Do you ever find yourself in a spin of ‘busyness’? Doing things all the time, perhaps in a robotic way, and regularly feeling overwhelmed? Maybe in being so busy you are missing the small, joyful things in life… How about being less ‘busy’ and experiencing life in the moment?
Brigid Schulte, in her 2014 book, Overwhelmed, writes incisively about this trend, “So much do we value busyness, researchers have found a human ‘aversion’ to idleness and need for ‘justifiable busyness.’” I find this fascinating, having been a committed ‘busy’ person for a number of years – and now feeling that it’s time to change. It’s time to do less, simply.
But how to do this? Well, it’ll be no surprise to regular readers of my blog that the first on the list of things to help is to be outside more. Not staring at a screen can help – so get outside and stare at the sky, at wildlife, at the trees, whatever you like. Go for a walk or a wander, with no particular focus, just walk. Be idle – not lazy and lethargic, but not powered by a compulsion to be doing something all the time. Rest. Embrace the unstructured, not the ‘planned to the nth degree’. Put your phone down and leave it alone, or treat it like a landline: there for phoning people and receiving calls only. Be less serious and more playful. Be friendly and attract conversation.
Get more out of life by doing less and silence your inner automaton.
Week 3 of mindset month already! This week’s focus is on trying a grateful mindset.
When things are difficult or we’re feeling a bit mopey and run down, it’s tricky to keep feeling grateful for how things are. It can feel clunky, false or a bit ‘worthy’ when we try to list the things for which we are grateful. But it’s the act of focusing on what you have already that is the trick, and you don’t even have to prefix it with a hashtag (‘Blessed!’ ‘Proud!’) for it to work.
If it feels like an uphill struggle, try asking yourself “What could I be grateful for?” Ideas will eventually come and the attitude of gratitude will become easier. The aim is to gently adjust a negative mindset, where you focus on the things that are wrong, to one of increased positivity and a better overall mood.
I’ll start the ball rolling… I’m grateful for my family (one of whom is a very grown-up nine years old today!), friends, my interesting work, and how my body copes with all that I ask of it. Over to you! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In this week’s mindset blog, I’m thinking about how, when confronting a problem or a difficult situation, many of us face it with worry or negative thoughts. This is a well-trodden path and is really familiar, so we keep doing it. On the outside, it looks like the situation is being faced, when in reality on the inside it isn’t being dealt with effectively. And that is when it feels like ‘failing’.
Changing mindset here can really help, as the best way to deal with a situation is to start by calming the mind. Only a calm mind can find the answers to problems.
As humans, we need to understand that every problem has an answer, and that when our minds are relaxed, we can rely on ourselves to find the answer that is already there.
May is mindset month, when each week I’ll be focusing on a different mindset that you can adopt in your life if it seems to fit.
First up, the idea that acquiring things will make you feel secure. “If I have more of x, I will feel better!” But for many people, the reality is that the more they have, the more fear there usually is of losing it, and the further they are from feeling calm and peaceful. Desiring things can also be the cause of conflict. When we want something and cannot get it, we become frustrated; so learning to be free from desire is learning how to stay peaceful and calm. How does this sit with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
News of April’s dedication: Sue completed her mammoth walk around the Isle of Wight (70 miles) over the Easter weekend; Lisa paddled her way along the canal to Westminster from Devizes in just over 26 hours; and Nora completed the London Marathon in 3 hours 44 minutes – 6 seconds off her personal best. Huge congratulations to you all!
This week, the final instalment on dedication is devoted to the many wonderful people who attend my classes, because they come every week (or when they can) and notice incremental differences. Here are a few of them:
Christine, who has been coming to my classes for nearly six years, and who announced one session that she can’t do press-ups. After learning the correct technique, in just one class she was knocking out the push-ups and is now teaching her children how to do them too.
Jenny, who used to need her husband to help her up after sitting on the beach. She now reports that she can use her much stronger triceps and do it herself, with much delight at capabilities that she thought were lost.
Sally, who hasn’t stopped coming to classes despite a fractured leg (with medical approval, of course!). She does what she can and improvises when needed, focuses on building strength.
Jane, who noticed her core (lack of) strength was having an impact on her back pain – so we worked on an incremental body awareness and strengthening programme. She has become so much stronger over our one-to-one time together, and her confidence in her ability has grown hugely.
I could go on and on with so many stories about how my clients’ dedication has paid dividends for their physical health and mental well-being, but you get the picture. And the things they have in common? They turn up (literally as well as metaphorically), they stick with it and they celebrate positive change. And I’m delighted for them!
Next week, there will be news from Nora, Lisa and Sue and their dedication challenges from earlier this month.
I’ve written about my friend Sue several times over the years, mainly because she inspires me so much with her energy and positivity. And this week, I’m picking up the story of her latest adventures – so you can share in her unending sense of enthusiasm and drive. She is quite the motivator! Here’s her story of dedication.
“Planning a walk means I always have something in my diary to look forward to. It provides me with an opportunity to spend either time alone thinking, watching or just ‘being’ or connecting with others; I like to factor in a combination.
I’ve never been or particularly aspired to be a runner so walking fits the bill for me. In using it as a means of exercise and getting fit, I’ve enjoyed the places it’s taken me; whether it’s the beauty of a bluebell walk in the woods or a snowy panorama up a mountain.
A couple of years ago, I read about a ‘million steps’ challenge and wondered whether this was achievable in just 3 months… Well, it turns out that it is, even if you have a desk job and no dog to walk. So, this year I thought I’d up the stakes and see if I could do 5 million in a year (currently on track!). At the end of the day, it’s not particularly about the numbers, but more about the conscious effort of being active.
Last year, I completed the 3 Peaks Challenge within the 24-hour period. I trained hard for the walking part and found the lack of sleep pretty tough. But with a great group to walk with and plenty of good banter on the bus, we did it.
This Easter weekend, I’ll be walking the coast path around the Isle of Wight, a distance of 66 miles, with my son for company. I’ve never walked over 15 miles on four consecutive days before so we’ll see how that goes... Hopefully, we won’t be comparing blisters every evening! It’ll be good training for my summer challenge of walking Hadrian’s Wall, which I believe will be four days of over 20 miles.
I have enjoyed walking some of the national walking trails and am just about to complete the Pilgrims Way. Where next? I’d love to celebrate my next ‘big’ birthday by taking a month off work and walking the Camino Way, although thankfully I still have plenty of time to plan and train!”
Next week, the final instalment in April’s dedication series. Who will it be?
This week, I’m continuing with a short series on dedication. Every day, I see and hear outstanding examples of dedication and I want to share some of them with you. This week, it’s Lisa’s turn. Here’s her story.
“I have attended Joanna’s Strength & Tone class on a Thursday since 2013 and, over time, my core strength has improved significantly. Prior to attending the class, I had simply lost my core strength as a result of doing a desk job and studying for my Masters.
By attending Joanna’s weekly fitness class and building my core strength, it has allowed to try new and different sports. I took up kayaking two years ago on the Thames. Having lived near the Thames for over 20 years, I had only ever admired the Thames’ beauty from land as I walked various sections of the Thames Path. Sitting still in a kayak in the middle of the Thames and watching birdlife, or gliding along remoter parts, was a totally new and exhilarating experience. I found a stillness and clarity of mind I had long forgotten possible on these jaunts. Equally important, I noticed I was feeling stronger as kayaking not only requires strong arm and leg-drive but also the use of those core muscles!
At the end of last summer, my friend, Nick, invited me to train with him for the 125 miles Devizes (Wiltshire) to Westminster Canoe four-day Endeavour Race. I did not think I had it in me to do that sort of distance but Nick must have thought otherwise… Following our first training session in October 2018 of 13 miles (Aldermaston to Reading Canoe club), I started to believe there was a remote chance I could do this… We have trained on the river through the winter, covering distances such as Marlow to Staines and Pewsey to Newbury. Daisy’s Dream is our chosen charity – we are motivated by the fact they do such amazing work to help children who are have suffered a bereavement or seriously ill themselves. If you would like to sponsor us, here is the link: https://www.justgiving.com/Nick-King15
I was diagnosed with high blood pressure last autumn and, discussing treatment options with my GP, she highlighted exercise as method of reducing blood pressure. Having taken up more exercise, I do note my resting heart rate is steadily lowering, indicating an improvement in my fitness levels. I continue to take part in Joanna’s fitness class as I strongly believe this class keeps me alive… the mixture of movement and core exercise mean I remain agile and flexible.”
Next week, another story of dedication.
I’m doing something different with my blog this April, with a short series on dedication. Every day, I see and hear outstanding examples of dedication and I want to share some of them with you.
First up is Nora, a client at one of my private workplace exercise classes. She is running the London marathon this month, her second marathon of the year, having recently done the one in Tokyo! Her quiet dedication, discipline and determination shine through.
Here’s her story.
“Back in April 2016, my Mum was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. It was a big shock, especially for her. But Parkinson’s UK were fantastic, providing information and support for us all. They also conduct and support research into both better symptom control and, through improved understanding of what causes this disease, finding a cure.
As I have secured my own London Marathon place (being eligible for a Good for Age place), every penny you give goes to support Parkinson’s UK’s work. You can donate here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NoraHolford.
Parkinson's UK's work totally depends on the money their supporters raise and donate. It's only with our help that they can find a cure and improve life for everyone affected by Parkinson's. Together we can bring forward the day when no one fears Parkinson's. Thank you!”
Next week, hear from another of my clients who is doing extraordinary things.
One of my favourite things to do is run a training course, specifically on building confidence and assertiveness skills. It’s something I’ve been doing for years and it still surprises me how much I enjoy it, as I still consider myself to be a little bit shy and quiet – certainly not a natural extrovert. When I talk to people about becoming more confident and assertiveness, many are afraid of being brash, loud and bolshie. Yet true assertiveness and confidence can be very quiet states, not shouty and mulish at all. Assertiveness is not about you winning, but it is about finding a win-win situation. It’s a real skill to navigate a true compromise that takes everyone’s needs into consideration. And it is possible to be assertive while still being quiet.
I’ll be running the course on building confidence and assertiveness skills in June in Berkshire. Let me know if you’re interested and would like to know more.
How long do you spend each day trying to find lost things, trying to remember important stuff, or trying to plan? It takes up valuable time, but most crucially, it is quite stressful… which obviously has an impact on health and well-being. One of the quickest ways to well-being is to get organised. It sounds so easy, but it is just like all the simplest things – it’s often the last thing that people think to do, often because their logical brain (the left pre-frontal cortex) is not switched on, as is usually the case in stressful or anxious situations.
Getting organised, putting affairs in order, finding a place for everything: all of these measures can really help improve your well-being, as they create healthy patterns for your habit-loving brain. No one ever forgets where their toothbrush is because it’s always in the same place. It can be that easy with other parts of your life too.
How do you become more organised? As with most things, it’s different for each person. Here are some general tips that might help:
1. Do one small thing each day that will help you become more organised, like putting a container for your keys near the front door or keeping your work kit in one place. You don’t need to fix all problems in one go.
2. Rank jobs in order of importance and do the most difficult or time-consuming one first. Then all the other, smaller jobs will be done in a flash.
3. Find a system that helps you, like writing things down on lists, or repeating important information to a song tune so that you remember it more readily.
4. Keep doing things that work well and eliminate things that don’t work well.
5. Remind yourself (notes to self, reminders on phones) that you have a system and stick to it.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the thoughts in your head? That the ideas, the plans and the exciting enthusiasms feel like they need to bust out? You are not alone. Half the internet is awash with people trying to make sense of everything in their brains, while the other half claims to have the one-stop-shop answer to all problems.
Over the years, I’ve found myself going back to the same old solution to ‘overwhelm’: writing it down. According to neuroscientists, writing everything down helps you externalise thoughts. Put simply, this frees up mental space so you can think more clearly and concentrate better. You don’t have to waste valuable energy remembering everything nor do you have to endure the same thoughts circling around your head. Instead, your life is captured on the pages of a notebook, diary or journal. And this means you can be more present and at ease in the moment without worrying that you’re forgetting something, that your latest amazing idea will be lost to the sands of time.
Taking it a step further, research shows that taking time to self-reflect, appreciate what’s going well, and create a vision for your future boosts well-being. And writing by hand engages multiple senses — visual, kinaesthetic, and tactical — which helps commit tasks to memory. It also signals to your brain that your goals are important, making you more likely to follow through.
As with most things that work, it’s very simple: pick up a pen and write it down.
I’m running a bullet journal workshop this Saturday in Caversham Park Village, where you can learn how to track the past, plan the future, and organise the present – all with copious amounts of stationery and inspirational ideas to fire your creativity. Everyone is welcome! Details and booking here: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bullet-journal-workshop-tickets-54449933216.
It’s feeling more and more Spring-like every day at the moment, which puts me in the mood for a Spring clean and having a good clear-out: getting rid of old stuff and to allow fresh air and space in (not necessarily new stuff as a replacement). For me, it’s also important to apply this to our minds. Getting rid of out-dated thoughts means that ‘messy’ and destructive ideas have no room to flourish, and we can gradually eliminate cynicism, negativity and unkindness. This can have a fabulous impact on our sense of well-being too. How about you? What does Spring inspire in you? I’d love to hear.
I’m running a couple of events this month:
- A Bullet Journal workshop on Saturday 16th March, 9.30am-12.30pm: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bullet-journal-workshop-tickets-54449933216
- Building Confidence and Assertiveness Skills on Wednesday 20th March, 1-4pm: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/building-confidence-and-assertiveness-skills-course-tickets-54922224853
There are limited places at each so book soon to secure your spot.
As February draws to a close, I’m finishing my series of blogs on love with one about a psychologist called Carl Rogers. He came up with a very simple concept of three ways of being – the roots of which lie in love, for others and for yourself.
The first is empathy: being able to walk in someone else’s shoes, so you can see things from their perspective and understand why they are where they are. Secondly, congruence: being authentic, real, genuine… a sense of human warmth. And thirdly, unconditional positive regard: viewing yourself and others in a positive light, without judgement or criticism.
To be able to offer these three core ways of being to others is one thing, and to be able to do them for yourself is quite another. For me, the core ways of being have to start with yourself before you can offer them to others. It’s about finding ways that you can realise self-regard sincerely and consistently. If you are unable to show these three ways of being to yourself, it may prove difficult to show them towards others. Nothing new here for regular readers of my blog; so perhaps another reminder of how vital it is to take care of, and show love towards, ourselves.
Since I moved to the convenient countryside of South Oxfordshire, I’ve wanted to get a dog, so I can have company on my long walks, but mostly so I can have someone to mirror my enthusiasm and energy, and so when I get home, someone is pleased to see me! So, I did one of those online surveys this week to find out what sort of pet would suit my lifestyle. Turns out, fish are the best match for me. Harsh!
However, I’m determined to see this as a useful message and think about it like this: all the energy and effort that I would put into looking after a dog can now be channelled into looking after myself instead. All the ‘spare love’ I have at my fingertips can be angled towards myself – not in a self-absorbed way, but in a useful way. Rather than run myself ragged with taking on more work, more events, and more social engagements, I can take a step back and do the basics: go for a walk, lie down for a while, snooze, stare into the distance, be neutral… In fact, this sounds much like a dog’s life!
A slight nod to Valentine’s Day this week, with a little bit about hearts and keeping them healthy. It won’t be news to anyone to hear that eating a healthier diet, not smoking and getting some exercise all help; but what about some of the other elements of life that contribute to heart health? They are often inter-connected. For example, stress is not a direct risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but it's possible that it may contribute to increased risk levels. It all depends on someone’s coping mechanisms. Some people try to cope with stress by smoking, drinking too much alcohol and overeating. All of these increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, but it’s important to remember that they do not necessarily cause it.
So what can you do about it? Well, there is nothing new under the sun and I’m in danger of repeating myself with this…! Perhaps ask yourself why you are smoking, drinking too much alcohol or overeating. What are the reasons behind your behaviour? And maybe there is another way to deal with it. It’s about knowing what triggers your behaviour and what could help instead. I’m not suggesting that a year-long sabbatical from your life is all that will help, as that may be impractical. Yet there are daily steps that we can all take to reduce stress levels: and we go full-circle back to eating a healthier diet, being physically active and looking after yourself. See? Nothing new under the sun!
One of the ways you can look after your heart (seamless!) is at our charity Fitness Fling on Saturday 16th February, any time between 9am and 1pm, at Purley Memorial Hall, Berkshire. Find out more and book your place at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/charity-fitness-fling-tickets-54451111741.
Hi, I'm Joanna from Clean Well-Being.
|Fitness and well-being provider||
Clean Well-being ramblings