Mindset magic, new habits, inspiring community.
It’s all about mindset. That was the penny drop moment for Alyce Merrilees. Struggling with lockdown and work overwhelm, Alyce came to realise that she was putting everyone else ahead of the most important person in her life, herself.
This revelation would see her embark on a transformational journey that included waking at 5am, practicing over 4000 minutes of meditation and breathwork in 4 months, and going for cold water swims every single day for 100 days (today is actually her 100th dip!).
Sharing her progress on her Instagram page, Alyce is inspiring everyone around her, has convinced countless friends and strangers to join her in ice baths (including myself) and is bringing smiles and joy to everyone she meets.
I spoke to this vivacious human about her incredible journey, how it’s changed her outlook on life, and the wonderful opportunities that have fallen into her lap as a result.
Alyce Merrilees is…
Alyce is adventurous. Alyce loves life. And lately even more so, Alyce is keen to live every moment in the moment and connect with people. But that’s always a really hard question to sum yourself up in a paragraph.
I think through lockdown I noticed more than ever how much I really love people. I really love connection and I really love adventures, and that was missing. Right now I’m living every minute in every moment, with good people around me, and that’s what makes Alyce even better.
I love that. And it’s absolutely coming through, and anybody who knows you or follows you on Instagram can absolutely see that. But if we just take a step back for a moment, what do you do for a living? And what has your journey up until this point looked like for you?
I have been an operations manager in the childcare industry for a very long time. I absolutely love it. I love leading teams, seeing people achieve their goals, and building good workplace cultures. Seeing people smile in their job and thrive makes me so happy. The job as an operations manager is very exciting to me and something that has taught me a lot of skills throughout my career.
Last year during COVID, I worked really hard to achieve some amazing things for families and children during lockdown. I’m really proud of it, but I did forget in that time to focus on Alyce and do the things that made me happy.
I’m always helping others. I give a lot. But you have to remember sometimes to give back to yourself.
That whole concept of filling your own cup first, before you can help others. I can imagine that you would’ve been running a bit dry last year.
Definitely. I was accomplishing so many things and I was so proud watching my team around me, but I started to realise that I was losing my vibrancy.
I don’t think it really helps that, like me, you get a lot of our energy by going out dancing, or to eat, and by searching for new and exciting experiences. Last year we just couldn’t have that. I would assume for you that time of being still has really set you up for this new journey that you’re on. And if you didn’t have that space, maybe this wouldn’t have happened?
Definitely. I think about that all the time. And I think about how much I’m so grateful that this virus entered the world in a lot of ways. Sounds crazy. But yes, I think it made me stop and think about things and go inward and really understand who is Alyce? What does Alyce want? Who does she want around her? And what is her purpose? Which I never would’ve done. Or maybe I would’ve, but not in the timeframe I have. So I’m so grateful that this happened and made me stop.
I was always very fast paced – go to this dinner, go to this nightclub, go to this person’s house, always on the go. So yeah, I think slowing down helped me so much.
So you’ve obviously been on this very transformative journey over the last year. Can you tell me what actually spurred this and how that has all unfolded for you?
I think what spurred it was the moment that I realised that I’d forgotten about Alyce, and I felt really burnt out, lethargic and was struggling to even get out of bed. I started to realise I needed to change something and really start to search inside me.
So I decided to invest in a six-week healing course with an amazing lady called Katie Valentine.
I was watching her Instagram posts of her healing journey and I just had this gut feeling that this was something that I needed to do. I didn’t actually know what she did or what this six week course was. I just said sign me up.
Something about Katie’s posts resonated and I knew it was something I needed to gift myself for my birthday. And I am so grateful for her and the tools she’s given me to transform my life.
What was actually involved in the course?
It was called Metamorphosis and it was a six week course. In the first session she set me a morning routine that would really set up my day. She personalises a routine to what she thinks you need. So some people love to run around the block every morning or go for a bike ride. But as I’m not a fan of exercise, she tailored it to me and it involved meditation and breathwork and things like that. Katie says that the people that succeed most in this course are the people that stick to it.
Another part was hypnotherapy. There was also astrology, which was fascinating, as well as sound healing. The purpose of the course itself was to set yourself up for success with setting goals and routines in my life.
You tell her what you want to focus on and answer all these questions. I really wanted to focus on self-worth and self-belief, and really understand who Alyce is so I could start to shine again. Mine was a lot around childhood trauma. And when I started doing inner child meditation something shifted in a big way and the world started shining brightly again.
Was meditation and breathwork something you already were doing?
No it wasn’t. I always thought that meditation meant you had to sit really still, really quietly and shut off all your thoughts. But then when I started to do guided meditation I realised it’s giving you space to explore your thoughts and deal with your thoughts. And it’s okay that the thoughts come in and come out. Sometimes I do a 10-minute meditation and I think I only listen for one minute. But it’s okay. Because that one minute has reprogrammed something in my unconscious mind.
Tell me about your whole morning routine. What does that now involve?
It involves a guided meditation and then a little bit of breathwork. Just a couple of minutes to really breathe and wake up your nervous system. Then dancing around my room. I told her that I love dancing and she knows that I love music. So four minutes of dancing around my room to whatever track I wanted. And then I’ll put up my blinds and look out over my balcony at the city and just dance. Sometimes I don’t feel like dancing and I’d just do a little stretch, but any kind of movement. Finally some journaling around gratitude and manifestation.
Did you find it hard initially to start? Because I know you’re getting up at 5am at the moment. Was that part of the morning routine as well, that early rise?
Yes I’ve been waking up at 5am for the most part since I started this process. Waking up before the sun and watching the sun rise is so beautiful. It comes with a sense of solitude and having that time by yourself to sit and reflect. I found that the earlier I wake up, the better I feel. You experience so much and you have more time.
I think when you get up and you go straight to your desk, everything is rushed from there and you get anxious or stressed. But when you have that time in the morning, the whole day is just easier.
How did the cold water immersion become part of the routine?
I was actually recommended cold showers by a friend and then not long after Katie added them to my routine. At first I was taking a hot shower and would gradually turn it to cold. I would try to stay under there for 30 seconds. That really woke me up.
I just felt so good, my creativity came back and I was coming up with all these amazing ideas in the shower and my mind was alive again. And that progresses to getting in the ocean and has started a whole other journey.
Were the ocean swims your idea as well?
My friend Eliza had been jumping in the ocean for a very long time, I think two years. And I kept seeing her Instagram posts and I kept asking her over the years, why do you do this? I kept thinking, one day I might do that. But I hate the morning and I hate the cold.
I suggested it to my friend Radz and she was all for it. The night before we were going to embark on our first dip I chickened out as I convinced myself I might go into cardiac arrest. Fear got the better of me. A few weeks later Radz convinced me to finally take the plunge
Thanks to Radz, and my friends Olivia and Simone, I went down to Elwood and we only lasted 20 seconds – it was freezing – but we were very proud and were just buzzing afterwards! I decided I wanted to keep doing it and have now been doing cold water immersion for 128 days straight every single day and am now swimming for a minimum of 10 minutes.
What are the benefits of cold water immersion?
There are so many but the one that got me over the line was when Eliza told me she no longer gets hangovers! I didn’t believe her, but thought this is the one thing that’s gonna get me in that ocean, because I love drinking wine and dancing and having fun. And she was right!
But in addition, it creates better blood flow by boosting your circulation, and also wakes up your nervous system. It also speeds up your metabolism and assists with pushing all those toxins out as well. When it’s doing those things it’s putting your body under stress, so now when I’m faced with a stressful situation in my job or in my life, I don’t get that immediate reaction of like my body tensing up.
We break through barriers of fear out there too. Because you think you can’t make it. You’ve gotta do some crazy things out there to get to 10 minutes every day in the freezing cold ocean. But the number one thing that it’s taught me is you can literally do anything you put your mind to. It’s resilience and dedication and building habits.
I love when people come along with me and I see them get to the 10 minute mark and how happy they are! I get so much great feedback about how alive they feel or how productive they’ve been.
How did you go from that to the ice baths?
I met Lars from Lars’s Ice Bath International through my friend Brad, who then took me for my first ice bath. He has said to me, when you’re ready, you tell me, I have a friend who does ice baths. It took me a week, but one day I woke up to do an ocean dip and mother nature was going mental. It was too dangerous.
I wanted to keep this challenge going so decided that was the day I was going to do an ice bath. We did a breathwork session before and I cracked the five minute mark, with Brad and Lars cheering me on. I just felt so happy there. And then the feeling after was just incredible!
It also helps that Lars is just an absolute legend. His ability to coach you through that breathwork and the ice bath is really something else. He’s so caring and so attentive, I felt very safe the whole time.
I’ve never heard one person get out of the ocean or ice bath and say they regret it. They all come back.
You’ve come so far in the last year, but how would you like to take this journey onwards?
I’m currently doing two courses right now. This is what happens when you just start opening yourself up to the universe and doing good things for yourself, you just get so motivated! I’ve started a life coaching course because I realised through sharing my posts on Instagram how many people were reaching out to me and how many people really needed this.
I studied social science and I always wanted to be a psychologist, but then I moved away from that to be a youth worker, and then started working in corporate as an operations manager. So I’ve always been in the people world.
But what Katie is doing has really resonated with me, and every session she would do, I was like, oh my goodness, I love this. And then the more I unpacked that through all my journaling and manifestation, I’ve realised that my purpose is to help people and inspire people.
I’ve never studied something that interests me so much. I can’t wait to do the next module! I’m also doing a mentorship program and a second course with Katie to help me further work out what I want to do with this work.
You’ve cracked something open here and it’s now all just starting to fall in place. I’ve always thought of you as a super magnetic person, but do you think this has taken it to that next level?
Definitely. It’s actually crazy when you start to really focus within, focus on yourself, really understand yourself – that’s when the magic happens. I sit on my bed often and think daily about all the synchronicities and all the magic that’s flowing in because I focused on myself, understood what I wanted, my worth, and my self belief.
I think you start vibrating at this different energy and you start to just attract things that you don’t even really have to try for.
Definitely! Things just start going your way because you are vibrating and you are putting out this really positive energy that people want to be around and it changes everything.
I think a lot of that giving of energy and receiving of energy, it’s all based around boundaries. Which always sounds like a very negative thing, but it’s actually the most positive thing that you can do for yourself and for others, is to have clear boundaries about when you are and you aren’t available.
I know you have your days where it’s Alyce day, where you’ve said you’re not going to make any commitments with anybody so you can recharge and focus on you for a day.
It’s so important. Not everyone has a whole day, but I turned off my phone all day and I got my whole goals list for the entire week done in that time.
But then some weeks I’m super busy and I get nothing done. But that’s life, it ebbs and flows. We need to stop being so hard on ourselves and just enjoy the moment.
How has all this work changed, not only your life, but the lives of those people around you, your friends, your family? Do you feel like it’s having that flow-on effect?
Definitely. So many people have reached out to me and communicated to me in a way that they wouldn’t have before, and have said, I’m really struggling. Why are you doing this? How can I get involved?
If anything, it’s that whole connection piece. Connecting with people and allowing them to express themselves and be vulnerable, which is something I really struggled with. We weren’t taught how to be vulnerable. We were told to just get on with life.
When you learn how to really open up and be vulnerable and say what you truly feel from the heart, it makes other people feel comfortable to do the same.
Final question, can you describe your perfect day to me?
Oh I love this question! I’d start with watching the sunrise and my morning routine, because it’s changed my life, so meditation, breathwork, jumping in the ocean. I love bike riding, so going on a bike ride. And then obviously eating! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or having a supreme meal!
Any notable establishments that would feature?
I love Freddy’s and sitting out in that courtyard, eating beautiful Italian food, drinking Italian wine. I recently went to a fine dining restaurant called Amaru, which was probably the second best meal I’ve ever eaten in my life.
But I don’t think it actually matters what I’m doing on my perfect day. I think it’s who I’m surrounded by. There are so many things I’ve been doing and adventures I’ve been on and they’ve all been amazing.
I would picture there’d be a dance floor in there somewhere?
Yes, definitely a dance floor. The vibe, the connection, the loud music. I love it. But yeah, I think the perfect day would be my usual morning, some sort of food, dancing and with good people, having good conversations about life. Anything along those lines I’d be happy.
Follow Alyce’s journey at Alyce Eats Life
Listen to her podcast episode here