Month: January 2019

No need to sparkle.

“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”

– Virginia Woolf (from A Room of One’s Own)

I find that it is always the beginning of a new year which calls to mind Woolf’s assertion that there is ‘no need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.’ The online world can become particularly clamorous in January. It’s not just the messages of ‘new year, new you’ diet and exercise devotion, but also the insidious feeling that everyone else is forging ahead, filling notebook after notebook with amazing plans for productivity and success in the months ahead. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the pressure to hurry and to sparkle, at a time when really, all many of us want to do is hibernate.

I love the promise of January

It’s not that I don’t welcome the fresh start and clean page of a new year- I love the promise of January, the chance to begin again, to learn new things, to plan and to dream. I do have hopes and intentions for the year ahead- one of which is to return to this space, so long-neglected, to reclaim it and reshape it for the stories that I long to tell you.

This may not be the moment to sparkle and shine

I’m just looking to go gently in these first weeks and months, to remember that I’m allowed to take my time. This may not be the moment to sparkle and shine- which will surely happen for each of us, but only when the circumstances are right. I’m seeking the courage to feel that I am already good enough, that there’s no need, – in fact, there’s no way – for me to be anybody but myself.

When you’re happy, don’t you know it!


Ready for Blue Monday, officially the most depressing day of the year? It’s apparently due to a combination of the factors: the weather being bad, our motivation is low and that sluggish feeling still hasn’t left us, plus we’re all really starting to feel the pinch after our Christmas spending.
On top of that we’ve probably all dropped our new year’s resolutions and are feeling in a bit of a no man’s land when it comes to our lifestyle.


The secret to happiness is a concept that philosophers and psychologists have pondered for centuries. But just what is it that can make us happy?

Some think it is our behaviour, thoughts and attitude that can leave us feeling happy with our lives, rather than simply our situation.


The host of the podcast, The One You Feed, Eric Zimmer, recently told Business Insider what he thinks the answer is for a happy life. After speaking with almost 200 psychologists, mindfulness teachers, and life coaches, he said he has realised happiness is the result of constant effort rather than simply thinking positively.

He revealed three simple daily practices that can help you achieve this…


Zimmer suggests that honing your mind and practising meditation on a daily basis can help you become more focused, empathetic and aware. Training your brain in this way can open you up to a better understanding of how your mind works and how to enjoy the present moment.

If you have never tried meditation before, a good place to start is by sitting in a peaceful space for a few minutes at the same time every day, remaining still and concentrating on your breathing and only what is happening in the present moment. If you find you get distracted by thoughts, focus your mind back to your rhythmic breathing.


It’s so easy to just keep scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feeds, only to find you have wasted a big portion of time effectively doing nothing.

‘We have a natural desire to distract ourselves with our phones, which is not always a bad thing, but you should be consuming something you care about,’ Zimmer told Business Insider. ‘The more we are conscious about how we spend our time and do things that matter to us, the more content we will be.’

The way to combat this mindless scrolling is to set your phone alarm to give yourself a time limit on browsing. Be strict with yourself and actively choose to do something which is important to you instead.


The alphabet game can be a useful tool in banishing negative thoughts, Zimmer advises. If you find your mind is turning negative, then go through the alphabet, naming something you value for each letter until you get to Z. This draws you away from unhealthy thought processes.


January is a time for quiet contemplation and much needed rejuvenation

As we emerge into a New Year, bleary eyed and three boxes of Quality Street down, the long cold months of January and February looming ahead can seem like a daunting prospect. To some people anyway. I happen to love this time of year. Once the crowds return home and the incessant consumerism ceases, this month arrives as a much-needed pause – an opportunity for rest which I’ve always found refreshing after the decadence and debauchery of December. No forced fun, no five gold rings, no mulled wine or mince pies. Time to breathe.

Of course, there’s the small matter of heading back to work after two weeks of binging and watching box sets. Getting up in what feels like the middle of the night and hauling yourself into the office is never easy – but in spite of the unwelcome crash back to reality, January is still a time for quiet contemplation and much needed rejuvenation. Unlike most normal people, I adore the cold, dark evenings – it’s as if they were made for curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea, a packet of hobnobs and a brooding Scandinavian thriller.

You are enough, you are so enough.

As one of my favourite Instagram quotes goes, “You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are.”

Every year we are bombarded with messages of “New Year New You.” That when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st you have to start transforming into the brightest, sparkliest, perfect version of yourself. Your old self must be binned off with all the mistakes and failings of the previous 12 months forgotten and left behind with your previous inferior self. This is the moment to set the whole tone for the year, to decide how it is going to go and commit fully to pushing forward. It’s completely exhausting.


The idea that if we don’t seize this opportunity to make the changes we want we might get stuck the way we are for another year, can go straight in the bin. Because who you are right now, is fantastic. Thus far, you’ve done really well. You got yourself to here, to this point, reading this. You have learnt incredible lessons, achieved wonderful things and kept yourself alive on this planet. You got through all of your very worst days, months and years to get to now. This wonderful shiny version of yourself. You don’t need fixing or changing, you just need to know right now you are the best you’ve ever been. Because there is no other time but now and now is where all the good stuff happens.

You are making little changes every single day. There are tiny wins that propel you forward all of the time. We just don’t notice them because we are too focused on the big fat goals we’ve set up for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve, but the danger is we get stuck on becoming that future self and forget who we are right now. If we’re fixating on becoming an improved version of ourselves, it’s easy to dismiss the current self as inferior or just not good enough.

You don’t have to wait to live your best life. You don’t have to put yourself on hold waiting for things to fall into place. You don’t have to wait any longer to appreciate who you are or waste any more time hating parts of yourself and wishing they would change. Eradicate that feeling of not being good enough by celebrating all of the things you achieve every single day. Self-celebration isn’t about waiting until big massive changes have happened. It’s about celebrating who you are right now and how well you are doing.


Rather than looking at all of things you want to change and better about yourself, let’s do a review of things that went well over the last 12 months. Really try and place yourself in the feeling of a certain time and remember something that was really good, no matter how tiny. If it helps to go back over the months and choose one thing from each month, try it that way. I find looking back over social posts or my diary really helpful to remind me what I did. Did you overcome a really difficult morning? Perfected a new recipe (even if it was only an omelette!!?) Got a friend’s birthday card to them on time? Wrapped even one single Christmas present? All of these things added up to your glorious year so let’s honour them. Let’s celebrate all of the things that you did and how brilliant you were in the last 12 months.

Right now you are doing your best. You are the best version of yourself to date. You were enough, you are enough and you always will be enough. So in 2019 don’t beat yourself up for all of the things you haven’t done, instead celebrate the incredible things you do all the time.

And now the reasons why you ought to make yoga part of your routine!

Unsurprisingly, I am asked so often about why I do yoga, why other people should do it, and what it can do for them. One of the first things I tell people is that the reasons that I started and continue to do yoga are very personal, just as it should be for them.

It’s not that I don’t share those reasons when I’m talking with people one on one, but the point I try to make is that yoga is different for everyone.

Yes, there are visible physical benefits to yoga, but for me it quickly became so much more than that. So much more in fact that I retrained to share it with you all! So, as we enter the month of resolutions, how about making one which I predict you may just carry on beyond February.

Here are five of the greatest reasons to practice yoga.

1. Yoga has tremendous physical benefits.

Practicing intensive yoga formats such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and other forms of Power yoga will absolutely make changes in your body. You could lose weight, and you will most definitely strengthen and tone.

What you won’t see coming is that as your body grows stronger, so will your mind. You will develop increased focus, patience, and self-awareness. You will probably also find yourself wanting to know more about yoga, which means you will research it, and as a result become objectively smarter, too.

2. Yoga relieves stress.

You will learn to BREATHE differently in yoga and you will learn to use that breath in everyday situations. The saying “take a deep breath” is much more than a saying as you come to understand how breath gives you the power to control your emotions in many situations, including moments of stress.

What you won’t see coming is that you will soon unconsciously be breathing in situations before you react…and that can mean the difference between having an argument and using mental and emotional clarity to reach a solution.

3. Yoga relieves pain.

I want to be very careful with this point, and not to be self-serving as a yoga teacher looking for pay. Yoga practiced under the guidance of a knowledgeable, trained teacher can be used as an alternative form of pain management.

Numerous studies have proven the effects of yoga on patients with back pain, arthritis, difficult pregnancies, headaches, heart disease, and so much more. Even athletes who practice Yin or Restorative yoga will find that their injuries and post-workout soreness will greatly diminish.

What you won’t see coming is that yoga will also benefit “pains” in your body you may not even be aware of. Your digestive system may be energized and cleansed, your circulation could improve, and your joints will become more limber and lubricated.

Plus, yoga can have a positive effect on helping to boost your immunity, which also means less days of pain from colds, the flu, and other illnesses.

4. Yoga can connect you to the Divine of your choosing.

So much of yoga practice is more than just the asanas (postures). The calmness, the calls to relaxation, reflection, and meditation and will soon have you thinking and feeling more “spiritual.” If that is a scary word to you, please just take a minute to keep reading.

Spiritual can mean many things: it can mean being more centered, it can mean being religious, it can mean being connected to the Universe, or it can just mean being more reverent in whatever way you want to be—with nature, with your religion, with your time, with things that have meaning to you.

What you won’t see coming is that you will begin seeing the world around you differently. You will become introspective, yes, but at the same time, you will want to begin bringing more happiness and positivity into your world.

It won’t stop there. Your happiness and positivity will extend out to those around you—and we all know the world can use more happiness and positivity.

5. Yoga will give you 60 minutes of time for just you.

While that may sound selfish, when you really think about it, how much time do you ever give yourself to disconnect and just be? Unless you march to the beat of a different drum and already do yoga, you are probably listening, talking, planning, watching, reading, or typing most of your day.

For 60 minutes, you can step on a mat to breathe deeply into your body to either sort everything out or to let it all go. It’s 60 minutes that will help make you a better person, mentally and physically.

What you won’t see coming is that at first, 60 minutes a few days a week may seem like a long time, but before you know it, 60 minutes six days a week won’t be enough. You will want to realign your life so that you will always have space for yoga.

Time to stop reading and hit the mat!

This year, I resolve to stick to my resolutions! Here’s how!

Are you trying to create a new healthy habit? Piggyback it on something you do anyway. Want to run more? Put on your running shoes instead of your regular shoes, says Dr Sean Young, a world expert in making new habits stick.

This is a strategy he’s created called “magnetic behaviour”. “If we already do something regularly, we can then pair up that behaviour with a new behaviour we want to start doing,” he says. It’s about building a habit, making it easier and ingraining it into your life.

Founder of the UCLA Center for Digital Behaviour, Young has made a life study of successful behaviour change. People who follow his strategies are “nearly three times as likely to change their behaviour as people who did not”, he tells me. His new book, Stick With It: The Science Of Lasting Behaviour, was a Wall Street Journal bestseller when it came out in the US last year.

New Year’s resolutions are a bit like bad relationships

OK, I’m sold. But, for many, New Year’s resolutions are a bit like bad relationships. At first, they’re alive with possibility and potential, and we have a huge fantasy of this being The One that works out. By mid February, they’ve either ended abruptly or fizzled out, and we’re back on the wine or sugar, off the yoga mat or treadmill.

Young tells me how he cured a gym-going relapse. “I used to go to the gym on campus pretty regularly. Then, at a certain point, I stopped going as frequently. If someone would have seen my behaviour, they probably would have said he’s gotten lazy or tired or he’s older now – he doesn’t have time or isn’t as motivated to go.”

If we already do something regularly, we can then pair up that behaviour with a new behaviour we want to start doing. It’s about building a habit.

But the real reason that he didn’t go is because he’d moved office and it now took 40 minutes in traffic to drive to the gym.

His first step was making going to the gym easier. “I joined a gym across the street from my work.” Now, this is the clever bit, the magnetic behaviour: “I carry around a gym bag with me. When I walk to my car every day at the end of work, I can’t go to my car without passing the gym and I’m wearing my gym bag while I’m doing it. What I’ve done is paired a behaviour I do every day – leaving work – with having my gym bag while walking past the gym.” Now, he’s back to being a regular gym-goer.

Can he suggest a magnetic behaviour if you want to drink more water? “If you bring your lunch to work with you – something you’re used to doing every day – then add a water bottle,” he says. Or pair it up with checking social media (I’d definitely have done my two litres by 11am some days).

So, what about a popular resolution to do yoga every damn day? The problem with this challenge, according to Young, is that it’s way too vague.

Resolutions that stick are broken down into small steps

Resolutions that stick are broken down into small steps, which he calls stepladders. “We plan to do all kinds of resolutions that are equivalent to the marathon without having trained for it.”

So, 10 minutes of yoga a day? That’s doable. Now, we need to work out how to make getting on the mat happen.

“Think: what is preventing you? What is getting in the way?” It may be just a question of making time; time we can easily waste on social media. He suggests a magnetic behaviour linked to clothes: when we get changed out of our work clothes, put your yoga clothes next to the clothes you normally change into. (I’m going to try this in reverse: before I get dressed in the morning, I’m going to do 10 minutes of yoga in my pyjamas!)

“The way actually to control our thoughts is to first control our behaviour, then our thoughts will follow.”

Even if you’re the most optimistic of positive thinkers, you can’t rely on that to get you doing whatever new behaviour you want to try, says Young. The only way to change is by doing it. “The way actually to control our thoughts is to first control our behaviour, then our thoughts will follow.”

Start with small, specific steps – ones you can fit into your day

Start with small, specific steps – ones you can fit into your day. Not crowbarring vague or giant or difficult changes into your life – because they just won’t last. Young makes change sound a lot more doable and, this year, it just might be.