Quick question: what can lower your blood pressure, work your abs, reduce your stress levels, improve your heart muscle, boost T-cell production, release endorphins, and give you a general sense of well-being? (Are you mumbling to yourself that surely nothing can do all of those things?) It’s laughter, plain and simple. When was the last time you laughed? Not your ‘career laugh’, but a real laugh when you might not have been able to stop – your sides hurt, you can’t catch your breath, but in a good way. If you haven’t done it for a while, give it a whirl today! If ‘funny’ is in short supply at the moment, go looking for some. And let me know what makes you laugh – pass it on! (In the spirit of passing it on, here's what always makes me weep with laughter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jD6rKhzV_m0.)
Have you heard of flexion addiction? According to Dr Eric Dalton, Founder & Executive Director of the Freedom from Pain Institute, we are a ‘flexion-addicted society’. By this, he means that we have moved from being actively mobile to spending most of our time sitting at a desk, in a car, watching television, working on the computer, being on phones and so on. We spend prolonged periods with our bodies in states of flexion. Our ankles, knees and hip joints are all flexed when seated; the spinal vertebrae flex to create a forward posture whilst the shoulders become rounded giving rise to the head and neck protruding further forward.
Even an hour in this fixed flexed position causes the muscles to become tired and strained which in turn leads to muscle weakness. Normal circulation through these tissues becomes impaired and we begin to suffer the symptoms of pain and tension. Tight, tense muscles restrict a full range of movement through our joints causing stiffness and loss of flexibility. To compensate for this, the body begins to adopt alternate postures: the upper back slouches, so the shoulders become more rounded and the head and neck protrude forward, drawing the entire front of the body into a state of flexion. Stress further complicates matters, adding to the experience of muscle fatigue, tension and pain.
Here are a few tips for preventing flexion addiction:
1. Stretch! Before getting out of bed, lie on your back, inhale slowly and deeply whilst stretching your arms above your head, lengthening through the spine and the legs.
2. Make a conscious effort to stand correctly ensuring a straight vertical line between your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. You can do this while waiting for the kettle to boil or while you’re on the phone.
3. As well as standing correctly, check your sitting posture. Sit upright with both feet flat on the floor. Adjust the head so the ears are directly above the shoulders. Encourage the shoulder blades back and breathe slowly and deeply.
4. Every half an hour, get up and move! If you’re forgetful, set an alarm to remind you to move, stretch and allow the circulation to flow through your muscles and tissues and ease the tension.
5. Stretch! This time, at the end of the day. Roll around on the floor, limber up or curl into a ball and stretch out as far as you can.
All of these tips will make a huge difference to your body’s well-being. Give them a try and see how great you can feel!
Regular readers of the blog and my website will know how much I love solution-focused thinking. And I was reminded of this love last week, when I met up with a friend who is choosing her next life path – exciting times! She uses SFT too, and had the lovely task of choosing her next ‘future perfect’. Therefore, this week, I want to focus on an aspect of SFT that is really easy to use in everyday life: the scale (sounds a bit like a Phillip Schofield ITV game show!).
The Scale is a way of helping yourself reflect on strengths and coping strategies, and can help identify personal goals and steps towards achieving them. The chosen number on the scale is not important in itself – it just helps to realise more about a situation. The important thing about scaling is that it really helps to explore perceptions rather than reality.
Have a quick go by thinking of an example of something in your life that you would like to be better. This can be something outside of work, perhaps a hobby or a skill. Go through these points in order:
If you go through these questions and are really honest in your answers, you’ll be confirming your progress, encouraging more change, focusing on how you would like things to be, and helping yourself to decide on next steps. Handy, eh?!
It is often said that the fewer desires you have, the happier you will be. Hmmm… I think this needs some clarification before I can commit to it.
If we have correct and true information, this can lead to a greater sense of contentment. Then, if we have a correct understanding of ourselves, our purpose, our origins and our true relationships, we can free ourselves from the cycles of boom and bust associated with modern life (and ‘having things’). Once this happens, it can eventually lead us to an ultimate happiness.
As Socrates said, ‘He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.’
I’d love to hear what you think about this. Might still need some convincing!
Do you remember the old TV programme called 'Why Don't You?' The title song suggested that you “Switch off your TV set and do something less boring instead!” Some recent research totally agrees with this and proposes that TV won’t make people happy. Some positive psychologists suggest that people in rich, Western countries spend too much free time on passive activities, like bingeing on box-sets and browsing social media, rather than on active, psychologically-demanding activities, like cooking, sport or playing music, that allow the opportunity to experience ‘flow’ – that magic interval where your abilities only just meet the demands of the challenge. A new paper in the Journal of Positive Psychology examines this dilemma. Do we realise that pursuing more active, challenging activities will make us happier in the long-run? If so, why then do we opt to spend so much more time lazing around doing things that are pleasant in the moment, but unlikely to bring any lasting fulfilment?
There was a clear pattern: more effortful activities are identified as being more associated with lasting happiness, yet people said they spent much more time on passive, relaxation-based activities, like watching TV. Looking at their other judgments, the key factor that seemed to deter participants from engaging in more active, flow-inducing activities is that they tended to be seen as particularly daunting and less enjoyable, even while being associated with lasting happiness. The more daunting an activity was deemed to be, the less frequently it was undertaken (by contrast, and to the researchers’ surprise, the perceived effort involved in the activity did not seem to be a deterrent).
This seems to be a paradox of happiness: we know which kind of activities will bring us lasting happiness, but because we see them as daunting and less enjoyable in the moment, we choose to spend much more of our time doing passive, more immediately pleasant things with our free time.
So what can you do about it? The researchers’ advice is to plan ahead “to try to ease the physical transition into flow activities” to make them feel less daunting. For example, they suggest getting your gym clothes and bag ready the night before, and choosing a gym that’s close and convenient; or getting your journal and pen, or easel and paintbrushes, ready in advance. They also suggested attending a Clean Well-Being class (joke, obviously!).
The other thing they suggest is using mindfulness, meditation or some other “controlled consciousness” technique to help yourself to disregard the initial “transition costs” of a flow activity, such as the early pain of a run, and to focus instead on its pleasurable aspects and the long-term rewards. So a little bit of effort pays dividends!
What were your dreams when you were younger? Did you used to daydream about how things could be, what you were going to do, and where you were going to be? Most of us have forgotten how to dream and we might even have swapped creativity for security. Of course, this is completely understandable and realistic. But if there were space for both…
The more we remember our dreams, the more we become aware of the coincidences and synchronicity that will bring us in its direction. And just to get a little inspo-quote in (it’s been a while!), as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Hi, I'm Joanna from Clean Well-Being.
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Clean Well-being ramblings