which isn’t always attainable. Christmas or not, it is okay not to be okay. Christmas doesn’t automatically mean that the daily struggles we all face and deal with cease to exist.  No matter what you are going through you are not obliged to be happy just because it is Christmas. It doesn’t make your problems any less significant. You don’t have to be brimming with Christmas cheer and skipping around the streets with joy and merriment. It is okay to be annoyed, to cry, to get home from work and not want to speak to anyone. If this speaks to you focus on self-care, focus on treating yourself well, show yourself kindness compassion and love. Remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is a magical time of year but it brings sadness too so keep an eye out for those who might need it the most.

Often what causes the most distress for people is looking back over the year and perhaps not feeling as though they accomplished all that they thought they would. Let this be a stark reminder that milestones don’t have to be things like a proposal, a promotion, a baby, a pay rise. They can instead be healing a hurt, learning from a mistake, taking the plunge and getting counselling or support, coming to terms with old wounds, growing your sense of self-worth, battling an illness, working on your mental health and ultimately just being a kind person. Don’t let yourself be in comparison with the portrayed perfect life that we are all witnessing on social media.

There is also a huge anxiety to be a ‘whole new perfect person’ in January. While some people use this as motivation to make some changes they would like, others feel an immense pressure. The burden to always feel like you have to be moving forward and achieving new things can feel extremely daunting and can add to the Christmas anxiety so many experience. Please don’t forget that you are perfect the way you are. You are enough. You don’t need to change to feel happy. I am all for setting goals to feel accomplished but the best things that really works is being true to yourself because you can never fail at being you. Always remember, No one is you and that is your power!

Loneliness is one that also comes up a lot. Don’t forget though that at times in our life we can be surrounded by a room full of people and still feel lonely.  There is no one solution to this but if you are feeling isolated, I encourage you to start saying yes to volunteering or helping out in places where people have no one to spend the holidays with.Get involved though don’t settle for sitting on the sidelines. You are valuable and loved.

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If there is someone you have lost throughout the year, I don’t think there is anything that I or anyone else can say to take away the pain or make Christmas any easier for you. I am truly sorry and hope that you will find opportunities to remember your loved ones this Christmas.

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My own experience of Christmas is very positive, not because they have necessarily always been easy but because I have always really appreciated being able to just slow down and reboot for the year ahead. As our family is so small just Mammy and I we have mostly had Christmases just us two. Thrown into the mix have been times in which we have spent it with our extended family and two Christmases ago with Ian’s family which was magical.

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I will never forget the first Christmas that I went to Ian’s house for a few hours on Christmas day. Ian’s mother has eleven siblings and I was so overwhelmed by all the people. It was the opposite of what my experience was growing up but I soon began to love the contrast that both our families bring.

A Christmas that will always stick out in my mind is Christmas three years ago when my mother was having treatment for Breast Cancer. I spent it in France with her and her Husband’s family which was strange in itself without even contemplating the impact of what my beloved mammy was facing. When Cancer is in the room it strips everything back to its core. I think that particular Christmas had a profound effect on us all. I expected that it would be a really difficult bleak Christmas, but in all honesty it was genuinely one of my favourite ones. It was a really difficult time in general but I feel that year I really learnt the true value and meaning of Christmas. Deirdre was quite far into her treatment at that stage and was weak from the cumulative effect of it. Being the resilient lady that she is, she powered through put on a brave face and even enjoyed some Christmas dinner. I remember looking around the room and feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude that we had made it that far. This gratitude extended out to the joy and simplicity in the value of just being able to be in each other’s presence and enjoy one and other’s company. The realisation that it is the people around the table that are the most valuable gifts is a stark reality. We now see anything else as a bonus.

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Over that Christmas period we really just enjoyed the simple things like, reading, going on little walks, doing jigsaws and chatting.  Ian came to France for New Years and it was so magical to have him there. He brought a renewed energy to us all and we continued to enjoy the few days after Christmas. The neighbours lent us bikes and we explored all that little Brielles had to offer stopping at the local patisserie to bring home croissants which Ian was a big fan of. A memory that really sticks out is New Year’s Eve. As Deirdre went to bed early we all got into this habit also. I could hear Christophe  (Mam’s Husband) listening to a programme with the New Year’s count down on it. Just as they were about to shout ‘one’, Christophe turned off the TV. Ian and I burst out laughing because it was just so reflective of the time we were in. One that was far from normal but a time that still had its little rays of sunshine.  I ran down to mam and gave her a big New Year’s Hug and fell asleep to the sound of fireworks in the distance. It was a lovely way to spend New Year’s and proved to me that just because times are simple doesn’t mean that they are any less valuable. It made me always appreciate my blessings. I bring a part of this Christmas into each of them now and look back with fondness for the kindness, love and care we each received from our little community of friends in France.

I guess my reason for sharing this to illuminate that Christmas is not always fairy-tale like but if you look hard enough there is always a sprinkle of magic you can tune into if you choose to.  Remember that everyone experiences difficult times by just being human so you are not alone. If you have trepidations about the upcoming festive season, try to focus on what is really important and treat yourself with kindness. A year can change a lot so appreciate what you have. If you find yourself in an abundance of love, company and fulfillment, enjoy it. Similarly, if your Christmas isn’t full of warmth and love this year, know that your turn will come and it won’t always be like this.  Just like the ocean life is a constant ebb and flow.

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If you have gotten this far, I hope you enjoyed reading this and that it instills a renewed mind frame about the true meaning and value of Christmas. I wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who took the time to read my ramblings and to give me such lovely feedback.

 

Thank you and Happy Christmas !

Lia xx

Looking back on 2018!

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Before we embark on a new year, I think it is so important to pause and take a look back at the year that has passed. Otherwise, the fast paced nature of life can just feel like a rat race. So set aside a couple of minutes to yourself to take the time to acknowledge the blessings you have had throughout the year and the struggles you may have faced before you lunge into 2019. At the end of this post, I have added some questions which might spark some inspiration to look back at the last year. It is a great exercise for mindfulness and conscious living. It is a way to slow down and appreciate all the little and big things that were a part of your life this year. This exercise also helps to draw some conclusions about what kind of things bring you joy and as importantly; a deeper understanding of what doesn’t. If you are hoping to set some goals for the New Year, looking back at the past year will assist in ensuring that your ambitions are truly in line with your priorities and values.

I have taken the time to reflect and have written about my ups and downs of 2018. If you are interested have a read and if not just skip down to the last paragraph to conduct the exercise to reflect on your own year.

Above all else, I think 2018 has been the year in which I have really grown into my own skin. I have never felt more sure of knowing exactly who I am and what matters the most to me. So much has happened in my life in 2018. While it has mostly been positive there have been unmerciful painful experiences too. I think it’s unfair to just portray the positives as it is not realistic, which is why I always try to be as open and honest as I can be about the ups and downs of life. This is so important so that we don’t feel alone in the journey we are traveling together. By just being human, we all experience pain and it is unfortunately unavoidable. At this point in time, I am not going to go into detail about one of the most difficult experiences of the year and my life in general as it doesn’t only involve me and I want to respect my family’s privacy also. Nonetheless, it is something that is massively pushed under the carpet and an experience that I think women in general need to talk more about in order to support each other further. So I imagine in time, I will share it with you for the right reasons.

Going to India to become a yoga teacher definitely has had a huge role to play in the renewed clarity of my self-awareness. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone at a time in which I felt extremely vulnerable helped me grow and develop in ways I didn’t think I was capable of. The picture below is what greeted me as I landed in Mumbai Airport. I was petrified but seeing the familiarity of the glorious sunrise, the same one I search for every morning at home-made me realise that I brought my own sense of home deep inside me that I could choose to connect with at any time. I began to calm down and appreciate the adventure I was about to embark on and what an adventure it was.

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When I returned from India, I started teaching yoga and finally plucked up the courage to share my ramblings in the form of this Smiling Soul Blog. Two of my life dreams which have changed everything for me. Until this year, I always felt that there was something missing in my chosen career. While I have always loved being a Social Worker it just didn’t feel like it was enough. Now that I have coupled this with teaching yoga and writing this blog I feel so complete and fulfilled in a way that I never experienced before. The peace this has brought is profound as I am no longer searching and instead have an overwhelming feeling of being exactly where I need to be. I have never been busier. It is a lot of work managing my three passions but I really love each of them for very different reasons. This really helps whenever motivation is low.

Teaching yoga has insured that I keep up my own practice and continue to learn the vast amount of information that there is about yoga. This has had such a positive impact on my life. The people I have met through teaching yoga and attending classes have been one of the highlights of the year. The little yoga community we have is so wonderful and each of them are so encouraging and inspiring in their own individual way. I am also three-quarters of the way through yoga pregnancy teacher training which I absolutely love!  Our teacher is just amazing and one of the most knowledgeable people in the world about anything relating to women. She is so inspiring. I have also met the nicest, supportive group of women in the course which I truly admire and am in awe of their achievements as mothers and professionals. It would be a complete dream to hopefully teach pregnancy yoga next year at some stage.

Starting Smiling Soul also pushed me way outside of my comfort zone! I was so nervous to put myself out there but the positive feedback I have received has made it all so worth it. Each and every one of the messages sent about the blog have meant so much to me and are what has inspired me to continue to dedicate so much time to it. I truly appreciate that you go out of your way to write to me and I am so grateful so, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I remember how nervous I was posting the below picture announcing that I had started it but I am so glad that I pushed through the fear and did it anyway.

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Another highlight was definitely having the honour of being a bridesmaid at my best friend Aoife’s wedding. As an only child, this meant the absolute world to me. It was such a magical day and one we will all always treasure. Aoife will be by my side on our wedding day in 2019 also. Friends really are the icing on the cake of life.

Ian and I getting engaged was obviously the most wonderful surprise and the best feeling in the world. We are still in our little bubble of happiness that this brings. We are really enjoying planning a wedding for 2019.  Ian means the absolute world to me and I can’t wait to be his wife. Anyway I won’t harp on about this as you have heard it all before.

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Along with the above, I traveled to so many of the places that I have always wanted to. Iceland for one which was incredible and is a country that I would highly recommend visiting. It is any sunrise /sunset lover’s dream. For the first time in my life, I experienced travelling alone to India which was also an incredible experience and changed everything for me. Travelling alone is so amazing and should definitely be done at least once in your lifetime. It puts you so far out of your comfort zone and also insures that you mingle with others. Meeting the most incredible people is one of the biggest perks of traveling solo. Also you get to know yourself so fast.  In addition, it has made me even more confident to go to places on my own when I returned home. I have incorporated this new-found pleasure in my weekly life back in Dublin by going on group hikes solo to get to meet and chat to new people. Also, once a week I now go for breakfast alone which is one of my favorite times of the week. Having this increased appreciation for being in my own company has been truly life changing.

There is so much more I could talk about here but I will keep the rest of 2018’s adventures to myself so that this doesn’t turn into a book. The above have definitely been the highlights.

I have added some questions to help you reflect on and appreciate 2018. If you are struggling to put pen to paper, you can use these as prompts to ponder upon different aspects of the year.

  1. What one event big or small are you going to tell your grandchildren about?
  2. Describe the year passed in three words.
  3. What single achievement are you most proud of?
  4. What new thing did you discover about yourself?
  5. What was your favourite place that you visited in 2018?
  6. What was the best news you received?
  7. What was the most important lesson you learned?
  8. Did you learn a new skill?
  9. What was the biggest complement you received?
  10. What book, movie or play most affected you?
  11. What activity made you lose track of time?
  12. What did you think about more than anything else?
  13. Did you go out of your comfort zone?
  14. What are you most grateful for?
  15. What new things did you try this year?

Grab a cup of tea and some chocolate if you are that way inclined and jot down a few answers in a journal. It can also be really nice to chat over these questions with close friends or family.

I hope you enjoyed this post, the last one before Christmas. I wish each of you a wonderful, peaceful and mindful Christmas. Look after yourself and one and other. Sending you all a big Christmas hug!

Namaste!

Lía xxx

Quieting your Inner Critic.

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Hello and Happy New Year!

I wanted to start the year on a positive note. Reflecting on 2018, I realised that one of the most positive changes I made was altering the way in which I speak to myself on a daily basis. The significant difference this has made in my life inspired me to share it with you in the hope that it will also help you.

‘Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.’

Lisa. M. Hayes

Initially I thought  to myself there is no way I will be able to write a full blog post about this topic but a few sentences in, I realised that there is an array of information to consider while discussing self-talk. Self-talk is not something I gave much attention until about half way through last year, when I first began to notice that it was having a negative impact on my life. Surprisingly, we have up to 50,000 thoughts a day. These thoughts form an inner monologue that runs throughout the day and often into the night.

The words we use to speak to ourselves can have a huge impact on all aspects of our life; if these thoughts are mainly negative it can have a long-standing harmful effect on many components of our health and well-being. If you are constantly putting yourself down and negatively critiquing yourself you will eventually start to believe these negative connotations as being true. It can also have an influence on your own ability to progress and achieve goals. Your own sense of self-worth is something which needs to be protected and cared for.

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I first began to notice my own self-critical talk half way through last year. In all honesty, when I actually began to observe it, I was shocked that I spoke to myself in this manner without even being conscious of it. As always, knowledge is power and once I brought the realisation into my conscious mind I quickly put strategies in place to begin to change this negative thinking pattern.

The positive impact this small change can have on your life is so worthwhile. It was over the Christmas period that I realised how much this small adjustment in my daily life has really stood to me and helped me overcome a lot of unnecessary worry, judgment and  self criticism. Over the Christmas period, two comments were made which would usually floor me but on this occasion I was able to reflect and realise that the person saying this to me had no context to make such an observation. As a result of the work I had been doing on having positive self-talk, I was able to take what they said with a pinch of salt as I felt supported by myself to not allow it to impact me in the way it might have previously.

I also noticed after the indulgence of Christmas I had a single thought of ‘oh you shouldn’t have overindulged so much’ and within seconds I stopped myself and literally said out loud ‘that kind of talk doesn’t belong here anymore’. I realised that the memories created with friends and family are so much more valuable and important than worrying about feeling bloated. Usually a thought like this would lead to some extreme exercise plan however this time things were very different. With self-compassion and when I felt ready to get back to normal life, I just recommenced my usual exercise routine and my regular relatively healthy nutrition. This may seem like a small change but to me it holds huge significance as it proves to me that I have my own back and that it is more important than anyone else having it.

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If any of this resonates with you, once critical self-talk is recognised it is important to attempt to change this inner voice to one that is caring, kind and encouraging. This is not going to happen overnight but with time it can change and transform your own inner sense of self-worth.

What I did to change it and what may also work for you:

  • Acknowledge your inner voice:

Catch your critic. Begin to listen to your self-talk. Observe what you say to yourself throughout the day, in the morning as you get dressed, in work as you go to an important meeting, in the evening when you collect your children, when you greet your partner after a day of work. For the first few days, I actually intentionally counted how many times I caught myself saying something negative to attempt to see how big an issue I had to counter act. This voice was an habitual over thinker, worrier, people pleaser and worst of all the biggest criticiser . Like anything, it can be difficult to admit that you are your own worst critique. With time and effort the changes which you can create in this aspect of your life will stand to you in the most difficult of times. Encountering failure or criticism for instance is much easier as having a sense of your own self-worth softens these blows that life and people so often throw at us.

  • Ask yourself some questions to challenge these thoughts:
  1. Is this fair?
  2. Is this kind?
  3. Is this necessary?
  4. Would I say this to my best friend?
  5. Is this actually true?
  6. If someone else said this to me would I be hurt by it?

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In doing this you may realise that the thoughts and feelings you are having aren’t always realistic or fair. It can help gain some perspective. If a lot of these answers are negative then it may mean that you need to do some work on this area of your life.

  • Give your critical self-talk a nickname:

I haven’t personally done this but I know it is a common intervention that therapists advice. Niall Breslin illustrated this very well in his book ‘Me and My Mate Jeffery’. Jeffery was the name he gave to his critical self-talk. This can make facilitate your understanding that you don’t have to agree with your inner thoughts which in turn lessens the power they may have over you.

  • Make positive affirmations part of your daily practice:

I have found positive affirmations really helpful in so many areas of life but particularly while creating change with self-talk. Affirmations are proven methods of self-improvement because of their ability to rewire our brains. It can be helpful to put these little reminders around the house to encourage you to speak positively to yourself; stickers on mirrors and quotes as screen savers on your phone. Getting used to repeating positive sentences to yourself is really effective in combating negative self-talk and it also creates a positive habit. You can make up your own or use some of these which I have used:

  • I am healthy happy and whole.
  • I am worthy of the life I desire.
  • I am kind and gentle with myself.
  • I will treat myself as I would my best friend; with love, compassion, support and a positive attitude.
  • I know who I am and I am enough.
  • I choose to think thoughts that serve me well.
  • Each step is taking me to where I want to be.
  • The universe is encouraging and rooting for me to achieve all that I desire.
  • My body is my vehicle in life, I choose to fill it with goodness.

 

  • Reword negative thoughts into something positive

If you have a dominant negative thought attempt to reword it into a kinder thought. For example, if you find that you are overly self-critical about certain body parts instead focus on a body part that you love.  Train yourself to love yourself from within which always shines bright on the outside.

Positive self-talk, like everything, if it isn’t practiced regularly it can be easy to slip back into old habits and continue the cycle of self-criticism. Initially it might feel strange and challenging but once you keep practising, it will become natural to you. Let me tell you, it is well worth the effort.

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Honestly if you can change the thoughts from negative and judgmental to cheerful and supportive it can increase your self-confidence and curb negative emotions. It is a worthwhile step towards bettering yourself and improving your own sense of self-worth. Over the long-term, your self-talk creates your reality. This new habit will help to bring the things you want into your daily life.

I hope you enjoyed this and that it will lead you on the right path to finding a more compassionate approach to yourself. Have a lovely weekend and speak kindly to yourself and one and other.

Lía xx

 

 

Navigating Love and Life in the Modern World:

 

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Following the recent blog post about coping with Christmas a few people got in touch advising that because they are single, Christmas brings up a huge sense of loneliness and asked if I had any tips. As I am in my tenth year of a relationship, I don’t think that I am the best person to provide advice and support about this topic. Nonetheless, I really want to reach out to those who have asked so I asked one of my best friends the fabulous Gen O Farrell to come on board and provide her pearls of wisdom.

As Valentine’s Day is looming, I imagine it may also be a difficult time for people who want to be in a relationship and aren’t. Personally, I think Valentine’s Day is just a money racket. We seldom celebrate it unless it suits us and we fancy a night out together or a nice meal.  I have always thought that it is so ridiculous to make a big deal on one day when you should express your love for one and other everyday of the year. I have actually often spent Valentine’s Day with my lovely mother because she was my first love. Love life has its struggles for everyone and despite being very happy now, prior to Ian I did experience horrific heartbreak. Along with this, Ian and I also did long distance for two years which was very difficult. All in all, despite how lucky I feel to have Ian and I adore him, relationships are hard work and require a lot of love, growth and maintenance on a continual basis. Anyway that is just a side note to provide context that even people in relationships don’t necessarily love or even celebrate this day.

The issue of not being in a relationship is however difficult for some people who want to be and it’s important to note that not everyone wants to be which is absolutely their decision. There is also the pressure of the never-ending ticking clock to procreate that I so often hear. While there is no getting away from the fact that it is a biological time bomb, as you are considered to have a geriatric pregnancy if you are over 35; I work in a maternity hospital and frequently see women in their forty’s having healthy babies. I also see many women having babies solo without any man through donor sperm and intrauterine insemination. Surrogacy is also an option for single males who would like to have a baby. So, don’t feel that being in a relationship is the only way to fulfill a desire to have children.  So if you find yourself single for whatever reason and want to mingle, Gen has come up with some suggestions as to how to meet people. She has also kindly spoken about her own journey of heartbreak, picking herself back up and dealing with the pressures from society to conform to the perceived time constraints. Gen’s positive mindset has enabled her to love and not fear being single or dating and is something that I have always admired about her. Hopefully by her generously sharing it here it will also support you. She lives life to the full, embraces experiences and is one of the most fun and loyal friends that we are lucky enough to have in our life.

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So I will hand over the baton to Gen to bestow her knowledge and experience of navigating love and life in the world we live in.

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My beautiful friend Lia approached me a few weeks ago and asked that I put some words of wisdom together around my experiences of navigating love, being single and dating in Ireland in 2019.  Initially I was anxious and a little unsure of what to write. As a 32 years YOUNG, single country gal living in the big smoke, I’ve had plenty of ups and downs in my love life over the last 10 years, all of which I think have taught me something valuable. To quote Miss Grande.. “Thank u….Next”!

My last long-term relationship ended in my early 20’s and although it took me a while to get over the heartache that comes with young love and loss, I definitely feel like I’ve managed to find ways to pick myself up and get on with enjoying life to the max. Whether it’s fleeting romances with friends of friends, Tinder/Bumble dates that develop into something more or those unrequited crushes we all have from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy being single, especially the older I get. Seeing the people in my life, settle down, get engaged, get married and start a family. All of the above I hope will happen for me someday. But I live by this mantra; ‘What’s for you won’t pass you by’.

Dealing with Heartbreak:

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I’m someone who wears my heart on my sleeve so I’ve always found talking to friends or family, having a little cry when needed and not bottling things up helps. A problem shared is a problem halved and that counts for heartbreak, disappointment and just being generally peed off with the lack of decent male specimens around. A good old DMC -deep and meaningful with the girlios (including Lia) has really helped me figure out what I do and don’t want in a partner in life. When I was mad about the boy that saw me just as a friend, when I’ve been ghosted by the handsome farmer or the time I realized that I was just not getting the respect I deserve after wasted months of dating. I have hashed it out, vented my frustrations and got the people in my life that I love and trust to remind me that there’s nothing wrong with me and that things just weren’t meant to be this time.

My advice is to make sure you have a full diary!!! Events, gigs, festivals, lunch’s,dinners, cinema, shows, quizzes, comedy nights, gym,exercise, tag rugby, group activities, family time and travel, have all been a major part of keeping me entertained and positive in my singleton adventures. I love doing my own thing, seeing the world, making new friends, trying something new and I feel totally confident to do those things by myself. So someday, I know I will get to share those experiences and memories with the right guy and hopefully make new ones together too.

I’m also all about the self-love. A lot of people might feel it’s a waste of time and hard-earned money; but I am completely in favor of treating yourself to that shellac manicure, the curly blow dry, the tint and wax or the potter around the shops now and again. I like to feel good about myself… just for me.

 Dating Scene:

Getting on to the dating side of things, unfortunately I don’t feel like I’m an expert. The online dating app craze just hasn’t really worked for me yet. I have only really had experience with the apps, ‘Tinder’ and ‘Bumble’. Tinder gives you the option to swipe left for no or right for yes to a potential partner. Once a match is made, either of you can make the first introductions. Whereas with Bumble, once a match is made, the girl has to make the first move and patiently wait for a response. There is a 24 hour time limit for your match to reply to your message, if they don’t by then the match is gone. Sending out 10 messages to 10 perspective guys may only result in 1 or 2 replies or connections. I’ve found you really have to invest time and patience into these apps.  A good friend told me once that she set aside 30 minutes of her day every evening for this exact reason. This would be her allotted time to scroll through the apps, send out alllllllllllll the love, weed out the weirdoes and reply to the select few that had returned some interest. To be fair, it worked out well for her as she is now living with her boyfriend of 2 years, courtesy of Bumble. If you’re lucky enough to get through the initial chat and “getting to know you stage”, setting up a date ASAP and meeting someone in real life is key. I still prefer the old-fashioned organic way of getting to know someone, as much fun as it is to just flick through pictures and seeing what takes your fancy.

That is the extent of my current knowledge and as much as I can contribute thus far.  My knight in shining armor hasn’t presented himself as of yet but I continue to know that when the time is right it will happen. A friend is keen to set me up on a blind date in coming weeks, so keep your fingers crossed for me!!

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Thanks for reading and I hope this has sparked some joy and optimism for you.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Remember that self-love is not selfish; you cannot truly love another until you know how to love yourself.

Love Gen and Lía xxxxx

It’s Bath Time!

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I didn’t intend on writing about our recent little adventure to Bath but, I was so blown away by the place that I thought it might be beneficial for anyone planning a trip. It is definitely one of the nicest little places we have visited. While we were there; I kept saying to Ian can we move here? It is so picturesque and everyone looks so happy and relaxed. We were very fortunate with the good weather which made it all the more enjoyable.

At work, one of my colleagues / friends was raving about Bath. It was always somewhere I was interested in visiting but never really prioritised it. So after hearing all the positive reports, I decided to book a trip as one of Ian’s Christmas Presents. We love giving each other little breaks as presents so that we have mini holidays throughout the year. Prior to going, I reached out on Instagram and asked for recommendations of what to do while in Bath. I received lots of really good suggestions which enhanced our trip. Thank you to those who replied. I love having a balance of having activities planned but also having time to meander through the streets.

Accommodation:

We stayed in The Arlington. The accommodation was 135 pounds per night including breakfast. It was a lovely town house type accommodation within very close walking distance to the centre of Bath. The rooms were very tastefully designed and were perfect for a short stay. The bathrooms were newly renovated and also had a really powerful shower which is always a plus. The breakfast was scrumptious and they catered very well for a vegetarian which is surprisingly still rare. The residence has a lovely sitting room type area with a bar adjoined to it. We enjoyed a drink one of the evenings by the fire here. There were nuts available at the bar that were so yummy, I don’t know what kind they were but they were delicious so of course we ate most of them. I’d go back for them alone. The only negative is that the rooms are a little on the small size and do look bigger in the pictures online. The staff are lovely and helpful which really made the place all the more special. Overall we were both delighted with the accommodation and it was a really pleasant experience.

Restaurants:

Being a food lover, I of course did my research before going and was pleasantly surprised by how nice the food is in Bath. It can be a struggle finding places to eat that satisfy both Ian and I. Ian loves very simple food and with me being a veggie and him loving nothing more than steak and chips it can be a bone of contention. Therefore preparation is always a good idea. The first night we ate in a little Italian called ‘Joya’ which I had booked. On the first night in new places you don’t really know where you are going so it can be nice to have the first night planned. This Italian had been recommended to me by a lovely person on Instagram and it did not disappoint. We shared garlic bread with cheese to start and it was the nicest garlic bread we have ever had. Thankfully we shared it as it was huge. I also had the primavera pasta based on the waiter’s recommendation and it was also amazing. We then shared a Crème Brule dessert. I really recommend this sweet little restaurant. You may initially be disappointed by the appearance however; the food and warm welcome well and truly make up for it.

The second night we ate in ‘Brown’s’. This is a really nice contemporary style bar and restaurant. Make sure you are hungry as the portions are large and they provide the nicest freshly baked bread before dinner. Despite trying not to savage it all, we ate every crumb. It was literally a loaf of bread. For my main course, I had a goat’s cheese tartlet and Ian had steak and chips with onion rings the size of his head. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to have dessert as I got one of my ocular migraines where I literally can’t see so we had to leave in a hurry. This obviously put a dampener on the night but didn’t take away from the lovely atmosphere and food here. We highly recommend it.

The third night we dined in the Thermae Bath Spa Restaurant which was probably the least pleasing of the lot. Dinner came with the spa package and while the food was fine it was nothing to write home about. The other option available was to have afternoon tea with the spa package so I would recommend this option if you are planning to avail of the package deal. Here I ate a vegetarian tagine and Ian had chicken and mash however was still hungry as the portions were very small.

The weather was amazing while we were there so we decided to enjoy a picnic in Henrietta Park. We just picked some nice things up in Sainsburys and took it outdoors. It was lovely chatting in the sunshine followed by coffee and a shared caramel slice for dessert.

Along with these restaurants we went to a few nice bars for drinks the nicest being Framptons on Pulteney Bridge which overlooks the river. I treated myself to a baileys coffee here which was delicious. I had never had one before Christmas when my friend Laura gave me one in her house. Now I love them but they are very indulgent so I save them for special occasions. Also the Malbec was divine here. It’s a really nice relaxed place to enjoy a chat.

Oh I almost forgot we had the nicest coffee I have ever had. Now in saying that, I am very new to coffee and only recently got into oat milk lattes so I may not be the best judge. I treat myself to one a week. The Name of the Coffee shop was ‘Colonna and Small’s’which is in the centre of Bath. They were delicious here also recommend to me by someone on Instagram.

Activities:

There is so much to see in Bath and every street you turn has something beautiful to look at.

Our highlights were:

Walking Tour  Mayor’s Guides Free Walking Tour meet outside the Roman Bath’s entrance in the main square. The tours leave on Saturdays at 2.45. You walk the city with a group for free to see all of the lovely highlights of the city and get to hear about its history at the same time. The guides do this voluntarily but accept tips. We had a lovely guide who deserved all the contributions he got. This is a really nice way to see the city and to get a few needed steps in with all of the indulgence. 

The Guildhall Markets were another recommendation from a lovely person on Instagram. They are definitely worth a little potter around as they have really lovely stalls and a magnificent chocolatier. They are situated right beside the Frampton Bar (as above) so easily accessible.

Jane Austen Centre located on Gay Street. This was such a fun experience even for Ian who really has no interest in Jane Austen. It is so interesting to hear about her early life. I hadn’t realised that she sadly died so young. The man who meets you at the door is supposedly the most photographed man in England. The staff there are hilarious and are so passionate about their jobs it is contagious. The Regency Tea Rooms above are very cute and have lovely little pastries to enjoy.  Of course I delved straight into re-read her books once I got home.

Bath’s Therme Spa This is a really nice way to spend an evening. There are three floors here one with an indoor heated pool, one with varying relaxation rooms and saunas and the icing on the cake is the top floor outdoor heated pool where we watched the sun go down. It was so magical. I highly recommend going in the evening time to get to experience this. Unfortunately, they don’t serve alcohol in the outdoor pool.  Not that this is a big issue, but it would have been nice to have a glass of bubbles. We had one afterwards to make up for it. There are some good priced deals when you pre book which I would highly recommend as the queues are a mile long if you just turn up on the day.  A must see if in Bath.

*We went to The Roman Baths however they are the only thing that really wasn’t worth the entry fee.  They are interesting to see but other than us having a laugh in there ourselves you have read it all in history class as a child.

Shopping Bath has some really nice little unique shops to potter around. I went into one called ‘Vinegar Hill’ it was full of delightful little trinkets, my favourite kind of shop. I actually got Ian a little present for the morning of our wedding here. Ian tried on some wedding suits also and got some lovely ideas but didn’t purchase any.

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We did lots of other things also but these were definitely the highlights. So in a nutshell, I couldn’t recommend Bath enough. If you haven’t been and are looking for a little weekend away, book it. I assure you won’t regret it. If you have any further questions just pop me a comment and I’ll be happy to offer any more insight.

I hoped you enjoyed the read and let me know if you take a trip for some very well deserved R&R.

Lia xx

Mini Wedding Series: 1: Suppliers

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This is the first post of a little mini wedding series. This one documents our list of suppliers as I have received lots of questions and I am aware that brides to be are under time pressures.

First things first, we had the most incredible day. It was genuinely the best day of my life so far. It exceeded all of our expectations. The day ran so smoothly and it was incredible to have all of the people we love in one room.  A massive thank you to our guests and wedding party as it was each one of you that made the day so special. We are still so overwhelmed by the abundance of love and the outpouring of gifts we received. My four bridesmaids were incredible to me and the fun we had the morning of the wedding is a memory I will cherish forever. I feel so lucky to have had them by my side.

My mother walked me down the aisle, which is something I have dreamed of since I was a little girl but nothing could have prepared me for how wonderful it actually felt. Her presence on the day and in my life in general is the biggest gift I could ever ask for. I didn’t take for granted how incredibly special it was to have her with me on our wedding day.

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To any couples getting married I am so excited for you. It is genuinely the most incredible day and you have such an adventure ahead of you. Soak up every moment of it. I hope the list of suppliers and info on each assists in your decision making process.

Our day ran so well because of the professionals we hired some of whom have since become friends because they were just so lovely. I can’t explain how important it is to genuinely like the people that you have chosen to be around you on your wedding day. A natural connection with the suppliers is what guided us in choosing who we did. I have written this list in order of booking to help couples in their planning. All links of vendors will be at the end of this post also.

Venue

Carton House:

We really struggled to choose between two venues Carton House being one of them. We decided on Carton House because of many reasons but the deciding factor for me was when we drove in our song came on the radio (Never Change Picture This) our first dance song.  I am always led by my gut and this really helped me resolve any previous indecision I had . Obviously we loved the venue itself, it was on the right side of Dublin for many of our friends and family travelling from Limerick and we loved the grounds. Fionnuala Townsend was the wedding coordinator there and she made it all so easy. Her level of experience put us at ease straight away and no matter what we asked for, it was accommodated. On the day itself, the hotel staff were incredible, so supportive and anything big or small was provided so fast. They guided us through the day with such ease and warmth. They run weddings there like a well oiled machine. We had our rehearsal dinner the night before in the newly renovated Club House which was also a lovely experience. Lastly, the honeymoon suite was absolutely amazing! We spent three nights in it and it was by far the nicest place I have ever stayed, such a treat. If you want to have a little peek of the suite there is a video on my Instagram page under highlight wedding.

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Church

St Patrick’s Church:

If you plan to get married in a church it is the next thing that needs booking after the venue as they book up fast. We got married in Celbridge St Patrick’s Church. I fell in love with the stained glass window and loved the length of the aisle. The ceremony part of the day was the most special piece of the day for both of us. During the service, it feels like it is just the two of you as your back is to everyone which makes it really intimate between you and your partner. Make sure that you love the church and that it suits your guests needs; size, place for the music and singers, accessibility etc. There is a lot of paperwork that needs to be completed prior to getting married in a church so make sure this is done in advance. It can be nice to also meet the chaplain to build up a rapport with him or her as they are fundamental on the day to insuring it all goes to plan timing wise.

Music

  • Bentley Boys:
  • The Delahunty’s:

After we ticked both the venue and church off the list we got straight onto planning the band. Bands book up years in advance so I would really recommend prioritizing this once you have a date set. We had a few in mind. The Bentley Boys were holding a show case in the Ballsbridge Hotel and we went to see them. With the Bentley Boys you get to choose from a range of singers and what specific instruments you want. We were blown away by one of their singers Michael and because of his availability we actually changed the date of our wedding from Saturday the 3rd of Aug to Friday the 2nd. We highly recommend the Bentley Boys, they were so accommodating and had everyone on the dance floor from the get go. They also offer a DJ service for when the band finishes up which was really helpful and insured a smooth transition with no interruptions to the dancing.

At the church and venue we had the amazing Niamh Delahunty and her very talented brother Richie Delahunty conduct the music during the ceremony. Niamh is one of my best friends and for as long as I have known her I wanted her to sing at our wedding. Her voice is out of this world.  Her brother Richie is incredibly talented and has already achieved so much in the music industry, we are all so proud of him. It was beyond special to have them sing at our wedding.

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Photographer

Paul Kelly:

Hilariously, we picked Paul Kelly from the internet and only realised upon meeting him that he is our neighbor. Paul and his assistant photographer Joe were one of the highlights of the day. They brought so much fun to the day and were a dream to work with. Ian really doesn’t like posed pictures and they both made us feel at such ease. At one stage, Joe was helping my bridesmaids look for my tennis bracelet I wanted to wear that we couldn’t find right before we were leaving Carton House. We received our photos within three weeks and to say we are delighted with them is an understatement. We couldn’t believe that we got them back so fast. We also got a little teaser video of the photos a week after the wedding which was very exciting and emotional. They caught such special moments that are really natural (below is one of my favourites, I think I just realised I was actually getting married) . On our first meeting, Paul presented me with a chocolate shoe which was such a lovely touch and was just the start of the bond that grew over the coming weeks. He is one of a kind and I couldn’t recommend him enough.

Hair and Makeup

  • Sarah Keary Makeup:
  • Katrina Kelly Hair:

Again hair and makeup is important to book early as they also tend to be reserved years in advance. There were a number of make up artists I considered but I picked Sarah Keary and she didn’t disappoint. Sarah is such a talented makeup artist. I knew her sister Sinead in College who I imagine a lot of you already follow her as she is such a little fashionista and has her own personal shopping business. Sarah was so professional and quick which I really liked because I hate when makeup takes forever. She really understood that I wanted a natural look and achieved exactly what I asked for. Sarah is an absolute pro and the girls loved their makeup. It also lasted all day, I remember my aunt saying to me in the bathroom at 2 am that my makeup still looked fresh.

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Hair was put in the trustee hands of the amazing Katrina Kelly who was also an absolute highlight of the day. From the minute I met her at my hair trial we clicked.  I genuinely came home raving about how excited I was to have her with me on the morning of the wedding. She is so warm and caring. Katrina’s expert skill in hair is just the icing on the cake of what an amazing person she actually is. Her co-worker Sean was also so lovely and great fun. I loved my hair and despite the wind it lasted all day. I really wanted to wear it down and she did an amazing job of still making it look dressy. The girls loved their hair also and my mammy couldn’t believe that her hair piece didn’t budge all day long. Katrina filled the room with her lovely positive energy, made tea for us all, helped me get into my dress and stayed with us until the last minute to insure that I was happy getting into the car. She went above and beyond and is an expert in her field but her lovely bubbly personality is the real gift you will benefit most from should you choose her.

The Videographer

Mario Vaitkus:

We were unsure if we wanted to get a videographer but my chief Bridesmaid Aoife convinced me that it is really worth it. After seeing her wedding video, I knew then how valuable it is to have one. It might sound a bit morbid but having video footage of people in the years to come when they are no longer around is so lovely. We choose Mario Vaitkus who is a cinematic wedding videographer. He was also so lovely and gelled with everyone. We really wanted drone footage which he provided so we choose him based on that also. We have yet to receive the video of our wedding given it was only six weeks ago, but our experience of him on the day was very positive.

The Dress

Myrtle Ivory:

I can’t even explain how nervous I was about wedding dress shopping. I find it difficult to get a dress for friend’s weddings because I am so fussy so the thought of buying a wedding dress completely overwhelmed me. For this reason, I went wedding dress shopping on my own first, to get a sense of what style suited me. This is not for everyone, but it was right for me. I really enjoyed going on my own and felt so supported by the staff. Once I found the style I liked I brought my girlies along with me and we had such a lovely day together.  We went to four bridal shops and had champagne lunch in Balfes. We were somewhat tipsy for the final shop which was hilarious. I loved two dresses and couldn’t choose between them. I knew I needed my mother to help me choose so she and I went along and looked at both dresses. When she saw the one I choose, she jumped off the chair and shouted ‘that’s the one’. It confirmed what my heart was saying. My dress was designed by Amanda Wakeley and I loved it. It is heart breaking to think that I will never wear it again. We bought it there and then and I never looked back. Mammy and I then enjoyed a celebratory lunch in the Shelbourne which just added to the lovely experience. It is all of these lovely little outings that make weddings so special.  It is so important to cherish each and every one of them. Marina in Myrtle Ivory was so lovely to deal with and made the whole experience so meaningful. She was so helpful and I trusted her completely. She offered us champagne when we decided on the dress and joined in on our celebration which was so lovely. I also enjoyed bringing Ian’s mother to see the dress too. The shop has since closed down which is so sad because Marina’s years of experience was invaluable in helping in the process.

The Flowers

Absolutely Fabulous Celbridge:

Anyone who knows me knows that I love flowers. I buy them for the house every week and when I am lucky sometimes Ian surprises me with them. I had a very clear image of how I wanted the flowers to look. While they are an expensive addition to the overall wedding cost, they really are worth it for the day itself and the pictures. If you have a good relationship with the florist you can definitely get your dream flowers in a cost effective way by going with the flowers in season and also by picking similar but lower cost alternatives. The minute we walked into the shop, we immediately warmed to Lorcan, he has such a good sense of humor and really understood the look we were going for. On the day he had everything ready to go and did an incredible flower arch (picture above). I couldn’t recommend him enough and I think he was one of my favourite suppliers.

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The Wedding Car

AW Beckett:

Ian took the lead on this and organised the wedding cars. I didn’t mind what we traveled in but I have to say it was lovely to have a nice car for the drive to the church with my mammy by my side. The chats we had in the car were very memorable and ones, I’ll always hold close to my heart. We booked the cars through AW Beckett who are based in Dundalk. The driver played the most amazing trick on me. Our wedding was at 1.00 pm and when we arrived to the church the clock in the car said 12.45 pm. I thought to myself, how am I going to wait 15 minutes! The driver then told me it was actually 1.00 pm and time to go into the church. They had the clock set that way for that purpose. I know it is only a small thing but it made such a difference to my pre-walking down the aisle nerves. Also when Ian and I traveled back to the venue they had champagne and the best part, jellies in the car. A little kick of sugar was exactly what we needed. These nice little touches were very much appreciated. We would highly recommend this car company however in saying this,  it is an area you can save on if cars aren’t your thing and rope in a family member who has a nice car to bring you instead.

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The Cake

Emily’s Pantry:

The cake is the one thing I wish we had made more of a saving on. It really is a very insignificant part of the day and even if you choose not to have a wedding cake very few would notice, in my opinion.

We got our cake from Emily’s Pantry. We enjoyed the cake tasting immensely. It was complete cake overload but was so much fun as we made a little date evening out of it.  We got three tiers; chocolate biscuit cake, vanilla and one champagne and strawberry. Emily was really lovely and paid great attention to detail. Here is a picture of our cake.

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Wedding Interiors

Frog Prince :

The Carton suite was so beautiful already but we entrusted the lovely Frog Prince with helping with the interiors of the room. They are so unbelievably talented and professional. We had to be very careful to not go over budget on this part of the wedding because we wanted everything. In the end we got the backdrop for the top table, Geo stands with flower arrangements (These were my favourite part and really added to the room), other little flower arrangements for the table and drapings. Have a look on their website but I can guarantee that you will be head over heels in love with their attention to detail and tasteful eye.

Sweet Cart:

My very creative and talented husband made our sweet cart and we bought the sweets for it. This sat in our kitchen for the weeks prior to the wedding so I became quite attached to it. I also had to re-purchase three bags of white mice (they are my ultimate favourite sweet) because I ate them all in the lead up to the wedding. It is a good idea to keep this in mind if you plan to do your own sweet cart. Be aware that you will struggle to stay away from picking. My chief bridesmaid gave me the last one on the day of the wedding and I was genuinely so thrilled. The sweets went down a treat and were gone so fast so definitely a favourite among guests.

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So there ends the long lists of suppliers and people who helped make our day the wonderful day that it was. All the links are below. From the bottom of our hearts thank you to each of our suppliers. I really hope that you found this post helpful. If you are getting married, enjoy every minute of it. You are in for the most wonderful time of your life which is filled with love from every angle.  If anyone has any specific questions about pricing etc. please message me on Instagram @carrlia and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Next up in the mini wedding series is all about wedding prep. Thank you so much for reading; I have really enjoyed writing this and reliving the day.

All photo credit to Paul Kelly Studio

Home

http://paulkellyphotographer.com

https://www.mariovaitkus.ie/

http://www.emilyspantry.ie/

https://www.frogprince.ie/

https://www.abfabflowers.ie/

https://www.cartonhouse.com/weddings.html

https://sarahkeary.ie/

https://www.katrinakellyeducation.com/all/consultation-with-katrina

https://awbeckett.com/

 

Dealing with Disappointment:

 

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I was dubious about sharing this experience with you all because it wasn’t a happy successful upbeat one. These encounters in our life however, are often the ones we learn the most from. Following the response I received on social media after a post I shared outlining a recent disappointment, I thought it might be helpful to provide more detail in  a blog format. The more I thought about it, I became increasingly inspired to share this not only because of it hopefully being of help to those who may also be in similar situations but also out of concern for the youth of today. Adolescents are growing up in a world in which they are constantly exposed to what everyone is doing around them however, it’s only everyone’s highlight reel that they see. I am so grateful that I got to have my teenage years removed from this, offline not really caring what everyone else was doing. I am sure there are so many people young and old who feel overwhelmed by the constant comparison to strangers. So I wanted to share another one of my experiences which isn’t full of gloss and optimism but is full of hope. I wanted to write this while the pain is still raw because I think it will be of most benefit to others. I know that it will take a long time before I can fully let it go. ‘It is what it is’ and there is only one way forward; proceed, proceed, proceed.

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I have always known that my path in this life was to be of service on the soul level. I was born empathetic. Despite this clarity, I often still felt fragmented unsure of what I was supposed to do with this. Social Work has always felt like the perfect fit but it is such a generic qualification that it is really is up to you to specialise in an area that you love in order to maintain such a demanding profession. Two years ago I was progressing in my career at a fast pace. I worked with a private company in which the perks were amazing and the salary was above that of what I would be earning elsewhere.  While I loved the work, something didn’t feel right. The passion just wasn’t there. It didn’t make my heart sing in the way that I knew it should, if I was going to spend my career there. Despite the superficial positive lures it had, I felt that there was no use in climbing the rungs of this ladder, as it was not against the right wall.

Once I made this decision, a job opportunity arose in what I imagined as being my dream setting, a Maternity Hospital. Being obsessed with women and babies in general, I thought that this would be the perfect match so despite that it was a lower position, less well paid and was not permanent I went for it. I failed and was not successful. I was devastated in a way that I wasn’t expecting and it was as a result of this that it became clear how much I wanted the opportunity to work in this area. Two weeks later there was another advertisement for an additional temporary post. Again, I went for it and didn’t succeed. I was again upset but recovered quicker having built resilience from the last failed attempt. A number of months went by and I often still thought about the job. Low and behold a third job vacancy came up again a temporary post. With a lot of hesitation, I made the decision to try for the third time and with my head held ‘half high’ I proceeded. This time, I got it and it was worth all the attempts. I love working where I do and feel that I have finally found my niche area in social work. I have worked here for the last two years and have put my heart and soul into it. I am so lucky to be part of an amazing team of people and work with such lovely women, children and families. Finally, a permanent senior position recently came up here and in the area I am so passionate about. I love the work and it all just fitted so well. I put in a lot of preparation and the interview went well but someone with more experience was successful. I know things like this happen every day and I get that it isn’t a major event in the grand scheme of things but to me it felt like the end of the world. The type of work we do makes it all very emotional and it being taken away from me is heartbreaking to say the least and feels somewhat unfair.

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I let myself wallow in the pain and disappointment for a few days. However, I very quickly decided enough was enough and realised it is just the universe sending me a big sign to take the diversion that has been forced upon me. I always have absolute faith ‘what is for you won’t pass you’ and this is no different. I have to trust that something else is waiting for me and instead of remaining in self-pity; I am choosing to see it as an opportunity for growth.  I am telling myself that I am not lost but perhaps just early in the process. I know that it is in these times that transformation takes place. The unknown isn’t going to kill us, we can choose to embrace change or run from it.

I found the below beneficial in attempting to pull myself back together again and thought it might be helpful to share how to deal with major disappointments:

  • Let yourself feel the pain.

I can’t stress how important this is. It is okay to be devastated if something you are very passionate about doesn’t work out. If anything, it shows how much it means to you. Let the tears out and take the time to wallow. This process is needed for recovery and your ability to let go. This will look different for everyone but for me it meant a lot of crying, cups of tea and snuggling myself in the support of my loved ones particularly that of my fur babies. When you have to dig deep to get through something it builds your character. It is through our struggles that we learn how to cope and ultimately bounce back stronger. Find the lesson and then choose to push forward.

  • Surround yourself with supportive people.

Not everyone in your life is going to understand how you are feeling but make sure that you choose carefully who you allow into your space at the initial stages of feeling extremely vulnerable. The girls at work were amazing to the point that they cried with me because they really understood the disappointment I felt. Their kindness to me is something I will always appreciate.

  • Talk to whoever is your biggest cheerleader.

We all need one of these in our life. Again different for everyone, but make sure it is someone who always has your back and believes in you no matter what. For me, it is my mother. She is always the person who makes me see that there is a reason to be positive and grateful in the most difficult of situations. She reminds me of my resilience and understands the bigger picture that is difficult to see if you are the person going through the experience. Ian is my other amazing supporter but in a very practical way. His words to me were ‘Sure you hadn’t a hope compared to her experience and no offense but with her years of knowledge she will probably do a better job’ yes he is so right and oh so logical but not exactly what I needed to hear. In fairness to him though he wiped my tears and had already started devising my plan B before I was ready to even think about it.

  • Continue the daily practices that make you feel good.

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Do the things that enhance and maintain your well-being even if it is hard while you are feeling miserable. For me that is practicing gratefulness, meditation and most of all yoga. I reached for my mat the moment I began to feel okay again. I believe that failure is carving the path to success and it is only through it that we learn and move forward to what our true nature and purpose is. Journaling how you feel can help to enable you to begin to take some positives out of the perceived failure.

  • Trust in the process of life.

Last but not least trust in the process of life. There have been so many times I have looked back and realised ‘oh that is why that didn’t work I was supposed to do this’. Time will tell why this has happened and while that is of little benefit while you are feeling the disappointment you will look back and understand the bigger picture. Life will reveal your path but you have to trust in it even when it feels so unfair. In order to do this, I found it helpful to be mindful and present, it is important to remember that all we have is now. Learning to be happy in the present moment is so important. Continuously looking forward into the future and ruminating about the past serves us none other than reliving life’s hardships and worrying about things we have little control over. All of which takes the joy out of the present moment.

If all this fails, CHOCOLATE also helps.

I really believe that failure is an attitude not an outcome. Unfortunately, we have to learn to be flexible to give ourselves more choices. Every adversity carries with it the seeds of a greater benefit if you are willing to look hard enough. It is up to you whether you allow it to empower you or dis-empower you? You can choose to take a seemingly negative situation and frame it in a way that leaves you feeling empowered. Obstacles will appear and sometimes we have to step back to see the bigger picture. If an opportunity falls through it is because there is an even greater one on the way. Sometimes you just don’t know why things happen or what higher level is at work but if you can trust in the wisdom of life and your higher self you can become a stronger person by re-framing the situation to move forward in growth.

To those feeling rejected or let down by a recent disappointment, my message to you and to myself is, you are good enough and you will find your way. Trust the lessons and the new direction you are being catapulted into. Personally, I don’t know what that is right now but I do know that I have so much to be grateful for to get me through. While I am finding my way and my plan B my other passions such as this and yoga will keep me more than happy

Life is full of transformations and they are an integral part of our growth, each building off of the other creating our souls lineage. There is a bigger purpose guiding us that is teeming with possibilities. Believe in that and believe in yourself.

Sending you love and hugs,

Lia xx

Welcome to Smiling Soul

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Thanks for taking a look. I was inspired to begin this blog for many reasons but mainly I want to reach out to people and provide them with a place to come when they are feeling frazzled or worn out for some positivity. My intention is that the reader will accumulate some easy to access tips that can be used in daily life to create a sense of calm when needed most.

I am a Social Worker by profession so I myself have had to learn self-care practices. Along my journey as a Social Worker these practices are invaluable and have evoked such a strong passion to share them with anyone who is feeling the weight of the world.

Unfortunately self-care is not something we are taught as children in school or even in third level education. It still surprises me that even now in this day and age, it is still not a priority of the education systems in this country. I really feel it is a big gap and is one that I feel very passionately about changing.

It may sound simplistic but not having ascertained these skills through education, I didn’t know how to take care of my own mental health and wasn’t aware that it needed to be minded. That was until an array of difficult work related experiences occurred given the nature of my career. Bit by bit, I really began to look at how I could include daily practices which would prevent burn out. I knew I adored my chosen career but I genuinely did not know how I would last in it, if something didn’t change. Five years in, I now feel very equipped with my own tool box of what to do on particularly hard or draining days. This practice has increased my confidence and has made me more effective in my career as we all know you can’t pour from an empty vessel.

So let me tell you a bit about myself. I am twenty-eight and I live in Dublin with my boyfriend Ian. We have two doggy babies Hugo (Pug) and Bruno (Pomeranian) who we adore.

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I love exercise for its mindset benefits and engage in a bit of everything from yoga, weights in the gym and running. I also love fashion and jump at any occasion to get dressed up.

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Like many of us, I have the guilty pleasure of spending copious amounts of time on Snap Chat/ Instagram following lots of influencers. I also love reading and more recently listening to podcasts. I will share my favourite ones to listen to for some motivation and positivity. I have the best friends a girl could ask for and love spending time with them. I am also a self-confessed typical Irish daughter who is obsessed with her mammy, as I don’t have any siblings we are particularly close.

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So in a nutshell, being a Mental Health Social Worker, I have become obsessed with minding my own and my loved one’s mental health. I want to share the knowledge I have gathered with everyone so we can all be a little bit happier. Feel free to ask any other questions if you are interested.

Thanks for reading. Add any comments or feedback if you wish.  I look forward to sharing much more with you.

Lia xx