The Magic of being Mindful

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

So you have checked your Facebook feed, snap chatted with your friends, instagrammed what you are eating right now and connected to everyone through the ether. Then why do you feel so disconnected and anxious about not getting a ‘like’ on your status or post?


Now breathe in slowly and now breathe out.

Why should I? I hear you ask.

Recent studies show the benefits of just taking a moment and focusing on your breathing can improve any of the following;

  • Lower stress
  • Improve exam results
  • Shorten migraines
  • Protect your heart

And that is just for starters.

Mindfulness is defined by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness–Based Stress Reduction programme at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, as ’Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose and in the present moment.’

In my 121 tutoring with students and professionals alike, I share the benefits of Mindfulness at the end of our session. We slow everything down, focus on the in and out breath and start to really ‘See’, ‘Hear’ and ‘Feel’ what is going on. The key here is about being present, distancing yourself from the chaos, to just be.

The trial results carried out with children in the classroom over a four-month period, recorded astonishing results and can be seen in the journal Developmental Psychology.

Taking a moment to breathe deeply can make all the difference

Taking a moment to breathe deeply can make all the difference to your stress levels

The children in the Mindfulness studies out performed their peers. The results, I think, speak for themselves;

  • 15% Higher math’s grades
  • 24% Rise in positive behaviour
  • 20% Increase in sociability
  • 24% Decrease in aggressive behaviour

The other areas of noticeable changes in the students were: improved cognitive control, lower stress levels, emotional stability, students feeling more optimistic and increased empathy towards others. This also had a ripple effect across the teaching staff as well as at home.

Google and Apple are amongst the progressive companies that employ Mindfulness techniques. It has been proved to increase decision-making skills, creativity and exam performance.

Being mindful clearly has so many wonderful benefits, so why not take some time and just ‘be’ in the moment, you will notice the difference, I promise.

Link to trial data

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How understanding young adults allows us to teach them important life skills

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Having spent nearly the vast majority of my working life working alongside children in schools, I am fascinated by their capacity to change and to adapt to circumstances. Sometimes they work out the best direction themselves. Sometimes they need a helping hand; even though the behaviour and leadership of their peers can be their guiding light, it is often down to grown ups to show the way. More so with the very young.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my role with The English Manner is that of visiting schools and speaking to pupils, more often than not those in their teens. They are on the whole delightful; open, engaging, interested and unfailingly polite. They listen with courtesy. They seek knowledge and skills. They humour me, when I try my humour on them. But, I suspect that they find part of the message I bring to them quite baffling.

Jimmy Beale, Director of Operations & Educational Development

Jimmy Beale, Director of Operations & Educational Development, speaking to young adults

I speak to them of a world of decisions being made by adults of my own age – decisions as to whether they, as young adults, should be the lucky individual selected for an academic course, an internship placement or for a full-time work role. I speak to them about making the most of the opportunities placed in front of them, in terms of putting their best foot forward in a variety of social or semi-professional situations. I talk of a need for them to engage through open communications, through eye contact, by managing their body language effectively and, most importantly, by creating the right first impression. I give them examples, I show them not how to do it and, between us, we come to an understanding of what might be expected of them when faced with meeting new people.

So, why should they be baffled?

Because, we, as the adults in the positions of power, don’t really understand them. We are old and of a different century. Teenagers come from a world of instant communication, much of it online. They have vast social networks and access to vast platforms of data, much of it instantly forgettable and insignificant. Many of them spend a proportion of their time ‘on their own’ – by this I mean that they will be in contact with others, but often not in the same physical space as them. And it is easy for grown ups to be quite certain that all of this is a bad thing, to judge and to state that the world will be a poorer place as a result…… “It wasn’t like that in my day”.

Securing an internship can be a vital part of a young adult's progression

Securing an internship can be a vital part of a young adult’s progression

But I suggest we need to look closely at ourselves and our own capacity to adapt. We should celebrate all that today’s teenagers bring to the world. The youngsters I meet on my school visits are no different in essence from teenagers in the 80s (bar the fact that they simply don’t quite get Joy Division). They are purposeful, creative and hard working. They are keen to do well and they want to be seen to be doing the right thing.

But if we want them to behave exactly as we were told to behave at their age, we might be expecting too much. Whilst they have different methods of communication, they still understand the need for a certain ‘face-to-face’ charm – it is key to forging trusting and meaningful relationships. However, they may well come about being charming from a slightly different angle. Perhaps it is up to us, as the grown ups, to find out more about their angle of approach?

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Royal Family Traditions at Easter

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Much of the world is gearing up for Easter this week, and certainly for the Christian faith, this is a major festival in the religious calendar. The giving of Easter Eggs is to celebrate new life; the symbol of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and a cracked open egg stands for the empty tomb.

Over the centuries, ordinary eggs were boiled and decorated with hand painting using vegetable dyes and latterly we have turned to one of our favourite confections, chocolate. For young and old alike, Easter and chocolate have become synonymous and a treat to look forward to as winter turns to spring. Eggs are traditionally given on Easter Sunday (again in line with Jesus rising from the dead), and although many households will also eat a Simnel Cake that afternoon for tea, the origins of this were for servant girls to bake the cake for Mothering Sunday in Lent and take home to see their mothers.


A traditional Simnel Cake

A traditional Simnel Cake

The Royal Family like to celebrate Easter with as many of the group together as they can, and traditionally The Queen and the Royal Court move to Windsor Castle for the celebration. Usually staying for a few weeks, The Queen often hosts a State Visit around that time at Windsor, and she also uses the opportunity to entertain frequently.

A popular Easter Court tradition is ‘Dine and Sleep’ invitations. Being so close to London, guests are encouraged to drive out to the Castle in time to enjoy cocktails after changing for dinner (black tie of course!), and spend the night afterwards, departing after breakfast next day. This harks back to a tradition from the Victorian era when there were no cars or chauffeurs to take guests back to London for the night and a carriage ride would take too long! Nowadays, it would take just 40 minutes, but in the Royal Household many traditions are upheld, and this is always a much-coveted invitation.

In this way, Her Majesty manages to entertain very many guests all together from a variety of backgrounds; politics, the arts, industry and education, and they get to enjoy the magnificent setting of Europe’s oldest inhabited Castle, albeit with many aeroplanes whizzing overhead on the Heathrow Airport flight path!

The beautiful Windsor Castle

The beautiful Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is a truly wondrous estate and within the boundary walls is the stunning St George’s Chapel. Here, The Queen and members of the Royal Family will gather for the traditional Easter Day service before a formal lunch which usually offers very similar fare to our traditions at home; Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, and often a simple fish or egg starter, perhaps the Queen Mother’s old favourite of Eggs Drumkilbo (a lovely concoction of lobster, eggs and mayonnaise rather like an upmarket prawn cocktail and thankfully also available at the renowned Goring Hotel!), and apple pie, often served with vanilla ice cream (a la Mode), another favourite.

Members of the Royal Family take up most of the bedrooms and suites in the Castle over Easter, and almost certainly The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall; the Princess Royal and her family; and the Earl and Countess of Wessex will be present. Some members of the inner circle of the Household will be on duty and asked as guests, but the main celebrations are family orientated at this time of year as they often are in our own families.

After several Dine & Sleeps, and potentially a State Visit, there is sometimes very little space between Easter and the early May Royal Windsor Horse Show, when Her Majesty is always on hand to spectate and members of the Family regularly take part. From there, it is usually time to head back to London for the first of the Social Season, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, about which we will write more another time!

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How to Plan for Public Speaking

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

One of the things we all worry about when getting up to speak is that we will forget everything we ever knew, including our own names!

With careful preparation, however, you will not only remember everything you want to say, but also present to your audience all the relevant information in a logical, easily understood and entertaining way.

There's really nothing to fear!

There’s really nothing to fear!

These are the questions you should ask before you agree to speak to anyone anywhere:

  • Why? You will usually be asked to speak either because you are a good raconteur or because you are expert in a certain field.
  • What? You need to know what they want you to talk about and you are the right person to give the presentation. If the occasion is social, the subject might be left up to you. If the talk is work-related, the organiser will probably decide the subject, especially if it is given as part of a bigger event, such as a conference. If this is the case, you need to know what part it will have in the whole event and whether there will be other speakers.
  • Who? You need to know whom you are talking to. Every speech, talk or presentation should be written with the audience in mind. What do your listeners want to know or need to hear? What do they know already?
  • How many? What size is the audience and what age are they? What are their job categories or positions? Is it a mixed audience in terms of gender and culture, and if so, in what proportions.
  • Where? The venue is important. Where is it and how long will it take to get there? How big is the room? If it is a large room with no microphone, is there a need for a sound system, and who will arrange this? If you are taking a laptop, is there a projector? Is there a flip chart or a lectern?
  • How long? Do not be cajoled into speaking for any longer than your subject requires. It is always better to speak for a shorter time than to overrun.


A microphone and lectern need not faze you

A microphone and lectern need not faze you

Give yourself plenty of time. Preparing any sort of presentation takes hours, not minutes. You do not want to be one of those of whom it is said:

‘Before they get up they do not know what they are going to say; when they are speaking they do not know what they are saying; and when they sit down they do not know what they have said!’


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Spa Day Etiquette

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

With Mothering Sunday this weekend a Spa Day can make a wonderful gift and, if you are a daughter, you can even join her for some quality down time together.

However, knowing what is expected of you along with being prepared beforehand can make the difference between a relaxing day and one that may be somewhat more stressful than what you were anticipating.

Firstly, ensure you allow plenty of time before your first treatment. I would suggest waiting at least an hour after your planned arrival time to allow you to change, get to know the Spa layout and to generally start relaxing into the serenity. It can take a while to starting unwinding, especially after travelling, and you don’t want to spend the first fifteen minutes of your treatment waiting for your heart rate to settle down.

Make sure you arrive at the treatment room/waiting area in plenty of time, as often you will need to complete a questionnaire beforehand. If you are late for your appointment then you should fully expect your treatment time to be reduced.

mother and daughter at a spa

Mother & Daughter enjoying a Spa Day

It is polite to your therapist to make sure your personal hygiene is intact before your treatment; shower and ensure any excessive hairiness has already have been taken care of (unless this is a waxing appointment of course).

With regards to chitchat, therapists are trained to take the lead from you. Small talk is definitely superfluous but don’t be afraid to say what you want. If the pressure isn’t hard enough or the whale music is annoying you, then say so.

If you are body-shy then try to remember that therapists have seen all shapes and sizes and will be trained in the art of draping, meaning only the part of the body that is being treated will be exposed. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for a Brazilian Wax, where you will be expected to remove all your underwear and contort your lower body into all different manner of positions. Not for the faint hearted.

Once your treatment has finished you will be instructed by your therapist to ‘take your time’. What this really means is rise from the bed slowly, not take a half hour snooze.

Lady enjoying a Massage

Lady enjoying a Massage

Before you use the sauna/steam rooms check what the dress code is. Most UK Spas will state that swimwear must be worn and a towel should be placed underneath you before sitting. However, if your Spa has separate areas for men and women then they could well permit nudity. In some countries this is actually mandatory even in mixed areas i.e. Austria, so do check beforehand.

It should go without saying that mobile phones are a complete no-no, although I have unfortunately experienced inconsiderate spa goers waking me from my post treatment snooze, so it has to be mentioned.

If you are visiting a Spa with someone else then be considerate of the level of your chat. It’s fine to catch up on the latest gossip whilst enjoying the Jacuzzi, but in the relaxation areas do consider others who may be enjoying a catnap.

Finally, I recommend taking two swimwear outfits. You may wish to return to the pool area a second time and putting on wet swimwear is not a pleasant experience.

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