Yes, You Can Meditate With a Small Human

As far as I’m concerned, meditation is one of the most important life skills I can teach my son. Right up there with using the toilet and eating healthy food and, you know, being a good human, learning how to stop, breathe and just chill the hell out is an essential life skill in this day and age. Just ask Jerry Seinfeld. Oprah Winfrey. Lena Dunham. The late Steve Jobs. All extremely successful people who… you guessed it… regularly meditate.

But let’s be frank. Finding the time to sit in silence is challenging at the best of times; throw a one-year-old into the picture and it may, for some, seem completely impossible or just a waste of time. But hear me out.

YazandArlo

 

Countless studies have shown that meditation doesn’t just reduce stress on the surface, it physically changes your brain too. How? Meditation increases the thickness of your prefrontal cortex – the area linked to decision making, planning and even your personality – making it stronger and potentially more resilient to change, stress and today’s hectic, technology-driven lifestyle. Begging the question, who wouldn’t want to meditate?

So how do you get a toddler to sit still and tune in? You don’t. That’s impossible. Instead, like with all things baby related, you expose them to different experiences of the same outcome over time. Here’s an example: when Arlo was a newborn, rather than sit in front of the TV at night for his feeds I’d remain in our dimly lit room and play guided meditations. My thought process was that it’s the middle of the night and I don’t want to stimulate him (or me) with the TV, so this was an incredible way for us both to get close and remain in a nice sleepy state, while also being entertained.

Cut to now, when things are slightly more (ahem) busy and I’ve had to adapt to the situation. Now, when he’s eating dinner I dim the lights and play relaxation music, giving him cues that it’s quiet time. There’s no TV or electronic devices, just time to sit and eat and enjoy in a really calm, relaxing setting. We play and have fun, but there’s no external distractions. And he loves it. He loves that we’re so present with him and that he can slowly (so slowly!) eat his dinner without feeling rushed or sensing any stress.

Or, when he’s just having a crazy manic day, I stop everything, pick him up and put on a guided meditation. I hold him and gently sway, breathing deeply into his ear and reassuring him that it’s okay to be expressive and frustrated, and to just breathe it out. To me, this seems completely normal. I see my job as Arlo’s mum to remain as calm as possible when he becomes overwhelmed, I’ve had more practice than he has, and heck, life is overwhelming. It will continue to be. But it’s how you learn to cope with the craziness that sets you apart.

 

Tell me Happies…

Am I crazy?
Do you meditate?
Do you want, or more importantly, need to?

 

Stay Happy,

Yaz x

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Morning Ritual, Do You Have One?

Who are those people happily skipping to the gym or barre or yoga at 6am with smiles on their faces? Well, truth be told, it’s often me, but that wasn’t always the case. The thing is, I’ve never been a morning person. The mere sight of the sun would have me screaming defeat and hiding under my pillow for at least another 2 hours, until I discovered a morning ritual.

That first crack of the sun is a sacred time. A time when the world is slowly whirring to life, but not in over-drive yet. There’s silence, stillness….peace, even. And it’s magical. But there’s more to becoming a morning person than just setting your alarm clock. For me, it was about creating a morning ritual that enables me to start the day on the best foot. No bullshit, no stress, no one else but me.

It used to revolve around mediation and often yoga, but since having Arlo I’ve had to be realistic about what I can and can’t achieve. Yes, the whole point of a morning ritual is to make it about you, but any mother will tell you that’s almost laughable. So I’ve had to be smart and trick the system. Here’s what I’ve done…

dancing

Step 1: BREATHE

I’m truly blessed with a child who sleeps. A lot. We put him to bed between 6 and 7pm and don’t hear a peep until 7:15am. Don’t despair mums of non-sleepers, it took us A LOT of work to get here, but now we’re reaping the rewards. Anyway, as Arlo isn’t up until after 7 that allows me time to either go to Barre early in the morning to get my exercise done or stay in bed for a relaxing meditation upon waking. Rather than getting up, I use that time to focus on my breath, settling into the day ahead in the most relaxing way possible. You can do this, too. Whether you have a baby or not, stay in bed for an extra 5 minutes (or 55, who’s counting) and just take a few really deep breaths, focusing your attention inwards as you scan your body and let go of any tension.

Step 2: CONNECT

The reason I’m reluctant to jump out of bed for anything other than exercise is that my favourite part of my morning ritual actually takes place in bed. When Arlo wakes up, Alex goes and gets him from his cot and brings him into bed with me, where he has his morning ‘milky’ and we snuggle and connect and he tells me (in his own little language) how he slept and what he dreamed of. It’s a beautiful time. A sacred time. Where we can all just connect and feel love oozing out from the get-go. Ask yourself who you’re connecting with first thing in the morning. Are you connecting more with your phone or TV than your partner, flatmate, children or pet?

Step 3: PLAY

I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’m incredibly shit at dancing. But I LOVE it. I love the way it makes Alex laugh and I love the way music lifts Arlo into an excited frenzy. So, I’ve started incorporating dancing into my morning ritual. I put on Happy by Pharrell and I bounce around the room with Arlo on my hip and he squeals with delight. He even claps along. Alex is yet to discover the wonder but definitely enjoys watching on. The point? We’re having fun. I think play time has been lost on us. It’s been replaced by a sense of urgency, which, rather ironically, sucks all the lifeblood out of us and is the exact antithesis of fun. It’s boring and bland and stressful. So instead I encourage you to make more time for fun in the morning. Dance, sing, do handstands… play… and see where it takes you.

Step 4: NURTURE

Obviously food plays a big role in my morning ritual to ensure I’m fuelling my body (and my family’s body) in the best way possible. Most of the time it starts with a piece of seasonal fruit, before moving onto a smoothie or our homemade wonder muesli, but more on those later. What do you have for breakfast? Are you giving yourself the best start possible, or is a cronut and coffee exactly what you need each day?

Tell me Happies…

Do you have a morning ritual?
Do you want to start one?

Help! My baby needs food, what do I feed it?

This is the question I asked myself many, many times when Arlo started solids. For some reason, despite knowing my own diet in and out, I was completely boggled when it came to feeding him. I blame books. Every book I read said something completely contradictory. Feed him nuts. Don’t feed him nuts. Hold off on grains. Babies LOVE grains. I was stumped. Until I decided to do what I’ve done with everything mother-y and use my knowledge and instincts and have fun. Play. Enjoy. If he’s unhappy, he’ll tell me. If not, he’ll tell me too. So off we ventured, into the world of food exploration for mini people.

confused

And this is where we landed. In a world where now, at roughly 11 months old, Arlo has tried everything. Except honey and shellfish, but they’re not far off. Nuts? He devours them. Oats? Begs for them. Green smoothies? Literally plonks his entire head inside the blender cup to take his sip. My point? Unless there’s a strong medical history of allergies or your doctor has suggested you steer clear, the more variety you can expose your child to the better.

Wondering where to start? With the basics. Real, in-season, non-processed food that tastes delicious. Pureed fruit and vegetables is the easiest, but play around with baking and steaming and adding herbs and spices (obviously not salt) for flavour. Would you want to eat plain, over-cooked steamed broccoli? Then why would your baby?

The real fun starts around 9 months, when they have grasped the concept of food and happily (or reluctantly) sit down for their three meals a day. In my case, Arlo has always enjoyed the sensorial play involved with food and I’ve wanted to encourage that, so I sit him in his high chair as I prepare his meals and talk him through exactly what I’m doing. I show him the ingredients, let him smell, taste and hear the words so he knows what he’s eating, and then when it comes time to eat, I allow him to feel the food so he’s engaged with it. This isn’t for everyone as it can be messy, or considered bad manners, so do what works for you and your family, but having your child involved from start to finish, is, in my opinion, a great way to get them excited about food. Of course, this could all go to shit and he’ll only want to eat chocolate milk when he turns 2, but we’ll  figure that one out if we get there.

I also find he likes to use a spoon and feed himself. This usually ends with food splattered on the floor or down the sides of his high chair so I give him a spoon to practice with and, to ensure he’s actually filling his belly, I also spoon mouthfuls into his mouth as well.

So what to feed them? Now Arlo eats pretty much what we do. Including lettuce leaves, kale, peas (so many peas!), organic eggs and meat and everything in between. But of all the foods we expose him to nothing beats his morning muesli. This is, hands down, his favourite meal of the day, which gives him an amazing balance of protein (nuts and spirulina), iron (prunes), fibre (oats), probiotics for boosted immunity and a healthy gut (kefir), healthy fats (nuts and milk) and even reduced inflammation due to the cinnamon.

Here it is…

 photo

You need:

1/2 cup of rolled oats or cooked quinoa, teff or buckwheat for gluten-free options.
1/2 cup of milk (we vary Arlo’s milk so he’s not having too much dairy. Sometimes it’s unhomogonised organic cow’s milk but mostly it’s homemade almond, coconut or oat ‘mylk’)
3 prunes, de-seeded (if you don’t want any fructose at all you can leave these out)
1 tablespoon of coconut kefir
Pinch of cinnamon
Handful of walnuts, crushed
1 small teaspoon of spirulina powder

Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: When you wake up in the morning, pop your prunes and oats in a small bowl and cover with water to allow to soak. If you’re using other grains that have been pre-cooked, simply soak your prunes and add the grains in step 2.

Step 2: Once it’s time to feed bub, simply add your kefir, spirulina, mylk, walnuts and cinnamon and stir through. The consistency should be almost like a porridge.

Step 3: This is the hardest step of all! Try not to eat too much yourself while you’re feeding bub.

Notes: If you’re avoiding nuts obviously substitute the walnuts and nut mylks for something else. If your baby can tolerate seeds, try pepitas or sunflower seeds instead. Or goji berries work well too. If you would like to sneak some fruit in there (we give Arlo his fruit on its own when he wakes up), simply stir in some berries, a banana or even kiwi fruit for extra Vitamin C.

Coconut kefir can be bought from most good health food stores or organic farmer’s markets. As can spirulina.

There were two books that I found truly helpful and provided me with much inspiration. The first, Wholefood for Children by Jude Blereau and Cooking for Your Baby and Toddler by Louise Fulton Keats (margaret Fulton’s granddaughter).

So tell me Happies…

Have you got any great baby recipes to share?
Do you like the sound of this one?

Happy Interview: The Inspirational Gala Darling!

With a name like Gala Darling, there’s no way this New Zealand-born, New York-based blogger wasn’t going to be a rockstar of some sort. The proud creator of GalaDarling.com, this delightfully strong, sparkly, fabulous woman has provided me with hours of uplifting, honest and inspirational reading since I discovered her website back in 2011, and now Happies, I’m thrilled to say she’s here. On the Happiness Cocktail. Hooray!

I asked Gala to fill in the blanks so we could get a little insight into her busy life. Yes, she’s a blogger, but she also speaks, hosts, writes books and runs a blog academy, fulfilling her life purpose of flooding the world with radical self love. Her approach to life is similar to mine, as you’ll read below, and that’s why I think I resonated so strongly with her. She believes in looking fear in the eye, embracing change, living boldly and courageously and never letting anyone else take you down. She also loves kale, so you know, there’s no way I couldn’t love her.

Here she is…

Gala

Photo by Made U Look Photography!

Hi, my name is… Gala Darling!

I would describe my personality as…excitable and sparkly!

During the day I spend my time…writing, dreaming, adventuring, exploring…

While at night I…am usually causing mischief somewhere in New York City!

I live in New York but grew up in New Zealand, they’re different because…people approach life differently here. It’s hard to make it in New York City, so everyone dreams big, everyone has a goal, everyone has a purpose. I love the energy of the city so much!

I’ve dedicated my life’s work to…showing women that they have options, helping women become someone they only dreamed of being, and encouraging babes to be themselves, fully and passionately.

…and share my thoughts, passions and ideas via my website… galadarling.com and twitter and Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in life so far is…that the best things happen when you take risks.

The things that make me happiest are…travelling, writing, great music, working out and seeing the world as a place of infinite possibilities.

My favourite food is…kale! I am a complete kale addict.

The best advice I ever received was…that you should always be yourself. My parents drummed this into me as a kid and I believe it fiercely.

And the advice I’m going to share with you is…that no matter how scared of change you may be, it’s inevitable… So you might as well change your own circumstances on your own terms, as opposed to waiting for it.

If I could sum up my journey so far in three words they would be…magnificent, wicked, magical.

I see my future as...something wonderful.

Tell me Happies…

Does Gala make you want to live a better life, too?

Stay Happy,

Yaz xx

I’m Off To Find Some Inspiration. Destination: Bali

Despite a little time out over Christmas, it occurred to me that I hadn’t really had a holiday since my great worldly adventure of 2011. Clearly, that needed you change. You see, Happies, most of my inspiration comes from the freedom of travelling abroad. There’s something about new smells, sights, foods and locations that makes me tingle inside. It’s a blessing that I am built to embrace.

Luckily for me, it also happens to coincide with my best friend’s wedding. She’s off to get hitched in Bali with me and a small group of friends standing by her side. Hooray!

Considering I have a small human on the way, Alex and I thought it’s the perfect time to have one last rest before the nest, and so, we’re staying O/S for three sweet weeks. Bali for two weeks, where we’ll be cruising around Uluwatu, before heading up into the mountains of Ubud for some yoga and cycling, and back down to Jimbaran Bay for some fresh seafood and poolside lounging.

We’re then skipping over to Singapore for the weekend, followed by a week in Langkawi, Malaysia, whereby I will be talking about beauty from the inside out at my first international conference. Holy moly, this is a momentous occasion for me, and considering it slipped in so flawlessly with our travel plans already, I’m thinking it’s all meant to be.

So with that I bring you some good news. I’ll be bringing you posts throughout the next few weeks and upon my return on things to do while travelling in B-town. From places to eat, stay and practice yoga, I am on a mission to Zen out and push escape for a little while. I need it. I’m exhausted.

See you soon,

Yaz xx

Bali