In our fast-paced world, where the demands of daily life seem to multiply, taking care of our well-being often takes a backseat. The constant juggling act between work, family, and personal responsibilities can leave us feeling overwhelmed and, more importantly, disconnected from our own health. This is where a Mindfulness and Mindful Movement can offer us a holistic approach to cultivating a nourishing lifestyle. In this blog, we will explore why embarking on such a transformative journey is not just beneficial but essential for achieving optimal health, together with my own reflections on my healthy living (or not!) journey.
My own personal journey with healthy living started at school when I was labelled as ‘chubby’ and I have battled with my weight ever since. My weight tends to fluctuate – I was very skinny in my teens, hardly eating anything, to filling out a little more in my twenties. When I was pregnant I was absolutely huge and it took me a long time to lose weight and get fit after having children, especially, after having 2 caesareans. It seems the muscles in my abdomen permanently went on strike. Keeping my weight down throughout my thirties and forties involved a lot of exercise and restricting my diet – which made me miserable. And then there was the menopause!! At this point it seems my thyroid decided to go on a real go slow – it still is – so into my sixties it is a constant battle to keep the weight down and stay fit.
Thanks to my love of swimming and walking and my dedicated practices of yoga, tai chi and qigong, I am able to maintain a reasonable level of fitness. Nowadays my intention and motivation is around eating healthily for my body, whilst eating foods I enjoy, together with doing movements I love without killing myself in the process. I’ve come to a place of more balance and acceptance.
Last year I attended the Mindfulness Based Healthy Living Course and what resonated deeply was – finally – a sense of ‘not my fault’. It’s not my fault that my thyroid has slowed my metabolism. It’s not my fault that I managed to knacker my knees jogging in my forties. It’s not my fault that my body is slowing, ageing – all I can do is my best with the knowledge and practices I have.
Ki James who co-leads the course and is an expert in nutrition within the NHS, gave some very practical advice and information about the causes and conditions which might impact our health, which isn’t our fault.
One thing that is extremely important to me is rest and sleep.
In my forties I had a very high powered job combined with some challenging times and was stressed all the time. I couldn’t see it at the time, but now I am suffering from the effects of sustained and suppressed stress. Having discovered mindfulness practices I have learned to slow down, to pause, to rest and to stop doing and to just be for a while. At least this goes towards mitigating against any current stresses – and allows a pause for some of the old stress to release. I have also discovered hygge (pronounced ‘hyoo·guh’) and love nothing more to snuggle up under a cosy warm blanket in the evenings, and rest and do nothing. Bliss!
Compassion practice was a revelation, as finally, here in my sixties, I can actually sit here and offer myself some kindness.
I do wish that I had learned more about Mindfulness and Mindful Movement when I was younger. But as Pema Chodron says – ‘Start where you Are’ and at least I am doing it now. Better late than never as ‘they’ say.
As for Yoga and Qigong – these have been absolutely transformative for me. To reenergise my body with short sequences of Qigong makes me feel alive and free and vibrant. Research tells us that just 10 minutes of Qigong increases our serotonin and just 7 minutes of kindness or compassion practice increases oxytocin in the blood stream – both of which are beneficial to wellbeing.
I might have taken the long route, a bit later than I would have wanted, but I do feel that I am doing all I can to maintain as healthy lifestyle as possible.
Yes of course I have lapses – after all chocolate was invented to tempt me, but the Mindfulness Based Living Course helped me to be kind to myself, manage my lapses and get back on track to mostly living healthily. In life I believe in the 80/20 rule. We can never be perfect and to do everything 100% perfectly can just cause us more stress and striving, but giving it 80% seems a fair balance to me.
One final reflection – I used to teach Mindfulness and Qigong at a large UK spa. I remember a moment that really struck me. The place was full of posters advising you to get thinner with liposuction and a high powered exercise class to lose weight. I watched people barely able to walk as they left the class. There were other posters with young, slim, fit women toned with unusually smooth skin because they had a certain facial and use a certain cream. I realised how much the media tell us we are not good enough. And there was me in the Mindfulness class encouraging people to be accepting and allowing and to move their bodies with kindness and gentleness with Qigong. We are bombarded with images of how we should be, which feeds any existing feelings of ‘not good enough’. I’ve learned that a healthy way of living should be about balance with a gentle approach, remembering its not our fault how our bodies are. Then looking at small steps as to how we can make any healthy changes we want to. Maybe its time to take on board the ancient advice from the Yogic tradition – the principles of ‘ahimsa’ – which symbolises love, care and compassion (including speech and thought) towards all beings. And that includes ourselves!
In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we often find ourselves mindlessly consuming meals, barely registering the flavours, textures, and nutritional value of the food we eat. Often we are overwhelmed with conflicting information as to what actually is healthy for us or the right food, right time, right diet.
The mindfulness-based healthy living course encourages us to reconnect with the act of eating, fostering a deeper appreciation for the nourishment our bodies receive. By practising mindful eating, we can become more attuned to hunger and fullness cues, make healthier food choices, and develop a sustainable relationship with food that goes beyond mere sustenance.
Quality sleep is the cornerstone of overall well-being, yet it remains elusive for many in our stress-ridden society. Mindfulness techniques, such as guided meditation and deep-breathing exercises, are powerful tools for calming the mind and promoting relaxation. By integrating these practices into a healthy living course, individuals can learn to create a conducive environment for restful sleep, ultimately improving their energy levels, cognitive function, and emotional resilience.
Exercise is a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle, but the benefits extend beyond physical fitness. A mindfulness-based approach to exercise emphasises being fully present in the moment, tuning into the sensations of the body, and cultivating a mind-body connection. This not only enhances the effectiveness of workouts but also transforms exercise into a meditative practice. By incorporating mindfulness into physical activity, we are more likely to stick to their routines, experience greater satisfaction, and reduce the risk of exercise-related injuries.
Stress Reduction: Finding Calm in the Chaos
Chronic stress is a pervasive issue in modern society, contributing to a myriad of health problems. Mindfulness, with its roots in ancient meditation practices, has proven to be a powerful antidote to stress. Through techniques like mindful breathing and meditation, individuals can learn to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease. A mindfulness-based healthy living course equips participants with practical tools to manage stress, promoting emotional well-being and preventing the negative impact of chronic stress on both mental and physical health.
In a world that often pulls us in multiple directions, the Mindfulness-Based Healthy Living Course offers a compass to navigate the journey towards optimal health. By incorporating mindfulness into our approach to eating, sleep, exercise, and stress management, we can foster a harmonious relationship with our bodies and minds. Ultimately, this transformative experience empowers us to make sustainable lifestyle changes that promote not just longevity, but a life lived with intention, presence, and vibrant health.
These practices have helped me on my journey. I would love to share with you to help you on yours. I am teaching on the next Mindfulness Based Healthy Living Course and am looking forward to working with Ki and together offering you effective and personalised strategies to lead a more healthy life aligned more fully with your personal values. Whether it’s exercise or mental wellbeing there will be opportunity to share in peer groups which I found very supportive throughout the course. The home practices are also very beneficial to keep momentum going.