125 results for Well-being
I’m standing on the beach watching black clouds roll in as the wind whips at my youngest daughter’s frothy blonde curls. She is crouched, oblivious to the darkening weather, completely focused on the hole she is digging in the sand.
A joyous whoop carries across the salty air to my ears, and I turn to see my husband spinning my eldest round and round. Exhaling slowly, I send a silent note of gratitude out across the sea. We did it.
For the past six months, our lives have been something of a whirlwind; since the moment our eldest daughter didn’t get into any of the decent primary schools in the city where we lived.
For years we have thought about moving to the South West of England, closer to the sea and the restorative power of the forests down this way. But it was never quite the right time until, suddenly, it was.
In the past eight weeks, we have sold our home, moved between temporary rentals three times, settled our eldest into her new school, kept three businesses running; and I have travelled 10,000 miles to teach at a retreat, and launched my new book Wabi Sabi: Japanese wisdom for a perfectly imperfect life.
We have had to employ military-grade logistics and a whole lot of patience, as our whole family packed, unpacked, moved away from relatives, discovered somewhere new and learned to cope with daily change.
Through it all, there have been so many opportunities to get stressed and grouchy, feel under pressure and overwhelmed, and berate ourselves for not being perfect parents, business owners and friends – as so much had to be pushed aside just to get through each day. And, yet, here we are, on the other side, and I actually feel more relaxed than I have in a long while.
I have no doubt that I owe much of that to the wisdom I discovered in researching the philosophy of wabi-sabi earlier in the year, as I was writing my book.
What is wabi-sabi?
Wabi-sabi is a captivating concept from Japanese aesthetics, which helps us to see the beauty in imperfection, appreciate simplicity and accept the transient nature of all things. With roots in Zen and the way of tea, the timeless wisdom of wabi-sabi is more relevant than ever for modern life as we search for new ways to approach life’s challenges and seek meaning beyond materialism.
In my case, these past few months have helped me see that imperfection is the natural state of all things, including ourselves. We are not supposed to be perfect. We are meant to be works-in-progress. This brings an immense sense of relief and feels like a blessed permission slip to let go of the things that do not really matter and focus on what does.
To make progress in the direction of your dreams, within the context of your perfectly imperfect life, you will need preparation, dedication and trust in yourself and in the process. You have to let go of the need to have all the answers or a ‘perfect’ picture of the future before playing your part in creating it.
A wabi-sabi-inspired world view gives us permission to feel our way through life, paying less attention to what we think others think (or what we think we should do based on what others think) and more attention to what really matters to us.
We have to keep asking questions, and keep moving, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, depending on the ebb and flow of life.
We are not supposed to be perfect
In researching for my book, I read Nihonjin no kokoro, tsutaemasu, a fascinating little book about the world of tea by former iemoto (head) of the Urasenke school of tea, Sen Genshitsu. In it, I came across the word johakyū (), which refers to three different speeds of action – slow, a little faster and fast. Genshitsu explained how there is a tempo to the tea ceremony, and practitioners must vary the speed, as required.
He went on to say how they must vary their effort level too – sometimes being gentle, sometimes adding a little strength, sometimes really going for it. As he concluded, this can also be great advice for life.
Slowing down from time to time is vital for noticing more, sensing more, seeing more and experiencing more. This comes from a starting point of rushing, which seems to be the default pace for so many of us these days. But, slowing down doesn’t mean calling time on a desire to do meaningful work in the world, or having ambition or getting involved in exciting things. Slowing down is important as a counterpoint to running fast and, sometimes, it’s good to vary the pace.
Just as Genshitsu said, varying our effort levels is vital for our well-being, too. We cannot give any project, meeting, opportunity or conversation our full attention when we are trying to juggle many things at once. We have to prioritise well, get organised and focus on one thing at a time.
For every time we give something our everything, we have to put other things to one side. When we put our effort where it is going to have the greatest impact, it takes us in a direction we actually want to travel in. After a major effort, we have to build-in recovery time and give ourselves permission to take it easy for a while.
Using these three gears of speed and three gears of effort can make all the difference to whether or not we enjoy our career and life journeys, and stay well along the way. I’m making it a daily practice to remind myself of this.
As the tide pushes the sea up the beach and gentle rain starts to fall, I gather up my little family and together we rush into the shallows in our wellies, laughing out loud. It’s moments like this that remind me what really matters, and how much I love my perfectly imperfect life.
‘Your Perfectly Imperfect Life’ by Beth Kempton was written for Soulhub Journal – The Collective, a collection of stories, illustrations and artwork fuelled by the question ‘what makes you feel soulful?’.
Soulhub Journal – The Collective is available from Amazon.
There’s nothing worse than trying to rest at night and not being able to. And, while this is typically put down to everyday stressors, what many people don’t consider is that the moon could be playing a part in sleep disruptions.
From bright full moons keeping us awake at night to the supposed impact of the lunar cycle on our physical and psychological well-being, there have been many assumptions made about the moon’s hold over sleep.
Here, we’ll explore learnings from scientific research and astrology to understand if and how the moon can affect our sleep.
What scientific evidence is there?
The first thing to note is that there have been limited studies done on the moon’s impact on sleep, which has led many people to put it down to a placebo effect. However, perhaps consider what previous studies have shown before disregarding this as a reason behind your insomnia.
In the early 2000s, a group of Swiss researchers carried out a study into the link between ageing and sleep cycles. Years later, they decided to revisit to see how the moon’s presence could have impacted the participants’ sleep, too. They used electroencephalograms (EEGs) to investigate how the participants’ sleep cycles changed during different moon stages and this revealed a significant link between lunar cycles and bad sleep.
Specifically, in the days leading up to and after a full moon, it took them five extra minutes to fall asleep, meaning they experienced 30% less deep sleep compared to usual and lost out on a total of 20 minutes of rest overall.
Similarly, research published in the Sleep Medicine journal also suggested a correlation between lunar cycles and sleep. This included the time it took to fall asleep, as well as the duration of sleep and REM latency.
There is even research demonstrating how the moon can impact people of different sexes. In a study published in the Journal of Sleep, results indicated women’s total sleep time, REM sleep and stage four sleep were disturbed most when it was close to a full moon phase. Whereas, men’s sleep times were more prolonged when the full moon was present.
What do astrologists think?
For astrologists, there’s no question that the moon impacts sleep. And, for different zodiac signs, the results can be extremely varied.
In astrology, the full moon is said to help people see things from a different perspective and make them more instinctive and spontaneous. This comes to the surface at night, making it harder to fall asleep.
If you find you struggle to sleep and want to see if it’s connected to the full moon, starting up a sleep diary could help you to identify whether you are more sensitive to the full moon than others. You could take note of:
- The time you try to fall asleep: This means the time you put your phone away, turn the TV off and close your eyes.
- How long you sleep for: Take interruptions into account and don’t count them in your total.
- How you felt as you slept: Did you feel uneasy, confused, relaxed or any other emotion? Dreams are usually a good indicator of this.
- The nature of your dreams: Whether you had nightmares or good dreams. The vividness of dreams can also indicate your sensitivity to a full moon phase.
Is there a link between lunar cycles and sleep?
Looking at both scientific results and an astrological point of view, there seems to be evidence to suggest certain lunar cycles can impact how soundly you sleep at night. What seems most plausible is the excess light that a full moon, in particular, brings, which can disturb sleep cycles.
This fits in with the idea scientists have highlighted about the role of blue light-emitting devices such as phones, TVs and alarm clocks that confuse our circadian rhythms and make it more difficult for us to feel sleepy at night. Of course, things like a lack of exercise or activity can impact how sleepy you feel, and you’ll often find you get more rest when you’ve had a busy day.
Similarly, it’s more than likely that people who’ve struggled to sleep the night before will feel groggy, suffer from brain fogs that can form headaches, and have a reduced mood, as confirmed by the NHS. So, again, it seems plausible and acceptable for people to associate the full moon with psychological changes, including mood disorders like anxiety.
However, there is a suggestion that lunar insomnia could be down to a placebo effect. We all struggle to sleep from time to time: it’s a common experience for all humans. But, it’s also in our nature to want an explanation for everything, too. This means that when we do struggle to sleep, we typically want to find an answer as to why it could be, and consequently end up attributing the problem to an external factor like the moon.
While there is no definite cause and effect link between lunar cycles and sleep (due to the lack of research done on the topic), there is scope for further investigation.
What can you do to alleviate lunar insomnia?
If you do believe that the moon plays a big part in your sleep disturbances (known as lunar insomnia), there are a couple of ways you can alleviate this and get a more restful night. This is all to do with sleep hygiene and creating an optimum environment for promoting rest.
Leading a healthy lifestyle helps to relieve many problems and, for people who struggle to sleep because of the moon, it can be a big help to reflect on this.
Tips for a restful night
- Cut out certain foods before bed: Sugary foods can create a spike in your energy levels meaning you won’t feel tired when you get into bed. Similarly, gluten is said to keep some people up as it can disturb digestion.
- Quit smoking: We all know to avoid caffeine close to bedtime or it’ll keep us up at night. But nicotine is also a stimulant that can affect our bodies in a very similar way.
- Keep your room at the optimum temperature: The most comfortable temperature for sleeping is thought to be between 16°C-18°C.
- Invest in a comfortable mattress: When you can’t get comfortable in bed, it’s unlikely you’ll have a good sleep or will wake up feeling refreshed. Your mattress should be the correct firmness for your sleeping position and ideally will be replaced every 10 years.
- Make use of blackout blinds and curtains: If the excess light from the moon seems to be keeping you tossing and turning, investing in blackout blinds will remove this and help you to sleep quicker.
- Avoid using technology: You should stop using your phone — or any other technological device that emits blue light — at least an hour before bed to ensure the light doesn’t interfere with your natural circadian rhythm.
With so much debate around lunar insomnia, we’ll need to see more research before we can say for certain whether it’s a real phenomenon. However, hopefully, I have highlighted the potential links between the moon and sleep and shown you how to tackle any sleep problems you credit to the moon.
Phil Lawlor has been the Sleep Expert at Dormeo for over three years.
From getting hands-on in the factories, to testing mattresses himself, Phil is certainly well-versed on what makes for a perfect night’s sleep.
Intentional living has become somewhat of a buzzword in the last few years. It’s often used with – or even interchanged with – terms like minimalism, simple living or sustainable living, decluttering, productivity, and so on.
So you might find other articles that say intentional living includes living with less stuff, being mindful about what you consume, or managing the way you spend your time, and that can be true. However, there’s something about attaching it to specific tips or outcomes that makes the idea feel like yet another task for you to complete, or standard for you to live up to. Personally, I prefer to take a more holistic view.
To me, living an intentional life means living in a way that feels right for you.
It’s paying attention to the path you are currently on and asking yourself how you feel about it. It’s getting curious about the choices you’ve made and looking for options that seem more aligned. It’s learning how to change paths, by taking one step at a time, then looking up and around you, and seeing if you like where you’re going. And knowing when it’s time to make yet another change, and trusting your own voice all throughout the process.
This isn’t always easy, especially in a world filled with rules and stories about the way you are supposed to live. But, at the end of the day, you are the only person who knows what’s right for you. Intentional living, then, will result in a life lived on your own terms.
Here are some of the practices that might help you along the way.
Slow down and pay closer attention
In order to experience the benefits that come from living an intentional life, you need to understand which aspects of your life you want to shift or change. And, in order to do that, you will first need to notice the signs. These are the things you are feeling, seeing, saying, or thinking about over and over again. They should be obvious, but we often miss them.
How is that possible? From what I’ve learned and gathered, it’s often because we are so plugged into our lives that we end up completely disconnected from ourselves. By “plugged into,” I don’t necessarily mean that you are staring into the screens of your phone, computer, or television all day long. No, what I mean is a little simpler than that: it’s just that we are so busy living.
Keeping ourselves busy with our routines, going through the motions, and doing what we’ve always done. And believing, or reinforcing, the stories that have told us this is how it’s supposed to be. So we miss the signs or ignore them when we see them. But what we really need is to slow down, pay closer attention, and get curious about the direction they are pointing us toward.
Consider your own values
One of the reasons you might be drawn to intentional living is if you feel you are currently living out someone else’s values rather than your own. This is common, especially if your family has strong values or ways of living. But your values are essentially the personal code of conduct or morals that you choose to live by. And being able to identify your own values is arguably one of the most important parts of living an intentional life. It’s also one of the most difficult concepts to explain, especially if you’ve never before consciously thought about what yours might be. Here’s something that helped me.
Whereas most other writers will give you the same exercise to help you determine what your values are, I’m hesitant to suggest that reading a list of a hundred words and circling five or 10 that resonate will be helpful.
In my earliest experiences with that exercise, before I had developed much self-awareness, I found I picked words that described either my aspirations (the things I hoped to value one day) or the values my parents had (which are easily passed down). Instead, something I have come to believe is that you may not be able to figure out what your values are until you’re living out of alignment from them. To look at the way you are living and ask yourself how you feel about it. To pay attention to the things that don’t feel good.
If you’re living out of alignment with your values, you know. It can leave you feeling sad, disconnected from reality, guilty, ashamed, and so on. And it can leave you feeling stuck. So, what feels off? What shift do you want to make and why? What is your vision for your life? And how do you want to feel? These questions can help you determine some of your values. You can look at the long list of words afterwards!
Give yourself permission to change (as many times as you want)
So far, you’ve seen the signs and considered what your personal values might be. This, on its own, is an important practice. But now, it’s time to take some sort of action. To do something that will help you move in the direction you want to go, and to begin living a more intentional life.
You might feel a bit nervous or apprehensive at this stage of the journey. It’s not easy to walk off one path you were on or to enter the unknown. It’s especially difficult if you don’t know anyone who has done the same, or who can assure you that it will work out. But you can’t know what’s going to happen or how you’re going to feel about it until you start going down the new path. Instead, you have to work past the fear of doing it “wrong” or “failing” and simply try. To do this, I love the idea of experimenting.
By experimenting, you give yourself permission to try something new and see how it goes. As you would with a science experiment, it’s an opportunity for you to simply collect some data on yourself, to gain new experience, and to learn and grow along the way. Does that sound more manageable?
This way of living can require a bit of a mindset shift. We tend to think that every choice we make is a choice for life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Your life should actually be a series of choices and adventures. If you’re being really intentional, you will likely take many different paths in your life. So give yourself permission to try something that feels like it will be more aligned for you. And then give yourself permission to make another shift or change again in the future.
Take time to reflect – and trust your own voice
Finally, now that you know intentional living is a lifelong journey, you know you’ll likely be making many changes and shifts forever. And, in order to know what you want to change, you will need to create some space in your life to practice self-reflection. This can be as casual or committed as you like – and be done alone with your journal, or in conversation with others (like a partner, friend, coach or counsellor).
Whatever you do, remember that the most important component of being introspective and looking within is that you are honest with yourself – and that you slowly learn to trust your own voice.
The most common thing that holds us back from doing what’s right for us is fear – and that fear is repeated over and over again by the voice within delivering stories we have been told and/or come to believe. But where did those stories come from? Are they really true? And how can you let them go?
Here are a few of the questions that might help you dig in:
- Who told you that you had to live this way?
- What would you like to do differently?
- What are you afraid of?
- Where did your fear(s) come from?
- What would you do if your fear(s) came true?
- What would happen if you gave yourself permission to change anyway?
Look at the stories you’re telling yourself and rewrite the ones that are holding you back. Do this again and again, until your excitement about what’s possible weighs a little more than your fear. It will eventually become a habit.
A practice of discernment and self-awareness. An act of self-trust and self-love. A reminder that nobody knows you better than you do. And that only you can answer the question: what do you really want?
Cait Flanders is the author of Adventures in Opting Out: A Field Guide to Leading an Intentional Life (Trigger Publishing, £12.99. Available online and from all good bookstores).
For so long, we’ve existed in our own self-driven bubbles, moving from one daily drama to the next. We haven’t focused on really connecting with those around us, on empathising with them and putting the wellness of each other as our guiding force.
But, as each day of this year goes by, we are becoming increasingly more aware of the need to live more connected, kind and conscientious lives.
Economists and evolutionary psychologists have struggled for many years to explain why people act in altruistic ways. They are looking for the answer as to why we prioritise kindness; why we give to charity, choose to help complete strangers, or go out of our way to donate to causes far beyond our own daily lives.
After two years spent researching empathy, I now know that people choose to empathise and that empathy itself is what drives our actions. When we empathise, the neuro pathways in our brains that reflect joy ‘light’ up. We find happiness and reward in connecting with others.
Evolution has tuned us to be this way – to work together and to physiologically recognise that we are stronger when we are connected.
Often mistaken as a skill we are born with more or less of, empathy is a natural ability we all possess to help us overcome the daily grind of solitary living. It is, at its core, about walking in the shoes of others and being able to take perspective.
Like so many things in life, however, committing to practising empathy for others will aid us in improving our ability to do so – and the benefits are well worth the effort.
So, how do we cultivate the practice of empathetic living in our everyday lives?
3 easy steps for more empathy in everyday life
We can cultivate empathy throughout our lives and we can have a huge impact on ourselves and others in doing so. Try the following steps to cultivate more empathy in your life.
1. Practice live listening
How often do you find yourself listening to – but not really taking note of – what the other person is saying? Your body may have been in the same room, but your attention is elsewhere.
The first key to driving deeper empathetic connection is to ensure that when you listen to someone, you listen to truly hear them. Use your whole body in this process, ensuring your body language shows that you are leaning in and interested, your eye contact remains focused and your attention is towards the speaker.
2. Focus on those around you
Today, we know that our emotional system is inextricably linked with our ability to think and process information effectively. We also know that when people feel understood, stress levels are lower and cognition and decision-making ability goes up.
Understanding the perspective of another not only helps you to gain clarity and context, but it creates confidence and calm in those you are connecting with.
3. Be curious
Inquiry drives connection. Start conversations and provoke sharing by asking questions to deepen your understanding of those around you. Next time you are in an important discussion with a friend or your partner, try to focus on asking questions to better understand their answers, rather than simply reacting to the information they give you. The most empathetic of people are nearly always natural inquirers.
The days of believing that we are essentially self-interested creatures (survival of the fittest) have passed as we now see both evidence, and necessity, for us to be wired to care and driven by social cooperation and mutual aid. Empathy can be learned and never has there been a better time to start.
Want to know more? Read Mimi’s article, How to build empathy on Happiful.
None of us had an identical lockdown. You may have been working from home, like me, at a makeshift desk (aka the kitchen table) for months on end. Perhaps you became head of your child’s homeschool, spending hours stooped over them, decoding worksheets that may as well have been written in another language.
However your quarantine days were spent, it’s safe to say that our bodies and minds have been put to the test this year. The days of access to ergonomic chairs and workstation health and safety assessments feel long ago. And not having the same supportive setup that you would in an office means you may find that your shoulders, neck or back are hurting after long days spent sitting awkwardly.
Libby Palmer, massage therapist at the Brixton Therapy Centre who specialises in treating work-related and postural pain, says she often sees a pattern of injury and alignment issues arising from poor posture while working seated at a desk.
“A client with typical desk posture presents with the neck being in an unnatural forward position, which, in turn, leads to the shoulders becoming rounded and protruding forward. Migraines, numbness, and tingling in the arms and hands are frequent problems, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome due to nerve impingement.
“Back pain is also very common due to long periods being seated, which can result in the abdominal muscles becoming weak, further contributing to lower back pain.”
These aches and pains are not only making us uncomfortable, but we’re also less productive as a result. People in the UK take a staggering 28 million days off work a year because of muscle and bone problems. So it’s likely that, whether you’ve been working from home since the start of the pandemic, or are now starting to return to office life, those familiar aches and pains may be causing you a problem.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. “Looking after your posture doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive,” says Libby.
“Take time to stretch the neck, back and shoulders, rotate your arms, and vary what you do. There are many free, online short stretching routines to choose from. Booking a regular massage can also be beneficial as this can address desk posture issues before they become a real problem,” advises Libby.
Exercises for sitting at your desk
When you start to feel stiff, the following tension-releasing stretches can help prevent and ease muscular pain – and you can do them discreetly without disturbing your colleagues. Or, better yet, why not get your colleagues involved?
Bring yourself to the front of your chair. Firmly place your feet on the floor and inhale deeply. Place both hands, palms down, behind your back. Gently push your body forward as you lower your shoulders, relaxing your head towards the back of the chair. Hold for 10 seconds before releasing.
Sitting up straight, begin circling your shoulders forward slowly. After 10 reps, change direction and circle the shoulders backwards. The slower the movement, the more tension you will release.
On your swivel chair, sit towards the front. Sit up straight and place your hands, palms down on the desk. Squeeze your knees together and lift your feet off the floor slightly. Without moving your chest, start gently twisting the chair from side to side. Twist as far as comfortable and repeat five times on each side.
Figure of eight
Place your right hand on your left shoulder. Take your left hand under your right arm and place it on your right shoulder. Your elbows should be more or less aligned in front of you.
With your elbows, trace an imaginary figure of eight in front of you. It should be no bigger than 15cm tall. For an extra stretch, you can then swap and put your left arm above the right, and trace the figure of eight in the opposite direction.
This is excellent for improving movement through your upper and mid-spine.
Are you sitting comfortably?
“To keep healthy while working from home, it’s important to find a suitable space with a desk and chair that allows you to work without straining the neck and shoulders.”
“You should be able to sit upright with your back supported and your legs should fit under the desk, so you can reach your keyboard without the neck and shoulders protruding forward,” Libby says. “The wrists should also be supported, as bad positioning while typing can result in extreme pain, and even cause disability.”
Remember, be mindful of the amount of time you’re spending seated. Be sure to get up every hour or so, and get your shoulders, neck and upper back moving again.
And keep hydrated! Getting up to refill your water bottle is a good sign that you’re drinking enough and, better still, is likely to mean that you’re getting up to go to the loo regularly!
With new pressures put on children and young adults every day – from exams and career choices to new social interactions and a changing landscape for their future – it can be difficult for them to manage their own emotions and physical well-being, as well as the challenge of growing up.
But, despite so many children needing support, only one in four young people will actively seek help on their own. Instead, research has shown that children and young people are more likely to use informal support sources (like online support), or seek the support offered by primary care professionals.
And, while many schools offer basic well-being programs that cover things like stress management, many students could benefit from more tailored support from industry professionals.
I believe there is nothing more important than good mental health. While it might not seem like it, your mental health is just as important, if not more so, than your physical health.
When it comes to our children, there are so many pressures put on them that, sometimes, their mental well-being starts to suffer. When that happens, it’s our job to make sure they understand how to cope with the stresses of life in a healthy way, so that they can develop the resilience they need to lead happy, healthy lives.
The school environment has a significant impact on a young person’s emotional welfare. For a teenager’s well-being to thrive during (and outside of) school hours, there need to be resources available to further their development, support them through any issues and provide them with the information and education they need to become healthy and resilient adults. By exploring the root causes and providing a safe environment to support treatment options, schools can play a huge part in creating happy, healthy students.
Why holistic mental health care?
I understand that not everyone will want to go down the route of doctors and medication when it comes to their mental health, especially children and young adults. But there are a wide range of different options available to help manage and treat mental health problems in children, teenagers and young adults – if you know where to look.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to mental health that works effectively. Everyone is different and what works for one will not necessarily work for another with the same problem. We need to step away from this thinking to ensure the next generation is properly educated around mental health and there are many solutions available.
As Albert Einstein once said, “I believe in standardising automobiles. I do not believe in standardising human beings.”
I’ve been working with a variety of therapists in schools and, across the age ranges we have taught (from four to 16 years old), it is clear that children of all ages want to know more, and they want more options than they are currently being offered.
With the older groups, we work with the classes offered in EFT, meditation and mindfulness (which are self-elected). Usually, around 50% of the students elect themselves to come – far more than we expected! This shows the need this age group has; they are crying out for help and we are just not doing enough.
I believe in treating a person as a whole, not just as a list of symptoms. I and the therapists we work with take the time to listen to students and their problems and suggest different options to choose from. We teach and support them not only in treating acute issues but helping build and develop a selection of tools that can help students of all ages manage their mental health in the future.
I believe that everyone, including young people, should have access to information about mental health, as well as the support and resources they need to manage any issues they may have. I and all of the therapists we work with at The Holistic Healthcare Group are dedicated to not only helping treat mental health issues, but also to spreading information and support in an easy, affordable and non-judgemental way.
We do this not only by providing a safe space to explore your treatment options but by providing education, guidance and encouragement to schools who want to support their student’s mental health. We are firm believers that, with all of the information, people will be able to make the right decisions for their own mental health, every time. This education needs to start at school.
To find out more about Sophie and her work or to contact her, visit the Surrey and Hampshire Well-being Clinic.
Kirsty Gallagher is a moon mentor, author, soul alignment and transformation coach, yoga teacher, meditation teacher and founder of Lunar Living. While Kirsty has always had a passion for astrology, crystals and all things alternative health, it was a trip to India over a decade ago that the true spiritual journey began.
You’re a moon mentor, author, soul alignment and transformation coach, yoga teacher and meditation teacher. Where did it all begin?
I’ve always been a bit of a spiritual seeker! Even in my teens I pored over astrology books and loved crystals, reiki, angel cards, regressional therapy and anything alternative. I’ve always been very intuitive and followed my inner guidance and loved to explore, learn and dive deep into the meaning of life, and how I can live my life to the very full. Then, around 11 years ago, I was called to India when I spent nine months on a real spiritual journey.
It was here that I first began to live by the rhythm of the moon and did my yoga teacher training, which was one of the most intense experiences of my life! I came back to the UK and started sharing the moon magic in workshops and ceremonies and teaching yoga and meditation. From there, the coaching and mentoring was a natural progression so that I could support more women through their own journey. It’s one of my greatest joys.
Getting to write a book about something that I am so passionate about and has been so life-changing for me has been absolutely magical – especially when it became a Sunday Times bestseller! I’m still a bit speechless, but it shows that more and more people are open to and interested in this kind of work and way of living, and that makes me so happy!
Tell us about your book, Lunar Living.
It’s a guide to living a lunar way of life, so living by the cycles and phases of the moon. One of the things I am most passionate about is bringing ancient mystical practices and wisdom to real modern-day people and life, in a relatable way that anyone and everyone can take something from. So, the book is plain and simple and practical and accessible, but still very magical! It covers the effects the moon has on us, the moon phases and how to work with them, the moon in each zodiac sign and so much more.
What are the benefits of living in alignment with the moon cycles?
So many! It will help you to get to know yourself like never before, go with the flow of life rather than against it, take back conscious control over your own life, realise your own power and manifesting abilities, help you to let go of things that hold you down or tie you to the past, keep you accountable and with clear intentions, connect you back to nature and the natural rhythm and flow that we are supposed to live by – and that’s just for starters!
So, where do we start?
Start simple, begin setting intentions with the new moon and releasing with the full moon. Even just taking these two moments in a month to pause and check-in with where you are will be so powerful.
If you really feel the effects of the full moon, it’s important to check in with where you currently are in your life, as this is the moon trying to get your attention.
Within your work as a transformational coach, you incorporate lunar wisdom, soul guidance readings and astrology. What can people expect from sessions with you?
Soul guidance readings can be done as a one-off, and help bring clarity, direction, focus and answers. During these readings (using only angel and wisdom cards), I work to channel the voice of someone’s heart and soul, bringing forwards deep inner wisdom and truths. We will get clear on what is keeping them stuck and small and holding them back. We look towards their greatest potential and purpose, and how to get there. This is like time with your soul, as we bring forward their own inner voice and guidance, that ‘knowing’ that comes from somewhere deep within, to bring the answers they have been looking for, clarity and a clear way forward.
For coaching, I usually work with people for three months, as we work so closely together to get real results and transformation. I truly believe that all the answers, courage, love, empowerment and truth you need already lies within you, but sometimes we all need a little help bringing it to the surface.
As a deeply intuitive teacher and healer, I am here to fully support someone in bringing their greatest visions and greatest self to life. We work together to discover deep inner callings, remove blocks and outdated beliefs that hold someone back and keep them small and stuck, hear their truth, find their self worth and inner power and live a life of true authenticity from their heart and soul.
Drawing on my 20 years of experience in this kind of work, my coaching is a unique method blending many different techniques to bring people back into alignment with their heart, soul and intuition. I help them to step into their power, purpose and alignment with who they are here to be.
During this transformation programme, I become their biggest cheerleader and offer ongoing support, personal practices, guided meditations and rituals, soul enquiries, and, most of all, accountability for following their purpose and stepping into the greatest version of themselves.
The full moon definitely has an effect on me and many of my friends – emotionally and physically. Why does this have such an impact, and how can we lean into this power?
The full moon is the peak energy part of the lunar cycle, and so all of our energies and emotions are pulled to the surface, which can have you feeling like there is cause for celebration or an emotional mess! As the moon’s energy peaks and rises and she is fully illuminated in the sky, she shines a big, full moon light down onto your life and current reality. If you really feel the effects of the full moon, it’s important to check in with where you currently are in your life, as this is the moon trying to get your attention.
If you have been in your flow, you’ll feel the intensity of the full moon’s energy cheering you on and illuminating the way forward more clearly. This is the time of the lunar cycle to celebrate goals achieved, things going well and abundance in all forms. Celebrate you and the effort you have put into getting the things you want, and also give thanks for anyone and anything that helped you get there.
If you’ve been fighting your flow, full moons can feel quite intense, as all your emotions are pulled to the surface and you realise how you tend to hold yourself back, keep yourself small or sabotage yourself. There can be a lot of emotion around a full moon!
Be mindful of emotional outbursts and conflict and, instead, try to notice what your emotions are trying to show you. There can often be feelings of frustration and even anger at a full moon, usually aimed at chances you didn’t take, opportunities missed, intuition ignored or all the ways in which you haven’t allowed yourself to grow with the moon.
The full moon is the culmination, the peak of the lunar cycle. From here, you get clear on what you need to release to move forwards, letting go of all that keeps you stuck. It’s the time to set intentions for what you want to release through the waning part of the lunar cycle.
Where can people find you?
Kirsty runs an online sisterhood, teaching members how to weave the secret and wisdom of Mother Moon into modern, everyday life.
Lunar Living: Working with the Magic of the Moon Cycles is available now.
Want to know more? Read Kirsty’s article, What is lunar living? on Happiful.
Life in lockdown can feel like an anxious time. Of course, as we continue to adjust to the ‘new normal’, feelings of anxiety and overwhelm are to be somewhat expected. But what is clear, is that it has become essential to look after our minds and bodies by finding ways to create moments of calm.
One country whose wellness practices we can look to (and take inspiration from) is Sweden. From the land of the midnight sun in the far north to the sandy coastline of the south, Sweden is a country that takes its leisure-time and spa visits very seriously.
Below you will find expert tips from Swedish beauty experts Oriflame, for creating mini Swedish Spa moments to help you lay back, breathe and indulge in a little Scandi escapism, as our world becomes more and more unpredictable. So, as your bathroom becomes your beauty salon, light some candles, put on a chill playlist, and retreat into relaxation.
1. Dress to feel amazing
There’s nothing quite like slipping into your favourite dressing gown, pyjamas, or set of ‘comfies’. Whether they are fancy, stylish or simply a trusty old go-to, the feeling of comfort they can bring is just what you need to set your Swedish Spa moment off right.
2. Create an aromatic atmosphere
Smell is without a doubt the most evocative of all senses, holding the power to transport us into different lands whilst instantly altering our mood. Channelling the power of scent through mini spa-moments such as drawing a hot bath laced with aromatic essential oils is a highly effective way of creating an atmosphere of calm. Bath oils are great for helping you achieve this in an instant by combining a relaxing aquatic scent and a soothing essential oil in one.
According to Google search, Showerstoyou.co.uk found the following five essential oils to be favourites among Brits:
- Lavender – 3,600 monthly searches
- Peppermint – 1,900 monthly searches
- Lemon – 1,600 monthly searches
- Rose – 1,600 monthly searches
- Frankincense – 1,300 monthly searches
New to aromatherapy? Here are 10 simple ways to introduce essential oils into your routine, to reap the rewards for your health and well-being.
3. Get tactile
Whoever said you can’t give yourself a little rub down? With beauty therapies like massages now off-limits, DIY sessions are set to be on the rise. Take five minutes to give yourself a daily Swedish hand, shoulder and head massage with luxurious oils as a reward for making it through another day of isolation. Choose ones which are enriched with floral and marine fragrances, designed to create deep relaxation from the inside out.
The following video explores the basics of self-scalp massage. Scalp massage can be highly beneficial for headache pain, including tension headaches and migraines, as well as helping to relax the facial muscles and reduce jaw tension:
4. Give your hands a little extra TLC
As we turn the dial up on hand-cleanliness through extra washing and liberally applying hand sanitiser, protecting hands and nail beds from dryness is more important than ever. Turn regular moisturising into a Swedish Spa moment by reaching for hand masks and applying before bed to nourish thirsty hands.
Treatments rich in vitamin-packed natural Canola Oil are highly nourishing, so you can be sure that you’ll wake up with butter-soft skin that smells sensational, too!
5. Take your time
As we all know, me-time is a huge luxury and we rarely get enough of it in the real world. A small silver-lining to isolation means we will rarely be in a rush, so take the time to take care. Take things slow and make mini self-care spa-moments feel like they last a lifetime.
Remember, although we must adhere to social distancing recommendations, you can still access the benefits of many complementary therapies from home.
Whether it’s sitting at a desk all day, bending over in the garden or even staring at our smartphones, we put a lot of pressure on our bodies to support us.
Whilst hands on therapies from professional therapists are unavailable at the moment, there are some practices you can take home with you and reap the benefits. Massage’s body balancing power encourages muscle relaxation, improved circulation, skin nourishment and waste removal. And self-massage encompasses these well-being benefits, which you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home. This simple practice is a handy stress reliever to work into your self-care routine.
To help us navigate self-massage, internationally-acclaimed massage expert, Beata Aleksandrowicz walks us through how to practice self-massage at times of heightened stress, and details the incredible power of touch.
What are the benefits of self-massage?
Massage is essential for our well-being. It literally works on each system of the body simultaneously. However, we don’t always have time to book treatments, and now we simply can’t do that. This doesn’t mean that we’re vulnerable and without solutions to ease our aches and pains, instead you can use self-massage techniques on a regular basis to help prevent tension from accumulating. This also gives us an incredible opportunity to slow down and connect with ourselves
How exactly does self-massage work?
You don’t need any experience in massage to provide yourself with some good, effective techniques. You just need clear, quality, straightforward guidance. The most important thing is to make sure that you don’t apply too much pressure, that you apply each stroke slowly, and you breathe during each step of the technique. The key here is to stay in the moment, be present and connect with yourself.
How can massage treat specific tension in the body?
Tension headaches will affect different parts of the body: shoulders, neck, scalp, temples, sometimes even in the middle of the back. Why? Because we’re connected through connective tissues. Every muscle and organ is wrapped in connective tissue, so any tension in the upper body will impact the lower body as well.
It’s important to understand the reason for your tension headaches. Are they regular? Do you notice when they occur? Are they related to your stress levels, or maybe to the tension in your shoulders? Is it emotional as much as physical? How do you feel generally right now? This will all impact how you feel and will manifest in your body. So ensure you give yourself space and time when you massage.
Try freshening up your room, maybe light some candles or burn incense. Make it special. With tension headaches you will need to address your scalp, forehead, temples, neck and shoulders and if you really want to feel a difference, combine massage with breathing and meditation. We are complex creatures; a combination of mind, body and soul, so each of these aspects needs to be addressed.
Massage for stress in the shoulders
For dealing with stress specifically in your shoulders, you’ll need to go for relaxation first and then address the knots and specific tension spots. Use the palms of your hands, your thumbs and even your knuckles – the latter can be used nice and gently. Again the body is connected – remember that. So it’s important to massage shoulders if you have issues in your lower back and vise versa.
Tension in your hands and feet
We use our hands so much, so naturally they store a lot of tension. But we need flexibility and strength. Hand massage is fantastic! It brings much more flexibility and strength in the joints, smooths skin and gives an amazing feeling of relaxation and care.
The same with the feet. 30% of all our joints are in our feet, it’s an important yet often neglected part of the body. Our feet keep us in balance, carry our weight and make every movement possible. I’d recommend regular foot massages, but also walking barefoot at home if possible. This allows the feet to rest and re-align.
Can we include other self-care practices into self-massage?
The tempo of massage is so important for its effectiveness. Generally, we are looking for slow and intentional strokes. To be slow and intentional we need to bring ourselves to the present moment. This is the only place from where we can experience the positive effect of massage. Starting with the breath, make sure you provide yourself with enough oxygen as this will increase the benefits of the massage. Meditation will help you to stay in the ‘here and now’, so you’ll experience every step of self-massage with total awareness. I always start my live classes with breathing and meditation.
What is your favourite massage treatment and could we adapt this for self-massage?
I like deep, thorough and meaningful massage that acknowledges that I am a combination of my mind, body and my spirituality. This is how I designed all my treatments; at the base of each massage is a deep tissue technique, combined with energy work and lymphatic drainage.
And you can definitely use these techniques in self-massage. The practice needs to be carried out wisely, ensuring the sequences support physiological knowledge of the body, and address the emotional aspect of our being.
Beata Aleksandrowicz is an author, wellness speaker and advocate for the power or touch and deep-healing therapy. She founded the Aleksandrowicz System and teaches her 12 Principles of Massage masterclass in spas across the globe. You can now access her latest Face Massage classes via her online portal.
What is sophrology?
Sophrology was founded by Columbian doctor and neuro-psychiatrist Professor Alfonso Caycedo in the 1960s. It is a type of dynamic meditation (great for those who find traditional meditation and sitting still difficult) that is designed to help you focus on the present and be in the ‘now’. It is different than other meditative practices because it engages both the mind and body, which allows you to enter into a state of full relaxation more quickly and easily.
It involves a combination of proven breathwork techniques, relaxation, light body movement, meditation and visualisation techniques designed to bring you into the ‘alpha brain wave’ or ‘flow’ state. In this state, the body achieves complete relaxation, yet the mind is clear and fully alert. This ‘peak’ state conditions the mind and body to become less stressed, calmer, sharper, and more resilient over time.
Who would benefit from sophrology?
Sophrology is really beneficial as a support tool to help those who are constantly on-the-go and prone to taking on the stresses and pressures that surround their busy lives. Practised daily, it can be an incredibly helpful method to support our mental health, especially during times of high stress and fear like many people are experiencing currently.
The routine of life and work can be overwhelming and tiring, so the deep relaxation element of sophrology will help the body and mind to de-stress and recuperate, which is really important in preventing burnout for example. With regular practice, sophrology helps you to become more mindful of your needs, your limits, your strengths and capabilities, so you can create more happiness in your life.
What are the other benefits?
There are so many holistic benefits to practising sophrology in general. It helps you learn how to overcome stress and decrease anxiety, rebalance your energy levels, dramatically improve your sleep, prevent work burnout and physical/mental exhaustion and increase your confidence and self-esteem to allow you to achieve your goals.
Sophrology has actually been widely practised in France, Belgium and Switzerland for decades by everyone from school children to Olympic athletes to help sharpen focus and boost mental and physical performance. Arianna Huffington is also a big fan. And the practice is so effective that it is even used in sleep clinics and hospitals in Switzerland to aid sleep problems like insomnia.
Can sophrology help manage anticipatory anxiety?
Yes – one of the principles in sophrology states that we can decide how we are going to experience certain events even when we can’t change them. We are therefore responsible for our experience and how we respond to situations. This is the key differentiator to mindfulness or meditation, and why it is so appealing to so many people – it is a great tool to help you with preparing for events i.e. presentations and interviews, where you are nervous or lack confidence. This re-conditioning of the mindset is why it is so popular with competitive athletes.
How long does it take?
Practice takes just 10 minutes (try to practice daily for maximum effect) and you can practice any time you have some downtime. Personally, if I feel tense, just practising for five minutes is enough to relax me instantly. You’ll be surprised at the opportunities you’ll have during the day – sophrology can fit into your daily routine so there’s less effort involved.
So, how do you practice sophrology?
The ‘Life-Changing Power of Sophrology’ is a great introductory book, designed for those looking to discover the practice, and for those looking practice more regularly, we have an online course – Relax, Reset and Overcome Stress.
Practice with us!
To help bring a bit of calm to a very chaotic time for the world right now, we have launched a new series of free guided Sophrology sessions on social media that anyone can enjoy from home over the next month, to help manage mental wellbeing, alleviate stress and anxiety, calm fear, boost productivity, improve sleep and more.
The sessions will be streamed on Instagram Live at @besophrolondon and are completely free of charge. Each session will last just over 30 minutes and you’ll be joined by people from all around the world!
The guided sessions will take you through simple but highly effective techniques to help you manage everyday stress and achieve calm when anxiety, nerves and fear take hold. You’ll also learn how to reframe pressurising situations into more positive states, and gain an understanding of how to tap into your resilience and confidence when you need it most. It’s a powerful practice for people with busy minds and busy lives to get ahead of their worries and gain a new perspective during times of stress, uncertainty and chaos.
- 14 April, 8 pm – Calm and Productive
- 16 April, 8.15 pm – From Fear to Clear
- 19 April, 8 pm – The Power of Intention
- 21 April, 8 pm – Instant Calm
- 23 April, 8.15 pm – Positivity in Chaos
- 26 April, 8 pm – Embrace The Future
- 28 April, 8 pm – Grounding Here and Now
- 30 April, 8.15 pm – From Solitude to Gratitude