Presence, not presents

Like many I was horrified by the plastic mass floating in our oceans and highlighted in the Blue Planet series. 

We try to our bit: we recycle, walk when we can and my husband drives an electric car but we realised we needed to do more. 

Last Christmas we had 13 for Christmas dinner with other friends and family members dropping in. We had 5 children; two of whom had birthdays. By the end of the Christmas period the mass of plastic and wrapping was horrendous. 

One of our 2017 goals was to reduce the use of plastic and the use of chemicals. According to this article the average woman puts 515 chemicals on her face each day. This horrified me and the my awareness that my children were also slathering chemicals on themselves prompted me to take action. 

I’ve gone back to the Body Shop- the shop of my youth. They’re not perfect but as far as ethical products go, they do pretty well. My friend introduced me to the Tropic skin care range recently- they have impressive ethical standards- see online shop here. There are things I’m not yet ready to give up like gel nails- this is a work in progress!

We have also gone back to milk delivery- an absolute novelty for the kids who still can’t quite believe the magic of opening the door and finding milk on the doorstep. We’ve found a veg box delivery scheme and managed to reduce our meat consumption significantly- not a problem for me but a big sell to my husband who grew up on a pig farm. I also learned from Deliciously Ella  that fishing trawlers are responsible for ocean plastic and have consequently reduced our family’s consumption of fish also. 

We’re far from perfect and still enjoy a good BBQ or fish and Chips but have definitely made progress in reducing our impact on the environment. 

In the house we’ve substituted chemical based products for Method and Ecover and I can’t say I can see a difference! We’ve managed to last out so far without a tumble dryer but with a family of five that’s not easy!

As for the plastic we’ve been warned that if we continue at this rate they’ll be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2020 so we have committed to small changes such as reusable bags and choosing to not buy products packaged in unnecessary plastic. 

Leading up to Christmas this year, we are encouraging the children to value experiences over things. Without wanting to take the joy out of Christmas we are gently encouraging family and friends to reduce the number of gifts we exchange and instead spend time together. This Christmas I’m hoping for presence, not presents. How about you? 

Talk to Your Teen- Improving Communication and Managing Conflict

Communication is the biggest source of complaint in any organisation and in our families, especially with those of us with teens and tweens, effective communication can be a challenge!

I’ve recently had the privilege of speaking to parents at St George’s School in Harpenden; delivering training to boarding school staff and speaking to parents and teachers at the Happy Children’s conference, sharing some thoughts about how to communicate better with your children or teenagers. 

What our children really want

I asked the children I work with what they wanted from their parents. The younger ones said  more love, time and care. This wasn’t the response I was expecting- I definitely expected the response to involve more tech! Despite our efforts to ensure our children have so many opportunities to do and have so much, what they really want is for us to slow down and spend time talking to them.

The 14 year olds’ responses were slightly different: they want less anger, less conflict and more trust. The teenage years are so challenging because teen brains are changing quickly. The pre-frontal cortex responsible for planning, prioritising and controlling impulses is still developing. Teens want to be treated like adults but their behaviour doesn’t always reflect that and so conflict occurs. So in the midst of the madness we need to model the communication skills we want to see.

How we interact

Transactional Analysis helps us to understand the ego states we all inhabit and how each interaction is a transaction. We can start to recognise which ego state our interaction starts from (adult/ parent or child) and therefore raise our awareness of how our children respond to us for example the question “What’s the time please?” could be met with the adult response “It’s four o’clock” or the critical parent response “You’re always late.” This is a fascinating and complex area- to learn more see Eric Berne’s book The Games People Play. The key message I shared here is that we always have a choice how we respond and if we can train ourselves to stop and press the pause button we can modify our responses to reduce conflict. 

Reducing conflict

Obviously conflict is a real challenge in parent/teen interaction. It’s part of the deal and an important stage that teens go through in finding their identify and redefining the parent/ teen relationship.

Some ways to reduce conflict are:

1 Teaching every member of the family that they can choose their reaction- take a physical step back, take a deep breath and press the pause button. 

“In the space between stimulus (what happens) and how we respond, lies our freedom to choose. Ultimately, this power to choose is what defines us as human beings. We may have limited choices but we can always choose. We can choose our thoughts, emotions, moods, our words, our actions; we can choose our values and live by principles. It is the choice of acting or being acted upon.”Stephen R. Covey

2 Rules Praise Ignore. Possibly the most useful thing I’ve learned in 18 years of teaching,(from Bill Rogers’ work on behaviour management). Establish the RULES and don’t be afraid to introduce a new rule; PRAISE the behaviour you want to see more of; and this is the tricky bit- IGNORE the secondary behaviour. This is really hard because our ego is against us here. If you ask a kid to put their phone away and they don’t want to they will eventually do it but it will be accompanied by eye rolling, huffing, muttering etc. The key is to focus on the main issue and let the secondary behaviour go. Otherwise you get embroiled in conflict about the secondary behaviour which takes the focus away from the main issue: the phone. This is hard and only this week I found myself telling someone off for eye rolling- I am still working on this!

3 Assertive communication. This language is taught to victims of domestic abuse because it works:

I notice that… Describe the behaviour you don’t want

That makes me feel… Explain how this makes you feel. This works because no one can argue with how you are feeling!

I would like you to… Keep it simple and assertive here.

4 Peace begins with me- this is a useful mantra. See Gabby Bernstein explain it here. 

Great Conversations

Gratitude- this is a magic bullet. Rather than focusing on what we don’t want we focus on what we already have. A really powerful tool in developing a positive mindset. There are lots of great gratitude journals out there but by personal favourite is encouraging the family to write their gratitude on a post it, pop it in a Kilner jar then from time to time we pull them out and share our gratitude together. It’s a great way to slow down and be in the moment!

Strengths- encouraging your children to focus on their strengths helps to build confidence and resilience. We are continually asking our children to try new things but to do that it really helps to be clear about what your strengths are and to know that they are not fixed, but can be developed over time. It never fails to amaze me how challenging this question is both for adults and children? What good are your strengths? Make a list and keep adding to it!

Mistakes- it’s very easy for children to look at adults and think we know what we’re doing! They’re not the ones who are learning. Be open, share your mistakes and what you have learned from them. A great mantra in our family is: Mistakes make me stronger. Remind your children that babies fail an average of 200 times before they take their first steps- it’s ok to fail but you have to persevere!

Useful Tools 

The brilliant book The Five Languages of Love is great for unlocking both adult and parent/ child relationships. There is a free online quiz which will help you to ascertain each family member’s preferred love language. 

DISC profiling is a psychometric tool used to help adults interact in the workplace. They also have an excellent profiling tool for children which is done on line, producing a detailed report helping you to understand your child’s character traits, communication style and how they interact with other people. Contact me if you’d like more information. 

Want to know more? Come and join the conversation in my private Facebook group The Happy Mum Hub. 

Book me to speak at your school or organisation by contacting me here.

Enjoy the Little Things…

Enjoy the little things for one day you will look back and realise they were the big things

Robert Brault

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When my children were little I followed a local blogger who had similar aged children and each week she posted the little things that had inspired her that week. This in turn inspired me to do the same and I started to look for moments in the week to capture special memories. And these were little things- reading a story, going for a walk or decorating biscuits. These moments helped me to focus on the joy rather than the exhaustion or frustration that was sometimes part of being full time mum to my two tiny boys. I didn’t realise it at the time but this was the beginning of my gratitude practice, which has developed over time. 

I’ve been a huge fan of Oprah since I was a teenager. I’m fascinated by her wisdom, ability to inspire and her love of learning. Recently I’ve been listening to her book The Wisdom of Sundays in which she has collated some of the most inspiring of interviews from her Super Soul Sunday series. In this book Oprah explains how gratitude has been transformative for her:

Gratitude is its own energy field. When you acknowledge and are grateful for whatever you have it allows more to be drawn to you energy to be drawn to you changes the way you experience life. 

Oprah has kept a gratitude journal for over sixteen years and it’s clear that joy comes to her not from the material things but from the little things: walks in nature and time with friends. 

As part of my morning routine I practice Tony Robbins’ priming routine which encompasses visualisation and gratitude. Back in April I attended Tony Robbins’ event Unleash the Power Within and as a member of an audience of 13 000 people I stood with my hands on my heart, feeling grateful for all that I had and recalling the key moments in my life when I know I have been truly blessed. Repeating this practice every day reminds me at the start of each day what I already have. I may then spend the day striving to achieve but starting my day from a place of gratitude means I start from a positive place of appreciation for all that I have. 

Now gratitude is all well and good during morning meditation or when writing in my gratitude journal but more challenging at other times! I caught myself filling up at the petrol station last week with a car full of hungry tired children, clamouring for more snacks and found myself finding the whole process of ploughing through traffic, queuing for petrol and filling up the tank, quite frankly a real drag. But in that moment I managed to catch myself and turn this around. What did I have to be grateful for here? That I was there to pick my children up from school. That I have my own car and the freedom to go wherever I want. That I can fill the tank without having to worry about whether I can afford the petrol. That in ten minutes the children and I would be home. This change of focus shifted my experience from being a chore to a pleasure. When I went to pay for the petrol the attendant asked what had happened that day to make me so happy. Nothing had happened: I had made a choice. 

At the weekend I did a triathlon. In contrast to the incredible weather we’ve had for months, early on Sunday morning it was grey, cold and very wet. The roads were so flooded with water that the cycling was dangerous and as the roads were so water logged we were forced to cycle in the middle of the road. When I got back to transition I couldn’t feel my hands or feet and struggled to undo my helmet. The run was a mud bath and parts were so slippy we were forced to walk. It was tough but again focusing on gratitude helped me to appreciate what my body could do; the camaraderie of the other competitors; the amazingly positive marshals and in spite of the weather the beauty of the surroundings.

If you like the idea of practising gratitude but you’re not sure where to start, I’d suggest starting with a notebook and pen. Challenge yourself at the beginning and end of each day to write down three things that you are grateful for. Try this for 7 days and see how you feel. If you want something more fancy, my lovely friend and coach Kiki has a beautiful gratitude journal. I’m also a huge fan of the Happiness Planner and have used this for several years. 

If you want to try something different or want to get the family involved try using a gratitude jar. All you need is a Kilner jar and a pack of Post Its. Each time something good happens, write it down and pop it in the jar. You can then pull these out later in the year and share the gratitude with each other. 

What are you grateful for today?

Come and join the conversation in my private Facebook group The Happy Mum Hub 

Positive Mental Health

This week the mental health charity MIND have published the results of their research which shows that half of all employees have suffered with poor mental health and half of those who have suffered with stress, anxiety and low mood are reluctant to discuss it with their employers.

There is still stigma around mental health, particularly in the work place. We fear speaking out and being judged. According to the report, fear, shame and job insecurity are the reasons employees are reluctant to speak out.

In his brilliant book The Whole Brain Child– Daniel Siegal provides an image of mental health as a river: on one bank there is chaos and on the other rigidity. If we veer too close to one bank our mental health is put at risk. This image appeals to me as it suggests that we can take responsibility for creating positive mental health and start to recognise areas in which we are drawn towards the two extremes of chaos and rigidity.

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Image taken from Daniel Siegal The Whole Brain Child

In September and October I’ll be delivering Talk to Your Teen to parents of children and teens about the stigma around mental health and how we can use coaching tools and techniques to improve communication with our children. Boys are particularly vulnerable as they are still consciously and subconsciously given messages such as ‘Big boys don’t cry’, ‘Man up’ etc which mean that when they have a problem it’s very difficult to talk about it. Teach your children it’s ok to express emotion- both positive and negative. Help them to recognise their emotions by naming them. Boys in particular tend to have a very limited range of vocabulary to describe emotions which can limit their self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Talk about your feelings, emotions and mistakes and foster a resilient mindset by encouraging the belief: Mistakes make me stronger. 

We are beginning to realise that we need to look after our mental health in the same way we do our physical health. I like to think of well-being as being like a table with 4 legs. Each of those legs is a supporting pillar. For me those four pillars are:

  • Sleep- we can’t be resilient without sleep. It underpins everything else. See Arianna Huffington’s Thrive and Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep here
  • Exercise outdoors- the release of dopamine, seratonin and endorphins is increased when we exercise outside and we get a dose of Vitamin D which reduces depression.
  • Meditation- I’m a longstanding fan of Headspace. I’ve also heard great things about Calm and a new addition to my morning routine is Tony Robbins’ priming exercise which incorporates gratitude and visualisation too. 
  • Connection- we live in a hyper connected world- which is amazing but sometimes we get overwhelmed and miss the real face to face time with loved ones which we need for our emotional  wellbeing.

The added bonus of course is that many of these things support our physical health!

So what do you need to support your mental health? Is it something you need to give more of your attention?

NB Coaching is not suitable for those suffering with mental health issues. This requires advice from medical professionals who may direct you to other forms of support.

September Goals- Five ways to make healthy eating happen

I don’t know about you but we definitely over-indulged this summer and when we were on holiday it seemed our four year old survived on a diet of chips, crisps and ice cream. But September is here and we’re ready to get back to our routine  and when I get food, exercise and sleep right, this makes all the difference to how I feel, how I function and the energy I have for other people. 

Last week I went to see the food blogger Deliciously Ella at her book launch in Hertford. She spoke very openly about her struggle with auto-immune disease and how after the medical profession had exhausted all possibilities of a cure, how she began to research and use food to cure herself. Ella also spoke about the challenges she has faced in growing her business and becoming a public figures, as well as her passion for encouraging others to adapt a plant-based diet for health and environmental reasons. 

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I’ve been following Deliciously Ella for some time- both for her amazing recipes but also because she speaks a lot about how food and health support a positive mindset and mental health. I have an image of Ella on my vision board to inspire me on a daily basis to eat healthily. Some of my favourite Deliciously Ella recipes are her hummus; veggie shepherd’s pie here; amazing chocolate mousse and my children’s favourite, her date shake.

However in reality healthy eating can be a struggle in a busy life. We know what we SHOULD do but making it happen can be a challenge.It’s so easy to neglect ourselves and survive on sugar and caffeine. 

So I’ve focused this week on getting back to a healthy eating routine and here are some tips that work for me:

1 Online Shopping

Supermarket shopping with 3 kids is not my idea of fun. Online shopping forces me to plan ahead. We are also fortunate to have an amazing market in St Albans and I head there at the weekend to stock up on fruit and veg. 

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St Albans market

2 Weekly Meal Plan

We don’t always stick to it but we have a plan and because it’s there my husband can sometimes we persuaded to make prepare a mid week meal ahead of time! My lovely friend Anna Horne publishes a weekly blog and menu plan. This also helps reduce food waste because I buy the ingredients required for each meal, not a random selection!

3 The Slow Cooker

This is literally a life saver especially on those days when the kids have after school activities and we struggle to find time to cook. My favourite recent discovery is this- recipes where you bag up and freeze the ingredients to be transferred straight to the slow cooker. Last night we had sweet and sour chicken and thanks to the sweetness of the pineapple the kids loved it!

4 Prep ahead

When we’re really on a roll- food prep at the weekend. There is nothing I love more than home made soup and I eat it every day in the winter months. At the weekend I roast loads of veggies- butternut squash and celeriac are my favs, blend and freeze- super easy, warming and healthy. Also the kids love making granola, crumble, flapjack to keep us going in the week. 

5 Cutting corners

And where I cut corners…sometimes mid week it’s ok to have tinned soup, beans on toast, ready made pasta. 

80/20 is key- you can’t be good all the time so we relax at the weekend and Friday night is pizza night. 

My 10 year old makes his own packed lunch and this means sandwich and a bag of crisps every day but he includes fruit and he’s making it himself so that’s ok. 

Packs of pre cooked rice and lentils in the microwave mean I can spoon out of the slow cooker and straight onto the plate. 

How do you feel about healthy eating? How do you get the balance right in a busy life? 

Starting School: What I’ve learned from the Pre-School Years

My youngest starts school this September. She’s more than ready to go. As the youngest of three she’s been at the school gates practically since birth and because she’s little, cute and sociable everyone makes a huge fuss of her.

So Alessia is ready. She has tiny school dresses age 2-3, new school shoes and a PE kit. I’ve spent the summer clearing out her baby toys, books and little pink blankets to make space for school uniform.

Am I ready? I’m not sure. They say the years go quickly and that falls on deaf ears when you’ve been up all night and spent the days chasing toddlers. But yes, the old ladies are right- this September, after 10 years of having pre school children at home, they’re all in school. For one year all there will be in the same place before our eldest moves on to secondary school.

So for what is worth here’s what I’ve learned:

1 Get the balance.

If you are lucky enough to have a choice re working or not working make the right choice for you. This isn’t about what your mum or your best mate thinks, this choice is yours for your family. If you’re happy, your family will be happy too. For me I had to work but part time was the right choice for our family. I love being with my children but I also need mental stimulation, interaction the opportunity to grow and contribute. At one stage my earnings post childcare was £200 per month. It was barely worth being at work but it was the right choice for me.

2 It takes a village.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have my parents close by. My mum has appeared like an angel on Friday afternoons so I can let my youngest sleep rather than being dragged out on the school run. When the kids have been sick, she’s been there. In the early days when my husband was working insane hours as a junior doctor, I couldn’t have done it without my mum’s support.
I’ve also had an amazing childminder who has had all three of my children, the younger two from babies. She’s has cared for my children in her own home, alongside her own children and they have been part of a family of children of all ages. The friendship and security they have had from this has been incredible.

3 Find your tribe.

I’m a huge fan of NCT. With mu eldest and my second we moved to a new area when I was pregnant and the NCT provided me with an instant support network which was invaluable in the early days when comparing how much sleep we’d all had and how the babies were feeding. Having a friend to grab a cuppa and take the babies for a walk was an invaluable source of support.
We are also incredibly fortunate to have great friends and to be part of a supportive community. There is no way I would choose to do this without daily contact without friends in the same boat to laugh, cry or share the everyday minutiae.

4 Focus on gratitude
Years ago when my boys were little a local blogger published a weekly post entitled It’s the little things. This focused on her recording weekly moments of joy with her tiny children and photographing and posting them. This inspired me to find joy in the little things and focus on the joy. For several years I have used my Happiness Planner and used this to record daily gratitude as well as encouraging my children to use a gratitude jar.

5 Don’t compare
There is so much pressure surrounding parenting and judgement of individual choices which didn’t exist a generation ago- breast feed vs bottle feed; home made puree vs jars etc. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to follow my instincts and to not compare. Boys are different from girls; each of my three children is different due to their position in the family. I’m not the same parent I was 10 years ago. So don’t compare. Give yourself credit for doing your best. Choose to be happy and you will have happy children.

Judgement Detox

Last month I attended a talk at Hay House by Gabby Bernstein entitled Judgement Detox.

A pretty challenging title. Judgement is so embedded in our culture and psyche that we aren’t even aware of our judgement. But, motherhood and judgement seem to be inextricably linked.
We are judged as mothers even before we conceive- with unsolicited questions from interested parties asking when we’re going to conceive. During pregnancy our bodies appear to be public property and a target for random strangers to comment on the shape and size of our growing bellies.

And parenthood full of judgements: how we give birth, feed, parent and our choices around when to return to work. All of these choices are subject to judgement, not just from friends and family, but also from strangers, health professionals and the media. It seems inescapable.

Gabby Bernstein is a spiritual teacher- she teaches meditation and kundalini yoga in a very accessible way. She is very honest in what she shares.

Some of the key messages I gained are here:

1 Judgement becomes an addiction like smoking to drinking and it’s so pervasive that we are hardly aware of it. It makes us feel disconnected and we lack compassion towards ourselves and others. It’s certainly challenging to let go of judging others but perhaps even more challenging to let go of judging ourselves.

2 Vulnerability- not being vulnerable in a naive way buy having the ability to be open and honest with each other is a way to break down barriers between ourselves and to help and support each other. Gabby’s message here is to be real, share your truth with others and have the confidence to speak more authentically.

3 Imposter Syndrome
In the Q&A an audience member asked Gabby if she had experienced Imposter Syndrome, to which she responded Of course! We can’t step into the light of who we want to be unless we feel the discomfort that gets in the way. Gabby recounted how a year ago she had been a workaholic- telling people to meditate and relax but totally stressed out herself. But today she is a brand new person as she has recognised the imposter syndrome and moved through it.

4 Judgement and discernment
There were few male members of the audience but their questions were around vulnerability: does not judging mean letting people walk all over you? Gabby’s response was that some people and some situations are toxic and negative and it’s absolutely fine to remove yourself from the situation. This does not serve my highest good and walk away with love and grace. In other situations we might look at a person who triggers us and ask: What is my resistance to this person revealing to me?

If you’re not familiar with Gabby Bernstein I would highly recommend her books Judgement Detox and The Universe Has Your Back. For something lightweight her video for using meditation with your children is here.

Two mantras to help you along the path of judgement detox are:

I choose to judge nothing that occurs

It’s good to feel good.

What do you think? Is it time for a judgement detox?

Who is your role model, Mummy?

Two years ago, this brilliant question from my eldest, came, as they do out of the blue and totally stumped me. I stuttered er I’m not sure- let me have a think… who is your role model?

So naturally this has bugged me ever since but raised its head again last week when my son was looking for a footballer’s autobiography to read. A bit of a minefield for a relatively sheltered 10 year old. So the conversation went along these lines- so it’s got to be someone who you can look up to, who has the same values as you- someone who’s a good role model. So Beckham but definitely not Rooney- now my footballing knowledge is not extensive but after a bit he said “Ok mum I get it.”

In coaching when prompting a client to think of a range of possible options, one useful question can be “What would your role model do?” This can be a great question to encourage us to think more widely and more creatively but equally a very challenging question if we’ve lost touch with who our role models are.

Some time ago I was delivering coaching training to a group of teachers and posed this question. One teacher’s response was “ But what if you don’t have a role model?” This was similar to my response when my son first asked this question a couple of years ago, I thought that we as adults need to get better at figuring out who our role models are if we want to encourage our children to follow and emulate their role models.

So which qualities do I look for in a role model?

1 Inspiration
People who are positive and who take action. Deliciously Ella and the Hemsley sisters are on my vision boards, not just because they inspire me to exercise and to eat healthily but because I’m inspired by their positive attitudes, unfailing enthusiasm and passion for the work that they do.

2 Tenacity
I was hugely inspired by Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah in the 2012 Olympics. I was super excited to be running (way behind) Sir Mo at the Great North Run last year. Reading Jessica Ennis’ brilliant autobiography and Chrissie Wellington’s fantastic book A Life without Limits inspired me to push myself do to more and although my attempts at sprint triathlon are miles away from Chrissie Wellington’s Iron Mans, they pushed me to do more than I thought was possible.

Similarly I am inspired by those who overcome adversity, refuse to make excuses and go on to achieve great things. Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou are long standing heroines in my life because they both experienced significant trauma and challenges as children- childhood rape, poverty and racism. Yet they didn’t make excuses and went on to serve and achieve incredible things.

3 Values
I have been very lucky to have great family role models- my mum and my Nanna both set fantastic examples as mothers and grandmothers; they both worked hard and served their communities. The drive to make a difference is without doubt inherited from my mum.

4 Authenticity
I need my role models to be real and relatable. I’ve been very fortunate to have been trained by some incredible coaching experts at The Coaching Academy but the most inspiring for me is an amazing coach and trainer Pam Lidford. Part of the reason I can relate to her is because she came from an education background and exemplifies for me the idea that change is possible.

Shaa Wasmund, entrepreneur and author is hugely inspiring for me also as she is real- she’s a single mum and achieves what she does by taking action and not making excuses.

5 A step or two ahead in their journey
Much as it may serve us to ask What would Beyonce do? sometimes it helps to have a role model who is just a step or two ahead of us in their journey so that the jump that we need to make isn’t quite so huge.
When we’re struggling to achieve our goals, it’s human nature that our brains start to tell us these stories: It’s easy for her because she’s got loads of time/ money/ support but when we look at people who have achieved in spite of challenging circumstances, we can start to put those excuses to one side.

Now I’d love to hear from you…
Who are your role models? Where do you get your inspiration?

To carry on the conversation and join a supportive and inspiring community, please join my FB group here…

The Five Languages of Love

What is your language of love?

Valentine’s Day provokes mixed emotions. Some of us will be loved up and ready to embrace it; others resist the commercialism or sense of exclusion.

The first thing is to start with self love. How are we speaking to ourselves? What negative thoughts or beliefs are we telling ourselves? How can we replace this with positive thoughts or affirmations instead. One affirmation that I use and share with my clients is “I am enough” or “I am good enough”. What are you saying to yourself?

How can we spread some kindness this week? Going out of our way to do something kind for others is a win/win. We get to feel good as well as doing something good for others. In my coaching group we are taking part in Random Acts of Kindness week which encourages us to perform small acts of kindness throughout the week through small acts such as: posting something positive on social media, leaving a bigger tip than usual or making a handmade card to send to someone special.

Random Acts of Kindness

Tony Robbins speaks about investing in our relationships and states that if we do everything we do do at the beginning of a relationship, there won’t be an end to the relationship. At the beginning of the relationship we do everything and nothing is too much trouble, whereas as time passes it’s easy to become resentful or unwilling to invest our time and energy in the relationship.

In my LIVE this week I spoke about Dr Gary Chapman’s brilliant book The Five Languages of Love. In this he explains that we respond differently to acts or expressions of love and lists five dominant languages of love:

Receiving gifts may be a significant love language for some and therefore very important, whereas others respond more to other forms such as physical touch or words of affirmation. In the book Dr Chapman cites examples of relationships which have struggled in spite of both partners’ best efforts because they did not understand each others’ languages of love. One man expressed his love through acts of service by doing tasks in the house but his wife was lonely and felt unloved because her dominant love language was words of affirmation, which he failed to give.

There are quizzes for adults and children. We have a tendency to treat our children the same, with some allowances for age, assuming that they need the same things. We’ve got this wrong. My youngest at 3 is too still to little to take the quiz but my sons, aged 10 and 7 absolutely loved it. Interestingly, receiving gifts came low down the list for both of them. The dominant love language for our eldest son is quality time. This made us stop and think. As the eldest he is the one who is the most demanding of our time and attention. This is a challenge in a family of five. He also has the greatest responsibility in terms of chores, independence and helping with the youngest. Knowing that quality time is his dominant love language can help stop us criticising him for being demanding and build in the quality time he needs. Our middle son has a dominant love language of words of affirmation. At home he’s independent and rebellious and a true superstar at school. Every time I write in his reading record he wants to know exactly what I’ve written- he thrives on those words of affirmation. Just having this knowledge is incredibly powerful- do take the quiz and let me know what you discover.

To carry on the conversation, please come and join my private group.

 

Health Is The Greatest Wealth

It’s so easy to take our health for granted. We don’t always notice when we’ve let the exercise slip or got into unhealthy habits until we get a wake up call. This could be in the form of struggling to get our jeans on or could come in the form of a serious health scare. It’s when our health is in jeopardy that we stop taking it for granted. To live our best lives we have to put health first.

In almost every personal development book I’ve read, the message is consistent. To live our best lives, we have to be at our physical peak and that means being in great health: eating well, sleeping well and exercising.

Speaking to a friend who is an NHS consultant, the first focus of her leadership development is physical fitness. Why? Because when she’s fit and well she is able to lead well. Similarly the conference I attended last week for entrepreneurs dedicated the entire afternoon session to exercise and nutrition. Shaa Wasmund, the conference leader and business guru urged the audience to treat themselves as racehorses as we need to be in our best physical health if we wish our businesses to flourish.

I spoke to the officer responsible for well being at Herts Police last week and she said for her the foundation for good mental health is exercise and I couldn’t agree more. Exercise benefits our physical health, making us stronger and less prone to illness and injury. It gives us more energy and releases endorphins which have a positive impact on our mindset.

It can also improve confidence and resilience. Training for my first triathlon got me out on my bike, swimming in freezing cold water and pushed me out of my comfort zone in a way which nothing else could.

Eating the right foods also has a huge impact on our well being. Planning meals in advance and removing temptation from the house are two tricks that keep me on track. Willpower alone is not enough.

Please don’t assume this healthy stuff comes easy to me. It doesn’t. I was a very timid child. I had asthma and allergies. I was afraid of jumping off the beam in the gym. I have clear memories of my mum stating in no uncertain terms: “We are not a sporty family”. But somewhere after having my first baby I started setting out with the pram for a daily walk because I knew it made me feel better. After my second child the weight was harder to shift and I realised action was required so I started using the NHS Couch to 5K podcasts and yes, miraculously, this did what it said on the tin. Some time later I ran my first 10K which seemed impossible at the time and last week I took part in Cancer Research’s Winter Run and achieved a personal best of 53 minutes- not bad for a non sporty non runner. Taking up triathlon and running two half marathons last year saw me stretching myself further and I was delighted in September when I outran my fitness guru Davina by a very narrow margin!

So change is possible and the benefits are worthwhile. We’d like to be doing more so what stops us? Everything else gets in the way.

So how can we make it work?
1 Start early. Setting the alarm for 5:30 or 6 and just do it. Then nothing else can get in the way.
2 Have your equipment ready to go- exercise kit by the side of your bed, trainers by the front door.
3 Keep it simple- running is free; you tube has a wealth of resources. My favourites are Yoga with Adrienne, Fitness Blender and The Body Coach. Not to mention my old time favouries- Davina and Jillian Michaels.

Don’t make excuses. As the Nike slogan goes: JUST DO IT