I've written a weekly then monthly well-being blog since September 2016 and it's now time to retire it. I write so much on social media and in my newsletter so the blog has become a little redundant (and, I've been informed, a bit old-fashioned!).
Thank you for reading my thoughts and ideas. Over the years, so many of you have responded and let me know what you think. It's been lovely to hear from you and get to know you better.
If you would like to sign up to my monthly newsletter, which will incorporate the blog from April onwards, you can do so here.
Wishing you a robust sense of well-being without the faff!
Do you have a phrase or saying that you repeat over and over?
Mine is ‘do more of what works, do less of what doesn’t work’. It came from a training course I did years ago on solution-focused thinking and it seems to have served me well, as it pops into my mind all the time and can be applied to many kinds of situations.
It’s something I say a lot in my exercise classes as I encourage people to find what works for them. My suggestions for movement might not be what works best for others on that day. It’s a case of tuning into what feels good right now. And it can also mean ignoring what others suggest because it doesn’t work well for you.
I encourage you to ask yourself today: What works well for me? How can I do more of that?
It’s also useful to notice what is already working well. So often, people forget to notice this as they are so busy trying to notice what needs fixing. But there will be things that are already working well… so do more of them!
11 years ago today, I became self-employed. It was NEVER part of the plan… I was meant to work in the public sector forever and make a positive contribution (#ECM!). But I didn’t count on austerity measures and the decimation of the school improvement team where I worked. My role was made redundant and I was devastated: I had my dream job and the most excellent colleagues, and it was all taken away. It was a very dark and painful time for me and the cuts ran deep. There were very few jobs available and the only viable option seemed to be self-employment. So, I became an independent consultant.
Since then, I have worked with the NHS, Public Health England, various local authorities, numerous charities, small businesses, CICs, education consultancies, and hundreds of schools (and thousands of teachers). I have retrained in something new every year since 2010 and now enjoy my portfolio career very much. And, of course, I have built up Clean Well-Being – my own very precious business.
Sometimes, I imagine how much easier it would have been to get another job, just turn up every day and let someone else do all the difficult stuff… But, as my sidekick says, I don’t really like being told what to do, so making all the decisions myself works well!
Today, I celebrate independence, well-being without the faff, and keeping going. I wonder what the next 11 years will bring!
I’ve written many times about being busy and how it can take hold of your life, your thoughts and actions. I’ve been in the grip of ‘busy-ness’ so many times, I’ve lost track. And the conclusion I have come to? I have to choose to be less busy. I have to get off the busy-treadmill, the busy-hamster wheel, and decide it’s not for me. The world still turns regardless of how I operate.
Brené Brown sums it up beautifully:
“’Crazy-busy’ is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.”
It might not be easy, but I’m trying to stay alongside my life, rather than out in front, so I can catch up with myself. And this means I have to plan well and let some ‘vital’ things pass me by…
I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation to exercise recently, especially when it gets colder and darker in the evenings. I’m asked about maintaining motivation by most of my clients, and I always say the same thing: there’s no quick fix or mindset transplant, but these ideas and tips can help:
What works well for you? Can you add anything to this list? I’d love to hear from you.
Have you heard of destination addiction?
It’s 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.
These are attempts to get on with life faster in the hope that we will enjoy our lives better. And yet our constant speeding means we frequently dash past golden opportunities when looking for something better, or we are too busy speeding along to be receptive to the good stuff in front of us.
The thing about destination addiction is that it focuses purely on finishes and not on purpose.
What can we do about it? There is no singular correct answer but there seems to be a theme: to find fulfilment in what you are right now. It might be in aspects of your work life, your social life, home life or something else. Think back to a few years ago and notice whether what you yearned for then was what you have now. Perhaps your priorities have changed and you now want different things. How do you find fulfilment in what you have or are now?
I used to dream of a time when, at work, I could make all my own decisions and would not be tied to someone else’s timetable or ideas. In the main, I now have this – yet find myself wishing for a time when I don’t have to make all the decisions! Having strived so hard for something, I realise that it’s not perfect even though it’s what I want.
Here are some ideas of how to find fulfilment now. Note down:
It’s not about forgoing a shiny future, but it is about recognising all the good stuff today.
I have written a lot over the years about well-being and what it means. Increasingly, I’ve been rattled by the idea that well-being is about being positive – sometimes obstinately so. This can lead to immense pressure to feel good and to look happy or smile all the time, which can inevitably have a detrimental effect on well-being. It belies the notion that, as humans, we need to feel a wide range of emotions and it is suffocating to remain in the positive realm all the time.
This concept has a name: toxic positivity. It is the belief that regardless of how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It is linked to the idea of ‘brightsiding’ – no matter the situation, you have to find the positive and look on the bright side.
Have you heard these phrases or said them yourself?
“Think happy thoughts.”
“Be grateful for what you have.”
“It could be worse” or “Other people have it much worse.”
How about looking at it another way? A possible antidote to toxic positivity is ‘tragic optimism’, a phrase coined by the existential-humanistic psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. Tragic optimism involves the search for meaning amid the inevitable tragedies of human existence, something far more practical and realistic during difficult times. To add weight to this idea, research has shown that accepting negative emotions, rather than avoiding or dismissing them, may actually be more beneficial for a person’s mental well-being in the long run.
To me, it is clear that no amount of positive thinking will make some situations better. Sometimes, it might just be essential to stop smiling through it and to feel the reality of emotions.
At the end of every exercise class I teach, I suggest having something to eat… and I’m often asked what is best to eat. I will never (NEVER!) recommend anything, but I will make a gentle suggestion. It’s what works for me and it might work for you too. If not, try something else.
Here is my latest post-exercise snack:
Whizz two bananas, chopped into chunks and frozen, in a food processor. Keep whizzing until it resembles ice cream (it might take a few minutes). Transfer into a big bowl and add all other ingredients and mix.
Other ingredients can include all or any of these, in varying amounts (I favour the ‘chuck it in’ approach):
- Cocoa powder or chocolate spread
- Nut butter or peanut butter
- Chopped nuts
- Splash of cream or coconut milk
- Chopped dates or other dried fruit (miss out if you want less sugar)
- Fresh fruit, chopped
- Pinch of salt flakes if not using fresh fruit
I usually transfer dollops of it into Gu pudding pots and put them in the freezer. Take them out a few minutes before you eat them to allow them to soften a bit.
I don’t need much – just a couple of spoonfuls of the mix – and it seems to work well for me.
What do you eat after exercise?
Over the past 11 months, I have featured a guest blog at the start of each month with one intention: to celebrate women in business. 11 wonderful women I know have shared their stories, their successes and their advice. What a privilege to know them and to work with them! I hope you enjoyed reading about and sharing their enthusiasm and expertise.
I’ve been writing my weekly blog since September 2015 and, though I ALWAYS have something to say, I’m changing it to a monthly blog, published on the first Wednesday of every month. If this feels like too little input from me (ha!), you are very welcome to follow me on social media, where I post most weekdays: Instagram @cleanwellbeingjoanna, and Facebook/Twitter @cleanwellbeing. I’m also on LinkedIn as Joanna Feast.
Until next month… or if you don’t want to receive my blog in your inbox anymore, do let me know. If you haven't already signed up to have it sent directly, you can do so here: www.cleanwellbeing.com/blog.
It’s guest blog time and this month is the turn of Suzanne Mountain, the Non-Millennial Business Coach. I have known Suzanne for many years and was very lucky to have her as my coach. It is not an exaggeration to say that she changed both my business and my life for the better. I’m delighted that she is featuring as the final guest blogger of my monthly series with her thoughts on how using a journal can help improve well-being.
"Looking at ways to improve your well-being is essential in today's crazy world. Many of us struggle with stress. Over time, stress can turn into more serious mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety.
One of the most overlooked ways to boost your mental well-being is to keep a journal. Developing a journaling routine that works for you is an effective way to combat stress and help you improve your overall mental health.
Here are the Main Benefits of Journaling:
Helps You to Relax
Writing in a journal for only 10 to 15 minutes a day a few times a week is an effective way to relax and unwind from the stress of each day.
Boosts Your Mood
Getting your thoughts out of your head can help you feel much better. Journaling is an excellent way to reduce anxiety and provide a positive outlet for you to express your emotions.
Solve Problems More Effectively
Slowing down is an effective way to help you feel relaxed and find creative solutions to various problems.
Helps You Achieve Goals
Writing your thoughts in a journal an effective way to keep your focus and help you be more productive and achieve your short-term and long-term goals. This is a great way to boost your mood and help you feel much better about your life.
Have I convinced you to try it? It’s not difficult to get started: you can do it with a notepad and pen or even on an App on your phone.
If you’d like more information, I have a short Journaling for Success course where I share the four different areas of life that can reap the most benefits from you keeping a journal along with over 100 journal prompts. If you enter the coupon WELLBEING you get a special 50% discount."
Here is the link
Success in your Life, Business & Bank Account Course
To find out more about Suzanne, have a look at her website www.suzannemountain.com or follow her on social media.
One of my favourite childhood films was Mary Poppins, and I really loved the scene where the children’s bedrooms are tidied in record time: a snap of the fingers and things were put back in their place immediately.
Now, as an adult, every time I have a good clear-out, I’m reminded of this and invariably start singing the accompanying song in my best screechy Julie Andrews impression!
While I was rearranging my home office this week, I was thinking about how freeing it feels to tidy up – and how it’s also important to apply this to our minds too. Having a ‘tidy’ mind means that ‘messy’ and destructive thoughts have no room to flourish, and we can gradually clear out cynicism, negativity and unkindness.
Where does your sense of well-being come from? What is ‘at the bottom’, where you can go no further?
Well-being is not a peripheral or surface-layer state – it is something that lies right at the root of yourself. It’s made up of your fundamentals, your values and your non-negotiables. The important thing to know is that well-being does not lie in other people, in things, at the bottom of a bottle or in the promise of future times: it is in the present time.
If you have a chance today, spend some time playing around with the idea of what is at the root of your well-being. What are your fundamentals? This might feel a bit uncomfortable at first, because it can challenge our ideas and encourage us to question the status quo.
Whatever you ponder, remember that caring for your roots allows for more well-being shoots to thrive.
Do you ever long for the days when your life wasn’t influenced by apps, phones and laptops?
If so, consider taking a manual day, a dedicated, hands-on day. This is where things are created for real, not just joined-up electrons. Try putting up a shelf finally (of course you might not be good at it, but that’s not the point). Practice doesn’t make perfect; it simply makes better. Bread and salad made, dinner in the oven, the garden tidied for summer. Art or craft project started or finished. Some DIY completed. Being outside in ‘real’ weather with appropriate clothing. Reading an actual book. Writing with a pen on paper.
We are a finely-tuned mind-body creature; and when mind and body are in sync, they produce magic. Make it a mind-body manual day today!
Do you ever feel like you aren’t doing enough? Like you aren’t making a big enough difference in the world? I sometimes get like this and realise I’m having one of my ‘tilting the earth’ moments (©Joanna Feast) – I feel like I want to do something so significant and helpful that its impact will literally tilt the earth on is axis. Then I make a list of everything I want to do, knock off the stuff that is wildly complicated, and I’m usually left with manageable stuff.
My lesson from this is always “I can do anything but I can’t do everything”. I try not to get overwhelmed with everything I’m not doing and focus instead on what I can and am doing. Still having an impact, just not knocking the earth around. I’ll leave that for a day when my ‘to do’ list is shorter!
During lockdown, did you find a renewed love of nature, whether it was listening to birdsong from an open window, enjoying more time in your garden or going for a walk around the park?
Meet Nicolette, this month’s guest blogger. She is a Naturepreneur who helps people fall back in love with nature and enjoy life again. We met last year at a bullet journal workshop and had so much in common. Here’s her story:
“When I was little, I loved being outdoors. I learned the names of the flowers in our garden and spent hours playing in the woods. I still have a child-like curiosity about the world and now help people reconnect with nature for self-awareness and creativity.
Connecting with nature has been scientifically proven to help reduce stress, increase self-esteem and boost health and well-being.
I help people, particular women juggling family and work, to ‘press pause’ through my own blend of mindful photography and forest bathing. Together we slow down and use our senses to fully notice nature, find joy in its beauty and feel more positive.
I’m an introvert too, so my sessions are always in small groups and held around Reading and Bracknell in places that I know well.
Once you connect with nature deeply, you tend to want to care for it more. I hope my work will go a little way towards saving the world for future generations.”
Find out what Nicolette is noticing in nature on Instagram and Facebook @natureworkswondersuk or read her blogs on www.natureworkswonders.co.uk. LinkedIn link: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicoletteevans/.
#blogger #blog #wellbeing #healthyattitude #simplethings #nature #naturepreneur
What do you think about this?
“The quickest way to unhappiness is to compare yourself to others.”
I think this is so true: comparing yourself with others will leave you feeling one of three things – inferior, superior or impressed. All three of these states are tricky because they all disregard the underlying principle of our true connection with each other - mutual love and positive regard, based on independently-generated self-esteem.
What to do? Be pleased for someone else and who they are/what they can do, and recognise all that you are/what you can do too. Being grateful for what you are and what you have is a great place to start. And if you must compare yourself to someone, try comparing yourself now to who you used to be – and see how far you have come!
What do you think of the idea that acquiring things will make you feel secure?
“If I have more of x or y, I will feel better!”
But for many people, the reality is that the more they have, the more they fear losing it, and the further they are from feeling calm and peaceful.
Wanting stuff can also be the cause of conflict. When we want something and can’t 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.
In this week’s 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.
Another month, another guest blog, this time from my friend and colleague, Angela Milliken-Tull. We met a few years ago while both working for the same education consultancy and teamed up on some very exciting PSHE projects. Angela now co-directs Chameleon PDE (personal development education).
“When my business partner and I set up Chameleon PDE last year, a big focus was on empowerment. Empowering teachers to deliver great PSHE lessons to help students feel more empowered to move through their tricky teenage years and strategies to help find their place in the adult world. Everything was planned and then a pandemic came along.
Suddenly, we were pushed off course and were responding to new and uncharted needs: advice on how to cope with lockdown, home learning, isolation. Being able to pivot was essential and having our own coping strategies was equally important.
For me, the ‘medicine’ that kept me positive and empowered was being outside. As a keen runner and owner of two dogs, this was a non-negotiable. However, ‘practising what I preached’ about appreciating nature, being grateful and the importance of exercise took on a more relevant and vital meaning. Hopefully, this message worked equally well with students!”
Get in touch via www.chameleonpde.com, @chameleonpde or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s the most valuable thing you have ever owned?
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, our bodies will always be the most valuable thing in our lives. Imagine if you had to try and piece your own body together, sourcing and paying for each part! It would be astronomically expensive… Without getting into the ethics and possibilities of such a notion, the crux of this blog is (no surprises!) about looking after your body – as it is the most valuable thing you will ever own.
So, what is it worth to you? Not monetary, as that’s too tricky to calculate. But in other terms, like reliability or function. If a part of it broke down, what would that ‘cost’ be to you?
And what are you doing to ensure that your body retains its value to you?
It’s been said so many times before, by me and countless others: look after your body with good food, sleep, exercise, rest, relaxation and fun to help it stick around for as long as you need it.
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:
In my day job as an education consultant, I come across a lot of people who strive for perfection. It’s something that I’ve noticed more and more in the teaching profession over the years, no doubt associated with the amount of testing, assessing, checking and re-checking (just in case things have changed in the three minutes since the previous assessment was made).
In trying to understand and help, I found this ‘perfect’ quote from Brené Brown, who is a researcher professor at the University of Houston, Texas.
“Perfectionism is armour. It’s not internally driven like healthy striving. It’s externally driven and fuelled by ‘What will people think?’ Perfectionism is a shield that keeps us from being seen. Here’s to a genuine, unamoured, messy, awkward, compassionate, less-than-perfect life.”
I love this attitude and strive for it daily, saying to myself that it really doesn’t matter what people think and it is perfectly acceptable to be seen. How about you?
And for more on the marvellous Brené, take a look at www.brenebrown.com.
Today’s blog is from a very special guest – Louise Marchal, a visual artist and writer, and a practice-led PhD researcher. Louise offers a fascinating view of the world through the eyes of an artist. Here’s her story.
“Art can be a valuable, non-verbal conversation, often when words (or we) are exhausted. We glimpse it and gaze and reflect. I’ve recently been looking into the transcendence that such visual study and reflection, a type of mindfulness, can give to us.
Knowing something through drawing, through following the physical form through your hands is like no other knowing – it goes deep, linking sight and touch – the finished thing doesn’t have to be good – it is the knowing you will walk away with.
I drew the bulk of this copy of Flora from Botticelli’s Primavera when my father was in intensive care with Covid-19 – for a precious hour or so every day it enabled me to escape the worry and tragedy with no other thought except the form in front of me. Find something, grab pencil, paper and get to know it deeply – or head over to my website and choose a window on the world!”
Louise is very generously offering a 35% discount for readers of this blog over April – her work is visible on her website www.louisiem.com, at Axisweb or at the Saatchi Online website.
Follow Louise on Instagram @indigo_polke.
Whether you subscribe to the notion that ‘you are what you think’ or not, there is something to be said for your thoughts having an effect on you. And if you harness the power of your thoughts by thinking ‘big’, amazing things can happen. You can rise above the little things too. No more keeping yourself small (and perhaps insignificant…).
It’s not only about thinking big either – you can believe big, act big, dream big, work big, give big, forgive big, laugh big, imagine big, love big, live big (are your eyes going funny because they’ve seen the word big too much?!). Take on this list of ‘big’ and you'll probably start feeling bigger. Be a believer in big and see where it takes you. An awfully big adventure awaits!
How often do we say this without really thinking about what it means? I thought it would be useful to do this week's blog on a bite-size intro to the stress response and how we can manage it better.
It all starts with the autonomic nervous system, which activates the sympathetic nervous system and sets off the fight or flight response. This is when lots of physiological symptoms start: a racing heart, sweaty palms, a need to go to the toilet... And these (plus lots of others) signify that the body is ready for action, to run away or to face something. Usually, after whatever has prompted the fight/flight response has gone away, the body can return to normal, and this is where the parasympathetic nervous system will kick in. It calms the body and allows us to return to homeostasis, where the body is working optimally and adrenaline levels have returned to normal. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
However, for anyone who is feeling a bit physically or emotionally depleted, this process can take longer, or indeed it might not happen at all. Therefore, the body is left in a state of high adrenaline and high 'stress'. It can be very debilitating and uncomfortable.
So, what can you do about it? Well, this blog has never been about giving medical advice, so please see a doctor if you are at all concerned about your health.
Something you can try is practising calming yourself down and leaving little room for stress and anxiety to creep in and linger. You can practise 'emptying your bucket' daily, so you don't carry around unnecessary stress from one day to the next. The simple act of breathing properly deep into your lungs can help get you back to homeostasis. You can try meditation (plenty of calming meditation guides online). Exercise, especially outside, can work wonders. Making sure you have enough sleep is another way.
And if you would like someone to guide you through this, you can download my rest and relaxation tools from my website: www.cleanwellbeing.com/relaxation-and-rest.html.
Hi, I'm Joanna from Clean Well-Being.
|Fitness and well-being provider||
Clean Well-being blog