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Connect with your body: Find happiness within

Milla Lascelles is one of our wellness practitioners, consulting at Bamford Haybarn in London. A health and lifestyle coach, Milla graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and is a member of the UK health coaches association. Milla’s holistic approach is all about bio-individuality, the theory that the body can heal itself.

What do people most commonly seek your help with?

The driving factor behind people coming to see me is a sense of imbalance or feeling of unease, of not being wholly content. The most common reason behind this is stress, but I also see people with anxiety or weight issues, lack of self-confidence and even loneliness.

How do you work with people to address their concerns?

I start by addressing ‘primary nutrition’: a client’s relationships with others as well as with themselves, physical activity, career and mindfulness practice, to see how these are affecting their well-being, before we move on to look at secondary nutrition – the foods they put on their plates.

In what ways can our food affect our happiness?

Happy gut; happy mind. There’s a strong and proven link between the foods we eat and our happiness. The gut is believed to be our ‘second brain’: our gut and our brain are in constant communication and the health of each is believed to be intertwined. The gut is where 90 per cent of our serotonin, our ‘feel-good hormone,’ is found. Serotonin affects how we feel, act, sleep and work, as well as our emotions, so low mood, depression and anxiety are all associated with altered serotonin levels.

It is believed that our gut bacteria can both, directly and indirectly, influence these levels, so choosing to feed our gut real foods, not processed ‘food like’ products is a great way to begin nourishing the microbes that help regulate our serotonin. Prebiotic foods such as chicory root, leek, garlic and asparagus all help to feed the gut’s good bacteria.

Are there ‘happy foods’, or longer-term mood boosters?

Food can affect how we feel but there’s no one catch-all solution for everyone and no person’s reaction to foods will be the same. That said, there are common guidelines. If you’re feeling very stressed, for example, your body is in fight or flight mode and is very acidic. Eating alkaline foods, such as green leafy vegetables, can help balance this acidity, and fermented foods, such as kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and miso soup can all help bolster your gut, which is sensitive to stress.

Three steps to a happier self

1.) Have a nourishing morning routine

Sitting in silence for 5 minutes in the morning and just doing a body scan is important as it brings you into the present which is where we want to be. Having a daily mantra and affirmations can also help set you up for the day. I like to write out my three ps: a person, a pleasure and a promise.

2.) Being present brings positivity

Stress and anxiety sit in the past and future. The more present we are in our day-to-day life the more calm we’ll be. As a coach I see ‘destination addiction’ everywhere – the preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are. I have clients who set reminders on their phone which tell them to stop what they’re doing, take some breaths, observe thoughts and feelings and sensations to proceed mindfully.

3.) Taking in the good

When we rest our attention on positive experiences we are increasing our ability to deal with stress and reactivity, strengthening our immune system and leading ourselves towards greater overall happiness. I advise clients to spend 30 seconds allowing their attention to focus on an experience that made them happy, bringing their attention to the sense of smell/feel/sound/taste etc of that experience. You can practice this when something is happening there and then too.

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