When listening to a Jon Kabat Zinn short guided mediation recently he started by saying to his audience that ‘the time is now’ rather than quoting a traditional clock time. I have heard this phrase before but the timing of his message resonated more strongly with me this time. I find you may hear things at multiple times in life and when it’s the right moment for you you’re more likely to take it on board.
We’d recently had a trip to emergency with our toddler Ethan who had a bad bout of croup. Whilst nothing serious long term, in that moment seeing him with a mask on getting some adrenaline to help open the airways was a real perspective check and a reminder to appreciate each moment we have with our loved ones. I explored this in a post a couple of years ago sharing another piece of Jon’s Wisdom, ‘We only have moments to live.’.
On this theme, I had the privilege to attend an evening with Buddhist Monk ‘Lamar Tender’ late last year. Here he shared how he makes a conscious effort to wake up every morning smiling, grateful for being alive, acknowledging those who have passed away across the globe the night before. I reflected, every time we see a natural wonder like a sunrise or sunset how can we be there in that very moment and take in the natural spendour?
I’m currently reading ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ by Thich Nhat Hanh (which I highly recommend) where he shares lots of wisdom including a fable with the teaching that ‘the most important person is the one with you right now.’
With our immediate family overseas, I pondered what does this mean for missing people you’re not with? Whilst this is a natural feeling with those you love, I think making a real effort to be present with those we are with in each moment can help us enjoy more of life. This can be face to face or virtually. Whether it be the local shop keeper, the postman, a colleague, a dear family member on skype, the person you’re with in that moment is the most important as they’re there with you now. We never know what the future holds and they deserve our focused attention.
You may be able to think of people who have gravitas and a mindful presence, when you’re with them you feel like they’re really there with you in the moment, respecting you as a person and not distracted by other thoughts of the past or future.
I find this hard when you’re in the company of friends with a toddler around as they need your focused attention and it’s hard to split this. I’ve learnt it’s wise to make some time to have quality focused one on one attention time as well as group interactions.
So how can we embrace Jon’s ‘the time is now’ message? Here are a handful of tips I try and utilise to live in the present:
- Feel your bare feet on the earth, I find this helps ground me and be in the moment as well as strengthening the feet!
- Tune into your breath acknowledging the rise and fall of your belly, I find this one of the best ways to get back into the present moment.
- Watch a young child’s interaction with the world. Observing Ethan’s natural mindfulness in the moment helps me appreciate nature, whether that be really looking at the trees or listening to the birds. Petra King talks about this being our first nature before second nature habits kick in.
- Use guided meditations to help with anchoring – A couple of my current favorites: Andrew Johnson – Power Nap (30 minutes) Jon Kabat Zinn spoken by Shane Wilson – Mountain Meditation (16 minutes).
- Practice deep listening with the person you’re with – Being attentive with your listening and not planning what you’re going to say next can help you really listen to the meaning behind the words and connect at a deeper level.
Thanks for your attention reading this, you may ask now, what time is it? The time is now…..
With the imminent arrival of a second baby boy I revisited my post Becoming Mum and checked in how do things feel this time round?
- I feel excited/nervous about the birth remembering the painful contractions during labour and immediate joy once Ethan was out.
- I feel I want to make the most of quality time with Ethan and Owain before baby comes out requiring a lot of my attention
- I feel it’s important to rest knowing the sleep interrupted nights around the corner!
- I feel like I may need four arms to carry everything that comes with a baby and a toddler!
- I feel excited to meet our new family member with a deep sense of purpose
Some tips I’ve been paid forward to help transition to life with two under 2:
- Make sure you still give number 1 attention and quality time, their world has changed where as baby #2 knows no different
- Let your toddler pick a toy to give to the baby and have a present from the baby for your toddler that you know they’ll Iike
- Run number 1 wild to keep expending their energy when you do get out 🙂
- Welcome any help offered with open arms – ‘it takes a village to raise a child’
- Make sure you nap or lie down and rest on those rare occasions both are settled!
Some labour mantras that I’ve picked up from friends and family (thank you!) that I thought maybe useful for others with any upcoming physical / mental endurance events!:
- Your body knows what to do
- Carpe diem ‘Seize the day!’
- The pain is in the body not the mind or the breath
- Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success
- Focus, breathe, relax
Love to hear any more wisdom snippets and we’ll keep you posted on any arrival news!
In October last year I went to the International Coach Federation Australasia conference on the Gold Coast. One of my favourite sessions, (perhaps topically being mum to a toddler Ethan with another one on the way!) was a workshop by Tracy Tresidder called ‘Parent as Coach’. As well as being useful for parents I think the components discussed can be utilised for any relationship in our lives. As one of my colleagues said, perhaps reverse parenting too 🙂
Tracy’s approach based on Martin Seligman’s positive psychology PERMA model shared the following 5 habits for positive parenting:
- Focus on Strengths
- Practice Gratitude
- Focus on Listening
- Practice Mindfulness
Here I reflect on each component and share some of Tracy’s wisdom:
- Savouring – Savouring positive experiences helps secrete neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine regulating mood and feelings of joy. Tracy asked us to reflect on the most positive experience we had recently and you could immediately feel the energy in the room. This question can be tailored for kids after a day at school, what was the most fun thing that happened today? What made you laugh the most today? Another tip Tracy shared is going out in nature together and savouring natural wonder. I can relate to this with Ethan who loves going out searching for sticks and leaves #natureboy.
- Focus on Strengths – Tracy suggests we focus on what is right with our kids versus what is wrong. The VIA strengths survey for youths can help with this. I bought the book version for my goddaughter previously which opened up a great conversation. A strengths based question Tracy uses with her kids is “What Went Well’’ today (www). A word of strengths caution from Tracy however was to praise the time and effort children put into things versus the outcome. This is in line with Carol Dweck’s Growth mindset which I have written about previously.
- Practice Gratitude – As written about previously trading appreciation for expectation can change your life. I’ve found this invaluable as a mum with a young child adjusting to a different routine. Tracy shared the research shows writing a few good things in a gratitude journal 3-4 times a week is sufficient to make a difference with your life outlook which the whole family can do. Adding ‘why’ you are grateful further deepens the experience. A discussion around rituals emerged during the gratitude conversation and how kids can thrive with rituals and tradition. I fondly recall our Sunday family roasts and summer holidays. With Ethan rituals include Saturday afternoons at the beach (often with a coconut and hot chips involved!) and special weekly village crepe dates. Something I’m keen to keep up with him as some of our quality time when baby number two arrives soon.
- Focus on Listening – As a coach deep listening is essential for really hearing your counterpart, the same goes for children. Tracy shared “Listening is not waiting to speak.” and “Listen with your lips shut”. One of my favorites is “You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Once we stop talking and giving advice it’s amazing how people can come to their own conclusions which is much more empowering. I’ve heard parents of teenagers share driving together in a car can be a great time to listen.
- Practice Mindfulness – Tracy spoke how mindfulness can be practiced in short bursts everyday which my teacher calls ‘micro doses of mindfulness’. This can be focusing your attention whilst washing, eating, walking, breathing, or any activity. I’m currently reading ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ by Thich Nhat Hanh which goes into this life changing way of being in more depth. It’s great to see schools introducing short mindfulness training sessions and Tracy referred us to org and the Smiling Mind App for more resources in this area.
I would love to hear how this resonates with any parents and other tips you would be willing to share to help others.
In my last post I shared some learning from a Golden Door Health Retreat ‘Fostering a Growth Mindset’ seminar. Here I reflect on a subsequent seminar by David Bott from the Institute of Positive Education looking at the state of flow.
Steven Kotler (co-founder of the Flow Genome Project), describes flow as an ‘optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.’ In Psychology Today, he writes: “In flow, concentration becomes so laser-focused that everything else falls away. Action and awareness merge. Our sense of self and our sense of self consciousness completely disappear. Time dilates—meaning it slows down (like the freeze frame of a car crash) or speeds up (and five hours pass by in five minutes). And throughout, all aspects of performance are incredibly heightened—and that includes creative performance.”*
Reading this description gets me excited about the times when I’m in flow. These include losing track of time writing, being in the zone racing triathlon and thriving in high performing teams on exciting/challenging projects. When is a time that you’ve been in flow?
David showed us a video similar to this of a bulldog skating / water skimming to visualise a flow state. One guest reflected thinking about a flow state made her realise that she hasn’t been in one for a decade or so and reminisced her love for music and creative designing.
When I watch my toddler Ethan playing with his blocks or wooden puzzles I see him in a state of flow with a look of real focus on his face ( #fishface). David said that young children enter a flow state more easily than adults, which is linked to how much they learn in their first 5 years of life.
What would happen if we could cultivate a flow state more as adults?
David shared the peak performance and learning benefits of a flow state for Organisations quoting a McKinsey 10 year CEO tracking study showing when in flow the CEO’s were 500% more productive.
I think a flow state has many parallels with presence, which can be cultivated by mindfulness practice. When in flow we’re not rehashing the past or rehearsing the future, we’re there, in the moment, fully engaged in life.
Are you getting into a regular flow state? Here are some tips to help us rediscover flow and create conditions for it:
- Think of your creative passions as a child and revisit these
- Pick a project that yields a sense of excitement / challenge
- At work, help create a trustful and respectful environment
- If in relation to work, think would you be doing this if you weren’t paid?
- Try some focused attention training like mindfulness
Love to hear any of flow experiences and tips for cultivating them.
*Check out the ‘Rise of Superman’ from Steven to learn more about flow
I spent a lot of 2016 collaborating with an IECL client partner on their quest to embed a Growth Mindset across the Organisation in relation to managing performance. I then finished work for maternity leave in December and went to the Golden Door Health Retreat for a few days of R&R. Imagine my surprise when the first seminar listed on the program was ‘Fostering a Growth Mindset’ by Justin Robinson from the Institute of Positive Education. I took this as a sign to write this blog and share some learning J
You may well have heard the terms a ‘Growth’ and ‘Fixed’ Mindset which have been attributed to the work and research of Stanford University psychologist Dr Carol Dweck. In the last couple of years, they have been popularised with the abundance of neuroplasticity evidence supporting them.
In short summary from my learning, here are a few of the characteristics of a person with a Growth and Fixed Mindset. To assess where you naturally fit on the Growth-Fixed mindset spectrum try this short quiz: https://mindsetonline.com/testyourmindset
|Growth Mindset||Fixed Mindset|
|Lover of learning||Likes to look good|
|Embraces challenges||Stays in comfort zone|
|Intelligence can grow||Intelligence is innate|
|Talents and abilities can be learnt through effort||Talents and abilities are set|
To get a quick snapshot from Carol herself I recommend watching this 10 minute TED Talk. For those interested in a more in depth account, check out Carol’s book: ‘Mindset – The New Psychology of Success.’
So are we born with a Growth or a Fixed Mindset which is then set in stone?
The good news is no, Carol’s work supports a Fixed-Growth mindset continuum which we fluctuate along. Through practice and being mindful we can choose to take a more Growth Minded approach to life.
One thing I found interesting from Justin’s seminar at the Golden Door is that we may have a Growth Mindset in some areas of our lives and not others. For instance when he asked the group who can’t sing, there were quite a numbers of hands that went up. Upon then asking about other things like dancing, writing, drawing, mathematical problems, public speaking, everyone had a Fixed Mindset belief about something they ‘couldn’t do’. To help challenge this, the next evening a lady called Lulu ran a session called the ‘Power of Sound’ and had everyone singing – people were inspired.
Growth Mindset Examples
We sometimes look at masters of a talent like an elite golfer, yoga teacher or public speaker and think why can’t we be like that? Almost instantly wishing it was a natural ability. The truth is we can but it takes effort and 1000’s of hours of practice. Justin shared people’s true potential is unknown and it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil and training.
In Justin’s seminar, we exchanged Growth Mindset stories reflecting on the question ‘What is an area you / another had low performance in that then dramatically improved?’. The example that came to me was ocean swimming. When my husband Owain and I immigrated to Australia 5 and a half years ago, I could barely swim freestyle and Owain would describe himself as very average. Through effort and focus we persisted and he is now a competitive age group swimmer having recently won his age-group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and I managed to swim 3.8km at Ironman Port Macquarie in 2014 comfortably. In the words of Ironman ‘Anything is possible’ and Justin ‘Be prepared to be surprised.’
Adopting a Growth Mindset in Education and Corporations
Developing a Growth Mindset may be the new black like mindfulness last year, yet I feel like mindfulness it’s a trend well worth embracing for the long term. I’m inspired to see many school and organisations facilitating the fostering of a Growth Mindset.
The school my sister teaches at in the UK is one of these. She shared one of her favourite classroom mantras for children is “You don’t know the answer yet”. Justin passed on an anecdote from Carol Dweck’s school research which I loved. If a child gets 20/20 in a test the response was “I’m sorry I didn’t give you the opportunity to learn anything.”
Many organisations including Microsoft are looking to implement a Growth Mindset in their culture and I’m excited to see what cultures are like when those learning this approach in school enter the workforce.
Some tips to kickstart 2017 with a Growth Mindset:
- Try something new (like brushing your teeth with the opposite hand) and repeat it everyday for a month – you may be surprised by the progression
- Share Growth Mindset stories with family, friends and colleagues
- If you’re a left brain thinker look into the neuroplasticity behind this – a good starting point Justin recommended is Dr Norman Doidge – The Brain that Changes Itself
- When learning something new think ‘I don’t know the answer… Yet’
- Try praising others for their effort versus saying an absolute like ‘you are smart’
Do you have a Growth Mindset story that you’d like to share? Would love to hear some other examples.
With the start of a New Year comes opportunity and perhaps the pursuing of a passion in the form of a business venture. It is the era of the start up 🙂
Here’s a reflection on how my good friend Zoe and I followed a creative yearning and co-founded LaunchPad Media in 2016 to help people uncover and build an authentic online brand. We share our story to help inspire others to start a side hustle if right for you.
Where it all began #thewagproject
Whilst I was on maternity leave with baby Ethan in 2015 and Zoe was having a break from the corporate world we would meet for walks and have inspiring creative conversations. We discovered we had a mutual passion to help people realise their potential and appreciate their value.
What emerged was a set of varying corporate experience and a complementary set of strengths. Zoe, a creative techy with a passion for web/design and me with a love for writing copy and strategizing social media. So how to keep our minds active and make use of our skills whilst enjoying a lot of beach time in Sydney’s beautiful Spring/Summer?…
We decided to put our skills to use and help my husband Owain with his online brand in the build up to the 2015 Ironman World Championships – #thewagproject was born.
We had a lot of fun engaging with the local community whilst helping Owain secure long term sponsorship arrangements, build a meaningful online following, create an aesthetic website and organise a successful send-off event raising money for charity.
Following this, I went back to work in January 2016 and although we didn’t progress with another project, we kept the creative conversations going. In June when I went down to four days a week at IECL it gave me space to start thinking about the creative side hustle again and Zoe was in a position to collaborate.
Launchpadmedia organically emerged
Perhaps meant to be, an opportunity arose through the network to combine our skill set to help a Senior Executive with his online presence leading up to a TEDx talk. The seeds of Launchpadmedia were formed.
Since then, we’ve had the pleasure to collaborate with multiple leaders/coaches/entrepreneurs to translate their face to face presence into meaningful online brands through creating an online identity. This includes co-creating purposeful, aesthetic web presence and a social media voice / imagery. Triggers for initiating an online brand include having a big speaking event coming up, launching a new brand or executives transitioning out of corporate role to start their own venture.
Having started as a passion goodwill project the #thewagproject then evolved with a goal of getting some extra lifestyle money ‘wag money’ for treats such as manicures (hence the blog title image), blow dries, massages etc with Ethan’s expensive daycare fees and Zoe’s more sporadic contract work. We recently reflected it has been great to start our venture without taking it too seriously (whilst still being professional and wanting to do a good job) without any core income pressure.
Our tips for starting a side hustle:
- Don’t overthink things and just have a go – as one of my mentors said ‘learn by doing’
- Start with a low pressure pilot project
- Think about something you enjoy that helps people
- Come up with a guiding charter and keep checking in on it – for us this includes making sure that we’re learning and having fun
- Believe in your own gold, this is possible!
We truly believe everyone has a unique gift in this world which can be uncovered through a coaching approach and then translated into a meaningful digital brand.
One evening, just under a month ago I noticed a rampage of Twitter notifications. Wondering what tweet had led to so much attention I was shocked to suddenly see my notifications stream full of hateful messages including…. “you deserve to go to jail”, “you’re so plastic” and “you should be arrested”.
Taking a mindful breath, what emerged was that #danimathers was trending on Twitter and my handle @matthews_dani had been mistaken for her. For those who haven’t heard the story, playboy model Dani Mathers body shamed a woman by sharing a naked picture in a LA Fitness gym on snapchat with the caption: “If I can’t see unsee this then you can’t either”. The picture allegedly meant to go to one person went to all her followers. Here’s one of the many articles covering this story.
Since the incident, Dani has been dropped by LA Fitness, fired from her radio station job and is under police investigation. Although a case of mistaken identity and not personal to me I felt the hatred in the online attack and some empathy for Dani. Her unthoughtful action breached a privacy rule, was demeaning and I believe should be punished but the issue has escalated to another level.
We are all human, not perfect and have moments of misjudgment. Think about a time where you’ve sent something to a friend that you’d be mortified if it got sent to everyone in your network. Or a moment when you’ve accidentally hit reply all on an email. We can learn the most from mistakes like these, unfortunately for Dani her moment of misjudgment has been amplified onto a global level.
Due to the online hate she has deleted her social media accounts (maybe why my Twitter handle was picked up!). When is enough, enough? Dani’s actions have led to public humiliation, job loss and police investigation. Shouldn’t this be enough to learn her lesson without online bullying attacks known as ‘online trolls’ who may know nothing about her as a person?
This incident is unfortunately one of many with other recent examples including Sam Frost’s saddening announcement that battles with online trolls has ‘broken her’ , the Republicans hateful chanting towards Hilary Clinton and more recently Olympic Swimmer Mack Horton trolled by Chinese swimmer Sun Yang’s fans. I’ve heard of closer to home examples of teenage bullying on Facebook and online platforms can provide a space to hide behind.
Discussing this over brunch with girlfriends recently it emerged that a lot of this online bullying is from and towards women. As I’ve written about previously, Women Let’s Give Each Other a Break. People’s mental health is severely at risk here, I call for less judgement of others and more compassion. Think how would you respond to the issue if the person being implicated was a close friend or family member? Talking with my aunty we reflected before social media remarks would be in closed community networks. Now they can become global trends. One of the dark sides of social media.
Dani’s public embarrassment does teach some valuable lessons for others:
- Don’t post anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face
- Pause before you hit send and do a sense check – if the last person I wanted to see this did how would I feel?
- Before you react to any social abuse, the system can self-sort – I didn’t reply to any of the messages defensively and what emerged was a number of people saying you’ve got the wrong Dani and no more abuse came in.
In summary, I think Dani Mather’s insensitive act deserves punishment but not all the online bullying. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion but to then personally attack someone you don’t know if a whole other level. In light of recent terror attacks I think we need to take perspective and I call for more compassion, especially between females. Interested to hear what others think.
Great to collaborate with a fellow passionate working mum Claire de Carteret on this article exploring finding the perfect imbalance.
As two busy working mums often on the go, let’s start by exploring what balance or imbalance means / looks like for you?
Claire: Balance is the symbol of calm and control. A perfect symmetry of harmony and perfection. Control and precision as a leader, as a parent, as a partner, as a friend. A seamless synchronisation of life – from nutrition, fitness, sleep and professional success. We spend our time trying to achieve this balance, yet it is always out of our grasp in the increasingly dynamic world that we live in. And I have recently concluded that this quest to find the perfect balance has been leading many of us to a feeling of failure.
Dani: I agree with Claire that a quest to find the perfect balance has been leading many of us to a feeling of failure. As I’ve written about previously, I believe you can have it all……in the longterm. At different times in life we lean into different things, for me these have included my career, an ironman triathlon and traveling. At this stage, I’m leaning into family with a 14 month old baby and this does have knock on effects in other areas of life. I can’t keep my pre baby balance of training up, socialising, networking events or working late. Supermum is a myth! If I try to do it all I will burn out quickly and not be present for any of it. I think about keeping a bit of each element of my wellness wheel rather than losing a chunk completely. I’ve found discovering your ‘non negotiables’ is key to this. An example for me is at least 30 minutes of me time a day where I can either, exercise, meditate or relax in a radox bath!
What are others saying on this topical subject?
Claire: There are many perspectives on this quest for balance. Dr Libby Weaver describes the phenomenon as ‘Rushing Women’s Syndrome’ and defines it as a need to be everything to everyone. To not let anyone down and to be in control in all situations. This need to please is causing us all to rush from one aspect of life to another, as our to-do list grows rapidly in our heads. In my role as a coach and leader, I know that this quest for balance does not exist just for women. We constantly put pressure on ourselves to be the fittest, healthiest, most successful employee and most present parent that we can be…often this is to the detriment of ourselves and our ability to perform at our best in any given task. We are spreading ourselves too thin! I endorse a strengths-based approach where the highest performers are specialists in their areas of strengths, not generalists. Research via Dr Donald Clifton shows that people are not naturally well-rounded but that their greatest path to excellence is to develop in their areas of natural potential, rather than trying to fix weaknesses.
Dani: Linking to Dr Libby Weaver’s ‘Rushing Women’s Syndrome’ I read an alarming article in the Sydney Morning Herald a few months ago: ‘Working Mothers put their health second, research shows’ Nutritionist Kate Freeman shared: “There is a lot of pressure for mums to ‘keep up appearances’, whether it’s juggling a career with motherhood, or keeping the family household running smoothly,” …..”Unsurprisingly, guilt plays a big part in this.” “As a mother, we often become so focused on keeping our kids healthy and happy that we overlook our own needs.” This takes me back to ensuring we have our ‘non negotiables’ in place with looking after our own health one of them. Building on Claire’s point that this quest for balance does not just exist for women, it’s important to remember men often have similar pressure. My husband Owain recently wrote a blog: Managing it All? and shares: “More and more I’m asked about how I manage my training alongside coaching, a full-time job and spending quality time with my family. As much as I’d love to say it’s all down to my amazing efficiency and organisation, the truth is, it’s hard, it doesn’t always work, I have to be adaptable and I get a lot of help!”
From your experience, what are some tips you’d like to share with others to help them find their perfect imbalance:
- Return to true connection – being in the moment and not in the head thinking about what else you need to do and where else you need to be.
- Discover what are your ‘non negotiables’ and make them a priority – i.e. 30minutes of me time a day.
- Schedule yourself a recharge, digital detox day to regain perspective.
- Stay focused on your vision in the most important aspects of your life. Hold that vision up and ensure that you activities and business is aligned to the accomplishment of that vision.
- Have a coach keep you accountable to your goals.
- Learn to say no, you can’t do it all.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Forget balance. Let the pendulum swing from one side to another, knowing that this momentum will determine exactly where you need to be at that moment based on priority of goals and values.
Any final words from you both:
Claire: As a coach, I encourage people to shift away from finding the perfect balance and to accept the ‘perfect imbalance’. The perfect imbalance is an alignment of personal, business and professional goals. It is the acknowledgement that at times some aspects of life take a back seat to whatever is a priority at the time. I encourage coaches to work towards shorter and longer term goals around these three aspects of their life and their role.
Dani: When this topic comes up in conversation with people at all different stages of life I encourage them to lean into what’s right for them at that moment, be present and really feel into this life not letting it pass us by on autopilot. Let’s take the pressure off and find our perfect imbalance.
We would love to hear any thoughts from your own experience.
Image citation: nolimitssportsandfitness.com
How much of your day do you feel that your body’s in stress versus recovery mode?
Whilst we can have a guestimate ourselves, there is a way to take a more scientific approach via heart rate variability testing. I recently went through three days of this in the form of a Lifestyle assessment followed by a debrief with wellness accountant Gitana Gataveck. Here I share my learnings.
Why is this important?
To be at our best and achieve optimal performance in all aspects of life I truly believe we need adequate time to recover to avoid burnout. I often share the Corporate Athlete analogy in the workplace popularised by this great HBR article. Executives like elite athletes need adequate recovery time to perform at their best. How many times do we go from one project to the next without time to recover? If this was the case in elite sport going from race to race without any tapering or recovery you would soon burn out.
What is heart rate variability and how can it inform us?
Gitana described heart rate variability in simple terms of ‘how the heart opens’, the Firstbeat report states:
“Measurement of heart rate variability gives accurate information about your body’s stress reactions and recovery response as well as the intensity of exercise.
The goal is to find a balance between work and leisure and between activity and rest. It is not essential to eliminate stress, but to ensure sufficient recovery and find a manageable rhythm to life.”
Following the three days of testing with a First beat heart rate variability monitor I was given a debrief exploring how much time was spent in the red (stress), blue (exercise) and green (recovery) zones.
The process gave me some useful evidence to things I had a gut feel about:
- Alcohol effects sleep recovery – Whilst I can feel that the quality of my sleep is affected by alcohol my results showed this clearly as you can see in this image. Gitana describes alcohol like a painkiller that numbs us making us feel relaxed when it actually has the opposite effect on the body. Whilst I will not be becoming tee total (all for everything in moderation) it has made me think do I really need that one or two drinks especially if I’m tired, knowing the effect it has on my sleep.
- Lunchtime exercise is a great thing – This image shows the effect of me breaking up a day in the office with a lunchtime run. Proof to all the bosses out there that lunchtime exercise should be encouraged to help get people out of the stress zone into working those h
eart and lungs. As well as it being good for my body I find, whenever I head out for a lunch time run I come back with an insight that has a positive effect on my work too.
- Mindfulness practice gets me in the green zone and it doesn’t have to be long – This image shows me doing a 15 minute body scan in the morning, starting the day with some green zone recovery. One thing I love about the internet is that you can type in the length of guided mediation you’re after and find it. I recently found this half an hour body scan by mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn which is my current favourite.
Additionally a few new insights emerged:
Quality family time at home gets me in the green zone – Whilst I love quality family time at home I hadn’t explicitly thought that it would be helping me recover from stressors in life. My report clearly showed that quality time at home including morning snoozing / cuddles with the boys and relaxing on the couch watching a movie put me in the green zone. A lesson here, don’t feel guilty about that restful time, it might be just what your body needs!
It’s the quality versus quantity of exercise that matters – Being a fulltime working mum my exercise quantity has dropped dramatically from pre baby ironman training. I call my training opportunistic and take the opportunities when I can to pump the heart and lungs for shorter 20-60 minutes sessions. In the debrief with Gitana it became evident how effective even the short 20 minute bursts were at exercising my heart and lungs and increasing my VO2 level.
Going out to lunch doesn’t get me into recovery – I love catching up with friends for lunch for social connection and fun/laughter. One thing I discovered through my debrief is that this keeps me in the red zone and not into the green zone. When time is limited and I know the importance of exercise and recovery I think how can you incorporate this with your friends. I’ve started having some walking catch ups or a 30 minute meditation session followed by lunch. On a Saturday morning a group of us go to Pilates/Barre then have brunch.
Whilst the above are true for me, it’s important to note that one size doesn’t fit all and it’s important to discover the restorative activities that work for you. Gitana shared for some that returning home from work can be stressful on the body and watching horror movies. The beauty of the lifestyle testing is that you can try out a few things and see what works for you. My results showed I had increased green zone time on the weekend compared to the week.
So where to from here? A few of my actions / tips that might help inspire others if right for you:
- Get yourself an accountability buddy for lunchtime exercise / meditation
- Don’t feel guilty about pressing snooze if you feel like your body and mind need a rest
- Aim for at least 30 minutes in your workday of dedicated green zone time
What are you depositing into your wellness account?
I’ve been feeling quite reflective lately after the passing of a couple of well-loved people in my network. This post seemed timely to revisit, which I started drafting after watching a TED talk on ‘What makes a good life?’ (referred by a friend). It follows on nicely from my last post ‘Keep the main thing, the main thing’ centred on the importance of relationships.
The TED talk by Robert Waldinder which I highly recommend shares lessons from the longest study on happiness via Harvard.
Robert is the fourth Director of the 75 year study tracking the lives of 724 men which is now following their wives (who said it’s about time!) and over 2000 children. The study of adult development has looked at their work, home lives (including intimate conversations with their wives) and health (including medical records). The men were a split group of Harvard Sophomores and a group from one of Boston’s poorest neighbourhoods.
So what have they learned to date? Robert shares: “Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” To all my wonderful single friends, don’t worry a husband or a wife is not the answer. He shares it’s not about being married (study cites you can be lonely in a marriage) but the quality of your relationships versus quantity.
I think this is an important message, especially in an era of reality TV, more and more screen time and increasing complexity in the workplace. In a world where fame and money are often glorified by our youth and viewed as the route to happiness a timely message that in fact what’s the most crucial are those real relationships.
The thing that struck me the most with the study’s findings was that at age 50 it wasn’t cholesterol levels that best predicted health at 80 it was how satisfied the men were in their relationships.
This triggered a few thoughts:
- I look around in our local community which has a large elderly demographic and am inspired by the connections I see. There is a flourishing community swimming at the beach every morning, afterwards having coffee with laughs and conversations. As Robert shares, living in the midst of strong, warm relationships is protective. Relationships protect our bodies and brains.
- As we finalise our daycare choice for Ethan one of the centres asked us for our most important decision criteria. We both concurred that our priority is that he is cared for in an environment where he’s having fun and positive relationships are fostered with the other children.
- With a lot of our family and friends overseas I reflected on the quality of virtual vs face to face relationships. Although there’s no substitute for an in person hug, I do think maintaining connectivity virtually can be equally effective as face to face. With a strong initial relationship you can talk about anything without the need for small talk. Through regularly skyping my parents and sister Holly, giving them a chance to interact with Ethan, I feel like the quality of our time together is still as strong as ever.
Towards the end of his talk, Robert provokes, if you were going to invest now in your future best self, where would you put your time and energy? What might leaning into new relationships look like if you’re 25, 40 or 60? This has prompted me to set some goals including in the areas of family, friends and giving back to the community which I’ll be doing with accountability buddy in a few weeks. It also affirmed the social capital approach I like to take to life, a rewarding relationship based approach to areas including work and exercise.
So what makes a good life? I think there are a plethora of factors including health, well-being, purpose and meaningful work. As Robert so convincingly shares however, the most important being good relationships. As I read recently in ‘The 50 rules of work’ shared by another friend (love the sharing of inspirations): “Work hard. But build an exceptional family life. What’s the point of reaching the mountaintop but getting there alone? “ At the core of my relationships are those with husband Owain and baby Ethan. Owain always helps me keep perspective and you may enjoy his latest blog on: Managing it all
I’ll finish with Robert’s closing message of “Lean into connections with family, friends and community” and a few tips from him and a couple of my own to begin this process if not already:
- Replace screen time with people time
- Liven up a relationship by doing something new together
- Reach out to that family member who you haven’t spoken to in years
- Head to a local store rather than making that online purchase
- Look at what events are coming up in your local community and get involved