Wintering well with mindfulness mentor Isabelle Mary Fitzgerald
- Mindfulness is the ability to fully engage and pay attention to each moment in an open, curious and non-judgemental way
- Just a few of the many benefits of mindfulness include improving our sleep, immune system function and digestion
- Nourishing your body and mind with a mindfulness practice is a great way to keep well over winter
Over the past couple of months we’ve brought you our best tips to help you winter well and live your best life over the autumn and winter. Over a hot cuppa, Sydney-based mindfulness and meditation coach Isabelle Mary Fitzgerald told us why winter is the perfect time to use mindfulness as a tool to focus inwards and put on the brakes for a while.
Introducing Isabelle Mary Fitzgerald – mindfulness and meditation mentor
For the last 25 years, Isabelle Mary Fitzgerald has been a leading mindfulness and meditation coach, helping clients improve their own health and happiness. Founder of My Peaceful Universe, she has curated a one-year online mindfulness and meditation program especially for children. Isabelle also loves running her own mindfulness classes for adults, and especially primary school kids, teaching children essential life skills to manage their mental health and emotional wellbeing before the stress of high school, university and young adulthood.
As an avid fan of Fusion Health and Chinese medicine, Isabelle was fascinated to take our quiz, which determines which elemental constitution you are in Chinese medicine, and to discover that she has a water constitution.
The water element is determined, self-sufficient and independent, and is a seeker of knowledge. Isabelle has an inherent zest for learning and thrives on expanding her skills – so it’s no wonder the water element represents her best.
Mindfulness: awareness and curiosity without judgement
You might have heard of ‘mindfulness’ – but what does it actually mean to be mindful in everyday life? Isabelle explains this abstract concept in a tangible way.
“Mindfulness is the ability to fully engage and pay attention to each moment in an open, curious and non-judgemental way. This includes becoming aware of what we’re doing, thinking and feeling, and learning to approach all our experiences, pleasant or unpleasant, in a kind and more loving way.
We often run away from moments that are unpleasant. Mindfulness is about learning how to approach any unpleasant experiences we encounter with a child-like curiosity. From there, you step back and watch your reaction without all that mental noise.”
Although meditation can be a helpful way to practice mindfulness, there are lots of other ways you can incorporate mindfulness in your daily life too.
Try bringing focus and presence to everyday activities like walking down the street, making dinner, or washing the dishes. If you can put your full attention to the task at hand while curiously noticing the thoughts and feelings that emerge as you do, Isabelle says that you’re on your way to mastering mindfulness.
Benefits of mindfulness meditation
Isabelle explains that there are many ways mindfulness can bring balance to the body and mind. From improving our sleep, immune system function and digestion to helping us to manage stress, mindfulness has many benefits.
“In a nutshell, mindfulness improves our overall health and wellbeing, helping us to feel happier and more appreciative of all the gifts and little miracles in our lives.
It allows us to step off the treadmill of living on autopilot and become fully awake and engaged with life. By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they’re less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are able to form deeper connections with others.
Mindfulness helps us build our muscles of resilience, which means that we have a greater capacity to deal with adverse and challenging events as they arise. It facilitates increased self-awareness which helps you to form a deeper connection with yourself and the world around you.”
Isabelle let us in on another little secret - regular mindfulness practice can even change the structure of the brain! That’s because it creates new neural pathways that make you feel calmer and facilitate a more relaxed and accepting state of being.
Mindfulness for mums
As well as teaching mindfulness classes in person, Isabelle runs online mindfulness workshops for people all over the world. This winter she’s developing an online mindfulness course for mums called The Inner Calm Method - rewire your mind from anxiety to lasting calm in 8 weeks, offering them the support they need to change their life, so they can shift from being stressed to feeling calm and centred.
“After teaching kids mindfulness for so many years I realised that mums should be learning mindfulness too. So, I started offering mindfulness coaching to the whole family, including mums and dads, in my clinic. After witnessing the positive impact it made in those families’ lives, I’ve become really passionate about sharing this important work with mums globally and making it more accessible.”
Why is important for mums to learn mindfulness? Isabelle explains that mums are often so busy multitasking and juggling jobs for their family that they put their own needs last, leaving them feeling stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed. Emotions are contagious so when mums aren’t feeling their best, the whole family is affected.
“Gifting ourselves mindfulness is profoundly life changing and restorative for both mum and the family. Practising mindfulness is a true act of self-care, because you’ll feel calmer, balanced and more resourced, which means you’ll be less stressed when things go wrong!
Children benefit from engaged, responsive, sensitive and emotionally positive parenting. It's a known fact that children of happy parents thrive. When you’re feeling balanced, your family reaps the benefits of a mum who’s flourishing and modelling how to live with more presence, gratitude and joy.”
Isabelle’s mindfulness course for mums will be launching later this year. To find out more, visit My Peaceful Universe and join the mailing list to receive all the latest news, include the launch date of this inspiring course.
Winter wellness tips
Isabelle is a big believer in investing in your health over the winter to stay well and live optimally. Here are some of her favourite tips for staying healthy in the winter:
- Take things slowly
- Exercise often
- Meditate twice a day (Isabelle loves to fall asleep meditating while snuggled up under the doona)
- Increase warming and cooked foods in your diet – Isabelle’s kids love soups and homemade broths, so it’s a win-win
- Drink half a squeezed lemon in warm water in morning
- Stay hydrated with at least eight glasses of warm or room temperature water a day
- Take vitamins and herbs like vitamin C, zinc, olive leaf and medicinal mushrooms for immune support
- Go to bed earlier
- Walk in nature and get outside (Isabelle prioritises getting a vitamin D hit from the sun first thing in the morning by enjoying her garden)
- Nourish your body and mind with a regular mindfulness practice
Recharge and focus inwards in winter
According to Chinese medicine, winter is an ideal time to rest, recharge and turn your focus inwards. As well as taking things slowly, one of Isabelle’s favourite wintertime activities is soaking up the sun in her garden with a good book, and drinking lots of tea!
“I love sitting in my garden or warm cafes sipping tea in the winter, it’s so nourishing and warming, which feels like what my body needs when the weather is cold. Winter is a good time for me to write new meditations, and I reward myself for my hard work by soaking in a warm bubble bath or snuggling up and watching a movie.”
Being a water element in Chinese medicine, Isabelle needs to make sure she balances her introspective time with plenty of interaction with people and nature in the outside world.
“What I love most of all in the winter is taking beautiful walks in nature, by the sea or in the bush – my family always visit the stunning Blue Mountains at this time of year. I spend a lot of my time gardening and I also really enjoy that.”
Isabelle’s top-tip for bringing mindfulness into your daily life
You don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to integrate a mindfulness practice into your everyday. Isabelle shares her wisdom below:
“We are the creators of our lives. Approach situations more objectively by stepping back and becoming the silent observer, pausing and then deciding how you’d like to react before acting. Then you’ll express yourself skilfully with mindfulness.”
Book an online course or coaching session with Isabelle
Isabelle has a range of online courses for the whole family, and also offers one-on-one coaching sessions. Find out more about them here, or register your interest for her upcoming course for mums The Inner Calm Method - rewire your mind from anxiety to lasting calm in 8 weeks. You can also find some of Isabelle’s guided mindfulness meditations on the free Insight Timer app by searching for Isabelle Mary Fitzgerald.
- Tang Y-Y, et al. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2015;vol 16:pp 213-225.