Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan  Coaching, Training and Consulting


Tips and thoughts on how to have a great life.

view:  full / summary

Three Tips for Eating Mindfully

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on February 2, 2018 at 3:55 AM Comments comments (0)

It’s not uncommon for many of us to over-indulge over the Christmas or holiday period and this is why diets seem to be one of the top New Year’s resolutions on many people’s lists. Or in some people’s cases at the start of February as they finish off all the leftovers after the holidays (that’s if you have any left). I regularly find clients will come to me at this time of year to help realise their goals both personally and professionally and the subject of diet, health and fitness usually emerges at some point.

When I teach Mindfulness I always include a section on Mindful Eating because Mindfulness is one way that you can greater control over, what you eat, when you eat, how you eat and most importantly how you feel about yourself, your body and physical appearance.

I myself struggled for many years with my weight, controlling my eating habits, and my overall opinion of my body. It has through mindful awareness of my thoughts and my eating habits that I now feel I have a healthy relationship with food but most importantly with myself.

So, with this in mind, here are my Three Tips for Eating Mindfully, whether you are on a diet or simply want to have a better relationship with your diet and your body.

1. Pause Before Eating.

This is such a simple thing to do but one we often neglect to do when we are hungry, in a hurry, or paying attention to something other than the meal in front of us; your children, the tv or revisiting the argument you had at work earlier in the day. When we pause before eating we can give ourselves some time to check in with how hungry we are, what we are feeling emotionally, how distracted we are and what our intention is when it comes to this meal. We often neglect to think about the meal itself. Are we eating out of necessity or are we actually hurry? Do we like what we are about to eat or are we punishing ourselves with food we don’t really like because we think we need to diet. Many of these thoughts can create a negative relationship with our food but can have consequences for afterwards when we find ourselves reaching for the biscuits, or cake, or mindlessly eating something in front of the tv.

2. Notice Your Food.

When we begin to eat it is very important to really notice our food. In a regular Mindfulness class this action is often done whilst eating a raisin. It always amazes me how people’s opinions of the raisin changes from intense dislike, or pleasure, at the thought of eating it, to one of curiosity or even indifference by time they’ve swallowed it. When we take time to notice the texture, taste, smell, sweetness, sourness or bitterness of our food our relationship to that particular food can change. Sometimes we realise we don’t really like it, other times we are grateful for the nourishment or satiety that it brings. Look at your food, smell it, notice your opinions or thoughts about it but most importantly slow yourself down with each bite you take.

3. Pay Attention to Your Body

This tip is very important and was one that really helped me to overcome overeating and have better portion control. I didn’t realise for a long time that I had no idea when I was full, or sometimes I couldn’t tell if I was really hungry. When I began to pay attention to my body I realised I need way less food than I had thought previously. My plate size decreased twice in the space of a few months, my portions got smaller and smaller and I found I was much more satisfied after my meals and so, far less likely to want to indulge in treats once my main meal was over. By paying attention to our bodies we can begin to notice what food our body gets pleasure from, what nourishes us and what makes us feel unwell, overly full, or tired and sluggish. After a very short space of I time I found it easy to say no to food because I was able to recognise that I wasn’t hungry. This became a new rule for me, am I hungry, ‘yes’, I can eat, ‘no’, then, no I can’t. This was especially helpful for me as I often struggled to pass up dessert and would be stuffed after a meal out, and uncomfortable all night. (top button open, indigestion and ‘never again’ on internal replay).

When we pay attention to what we are experiencing in the moment around food it can become a lot easier to detect when we are comfort eating, eating out of habit driven by cravings, or bingeing because we are placing too much control on our diet and lifestyle. This is also very important because overeating can often be a response to too much control the rest of the time. I think one of the most important things to remember is that the more we love ourselves and our bodies then the kinder we are to ourselves, the better we eat and the more care we take to give our body what it wants.

Thanks for reading, if I can help you in anyway then please get in touch.

I hope our paths cross again in the future,




Building Resilience in Teenagers

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on January 26, 2018 at 3:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Building Resilience in Teenagers

I’ve always had an interest in what makes some people resilient in the face of adversity and what causes other people to crumble or feel overwhelmed. I’ve had my share of challenging times and I have been fortunate enough to be able to cope even if initially I felt like I couldn’t. This was especially apparent in my twenties when I was faced with some major life events, some of which I have spoken about in earlier blogs, which you can find on my website.

According to the American Psychological Association website ‘Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences’. When we are resilient, we are able to move on from a difficult event and move forward in life. This ability is especially important when we are young as it teaches us a lifelong skill that will stand to us during all major events in our lives. Thankfully according to the APA, it is not something some people have, and others don’t, it is something we can learn and I believe it is vital we teach to our children and teenagers.

In my work as a trainer, teacher and I coach, I work a lot with teenagers helping them deal with negative thinking, stress and how to cope with having an online presence and the potential judgements and criticisms that come with social media. I spend a lot of time researching new ways to cope and how to have better well-being and one of my favourite researchers and writers is Martin Seligman the father of positive psychology.

Seligman has done extensive research into happiness, well-being and resilience and one of his main discoveries is that those of us who are optimistic are less likely to suffer with depression and are more likely to be resilient. Optimism, like resilience, is not something we have, and others don’t, it is also a skill you can develop. When supporting your teen, and yourself, here are some of things to watch out for when it comes to optimism and pessimism.

Do they believe that bad events are transient, or do they think they will last forever? Check for words like always and never in their language. In NLP they are referred to as Universal Quantifiers. Such as – ‘this always happens to me’, ‘I am never any good at this’, ‘I will never get over this’. Language like this is a sign of pessimism. It’s important to get them to see it as a passing event so that they can develop greater optimism. In Mind Coaching, coaches always challenge these types of statements as it usually means there is some underlying negative belief about life or the person himself or herself.

An optimist will see failures as related to specific and momentary issues. For example, a failed exam is because of lack of study not an inability at the subject as a whole. Rejections are to do with the other person’s mood and not because they have a dislike or overall bad opinion of us as a person. Martin Seligman often refers to the ABCD model, which is also used in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. This is knowing that B – our beliefs about A – an adverse situation leads to thinking or behaviour, which is C – the consequences of the event, not the event itself and if we use D – we dispel or dispute the negative beliefs and thoughts and create more useful ones. In NLP we call this reframing and it is extremely useful when we get stuck in a loop and can’t see things from a different perspective. Which leads me on to my next point.

It is important to help teenagers to become more proactive and take charge of what they can control in the face of setbacks. It is very easy for us to develop learned helpless, another area of Seligman’s research, which causes us to think that nothing we can do will change our situations. The reality is there is always something we can do, and it is important that you, and your child, knows that they always have power. Their power can be realised by redirecting their focus into something more useful like subjects at school they excel at. It can be teaching them to ask for help or being creative in the way they study, or learn, or coming up with multiple reasons for why an event has happened and how this could be useful. Feedback is better word than failure and feedback is ‘always’ useful. It can also be helping them to reframe or change their thinking so, they have greater control over their view of the situation.

A perfect example of this comes from a client I worked with a couple of years ago who had anxiety around going to school, this is a very common reason why clients come for my help. They realised after some talking that they had created all sorts imaginary scenarios about what could possibly go wrong when they were at school. They ranged from crying in class, getting in trouble, being laughed at, failing a test, forgetting their books and being rejected by their friends.

I got them to think of all the good things that had happened to them in the past week, past month, and past year at school and we counted how many of these things were likely to happen again. We then looked at how many of the negative ones had actually happened and realised that most of them had only, in some cases, happened once across all their years in school and some of them never. This sudden realisation helped my client to start to plan to have good days with lots of the good things, that were already happening anyway, occurring. They changed from pessimism to optimism and from helplessness to empowerment.

Finally, well at least for this post, it is important to be able to move on and let go of the past and for this I recommend some form of Mindfulness. When we are mindful we begin to notice that events come and go, as do feelings, and the more we pay attention to this fact the easier it is for us to be able to move on when things go awry. Feeling blue or down only lasts as long as we are thinking about the causes of our feelings. Believing that things will never change forces us to hang on to these negative feelings however, when we allow ourselves to be more present and to realise that it is our thinking that causes a past event to cause us pain, and not the event itself as it is already over. Letting go of the past can seem like a challenge which is why many meditation teachers say, ‘let it be’. Just leave it where it is, in the past, and begin to think about what you can change, what you do have control over and what you can do to be more optimistic.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or want to book a one to one session, email, phone +353868373582, or PM via Facebook.

I hope our paths cross in the future,



Dealing with Exam Stress

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on January 19, 2018 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

4 Tips to Help Your Teenager Manage Their Stress

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on January 12, 2018 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)

At this time of year, the focus in many household is on the fast approaching exams, whether it’s at second level or college. The time for the mock exams comes around very fast and many teenagers begin to really feel the pressure, or become aware of what they don’t think they know rather than what they do. This is also added to by the fact that teachers are trying to get course material covered and often inadvertently create added pressure because of their own fears for their students. I know, I worked at second level for over 15 years and still deliver programmes in schools annually.

This unfortunately leads to many young people experiencing high levels of stress which is also added to by the proliferation of information in the media and propensity for social media to make us compare ourselves with others. Irritability, sleepless nights, withdrawal into oneself, lack of confidence and giving up, are common outcomes of a teen experiencing high levels of stress.

So, what can we do about it? Below are my top four tips for helping your teenager manage their stress. It’s also a useful list for any of us if we are faced with, or are experiencing, a stressful period in our lives.

Help Them Make a Plan:

One of the most important aspects of preparing for anything is to have a plan. I’m a natural planner and many of you may be yourself but lots of teenagers fail to plan because they are more focused on the now and reacting to what’s happening in the moment, which leads to distraction. Schools are excellent at encouraging students to have a study plan, but I think the plan should be bigger than that. The plan should include time for relaxation, time for dealing with the unexpected, what to do if things go wrong and if things aren’t working. It’s also vital that the plan is realistic. Very often I will work with a client who will tell me that they will study 5 hours a day but when we look at the ecology of their life, time for eating, sleeping, commitments and numerous other things that occur on a day to day basis, they soon realise 5 hours is not possible. It’s also important when creating a plan to understand what is important to focus on, what subjects need most attention and what is best way to go about studying them. This leads me to my next tip.

Help Them Know Their Strengths:

Often when I work with young clients they know what they like and what they are good at, but they have no idea why. If we don’t know how we do something when we do it well then, we have no idea how to recreate that in other areas of our lives. In NLP we call this modelling. In fact, NLP was founded on modelling when Richard Bandler and John Grinder studied the excellence of Virginia Satir and Milton Erikson, among others. If you get your son or daughter to examine what they do when studying and working at their best, then they can start to apply these skills to subjects and areas they are less successful or productive in. If they aren’t sure if this will work then, they can look to someone else who does it well and find out how they do it.

Help Them See the Bigger Picture:

When we get focused on specifics and get caught in a loop of negative thinking we often miss out on what things mean in a bigger context. When we look at the bigger picture we can start to see how things fit in the broader sense of our life and what we actually want. For example, I recently worked with a client who was obsessing over an assignment in which they got a low mark. When we looked at the bigger picture they were able to see how this was good feedback for improvement, it wasn’t going to affect their final results and in the context of what they wanted to do with their life, what they learnt on their course was more important than results at the end of they day. They also realised that in ten years-time no one, including themselves, would probably remember that they had failed this assignment. Focusing on the bigger picture can help with planning studies, choosing subjects to focus on as well as knowing your values and what is really important in life. Remember, as a parent your values can often influence your child,especially if they think failing in anyway will let you down. It’s important they know you love them no matter what!

Help Them Take Control of Their Stress:

As a Meditation Instructor I regularly meet people who know they are stressed but are slow to do anything about it. Stress can be an addictive experience because the unconscious mind likes familiarity. This is why it is so important that stress-management becomes part of a routine so, the habit you have for dealing with your stress is more powerful than the habit of feeling stressed. Obviously, I am bit biased so, I am going to list meditation as my first choice when it comes to stress-management, but I know that meditation isn’t for everyone therefore, help your child, or yourself, find the outlet that suits them. It may be yoga or tai chi, walking, running or a team sport. It’s also important to remember that some things that may seem relaxing at first can be more stressful without us realising it. This is especially true depending on whether we are introverts or extroverts. For example, chilling out with a group of friends might be ideal for an extrovert who feels energised by people, but it could be exhausting of you are in introvert who needs time alone to decompress. Encouraging your child to take up a sport may be useful, but some groups sports are best suited to some extroverts and solitary sport activities are more often suited to introverts. This really is about knowing themselves and their own needs rather than the label, take time to help them find out what works best. It’s always wise to remind ourselves that what we might like is not always the same as what your child might like, or importantly need.

I hope you found this useful? If you have any questions or would like to book a coaching session for your son or daughter, or yourself, then you can PM me via Facebook, email or phone +353868373582. I do sessions face to face or via skype.

Thanks for reading. I hope your paths cross in the future,


NLP Mind Coach IAMC, Meditation Instructor IAMI.



Competition Time

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on January 5, 2018 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (0)

To coincide with the start of the New Year and all the resolutions we make to look after ourselves. I'm running a competition on my Facebook page for a zafu meditation cushion and a free MP3 meditation from my Introduction to Mindfulness online course. Just go to my Facebook page to Like and Share the post and be in with a chance to win, Elfreda

Happy New Year

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on January 1, 2018 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Wishing you all the very best for this New Year. May all your dreams come true, Elfreda

Taking today Off

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on December 29, 2017 at 4:10 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm taking today off from my usual weekly blog post to spend some time with family and friends. I'll be back next week with a competition for the New Year, Elfreda

Happy Christmas

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on December 25, 2017 at 3:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Wishing all my clients, students and delegates a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2018. Thank you for your ongoing support and custom, Elfreda