Being Good

‘No thanks, I’m being good’.

So said me this week, to the offer of cake from a colleague.

I am being good.

Too often we categorise food into either good and bad with nothing in between.

Good stuff is green, fresh, nutrient rich, healthy.

Bad stuff is sugar, fat, processed, carbs. Or whatever the latest diet craze has banned.

We then go on to to define ourselves the same way. Depending on what we have eaten we are therefore either good or bad too.  In my language to my colleague, it wasn’t the food to which I was assigning a binary value, but me.  I was by extension, being good or being bad based on whether I said yes or not.

It’s an unhelpful narrative.

You aren’t what you eat.

The words you say to yourself matter.

cake

Exercise and me

All throughout my childhood, teens, twenties and most of my thirties I actively hated exercise.

I wasn’t very good at anything which meant that I didn’t believe in myself which meant I didn’t try.

Take PE at school. There are few things more torturous for the unfit, uncoordinated and under confident.  I was default useless.  So scared of going under water, I reached the swimming stage where you were required to dive for a brick and then stopped.  In the shallow end.  I was so dreadful at netball I was relegated to Goal Defence (for the uninitiated, it is the position furthest away from the action should be).  I couldn’t run so I’d sneak off during cross country and go home, and my mum would drive me round to the end of the course and I’d sneak back in the pack.  I stood against it, making fun of myself and eventually refusing to participate.

And then, if all that wasn’t enough….. the additional horror. Being picked for a team.

Let’s just say I wasn’t anyone’s first choice (or second, or third).

It took me decades to realise I wasn’t terrible at everything. I was just terrible at the stuff that involved hand eye co-ordination (no racquets required).  I was also pretty terrible and jumping over things and throwing things. So essentially, everything that we had to do at school.  But eventually, I found my thing and my thing turned out to be the gym.  I also love to cycle and to run (a bit).

Now, exercise is a fundamental part of my life.

Exercise calms me when I am anxious or stressed.

It boosts my energy when I am tired.

It gives me confidence.

It supports my whole wellbeing.

It has taught me so much about myself and what I am capable of (spoiler: so much more than I ever believed possible).

Sometimes, it makes me feel a little bit badass.

When I tried to do exercise that I didn’t enjoy it felt like a chore. Now, often, it is the best part of my day.  I found my exercise thing.  You don’t need to be amazing at it.  You don’t need to look good while you are doing it.

You just need to find your thing, and go for it.

 

The Selfie Tree

I have recently returned from a much needed holiday on the beautiful island of Ibiza. We stayed in a wonderful hotel overlooking the sea.  Underneath our balcony was a tree, standing on the edge of rocks which then dropped away down to the water below.  The tree was twisted, with one gnarled branch at a height just perfect for sitting on.  It didn’t take long before we noticed something….. the stream of holidaymakers taking photos of themselves sat upon this particular tree.

Photos, plural.

Each situation almost the same. Multiple poses would be struck, many worthy of a glossy magazine photo shoot. A pause for review.  Resume to take more.  And some more.  Eventually, one photograph presumably worthy of uploading would be achieved and the theatre would cease.  There’d be another pause for the upload, and off they would go…. until the next visitor to the selfie tree.

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I’ve always taken a lot of photographs. For me, they are a way to capture a memory and return to it.  I am especially partial to a selfie with my Other Half.  But there was something about this particular holiday photography that made me uncomfortable.  From the point of view of the observer, it didn’t feel like capturing a moment of happiness, but something else entirely.

The desire for picture perfection, the ‘living my best life’ depiction, filtered, photoshopped, life through the lens.

And the question occurs….. what does this mean for our wellbeing?

When what seems to matter is not our lived life but the look of it.

When it is our outer self and our representation of it that is prominent.

Seeking not to be comfortable with who we are but instead focusing on how we look externally. Judged the same way, courtesy of the ‘like’ button.

True personal wellbeing comes from within. It is beyond the superficial and the transitionary. It’s about feeling good and functioning well.  Our overall satisfaction with our own lives.  Being comfortable with who we are and what we have.

What we see on social media isn’t always real. Sometimes it is the 50th pose, the filtered version, an artificial construction.  And this is what we must remember before we let the picture perfection influence how we feel about our own self.

 

 

Work it off

You know when you have had one of those days? Or even weeks?

Stress levels are high. Demands and deadlines everywhere.  The to-do list seems to be ever-growing.  The commute has been a giant PITA.  Other people, same.

When I have one of those days, it’s not unusual for me to get home in a fearful grump. Action is very much required to erase the day.  I know that the answer definitely isn’t at the bottom of a glass of wine.  The answer is within me – and my trainers.

It’s time to put your headphones in your ears and work it off, work it out.

Run it off. Zumba it off.  Swim it the hell off. Stretch it out. Lift some weights. Do your thing, whatever it is.

Exercise is a great stress reliever.  When you have had one of those days, you probably won’t feel like it very much at all.  But push yourself all the same.  Just a short burst of exercise will lift your mood and energy, and help to banish the trials of the day.

Work the stress out.

 

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Be still, my butterfly mind

You know those times when your brain just won’t switch off? 

Thinking, always thinking.  The never ending to do list nagging at the back of your mind. Must dos, ought to dos, got to get dones.  Work life imbalance.  Thoughts like a butterfly, landing for a moment or two and then flitting to the next thing. 

This is when I know it is time to go to the gym for a while. 

Counting the reps.

Focusing on technique.

Getting the breathing just so.

Planning the next set.

Music in my ears.

There’s no time for the to-list here.  No space to think about work emails or domestic chores.  Time to re-set, breathe, find my calm.   Just me and the weights. 

And my brain, still again. 

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Thinking about wellbeing

Part of my day job is wellbeing within organisations. I create and deliver courses about wellbeing, and I coach people around their wellbeing and their life work balance (if there is any such thing).  Many of the people I work with are women who are balancing work, families and domestic stuff.

Many of us are so busy in the everyday, so focused on the needs of others and trying to get through the never ending to-do list, that we forget about ourselves.  Our own wellbeing gets neglected or slips down the priority list.  We just don’t think about it enough.  My role as a wellbeing coach is to help people think, reflect, plan.  To bring their wellbeing to the forefront.  Like many coaches I have questions that I use regularly. They are a way to get the conversation started and help the person I am working with to really think about where they are and what they want.  They provide an anchor for future discussions.

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Reflecting on our wellbeing on a regular basis is something that many of us can benefit from. Here are a few of the questions that I often ask my coachees.

What does wellbeing mean to you?

 How would you describe your current state of wellbeing?

 What makes you thrive?

 What gives you energy?

 What is your biggest wellbeing challenge right now?

 What is the thing that you most want to change about your wellbeing?

 What’s the first, or easiest, step you could take to improve your current wellbeing?

 Thinking about your wellbeing, what does success look like to you?

 What gets in the way of you prioritising your wellbeing?

 What do you want to achieve – and by when?

 

When did you last think about your wellbeing – and make yourself your priority?

Let’s stop talking about willpower

I don’t have any willpower.

Or so someone said to me recently.

Like it’s a thing that you are lucky enough to be born with. Something that can be big or small, present or not.  In your DNA.

Newsflash. It’s not your willpower. It’s you.

When we think that is it our willpower that is driving us, we surrender control. We other it.

It’s not me don’t you know. It’s my willpower.  It is a cognitive convenience.

Instead of willpower, think instead about choice.

If you eat the chocolate, it isn’t because you have no willpower, some malign force conspiring against you.

It is because you choose to eat it.

Only by owning our choices and recognising that they are ours and that we do have control over them, can we truly take responsibility.

It starts with you.

What’s your practice?

What are your daily wellbeing practices?

This question appeared in my twitter timeline this morning. The tweet has long gone….. the thought remains.

I aim to do something that contributes to my wellbeing every day. It’s a deliberate thing for me; it helps me focus, keep it top of mind.

Wherever possible, that daily practice is about exercise, because this is the thing that for me, more than everything else, makes me feel awesome. Exercise contributes not only to my physical health but my mental health too.

This might be a class, some weights, a run or a bike ride. It’s the movement that matters.  When work or life stuff gets in the way, I will replace exercise with something else.  Get my steps in, walk rather than getting the bus, make some healthy eating choices, have a long hot soak in the bath (posh bath oils, of course).

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Self-care isn’t selfish. I am responsible for my wellbeing. Me. No-one else.  It shouldn’t be something that I do when I think about it or when I can find the time. Wellbeing needs to be deliberate.  It needs to be a practice and a priority.

What are your daily practices?

And if you don’t have any….. maybe it’s time to begin.