It is well known that exercise can have a positive effect on mood, but how long do you need to exercise for, how difficult does it need to be, and what type of exercise is best? My immediate answer would be: it’s different for everyone.
But I may be wrong, as recent research findings from The Journal of Psychology, Interdisciplinary and Applied suggest otherwise. The researchers collated evidence from 38 relevant studies that examined the associations between exercise intensity, duration and modality and any effects on mood. They found lots of contradictory results so here is a run-down of the main bits:
- 10 minutes often appears sufficient to achieve gains in mood (although one study found that 30 minutes was required to achieve feelings of increased vigour).
- The optimum for improving mood is moderate intensity, perhaps because low intensity is too dull while high intensity is too unpleasant.
- The beneficial mood effects of aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling) are less consistent than is found with anaerobic exercise, and anaerobic exercise (lifting weights, sprinting) appears especially to be more beneficial for beating stress and anxiety.
If you are thinking about the optimum type of exercise for your own mood, the common-sense message is to take into consideration your own fitness level and preferences, to find that sweet spot: the exercise that is enough of a challenge without being unpleasant. I would add that you would need to enjoy it too!
Read the whole article here.
Have you ever wanted to fix someone else’s life? Many of us are great fixers, and as we watch others we can hear ourselves attempting to 'sort them out'. We hear it in our conversations with others and with ourselves: "They shouldn't... Weren't they awful...? Did you hear about so and so...? In my opinion, they should…" and so on. It’s tantamount to gossip of the most destructive kind. And I find myself doing it quite frequently at the moment.
When we do this, we waste time trying to write the script of other people’s lives and thereby forget to write our own. We have no right: it is none of our business, and any attempt to do so is pointless, maddening and doomed to failure.
Let people be, and don't miss your life by trying to live or write someone else's.
It’s the end of June (how?!) so here’s the final instalment of my book recommendations series. I thought I would do something a bit different and recommend writing your own book. Not necessarily a best-selling tome or a hefty reference book, but something that is useful to you. Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m a big fan of bullet journals and, when I write in mine, I feel like I am recording that which helps me, whether that is important planning stuff about Clean Well-Being or my top five favourite films. It’s not going to be useful (or interesting!) to anyone else – just me. So, it’s my ‘book’ recommendation to write in a book that is about you and your life.
Keeping track of everything that is going on – past, present and future – is vital to me: I have so many streams of work and lots of different interests that keeping them all in one place helps manage it all. I find it really helpful to write things down: it’s a powerful way to clarify everything that’s in my head, swirling around. The act of writing encourages me to organise and make concrete all my ideas. Things that I was worrying about become structured and measured after writing them down. Re-reading everything that I have done reminds me that I am being productive, and it offers insights to my energetic mind! It also helps me realise that some of my ideas are rubbish and shouldn’t see the light of day…
Running bullet journal workshops is one of the things that I now do, and my next one is on 7th September 2019, near Reading. Here’s the link to find out more and book your place: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bullet-journal-workshop-tickets-62636015007.
You know how, sometimes, you come across something in your life and it has such a profound effect that you don’t quite know how to contain yourself? This week’s book recommendation did just that for me. It’s by Brené Brown and it is called Daring Greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead. Snappy title!
Brené Brown is an author and research professor from Texas. She has appeared in a TED talk that has over 41 million views (www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en). The title of her book came from words from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt in 1910 and was about showing up despite the risks and fear of failure – something that many people feel disinclined to do.
Brené expands on this and explains that vulnerability is not a weakness: “Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose.” Reading it feels like a call to arms, as she goes on to stress how we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen, by engaging with vulnerability rather than avoiding. She advocates a messy life, one without perfectionism and being ‘bulletproof’.
It’s an immensely powerful book, challenging and comforting in equal measure. I dare you to read it!
This month, all my blogs are about books – ones that I have found useful and wonder if you might too.
This week, I’m recommending an author’s collection of books, rather than just one. Todd Parr writes the most fabulous, colourful and affirming books, ostensibly for children, but (as with many things done ‘for children’) they are really good for adults too.
I came across them many years ago, when writing a PSHE scheme of work for primary schools (Jigsaw PSHE). We used The Family Book and It’s Okay To Be Different in our lesson plans, though could have chosen anything from the considerable list of Todd’s books, including It’s Okay To Make Mistakes, The Feelings Book and The Don’t Worry Book.
The titles are self-explanatory and the books are really short, with punchy messages that don’t hold back. And did I mention colourful?! I love them all!
This month, all my blogs will be about books – ones that I have found useful and wonder if you might too. Some are obvious, others less so.
I’m starting with a couple of classics, both of which have slightly confusing titles. The first is ‘Steering by Starlight’ by Martha Beck, who is a coach in America and is on the Oprah-train. It was recommended to me by my very wise friend Julia (@OxfordFamilyHy1), who I have written about before. It’s an intelligent, brain-focused coaching book with lots of stories and examples in it. It’s very pacy and so easy to read. I love how it challenges outdated ways of your own thinking and encourages another way of being. It’s not at all woo-woo and there isn’t actually anything about starlight in the book, which appeals to me. I urge you to try this book and see how you change as a result.
Book two is by Louise Hay and is called ‘You Can Heal Your Life’. It has helped me realise that not everything is as it might seem. Again, it really challenges ‘old’ ways of thinking and helped me see things from a different perspective, explaining how there’s often many ways to view a situation, particularly those about health and well-being. I realise when I read books like this how stuck I have got about some aspects of my life, and these books have guided me through to help me view things from another angle… and then another, and so on.
If you try these books, let me know how you get on. I’d really love to hear your thoughts!
In the final instalment of May’s mindset month, I couldn’t ignore writing about the growth mindset, something that is really popular in the education world and is being adopted more and more in businesses too.
In 1988, Dr. Carol Dweck and colleagues studied students' attitudes on failure. They noticed that some students rebounded quickly while other students seemed knocked by even the smallest setbacks. After studying thousands of children’s behaviour, Dr. Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can become smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore, they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement. Those who believe their abilities are flexible are more likely to embrace challenges and persist despite failure. This model of the fixed vs growth mindset shows how cognitive, affective, and behavioural features are linked to one’s beliefs about the malleability of our intelligence.
Of course, some of this needs to be taken with a pinch of reality salt. I relate it to my desire to be one of Justin Timberlake’s backing dancers or one of Aretha Franklin’s backing singers. No matter how much effort I put in and how much I believe I can become one of these esteemed performers, it’s not realistic and isn’t going to happen. However, the notion of believing that I can achieve something realisable and that my brain is not a fixed state is the point: and perhaps it’s more about feeling that something is achievable than being able to achieve it whatever.
How can you help your mindset grow? Embrace challenges rather than avoid them. Keep trying, even in the face of setbacks, rather than giving up easily. Learn from criticism rather than ignore useful feedback. And, instead of feeling threatened by other people’s success, be inspired by them. This will lead to having a greater sense of free will and the ability to reach higher levels of achievement, not a deterministic view of the world.
If you’re curious about your mindset, have a look at this: http://blog.mindsetworks.com/what-s-my-mindset.
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.
Hi, I'm Joanna from Clean Well-Being.
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