Updated: Mar 12
In deciding what to write and share this year, I obviously had no idea we would be in the midst of a global pandemic, when the topic of ‘Integrating Wellbeing’ would come up on the schedule.
Yet as I write, the UK, along with many countries around the world, is in lock-down.
For some, this will have created space for rest and refection. A time when many of the things you hold dear have been put on hold, as we all ride out the storm. Perhaps you’ve put aside your connection with others, your work, your normal exercise regimes, healthy diets and alcohol limits and of course your freedom.
In some ways this blog could also be put aside, in these exceptional times, yet in some ways it is a pertinent topic?
Vivian Green was quoted as saying “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass – it’s about learning how to dance in the rain”
Whilst a global pandemic is one hell of a downpour, this raises a really interesting question. How do we integrate wellbeing into our everyday lives, regardless of the circumstances?
Often, we think we need to head somewhere to get out of the rain or to dry out. Exercise, meditation, yoga, cooking healthy meals, learning new skills – all examples of the places we would go or the things we would do, if only we had more time and life circumstances didn’t keep getting in the way.
How many times have you found yourself:
· Working late to meet a deadline and missing an exercise class?
· Skipping lunch to get through the workload?
· Keeping that new hobby on the new year’s resolution list year after year?
· Sacrificing sleep to tick a few more things off the endless to do lists?
· Reaching for a quick sugar or caffeine fix to get you through the day?
All common stories I hear when coaching wellbeing – the rain starts and we stop play.
Yet, we instinctively know that this restricts us from living the life we want, and from optimal health. So why do we do it?
This is the question I am going to endeavour to answer in this blog - how do we integrate wellbeing into our daily lives no matter how hard it is raining?
Before I jump in, a message to those of you reading this who may have been directly affected by the pandemic or another debilitating life circumstance. I would like to take this opportunity to send my heartfelt condolences to each of you. Also, to convey that this blog is not intended for those who are struggling deeply, experiencing ill health or are grieving.
What does it mean to be well?
How are you?
Even if your gut response was to say ‘fine thanks’, it is likely that not everything in your world is going swimmingly, and something will be challenging your wellbeing. Regardless of whether or not you are in good health.
The World Health Organisation defines health as ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’. They go on to say that "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
The Cambridge Dictionary defines wellbeing as ‘the state of feeling healthy and happy’.
I could, I’m sure, find 100 definitions, and what wellbeing actually means would still be as clear as mud.
What I do know is that, in the era we live in, wellbeing seldom only constitutes the absence of ill health. Instead it conjures up an image of all aspects of daily life, and comes with an expectation that these should be working in harmony. We expect to be:
Well in our work,
Well in our stress levels,
Well in our sleep patterns,
Well in our relationships and community,
Well in our financial situation,
Or simply well in ourselves.
In my blog ‘Happy your way to Healthy’ I share a concept called ‘Level 10 Success’ which comes from a book called ‘The Miracle Morning’, by Hal Elrod. This concept looks at 10 areas, perceived to constitute a happy life, and invites you to set 10 goals against each of them - as a way of enhancing, or tackling, any areas getting in the way of your happiness.
In many ways what we believe makes us happy is the same as what we perceive constitutes overall wellbeing.
If a happiness/wellbeing spring clean is in order, then this is a great exercise to do.
Learning to Dance in the Rain
It would be fairly easy for me to create a list of things you can do within your daily life that influence your wellbeing - like eat well, start a hobby, stress less, meditate, exercise, sleep well, etc.
Whilst these are all great options for supporting your physical and mental wellbeing, if you are not already doing them then something is likely to be getting in the way.
So, instead, I am going to attempt to tackle some of the areas that may be impeding you.
Hopefully, smoothing the way and creating space for more wellbeing to come in.
In reading through the following obstacles to wellbeing, you might like to think about how relevant they are to you, and how you might go about starting or stopping something that is getting in the way of you integrating wellbeing – should you wish to.
There is a plan in ‘What Will You Do’, after this section, that you might like to use to do this.
Obstacles to Wellbeing
1. Are you Sabotaging Yourself?
Anyone who knows me, or has heard me present, will probably know that I am a recovering A type maladaptive perfectionist, with a propensity for over doing things.
Left unchecked, you will find me running down the road to burnout with a list of goals and deadlines - and an even larger coffee in hand.
Fortunately, I have learnt, albeit the hard way, to manage myself and my wellbeing.
Perfectionism can be a positive (adaptive perfectionism), like when a job needs to be done and it needs to be done to a high standard. The challenge is when you set the bar so high for yourself and others (maladaptive perfectionism) when it actually isn’t that important and/or something else has to give – perhaps one of those areas that constitutes your wellbeing.
Ever hear yourself saying “I had to work late and miss putting the kids to bed because I am the only one who can get the job done properly”? or “I have to do all the chores at home as he/she doesn’t do it right”?
If you relate to having maladaptive perfectionistic tendencies, then utilising a perfectionism scale can help to manage it and stop these from being an obstacle to wellbeing.
Here’s an example based on the delivery of a work project….
Once you use this a few times, it is likely to become a habit. A quick sanity check before commencing something new or when you, or others, find you a tad challenging to be with!
2. Sit Down and Stand Up
The average person is believed to sit for around 9.5 to 12 hours a day. That is more than we sleep!
Think about it - if we sit to eat, to watch TV, to drive, potentially to work - it soon adds up.
Aches and pains may arise as a result of prolonged sitting, and left unmanaged may result in the muscular and skeletal system adapting overtime, or potentially lead to injury.
You would think that we would feel trouble brewing, but pain receptors can switch off when busy or stressed.
So, if sitting is something you do too much of, this can be a real obstacle to the physical wellbeing of your body. One of the best ways to interrupt your sitting is of course to stand up, but it’s an easy one to forget to do, particularly when you are busy.
One way of overcoming this is to pick activities you do, and to stand up whenever you do them. For instance, can you stand up whenever you make a phone call?
Picking a few things can soon become a habit, and will reduce the amount of time spent seated each day. Equally if you spend a great deal of your day standing, can you interrupt this by sitting for some activities?
Whilst an interchangeable desk can be beneficial, it is not a necessity. I use my desk for writing and place my laptop on a book shelf when I am working standing up.
3. Are you out of your mind?
As a Mindfulness Teacher, I of course advocate the practice of Mindfulness.
It is not lost on me though that, for some and at times, it can feel like too much of a ‘something else to do’.
However, if you are not starting your day in a mindful way, then your day is likely to be running you and not the other way around. Here it is too easy to put wellbeing aside for the next thing that needs to be done.
To help overcome this, I recommend you take a few moments, at the start of the day, to ask yourself – “how do I want to feel today and what do I want to achieve”?
Fast forward to the end of the day and imagine what it will be and feel like to achieve this?
Perhaps writing 3 – 5 things down to reference during and at the end of the day.
You may like to get a bit fancy and meditate – perhaps using the following practice that can help set up your day in a mindful way.
Whichever method you select, and even if the day doesn’t go do plan, congratulate yourself anyway – for practising mindfulness.
A Morning Meditation to Set your Day
Get Comfortable: Sit in a upright but comfortable position, with your hands in your lap or on your thighs, and your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and allow your body and mind to settle.
Breathe: Take a few centering and grounding breaths. In through the nose and out through the mouth . Then just breath naturally, perhaps in and out of the nose.
How are you? Allow your awareness to step inward and take a few moments to establish how you feel in this moment. Check in with your physical body, your mind and your mood.
What’s on the to do list? Allow your mind a few moments to scan through what you need to get done and then do your best to put this aside.
Visualise the day: Instead of what you have to do, think about how you want to feel. What quality do you want to bring into your day?
Pick a Word: What word encompasses this? Perhaps its Courage, Clarity, Determination, Fun or Confidence. Whatever comes to mind.
Reinforce: Breathe your word in and out for a few rounds - to help it stick.
Breathe in: Today I will be “ “
Breathe out: Today I will be “ “
Overcome Challenges: See yourself faced with a challenging situation and still being able to demonstrate this quality. Allow this quality to move with you throughout the day
Come back: take a moment to breath naturally and to feel your feet on the ground. Blinking open your eyes when you feel ready.
Take a moment to write anything down, if you would like to – to refer to during or at the end of the day.
If you lose your quality through the day you can always come back to your word or this meditation.
4. Is there Orange in your Day?
When I first starting running my business, I wanted to ensure I set clear boundaries as to how much time I would work, and how much time I would play.
To easily see that I had the balance right, I used to colour coordinate my online planner and play time was in orange. 7 years on’ I still call it putting orange in my day.
Building orange into the day may be something you naturally do. Or, like me, you may find that not proactively scheduling it in means it doesn’t get prioritised.
Whilst some activities admittedly require time, don’t let that put you off.
If time is a challenge, think about how you might combine some orange into what you do already– for instance a shared dog walk, reading/listening to a book on route to work, or a shared meal.
Lifehack in their article, 30 Ways to Add fun to Your Daily Routine, provide some ideas.
Not all achievable during lockdown but some food for thought.