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Yoga and love

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Love – many would say is life’s greatest mystery.

Yet many also come to find that through the paths of yoga, meditation and other forms of spiritual practice, love becomes something more knowable than they ever thought possible. Myself included.

When we think about love, it’s usually the romantic or emotional form.

When we ‘love’ somebody it creates a myriad of feelings such as joy, tenderness, care, affection, appreciation, wonder and lust, towards them. Love has an emotional attachment to it – and we cannot help that. It is our human instinct to want to be bonded to another and to be ‘loved’.

Yet there is also another kind of ‘love’.

A love that transcends emotional attachment. It has to do with presence. It has to do with a deeper, inner, pure form of love. And it is this form of deeper love that, if we are open, we can learn to experience through yoga.

The poet Rumi says: “Love is the bridge between you and everything.”

When we are relaxed and present, and not identified with our egoic mind, thinking and emotions, we experience a deeper state of consciousness that we call presence - or awareness, higher Self or spirit. To experience ourselves as presence, whilst on one hand is simple, is not always easy because of our conditioned habit to identify with our mind and emotions.

When we are truly present with another person, it means that we are not trapped in the judgements of the egoic mind. Our presence is clear. And we can also see and sense the other's clear presence. We feel connected. And if we stay gently yet intentionally attuned, we realise that this shared presence is energetically very real.

When we are truly present, we come to ‘love’ the other person because we recognise the same presence of who we are, in another.

Regardless of someone’s personality (which is just the conditioned mind and its patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving) we recognise that we are all the same – this sameness, this energy, this connection is love at its deepest level.

When yogis say they ‘feel the love’, which may be taken jokingly, chances are they genuinely mean it! We don’t need to be in a relationship with someone to sense this presence and love.

Feeling this deeper love is always available to us (whenever we are present, that is) and it is deeply satisfying. The Ancient Greeks referred to this kind of love as agape meaning the divine, highest form of love or the unconditional, selfless love of one person for another.

“Love ultimately, is true love beyond emotion, it is the recognition of yourself in the other.” Eckhart Tolle

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the emotional form of love – it’s just that we need to understand its limitations.

We need to be aware that emotional love changes form and can easily turn into many other emotions such as frustration, guilt, sadness or its opposite: hate. If we therefore rely on emotional love from someone else to feel happy and good about ourselves, then we are ultimately setting ourselves up for disappointment and dissatisfaction.

However, if we commit to seeking a deeper love, then we have the chance to potentially enjoy lifelong fulfilment. The first step is to experience and trust the presence or awareness in ourselves.

Whilst all authentic forms of yoga cultivate presence, there is one yogic path that also cultivates love. Bhakti Yoga is the path of union through devotion. Bhakti is characterised by the yogic practices of mantra repetition and chanting to cultivate a direct experience of deeper love. These practices work because they bypass the judgmental, egoic mind and connect us straight to the heart.

One final note. Even if you happen to have a sense of deeper love, you cannot force another to find it. One must undertake the inner journey and discover it for oneself. We might plant the seed, but it is up to the other person to want to water it!

And if you are lucky enough to be in an intimate relationship where emotional love is present as well as deeper love, then that is cause for gratitude and great celebration, over and over again.

I leave you with these words of love, again by Rumi:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

With love,
Natalie

Natalie Snooke is the founder of Momentum and an experienced coach, mindfulness and yoga teacher. Natalie guides others to live with greater courage, compassion, purpose and authenticity. Apart from her regular classes held at Momentum, she runs inspiring and engaging workshops, retreats in Perth, Bali and India, as well as individual coaching programs. 

 

The true healing power of community celebration.

Natalie Snooke - Monday, January 30, 2017

The-healing-power-of-community-connection

Community celebrations are not just good fun - our soul yearns for this healing connection.  

On the weekend I was honoured to participate in One Day in Fremantle and Silence Speaks - two very special community events that each created a profound sense of celebration, connection and empowerment like I have never before experienced. 

On Saturday 28 January, One Day in Fremantle was the City of Fremantle's alternative to the traditional Australia Day. 

Celebrations held on this day meant that Noongar people, the local Aboriginal custodians of the land, could share their culture and celebrate being Australian, just like the rest of us. 

In the 15,000 crowd it was tremendous to see a proud cohort of Aboriginal people fully-engaged and abundantly sharing their culture through song, dance, conversation and ceremony - their sincerity was palpable, drawing a tear or a smile from everyone around them. Celebrating alongside each other as Australians there was a natural cameraderie, a sense of understanding, of love and indeed, oneness.  

It's times like this when we realise that our human heart yearns to simply connect person-to-person. And when we do, it brings us deep happiness, understanding and healing.

On Sunday 29 January, Silence Speaks was the Save the Beeliar Wetlands silent gathering in Forrest Place, Perth. Over 1000 people came together, standing in silence and stillness for one hour against the destruction of native wetlands. Standing together as a group of passionate, caring citizens, choosing to rise above government adversity, was incredibly powerful. The aftermath of joy was unbelievable, giving us a renewed sense of energy, hope and purpose.

We want a safe world. We want world peace. We want our community to thrive. We want our children to be happy. We want our environment to remain in tact.

Yet when we focus on staying at home, fixated 'in our own world' or behind the safety of a screen without making a real-life community contribution, not only do we increase our risk of mental illness such as anxiety and depression, we rob ourselves and each other of the chance to learn, grow and become better people, in the way that nature intended us to - through human connection.   

Numerous studies throughout the world have proven the link between social interaction, well-being and a decreased risk of mental health disease, such as anxiety and depression. (Source: Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation).

Next time you gather in community - for your yoga or meditation class, for your children's sporting event, at your local community centre, for a volunteer meeting, busy-bee or for a larger-scale community celebration - embrace the chance to learn from and connect with those around you. Celebrate your common-purpose. Trust in the natural healing that can come when our minds and hearts unite.  

And if you aren't already actively involved in your community, find out the opportunities in your local area and commit to becoming more involved in 2017.

Immense gratitude goes to the volunteer teams who put both events together - thank you for your tireless work and energy! May we each relish the great healing and joy that comes from making a meaningful contribution to our community - irrespective of outcomes - but simply for the greater good of all.

With joy,
Natalie

5 ways to overcome fear and anxiety

Natalie Snooke - Thursday, July 07, 2016

There isn't a person alive who doesn't experience fear.

As a coach and teacher who has had the privilege of working fairly intimately with hundreds of people over the years, I get to witness the positive and negative effects of fear first-hand. 

Being able to experience and move past fear, nervousness, self-doubt and worry is a skill most of us could become much better at. 

When we successfully manage our fears we live courageously, make good decisions, participate fully in relationships and enjoy a fulfilling life. And we feel good about ourselves!

Yet if our fear isn't addressed and well-managed, especially with the pace and complexity of modern life, it can easily become chronic anxiety with debilitating health, wellbeing and social impacts. 

Anxiety disorders have become the most common illnesses in Australia and the western world. According to Beyond Blue in Australia now one in every three women and one in every five men will experience anxiety - as will one in every six young people aged 16-24. That's pretty staggering when you think about it.

So what exactly is fear?

We know about the 'genuine form' of fear. It's one of the four primary human emotional states along with happiness/pleasure, sadness and anger. Fear's job is to let us know when things aren't 'quite right', to guide us to be safe and to look after ourselves. Like making us wait on the kerb so we don't cross the road in front of traffic. Healthy fear enables us to make good practical choices for how to live. 

Fear also has what I'll call a 'lesser form' that causes us the most problems. These subtler, more common fears come in the form of niggling worries, self-doubt, negativity, criticism and even procrastination. They are fears that we 'perceive' to be true, yet aren't. Things like: 

  • fear of speaking-up
  • worrying about what other people think 
  • fear of being rejected or not liked
  • fear of failing
  • fear of not being good enough
  • fear of not being able to cope. 
Which ones do you relate most to?

The impact of these lesser fears accumulates and puts us in a state of stagnation, confusion, defensiveness or makes us feel like we're just surviving - none of which are helpful in the long-run. They keep us stuck from taking healthy risks and meaningful steps forward in our personal or professional lives - and prevent us from being the person we'd really like to be or from living the life we'd rather be living. 

When we take a closer look at our lesser fears we find they're actually not that accurate, big or scary, its just that we've believed them and built-them-up to be that way. More on that later.

Mindfulness and breaking down fear.

If we break-down each fear experience it actually has two components: a thinking or story component; as well as an energetic component of felt sensations in the body. Most often we pay too much attention to (and get lost in) our 'story' and not enough attention to simply 'feeling' the raw bodily sensations of our fear. By developing mindfulness or self-awareness we get much better at being with our fears as a way of releasing them. Again, more on that later.

Fear also also tends to be a rather slippery emotion. Sometimes it hides beneath sadness or anger or even beneath the surface of our conscious awareness. We might strategically bypass or deny our fear but nonetheless it goes about sabotaging us and prevents us from being happy, without us even being aware of it. 

We all have the capacity to see through and overcome our fears. It's about putting fear into a healthy perspective, learning to be brave, putting into place helpful skills and practices and believing in your 'best' self. How?

These five approaches will get you on your way.

1. Understand that the root-cause of fear is your mind.

At its fundamental level, the root-cause of fear is over-identification with the egoic mind (as well as the limbic system that controls our emotions). We believe that we ARE our thoughts or emotions. We believe (and give unnecessary power to) the negative stories and self-beliefs that we tell ourselves. We lose the ability to see ourselves beyond our thoughts. 

Know that there is an aspect of you that is not fearful, an aspect that is beyond fear and doubt. Although it might be awkward or challenging at first, learn to get in touch with and experience this part of yourself. 

Take three deep breaths to relax and begin to notice yourself as the 'aware presence' that just witnesses your fearful thoughts and emotions - that part of you that is free and beyond the fear itself. (If you're having trouble relating to what I'm saying, don't worry, just keep reading because one of the other approaches will probably resonate more for you!)

2. RAIN - recognise and accept yourself as you are.

The RAIN approach, developed by psychologist and teacher Tara Brach, is a simple way of befriending and overcoming all sorts of emotional states including fear. It reminds us that all emotional states are temporary, they come and they go if we give them the chance to do so. The power of this step-by-step approach is in accepting yourself just as you are and showing self-compassion. 

Recognize what is going on. You might say to yourself: 'right now I am scared' or 'right now I am feeling anxious'.
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is. There's no need to change anything.
Investigate with interest and care. Become curious about what's going on inside you. Observe your thoughts and the sensations in your body.
Nourish with self-compassion. Go gently with yourself in the process. Treat yourself kindly. Let go of expectations and judgments. 

3. Adopt a life-long mindfulness practice - how yoga and meditation helps overcome fear.

Begin a regular yoga and/or meditation practice and stick with it over a number of years to experience its full fear-busting benefits. 

Yoga involves working mindfully with the body and the breath to enhance and balance our flow of energy. When we practice authentic yoga regularly over a period of time our energy flow increases and we become more and more attuned to noticing and accepting all of the various sensations, thoughts and emotions that dwell within us in any given moment. For example, we might notice when we become scared before attempting a new yoga posture. Our yoga teacher is there to gently encourage us to safely 'feel and meet' this fear rather than running from it, denying it or indulging in it. Despite the fear, we give the posture our best and be happy with our efforts. 

A similar process happens in meditation. We train ourselves to be mindful, to focus and notice things that arise in us moment by moment. If fear or self-doubt arises we learn to gently 'be' with it and to give it time to dissolve. Over time as we become more skilled we become better able to experience fear and its impacts on us tend to lessen. 

By applying these skills we learn in yoga and meditation we become skillful in overcoming fears in our daily life. And when we stop resisting feeling fear, we give ourselves the opportunity to open to the deeper peace and joy that's naturally within us. This is the ultimate goal of yoga and meditation.

According to Yoga Australia the peak professional body for yoga in Australia, there is a growing number of scientific studies that confirm the evidence of yoga and meditation's positive health and wellbeing benefits on anxiety.

4. Get support with therapy or coaching.

When we are facing our fears we are really confronting ourselves. Getting the support and confidence of someone else is crucial if you are really serious about overcoming your fears - I know that I would not be who or where I am today if it wasn't for the valuable support of both professions at different stages of my personal growth. I truly believe that it takes the support of someone else to allow us to grow into our fullest potential.

A good psychologist or therapist will support you to understand and be with your fear and anxiety. A good life coach or executive coach specialising in mindfulness will also help you to deepen your self-awareness, identify your unique vision, values and goals and take meaningful steps to move you forwards. Both professions will teach you invaluable skills that you can adopt and master for happier everyday living.

5. Choose LOVE over fear.

The opposite of fear is love. Fear cannot exist where there is love. By this I mean seeing the goodness in life and adopting the attitude, confidence and trust that life is 'for us' instead of 'against us'. 

Choosing to live from a place of love means that you are ruthlessly committed to creating and finding goodness, hope, peace and harmony in yourself, in others and in the world - as opposed to competition, blaming, one-up-manship and the need to prove oneself - which are all fear-based. Love opens and expands. Love is courageous. Love is strength. Choosing love evokes our greatest human and spiritual potential.

Choosing love is however not for the faint hearted, but it is powerful beyond words! I recommend books and talks by empowering spiritual teachers/leaders such as Michael Beckwith, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Tara Brach and Marianne Williamson - and I'm sure there are others. 

Embracing life and overcoming fear are one and the same. At Momentum Coaching & Yoga we stand for, honour and support the best, most courageous and most loving version of you - always.

With love,
Natalie

How to be calm and content even when you're not on holidays

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Returning from India, after several weeks on retreat and holidays - exploring temples, meditating and practicing yoga for extended periods, laughing with local village men and women, walks along the beach, shopping for colourful fabrics and gifts, savouring spices and zesty foods - having amazing experiences without having to worry about cooking, cleaning or other daily chores, it would be easy to feel sad and regret being back home.

But that's not the case.

Like many clients and students I work with, I used to think that being truly content and calm was only possible when I was on holidays. During those times when I wasn't working, when I didn't have bills to pay and when I didn't have to do things I didn't want to do. Then after one holiday I had to plan the next holiday to get me through.

Contentment and calm in daily life is closer to us than we might think. At our core, in our heart we are peacefully happy. It's our nature. It's the very foundation of our being, yet somehow along the pathway of life, we've managed to 'unlearn' and forget this.

Contentment and calm is about creating - and recreating - daily balance so that we can know this within. It's about being clear about our real priorities and putting them into practice everyday. 

Holidays and taking regular time-off from work are essential for our wellbeing. But if we realise that we don't have to be on holidays in order to feel peaceful or happy with ourselves, then we can save ourselves a lot of extra energy, effort and frustration. Not to mention money.  

Being home and back working at Momentum, despite the fact that I had business emails and projects to catch up on, bills to pay, a garden to tend and meals to prepare, I found that I could really enjoy these responsibilities and duties. I could commit to simply doing each task fully - living in the moment without wishing I was back on retreat. I could also relish moments of joy like gazing up at the golden full-moon. And I've come to realise that its because of a few simple, fundamental things that have become my way-of-life over the years, things that I do everyday that don't take a lot of time, that has allowed a deep, positive impact to accummulate. 

Sure, my life is no bed of roses, I still have my moments! But generally I'm able to be calm and content most days, no matter what I'm doing or what life demands of me. 

The secret is simple and often. So here they are. 

Meditate in the early-morning. Getting up around sunrise and spending (at least) the first 10 minutes of every day sitting in silent meditation or contemplation is profoundly powerful. Relax as you focus on the natural breath. Doing this connects you within and creates a calm focus for the day ahead.

Practice gratitude. Writing in a journal about five things, people, opportunities or your character-traits that you are grateful for, big or small cultivates genuine gratitude and compassion. Try and make your five different everyday. This practice is heart-opening and expands your presence. The vibration of gratitude makes us more receptive to the good in life. 

Know your purpose. Knowing what you're doing and why you're doing it is personally empowering. Find out the bigger purpose to you and your life, that underpins everything that you do. And if you aren't sure about this, then start to question yourself or seek some life coaching support to clarify it. It makes all the difference! 

It's this type of approach that we all need to adopt if we are sincere about wanting to be calm and content in our everyday lives. Then our holidays can truly add to our wellbeing and to the rich tapestry of our life-experience, rather than become a desperate escape from the very life that beckons us to realise who we are and embrace this, each and every day.

How will you start your day tomorrow?

Natalie

The 9 healthy habits for living to be 100

Natalie Snooke - Monday, November 30, 2015

We all want to live a long, happy and healthy life. But you might not believe that its possible to be 100 and still be active and enjoying every minute. Here's how.

Global research reveals that living to be healthy, disease-free and 100+ is not as rare or as complicated as we might think. 

Making simple lifestlye choices are the key to slowing down the aging process and positively influencing how long and how well we will live. No matter how old you are and where you live, you can learn how to, starting today.

Debunking Myths

With so much information available around on healthy living, it can be confusing to know what to believe so this research was designed to identify the key factors for longevity. What things really made a difference?  

Do health supplements make a difference? Do we need passion, purpose or spirituality? Does organic verses non-organic matter? Should we practice yoga or should we run marathons? Should we be vegan, vegetarian, eat fish or eat meat? And what about our genes? 

For over five years National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner and a team from the US National Institute of Aging examined cultures around the world. They identified the areas with the highest demographic proportion of people aged 100 years or more - areas where life expectancy is up to 12 years greater than it is in Australia - and identified the common lifestyle characteristics that made them live longer. They called these areas 'blue zones'. 

The four blue zones are found in Sardinia Italy, Okinawa Japan, Nicoya Costa Rica and surprisingly, in California USA. 

What was discovered in these blue zones, not only do people live to be ripe-old-ages of 100+ they are also mostly free of chronic disease. They live vigorous, engaged lives and it's rare that they die in hospital beds or nursing homes. That's good news for everyone. 

The Truth Revealled

Nine common relatively simple factors, making up the optimal formula for longevity, were found.

1. Move naturally every day. None of the blue zones 'exercised' per se. They incorporated natural movement in the tasks of their day, like walking as a mode of transport and tending to their garden. In Sardinia, men of 102 years of age still ride bikes to work.

  • Although it might mean a little inconvenience, create space for daily physical activity. 
  • Choose to work or go to schools closer to home that you can walk or ride a bike to instead of driving a car. Or ride or walk a part of the way. 
  • Do active household chores like raking and sweeping as often as you can, rather than getting others or machines to do the work. Most of us would do well to take a leaf out of our grandparents' book!
2. Practice mindful eating and reduce food intake by 20%. Those in Okinawa have a saying ''Hara hachi bi' which reminds them to not over-eat and to stop eating when they are 80% full. They also make eating a ritual and conscious activity. In Nicoya they also ate a light dinner early in the evening.
  • Practice eating less and stopping before you are completely full to leave enough room for digestion (this is also an ancient yogic practice called mityahara). 
  • Use smaller plates and bowls.
  • Try making your evening meal lighter than your lunch, and eating early in the evening,
  • Serve food first, put the rest away and then sit to eat mindfully. All-you-can-eat buffets with second and third helpings were not a part of the blue-zone cultures.

3. Eat a mainly plant-based diet. Across all of the blue zones there was a prevalence of plant-based foods including vegetables, grains, nuts and tofu (that wasn't necessarily organic). 

  • Increase the amount of fresh vegetables and plant-based protein foods in your daily diet.
  • Consider having set meat-free meals or days.
  • Notice how you feel after eating less meat after a period of time.

4. Drink red wine...in moderation! A daily intake of no more than two serves of red wine per day was found to be common amongst those living the longest in the blue zones.

5. Determine your life purpose. In Okinawa, they have a life-purpose called an ekigai or a 'reason to get up in the morning' with them throughout their life and there is no word for retirement. It gave their life value. 

  • Why do you get up in the morning and do what you do?
  • Develop a heartfelt personal vision or mission statement. 
  • Write down a list of things that naturally draw your interest and curiosity, looking for the common threads and finding ways to make that basis of your life. 

6. Simplify to relieve stress. Each of the blue zones communities practised the habit of taking rest. For those in California, it was an established seventh-day ritual.

  • Reduce your daily to-do list to just the most important to allow time for rest.
  • Practice giving yourself more time to arrive somewhere early, rather than rushing to be late. 
  • Spend quiet time without television or computers to help to soothe your nervous system. 
  • Learn life-skills such as yoga and meditation for relaxation.
  • These may seem like a small things, but they can have a big, cumulative impact on your overall sense of wellbeing. 

7. Belonging to a faith-based community. In California the men and women living in a Seventh Day Adventist community live up to 11 years older than average Americans. They follow a small set of common values and lifestyle habits throughout their lives. For one day per week, they have a 'sabath' a strict rest day and often take a nature walk. Prayer was also found to be a part of the Sardinian blue zone group.

  • Get to know yourself on a deeper level by exploring your spirituality.  
  • No longer just for church-goers, spiritual communities and groups, such as reflective peer support groups, some yoga centres or meditation groups bring people together in ways that foster connection, practice and conversation based on a spiritual or deeper meaning of life. 

8. Put loved ones first and make family a priority. In Sardinia, where they have an extra six years of longevity, the older they get, the more wisdom they are celebrated for.  They show great respect for their elders and this also has a positive influence on their youth.

  • What does family connection look like to you? 
  • Create family rituals like walks, games nights or Sunday dinners to unite your loved ones. 
  • Consider how you might spend more regular time with your family to promote togetherness. 

9. Choose the right tribe. In Okinawa, it was found that people belonged to a small circles of life-long friends called a moai where the challenges and joys of life were all shared freely. 

  • The people that you surround yourself with influence your health more so than almost any other factor. 
  • Choose to be around people who share similar values as you, who prioritise their physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing in ways that inspire you rather than turn you off. 
  • Maybe its time to reconnect with or refresh your tribe!

"The calculus of aging offers us two options: We can live a shorter life with more years of disability or we can live the longest possible life with fewest bad years. As my centenarian friends showed me, the choice is largely up to us." Dan Buettner. Watch his TED talk here.

At Momentum Coaching and Yoga all of our coaching, yoga and meditation services support the findings of the Blue Zone research. We encourage you to try (and try us again) for yourself.

May you live a happy, healthy and long life,

Natalie


Optimism and resilience: the positive benefits of being creative

Natalie Snooke - Thursday, October 08, 2015

No matter what your age, your occupation or your life path, it is never too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity. The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to creativity is to think that you don’t have any! 

We all have the seeds of creativity within us. To be creative is to be human. To bring what is inside you out into the world, as only you can, for the pure sake of your expression and enjoyment, is to be creative.

How to be more creative.

Think of creativity as more of a state-of-mind than an end-product. Sure, sometimes it’s about producing something but equally it’s about being more open and creative in our approach that yields us the same pay-offs.

By keeping a conscious, present, open-minded and open-hearted attitude in how you approach things, from the big projects to the smallest of everyday tasks, you'll experience creativity benefits both now and as you age (more on that later in the blog.)

Remember your creative childhood?

As children we played, invented, danced, coloured, built, explored, devised, spray-painted, carved, bombed, burned, rallied, jump-started, dressed, cooked, joined, thread-and-needled, smashed and fixed just about anything and everything, where several hours would often go by effortlessly and our mothers would come to find us happily engrossed in our business. We didn’t think twice about it. Being creative was all that we knew.  And yet sadly as we grow into adults and experience our fair share of life's challenges we simply ‘forget’ how to be playful, spontaneous and creative.

If we neglect our creativity then a valuable part of our soul withers away and we can end up feeling (unnecessarily) grumpy with ourselves and disenchanted with our life.

There are as many forms of creativity as there are people.

Let go of the idea that to be creative you need to be able to paint or draw. Art is just one form of creativity.

Creativity is about joy and exploration in a myriad of forms, rather than mastery. It’s anything that allows you to enjoy, explore and express your perspectives, views, beauty and/or ideas. Just about anything you do can be approached creatively.

The big benefits of being creative.

Practicing creativity generates many benefits. According to researchers Ebersole & Hess (1998) it has been shown to:

  • Increase resilience
  • Maintain your sense of integrity
  • Help to resolve conflicts
  • Give a greater sense of well-being and personal growth
  • Help to build better relationships
  • Make thoughts and feelings become clear.

Ruth Richards, psychology professor at Saybrook University and Harvard Medical School says that encouraging creative behaviours makes us more dynamic, conscious, non-defensive, observant, collaborative and brave. 

Studies of older people who practice creativity found that they stayed healthier for longer, had fewer visits to health care providers, used fewer medications, were more outgoing, more socially active, less lonely, and more optimistic. 

How to Boost Your Creativity

Ask yourself: what interests me? What intrigues me? What have I always wanted to try but haven’t? What work, process or routine chore could I re-engineer to make it more fun?

Make a list of all the things that interest and intrigue you. Include big things as well as small things. Even though you’ll probably have mind-blanks and blocks, gently persevere with yourself and keep writing (without editing) until you have at least a half-page of writing. Let yourself ponder and have fun with it.

Like anything that you want to improve, you can boost your creativity by simply paying more attention to it and setting the intention to bring more creativity into your life.

Try changing a routine or habitual pattern. If you always go to the same café for coffee, change the route you take or change the café and notice what you see.

Renew an old hobby. Dig out the guitar, your scrap books, your favourite recipes or your tools.

Start a journal. Expose yourself to more arts. Spend more time in nature. Go bush-walking. Play and explore.

Give your creative side the air-time it needs.

We have the tendency to lead overly busy lives which has the effect of drowning-out our ‘inner voice’ and the cornerstone of our creativity. To become more creative it’s important that you can slow down and carve-out some regular time (eg 2 hours) in your schedule for creativity, just like you would schedule a work meeting or dentist appointment.

This approach might sound a bit unromantic, however the reality is that if you are already busy and don’t set aside the time in advance, it’s unlikely to happen if you just leave it to chance. Make a commitment to yourself that you will keep this appointment. Make arrangements to be child-free or get creative with your children, if that works for you. Be prepared to decline other offers that come along. Do whatever you need to give yourself dedicated creative time. 

What have you got to lose? Go get creative and see what a positive difference it can make.

If you struggle with creativity then you can always reach-out for one-on-one support and accountability through Life Coaching or join us for some regular yoga to get your creative juices flowing.

May your creative seeds blossum and grow.
Natalie

Why its important to know your strengths

Natalie Snooke - Thursday, July 30, 2015

Four_Powerful_Ways_to_Optimise_Your_Strengths"Realising our strengths is the smallest thing we can do to make the most difference" - Alex Linley

One of the most powerful tools that everyone has is natural strengths. Call them gifts, talents or even quirks.  We all have them. Yet when it comes down to it, I often meet people who are genuinely confused or shy about owning or developing theirs!

Studies in the field of positive psychology show that strengths help us to experience less stress and greater well-being, plus reach our goals with greater ease. 

Once you know your strengths, using them on a day-to-day basis is a very effective way to boost your energy and healthy self-confidence. But it doesn't stop there. Its knowing and being mindful of when, how and how much to use your strengths over the course of your life's journey that ultimately leads to growth, transformation and to being the best person you can be.

Simply put, knowing your strengths is key to unlocking more of your natural potential.

By strengths I mean a "pre-existing, natural capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking or feeling that allows you to thrive".  They're not attributes that you would like to have or admire in someone else. They are what you already are - and are becoming. Although it may come as a surprise, strengths are not static. They evolve as we do. 

A part of healthy self-growth is about refining and expanding your repertoire of strengths over the course of your life. 

Step #1 - Know Your Strengths.

When you're at your best, what are you doing? Think about what comes easily and naturally to you. What gives you a buzz? What things did you love to do as a child and did effortlessly? For example, were/are you: adventurous, caring, quick-thinking, gregarious, calm, organised, determined, patient, team-oriented, curious, goal-focused, analytical, creative, passionate, intelligent, empathetic, open-minded and/or precise?  

It's important that these attributes are expressed in your day-to-day life. Otherwise you're likely to experience disappointment, frustration or find it difficult to make head-way along your chosen path. Use these attributes as often as you can, according to context and situation, without overplaying them.

For my strengths, out of that list above, my top three would be creative, empathetic and organised. These parts of me get lots of airplay in my day-to-day personal and working life. Which is probably why I love what I do and the life I have (mostly anyway!)

Practice: Identify your natural strengths and if you're not sure, then ask your partner or a trusted friend or sibling for their input. Then go about putting them into practice every day. 

Step #2 - Know Your Weaknesses. 

This step can often be a clincher! But don't skip it. Everybody has weaknesses or things that challenge them. We can also call these our shadow-traits or blind-spots - they're the parts of us that we'd prefer not to own or admit to. Knowing about yourself warts-and-all helps you to grow and to become a 'whole' person. And it will also make you more likable - and lovable.

What are the things that you find challenging or draining? What do you know about yourself, but find it hard or don't like? For example, are you: fearful, arrogant, impatient, impulsive, greedy, moody, passive, undisciplined, stubborn, shy, short-sighted, vague, controlling or negative? 

These are the areas to focus on for your development. Although these aspects will probably feel de-energising, they have their place. Take a deeper level of responsibility for your weaknesses in day-to-day life. Acknowledge when you notice them at play. Have honest conversations about them with your loved ones. 

Although it was awkward at first, and I'm not sure it will ever be feel completely comfortable, coming to terms with my weaknesses is something I keep working on. I've realised that having a level of honesty about myself, to myself, just makes things easier in relationships and a whole lot less painful in the long-run. My weaknesses would be: impatient, moody and controlling.

Practice: Choose one weakness to focus on for a week at a time - and try not to be hard on yourself. Mindfully and gently investigate what's going on for you inside, in the moment, when it's playing out. Be curious rather than judgmental. Notice what's happening in your body, emotions and mind. By becoming more aware of your weaknesses, over time you will develop more self-control and the negative impacts will lessen.

Step #3 - Discover Your Unrealised Strengths.

This aspect of you is something you are good at and enjoy doing, but do it less often. There is a likely untapped potential to developing this aspect of you into a strength.

Explore putting your unrealised strengths more into action. Remain on the lookout for the right situation or opportunity to surface where you can utilise this skill, attribute or behaviour. Try setting a goal or intention to practice on a regular basis. 

My unrealised strengths from the initial list are: curious and precise. By being precise, rather than generalising, and being curious rather than controlling, I'm noticing that it helps me to delegate responsibilities when I can and allows others to understand me more easily. Just like you, I'm a work in progress!

Practice: Try setting a goal or intention to put one unrealised strength into action. For example, like me, if you choose precision, your intention might be 'When I tend to generalise things in a conversation, I practice being more precise about sharing exactly what I am thinking and feeling.'

Strengths and weaknesses are good approaches to self-development that always have something valuable to teach us. The beauty is, that we never stop growing and evolving, no matter what's going on in our lives, and tuning-in to the strengthened people we are constantly becoming makes for a very rewarding ride. As the saying goes, we might not be able to stop the waves, but we can teach ourselves how to surf!

If you'd like to uncover and develop your natural strengths, as well as be honest about what challenges you to help improve your relationships, then I'd love you to consider my Life Coaching or Mindful Leadership Coaching.

Here's to YOU!
Natalie




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