The definition of attitude is “a way of thinking”, “a frame of mind” or “a view point”. All too often “having an attitude” is said implying that it is something negative. That if we have an attitude, or a particular view point, we are stubborn, difficult or challenging… Or contrary is another word one could use. Or maybe just different for simply seeing something from a different, but less appreciated angle than someone else.
But what about developing an attitude of gratitude?
We hear about the potential benefits of adopting such a frame of mind, that perhaps it may just be worth pursuing?
When I went to look for some research on the subject of the benefits of gratitude, a friend of mine kindly pointed me in the direction of this article, which let’s say saved me an enormous amount of hours! In this lengthy article the author have compiled the findings of 40 research studies on the benefits of adopting an attitude of gratitude.
He lists out 31 (!) but I have taken my top 10 favourites and listed them here:
- It makes us happier
- It makes others like us more
- It makes us healthier
- It strengthens our emotions, making us more resilient against stress
- It makes us more optimistic
- It makes us less self-centred
- It makes us feel good
- It strengthens relationships
- It improves our decision making process
- Basically we become nicer people over all and much more fun to be around!
So since all the reasons for WHY we should develop an attitude of gratitude is listed out in the article mentioned above, I thought it may be better if I instead focused this blog on HOW we can put this into practice in our everyday life.
I think developing a gratitude practice is a little like developing any other new practice / habit we want to bring in to our lives, because we feel it could be of benefit to our health / wellbeing / happiness. The key is: we simply have to remember to do it often enough till one day it become part of our everyday routine, just like brushing our teeth! Consistency is going to be key. And even if we miss a day or two, or three… as soon as we remember, we just begin again.
To be honest, even though I feel that developing an attitude of gratitude is important and perhaps one of the most powerful tools we can use to make inroads towards self-love and self-appreciation, along with the practice of self-compassion, I do not have a daily practice of it established myself (yet). I’m kind of still in the “remember-to-do-it” stage… This is why I will share with you three of the ways I’ve been using over the past few years to keep gratitude at the forefront of my life.
About two years ago I stumble across The Five Minute Journal, though not the cheapest of investments, this cleverly laid out journal is a great place to start if you want to commit yourself to cement a gratitude practice in your life.
It is a lovely hardback “book”, with no dates so you can pick it up at any time and start where ever you are. The journal is split in two halves, a five minute practice for the morning that consists of writing down three things that you are grateful for, three things that would make it a great day and one affirmation for the day. And then there’s a quick prompt to spend another five minutes at the end of the day to recap what was amazing that day, as well as what could have been done better.
This way of having a “script” or a structured outline makes it really easy to get into the practice of gratitude with a reflective angle. Reading these questions everyday, and then thoughtfully writing down the answers does make for good practice of developing our awareness for what is good in our lives already. Especially for those times when we may be preoccupied with all the things we want, but don’t have. Or when life is handing you lemons…
I was doing quite well at filling out my Five Minute Journal for about 2 months or so… Until what usually happens, my unstructured self got the upper hand. So last year I decided to try a different approach to my gratitude practice.
Enter the Gratitude Jar.
I got this idea from a friend who shared it on FB, and I think, she in turn had gotten it from someone else. This jar concept has been around awhile. It’s as simple as it sounds, and a little less structured so it does require that we remember to do it!
Take a large glass jar and then each and every time that you are grateful for something, then write it down on a piece of paper and then put it into your jar. At the end of the year, open your jar and go through all the blessings that you received. It does make for some inspiring reading.
This approach seems to suit me a little better, well as far as I remember to do it that is!
The third tool / approach that I’ve found as a path to develop gratitude and open the door to happiness, is to take some intentional moments, or breaths, to take in the beauty that is (always) all around us. This simple practice is very much on the lines of cultivating mindfulness, through basic awareness of just noticing things. To shift our attention to something in our physical reality, is such a simple yet effective way of anchoring the mind and the body in the present moment.
I’ve been doing this for some time now, especially if I catch myself feeling overwhelmed by the business of life and all that is on my to-do-list. Just to literally stay still for a tiny moment of time and allow my senses to open up to what surrounds me, can refresh and calm me no end. It is also much easier to do than it often is to find some time “sit down to meditate”.
What I didn’t know though is that there’s a practice that is called “The Ten Breath Practice”, which deepens this experience. My dear friend Jen Ardis (who’s not only a friend but also my collaborator for our Nutrition & Mindfulness Retreats that we are holding here in Fermoy) gifted me with the book that explains this simple yet powerful practice. The book is called Ten Breaths to Happiness, touching life in its fullness, by Glen Schneider.
The book explains the simple technique of how to with intent and purpose allow ourselves to fully take in the experience of something that we find beautiful. And how by doing this, can open up new neuronal pathways in the brain, paving way for more feelings of contentment and happiness. Sounds good to me! I particularly like the simplicity of this practice as well as it being such a practical and sensory experience.
I also had the pleasure of witnessing how this practice can enhance people’s lives when I sat in on one of Jen’s Mindful Selfcare classes the other week!
This practice works for even the busiest person. Even for those who like one of my client’s once when I suggested starting a gratitude practice replied immediately with the words “I’m too busy”. To be honest, her reply threw me a bit…
Though come to thinks of it… I have found myself thinking along the same lines too, like “Do I have time to stop and spend 10 breaths on enjoying this moment?”.
I remind myself that yes I do have 30 seconds or perhaps even a full minute to enjoy what is here and now.
Because what else is there?
Do you ever feel like your life is spinning out of control? Or like you are suffering with sensory overload?
I sure do. Sometimes more often than I would care to admit, even…. Lately it seems to manifest as “social media fatigue”. Like when I scroll through Facebook or my Instagram feed, it is just that, scrolling, without really taking anything in. Kind of like my brain says “Enough, I can’t take any more in. I am full”. A bit like the same way our stomach says “I am full” after eating a certain amount. Or like the way our cells can become desensitised to insulin, because they’ve become overloaded.
In today’s society it seems like almost EVERYTHING is available ALL the time.
Many of us can get access to information, news, or foods in abundance, yet it seems like we are never satisfied… It’s like there’s a huge big gaping void. A hole that we need to fill in order to become whole.
Then of course we that inner voice (let’s call this particular one the Inner Critic) which is adding to this “not enough” chatter. It tends to go on and on about the fact that we are not doing enough, as in working hard enough to achieve our goals or further our careers, or that we are not smart enough / slim enough / fit enough / rich enough / outgoing enough. Just take your pick!
For me “not enough” often manifests as “I am not working hard enough”. And what make this thought even more ridiculous is that I discovered that the more I do, the less I sometime feel like I have achieved. Go figure!
I’ve even had to sit back, take stock and look back on my old to-do lists to see that this idea is simply a limiting belief that I’m holding and not true at all…
The other add on to “not doing enough” is a fear of missing out. (Or should that be FOMO???) Which means, I buy books, sign up to courses and email lists, beyond what is realistic to ever keep up with. I’m not even sure how it got to this. Perhaps this is why I am currently suffering with this brain fatigue.
More is not more and too much is way beyond enough.
A few months ago I interviewed, together with a dear friend, a whole bunch of exciting and interesting people from around the world for a project on Selfcare, that is soon to launch. A couple of our interviewees spoke into the topic of decluttering, both our physical environment as well as our minds. This really spoke to me.
In fact, I think if we start with our outer space it will soon reflect back on to our inner one.
So I have slowly started on this kind of detox. I’ve been through my wardrobe and my storage space, but I still have much left to sort through. However, whenever I do this kind of clearing out work, it almost always brings me back to abundance and the fact that I have enough. And if I do need something, I can be much more intentional about getting it.
And here’s the thing, by taking action and start doing some decluttering, I gained some awareness which lead me to the insight that I have enough stuff and don’t necessarily need to fill my life with more in order to fill any void inside.
Insights, revelations and an appreciation for the small things often come when we are present in the here and now. Which is one of the challenges in our 21st Century fast-paced lifestyle.
With this in mind, I wanted to share with you some really simple, yet powerful tools that I have come across in the past few years and months, which are helpful for taking “life pauses”.
Sometimes it’s not practical or even doable to do what I did some years ago when my life felt like a vortex, and took time out and went to a Vipassana retreat. (But that’s a story for another day)
So instead, there are some simple practical things we can do, in order to take a little time out to “be”. Which funnily enough can make us more productive… Because with some recharging we will be more efficient. Who would have thought?!
I basically see this “being” as plugging our batteries in for some recharging. With this kind of selfcare practice, finding that elusive state of balance, can just get a little bit easier. Just notice that I said practice though, which is verb, not a noun(!)
I am going to introduce some more non-recipe blog posts, from now on. Because let’s face it, food and nutrition is only ONE part of the healing equation. And it’s only ONE simple way to help us feel amazing. How we eat and how we live also have an impact on how we feel as much as what we eat and do. So I thought it was about time that I started writing about this too!
I really hope you will enjoy this new twist and addition to this space as much as I love sharing my musings and insights with you all. Again, thanks for being here and taking the time to read what I write.
Now let’s dive into this week’s topic!
HOW CAN MINDFUL EATING HELP US UP-LEVEL OUR LIVES?
My dear mentor Dr. Deanna Minich always says “How we eat is how we live and how we live is how we eat.”
But what does this really mean? Can our lifestyle really influence what we choose to eat? And can the food we eat affect how we feel?
I’m a big believer that it does work like this, and also that it is a two way dynamic dance between the two.
When we start looking at our relationship with food and eating in a more non-judgmental and curious way, keeping these words top of mind can serve as a guiding light to get us asking deeper questions.
What if you started asking yourself these questions?
Like, how does my living and lifestyle influence my food choices? And do these choices say something about how I care and value myself?
What if you were to start making your food choices from a new place, one out of selfcare and self love, rather than self judgment and self criticism? Because let’s face it, this is where often our desire to change comes from…
So what if you then start from where you are right now, using the symbology of how the food you eat represents how you live and let the curiosity of your answers become the beginning of a new journey of self discovery.
Perhaps you are fuelling yourself with fast food, take-aways, coffee and chocolate? Foods that are easy to access, quick to eat and provides us with short lived energy.
Perhaps you are living your life in the fast lane?
Or maybe you are struggling with lots of sugar cravings and it may not just be your blood sugar being out of balance causing these cravings, it may actually be an indication of a lack of “sweetness” in your life.
You may have heard of Mindfulness by now, and all the benefits of practicing mindfulness brings. But what is Mindful Eating? Mindful eating is when we bring the art of mindfulness to the table and use this practice with how we engage in the entire eating experience. And I’m a huge fan, as it can open so many doors of awareness, compassion and healing.
The Principles of Mindfulness are;
Deliberately paying attention, non-judgmentally, in the present moment, and it is being aware of your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, right here and now.
Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance of what is.
Many of us are caught up in a never ending battle between body and mind when it comes to food and eating. This may be as a result of body dissatisfaction, numerous diets and other external influences on what we should and shouldn’t eat. Throwing in further nutritional information in to the equation can make knowing what to eat more confusing than ever.
How did this simple act, a total necessity, become so overwhelming and confusing?
This is where mindfulness and mindful eating comes in really handy, because with practice, mindfulness cultivates the possibility of freeing ourselves of reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. A very liberating thought… Just imagine that! And this is something you can practice with each and every bite you take!
The language we use can be a strong indicator of not only our relationship with food, but also ultimately a messenger to how we relate to ourselves and life. Listen in. How do you speak to yourself?
One I tend to hear all the time is “I was so good all week”. And then the last few days “I was bad and had x,y,z…” If we are speaking about ourselves as good and bad what we might find when looking a little closer is that shame and a lack of self worth could be lurking underneath.
When we bring mindful eating to the table, with awareness, compassion and curiosity we can let go of the judging of ourselves for the food choices we make.
This will allow us to see that the food we eat is just as it is. We are not morally better or worse than anyone else, depending of the food choices we make, nor are we less worthy of love and belonging based on what goes into our mouths.
With awareness we also get the space to see why we might eat the way we do. Maybe I’m not as addicted to sugar as I think? Maybe my cravings are a symptom of something else missing in my life and by directing my attention to fill this void with something that’s not food, it will not only diminish my cravings, it will also fill me with joy in a way a chocolate bar can never do.
When we bring non-judgmental presence to our eating experience, we give ourselves permission to return back to our root. To go back with trust and awareness of the inner knowing we all have, the inner wisdom of what we need to fuel our bodies with, to feel at our very best. But so many of us may have forgotten what this feels and sounds like, after being so accustomed to listen to external cues for most of our lives.
When we cultivate awareness around How and Why we eat, choosing the best food for fueling our bodies and desires, becomes so much easier.
I truly believe that by doing so we change our perception altogether and start making decisions from an entirely different place.
My own story with food and eating has been complex and complicated at times but it eventually lead me to a career change, a deeper appreciation for my inner wisdom and a closer connection with the Earth that nourish us all.
It took me ten years, traveling and living in three different countries before I finally found my way back to a peaceful relationship with food, eating and my body. From counting calories and bingeing, to learning and understanding how food and nutrition effects us both mentally and physically, to eventually using the kitchen as my creative outlet and growing some vegetables of my own. And now I am here writing about it, as well as working with people in a professional capacity to heal their own body and relationship with food and eating.
It’s been a journey, and it is a process. One that makes my life richer, more colourful and definitely less stressful!
So with this I want to leave you with five ways you can integrate mindful eating in your everyday life and experience all the benefits for yourself!
Don’t forget that if you don’t fuel your body, you’ll have no vehicle to drive your desires! So feed yourself with love in every way.
Five ways to use Mindful Eating up-level your life:
- Look at the symbology of your food choices. What are your food choices telling you about your living?
Are you consuming yellow, brown or fried foods? Are you craving sugar? Are you eating lots of colourful fruits and vegetables, fresh “live” foods?
- Use eating as your mediation practice
You eat many times every day, which means you get ample opportunities and time to practice. Staying with each bite, noticing the sensation of the food in your mouth, paying attention to your surroundings and even noting when your mind wanders off on a tangent, taking you away on a tangent, is all mindfulness practice.
- When you eat, be all there. (Or all here!)
Being fully present with the eating experience allows you to not only to easier notice if you are hungry, or full. It also gives you the opportunity to actually taste the food you are eating! Which will (hopefully!) bring more pleasure to the experience.
Plus, being present and slowing down when you are eating gives your digestive system a chance to deal with the food properly. Which in turn means less bloating and more energy.
- Get into the habit of asking yourself what it is you really need.
Sometimes we eat for a whole host of other reasons than hunger. When you catch yourself reaching for the biscuit tin, or the fifth cup of coffee, pause and ask yourself if it is food you need, or if it is something else? Perhaps you need comfort in a different way to deal with the emotions that you are experience. Maybe you are just tired and need a rest?
- Make food choices out of care and compassion for yourself.
Ponder this one and journal on what it may look like for you…
To get you started on your mindful eating journey I’m gifting you with a free copy of a guided mindful eating exercise.
Simply sign up below 🙂
Do you long to let go of obsession around food, eating and weight? Would you like to feel freedom and peace around meals and beyond, but need some help and support to get there?
It would be an honour to walk with you on this path. Please email me HERE to set up a free 30 min consultation to explore how this may be possible for you too.
It’s time to dive into the LOVE Aspect of Self, and the Seven Systems of Health™! And perhaps this is the perfect time to do so with May Day, Beltane and Valborg (as it is called in Sweden), all celebrations to mark the beginning of Summer, having just been.
May is one of those beautiful transition months with a special light and feeling of true renewal. And when everything is bursting into bloom, expansive and GREEN. Summer is not yet here but Spring is out full force. Just like LOVE.
Most of us think about romantic love when we hear the word LOVE. That thrilling, exhilarating feeling that can be totally all consuming. But LOVE is so much more that that. It is truly the glue that holds everything together. When we talk about the LOVE Aspect in the Seven Systems of Health™, we talk about service, compassion and even passion. And not just towards others but for ourselves as well.
The Heart is the organ connected to the LOVE Aspect. It really couldn’t be anything else could it! The other body parts connected to this Aspect is areas connected to the heart in some way, by direct function or by area of location. Arms and hands. Both body parts which we use to offer loving embrace and connection to each other.
The Lungs and blood vessels as well as Lymphatic System belongs to this Aspect. All part of circulation and oxygenation, bringing the nutrients absorbed from the small intestine into the blood stream and filtered through the liver to the rest of the body. So that it can get the nourishment it needs.
But what about all the more “non tangible” parts of this Aspect? Like service and compassion.
In the past few months, I have been on what feels like a book bingeing mission. Blended with some self exploration. It has been really healing I have to say.
A. Because I’m so curious and I love learning.
B. Because I believe that if you are on a mission to help others then a must in this process is to learn more about yourself, so you can be of service in the best way possible. Somehow it seems much easier to relate to others’ struggles when we can see and feel our shared common humanity. It becomes much easier to relate and to have empathy. To say “me too”.
So let’s talk about service.
We give and take care of others as a way of being of service. It feels nice to be nice. But here’s the catch. How we give, plays a big role in how we’ll end up feeling.
What place is our giving coming from?
If we give selflessly and endlessly without boundaries, chances are that we will either be taken advantage of, or end up being burnt out. Or maybe both. And then resentment festers and grows… It may even feel painful. Not nice.
If we give from a place of always expecting something in return, then we are also setting ourselves up for resentment. Why? Because people may, or may not return the favour. And when they don’t, we end up feeling disappointed. Because we assumed or expected that they somehow would or should.
And if we do things for others just to “keep the peace” or to keep them happy, whilst compromising on our own integrity we are operating from a “people pleasing place”. Which can also lead to… Yes you guessed it! Resentment and burn out.
Then there’s the other side of giving – receiving. Oh boy it that a hard one!
For me this receiving bit is certainly something I have been struggling with. And I’m guessing (I hope!) I’m not alone in that either… It takes vulnerability and courage to ask for help, and to let someone in. Especially if / when we are so used to doing it all ourselves.
Look at it like this though, if your bank account it full of out goings but there’s never any money coming in, eventually you’ll end up with no funds. Which mean you’ll simply have nothing more to give…Whether it is money or energy.
If we are burnt to a crisp, full of resentment and self-loath, as an aftermath of struggling with people pleasing and perfectionism, then we certainly have nothing to give to others, regardless if we want to or not.
We cannot give from an empty cup. And sometimes we need to allow someone else but ourselves, to step in and to fill it up.
A few years ago, after having had my life running on high speed for months, I realised that if I did not make some kind of change, my health would suffer. So I went and booked myself into a silent (yes, silent!) Vipassana retreat.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love to talk… And my friends where all like “Linn how will you manage being silent for five days??!!”. Turns out that being silent wasn’t the hardest part for me. The greatest challenge at the time was actually learning how sit with boredom. But that’s a story for another day!
As a complete meditation novice, sitting still and trying to observe my thoughts was so difficult and trying. We practiced a few types of meditaion over the course of the retreat, both formal Vipassana (insight) meditation, walking meditation and another form of Buddhist meditation called Metta or Loving-Kindness meditation.
The experience of practicing loving-kindness meditation left me with a tool to practice more compassion. A way of open my heart, both towards myself and towards others. Because even if we are struggling to wish ourselves well, when we extend the intention to ALL Beings, that includes us as well.
Also to me, with my busy mind, having a mantra of some kind made it a little easier to stay focused. I love this kind of mediation so much and I want to share the benefits with all of you here! So when I was preparing to write this post I invited someone with more experience and expertise in this area than me.
Please say hello to my guest contributor – Lyndsey Burton!
Lyndsey Burton is a Holistic Therapist, Coach and Mindfulness Teacher. She helps people reduce stress, calm the chatty mind and heal on mind, body and soul level so that they can enjoy the journey we call life.
Lyndsey will give us the reasons of why we should introduce some loving-kindness mediation practice into our lives, so that we can support and nourish our LOVE Aspect.
3 Benefits of the Loving Kindness Meditation
Most of our powerful thoughts and emotions can be described in two words, Love or Fear. Now, I’m not talking about the mundane day to day thoughts and emotions that help us get jobs done, I’m talking about the ones that can lift us up or knock us off our feet when we are least expecting it.
Sometimes all it takes is an unintentional negative comment from someone and our critical self-talk and emotions take front stage.
This is where the Loving Kindness Meditation can really help.
Basically the Loving Kindness Meditation (or Metta as it was originally named) is a practice to help us become more caring, loving and compassionate towards ourselves, others and all living things. It is a way to connect to love and shine a light on fear. It is the practice of the heart and we are planting tiny seeds of loving-kindness, that in time will grow into something more beautiful than you would ever be able to imagine.
If you like the sound of becoming a nicer, happier, kinder, more compassionate person then read on my friend.
(Ed. note; And who wouldn’t?)
How can this practice help you I hear you say? Well to be honest there are hundreds of ways and the list is never ending, however it can all be stripped down to that one word LOVE. But to give you some clarity around the practice, I will share with you three benefits that I feel (from my own experience and that of many of my clients) have helped us all get on the path to compassion.
1. It will help you become more MINDFUL of your inner reactions to the outer world
Yes people will do and say things that piss you off. Someone might pull out on you on the motorway. You may not get the coffee you asked for and your kids may not give a damn that you have changed all your plans to taxi them around the country (the latter is common in our house).
However if you spend as little a 5 or 10 minutes a day for a couple of weeks, these outside occurrences tend not to upset your inner world as much. This means you will learn to respond to life rather than walk around reacting to everything. All of this = A nicer you!
2. It increases your positive vibe
The meditation is all about spending a little time wishing yourself and others well. This in turn helps you to see that we all just want to be happy, which increases your ability to feel more positive about life. You can feel a greater sense of life purpose and meaning in what would normally seem like mundane daily events.
3. It decreases stress
We all suffer from stress in our daily life. Some stress is good. However if we experience high levels of stress over a long period of time it can become detrimental to our health and wellbeing. By practicing the loving-kindness meditation we can step into the realm of forgiveness. We forgive others from the past, like the idiot that cut us up on the motorway and the kids for ruining our social lives.
The main person I had to learn to forgive in my loving-kindness practice was me (but thats’ a whole other blog). If there are less people out there to rock our inner boat, there is less to stress about. I share with my students that forgiveness through compassion is nothing to do with the person who has hurt us as they have their own karma. It IS about letting go of the fear, anger, hurt, sadness or whatever we have carried around in our beautiful bodies.
So, there are just a few reasons to give the Loving Kindness Meditation a bash. I would gently guide you towards practicing it for 30 days so you can let it permeate your cells.
Thanks Lyndsey for these words of wisdom and benefits of loving-kindness meditation.
If you want to know more about all the beautiful work Lyndsey do, head over and check out her website.
So apart from bringing some loving-kindness mediation practice into our daily lives, what else can we do to nourish our LOVE Aspect?
1. Food – There is no escaping vegetables! Green ones of course, which will give us important minerals like magnesium but all kinds of vegetables have important effect on our health and wellbeing. And it’s not just the vitamins, minerals and fiber that they contain, it is also all the hundreds of plant specific compounds, phytonutrients, that they contain which plays a roll in heart health, immune function and feeding our friendly gut bacteria. If you are not in love with vegetables already, then it’s about time you start courting that relationship! They are truly your best friends when it comes to health.
2. Eating – To be perfectly honest here, this is one of my personal missions… To support people to start making food (and lifestyle) choices out of care and compassion for themselves. I believe that if we are making choices from this place, rather than from external influences, our choices may be different and that there would be less struggle with between body-mind-plate.
What food choices would you be making if you where using this approach? Would it differ from what you are doing now?
3. Lifestyle – Movement / exercise falls under the LOVE Aspect too. Our heart is a muscle and like all our other muscles it needs exercise to strengthen. And so does our lungs. My one (well two…) tips when it comes to exercise is; keep it varied. Mix up strength training ( weights, yoga, Pilates) with some more cardio based types (walking, running, cycling, swimming, hiking, dancing) so that you get an all round experience and let all of your body work.
And make sure that you choose exercise that is FUN whilst you are at it. It makes it much easier to return to the next session even if you feel stiff and sore the next day(s).
This month I want to introduce you to the FIRE Aspect of Health (and Self) as per the concept of Food and Spirit™. We will slowly be working our way through each Aspect, though I have more “generic” explanations is the pipeline! I am gradually weaving the concept of Food and Spirit into my way of practicing, focusing more and more on helping people specifically with struggles around food and emotional eating.
Having spoken to people in interviews about this over the past weeks, have given me further insights. Food and eating can be so complicated sometimes… And when it is, it can become all-consuming and very draining too. A real energy sucker, that’s for sure. I know, because I have been there.
So with that in mind, lets dive into the FIRE Aspect. This Aspect is all about, digestion, energy, thoughts and transformation.
I think that the FIRE Aspect is where most people can easily recognise their own imbalances. We live in such an incredibly fast paced society, and it seem to be increasing by the minute. Faster internet, shorter attention-span…
We consume more added sugar than ever, which means quicker energy into the body. We often relay on easier and more convenient ways to eat, whilst we take less time to stop and enjoy it. We always seem to be going somewhere, doing something. We’re encouraged to think BIG. Do more. BE more. And sometimes it begins to feel like we’re on this never stopping merry-go-around…
Visualise a burning fire. If you pour petrol on it you will have a big blaze, but it will burn out quiet quickly. This is us when we are living the fast paced lifestyle. We don’t have time to plan or shop, let alone cook meals from scratch. We crave sugar, which is natural because the stress hormone cortisol is tied in with the liver and pushes blood sugar levels up. So we eat more sugar. Of course it’s just so super easy to do, because all the added sugar tends to hangout / hideout in processed convenience foods. And as you know, eating healthy on-the-go is like an (almost) non existent option. Ever paused to notice what’s on offer in every petrol station and corner shop? Unless you bring your own food with you, making healthier choices when on the road is so hard.
When the blood sugar drops, we get low in energy and to pick us up we fuel up with caffeine and / or something sweet and the roller coaster ride continues. I actually wrote a more in-depth article about it for Workout Empire here .
What people also told me in these interview were, that when they would “cave in” and have something sweet / processed they said that they tend to start beating themselves up about it, or even obsessing about what they had or why they had it. Adding more stress and more fuel to the already blazing fire. And that leads us on to the part of the FIRE Aspect that’s connected to thoughts.
It’s estimated that we have between 50.000 – 60.000 thoughts per day. Luckily most of them are filtered out. However the thing is that, the ones we do tend to pay attention to are mostly the negative ones, which we play on repeat over and over. And other times we are so wrapped up in our minds and the speed of life that we don’t really pay attention at all. We hold such incredible power within when it comes to our thoughts. So much more, then we appreciate sometimes I think.
I’ve come to realise that this power can best be harnessed by working on changing our perception to what we are experiencing. (I was going to write either, or but to be honest I think changing our perception is really where it’s at). Changing our perception means that we are then empowered to take a different approach entirely, or respond to an event that’s happening to us with better clarity and this may mean not to take any action at all. Sometimes leaning in and experience the uncomfortableness or pain is (only) what it takes to let it pass, because it may just be a thought or feeling. Not an actual event that needs solving…
We really don’t have all that much control over what happens in life, as much as we like to think we do! But we have the power to choose how we respond and react to things that comes along. For me to release (and relish) this power it has to start with awareness. Without awareness, any kind of response will always be subconscious, out of an old established pattern and on autopilot. When I am aware; aware of the situation, aware of what I am feeling, aware of how these feelings feel in my body and aware that I now have an opportunity to decide for myself how I want to react and respond, that’s when I am empowered.
How does that old saying go?
“Life is 10% of what happens and 90% of how we react to it”
From experience, I’ve found that sweeping things (feelings) “under the carpet” is not the way to go. They tend to show up in some other form at a later stage. And this is coming form someone who use to clean her room by simply sweeping everything on the desk into a drawer – to be dealt with later… How symbolic is that?
Luckily I have learnt a few things since I was 10… One of these being that when life is hard, as it is sometimes, the most efficient way of dealing with these hardships and curve balls is to not run, but to face them. And by not running, I mean from the emotions themselves. By all means if you realise that you are in a situation that is not serving your health and wellbeing, then use this realisation as away to muster up the courage you need to get out! (I’ve had a few of those too.)
So cut a long story short, we hold some tremendous power if we choose to harness our thoughts in a positive way. This doesn’t mean that you will always be happy and think positive thoughts though. I’m not sure that it’s even possible, natural nor necessarily healthy. But it will mean that YOU have the power to tune into how your thoughts are effecting how you feel, and with some awareness practice you will be able to pay more attention to which ones you want to fuel and feed, and which stories that you need to drop.
The Digestive System is also included under the FIRE Aspect of Health. It makes sense as our digestive system is where the assimilation of the food we eat happens. This is the system where what we take in from the outside world is transformed into fuel and energy for our cells, which in turn make sure that our bodies function as a whole.
If you have, or have ever had, issues with your digestive system you know how it can take over your entire life. When it’s functioning well we don’t worry about it or hardly notice it at all. But, boy when it doesn’t function, is it ever present on your mind! As a Nutritional Therapist, it has been drilled into me from the start that all health / disease originates in the gut. Gut health is the place to start, with almost everything, regardless if your patient is presenting with mood / mind symptoms or if there’s an autoimmune condition going on. Why? Because it’s all connected. (If you’d like some help to sort your digestive system out, then please feel free to contact me)
In the past few years, research has also intensified on what is going on within our digestive system, particularly when it comes to intestinal health and the bugs that live there. These organism are called Microbiota and their collective genes are called Microbiome. It turns out that we have MORE microorganisms living in our digestive tract than the amount of cells we’re made up of. So who’s the host really?
As research is emerging we are beginning to understand, not only who these guys effect the digestive process, but also how they can influence other areas of our health, such as cognition, mood, immunity and skin. I even recently heard at a conference that our microbiota is the first line defense when it comes to detoxification(!) So we need to mind these dudes. Best thing to do is; to reduce stress load, reducing added sugar and intake of processed foods and to make sure that they get fed their preferred fuel, which happens to be good for the rest of our bodies in general to. The preferred fuel? Colourful wholesome fruit and vegetables!
So how you can keep your FIRE nicely fueled whilst preventing it from burning out? Here are three tips and take aways that you can put into practice straightway!
1. Food – Do a food inventory. How much added sugar are you consuming? What colour is the food on your plate? Is it full of colour from the rainbow or is it mostly brown / yellowish foods dominating the picture? Is your food representing a symbolic “burnt out” state of you?
Focus on adding more warming spices like ginger and turmeric which are also bright yellow. And other spices like cinnamon and cardamom which support blood sugar balancing and digestive health. And add more brightly coloured yellow fruits and vegetables to your diet too. This soup from last month is a great place to start!
2. Eating – Are you eating to pick yourself up when you feel tired? Are you eating on the go? Do you eat when you are stressed? Once you have gathered some awareness around what your eating habits look like, try to counter act it by carving out at least one meal a day where you take your time to fully engage with your meal. Slow down, smell it, tastes it and chew it! You will most likely be more satisfied and may even eat less as a result. And I can guarantee you that your digestive system will thank you too!
You can pick up my Food & Emotion Log here if you need some help to get clear on this.
3. Lifestyle – Do an energy inventory. This exercise is one of my favourites from Food & Spirit™.
Divide a piece of paper in two. In one column write down anything that gives you energy. People, places, foods and activities. If it feels a little hard, stay with it for a bit and try to dig deep. Make it as exhaustive as you can.
Then on the other side, make another list of everything that takes your energy. Again make it as exhaustive as you can.
Now compare the two lists and imagine that you only have one pool of energy to draw from. Where would you rather spend your energy? It might not be possible to let go of all the energy drainers, but see where it actually is possible to make a change. As well as that, see what you need to do more of! Balance is always where it’s at.
I love this quote (not sure who said it) when it comes to energy and life balance.
“If we are not willing to spend our energy on creating what we want, we will have to spend it on what we get.”
P.S I’ve included a picture of my dog Ojay as he’s one of my greatest ways of balancing my stress & FIRE Aspect!