21 Days of Self-Care

Day Eighteen

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“My soul tells me, we were
all broken from the same nameless
heart, and every living thing
wakes with a piece of that original
heart aching its way into blossom.
This is why we know each other
below our strangeness, why when
we fall, we lift each other, or when
in pain, we hold each other, why
when sudden with joy, we dance
together. Life is the many pieces
of that great heart loving itself
back together.”

Mark Nepo

The collective suffering from COVID19 feels heavy. Many of us have never experienced such an event in our lifetime. It’s new and unknown and there’s so much fear attached to it. The shear weight of the repercussions of this outbreak have been felt by millions of people across the globe. Yet, although there is difficulty and suffering, I believe there is strength to be found in our unity.

There is no denying that we’re in this together, that this experience is shared. We know that this will change our lives and shape our community forever, but I also believe it will make way for more compassion, kindness and connection.

In the last few weeks, we have collectively experienced a rollercoaster of emotions from anger to acceptance, grief to gratitude. Learning to be compassionate towards ourselves is crucial. Harnessing self-compassion means not beating ourselves up over small mistakes, being kind to ourselves and giving ourselves what we need throughout the day, however luxurious this may feel.

It is also important that we allow ourselves to be held, supported and comforted by those around us. Expressing and sharing our vulnerabilities fully and asking for help when we need it. Kindness and compassion will help us weather this storm.

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From The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse

Ideas

  • Try a loving kindness meditation. Send intentions of love and support to yourself, your neighbour, your community, your country, all of humanity.
  • Cheer for the healthcare workers – Applaud your healthcare system from your back door, window or garden. If you’re here in the UK that’s every Thursday night at 8pm.
  • Cultivate self-compassion – learn how to quieten your inner critic and be kinder to yourself.

Day Seventeen

SLOW

Today I’m taking my own advice and slowing down! So, I’m going to make this short.

Now’s the time to be gentle with yourself, to give yourself permission for rest and reflection. To allow yourself space to recalibrate and find your own inner strength. To nourish yourself in all the ways you know and trust the process.

Inspiration

‘Balance comes from listening to the guidance and wisdom of the inner voice’ (Deborah Adele 2009)

‘In order to develop our mind, we must look at a deeper level. Everyone seeks happiness, joyfulness, but from outside – from money, from power, from big car, from big house. Most people never pay much attention to the ultimate source of a happy life, which is inside, not outside.’ (Dalai Lama 2016)

‘If you are critical with yourself, others will feel your high expectations of themselves as well. If you are light-hearted and forgiving with yourself, others will feel the ease and joy of being with you. If you find laughter and delight in yourself, others will be healed in your presence.’  (Deborah Adele 2009)

‘Create some time for yourself and things will gradually become clear…The free of spirit have stopped trying and instead let things happen.’ (Tom Hodgkinson 2006)

Day Sixteen

play

I’m a member of a very silly club. Before the pandemic we would meet each week in a field. Bring props like ladders or lemons and create a Freestyle Game. A Freestyle Game is a game that has never been played before and will never be played again. Each game is created in the moment by the group, given a name, played once or twice (with room for adaption and fine tuning) and never played again.

I’ve hopped blindfolded across the field singing ‘staying alive’ whilst racing my fellow freestyle members, I’ve been rugby tackled to the ground whilst protecting a patch of clover, I’ve lobbed scented candles, made fairy sized bouquets from hedgerow, worn a horse head whilst standing between the goal posts…oh and the handshake…yes there’s a handshake!!

Freestyle Games is utterly ridiculous, but I absolutely love it! I love the absurd, imaginative, spontaneous moments that arise in the act of playing. There is so much to learn from being silly and so much joy to be had!

So why do us adults stop playing like children? And what can we do to revive our playful nature?

Theory

When we become grownups the opportunity for spontaneous play becomes limited. Playing becomes structured and formalised; we are confined to what society has deemed acceptable only expressing our playful state within these limited realms. We play team sports, go shopping, go out drinking, take up wacky hobbies or enjoy a fruity sex life. The way we play also becomes limited by the roles with give ourselves or are given to us by others. For example, it is more acceptable to be playful if our job is as an entertainer, playworker or teacher than if we’re a banker, manager or surgeon. Yet playing is a very primal, innate skill with a purpose for its existence.

‘Of all the animal species, humans are the biggest players of all. We are built to play, and built through play.’ (Brown 2010)

What sets us apart from other mammals is we extend our juvenile period out longer than any other creature. Our children have roughly 15 years to play, and there’s reason for this! Play helps us to test our boundaries, to learn what’s safe and what’s dangerous. Play lets us learn through trial and error, allowing us to test out ideas and act out roles without any attachment to the outcome. Play helps our children develop and grow in a safe and protected environment, so that when they reach a certain age, they are able to make healthy decisions and ultimately stay alive!

Playing is critical to learning in the early stages of life, but it also continues to enhance our learning into adulthood. Play boosts creativity, confidence and joy. It helps us to see limitless possibilities and go beyond our comfort zone.

‘…new discoveries and new learning come when one is open to serendipity, when one welcomes novelties and anomalies’ (Brown 2010)

Cultivating a playful spirit can help you to be more flexible when faced with challenges or uncertainty. It can bring more laughter into your days and connection with those you love.

Ideas

  • Put your bins out in your ball gown
  • Challenge your family to a synchronised dance
  • Have a whole conversation with someone in gibberish
  • Organise a games night, dig out some board games or download the houseparty app to play games online with friends.
  • Do a task backwards. Make your sandwich back to front and the wrong way around, put your trousers on upside down, rethink your habits, flirt with the nonsensical!
  • Lip sync to your favourite song
  • Conduct a serious conference call as a potato

Day Fifteen

Eat well

Would you put petrol in a diesel car?

The food we eat has an overreaching effect on our health and well-being, whether we are conscious of it or not.  Becoming more aware of your diet will help you to make necessary adjustments to meet the needs of your body – and it will do an enormous amount to maintain and improve your health.

Theory

There are 11 systems in the body which all need certain nutrients to function optimally.

Any lack of nutrients leads to a body that is not running efficiently.  There are molecules we get from food that our bodies can not make so it is vital to ensure we have balanced varied diet.

We live in a world where there is not only an abundance of poor nutrient dense food but highly palatable and potentially addictive foods such as the mix of sugar and fat, which makes it harder than just will power to stop.  They wreak havoc with our gut flora and immune system which has a huge knock on effect to health.  They can cause huge cravings to eat more of the food.  People feel like they have no control and defeated.  But it is much more complex than just will power. This is why eating a balanced diet is so important to get everything back in line and lead to more optimal health.

Balanced nutrition will lead to a body working at best including less fatigue, optimal weight, reduced cravings, increased energy, better sleep, more motivation, reduced inflammation, reduced risk of chronic diseases as well as much more.

Ideas

Nutrition – In these times of uncertainty and with everything that is happening it is more important than ever to ensure we eat food that will support our bodies as optimally as possible.  Here are some top tips to ensure that you are giving your body an epic boost:-

  1. Pack in a rainbow of colours with your vegetables and fruit each day. The more colour the better.  Each colour has molecules called phytonutrients which have different positive effects on your health.  They are all antioxidants which basically means they prevent damage to cells and are anti-inflammatory.  Why don’t you create a colour chart and get you and/or your family to think of as many different fruit and veg of each colour. Then tick off each one throughout the week.  Aim for more and more each week!!!
  2. Stay hydrated!! – I know this seems like such an obvious one but so many of us don’t drink enough water. This doesn’t include tea and coffee but does include herbal teas and both still and sparkling water.  Water is vital to feeling epic and just 1% dehydration can lead to fatigue and feeling below par.  It is such a simple yet effective tool to have in your tool box to feeling awesome!!
  3. Try and get in lots of natural anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory foods – These foods will really boost your immune system and help your body feel awesome. Foods such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, sage, coconut oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice with warm water and honey (locally sourced and raw if possible) are all epic foods for the immune system
  4. Good Fats – It is so important to have good fats in your diet. These are fats like Omega 3s which are really high in oily fish (there is a great acronym called SMASH to help you remember oil fish, Sardines, Mackerel, Anchovies, Salmon and Herrings). Vegan options are flax and chia seeds as well as hemp seeds.  Avocados and coconut oil are another epic fat for you.  Fat also keeps you fuller for longer which will lead to less snacking and it has less of an effect on blood sugar levels which is an epic thing for the body.
  5. Be mindful of sugar!!! – I think this is another topic that people hear a lot but are unsure of what happens in the body. Basically too much sugar not only wreaks havoc with the blood sugar balance which has a huge knock on effect to lots of systems in the body as well as weight gain, it can also deplete the body’s nutrient balance, which triggers a cascade of inflammation and metabolic disruption.  I would recommend to not have refined sugar more than once or twice a week if possible and have sweetness from natural sugars such as fruit.
  6. Eat whole foods as much as possible – Basically I always go off the understanding that anything with an ingredient list longer than 5 items has had processing. So get excited about cooking from scratch and experiment with recipes. It doesn’t have to mean hours of slaving in the kitchen at all.  Very nutritious meals can take a matter of minutes cooked from scratch.
  7. Planning is key – the more time you put into your planning the more time you are putting into succeeding. I know if I don’t plan and just rely on will power I will end up gorging on food that does not support my body optimally and I will feel rubbish from it. So take some time once or twice a week to ensure that you know what your eating for you and your family.  It will save time, money and your health in the long run.

These are simple key points that you can apply to your life without too much struggle.  The main thing is to KEEP IT SIMPLE!!! Nourish your body with food that it is designed to breakdown and you will feel the benefits of it, including more energy, optimal weight, better sleep, balanced mood as well as so much positive effects inside that you can’t see and maybe can’t feel with all the body systems working synergistically.

Becci

Written by Becci Gowers dipCNM, mBANT, studying MSc in Personalised Nutrition – Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist.  Founder and Director of IgniteYou CIC

www.igniteyou.org.uk

becci@igniteyou.org.uk

 

Day Fourteen

NOTICE

When I feel stressed, I start biting my nails. This has become a habit which I have maintained for over 20 years now. Although I’m not particularly proud of this coping strategy, it has served to be quite useful in helping me notice when I’m feeling stressed. Biting my nails has become a warning sign; being able to notice this sign helps me to take relevant action to reduce my stress levels.

Theory

We all experience warning signs of stress; it could be insomnia, tension around the shoulders, headaches, mood swings, a change in eating habits, fatigue, brain fog, feeling despondent, being unable to make decisions, heart palpitations and the list goes on. Some of these warning signs are symptoms of stress, some are negative coping strategies  that we may have acquired to deal with the stress.  Noticing these warning signs is the first step in helping to manage them.

Us humans have the tendency to be reactive to stress, adding fuel to the fire instead of dealing with it when it arises.  Tolle describes this well in his observation of two ducks fighting…

‘…after two ducks get into a fight…they will separate and float off in opposite directions. Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight. After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing had ever happened.

If the duck had a human mind, it would keep the fight alive by thinking… “I don’t believe what he just did…He thinks he owns this pond…I’ll never trust him again…I’ll teach him a lesson he won’t forget.”’

(Tolle 2019)

The human mind likes to create stories, which keep the negative emotions alive. Negative emotions generate negative thoughts which in turn generates more negative emotions and the cycle begins.

The lesson is to be more like ducks! When a thought, feeling or situation arises that generates a strong negative emotion and activates our stress response. Instead of being reactive and allowing our stories to blow the situation out of proportion, can we be responsive?

By ‘responsive’ I mean noticing the warning signs of the stress and tension in our body and taking action to relieve it. Flapping our hypothetical wings! When we are able to pause and take action we can begin to cultivate positive coping strategies, that, with practice, can become a healthier default setting.

Ideas

In the last 2 weeks me and my guest bloggers have suggested many ways to help to notice stress and take action. Here’ three steps to remember…

Step one: Pause

The very first thing to do is pause, to stop what you’re doing and check in. I spoke about ways to do this on Day Seven Accept.

Step Two: Breathe

Take 3 deep breathes in and out, feeling your feet on the ground, you’re bum on the seat, the gentle rise and fall of your chest and belly. For more extensive instructions and resources read Day One Breathe.

Step Three: Take Action

This is where we flap our wings! Exercise is a great way of relieving tension in the body. Laughter can help you bounce back and gain perspective. Mindful listening can help relax your mind and bring you back to your body. Asking for help is also a good way to take action, if the stress feels too heavy or unmanageable.

You know what makes you feel good. If that’s dancing, singing, baking, petting your dog, creating go do that! The action doesn’t need to be complicated, as long as it makes you feel good and it’s not at the detriment of yourself or others, then I say go for it!

Day Thirteen

bm2

‘If you are willing to move, your muscles will give you hope. Your brain will orchestrate pleasure. And your entire physiology will adjust to help you find the energy, purpose, and courage you need to keep going.’ – Kelly McGonigal

We all know that exercise is good for us. Not only does it keep our bodies fit and healthy; but it helps our mental health profoundly too. What better time to explore new (or old) forms of movement that make us feel better? There are so many ways that we can do this, without sticking to prescribed forms of movement – find what feels good for YOUR body. I have found that on the days where I have been more active physically, my anxious mind becomes quieter and my nervous system more relaxed.

Theory

We live in a society that seems increasingly drawn to the belief that comfort makes us happier. Convenience food, online shopping and technology are all party to this system. Why do we think that ease is the answer? Many of us spend our days sitting at a desk, leading stressful, yet sedentary lives and feeling worse for it. Humans are simply not designed to sit still all day; we are designed for movement.

Our physical bodies have evolved to keep us alive as hunter-gatherers, and our brains have evolved alongside to support and reward sustained effort. While this is no longer our reality today, we can still use this knowledge to enhance our wellbeing. Essentially, it is important to remember that we are wired to feel good when we move our bodies!

Regular exercise has an impact on the chemicals that our brain produces. Over time, the physical structure of the brain can be changed through exercise, becoming more receptive to joy and more resilient to stress and anxiety. While the ‘runners high’ is commonly talked about, the positive and euphoric rewards of exercise apply no matter what form of movement we chose, providing there’s a little challenge. In fact, it is better to undertake something that needs effort, yet can be endured for a longer time.

No matter what our current abilities may be, there is always a way of moving our bodies a little more, boosting the natural remedies we have inbuilt.

Ideas

  • MORNING / The best time of day to exercise is when you wake. At this time, our bodies have the most cortisol present (a stress hormone) and therefore, sweating it out when you first get up, sets you up for a better day.
  • MUSIC / If you’re struggling with motivation; try putting on a playlist of your favourite songs and let that inspire you to move in any way that comes naturally. This could be dancing, stretching, running, yoga or whatever you feel inspired to do: no rules!
  • PLAY / What did you love to do as a child? Try not to think about exercise for the sake of fitness, but become curious about how you enjoy moving. Be playful and creative!
  • NATURE/ Get outside if you can. This might mean a local walk, yoga on your patio or time spent in the garden. Nature can be both a healing and an inspiring environment. Use whatever motivates you.
  • BE PRODUCTIVE / Maybe you don’t find normal exercise routines are for you; you like to keep productive, and you would rather be doing something useful which naturally keeps you active. Some suggestions – gardening, foraging, DIY in your home.
  • GOALS / Having something to work towards will help with motivation. It doesn’t matter the scale of what you want to achieve; just knowing why you’re making that regular commitment should keep you moving. For example, setting a weekly mileage goal or a distance to build up to if running, walking or cycling. Or perhaps envisioning something you would like to create in your garden or your home. Goals are important, but at the same time, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day – listen to your body and do what feels good. Come back to it the next day and start again.
  • CONNECT / One of the benefits of exercise is connection with others. Of course, this is slightly more challenging (physically) in our current situation. But there are so many offerings online to keep us connected. Find a live streamed yoga / exercise / dance class near you – one that you can then join physically when things return to normal! When we take part in synchronised activities with a group, it helps us to form stronger bonds with those sharing that safe space.

Resources

Books

  • The Joy of Movement , Kelly McGonigal – I first heard Kelly talking on The Rich Roll Podcast. and as a result purchased this book, which talks further about ‘how exercise helps us find  happiness, hope, connection, and courage’. She is a teacher and lover of yoga, dance and exercise classes and is also a scientific researcher. She has written other books including ‘The Willpower Instinct.’
  • Born to Run, Christopher McDougal– a classic book about running for the joy of it, an exploration of an old running tribe who run barefoot – interesting to the non-runner too!
  • Eat and Run, Scott Jurek – Scott is an ultra-distance runner who documents his inspiring journey to becoming a ultra-champion. His first book is humble and infused with recipes to give you an insight into how his plant-based diet has allowed him to thrive as an athlete.

Podcasts

Online / Other

  • Yoga with Adriene– Free Yoga videos on YouTube
  • Many local Yoga studios are currently running live-streamed yoga sessions, so you can join in, all be it virtually, with a group. Look out for a local teacher who you can support.
  • Using Apps to connect with others and share your goals and achievements can be useful. An example would be Strava – used to record activities such as running, cycling, swimming etc.

‘It’s important that we don’t make movement an optional extra – something separate, that we can decide not to do on the days we feel too busy. It’s about weaving movement into every aspect of our lives.’

Sharon Blackie, The Enchanted Life

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Rebecca Mayes is an Ultra Marathon runner, Yoga Instructor and Artist. Check out her Instagram and Facebook pages for more of her musings.

 

 

Day Twelve

LEARN

One of the best things about having so much time is I’ve managed to pick up books that have been on my shelves for years and actually start reading them! It feels good to sit and learn more about the subjects I’m interested in, and inevitably this feeds into my ideas and creative work.

Learning doesn’t have to feel heavy, just start with what’s already on your bookshelf!

Theory

Learning isn’t just for children, taking up a new skill as an adult has the capacity to greatly improve your mental health and wellbeing. The challenge that comes with learning something new is what helps us to reach a sense of achievement. When we commit to obtaining new knowledge and step beyond what we already know, we can gain a better insight into ourselves.

One of the foundations of learning is breaking down large goals by creating achievable and bitesize tasks. This format works well, because when we accomplish a small task our brain releases dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with reward or pleasure. So each time we are able to tick something of our list, finish an essay or pass a test, our brain gives us a kick of dopamine which makes us feel great! When we feel the effects of dopamine, we are eager to repeat the actions that resulted in the initial success. This helps us to become more motivated to achieve our goal.

Learning boosts our self-confidence and improves our self-esteem, it helps to broaden our minds to new possibilities, enriching our experience of being alive.

Resources

Open University – Open University has hundreds of free online courses available!

Oxford Home Study – Here’s a few more free courses from Oxford Home Study

Learn how to Sign – Natasha Lamb and her sister Kelly-Ann are offering free YouTube classes in British sign language, I’ve just done lesson one and I’m already hooked!

Cooking Lessons from the BBC – If you’re not confident in the kitchen this resource is great and completely free!

Apps

PlantNet – Is a free plant identification app, literally take a photograph of the plant you’re unsure of and it will identify it for you in seconds! I now know all the real names of my houseplants!

Duolingo – A free language learning app. Take your pick of 94 different languages, and get started today!

Ted Talks – If you haven’t already got addicted to Ted Talks now’s the time! Listen to hundreds of talks from inspiring leaders, inventors, artists, scientists, activists, environmentalists, you name it it’s there!

Day Eleven

KIND

‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted’

  Aesop

 We have all witnessed or heard stories of acts of kindness over the past few weeks. In this difficult time, friends and neighbours are coming out to help support the vulnerable, elderly and isolated members of their community. Kindness is a general term that means being friendly, helpful and generous towards others.

Theory

  • We are actually all hardwired to be kind – there’s growing evidence that compassion and kindness were essential to our survival as a species. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution noted that the communities that were most kind and sympathetic to one another flourished the best and raised the most children.
  • When people help unrelated others in acts of kindness, neurons in the reward and pleasure centres of the brain are firing away – it’s like nature’s way of saying, ‘this feels good, do it again!’
  • Kindness stimulates the production of serotonin, this has all sorts of benefits from healing, to calming and making us feel happy.
  • Endorphins are increased which are the brains natural pain killer
  • Oxytocin (the love hormone), is also released and promotes social bonding, calming, and encourages trust and generosity, as well as strengthening the immune system.
  • Kindness is the ultimate health kick, it not only relieves stress but can also slow down the ageing process!
  • Kindness is also contagious – we are more likely to be kind if we have witnessed others being kind, and even just witnessing acts of kindness still gives us all of the great health benefits!

Ideas

  • Studies have shown that we actually get more happiness from spending money on others rather than ourselves. Is there something a friend, partner or parent could really do with right now? In the current situation it would have to be online shopping – maybe there’s a product out there that could help someone? Or maybe they just need a hug or a word of encouragement at this difficult time.
  • Kindness doesn’t always have to be about other people. Have you thought about doing something for yourself lately? Perhaps some self care or practicing a mediation? A loving kindness meditation is a nice one to try, this helps us to connect with the feeling of kindness towards ourselves before extending this kindness out to others.
  • Is there a Random Act of Kindness you could do right now? You may be stuck at home with your family, and it’s not your usual situation, so what can you do to make someone’s day a little easier? Offer to make a drink or lunch? Give a compliment. Run your partner a relaxing bath. Or even make sure they have some alone time! (very important when we’re all being asked to stay at home together)
  • Children at home – maybe you could make some gifts/cards or do some baking (with the help of a parent) to treat the others in your household.
  • A family kindness jar is always a nice idea – fill your jar up with notes of kindness towards one another and take it in turns to read out, or to do the kind act.

‘Be kind whenever it is possible. It is always possible.’

Online resources

Random Acts of Kindness  – Loads of kindness ideas on this website, and even includes an online forum.

KindnessUK  – Up to date articles on kindness, and lots of resources for children including kindness poems.

52 Lives  – 52 Lives aims to change someone’s life every week of the year. It is based on the simple premise that people are good, and lots of good people working together can achieve amazing things.

Artsycraftsymom – This one’s for the kids – some kindness craft ideas to do while they’re off school.

Books

Loving kindness ‘The revolutionary art of happiness’ – Sharon Salsberg

Kindness ‘The little things that matter most’ – Jamie Thurston

Kindfulness ‘be a true friend to yourself with mindful self-compassion’ – Padraig O’Morain

Self-compassion ‘stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind’ – Kristen Neff

Guest blog by Ellie Fass-Roads.

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Ellie is the founder of Kindfulmind. She teaches mindfulness, using the principles of kindness and compassion, to children, families and adults in and around Bristol.

 

 

Day Ten

LISTEN

Yesterday morning, I stepped outside and listened. I listened to the birds singing their morning chorus, I listened to the slow droning of the machinery in the field across from me, I listened to my footsteps as I slowly walked to the bottom of the garden. The crunch underfoot, the high-pitched intonations, the bass of the drone. A moment of presence.

Theory

The present moment is all we have, yet stress and to do lists and the mindless chatter in our brains takes our attention away from the present and into the past or future. If we don’t direct our attention it will go into autopilot, thinking, worrying and planning. Mindfulness helps us to cultivate awareness of the present moment, offering a rest from these autopilot traits and into a calmer state.

If we practice mindful listening on a regular basis, we will eventually find that it’s something we do naturally. This is because our brain continues to be malleable throughout our entire life, meaning that when we start something new and practice it, we can strengthen new neural connections in the brain.  This is called neuroplasticity! What’s exciting about neuroplasticity is it shows us that we can create healthy habits purely through practicing them!

Something as simple as mindful listening is a great place to start and can also be fun to do with your family.

Practice for grown-ups

‘Several times a day, stop and just listen. Open your hearing 360 degrees, as if your ears were giant radar dishes. Listen to the obvious sounds and the subtle sounds- in your body, in the room, in the building and outside. Listen as if you had just landed from a foreign planet and didn’t know what was making these sounds. See if you can hear all sounds as music being played just for you.’ (Bays 2011)

Practice for children

This activity is a great one to do outside. Get your child to make a fist with both of their hands, leaving their thumb open, get them to place their thumbs on either side of their head, to create two antlers. Get them to close their eyes and count as many different sounds as they can, raising one finger for every sound until their antlers are full. Recap on the sounds they heard in a minute.

Inspiration

Mindful by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

“Mindful” by Mary Oliver from Why I Wake Early. © Beacon Press, 2005.

Books

Mindfulness on the Go by Jan Chozen Bays

The Art of Mindful Birdwatching by Claire Thompson

Mindful thoughts for Walkers by Adam Ford

Day Nine

SLEEP

Last year I was asked to deliver a keynote speech and four workshops for 100 carers who worked for a charity. The event was in London, so I travelled up from Cornwall the day before and stayed with one of my friends, who happened to live close to the venue. We decided to get a takeaway and on the way back to her house picked up a beverage, she chose a beer and I chose a Dr Pepper. I didn’t want to feel at all hungover so opted for the sugar kick instead.

What I failed to remember is that Dr Pepper also contains caffeine, and as I lay awake all night, I cursed myself for making such a careless error!

Theory

Matthew Walker is a neuroscientist and sleep expert who researches the impact sleep can have on our brain and body. He states that the phrase ‘sleep while you’re dead’ has very real implications, finding in his research that depriving yourself of sleep can actually shorten your life. Walker suggests that the average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, but in reality, research suggests that on average we’re only getting five to six hours.

There’s a huge array of implications for not getting enough sleep. It affects your ability to remember new information and concentrate. It can affect your mental health with the NHS claiming that ‘chronic sleep debt may lead to long-term mood disorders like depression and anxiety’. You’re also more likely to have an accident at home, work or on the road if you’ve not had enough sleep.

Walker states that getting enough sleep each night is the best health insurance anyone could need. He states that sleep is the foundation for good health and self-preservation. Yet unlike other healthy choices there’s a lot of shame attached to getting a good night’s sleep. We are proud to boast about our 5-mile run or the salad we’ve had for lunch, but if we claim to need 8 hours sleep each night, people assume we’re lazy.

So how can we ensure a decent nights sleep and make it part of our daily self-care practice?

Ideas

These are Matthew Walkers ideas which he suggested in an interview with Dr Chatterjee on his podcast Feel Better Live More

  • Only drink caffeine in the mornings – if you have a coffee at midday a quarter of that caffeine will still be in your system at midnight. opt for decaf drinks! i.e no Dr Pepper before bed!!
  • Create a bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time in the morning. Leave a healthy window of time for you to acquire the sleep your body needs.
  • Avoid looking at blue light. The sun is a source of blue light as is any digital screen or LED bulb. If you’re bedroom is filled with artificial blue light your body will think it’s still daytime, so switch those lights down low and tell your body you’re ready for some sleep!
  • Sedation is not sleep. Avoid alcohol too! Alcohol affects the quality of your sleep, so avoid those nightcaps!
  • Associate your bed with sleep. If you’re laying awake for longer than 20 minutes get up and read a book, only go back to bed when your body feels sleepy. Avoid eating at this time too, otherwise you’ll start to associate no sleep with snacks. (Something I’m very guilty of!)

Resources

Matthew walker’s Ted Talk and book

NHS website