December arrives with a plethora of christmas parties, festive nights out and good old catch ups. Personally I enjoy having lots of festive fun, but with a jam-packed schedule it can be difficult to stay… More
Unfortunately toxic relationships affect us all at some point in our lives. When it comes to relationships we seem to be pretty well attuned to spotting this toxicity yet let it slide with others. We can verbalise reasons why a relationship didn’t work – selfishness, lack of understanding, not able to be yourself, and list goes on…
So why do we allow these traits or situations manifest in friendships?
To live our most happy lives we must be surrounded by those that lift us up. Since we are supposedly the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time around, it’s imperative to choose wisely! It can be difficult to spot negative and toxic traits, especially when you’re in the thick of it. I’m certainly guilty of being oblivious at the time then looking back and spotting and reflecting on negative traits and situations. Captain hindsight is a wonderful thing, eh?
Reflecting on those traits in my personal experiences as well as talking to others I noticed a few key traits and commonalities.
I think this might be the biggest for me. I tend to absorb people’s feeling quite easily and always notice a negative vibe straight off the bat. Some people are just terribly pessimistic and their glass is always half empty and whilst it’s not necessarily your problem it’s definitely not nice to be around. If you notice that you come away from being with someone always feeling negative, pulled down or a bit bleak, perhaps that person has had an effect on you. Maybe you cannot put your finger on it. I’d suggest re-assessing your time spent and the situation with them. Everybody goes through a bad patch from time to time and if it’s a close friend you might not mind spending a bit of energy trying to lift them up, but nobody needs to be around a constant stream of negative energy. It might start rubbing off on you. Not nice.
Lack of respect
An unwritten rule of any friendship is a mutual respect for one another. A lack of respect can come in many forms from you feeling used, your values not being respected or feeling pressured into something. On a more subtle note, is the person actually listening to you? Do they sit on your phone whilst you’re talking, do they talk over you or do you feel like you have to hold back for fear of offending? Do they constantly take and never give? In reality we all have differing options but you should never be made to feel as though you’re tiptoeing around someone or as though you’re not able to be your true self. True friends accept you for who you are.
The word abuse is such a loaded term because it can have serious implications, which makes it difficult to acknowledge. Over time, emotional abuse really impacts on your self-esteem and self-worth which is why it is important to cut it out of your life. It might be that you’re constantly put down, criticised or ridiculed by that person. Other signs to look out for are snide comments, being made fun of or not being listened to. These factors can seriously hurt and affect the way in which you view yourself and can lead to serious self-esteem issues.
What signs do you notice?
Food is essentially medicine (and unfortunately ailment too) but it provides a plethora of benefits beyond weight. One of those benefits is looking young and improving the radiance of skin. Instead of spending copious amounts of money on lotions and potions to rectify skin issues, by paying attention to what goes on inside can arguably be more beneficial to preventing those problems in the first place.
The following five foods are all amazing for keeping the skin looking clear, fresh and plump. There are so many foods out there that are beneficial for the skin, but I have focused on wholefoods that are readily available and easy to include in a diet, rather than advocate eating tons of specialist superfoods that cost a small fortune! These are some of my personal favourites that I eat in abundance.
Nutrients to look out for…
healthy fats should be the first port of call. They are also incredible for nails and hair as well as skin because they promote hydration, reduce toxins and help fight anti-ageing. Other nutrients to include are zinc, copper and fibre.
Avocados are a powerhouse of a food! They are full of healthy fats which aid in absorbing vitamins and minerals and the monounsaturated fatty acids found in avocados promote hydration and prevent skin from looking dull. They also contain fibre and Vitamin E which is great for keeping the skin supple hence promoting radiance.
Salmon contains a high source of anti-inflamatory omega-3 essential fatty acids which protect the skin from ageing. The healthy fats found in salmon reduce inflammation within the skin, meaning they nourish, prevent wrinkles and de-clog pores. Omega-3 helps to fight the enzymes that attack collagen, so naturally slow down the ageing process by preventing wrinkles and sagging skin.
Free radicals damage cell membranes through a process called oxidation and increase the risk of ageing (as well as cancer). Free radicals are caused largely by environmental factors such as toxins, chemicals, cigarettes as well as being increased by eating the wrong types of food (e.g. cooked and processed meats, deep-fried foods).
Antioxidant rich foods can help to prevent this and cocoa is one of the highest sources, being even richer than green tea, blueberries and superfood acai. In additional, cocoa also boosts the circulation of blood to the skin so that oxygen and nutrients can be absorbed which promote new cell growth and prevent de-hydration.
Multipurpose coconut oil! Coconut oil nourishes the body from the inside due to the high level of fatty acids. It also increases the absorption of a number of minerals such as vitamin A and E which is great for the skin. Better yet, you can put it on your skin too. Use as a moisturizer, makeup remover or simply slather on the skin for deep conditioning.
Pumpkin & pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin is also anti-inflammatory like salmon and contains a lot of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, potassium and iron which are al great for promoting re-growth of cells essential for renewing the skin. Pumpkin seeds are a high source of zinc too which is great for collagen production and protection. All the more reason to eat both the squash and the seeds.
Do you eat any of these?
Transitioning into a healthier lifestyle can become overwhelming with the amount of conflicting advice thrown around, not to mention the number of fad diets and trendy eating habits constantly gaining then losing traction.. gluten-free, dairy free, paleo, low carb, keto, atkins, grain free, the list is a mindfield and it’s endless.
Eating healthy does not mean going cold turkey on the foods you love, and I would seriously question a diet that advocated cutting out an entire food group. Most of the time healthy eating just requires making small adjustments to ensure that you’re getting a good source of nutrients from a range of foods.
I see a lot of re-occurring misconceptions and ‘healthy’ habits that are actually naively misguided, so despite efforts to eat healthily they can sometimes be a little in vain.
These are 5 of the worst offenders I commonly see!
We all know that sugar is unhealthy, addictive and provides zero nutritional benefit, but it unfortunately hides in so many foods without you realising. Cereals, condiments and fruit juices all contain hidden sugar bombs. Unfortunately the worst offenders are products marketed as healthy or low-calorie, so whilst throwing out that junk food and instead opting for granola, fruit bars or trail mix in a bid to be healthier, the effort is unfortunately redundant.
Where else does sugar lurk? Basically anything pre-packaged is a potential for hidden sugar. That’s not to say all packaged food is bad, it just means that reading labels is a must if opting for something pre-made. Sauces (think pasta sauces, sweet chilli, tomato ketchup), granola and muesli, dried fruit, tinned fruit and trail mix are all high in sugar, and be especially careful of low-fat or low-calorie products. For example a lot of fruit juice has as much if not more sugar than a mars bar! And granola or muesli can contain as much sugar as a bowl of sugary cereal. Whilst the effort to go for healthy options is there, unfortunately the sugar bombs are too.
Another terrible offender is artificial sources of sugars hidden under several monikers such as aspartame or sorbitol. Whilst sugar can be processed by your body, artificial sugars are alien. If you think back to cave men days, sweeteners were not around but as time has gone on companies have started to use them in their products for two reasons: because they’re cheap and they make the food taste good whilst limiting the calories. It’s all a marketing ploy, they can sell you a product that both tastes good but is low in calories. They can pump the sugar in without you noticing because there are so many names for artificial sugars. My motto is if you cannot understand the ingredient or require a dictionary to decipher the label, then it probably is hiding something.
So what about fruit? Yes fruit contains sugar and eating too much of any type of sugar will result in extra weight around the waistline. The bigger picture is that it also contains fibre which is essential as part of a healthy diet. Sugar without the fibre is highly addictive. I bet you wouldn’t eat 5 apples in a row, but a whole bag of sweets? There is where the problem lies. Because the fibre in fruit fills you up it prevents overeating and helps to keep your digestive system ticking over. Fruit is best consumed in raw form rather than dried or in a juice.
When the fat is removed from a product it’s replaced with sugar (or sweeteners more often than not) to make it taste better. A common misconception is that eating fat makes you fat, but that is completely untrue. Eating too much of anything increases weight gain. Fat is a macronutrient that your body needs to survive. It’s the primary source of energy and essential for absorbing vitamins and regulating the body’s core temperature.
The fat in the food is satsiating meaning it fills you up. Low fat and diet options aren’t satisfying. The fat is replaced with sugar which is not filling, highly addictive and induces cravings for more. A lot of ‘diet’ or low-fat options include yoghurt, diet drinks and snack bars.
If you’ve ever noticed eating more of these foods that is why. Often sugar cravings are a sign of needing more fat. Next time you’re craving something sweet, eat a handful of nuts and see how you feel after.
Just have the full fat and enjoy in moderation.
Cutting all carbs
Why are carbs demonized? They contain glucose which are the body’s main source of energy! All organs in the body (including the heart and brain) needs carbs to survive. Cutting carbs is detrimental on so many levels, resulting in low energy, decreased brain functioning and problems with digestion.
Refined carbs absolutely need to be cut as they consist of high fat, high sugar and other addictive substances. These are the typical fast food offenders that aren’t natural, come pre-packaged and provide no nutritional benefit. Junk food.
However lately it seems to be trendy to cut all carbs or replacing with alternatives such as courgette pasta, cauliflower rice or naked noodles instead of potato, rice and pasta. It has also become trendy to go gluten-free. Gluten itself is not bad for you, it’s the extra crap and additives in those products that contain gluten that have caused the food to become problematic. Gluten should only be avoided by celiacs (effecting approximately 1% of the population). Cutting carbs too low can result in decreased energy and increased chance of later overeating because the body and brain needs energy so will turn to foods high in quick sources such as high sugar. Eating wholesome, whole-wheat products is healthy and a good source of energy and fibre. They also taste good and make you feel good because your brain needs energy! Unless you have a specific health reason to cut carbs there is no legitimate reason to do so.
Focusing on calories
A calorie is a calorie, whether it comes from sugar, starch or natural food. But focusing food choices around calorie content misses the bigger picture. A calorie from natural sources of food will provide the body with additional benefits beyond the number on the kcal count. The chocolate bar might have the same calories as an apple, or less than an avocado but what you’ll be missing from that chocolate bar is the additional minerals and vitamins. Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients, which provide benefits for sleep, skin, hair and nails, as well as digestion, helping your body to fight injections and prevent diseases.
Unless you are on a calorie controlled diet requested by a health professional, you do not need to count calories. Focus on eating the rainbow! Count colours, not calories. If your diet mainly comprises of real, whole and colourful foods, then you’ll not need to worry about overeating.
The flip side of going too healthy.
Restriction does not work. Think back to being a child and being told no; it only leads to wanting whatever it is that you were being denied. Cutting something out completely, or changing your lifestyle to everything being absolutely healthy by being so constrained and restrictive about food can cause unhealthy obsessions. You can enjoy foods you like but in more healthy ways, for example by substituting dark chocolate for chocolate, sorbet for ice cream or making healthy snack bars. There are tons of recipes out there.
Or just have those foods you cannot live without in moderation. Moderation not deprivation. Think of filling your diet with a majority of real foods (i.e. one’s that do not need a dictionary to decipher the label) and then allow a few not so good foods in here and there so you are not craving and later bingeing on them. Any changes to a lifestyle should be maintainable and enjoyable that are in no way restrictive. When you fill the majority of your diet with wholesome real food you might start to notice cravings for junk food tend to dwindle anyway.
Are you guilty of making these mistakes?
Morning is probably the favourite part of my day as it sets the tone for what is about to come. Kicking off in a positive way carries good karma for the day; whereas a bad start definitely does not result in a productive day. There are so many self sabotaging bad habits, whether these are unhealthy for your body, cluttering your mind or just generally overwhelming yourself.
Habits are a funny things. Bad ones are easy to get in to and hard to break… whereas good ones are difficult to maintain and easy to break.
However, since I have adopted the following positive habits my life has improved ten fold. I get more done in the same amount of time, I have a healthy mind and body, meaningful connections and live a more fruitful life.
Water! Whether it’s hot or cold or flavoured with cucumber, lemon or lime. Whatever way you have it, aim for around a pint before doing anything else. It’ll wake you up, start your digestive system and get your body ready for the day.
I also recommend a shot of Apple Cider Vinegar to improve circulation, detox your body and really get your digestive system fired up.
MOVE THAT BODY
Exercise, gym, dance. Whatever you like to do, don’t over think it, just move.
There are countless reasons to exercise and it should be a priority to get a regular amount of exercise. Most importantly to protect your heart, but also to wake you up (the extra oxygen in your muscles) and to boost your mood (endorphins released from exercise absorb extra serotonin, the feel good chemical).
Some people see exercise as a chore but it doesn’t need to be. I believe there is a form of exercise for everyone but it may just take time to find something you enjoy. Whether it’s the gym, yoga, a dance class or simply walking the dog.
I personally cycle to work because it wakes me up and gets me motivated for the day, or I’d pop to the gym for a quick class. Don’t have that luxury? YouTube! These can be done anywhere, anytime. My personal favourites are The Body Coach, Blogilates or Yoga with Adrienne.
DITCH THE SUGAR & NOURISH YOURSELF
Eating something high in sugar first thing is probably the worst thing you could do from a health perspective. It reaps havoc on your blood sugar levels, causing you to peak then crash soon after. Ever wonder why you’re starving at 11am or craving sugary or junk food all day? Probably because you ate the wrong breakfast, probably laden in hidden sugar or fat. It’s time to ditch the cereal, granola and fry ups.
It is essential to eat a good balance of macronutrients at breakfast! Aim for a good source of carbs, protein and good fats. Slow release carbs (e.g. oats) provide sustained energy, protein keeps you fuller for longer and good fats will fill you up and prevent overeating. Oats, eggs on toast, avocado, fritatas, full fat/greek yoghurt with fruit are all great options. If time is not on your side it’s not an excuse PREP the night before. Overnight oats, yoghurt and berries are such easy options, or have some hard-boiled eggs ready to go with some toast. Probably taking the same amount of time as pouring that cereal.
STOP scrolling your Facebook feed, DONT check emails and DONT respond to messages!
Mindlessly reading updates on social media is an unproductive activity that merely fills your head with other people. On others, not you. Focus on you and your goals by starting your day with a clear mind. Empty your mind in the morning and start with a blank slate for a positive and fruitful day. I personally have do not disturb on my phone in the morning (and night!) and I sure as hell am not checking emails or messages until I’ve got to work. My morning is purely for me.
TAKE A MINDFUL MOMENT
Connect to yourself and your body. Take 10 minutes to stretch, do a bit of yoga or listen to some feel good music. 10 minutes is probably the same amount of time you spend on social media, so you do have time. Even just 5 minutes of gratitude, meditation or clearing your mind can work wonders for your motivation and productivity for the day. How you feel in the morning will have a knock on effect for the rest of the day, so make sure you de-clutter your mind.
I like to take a moment to live in the now, read about why here.
TAKE ACTION TO PREVENT PROCRASTINATION
Action comes before motivation!
Just because you might not feel motivated to do something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Just do it anyway. Procrastination evokes a huge feeling of boredom which has been shown to decrease happiness, satisfaction and productivity. Don’t put something off that you’ve been meaning to do.
Write a quick to do list! What are three things you can achieve or need to get done today. Don’t think, pick the easiest and just do it. I’d also recommend listening to motivational ted talks/podcasts/upbeat music, recognising and replacing negative self talk with positive mantras, and/or standing in a power pose like this.
What are your morning habits?
Those days when you just wake up in a funk and feels as though everything is going wrong and everybody is against you. It is so easy to allow thoughts like this to snowball and before you realise you’re wallowing in a tomb of self-pity. But you can fix a bad day.
Stop and breathe. Take 5 minutes to allow yourself a bit of self-pity (you are human after all) but then stop this unhelpful thought because wallowing in self-pity and catastrophizing really is going to ruin the rest of your day.
I recommend reading Don’t sweat the small stuff by Richard Carlson if you haven’t read it. His book is full of positive thinking approaches to squashing the little worries we all have and at its core the book provides advice for not over thinking or blowing problems out of proportion.
However, it’s ok to not to be ok sometimes. There will be bad days. But just remember the following:
This too shall pass
If you have decided that you want to turn that bad day around, there are so many things you can do to help yourself. My favourites:
Move your body. Get your heart pumping.
It might feel like the last thing you want to do but trust me, a bit of exercise will give you an instant pick up. It releases endorphins and serotonin (the feel good hormone) and reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) so added benefit if your bad day is stress or anxiety related. It’s written in the science and you can’t argue with that. You don’t have to slave away in the gym for hours, but a simple 30 minutes sweat fest can be the difference between prolonging the crappy feeling or turning the day around.
Personally, I like to do a 20 minute high intensity (HIIT) workout or listen to a podcast whilst running. HIIT workouts are SO easy to structure. Just pick your fave body weight exercises and an interval that works for your fitness level and off you go. If that seems daunting, my fave YouTube workouts to follow are the body coach, fitness blender or blogilates. I’m a gym bunny and use exercise as a preventative measure. I might write a separate post about structuring workouts if you are interested.
Particularly powerful is to just STOP and ask yourself what would make you most happy in that exact moment. Remember the last time you were spontaneous, how great did you feel? What would boost you in that exact moment?
Take time out and treat yourself to a bit of me time. This is personal but it could be having a hot bath, reading a book, watching some TV, ringing a friend, going to the cinema, having a massage or a pamper session. Indulge in the way that feels right for you. Regarding food, it’s tempting to reach for junk food or alcohol and if that is what would make you happiest in that moment then indulge. But don’t feel guilty afterwards! Listen to your body and thoughts. Personally I feel worse after junk food, so 9 times out of 10 I’ll avoid it if I’m in a bad mood and instead I’ll nourish myself with healthier (but equally tasty) food. If I want treats, I’ll eat them. And that’s fine too. Just ask yourself how you’ll feel after because you don’t want to cause unnecessary guilt.
Challenge your thinking
Write down the negativity. What was the situation or event that caused you to feel that way? What was the event/trigger/situation and how did you feel. Describe as thoroughly as possible and then try to identify the following: your thoughts about the situation/event, your response, your emotions, feelings and physical response (e.g. heart racing). Whilst we cannot control external events we can control our response to them.
When you have identified as much of the above as possible, try to think of alternate ways to perceive the event/situation. Could you calm your body down to stop the panic, think more kindly towards yourself or take a moment to calm the feelings? If you have unfavourably compared yourself to somebody else stop right now. Remember people only share their best bits and you actually have no clue what goes on behind the facade.
What are your go to’s for a bad day?
One thing I’ve learned about being too wrapped up in the past and/or future is that it conjures up emotions of guilt and anxiety, respectively. Overthinking about something in the past can lead to feelings of resentment and guilt; whilst being too focused on the future is a breeding ground to invoke anxiety or fear. It’s self-destructive yet startling to see the number of people who live this way.
I’ll refrain from throwing around overused quotes such as Live for the now or You might not get tomorrow because whilst true there overuse waters down their meaning, in my opinion …But being absentminded isn’t productive and certainly doesn’t lead to living a fruitful life full of happy thoughts.
Living in the moment and being focused on the now stems from teachings of mindfulness, and if there was one book I would recommend Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now. This book really changed my thinking around creating a more mindful approach to my everyday life.
Increase your joy for things happening around you in the moment, find the extraordinary in the ordinary and simply starting to love life for what it is – and not resenting it for what it’s not. It’s the idea of living a fulfilling week rather than waiting for the weekend.
Increase your self belief Doing rather than thinking about doing is much more fruitful for squashing those nagging feelings of self-doubt. People often worry about things in the future because they waste too much time worrying about what could happen.
Learn to love what is by letting go of what was and not focussing too much on external goals. The more time spent ruminating over something that caused grief, the longer the time spent wrapped up in a cycle of negative thinking. On the other hand, focusing too much energy on end goals stops you appreciating life now. Goals are great to have but don’t kid yourself into thinking that you will suddenly become happier when you lose that weight, buy that car or land that job. When you get there, if your mindset is still future focussed you’ll feel a sense of dissatisfaction and end up simply yearning for the next goal. Sure as hell not reaping the rewards of all of the work paying off.
My top tips for focussing on the now:
- Practice gratitude: what are you grateful for?
- Practice being grateful. Gratitude has been shown to boost feelings of happiness. Simply start your day with taking note of something that you’re greatful for, be thankful or text somebody you appreciate. It needs to be genuine though and not forced. It could literally just be that the sun is shining. You’ll start to appreciate things in your life a lot more and actually start to feel grateful for who you are and the great people you have in your life.
- Pay attention: to other people, to your thoughts, to your feelings and the environment
- Delete the crap from social media. Seriously stop wasting your time scrolling(!). Life is busy and those hours spent absent-mindedly scrolling Instagram or Facebook add up. Imagine actually using that time on being productive or taking care of yourself, instead of investing time reading about what everybody else is doing.
- Be mindful. Do you notice what’s going on around you? Do you look up when you’re walking? Smell the fresh air? Or put your phone away when you’re in a meeting/with friends?(!) The amount of time I see groups of people looking at their phones rather than chatting to each other in cafes is startling! I notice this because I look around 🙂
- Smile at strangers. Simple but effective. We are social beings, so make eye contact with people. Connect. In real life.
- Eat slowly and taste your food! It takes your brain 10 minutes longer than your stomach to notice feeling full.
- Check in to your body. Meditate and be mindful of your body, move with purpose, notice areas of tension and learn to slow down.
- Breathe. Deeply.
- Practice acceptance
- The 5 minute rule. Something that’s caused grief? Give yourself 5 minutes to be upset and have a pity party, then tell yourself no more!
- Stop worrying. A simple tip. If it will not matter 5 years from now do not waste for that 5 minutes worrying about it.
- Be spontaneous
- Remember the last time you were spontaneous, how great did you feel? You don’t need to go booking a crazy spur of the moment trip (especially not if you’re using a credit card) but stop, breathe and ask yourself what would make you feel happiest in that moment.
- Stop waiting for the weekend. It’s great to have things to look forward to but don’t focus all your energy and effort waiting that you forget to appreciate what you’re doing right now.
Hope this brings a little positivity to your day! x