February 12, 2017
The world has become a pretty unstable and unsettling place at the moment – Donald Trump is in charge of the most powerful country in the world, the UK is in negotiation to leave the rest of the EU, and war continues to rage in the Middle East. One sitting of the news and you’re likely to walk away feeling more down than when you started.
In a time where we’re experiencing the highest standard of living in history, paradoxically we’re also more depressed, anxious and unhappy.
First things first, we need to take care of ourselves. I’m not saying this out of selfishness, or from a ‘every man from himself’ perspective. I’m talking about learning to create happiness and peace from within that can radiate onto others and create a ripple effect. There’s a reason they get you to fit your own oxygen mask on a plane before others – you won’t be able to get someone else’s mask on if you’re not breathing!
So here are the top 6 things that you need to be doing for yourself regularly in 2017. I’m not saying that these things will change the world, but they will definitely help YOU to feel happier, healthier and a more altruistic human.
1. Breathe. It’s amazing how many people aren’t breathing to its full potential. I used to be one of them. I used to just keep all the oxygen in my chest, and not expand the breath into my diaphragm and lower abdomen. When you start to breathe diaphragmatically, the PNS system (learn more on this here) is switched on, and your body starts to relax. It’s great to mindfully breathe like this first thing in the morning and last thing at night before you go to sleep for about five minutes. This will help you to subconsciously breathe like this throughout the day as well. It’s amazing what 5 minutes of deep breathing can do for your mental and physical health!
2. Fuel your body. It’s easy to forget that the reason we eat is to provide fuel to the body. The balance between eating for pleasure and eating for survival has swung considerably to the former and this is having ramifications. Try to make at least one meal a day focused on fuelling for nutrition. Eat nutrient dense foods – like fruits and vegetables – and try and eat as close to the natural source as possible. Processing of foods has changed considerably, and it’s hard to know what’s been added when you can’t understand the ingredients!
3. Move more. Unless you’re an ultra athlete, we could ALL do with more movement. Our sedentary lifestyle has us sitting down more than ever. Unfortunately, one hour of intentional exercise has been shown as not enough to combat the effects of sitting at a desk all day. So we need to start integrating movement throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to/from work or a portion of the journey, or go for walking meetings instead of sit down coffees. Do whatever it takes to make that magic 10,000 step number. It’s not in any way easy, but it’s very rewarding for your body.
4. Learn to meditate. If there is only ONE thing that you do this year, learn to meditate. There are yoga studios and meditation centres popping up everywhere, and plenty of resources online that can teach you the fundamentals – I have even made a recording for you here. If you’re already meditating, make it a goal to foster your practice. I could go on and on about the benefits of meditation (and I do so here) but for the sake of this blog, just realise that meditation is one of THE BEST forms of self-care out there. It takes as little as 5 minutes a day, and it can be life changing. Trust me on this one.
5. Embrace minimalism. I have blogged on this already (and will probably continue to!) and it seems to be quite an emerging theme for me (and plenty of others) in 2017. It seems that an excess of ‘stuff’ is manifesting our discontent, and there is no end in sight in the hunt for something new. Cleanout your wardrobe (learn how to here) or de-clutter your office space. Just spend time over the next year clearing the physical to allow the mental space for growth.
6. Sleep. At the end of the day it can feel like there’s just not enough time to do any of those self-care activities. I wouldn’t blame you for telling me so! The proverbial ‘to do list’ continues to grow, and despite the number of items we tick off, it never seems to end. One thing you CAN do that doesn’t require an extra item on the to do list is to sleep. I mean, force yourself at least 7-9 hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT. I can hear you groaning through your computer “who has that much time to sleep?”. The change makers do and so do you. The plane and oxygen analogy is most pertinent here. You will be so much more productive, have so much more energy, be capable of achieving so much more in less time, IF you get more sleep. Try it for a week and see what happens…
Now this may seem like a lot but even if you just pick ONE of these things to do this year, the transformation may just surprise you.
This will be the last blog post for 2016! So I thought in the spirit of Christmas I’d give you access to a guided meditation that you can listen to over the holidays (see link below).
Whether you’re a guru meditator or a first timer, meditation brings a unique and different experience to everyone each time. The Western world is finally starting to catch up with the scientific benefits of meditation that the East has been preaching about for centuries. As a consequence, meditation is no longer reserved for just ‘hippies’ (see my other blog on famous meditators!) and is becoming a more common practice among many.
While there are countless benefits of meditation, I’ve covered the top 9 below. If you’re not meditating, these are the 9 things you’ll be missing out on!
1. We all face stress at one time or another. Stress can SOMETIMES be a good thing. But not all the time. Research has found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs may help manage stress. A systematic review of 17 MBSR studies found the program to be effective in reducing stress in participants ! So when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed this Christmas, turn to meditation.
2. Anxiety is often a by-product of built up stress and can get a real grip of you if you don’t have ways to manage it. A systematic review of meditation training found that 69% of the studies analysed highlighted that meditation alleviated the symptoms of anxiety .
3. Sleep is one of the biggest issues that my clients come to me with. We all have so much on our minds all the time, and little time throughout the day to switch off. The plethora of technology available at our finger tips makes going to sleep at night a challenge for many. A meta-analysis of randomised control trials among those with insomnia showed that eight weeks of meditation training significantly improved sleep quality . So if you’re mind is racing as soon as your head hits the pillow, try some relaxation meditation to help you drift of more easily.
4. Still on the topic of sleep, the holiday season often means that sleep is the first to be sacrificed for parties, shopping, and other appointments. Among practiced meditators, time spent meditating is now correlated with a significant decrease in total sleep time needed . Some have even said 20 minutes of meditation is the equivalent to a one-hour nap. So if you don’t have time to be napping during the day, find a quiet space for 20 minutes and zone out to feel refreshed and energized!
5. Meditation has now been shown to have significant impacts on our cognition. Scientists investigated the effects of a meditation training program and found that meditating for just four days is enough to improve novice meditators’ working memory . So if you’re struggling to remember all those new names at the latest social gathering, try a meditation and you could be remembering the most important of names…
6. While December usually isn’t the month for colds and flus, having one in the blazing heat and humidity is less than pleasant. On top of that, all the late nights, less healthy food and extra alcohol all wreck havoc on the immune system. A study from Harvard Medical School showed that individuals who practiced yoga and meditation developed a higher immunity . The last thing you want Christmas Day is to be blowing your nose and all puffy from a cold, so practice some mindfulness techniques throughout the month to keep the immune system strong.
7. Christmas time is often when feelings of loneliness start to rear their ugly heads. A study on mindfulness meditation training showed that meditation helps decrease those feelings of loneliness . You don’t have to live alone to experience loneliness. Practicing meditation is one of the best ways to get comfortable with your own company, plus it gives you a hit of those feel good hormones, which Loneliness doesn’t like to hang around with.
8. Show of hands if you think you’re NOT creative (my hand is up). I like to think of myself as the more logical and problem solving type. Though since starting my own business I’ve HAD to become more creative. Research shows that meditation has positive effects in creativity and divergent thinking . There is no better place for me to come up with new ideas and services for my clients than during a meditation. If you’re looking for some creative inspiration for what 2017 will hold for you, try just shutting down the eyes and tuning into your intuition – it may surprise you.
9. This one is especially useful over Christmas. How many times have you finished a Christmas meal and felt totally and utterly STUFFED?! Scientists now believe that Transcendental Meditation (with a mantra) helps to manage emotional eating . When we’re more mindful about what we’re putting in our bodies consciously it transfers subconsciously into our everyday behaviour.
There’s so many benefits to meditation but even if you just experienced ONE of these, imagine how much better off the end of 2016 will be and the potential for 2017.
Click HERE for the guided mediation to start
 Sharma, M., & Rush, S. E. (2014). Mindfulness-based stress reduction as a stress management intervention for healthy individuals a systematic review. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 19(4), 271-286.
 Chen, K. W., Berger, C. C., Manheimer, E., Forde, D., Magidson, J., Dachman, L., & Lejuez, C. W. (2012). Meditative therapies for reducing anxiety: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Depression and anxiety, 29(7), 545-562
 Gong, H., Ni, C. X., Liu, Y. Z., Zhang, Y., Su, W. J., Lian, Y. J., … & Jiang, C. L. (2016). Mindfulness meditation for insomnia: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 89, 1-6.
 Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and cognition, 19(2), 597-605.
How does your day usually run at the moment? Do you have time for breakfast? Do you catch yourself at work wearing a top and skirt that don’t match? Or odd coloured socks? Do you get stuck in the rain without an umbrella? Left your keys/wallet/phone at home?
Or are you the complete opposite? Have everything together and the day just runs smoothly and seamlessly? There seems to be a spectrum where people fall between the Planners and the Free Spirit, but no matter where you fall now, there is always another tip or trick you can steal from these organisational hacks to up your own planning mojo.
Below are the top three hacks that other Planners are using everyday to make sure they’re on top of things, have more energy, and reduce their stress levels:
1. Prepare Prepare Prepare
There’s three of them because it relates to three levels of preparation depending on the situation. The old saying rings true that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” so below are some of the best ways people plan ahead. Creating healthy habits will get you a long way, but if you can create rituals (basically a series of habits strung together) then you really set yourself up for success.
Level One: Daily Preparation.
Planners believe that getting organised the night before is key to having a smooth running morning and reducing stress throughout the day. They check the weather forecast before going to bed to help decide what to wear and whether they need any wet weather accessories. They choose what they’re going to wear (plus all the things you need underneath!) from top to bottom and lay them out the night before. Your morning self may not pick up that two different shades of blue don’t actually match! They have their lunch and snacks in a bag ready in the fridge to just grab and go in the morning. It’s a seamless process!
Level Two: Weekly Preparation.
Planners spend time early on to save precious hours later by carving out their weekly schedule on Sunday’s with everything they want and need to achieve in the upcoming week. They schedule in meal preparation, workouts, “me time”, stretching time, meditation, appointments, presentations; all of it goes in. They treat everything as EQUAL so the practices they deemed important at the start of the week can’t be compromised on. They also allocate some ‘spare time’ for catch up in case unexpected things pop up.
Level Three: Monthly and Yearly Preparation.
This is the next level for Planners. Not only are they kicking goals on a week by week basis, but they also see the bigger picture. They set out their goals and intentions for the year broken down into the months so they know what’s next on their list. Because it’s so easy to run through life day by day, week by week, month by month, without achieving anything significant, overcoming this requires forward thinking and an understanding of the big picture to project yourself to where you want to go.
2. Embracing Minimalism
When I say “Minimalist” I don’t mean throwing out all your most prized possessions and going to live in a tree house in the middle of a rainforest. Planners are Minimalists in their daily lives. An example is their wardrobe. One of my clients Sara* is a Minimalist with her wardrobe. Most people only wear about 20% of the items in their wardrobe, so knowing this, Sara does a 6 monthly clear out of her wardrobe. If it hasn’t been worn in the past six months, it goes, to a worthwhile charity. The tip for knowing if it’s been worn or not – turn the coat hanger to face towards the front of the wardrobe and if it’s still that way at the six month check up, it goes. Having a clean and minimal wardrobe takes the stress out of making decisions on what to wear as well!
Planners also tidy as they go. Spending 10 minutes every night before bed tidying up around the house is PLENTY because there isn’t a whole heap of ‘stuff’ in the first place. A great tip is to apply the philosophy that if it takes less than 60 SECONDS to do something, do it at the time IMMEDIATELY. This frees up your weekends too so you’re not spending the whole time cleaning and tidying before the new week begins!
3. They take notes on EVERYTHING
The stores like Officeworks, Kiki K, and Typo are not just making money because their stationary looks good. There are so many things that we need to remember throughout the day that it’s easy to forget or become overwhelmed.
The process of writing notes down as reminders on either post-it notes or digitally in your phone, having an open calendar in the kitchen for everyone to see, or your meal ideas for the week, helps Planners to stay on top of everything and have others in the household also informed!
There are so many templates online and sites for advanced to do lists like Trello or Google Sites, or if you want the hard copy there are lots of amazing options within stationary retailers. Writing things down frees your mind for the more important areas you need to focus on!
Planners always seem less stressed, they have more energy, and despite their massive ‘to do lists’ they manage to get it all done. We can’t all be Perfect Planners, but we can all learn a little something from what they do…
*names changed for confidentiality
October is World Mental Health Month. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as the state of well-being in which every individual with their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to their community. Nearly half (45%) of all Australians will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime, and those that don’t will likely know someone who does. I have several close friends who suffer from anxiety and depression, and while they often can present as a fully functioning adult, there are times when they are crippled with it. The worst part is, this health issue is almost invisible. There’s still a lot of stigma and confusion around mental health, and that’s where this years theme of Learn and Grow comes in.
Suffering from a mental health issue doesn’t necessarily mean being locked in a room 24/7 refusing to leave. My friends usually meet the WHO criteria above, except its not consistent, and there are days when they don’t want to leave their house. It is a weekly and sometimes daily struggle for them to be productive at work. The stress of work, home life or their own self-confidence makes acting as a ‘productive human’ much more difficult.
That is why this year in particular is so important for mental health awareness, as the theme is encouraging people and communities to learn more about mental health and use that knowledge to grow personally and empower individuals to be in control of their mental wellbeing. The social network surrounding people suffering in their mental health is crucial for support. The workplace is one of those key areas.
Stress, daily demands, and burnout are all key precursors in the workplace for a potentially negative impact on workers mental health. Those that ‘work the hardest’ or ‘work the longest’ are often championed and praised for their dedication. But at what cost?
Beyond the emotional and physical toll it takes on the individual, mental health conditions present substantial costs to organisations. My previous blog breaks down the costs of absenteeism, productivity loss, and turnover, of which mental health conditions are a significant contributor. However, through the implementation of an effective wellness program to create a mentally healthy workplace, organisations are showing a positive return on investment.
In light of this, Energy|Body|Mind are hosting a free Mindfulness event in Sydney at Observatory Hill on October 31st. It’s during your lunch break on a Monday from 12.30-1.15pm so come along to engage with some stretching and powerful postures, learn some breathing techniques, and undertake a short meditation. You will leave feeling recharged and re-energised! Registration details below.
So what are some of the ways that you can start to integrate a healthy work environment to help you and your colleagues to reduce and prevent the ill-effects of mental health issues?
This is an important issue, and one that seems to be on the rise. But we can do something about it, and taking action in the workplace can be one of the best methods for this.
Registration for the Mindfulness event is from the Home Page of this site. Spots are limited, and the first 10 to register will receive a special gift! Look forward to seeing you there.