One word can change how we feel.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, when a well-meaning friend, loved one, boss, colleague or whoever is giving you advice, you are left feeling tense, anxious or even angry? Not the intended outcome at all.

I recently had this experience when someone I love very dearly was trying to help me with something. As he spoke I could feel my heart beginning to beat faster and I began to feel overwhelmed and in the end I just asked him to stop talking!

Being NLP trained, I understand language patterns. In fact it’s what I listen for in my coaching sessions and I use specific language to question and challenge limiting beliefs to help people to move forward.

So, although I didn’t respond to my ‘adviser’ in a measured, ‘coachy’ way (it’s not so easy when you love ’em:), I was able to understand how the advice I was being given was having such a negative impact on me. The one word being used over and over again was ‘should’. When we tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do, we’re not really giving advice at all. We’re giving judgement, giving orders, giving criticism and telling someone else what we would do in their shoes. The problem is, we can only wear our own shoes, no-one else’s really fit.

Another unhelpful phrase that seems to be appearing more frequently, particularly online is ‘need to’. It was a phrase used endlessly in emails from solicitors in our recent house move. ‘Need to’ has a bullying tone and when it’s used in the process of buying and selling a house, it just ramps up the stress levels!

So what can we use instead? One simple word changes the whole meaning. and therefore the feeling. That word is ‘could’. It gives us choice, power and allows us time to ponder before action. It allows our brain to use different neural pathways and consider possibilities, as the one we’re being offered may not be right for us. When we replace ‘should’, ‘need to’, ‘ought to’ and ‘must’ with ‘could’ we are giving guidance and support, suggestions and possibilities. When it’s a request, it’s also good manners. ‘Could you please complete the form…’ Instead of ‘You need to…’ is far less aggressive and much more conducive to any relationship.

Of course, it may be that it’s not someone else that is using this language. Much of the time we are using it in our own self-talk. Take notice of the voice in your head, listen to the language you are using. Is it full of ‘should’s’? We are often more critical of ourselves than we ever would be with someone else. And if we choose to use any one of these stress-inducing words or phrases repeatedly, we are putting pressure on ourselves, judging, condemning and even self-bullying. And when we do, we release a cocktail of stress hormones that might be useful on a temporary basis if we’re about to do a skydive or run away from someone wielding a knife but if we are continually in a state of stress, we are down-grading our immune system, a precursor to dis-ease.

Noticing the language we use in our heads and changing ‘should’ to ‘could’ is just one simple way we can begin to reduce stress and anxiety. So, next time someone else tells you that ‘you should apply for this job, it’s made for you!’, try replying with ‘I could do, or I could look elsewhere, stick with what I’m doing now or something else…the possibilities are endless’ and see how good it feels!

Nanna’s Beliefs.

Last year I had to do a presentation for my NLP Train the Trainer course. Inspired by another mind-blowing book I had just read, The Biology of Belief By Professor Bruce Lipton, I decided to focus on beliefs and how powerful they can be, in creating thoughts, that generate feelings, that lead to actions and reactions…that reinforce our beliefs. Bruce Lipton’s research shows how strongly held beliefs can not only affect our body’s trillions of cells, but actually change our DNA. I told you it was mind-blowing!

Anyway, as with all good NLP presentations, I began with a story. It happens to be true, although whether you believe it or not, is of course, up to you.

I was very lucky to have two amazingly warm and wonderful Nannas in my life. The lovely lady above is my Nanna Gladys. and the story is about her. Now, as Nanna Gladys got older, she would repeatedly get phone calls, letters and messages from her GP’s surgery, asking her to make an appointment with the nurse to have a flu jab. Nanna’s response was always the same. ‘No thank you, I don’t need it. I don’t get the flu’. As each new winter season came about, the requests got more demanding. ‘You must have the flu jab, at your age, flu could be dangerous, even fatal’, would be the plea from nurses, receptionists and GPs alike.

Now Nanna, like Rosa Parks when she sat on that bus and refused to get up and give her seat to white folk, was a tiny, polite, quiet, unassuming lady. She didn’t want to make a fuss, she just didn’t believe she needed the flu jab.

You see, Nanna had a secret weapon.

At the first sign of a sniffle, sneeze, headache or any other minor aliment she felt was ‘coming on’, she would take a ‘Beechman’s powder’ before bed, knowing she would wake the next morning as right as ninepence. Now for those too young to know, Beechman’s (she often got her words a bit muddled, you know what she meant!), used to come in powder form, in little paper packets (I know, sounds dodgy but go with me on this). Nanna would take the powder with a little cold milk like a magical elixir, on a teaspoon, with a knowing smile.

My beautiful Nanna Gladys lived for 101 years. She never took statins or blood pressure pills. She looked after the old folk in her neighbourhood until she was well into her 80’s and lived independently until after her 100th birthday. She rarely got colds…she never had a flu jab. And she never got the flu.

Beliefs. Powerful things.

#biologyofbelief #mindbodyconnection #mindset

Unconditional Gifts

I’ve recently had a birthday and was asked by several friends what I’d got, and I know that they meant gifts that I’d received, bought, wrapped and presented in a package. Although I’d been lucky enough to get plenty of these type of gifts, I wanted to reply that I’d received precious time with loved ones, a good belly laugh with friends, sharing new experiences and playing. I know this all sounds like a cliché but for me, each birthday is marked with gratitude for still being in this life and being able to feel emotions that these moments bring.

So this got me thinking. What do we think when we’re giving a gift to others? Do you think of gifts as the material kind or do you acknowledge that these come in many forms. Do you give it unconditionally? Or do thoughts attach themselves to the giving, such as, ‘I hope she appreciates it’, ‘if I give this, I’ll get that’, ‘I’ve got to buy her something so this will do’ and what about those unconscious thoughts of, ‘this will show her how much I’m worth’, or ‘this will tell him I’m the most important person in his life’ and how about when we play the martyr, ‘I’m always the one giving and get little in return’.

Many of us have these unconscious thoughts and are therefore left feeling hollow when we give and wonder why. When we give for reasons of duty, self-sacrifice, resentment, wanting something in return, we’re not really giving at all. We’re taking, we’re choosing to be needy, to suffer. By uncovering what we’re really thinking, as uncomfortable as it might be, we can choose to let go of them and focus instead on just giving for pleasure, to help and from a place of love.

And gifts don’t have to be wrapped in fancy paper and cost a penny. We don’t even have to know the person we’re giving to. Have you ever smiled at a stranger and see their face light up when you do? That’s your gift in that moment. When did you last send a message to someone out of the blue, just to say you’re thinking of them or sending them best wishes, without any expectation of anything in return?

When I was in Edinburgh last week I met a lady and we got talking. In the middle of our conversation she mentioned the book ‘Dying To Be Me’ by Anita Moorjani. She asked if I’d read it and when I said no, she said she thought I’d love it. How did she know? What made her say that? We’d only just met. The book was lying on the table of the book sales, later that day so I bought a copy.

I read it in two days and found it inspiring, thought-provoking, emotional and beautiful and it has touched me in so many ways.

So although the lady that told me about it didn’t actually buy it for me, her gift was clear. She told me because she thought it would give me pleasure, mean something to me. And she wanted nothing in return.

Notice these small and subtle gifts in your life. They are all around you, just waiting for you to accept them. Be mindful of their impact on you and you will feel as grateful for these as the gifts that come in boxes.

Science and Mysticism From Dr Joe

Last weekend I took the train to Edinburgh to take part in Dr Joe Dispenza’s progressive workshop. I have to be honest, I knew nothing about this neuroscientist/ chiropractor/researcher/lecturer and expert on the brain, mind and human potential until 6 months ago when a friend introduced him into my life and persuaded me to go to this event. I knew that it would involve meditation, something I had not yet embraced on my journey to wellness. And something I knew would benefit me greatly.

I believe that things come into my life at the time I choose to be ready for them and that was certainly the case with this workshop. Dr Joe not only knows his stuff, he’s engaging, funny, passionate and compassionate. The weekend included teaching the science behind what happens to the brain when we think and what happens to the body when we feel and how repeating patterns of unhelpful habits of thinking and feeling lead to disease and how we can break these habits through his form of meditation. For a science geek like me who wants to know ‘how’, it was fascinating.

Almost half of the time was spent meditating and for someone who had barely managed 10 minutes prior to this event, the hour-long deep meditations sessions were a challenge at first, however, once I stopped ‘trying’ to do it right, I was able to put my body to sleep, stop my analysing brain and experience a peaceful state of nothing, at least in moments.

So I get it Dr Joe. I get how living in a constant state of stress for many years had ‘down-graded’ my immune system, leading to me being ill. I get that stress from my environment through toxic food, chemicals and people had lead to an imbalance of hormones. I get that believing I’m not good enough, feelings of fear and anger lead to the release of stress hormones and my poor immune system couldn’t cope.
I get why I’m feeling happier and healthier since making changes to my life, starting during my cancer treatment. And now Dr Joe, I understand the importance of finding order in the chaos of the mind, how this can bring about healing and infinite possibilities. I get that this is the same message the mystics and prophets have been giving us for thousands of years and I love the fact that science and mysticism are now speaking the same language.

I’m excited to begin this new chapter in my continued journey of wellbeing and self development and I look forward to sharing these learnings with others. Thank you Dr Joe for a truly inspiring, fascinating and mind-blowing weekend.

Lentil Soup for the Soul

It’s a common belief that eating a healthy diet is more expensive. It’s simply not true. What is expensive is eating convenience, processed food labelled as ‘healthy’. If it’s processed, it’s likely to contain a range of chemicals and ‘foods’ that the body doesn’t recognise and so these can often do more harm than good. Nothing is better for us than food in it’s natural state where the body can use up all the goodness and help keep us healthy.

In the mid 90’s, I was a busy working, single Mum and often found it was a real challenge to find enough money for the weekly shop.
This soup was a life-saver. My son says he was brought up on it. And that’s got to be a good thing! I still love it. It’s tasty, hearty, nutritious.

Red lentils are rich in iron, folate, heart-protecting polyphenols, zinc and fibre to support gut health and the immune system and a good meat-free source of protein. And of course, the veg and herbs are full of vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients, for example, garlic, sage and rosemary contain concentrated nutrients that fight inflammation and boost immunity.

The traditional recipe is great in the cooler months, with seasonal veg and those lovely woody herbs. It can be made in bulk and frozen too.

Ingredients (all approx. just give it a try)

A tablespoon of olive oil

1 medium onion

2-3 carrots

2 sticks of celery

2 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic

125g dried red split lentils

1.5 litres veg stock

A good handful of chopped, woody herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme.
Salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.


Chop and slice the veg, grate the garlic, remove the woody stalks from the herbs and finely chop. Leave the bay leaves whole.

Heat the oil very gently in a large pan and add the onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves, place a lid on and sweat gently until onions are soft and translucent (about 5 mins).

Grate in the garlic and stir for a minute before adding the lentils and stirring all together.Add the veg stock, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and add the chopped herbs.

Simmer gently for at least 20 minutes until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Season to taste and serve.
This soup is very versatile. You can pimp it up with spices such as turmeric, cumin, mustard or paprika and a can of coconut milk or add any wilting veg at the bottom of the fridge. Root or ‘woody’ veg needs to be sweated down. Leafy veg like kale can be chopped and added just before serving.

The Joy of Ginger Tea!

In 2017, my 84 year old Dad fell into a lake and almost drowned. The result was that he inhaled dirty water and ended up in hospital for several weeks with pneumonia. He was given strong IV antibiotics that were dealing with the infection but making him violently sick. The doctors tried a range of anti-sickness medication, but nothing worked.

That is until I took him some home-made ginger tea. My Dad has a very sweet tooth so he wasn’t keen to try it at first. However, his desire to stop vomiting overcame him and he began drinking it. The feeling of nausea started to go almost immediately, and the sickness stopped.

There is plenty of research to back up this story too. Root Ginger is the best thing for settling the stomach after sickness bugs, medication such as antibiotics and chemotherapy, morning sickness, travel sickness, and any other nausea-related condition.

The benefits don’t end there either. It’s also good for bloating,  lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and improves circulation and it helps with the absorption of nutrients. It’s anti-inflammatory properties can reduce joint pain and menstrual cramps.

To get the most out of this delicious spice, forget expensively packaged teabags. Root ginger is cheap to buy and tea is easy and quick to make, and well worth the little bit of effort needed!

fastest-most-efficient-way-peel-fresh-ginger-root-no-knives-peelers-required.w1456Take a piece of ginger the size of a thumb nail (or less if you don’t want it strong) and peel it using the inside of a teaspoon.

Slice thickly straight into a cup or grate into a tea strainer and place over the cup.

Pour over boiling water and leave for a few minutes to infuse. Remove the strainer or spoon out the slices.

Add a slice of lemon to give it a citrus flavour, a pinch of turmeric powder or cinnamon to give it a warm, spicy taste.


Alison Harris