• But “Healthy” Is Boring!

    healthy and vibrant
     

    Not so long ago, I lived a sedentary life. I was overweight and ate a lot of takeaways – my favourite was topped chips, picked up on the way home from yet another long day at work. I didn’t do much else except sit in the car and sit at the computer, both at work and at home.
     

    While I told myself I was happy, I was really living a half-life and I wasn’t healthy. At the time, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else because I was always so tired. This was partly due to lack of sleep, but most of it came down to my eating habits.
     

    In short, junk food makes me want to go to sleep. The words “food coma” really apply to me! Now everyone’s different, but most people I talk to seem to share this experience with certain foods. Processed, greasy foods or heavy carbs have this effect on most of us.
     

    If you were wondering what health has got to do with passion, here’s your answer. It’s hard enough to carve out time for what we love to do as it is, even without feeling exhausted all the time. The least we can do to set ourselves up for success, is to keep our bodies in the best shape possible and our energy levels high.
     
     

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    The downward spiral

     

    The problem with an unhealthy lifestyle is that it can re-inforce itself. We eat unhealthy, processed foods, as a result we’re always exhausted, and so we don’t have the energy to work out. During my sedentary years, I did sometimes join a pilates class or similar, but I never stuck it out for more than a week or two. It was simply too hard and painful, as well as embarrassing.
     

    It’s hard to break the cycle, and sadly, many people need a health scare to shake them out of their lethargy. I, too, was devloping issues with my health, but thankfully they didn’t get as serious as they could have before I turned things around.
     

    The problem with all this is that it seems as though we need a negative impulse in order to start pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps. But there is a better way to be healthy.
     
     

    The list of excuses

     

    The major obstacle between you and health is the list of excuses you may have compiled over the years. You’ve never been athletic, TV is so much more fun, you’re too stressed, your family doesn’t leave you any time. If you’re willing to bear with me, I’ll show you a way around all these.
     

    It’s actually very simple, so simple that most people dismiss it as being silly. The remedy is just one sentence: “You can do anything for 15 minutes.” Yes, I know you can think of a million reasons why this is nonsense, but I assure you, it’s true.
     

    You can test it with anything you’re reluctant to do, even household chores. Set an alarm clock for 15 minutes and literally drop everything once you get there. The dishes might not be all done, but you’ll have more clean dishes than before! The same goes for your workout. Start with 15 minutes. Within weeks, you’ll actually want to do more, and that’s fine. Just don’t expect or push towards doing more and wait for the impulse to appear. Be patient – it will appear for sure.
     
     

    Get healthy by doing what you love

     

    I recommend doing what lights you up in all other areas, so why would health be any different? You don’t have to go for a run, or do yoga, if you don’t want to. Find something that really interests you. It might be trampoline jumping or figure skating. Try a swing-dance class or perhaps rowing. If you’re weird like me, take up historical swordfighting! Just as long as it’s something which genuinely catches your fancy, you’re good.
     

    The same goes for food, by the way. Find healthy foods you love – and I guarantee you, they exist. Be adventurous. Scour the internet for new recipes. Try everything and stick with what you like.
     

    The trick is to indulge yourself not in unhealthy coping mechanisms, but in something which brings you joy. Health and wellbeing will follow naturally. The beauty of physical fitness is that the more you do, the more energy you end up having – and that can be used for your other passions! You’ll be surprised what you can achieve when you look after your body.
     

    So, instead of punishing yourself with an unrealistic New Year’s resolution to be “healthy”, how about you promise yourself to find joy in your body and your health? You’re much more likely to stick with this one.
     

  • Caring For The Hurt Self

    Self-Care during hurt
     

    Hands up who’s never been hurt? Yeah, I thought so. It’s probably fair to say that anyone over the age of ten or so, carries some emotional scars. Some are just that: scars. Other hurts continue to plague us, and often at the most inconvenient times.
     

    If you listen to some spirtual gurus, you’d think that they’re always calm and content, meditating, grateful, and in balance. You get the impression that unless you’re all these things, you can’t possibly be spiritual, experience deep insights, or heaven forbid, feel joy and fulfilment.
     

    In reality, everyone goes through phases of darkness, anger or mourning, and we all occasionally battle ghosts from the past. It’s not just possible, but essential, to continue the journey towards greater self-actualisation and happiness through all of this. Postponing it “until you’re ready”, meaning until you’ve come to terms with absolutely everything in your past and your current life, is unrealistic and means you’ll probably never start.
     

    Before I say anything else, here’s a disclaimer. Self-Care is important and can heal a lot of hurt. However, if you are seriously traumatised, it won’t replace a professional therapist. I just want to be completely clear on that! What I’m suggesting here is beneficial and can help you move on. In more severe cases, it can be used in addition to therapy, but it can’t replace it.
     
     

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    Acknowledge the pain

     

    There are so many ways in which we experience emotional pain. Some of it is temporary: The break-up of a relationship, a difficult time with family or at work, simply feeling under the weather or having “the blues”. Other hurts are more serious and can taint our lives for months or even years.
     

    The most important step is to acknowledge that you’re in pain. And just because you know someone who’s been through worse, doesn’t mean that your pain is somehow not justified. If it hurts, it hurts. Sometimes there isn’t even a tangible reason. Allowing yourself to authentically feel your emotions can be such a relief, it’ll help you get through it much faster.
     
     

    Emergency care for the hurt self

     

    When the pain is acute, or your mood simply very low, it can be a challenge to take care of yourself in even the most basic ways. If that’s the case, it’s another thing for you to simply acknowledge. It’s okay, it happens, and it’s temporary (nobody stays at rock bottom forever!).
     

    Establish an emergency routine, doing only what’s absolutely necessary, such as sleeping and eating regularly. Take your time. You don’t always need to actively work on something in order to process it; your mind and soul, especially the subconscious, does a lot of that automatically. You just need a little patience, and allow yourself time to rest.
     
     

    Nourishing the soul

     

    The challenges we face are manifold and everyone’s got their own approach to dealing with things. You’ll find what works for you. What we all have in common is that we heal better, faster, and more cleanly if the outside conditions help with the process.
     

    Here are a few things you might consider.

    • Create space. Numbing yourself with work and other activities might be tempting, but in reality it only postpones the time when you’ll have to face your pain. It’s wiser to create space, pockets of time when you’re allowed to do whatever you feel like, including go to pieces.
    •  

    • Be comfortable. Small things can make a huge difference, and physical comfort is infinitely, well, comforting! Wear soft woollen socks, curl up in your favourite armchair, sit by the window or near the fireplace with a good book, enjoy fresh bed linnen. It’s easier to heal when your body is relaxed.
    •  

    • Do nothing. You don’t always have to do stuff. You’re a human being, not a human doing! Spend a day or a weekend, or at least one evening, without any particular plans. See what comes up for you, from deep inside. Cry if you must, get creative if you feel like it, but don’t feel like you “should” do any of these things.
    •  

    • Spend time in nature. Never underestimate the healing powers of nature. I recently saw a documentary which explained the chemistry behind the relaxing effect a forest has on us. Nature can calm and soothe you, and a walk in a green place often effortlessly drops an idea or solution into your brain.

    Caring for the hurt self is not only possible, but necessary. Have patience and be gentle with yourself, and you may experience a miracle.
     

  • Wanna Burst With Energy Every Day?

    Burst with energy
     

    There was a time in my life when I was so tired, it seemed a challenge to walk up a flight of stairs. I wasn’t sick, at least not in a major way. I was simply so low in energy I couldn’t face the simplest physical tasks.
     

    When I started a new job at a company who offered a gym and some pilates classes, I made myself go the first couple times. I really, truly wanted to get in shape. The 50-minutes class was absolute torture! I had to stop almost all of the exercises before I’d done the required number of repetitions.
     

    I stopped going. It was just too painful and also, frankly, humiliating in front of colleagues.
     

    Fast-forward a mere year, and I was practically incapable of sitting in a chair for more than a few minutes. During work (from home, thankfully), I regularly jumped up to dance to a song I’d put on when I had a small break or lunch, I did yoga and aerobics, and I learned archery and swordfighting.
     

    None of this was me being “good” and doing what I “should”. It still isn’t. What I do is pure joy. Now if you’re expecting a tale of pushing myself through the pain and holding on until I got into shape, you’ll be disappointed. What I do want to share is my insights on how physical fitness, joy, and passion are related, and how you can experience them all and burst with energy.
     
     

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    The two types of people

     

    When it comes to exercise, there seem to be two types of people. First there are the enthusiasts, who tell you: “no pain, no gain”, get up at the crack of dawn to run 10 miles, and post pictures of themselves deadlifting insane weights on social media. And then there’s the couch potatoes, who make half-hearted attempts at best and share social media pictures like “bacon versus exercise – no competition”.
     

    Between those two groups, there’s a seemingly unbridgeable divide. However, I’ve always thought that the best approach starts in the middle. There’s a highly effective way, but people overlook it because it sounds too easy. It’s the way of joy.
     
     

    Pleasure or pain?

     

    The conundrum is that when you get more physically fit, you’ll also burst with energy. And the more energy you feel, the more likely you are to exercise. The issue is getting to the stage where moving feels better than sitting still. It’s all about energy levels.
     

    Incidentally, this also goes for your passions. Energy is at the root of whether or not you manage to devote time to your passion, on top of working and looking after your family. The answer to all of this is pleasure and joy.
     

    Try to think back to a time when you felt very joyful. What was your energy like? Chances are you were basically jumping up and down, bursting with energy. This, this right there, is the state you’re aiming for, and the easiest way to get there is through fitness.
     
     

    Pleasure makes you burst with energy

     

    You don’t have to go to the gym. You don’t even have to run, or walk for that matter. If you follow the pleasure principle, you might be surprised what you come up with.
     

    I’m not a doctor, so obviously you should take everything I say here as a recommendation only. Always check with your physician first, don’t overdo it, and use your common sense.
     

    Generally speaking, you need to do two things in order to get in shape and have your energy levels go through the roof: Endurance (cardiovascular) exercise and strength building. All you need to do is find one thing you really enjoy in each of these categories.
     

    Cardio might be dancing, hoola-hoop, trampoline jumping, swimming, swordfighting (yes, really), and lots of other things. Strength is built by resistance, for example yoga, bodyweight exercises and anything that challenges your muscles without getting you out of breath.
     
     

    The initial hurdle

     

    The most effective way of getting there quickly, is the way most people ignore or roll their eyes at. I’m talking about taking things slowly. There are no drawbacks to this approach, and contrary to popular perception, it leads to fast results.
     

    Do five minutes of stretches or “desk yoga” (google it!). Jump around to a song you like. Ask yourself what you like to do, what excites you, and do just a little of it. Soon your body will catch up, and because you love it, you’ll be dying to do more.
     

    Let yourself be led by your enthusiasm and you’ll soon discover the joys of physical fitness. Your energy levels will be off the scale! Forget about torturing yourself, try joy instead. You’ll be surprised by just how effective it is, and you’ll burst with energy in no time.
     

  • Morning Routines For Every Schedule

    morning routine
     

    There was a time when I tried to introduce a new beneficial hippy-habit every week or so. I did meditation, kept a gratitude list, wrote morning pages, and tried to get in regular walks around my neighbourhood. I didn’t do too well, though.
     

    What I didn’t know back then was that it takes at least 21 days for a new habit to get established. I was also setting myself up for failure by trying to change too much all at once, and then inevitably falling back into the way I’d done things for years.
     

    There are ways of establishing good habits which make it much more likely for you to succeed and stick with it. One of those ways is to establish a routine at a certain time of the day, so that your new habit will always happen at the same time.
     

    An excellent time for this is the early morning, for several reasons: Your brain is like a blank canvass in the morning, your attention still fresh. You’re less likely to be distracted by shiny things coming at you from all directions, such as the internet, news, or your family. As an additional benefit, your morning routine will set a positive tone for the whole day.
     
     

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    What goes into a morning routine?

     

    What your morning routine will look like, depends on what you’re interested in, and of course it also depends on what you’ve got time for. To get your imagination going, here’s a list of possible elements in your morning routine – feel free to pick what you like, discard the rest, and come up with entirely different things on your own.

    • Meditation. Don’t think it only counts if you meditate for at least half an hour. Five, even three minutes are already good for you, and you can always choose a guided meditation if that’s easier for you than trying to empty your mind completely.
    • Morning pages. I don’t have the space here to explain what this is, so if you don’t know, I suggest you google the term! It’s an amazing practice for gaining clarity and knowledge of yourself.
    • Exercise. A lot of the most successful people get up at ungodly hours to fit in a bit of exercise. It might not be your cup of tea, but it certainly gets both the body and the brain primed for the day!
    • A cuddle session with your kid. Five, ten minutes of closeness with your child will get both of you in a good mood and inoculate you against many trials that can happen during the day at work or school.
    • A healthy breakfast. If it’s a smoothy, or muesli, whatever makes you feel wonderful in the morning, should be on your schedule. It’s one thing you really ought to make time for.
    • Reading. I read a non-fiction book for 30 minutes each morning. It’s very important for me to prime my mind and get into a positive attitude before I start my day. Experiement a little – even 10 minutes will make a difference.

     

    A few sample routines

     

    If you have 30+ minutes

    In the following, I’ll give you a few example routines for inspiration. So, if you have 30 minutes or more, your routine could look something like this:

    • 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation sitting up in bed
    • 10 minutes of writing morning pages
    • 15 minutes of reading something uplifting
    • Getting up, getting ready, then going for a 10-minute walk around the block.
    • Having a scrumptious smoothie for breakfast.

    If you have 15 minutes

    • 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation sitting up in bed
    • 10 minutes finding and writing down your three main priorities for the day

    If you have 5 minutes

    • Stand by the open window, breathe in the fresh air and do a sun salute (yoga)

     

    Make it easy for yourself

     

    If you are serious about establishing a morning routine that suits you, it helps to have a few variables in place beforehand. First of all, look after your basic needs – I’m mostly thinking of sleep here. If you regularly wake up sleep-deprived, you won’t stick with any routine.
     

    Another point is to try and wake up at (roughly) the same time every day. This, too, can become a routine, and it improves both the quality of your sleep and the likelihood that you’ll stick with your new morning routine.
     

    Finally, don’t be afraid to experiement for a bit and find out what suits you best. It’s worth doing things differently if it means that you’ll truly reap the full benefit of your routine.

  • Gratitude – Yawn!

    Gratitude
     

    It was 2001, I’d just turned 31, and I was all fresh to the journey of personal development. I started out by reading the classics, like Napoleon Hill’s Think and grow rich, I joined internet forums (if you’re too young to remember this: it was a thing before Facebook, I swear), and I began some recommended practices for a positive mindset and success.
     

    The one thing every single teacher or guru recommended, was gratitude. So I dutifully started my gratitude journal, where I wrote down 5 things I was grateful for every day.
     

    Do you want the brutal truth? It was mind-numbingly boring. I went through the motions, came up with 5 items every day, and then quickly moved on to whatever other list I was writing at the time, such as 10 daily successes.
     

    It took me a while to figure out why gratitude wasn’t working for me. You see, simply “thinking” (as you do when you write something down) doesn’t quite do the trick. Gratitude is an emotion and a state of mind, and the challenge is to tap into that. Only then can we access the abundance the gurus promise.
     

    In the following, I’ve put together three non-sucky ways of incorporating gratitude into your life. Try them out, pick and choose, and keep what suits you. It really is worth it!
     
     

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    1. The daydream

     

    When you were a child, did you ever sit in a boring lesson at school and found your mind wandering to altogether more pleasant pastures? Heck, never mind school – plenty of us have done the same thing at a less-than-interesting job. I’d like to you keep this effortless daydreaming in mind when you read the following paragraphs.
     

    You see, “visualisation” isn’t a terribly accurate term. It implies picturing something, but I suggest doing much more than that. Just like you did in your schooltime daydreams, I want you to get into all five senses as well as the emotional state you’re imagining.
     

    What you’re imagining is, of course, whatever it is you’re grateful for. Instead of writing “my husband and kids and our house”, you picture a scene on a mild spring day in the garden with your family, as gratitude for your beautiful life warms you like the sunshine on your skin. In short, you paint a picture of the thing you’re grateful for.
     
     

    2. The tribunal

     

    If you like to challenge your mind, this one’s for you. Think of what you’re grateful for, and then imagine yourself in court, where a clever attorney is trying to get you to admit you’re not actually grateful.
     

    List all the reasons why you are, and don’t forget to describe the way this makes you feel. Emotions are, in fact, the best way of convincing this particular court, so feel free to lay it on thick.
     

    This may sound a little weird, but if you look for reasons why you feel gratitude, you also remind yourself of how much reason you really have. It’s so easy to forget otherwise!
     
     

    3. The take-a-breath

     

    This one’s great when you’re busy or working on something for a long time. First of all, you need to remember to take breaks (trust me, your performance will improve as well. Even and especially if you “don’t have time” for a break). At the very least, stop what you’re doing for ten seconds, look up from your work, and take a deep breath.
     

    As you breathe in, think of something that’s good right now. It could be the cup of coffee in front of you. Your colleague who offered help earlier. A hug from your three-year-old this morning. Just think of something, however small it is, and with the deep breath and sighing out-breath, feel your gratitude flood you.
     
     

    Gratitude: The magic key

     

    Gratitude is like a magic key which opens the doors to abundance, be it in love and relationships, in your interests and passions, or in material abundance. Like everything else, gratitude can become a habit if you practise it daily for at least three weeks, so I suggest you stick with your chosen practice for at least that long.
     

    Now, if you’re having trouble even thinking of anything to be grateful for, I suggest your passion or passions. I do hope it plays a major role in your life, because if it doesn’t, then you and I really need to talk! You are on this planet to be joyful, loving, and ecstatic. Claim what’s yours.