What does Christmas mean to you? A huge Turkey Dinner followed by the Queen’s Speech? Lots of presents and an empty wallet? Partying through the season? While Christmas is a wonderful time of year, sometimes the real meaning can get lost in the frenzy of it all.
You don’t have to be religious to appreciate Christmas. Whether or not you celebrate Advent or go to Midnight Mass, it’s good for mind and soul to remind ourselves of the non-commercial aspects of the season and use the Christmas holiday as an annual break to recharge the batteries.
Practise kindness and generosity, charity and compassion and learn that giving from the heart can be the ultimate Christmas present to both the giver and receiver. Here are 7 ways to have a more meaningful Christmas.
1 – Give homemade gifts
Rather than spending big on presents just because it’s Christmas, why not get creative instead? Bake Christmas cookies, make your own Yule Log or cranberry sauce. How about a home made calendar with photos taken through the year? If you’re into needlework, handicrafts, creative writing, painting or music, use your talents to create personal gifts that have real meaning.
2 – Make time for the family
Christmas is a time for family, so make it a real priority to spend time together. Rather than putting the kids in front of the computer and the grandparents in front of the TV, go unplugged and do stuff together. Whether you play charades or board games, go for country walks or read stories to each other, the important thing is to appreciate everyone’s company and share the love.
3 – Talk about the meaning of Christmas
Why not have an open conversation with your family about what Christmas means to them? This will give every family member the opportunity to shape the festivities and create traditions that everyone will love. It might be going to Midnight Mass as a family, a favourite film you always watch together, the ritual of wrapping presents or making home made mince pies, the annual Pantomime outing – whatever makes you gel as a family.
4 – Have a ‘no presents’ policy
If your family is in agreement, why not use the money you would have spent on presents and make a donation to a good cause instead? You could go shopping for a local foodbank, give the money to a children’s charity or a homeless shelter to help those less fortunate than you. How about asking the children to choose one toy each that they would like to donate to a child who wouldn’t otherwise get any presents?
5 – Get out into the community
Christmas is a time for sharing, so why not share your time with friends and neighbours? Make your community a priority this Christmas and help out where you can. From going carol singing to inviting everyone back for Christmas drinks, from delivering home made cookies to your neighbours to distributing hot soup to the homeless, there are many ways you can connect with the local community.
6 – Share your good fortune
Look around your home – aren’t you blessed that you have so many things? Many people have less than you, for whatever reason, and simply cannot afford to celebrate Christmas. How about creating a stocking full of treats and gifts, or put together a food hamper, and place it on the doorstep of someone you know would really appreciate it? Or give your time freely to a community organisation to help with Christmas celebrations? Whether you help cook Christmas Dinner at your local church hall or look after abandoned pets, there’s always a way you can help.
7 – Setting good intentions
Rather than treating kindness and compassion as a seasonal activity, why not make plans to carry on through the next 12 months. Set out your intentions to do one good deed every day, and be grateful for one good thing that happens to you every day of the year. Studies have shown that consistent positive interactions and practising gratitude can increase happiness and decrease levels of depression.
Regardless of how much energy you dedicate to your job or to other people, you need to ensure that you don’t neglect yourself. Looking after Number One is often easier said than done, but it’s important to find the right balance to ensure your wellbeing.
We all lead busy lives with never enough hours in the day to get everything done. Stress and anxiety disorders are common complaints in our 24/7 Western society. Admitting that your needs and wants are just as important as any item on your to-to list is the first step to a sustainable way of managing your life. You can’t be a superhero all the time; you’re human, after all.
1 – Are you neglecting your basic needs?
Skipping breakfast once in a while because you’re running late is fine, but making a habit of it is not healthy. Nor is getting only 5 hours sleep a night, or working 14 hours a day on a regular basis. Over time, these and similarly unhealthy habits mean that you’re depriving your body and mind of vital nutrients and rest.
If you’re not eating or sleeping properly, you’re literally running on empty, sacrificing your own health for your career. Without the energy to perform at your best, you won’t excel at work. In fact, your productivity is bound to suffer.
2 – Do you feel as if you’re stuck on autopilot?
Do you work to live or live to work? If your life is a case of ‘eat, sleep, work, repeat’, you may be stuck in a vicious circle that just allows you to go through the motions every day – with nothing left in the tank for anything other than the basic necessities.
What about your other needs? We all have emotional desires and social needs, and a drive for self-fulfilment. Crucially, we also need to get out there and experience all that life has to offer, rather than letting it pass us by.
3 – Are you always doing something for others?
While putting other people’s needs first can be a wonderful character trait, there are those who will take advantage of your good nature. If you’re a giving person, you will find it hard to say ‘no’ to others – but it’s essential for your own wellbeing to learn to define your boundaries.
You can’t give from an empty cup, as the saying goes. In order to stay strong, you need to protect yourself. Recognise when others are asking too much of you, and decline firmly but politely, putting your own needs first.
4 – Have you lost touch with friends or family?
When was the last time you met up with friends or family? If you’re spending too much time with co-workers who mean nothing to you on a personal level, your personal relationships with the people you love most will suffer as a result.
Make time for the people who matter to you. After all, which are you going to remember in 5 years’ time: the months you spent working late, or the times when you watched the kids perform in the school play?
5 – When was the last time you had fun?
When was the last time you left all your worries behind and just had fun? Perhaps you’re associating ‘fun’ with being a child, and feel guilty when you’re not working? Having a healthy work/life balance means that there should be regular time for enjoyment and relaxation in your life.
Make sure you ringfence some time for yourself and spend it on whatever makes you happy. Go for a walk in the country, eat an ice cream, take up a sport or a hobby, book a holiday.
6 – Can you remember who you are?
If you don’t take an active interest in yourself, then what are you left with? A humdrum existence that revolves around work and chores? Where is the person who once had hopes and dreams, who laughed and loved without the weight of the world on their shoulders?
Take some time out for yourself and find out what it is you need to do to get your life back on track. Life Coaching can be incredibly helpful to build confidence, overcome blocks to success and improve your quality of life. Call KlearMinds today on 0333 772 0256 or contact us here.
Do you feel unhappy with the way you look, your job, relationships or finances? Are you feeling stuck somehow, unable to make progress on issues that are important to you? Whatever it is that’s keeping you in a rut, there are ways to motivate yourself to make changes and move forward with your life.
Anthony Robbins, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and Mark Twain have variously been attributed with these wise words: If you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always got. It’s clear that you need to make changes – but how?
We’ve compiled 7 ways that you can challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and see what you’re really capable of.
1 – Increase physical exercise
If you want to lose weight, being more physically active is non-negotiable. In any event, exercise is good for your health and the endorphins released during physical exertion makes you feel better about yourself. No need to join the gym or do hours of gruelling exercise. Start with a simple 10-minute routine – perhaps a walk or jog round the block or 10 minutes of dancing around your living room – and notice the difference.
2 – Keep track of your spending
Many people struggle with money management. Whether you’re overspending or failing to save for a rainy day, proper budget discipline can be learnt. Challenge yourself to break your current financial habits, using a spreadsheet to keep track of your outgoings. Set a realistic limit and record every expenditure on your sheet. Try it for a week, or month, and see what you can learn. Have you saved any money?
3 – Learn a new language
If you’ve always fancied learning a new language, try tools such as Duolingo, a free app that’s fun to use. From Spanish or German to more far flung languages such as Russian or Japanese, there’s no need to attend traditional classes. Whether you’re hoping to boost your skills on your CV or your own personal development, the emphasis is on playful learning – from your phone, tablet or computer.
4 – Confront your fears
If you’re afraid of talking to people on the phone, or of public speaking, it may hold you back in your career. Whatever you’re feeling uncomfortable about, if you can learn to overcome the things you’re scared about and emerge a stronger person. Challenge yourself to set 5 minutes aside each day to acknowledge, analyse and face your fears. Be persistent and have courage.
5 – Take up a hobby
Broaden your horizon and do something you love! Whether you tap into your inner creative and take a painting class, take dancing lessons with your other half, or learn how to invest in stocks and shares, the important thing is that it’s not work. The aim of the exercise is to challenge yourself to relax, destress and stop feeling guilty about having fun!
6 – Invest in professional development
If your career is going nowhere, start building a bridge to a better job. Sometimes, what you know may not be enough – it’s who you know that could be opening the door to the next career opportunity. Attend conferences and events that are relevant to your profession and network with industry contacts to broaden your reach. Aim to go to one career related event every month.
7 – Meet new people, see new places
Whether you go travelling to explore new cultures, or you discover a new interest in your local museum, being open to new experiences will change you as a person. Take an interest in new people including those you wouldn’t normally engage with – the checkout girl, the homeless man, the old lady next door? There’s no limit to what you can learn about the world or about yourself.
If you feel you may benefit from professional assistance, Life Coaching can be an effective way to help you build confidence, while identifying, setting and achieving new goals in your life. Why not contact KlearMinds to find out more?
What do you read while you’re on holiday? The latest thriller or romantic novel? Perhaps an old classic or, God forbid, some work related material? This summer, why not pack something much more inspiring. We’ve come up with 7 excellent books of an altogether different nature – they’re all about finding happiness. Take your pick and happy reading!
1 – The Book of Joy by The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
When two of the most joyful people on the planet and self acclaimed ‘spiritual brothers’ get together to reflect on their own experiences of life and discuss the central question of how to achieve lasting happiness in a changing world, you’d be silly not to want to sit up and take notice. It’s an utterly joyful book about joy, peace and courage that we can all learn from.
2 – Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
What would happen if you said ‘yes’ to everything? Shonda Rhimes tried it for a whole year, accepting every opportunity that came her way, with revelationary and often humorous results. Read about her 12 months of learning to embrace, empower and love herself that has lessons for us all.
3 – Color Me Happy by Lacy Mucklow
Did you know that the simple, meditative act of ‘colouring in’ can reduce stress and help regain your focus? Art therapy and adult colouring books have soared in popularity over recent years. Color Me Happy along with its sister publications Color Me Stress Free, Color Me Calm and Color Me Fearless, will bring you back to the here and now in a heartbeat, channelling your problems into joyful creative accomplishments. Don’t forget to bring the crayons!
4 – The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
If you’ve never come across this enchanting novel and one of the best selling books of all time by acclaimed Brazilian author Paul Coelho, now is the time to pick it up and read it. The powerful story of Santiago, a shepherd boy, will inspire you to pursue your dreams and find the path of happiness that you were always meant to be on.
5 – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
This is a genius approach about decluttering your home and your life. Kondo will challenge you to reassess every item that you own with the question: does it bring you joy? Yes – keep it, no – get rid. It’s ruthless but you’ll soon find that space clearing will lead to a decluttered mind and the opportunity for joy.
6 – The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
One of the best books on happiness, a subject that has received huge attention recently, Rubin starts with the realisation that ‘the days are long but the years are short’. She gives herself 12 months to improve her life, focusing on what makes her happy and the things that really matter. It’s an eye opener.
7 – The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s classic fable about an old man, a young boy and a giant fish is one of the giants of modern literature. The novella gives a unique vision of the beauty and grief of man’s challenge against the elements, and of not giving up. It’s compelling reading, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Holiday season is here and we really hope that you’re in the middle of packing your suitcase ready to take a well earned break. But perhaps you’re not going away this summer? Too busy at work? Worried about what you’ll miss while you’re gone? Don’t really see the need for a break?
If you’re not booked to go on holiday, here’s some really good advice. Just go! We’ve got 5 important reasons why you should take that break.
1 – Destress and unwind
If you live a busy and stressful life, it’s essential to schedule in some time to rebalance your life. Stress has a habit of creeping up on you and you may not even realise how it’s affecting your mental health.
Stop thinking about work for a week and just relax. Whether this means sun, sea and sand, mountain walking or dancing the night away, it’s important to leave your worries at home and do something you totally different.
2 – Spend quality time with your loved ones
Holidays are the perfect time to reconnect with your partner, kids or friends. If possible, leave the laptop and smartphone at home (or go somewhere without WiFi or mobile signal!) and have fun together the old fashioned way.
Away from busy daily lives, you’ll be free of distractions. It’s an opportunity to talk to each other, to share experiences together and make memories. In years to come, you’ll be reminiscing over the adventure you had, with holiday pictures to remind you of some good times.
3 – Good for the body
Research has shown that people are more physically active on holiday than they are during a normal working week. From long promenade walks to daily swimming, practising watersports or just exploring the local area, plus the abundance of vitamin D obtained from the holiday sun – it’s a healthier lifestyle than back home.
On your return, you’ll feel physically refreshed, with a few good nights’ sleep under your belt and healthy tan to show off, ready to take on the world.
4 – Good for the mind
Travelling broadens the mind. Seeing new places, doing new things, experiencing different cultures or sampling exotic cuisines are learning experiences that shape who you are.
What’s more, you will feel inspired by your holiday experiences, Having had the time and head space to think about how and where your life is going, you’ll come back mentally clearer and ready for the challenges ahead. It’s amazing what some fresh air, laughter and relaxation can do for your wellbeing.
The Wheel of Life, aka the Wellness Wheel, is a great exercise that can be used to help create more balance and success in all aspects of your life. It’s a tool routinely used by counsellors and life coaches, gently encouraging you to take a close look at each key area of happiness:
Take an honest look at your physical health and ask yourself how fit and healthy you really feel. What about your energy levels, stress levels, sleep patterns? Are you physically active and do you eat healthily? Are there any medical issues that need addressing? Feeling good physically is a key indicator of your overall happiness.
While we can’t all be brain surgeons or rocket scientists, we can all aim to be fulfilled in our chosen career paths. Are you good at what you do and do you feel a sense of job satisfaction? Do you feel valued by your employer for the contribution that you make in the workplace?
Friends and Family
Take a look at your family relationships and wider social network. Do you spend quality time with your loved ones? Do you feel accepted just as you are as part of the wider family or are there any issues? Are you close to those around you and feel connected to your community? We all need positive friendships and a sense of belonging.
Take a look at your immediate surroundings – is there clutter at home, mess on your desk or chaos in your car? It may be a reflection of what goes on inside of you. Make sure there is space in your life for new thoughts and things that serve you and get rid of old (mental and actual) junk.
We don’t all have the resources of the young Duke of Westminster’s £9.5 billion fortune, but we can all ensure that we live within our means. Are you in control of your finances, including making provisions for the future and for those closest to you?
Fun & Recreation
Joy and happiness go together like strawberries and cream, but as we grow older and life takes over, it’s easy to forget how to have fun. How often do you connect with your inner child? Do you laugh and play, dream and dare just because it makes you feel alive?
Life is more than a series of chores, so think about the activities that feed your soul. Whether you love creative pursuits such as singing or painting, you like the intellectual stimulation of learning a new language or playing chess, or you take an active interest in current affairs, it’s important to be true to yourself. Do you feel connected to a higher power or an inner optimism to keep you grounded? Your mental wellbeing will increase if you can stay curious and engaged with the world around you.
How happy are you with your current relationship status? Are you quite happy being single, looking for your soulmate or feeling secure as part of a loving and supportive couple with shared values?
Mark each of the 8 segment of your overall happiness ‘pie’ on a scale of 1 to 10 to create an individual map that is a visual representation of your current state of personal contentment. Now take a long look at the shape of the results.
Are you happy with the overall amount of happiness in your life? Which segments are strongest and do you appreciate what you’ve got in these areas? What about areas for improvement? Armed with a clear picture, you’re now in a really good place to devise a positive plan of action.
Many of us have grown up to believe that if you’re not constantly working hard, or looking after those around you, you’re being selfish. The problem is that this kind of ingrained thinking puts your needs last, not first.
Think about it. If you don’t take care of yourself, making time for rest and relaxation to replenish your reserves, how can you be of any use to anyone else? How can you do your best in a high pressure job? Look after your family with love and patience? Conduct healthy relationships? You can’t give from an empty cup.
Time to say goodbye to self-hate and self-destruction, and go back to basics.
Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself – it is a set of thoughts and actions that, over time, develops healthy physical, psychological and spiritual growth. When you act in a way that supports your own needs, you will learn to acknowledge your strengths as well as accept your weaknesses, without the need to explain your shortcomings. Compassion and balanced will guide your values as you move through life with much greater fulfilment.
As a concept, self-love teaches you to release negative thoughts and self-criticism and to embrace more loving thoughts instead. It is these thoughts that will form the basis of your actions which, in turn, define your life.
That’s all very well, you may say, but how does it work in practice?
Self-love should be a very concrete, realistic thing that you practise every day. Here are our top 9 suggestions on how to look after Number One.
1 – You are what you eat
Fill your body with nourishing food and drink and take the time to appreciate mealtimes. Eating mindfully – not while multitasking, or in a hurry – means that you treat your body with the respect it deserves.
2 – Praise yourself
Rather than compiling a never ending To Do list, recognise your achievements at the end of each day. Did you finish a work assignment? Do the laundry? Make that important phone call? Play with the kids? Give yourself a well earned pat on the back.
3 – Practise gratitude
Find something to be grateful for every day, even on down days. Write it down – perhaps in a diary by the bedside – and you will find that by focusing on one positive thing per day, no matter how trivial, your mind set will shift away from the negative.
4 – Create a bedroom sanctuary
Does your bedroom need some TLC? Build a space that feels cosy and inviting by adding scented candles, a fluffy bedspread, fresh flowers or anything else that makes you feel good. Now you have a safe haven to retreat to when the going gets tough.
5 – Rediscover your inner child
Cast your mind back to the innocence of childhood and think about some of your favourite things back then. It could be picking wildflowers, making up silly rhymes, or having a hot chocolate with marshmallows on top. Now go and treat yourself and feel the warm feeling wash all over you.
6 – Get active
No doubt you’ve heard about endorphins – feelgood hormones that are released through exercise. Find a form of physical activity that you really love – gardening, cycling, gym, dancing, walking, etc – and enjoy it on a regular basis. You will feel happier.
7 – Lose yourself in a book
There’s nothing quite like losing yourself in a great book for an hour or two. The act of reading encourages a sense of peace and tranquillity that is perfect for balancing a hectic lifestyle. It’s something you can look forward to every day.
8 – Take a break from digital
If you have a smartphone, an email account or a Twitter handle, you will know how easy it is to give hours of your daily life over to online activities. But it’s important to take time out from the internet to reconnect with actual life. Switch it off for an hour a day and notice the difference.
9 – Channel your inner creativity
Being creative is a need that we all have inside. Getting artistic will allow you to fell both mindful and productive, so find something you really want to do and go ahead. From cooking a meal to painting a picture, designing a garden or writing a poem, there’s bound to be something that makes your heart sing.
What could be easier than breathing? We do it all the time, and yet not all breaths are created equal.
Deep breathing can be a great tool to use when you’re in a state of anxiety, high stress or are dealing with a panic attack. The simple action of taking deep breaths is soothing and calming on body and mind.
If you want to use your breath to calm yourself, all you need to do is to stimulate the right part of the body’s nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system controls our rest, relax and digest response. When it is activated, the body is in a state of calm, with dilated blood vessels and lower blood pressure, a slow heart rate and calm breathing.
How to get there? Your outbreath needs to be slightly longer than your inbreath. This stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the diaphragm all the way to the brain.
There are many different breathing exercises you can try to put your body into a parasympathetic state, but the simplest is this one:
Find a comfortable place where you can sit quietly in a relaxed pose but with your spine upright. Close your eyes and begin breathing normally through your nose.
Next, take a deep, slow breath in through your nose counting to two, hold for one count, and exhale counting to four, then hold again for one count. Make sure you breathe smoothly and evenly.
If this feels too easy, you could try inhaling for 4 counts and exhaling for 6, or even 6 inhales and 8 exhales, just so long as it still feels comfortable.
On the outbreath, try experimenting with breathing our through your nose, through pursed lips or through your mouth to see what feels best for you.
Do this breathing exercise for a minimum of 5 minutes and notice a real difference in your state of mind.
If you find breathing exercises helpful to combat stress and anxiety in your life, you may wish to try these 3 video guided exercises:
A good night’s sleep is something many people take for granted. But when it’s not happening, and you’re routinely suffering from lack of sleep or interrupted nights, this can take its toll on your physical health and emotional wellbeing.
According to the Royal Society for Public Health, adults need 7-9 hours’ sleep per night. However, the average time recorded in a recent sleep survey was 6.8 hours, and many people are suffering from restless nights or periods spent lying awake too.
Lack of sleep is related to increased stress and irritability, while poor sleep is known to increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Clearly, the benefits of getting sufficient good quality sleep are not to be underestimated.
Stress reduction – Just as lack of sleep can raise the level of stress hormones in the body, deep and regular sleep can lower them.
Lower blood pressure – Sufficient restful sleep keeps the body relaxed and has a beneficial effect on your blood pressure, lowering the chances of heart disease and stroke.
Better immunity – Lack of sleep makes your body less able to fight infections, while plenty of good quality sleep improves your immunity.
Brain boosting – While your body is resting, your brain is busy processing memories. With plenty of sleep, your cognitive function improves and you feel more attentive and focused.
Mood lifting – Getting a good night’s sleep will help keep you in a calm and balanced frame of mind, while lack of sleep will lead to irritability and may exacerbate depression, anxiety or anger management issues.
Weight control – Plenty of good sleep will help regulate the hormones that affect our appetite, while reducing cravings for the wrong foods.
To help improve your personal sleep patterns, it is recommended that you establish a regular bedtime routine to prepare your brain and body for sleep. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day to keep your body clock regular. Wind down before bedtime so you are relaxed and ready for sleep
Did you know that spending time outdoors can benefit your physical and mental health? You don’t even have to be exercising energetically to reap the benefits. Simple everyday activities such walking to work, taking the dog out or having an after dinner stroll can really improve the way you feel.
We all know that a good walk in the fresh air can help you collect your thoughts, let off steam or simply relax, particularly when you’re experiencing high levels of stress. But it’s more than that. Walking can positively affect your overall wellbeing, and even help fight depression.
Here are just a few good reasons why it pays huge dividends to get outside more.
Walking, just like any other physical activity, releases endorphins. These are the ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain that are responsible for improving your mood and reducing anxiety and stress.
Regular walking can help improve your sleep patterns, leading to better quality and more refreshing sleep.
It is a well known scientific fact that people with active lifestyles have a lower risk of suffering from clinical depression.
It is a recognised benefit that spending time in contact with the natural environment – perhaps by walking in local parks, green spaces or woodland – can boost your mental health.
Regular physical exercise has been shown to be at least as effective a treatment for mild to moderate depression compared to taking antidepressant medication. What’s more, all the side effects of exercise are positive!
According to a recent clinical study, being surrounded by nature gives your brain a break from overstimulation, which can have a restorative effect – increasing your vitality, boosting energy levels and heightening your concentration.
Discovering your local area on foot is a great way to make you feel more at home. It gives you a greater sense of belonging, and makes you more likely to make contact and establish friendships with people who live close by.
A welcome by-product of regular walking is that you will feel fitter and may lose some weight. This can enhance your body image and improve confidence.
Group walking is a sociable activity that can make you feel more connected and overcome social isolation – all helpful in boosting your mental health.
Even if you don’t go for a walk but simply spend time outdoors, this will still improve your wellbeing. Why not take your lunch break on a park bench, or watch the children play in the playground on a sunny day?
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