A Charmed Life


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one size fits all

Do you think you breathe properly? I’m here to tell you, chances are you probably don’t, most likely you are a ‘shallow’ breather (as in you only use your chest). Unless you specifically seek it out, learning to breathe properly is not a life skill we are taught, mores the pity for breathing properly creates a positive domino effect in every aspect of your life and who’s saying no to that right?

I say this from experience for, it wasn’t until I took up meditation that I discovered a) just how lousey a breather I was b) the benefits gained in getting this breathing gig right; and as someone who suffers from anxiety I can’t tell you enough how this – to be able to apply a breathing technique to counterbalance any threat of a panic attack – has changed my confidence and all round mental health. The reason for this, as Yogis have always known and the medical profession finally agrees with, is because breathing is intimately connected to the autonomic nervous system and the mind. Don’t worry I’m not going to go into the science of why you should be using your diaphragm when you breathe or why breathing through your nose is much better for your health, that would be too much for a science dunce like me to explain, I’ll leave that for you to GOOGLE, instead I am just going to share my go-to breathing practice for anxiety.

Here goes:
♠Close your mouth. Breathe in through your nose counting to four as you inhale.
♠Hold your breath again counting to four.
♠Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of four.
♠Pause for four.

This is one breath. Repeat the cycle as the practice gains in power with repetition. Continuing this breathing for one minute or for four full breaths is good start for a beginner. As you improve you can increase your counts to six then eight and your body will tell you when you are ready to stop.

This one size fits all tool has served me well. It’s easy once you get the hang of it AND it really works in alleviating stress and restoring calm AND it is so handy to have up your sleeve, ready to use whenever wherever you are aware of any internal tension.

Sat Nam

Also this week: My favourite instagram follow HUMANSOFNY is currently sharing stories from refugees in Europe/Middle East. I urge you to read/follow if you haven’t already, en masse the crisis feels daunting and impersonal but reading these individual stories provides context – feel your stomach clench in knots and the tears roll down your cheeks – its hard to digest but it’s real and if it projects you into doing something proactive to help PLEASE DO #HealtheWorld #MakeItABetterPlace • As a rule I am anti religion, spiritual yes but religion can go do one as far I’m concerned but this Pope Francis he seems a bit alright; progressive and remorseful in all the right places #ImaStMarysOldGirl • And at the very other end of the progressive spectrum – this Putin guy, I don’t get his motivation at all. If I ruled a country I would push my country to thrive in all areas. Putin has done the opposite over and over; LGBT rights, freedom of the Press, Ukraine, Syria and okay you hate America but learn to communicate in English effectively – seriously you’ve been around too long not to, surely that must be a prerequisite for world domination 101.  #WhatWouldTolstoyThink • RWC15 the All Blacks are through to the quarter finals, no surprises there. I won’t say anything about England except that I was gutted #ImaFauxBrit but #aRealProperKiwi #goABs


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this princess needs her sleep

sleepI’m not the greatest television watcher – no patience for the ads you see – so I tend to dip in and out of shows. Last week was one of those weeks in which I dipped right in, like many Eastenders fans I was sat watching each episode with bated breath during live week and I’m still reeling from the shock that Kathy is alive (only in soap land can a character not be truly dead, note to the Coro producers, bring back Haley – Roy’s not same without her, he’s beating up people). Anyway I digress Eastenders live week came with so much hype… the whodunit element, the live segments and the 30th anniversary of the show.. that every night I was left wonting, impatient for the next episode. It’s the kind of tele that renders one unable to sleep. Being unable to sleep is something I know all too well. That’s why I had to do something about it.

Now I know people who love to sleep, they say they function better on a good night’s sleep and I always mistook this for weakness, for I was the better person because I could exist on minimal sleep. A completely asinine thought I know that now, but only after a severe bout of insomnia. Sometimes it takes being deprived of something to understand the importance of it in your life, to then take action to get it back.

So take action I did, unable to help myself, I sought out a hypnotherapist who help me to see how I had been suffering serious sleep debt for most of my adult life. Through hypnosis I learnt to sleep again, to sleep longer and deeper but unless I wanted to listen to a recording every night I knew I had to figure out how to sleep better naturally. I did my research, spoke to a load of folk; my therapist, nutritionist, friends, even my manager at work, listened to subliminal messaging recordings and I read articles (I bypassed books, only now when I think about it, reading a book on ‘how to sleep better’ might have been just the ticket to put me to sleep), dipped into a little ASMR and I even emailed a professor of sleep but received no reply. Don’t you think it bizarre how we know we need sleep but we rarely spare a thought on why we do other than because we are tired.

“I have one piece of advice for you: sleep your way to the top.” ~ Arianna Huffington

Turns out I had always been pretty rubbish when it came to sleep. It wasn’t just that I was sleeping less, whatever sleep I was getting would be interrupted by a slight sound, the need to pee, checking my phone for texts/calls/emails/Facebook or angst of the previous day; and once I was up I found it difficult to get back to sleep. So on average I would sleep for four hours. Actually let me rephrase that for full impact – on average I was functioning on four hours sleep a night (except when I was on the sauce, of course then I would sleep like a baby).

Bona fide ways I improved my sleep
Change Mindset: This was a game changer for me as I held the belief that sleep was a waste of time and the idea of sleeping more actually made me feel more anxious which obviously defeated the purpose. In one conversation I had with my therapist he said ‘sleep is not a guilty pleasure.’ Now I have a mother who is always on the go and who survives on very little sleep and I guess I fancied myself to be just like her so remained delusional in equating sleep with reduced productivity so guilt hung like a noose around my neck. This was why I researched sleep in the first place I needed to understand the impact the sleep in order to think and act differently. I learnt to not feel guilty about having a lie-in, or going to bed early. Even extra hour of sleep a day can make all the difference, as your body switches off and calms down so the brain can reprocess the day in turn helping you get over a particularly stressful day. Some scientists believe a good night’s sleep can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease as it allows the brain to sift and store memories. There is an abundance of benefits.

Eat/Drink: Maintain a balanced diet as fluctuating blood sugar levels can trigger early waking. Don’t eat too late in the evening(leave at least two hours between eating and sleeping). Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol after 3pm as the sugar and caffeine will keep you awake and you’ll miss out on those precious extra hours. Also limit the amount of tea and coffee you consume to 2-3 max a day.

Exercise: Exercise in the late afternoon as you’ll tire yourself out, leading to a deeper sleep BUT avoid exercise within a couple of hours before bedtime as exercise will give you energy and you are less likely to get a good night’s rest.

Take those devices out of the bedroom: How did we survive before smart phones, tablets, laptops even tele? I still marvel at the way these gadgets have taken over our lives.  In any case not only do they disturb pillow talk, the blue light in them halts the production of the sleep hormone melatonin so get rid of them from the bedroom.

Meditate: Mindfulness is proven to reduce the time taken to fall to sleep and improve sleep quality, the way to do this is instead of dwelling on stressful thoughts, notice and let go of them by focusing on how cosy your duvet and pillow are, watch how the light reflects around the room, having an awareness on your body and the room around you. I’ve been meditating for a good few years now but even so I didn’t connect the idea of meditation to a good night’s sleep, introducing a nightly meditation into my life made an vast improvement to my state of mind thus making sleep easier

Stay in bed: Bringing in these improvements didn’t change my sleep pattern overnight, I still woke up in the night. I had to resist the urge to get out of bed in the middle of the night as getting up trains the body to wake up more frequently.

Regular routine: Much like the aforementionedno alcohol after 3 pm,’ keeping to a regular routine is not an easy feat but heading to bed at roughly the same time each night strengthens the link between the night-time and sleep consequently keeping your body clock on an even keel.

AND here are some other ways that are said to assist with better sleep: Ensure the bedroom is conducive to a good sleep (ideally it should be quiet, cool, dark, comfortable and about 17°), Invest in a good bed, and don’t hit the snooze button when you wake up (you are most refreshed after unbroken sleep), recharge with a power nap (no more than 30 minutes).

“A problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” ~ John Steinbeck

We’re all guilty of aiming to have an early night but being distracted by our phones or binge-watching a television show or in my case a movie I’ve already seen like a million times already… only to realise its past one and you have to be up early the next day. That sleep is vital to your good health and well being is like saying you need to brush your teeth twice daily for dental hygiene – a no-brainer right? But like brushing your teeth it is worth taking a few seconds to consider if your sleep routine is ensuring you reap the many benefits sleep provides.

As for my own sleep journey I am happy to report that I am much better friends with sleep, we meet on average for at least six uninterrupted hours most nights; and the difference in my cognitive function is evident every time I do The Guardian crossword, which I can now finish in under fifteen minutes something I couldn’t never do before (she says with smug grin).

Sat Nam


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good morning beautiful people

morning

My favourite time of day is first thing in the morning. I love waking to the idea of a new day with no mistakes on it yet and in order to start the day off on a positive vibe this what I do before I get out of bed:

My guru once told me if you have forgotten the language of gratitude you will never be on speaking terms with happiness. accordingly I have made an attitude of gratitude a focal point in my life. I start expressing gratitude the second I am conscious, I go through a mental dump of all the things I am grateful for. It’s a fun exercise I’m always finding the most peculiar things to be grateful for.

Forgive myself for yesterday’s mistakes. Through self forgiveness (and I’m all about forgiveness these days) I find I cleanse myself of any regret and/or baggage and hence forth set myself up to start the new day with just a focus on the present.

For no particular reason other than to flex the muscle I like to smile for about a minute.

To wake up my body up and for mental clarity I take five long deep saturating breaths in and out (the in through your nose, feel it in your lungs  and out through your mouth kind).

I like to give my eyes a bit of a workout so I do a little yoga for my eyes this involves blinking, near and far viewing, side to side viewing. I know this sounds a little woo woo but we live in the age of smart devices, and I already wear glasses for seeing long distances so I’m trying to limit further damage to my eyesight.

You know that saying start as you mean to go on that is why I like to set my intention for the day first thing in the morning, it helps to focus my mind.

And then it is time to meditate as the sun rises.

Tell me about your mornings: Are you a morning person? Do you have any kind of early morning routine?

Sat Nam


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do – skipping

What was your favourite playground activity when you were younger? Was it Tag? Or Bullrush? How about Rounders? The Jungle Gym? Or was it Hanging off the monkey bars? Elastics? Or Knucklebones? Mine was Skipping and yet as much as I loved it I outgrew it, as one does with many childhood occupations and so it would have remained but a fond memory, had it not been for a bout of acute insomnia which led to late night tele watching – got to love those infomercials!

So I picked up a jump rope and rediscovered my love for it. Now I can’t get by without my daily fix. Yes for some of us it’s a skinny mocha, pour moi its 1800 jumps in 15 minutes. I’m not so good at being consistent when it comes to exercise; I lack passion for the gym, I don’t live near horses to ride regularly, I’m not a strong enough swimmer, I’m fickle when it comes to running and I’m still a newbie when it comes to cycling. I do love yoga but twice maybe three times a week is enough for me. So skipping has been quite the revelation – an exercise that I feel inspired about and can do everyday AND it is the exercise that keeps on giving – here’s a list of reasons I’ve compiled as to why skipping rocks:

♦You’ve done it before so you know what to do. Who didn’t jump rope when they were younger even if it wasn’t something you did by choice at lunchtime, you still had to for Phys-Ed or at the very least for the jump rope for heart fundraisers.
♦You can do it anywhere; backyard, garage, in front of the tele, in a park, hotel room, foyer – basically any empty four by six foot area.
♦Totally portable, you can take the rope with you in your handbag/man bag and it’s a fits all ages and sizes exercise.
♦The only gear you need is your workout clothes (ladies, a good sport bra is a must) and a jump rope.
♦Assuming you already own workout gear the only outlay is for the jump rope and if you still have your rope from when you were young happy days you don’t have to spend a single cent. Although it has to be said ropes are fancier now, forget cloth ropes, most are now made from moulded plastic, metal wire coated in acrylic or space-age polymers – all made to be smoother and lighter. There are also digital ones available that can track number of jumps, time taken, calories lost.
♦When I started skipping I knew if I was consistent I could end up with killer calves. I have since learnt that it is a full body workout for apart from using your legs for jumping, shoulders and arms for turning the rope it hits almost every muscle in some way chiefly the biceps (front of upper arm), triceps (back of upper arm), forearms, deltoids (shoulder) core (abdominals, lower back and obliques), glutes (butt), quadriceps (top of thigh) and of course your calves. This makes skipping the perfect total body toning exercise. It’s high intensity cardio so using a jump rope improves your heart rate and blood pressure. Other health benefits – it is less jolting on your joints than running AND improves flexibility AND as skipping forces you to keep a rhythmic pace and use proper form it enhances your coordination and balance  AND it is a weight-bearing exercise so can help in improving bone density, which we need to ward off osteoporosis.
JumpRope.jpg♦Once you get into a flow there are many different variationsthere is no boredom factor.
♦You can do it at your own pace for as long as you like. It does take a few attempts to get into a rhythm but even a few minutes skipping can make a difference to your well being. It has taken me a good few months to work up to my current regime, this involves doing three 5 minute bursts with 10 second rest in between twice a day.

Skipping – Easy, Convenient, Fun and Good for you. I totally recommend it. Relive your youth and have a go.

Sat Nam