50 days of mindfulness

Mindfulness. It’s been the health and wellbeing buzzword of recent years and hailed as a way to find calmness and clarity in our busy lives.

It’s a word I’d heard bandied around lots in recent years and, to be honest, I was an eye-rolling sceptic.

But as a mum of two lovely young children who works full time, I find my mind is often a buzzing list of to dos from paying for school dinners to keeping up to speed in a job that is fast-paced to writing out our weekly meal planner. 

And of course the worry that I’m perhaps not quite good enough at juggling it all.

Earlier this year, this to do list meant I was a regular member of the 3am club. Everyone in the house would be asleep and I’d be wide awake mulling over the things to be done. By the time I’d get back to sleep, it would be 5.30am and the children would be wide awake and the day would begin.

This meant that by late April, I was run down and poorly with a chest infection that was so bad my GP thought I had pneumonia (I didn’t, thankfully).

It was a wake up call that I needed something to change. About 18 months ago I’d tried the Headspace app. I got to two days and fell off the wagon. I didn’t have time for 10 minutes a day between washing uniforms, ironing and doing the food shop.

But after getting so run down I decided to make time. I sat down and committed to those 10 minutes. It wasn’t easy, but I prioritised it.

And something funny happened. Every weekday when I’m working I go for a walk at lunchtime to get moving after a morning at my desk. I walk the same route and have done so for well over a year. 

But on day four, I started noticing things. The trees that dotted the route. The beautiful gardens I walk past. And the roses in these gardens.

That’s the biggest shift for me – noticing. Noticing the children’s smiles, soaking up their giggles and how peaceful they look when they sleep. 

Noticing when my mind is wandering to start to do lists when I should be paying more attention to what’s happening now. And noticing the little things we can miss when caught up in our busyness. 

I’m not going to pretend that I do the 10 minutes every day. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. But the strategies from mindfulness are there every day to remind me to pause and pay attention.

My mindful list

1. The Headspace app. I’ve found this an easy way to introduce mindfulness into my day.

2. Ruby Wax’s Frazzled book is an excellent insight into her experience of mindfulness and the science behind it. It convinced my cynical side to give mindfulness a go.

3. Mindfulness for mums by Yvette Jane. I bought this lovely book in a gorgeous independent book shop in Cowbridge one Sunday. Lots of lovely phrases to help you be a more mindful mum.

Have you tried mindfulness or are you planning to try it soon? I’d love to hear from you.

On 2016 and my hopes for next year

The start of the new year is often time for reflection and new year’s resolutions. An opportunity to start afresh, to assess and set new goals.

I learnt long ago that unrealistic resolutions aren’t for me. Usually centred upon vast weight loss, they were not sustainable and often made me feel miserable at a time of year where we are short on daylight and money post-Christmas, which is hard enough.

So my 2016 resolution was simple – to be kinder to myself. The last few months of 2015 were challenging. I was back to work full time from maternity leave and learning to (try) to balance work with being a mum of two. My son moved schools, our beloved cat died suddenly and we moved house three weeks before Christmas in the midst of my husband’s accountancy exams and a work trip to Edinburgh and a few days before our son’s fourth birthday. 

This maelstrom of chaos led me to skip my exercise classes and eat way more than I should so I started    2016 feeling unfit and awful. So I joined a lovely gym, bought a Fitbit and started walking on my lunch breaks wherever possible.

At the start of the year, as well as moving more I was eating less so I lost 8lbs and felt good for it. I actually found that my cravings for treats reduced, which was brilliant. 

But I ate way more than I should have on holiday in June and I never really got back to my eating less mantra. 

I love food. It’s my comfort when I’m stressed or celebrating, sad or happy. I have had a love/hate relationship with my weight and food since I was a teenager, but my comfort eating has reached new levels since becoming a mum. We get up with our children at 5.30am every single day and between work, studying, exercise and being a mum, I’m usually too tired around the edges to resist chocolate. 

But things cannot stay this way. My jeans are tight and I don’t like the way I look. I haven’t stepped on the scales for months as I know I’ll hate what I see. So, for 2017, I want to stay on track with moving more and get back on track with eating less.

As sad and embarrassed as I feel about my shape at the moment, I am proud of my fitness achievements this year. 

  • I have been to the gym (classes or swimming) between 3 and 5 times a week consistently throughout the year.
  • I have started yoga again and have mastered the plough, a crab and the crow (for a millisecond admittedly).
  • I can survive and enjoy spin class after trying it for the first time this year (I thought I was going to be sick in my first class). 
  • I have kept challenging myself to try different classes at my gym from body pump to circuits to Clubbercise so I don’t get bored.
  • I have done at least 10,000 steps a day on most days of 2016.

I have also been kinder to myself in other ways including joining a choir, reading more and taking up my long-held ambition of blogging.

So, bring it on 2017. I hope to eat less and keep moving more as well as continuing to be kind to myself as much as any mum can be.

I also had a rather awesome Christmas present – a line a day journal – which I plan to start tomorrow.


Happy New Year all! Let’s hope it’s a good one.

What are your ambitions for 2017? I’d love to know.

What went well today? One week in.

A week ago, I was lucky enough to do wellbeing workshops at work. The workshops covered lots of insightful ground, but the simplest thing that resonated with me was writing down the three things that went well for me at the end of every day.

It is a positive psychology concept by psychologist Martin Seligman and had led to some brilliant results.

Now I’m the type of person who can struggle to switch off and relax. Very often I can’t sit and do nothing as my brain is a constant monologue of the things I should be doing. The washing, the ironing, cleaning, wrapping gifts, doing the online groceries, packing the school bag and batch cooking meals. I have always been like this, but I have fallen into this trap even more since having the children as the to do list just never ends.

I downloaded the Headspace app earlier this year, which I loved, but I found it difficult to commit to 10 minutes a day when there was so much other stuff to do (a sad excuse, I know).

So I was drawn to this simple idea that could be done in very little time. I dug out a pretty new notebook and started the what went well? project that evening.

One week in, I have to say I am feeling more positive. It is great to end the day celebrating the things that went well. 

Quite of often it’s the little things such as a sunny lunchtime walk, laughing with friends, getting to that exercise class when I would much rather have collapsed in a heap on the sofa. 

So I am going to keep going with this simple exercise to see where it takes me. So far, so good.

Have you tried what went well? before? Or are you thinking of giving it a go? Let me know.