If you are curious about anything to do with ‘health’, The WHO* is great for a global perspective.
Let’s take it’s definition of ‘health’. ‘..A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.
The above clarification excites me. It does that because it opens up the whole concept of health, to incorporate wellbeing, and minimises the presence of disease in the definition. It also includes this lesser known term ‘social wellbeing’.
It’s harder to acquire information about the later.
I’ve found a few sources, one of which is from The University of Wollongong (fact – I didn’t make that name up!), Australia.
They mention that the concept includes inclusion, a sense of belonging, but also values. Community is also of course discussed.
All this made me think. My first thought was of my family.
My father & mother without knowing it opened the door of social wellbeing for me and let me walk right through.
They did this by providing me with a sense of belonging & value. Both my parents have always been interested in social affairs, so the world I saw was through their eyes.
When my father dropped his head at the famine in another part of the world, or the death of a cultural figure, I learnt sympathy. As I became older and exposed to poverty when I volunteered abroad, or seeing homelessness in Westernised wealthy nations, I became more truly empathetic.
Sympathy, empathy and compassion
Sympathy, empathy and compassion can be the ingredients for creating community, and as the afore named university above supports, ‘a connected individual is a supported one’.
Lifestyles, methods of living, beliefs, all feature into social wellbeing and engaging with ‘cultural activities within communities’ has been stated by the university of Wollongong to assist with life satisfaction.
The WHO, talk about ‘social capital’, which includes ‘social norms’, ‘social life’, but also concepts of trust, that can shape ‘collective action’.
Aspects of social capital are seen by the WHO to be important to the wellbeing of individuals.
Work and social wellbeing
I’ve worked in places where the work itself is relatively doable, but the environment is hostile. In other places, the work is insurmountable, but the environment, culture, values & ethos of the institution is such that the work although hard is readily workable, even enjoyable!
Social wellbeing maybe being tended to in these later places of work.
To companies and businesses who strive / struggle to keep their employees, it may not be financial wellbeing that they are after but social wellbeing.
I’m on a wellbeing challenge. It’s relatively easy to think of ways of improving physical wellbeing, and mental wellbeing.
If social wellbeing is as the WHO say a vital part of health, why is there such little attention on how to cultivate it?
You can in some ways see how social wellbeing is becoming an issue in some demographics, as people still feel isolated & bullying in many areas is on the rise. Some of my patients speak to me about ‘loneliness’.
My father says an antidote to low mood maybe, in part, to take more of an active interest in the world around you. People who volunteer with the elderly & children, feel tremendous rewards, as do the people receiving their time.
For me I think building communities is key. Wellbeing is a passion of mine. Consequently I strive to create a community around that concept.
Within that community I hope to share ideas, exchange, debate, experiment, laugh, include one another. By standing in each others corner & creating a genuinely safe place where people belong, we can all have more of a chance of having a successful & healthy life, rather than an unfulfilled one.
I would love to hear your comments around this blog. Is it a surprise that social wellbeing is seen as fundamental to health?
Do you think that self reflection and solitude is more beneficial to health than more communal ventures?
If you had three pillars in which complete health sat upon, what would the three pillars be? Would it be mental, physical and social wellbeing, or would it be something else?
What are some ideas you have towards cultivating social wellbeing?
If you follow me on instagram, you know that 60 (and some change) days ago I started a wellbeing challenge.
‘365 days of wellbeing for life’ is the full name of the challenge.
Through this challenge I focus on different elements of wellbeing, every day of the year and post it on instagram and on Facebook.
Wellbeing is a huge area, that includes all facets of life.
As mentioned by the world health organisation, it includes:
Throughout the course of the year, I will touch on different aspects as they resonate in my daily life.
The most important part of the challenge is the ‘for life’ element.
Yes, the challenge focusses on a year long journey, but the insanely poignant part is the dissecting that comes after the year is out. When the year is done, I’m going to find the key areas that have brought the most impactful change and weave that into my life, FOR LIFE!
Documenting and journalling daily on platforms, holds me to account. Whether the day has gone according to plan or not, I’m going to post my progress & what has been my focus that day.
After the year, I’m going to hold workshops where I hone in on the key areas in my opinion that help cultivate wellbeing.
For example, so far, I’ve found that exercise is of supreme importance, but going further, I’ve seen first hand how different exercises assist me in different ways. The day that I move actively, always works better than the day I’ve been sedentary. Taking it a step further though, doing a bootcamp for a week with a bunch of strangers exercising to failure, vs taking a walk by myself, effects my mood, and my beliefs differently.
Whilst an intensive workout requires all your attention to complete lifting the largest weight you ever have, or keeping up the fastest pace that you ever have run on the treadmill, there comes a point when there is no thought, just your breathe and the action that your doing. Focussed targeted energy.
After that, I feel a confidence that is unlike any other. In that state, I can see any patient and managing their condition appears clearer, sitting that professional exam is achievable. I can juggle anything that I foresee.
The 10,000 plus step walk cultivates a different energy. Walking for walking’s sake, with no destination in mind and no task at hand, can feel near divine. It creates a different context in which to solve a problem, or provides the landscape, to leave that problem the hell alone, and come back to it with a different perspective.
Both forms are equally important. Knowing when to do which in line with your goals can be a powerful practice.
Anything that truly impacts your physical wellbeing, will also alter your mental wellbeing.
Throughout the course of the year, I will speak more about emotional wellbeing, social wellbeing and financial wellbeing, in addition to other facets.
Join me to create
Join me on: www.instagram.com/drgetaheadspace/. Follow me on Facebook (search for ‘getaheadspace’) and continue to interact with this blog by leaving a comment. I’ve committed to instagram and Facebook, and now the next phase is to commit to the growth of this blog. That being said, I will post on here weekly, and produce podcast content on ‘the wellbeings’ (see us on soundcloud) at least on a bi-monthly basis.
Creating this community will help to put wellbeing in the forefront, which in turn will make all of us realise how, when this is front and centre, your true goals can be realised.
Fitness festivals and bootcamps part 1. A personal perspective from a beginner
In the last two weeks, I have attended two fitness festivals (which incorporated activities for the mind as well as the body) and have just started a week long bootcamp.
My personal aim has been to challenge myself to attain a regular exercise routine. I want to claim, that all coveted exercising five times per week accolade. In England, the National Health Service (NHS) suggests that ALL 19-64 year olds to stay healthy, should either do 150 minutes (30 minutes for 5 days) per week of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity.
See the following for a more eloquent description of the guidance: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-adults.aspx
I’d like to see if this opens a box of benefits that will help with:-
-energy levels and productivity
-balance out even more my reaction to personal stress
-improve my culinary desires and choices
-increase my sense of wellbeing
-and anything, anything that can help with FLATULENCE (not for me, but for my partner)
The Cardiac Challenge – sweat sessions
The first ‘festival’ attended was sweatlife (https://thesweatlife.co.uk/).
Held in Shadwell, East London & run by Lululemon, it was the most well organised event I’ve ever been to. That might sound tedious, but to someone who is new to fitness, whose mates were too chicken to attend with me, you just want to be told where you need to be, and what you need to do. Simple.
Option for you to chose before hand up to two ‘sweat’ sessions (i.e. any session that would make you sweat – this could be a HIIT class, or aerobic class for example) and as many yoga sessions as you could downward facing dog yourself around.
Each session had not only the instructor, but a tribe of assistant coaches who would rock your hips into place, or support your feet into a handstand, or strap your feet up into a TRX thingy-migigy. Essentially, they would place that stray limb or joint where it should be.
The instructors appeared entirely vested in everyone getting the most out of what they personally could from the class. Bonus! You don’t want to go to one of these things, and feel that you have to prostrate your sweaty body onto a trainer to get their assistance whilst your having what could be a cardiac event. I’m just saying.
Robbie from Heartcore (http://www.heartcore.co.uk/the-workout/) led my first sweat class. Whoa! Wow!
I had my posterior in a rower, then my feet were on the seat of the rower and my hands were on the ground. Then i was hurled into a TRX where I did pilates type stretches, and cardio based activity.
It was multifaceted, and we were all supported throughout. Nobody collapsed during the proceedings (always good to know).
Yoga was eye opening. Did my first two sessions in life.
First session was with Annie Clarke, author of ‘mind, body and bowl‘. I was late (of course I was – I try to recall now, rather than better late than never, better never late).
I balanced my way between yoga mats and poses, and thankfully was greeted with a welcoming, permissive smile by Annie. Then I got into the first pose, and started sweating. What in the hell was going on? I thought only hot yoga could make me drip sweat. I presumed, well, it must be from rushing here. It’ll settle down. Let me get my breathing on point.
I went from dripping a drop of sweat or two, to noticing some hand slippage, courtesy of my sweat laden palms. Breathing became an effort, as the poses although apparently ‘fundamental’ (I’m talking downward dog, then into essentially a plank with your hands close to your chest, then into cobra pose (Bhujangasana)), but throughout your tensing your muscles, and holding the poses just enough to exert that tension, and work your core.
Key message, don’t underestimate the ability of yoga to exert your body, as well as your mind.
It was the first class that I had ever gone to where people weren’t ogling each other as much as the instructor. The individuals there were focussing on their breathing, their form, and on what they were able to do. It helped me focus, although late, and sweaty on the same.
Yeezus yoga yaps on
I ended sweatlife by attending a yoga class by Ryan Leier (http://ryanleier.com), well known to the yoga community. He was a Caucasian man, with a slender muscular body, and a wiry looking long fair haired beard. A baseball cap sat proudly on his head. He made me feel comfortable.
Ryan’s approach was engaging, comical in places, and throughout kept the concept of acquiring grace, and attaining the pose that you were able to do, not the one the person next to you was showcasing. Ryan would remind us to recall our intention that we set at the beginning of the class.
In some of the cardiac based classes, they split us into groups at times (I was a ‘rock and roller’ i believe in one class, and i forget the name of the other sparring team), and it was about beneficial competition to spur your experience.
The yoga classes had a different take. We were all taken through the same moves, but the focus was more on setting an individual intention of what you were hoping to get from the class to yourself, and using that as your personal anchor. It was about your yoga practice, aside from the group, whilst being within the group. Going as far as you were able to go, towards a place of comfort. There was no competition here. You were urged to adopt ‘child’s pose’, focus on your breathing, and then return at your pace, if a pose was overly taxing.
Wellbeing and fitness festivals. My thoughts, part 1
The day at sweatlife was full of contrasting opposites.
On the one hand, there was competitive, adrenaline infused, heart racing, up-then down turns, and then yoga, where I felt muscles I had never been aware of stretch, flex and extend for the first time (well it seemed that way to me). Throughout both, I felt I was meeting elements of myself that I hadn’t been introduced to before.
I had never had my feet suspended in a TRX cable. Hadn’t gone into a handstand in years, but seeing what my body, and more importantly to me what my mind was able to tell my body it could do, and then see it manifest was fascinating.
I ran faster on the spot than I had ever done. Held poses I had never heard of, and it humbled me to the fact of how much I was able to do, just by showing up and giving things a go.
My thoughts continued
A thought came: well, if i can do this, what else can I do?
How can i challenge myself in my clinical practice, in my relationship with my partner. What can I do to foster an even better relationship with my brothers, my friends, the receptionists at work, the motorist who I just can’t seem to overtake (because they made sure I never had quite enough space to. You know who you are!)
One thing that brings me a sense of wellbeing, is when I’m kind to myself and I stretch myself at the same time. When I show empathy & compassion towards others as well as myself, but then I’m also in a position to challenge their perspective, and they mine.
I left the venue excited, energised and eager to do more. Wanted to learn more (and not just yoga poses, wanted to revise for my professional exams right then and there, and find out the latest remedies in flatulence (for my partner..))
When you realise you can do something you didn’t think was accessible to you, it can work to open you up to tap into other areas of your life, where you want to see what you can manage, and what you can take there to.
My thoughts continued part 2 (almost there, I promise)
When I came home. I recalled my day to my partner, my dad, on instagram (still very much a novelty to me), then sunk into a bath and thought ‘now what?’
I urge you all to consider that. ‘Now what?’
So your job is not rewarding. Your fixing to leave your partner. Your overweight, out of shape, and your doctor says your depressed. You have very little interest in things anymore, and your always tired.
A good day is when you come back home and you have that space in time where you can distract yourself through TV, the radio, music, perhaps even drugs or that third glass of wine, and escape the day you just had, and forget the threat of the same day that awaits you.
Your at home in your comfortable abode, looking at your lush garden, standing in your neat but cosy kitchen, considering which herbal tea to flood your hot water on. You love your job, your marrying your partner, your comfortable in your own skin. You have great relationships with those around you, and you smile at the prospect of tomorrow.
I have no idea. You tell me.
Perhaps though start by asking yourself if your ‘ok’/’content’/’happy’/’satisfied’, with where you find yourself right now. That could be your gateway into exploring your sense of wellbeing. If your not ok with where your at, try to change it. If you can’t change it, change how you think about it. Others have said that before. If it aint broke, don’t fix it.
If your in a good space, what could make it even better, or what practices/routines could you incorporate to silently assist in maintaining the space your in effortlessly. Perhaps you’ve never had to think about your sense of wellbeing because things are that good.
Now do, now engage, now try, now fail, now succeed, sweat, stretch, sleep soundly, stay awake, laugh at yourself, eat well with a sprinkling of badly, think some, act more. Now do whatever comes to you, with no judgement. That’s part of wellbeing in my view. Whether you need to sweat more to attain it, rest more to attain it, act on it. Life is an active expression. Execute. If your already there, bask in it and live it. Enjoy.
If your not ‘there’, be comforted by these words: the journey is always better than the destination.
Part 2, 3, and possibly 4 on fitness festivals and bootcamps coming soon.
I’ve had a very active weekend, at sweatlife festival, which is a day of activities organised by lululemon, which provide exercise classes, yoga, and tutorials/workshops.
In the end I did 2 exercise classes (45 minutes each. I burnt more than400 calories in one of them!) and 4 yoga classes. Yes, all in one day.
I came to each with a beginner’s mentality, after all, I was nothing other than that.
I went to a class called ‘gong bath’ (a form of yoga, I was told. Later I found out that this wasn’t quite the case at all).
When I signed up for it, I cursed myself as I hadn’t brought my swimming wear.
I figured it would be mindfulness in a hot tub, or maintaining a meditative state whilst being dunked in water. To be honest, I don’t know what I thought.
I found out though, that i didn’t need a swimming costume, and not because it was a prerequisite to go nude!
I walked into a massive hall, with thinned rubber mats laid out symmetrically, and at the head of the hall, was a man who sat cross legged, and behind him was a huge gong.
To aid with the imagery, see my instagram page, for a 59 second audio of him explaining gong baths: https://www.instagram.com/drgetaheadspace/.
Gong bath or gong yoga?
In his introduction, he acknowledges that we have all done ‘intensity training or dynamic yoga’ during the course of the day, but that the ‘gong’ is used to do the job of bringing you a sense of calm.
Since then, I’ve learnt that ‘gong yoga’ is essentially teaching yoga with the sound of the gong. In this class, we lay still on the aforementioned mats whilst he struck the gong.
Later it all made more sense. I had been misinformed when i was told it was a form of yoga. Gong baths are in fact like a massage for the mind and body, and is seen as a form of meditation.
The key thing he mentioned was that it could give/provide in this setting, ‘recovery time’.
In our lives there appears to be little time for recovery time, and I’ve been thinking more & more for awhile now, about how readily accessible recovery time is.
When you go to a supermarket, typically the sweets are on display right by the check out, so they are easy to access and consume on the way home.
What if tools towards wellbeing were just as accessible? What if, just as you could go to your supermarket, see your local doctor, or pop into the fishmonger, you could walk into a centre that could offer you the possibility of recovery time, and not in the way that a spa could.
There is a lot of access for ailments of the body. If you have a headache, you can go to the chemist (and now your local newsagents even!) and get some pain relief, or if you were very concerned you could see your doctor.
If you’ve had a tough time at work, or at home, for the last several weeks or months/even longer, but your not suicidal, and you know your not hearing voices, and your partner or loved ones tell you ‘you’ll be fine’, but you don’t feel ok, where can you go? It might be comparable to a mild headache, which doesn’t feel serious, but it is always there.
I’ve had an idea for awhile now, where you could walk in to a different kind of ‘wellbeing centre’ if you will, and at least talk to someone. The ‘someone’ would have the experience to put you onto a programme that focusses more on mental wellbeing, rather than mental ill health.
Other services would be provided by this wellbeing centre if appropriate to the individual. Of course advice would be given, if the issue was beyond the scope of the centre, to seek your own doctor’s advice, or specialist attention.
The great thing about this is that it would help catch people, of which many of us at one point or another in our lives may be able to relate with, who don’t necessarily need to see a doctor.
This would be because, the issue is that of mental wellbeing, rather than mental illness per say. Of course as can be found on the ‘mind.org.uk’ website: ‘mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being’. I’m unsure though if this is how it is seen/practiced in wider society.
A centre such as the above would also work to reduce stigma around certain mental health issues, as there is a physical presence on the high street. It would become not out of the ordinary to discuss then these issues with our loved ones, as you may a headache, or anything else, which would also provide support for vulnerable individuals.
Fitness trackers and fitness watches to aid wellbeing
Fitness trackers and fitness watches.
I’ll start by saying that I’ve recently succumbed to the pressures and joined social media! Find me on instagram by searching for ‘drgetaheadspace’.
I do feel very late to the seemingly popping party, that is social media.
I asked my few and valued followers (my day ones..) if they’d be interested in a blog in this area. The loyal loveables said YES (it was a the man from Delmonte moment!)
Since October 2016 I’ve purchased and directly experienced three fitness and lifestyle trackers.
They have all given me unique insights about my habits and health.
Now for the disclaimer.
I am not associated with any of the three trackers I mention here. In addition, I regrettably must also add that they are in no way funding or giving me favourable advantages.
Next, I’m no techie, but there are other great sources for that, that include, ‘RIZKNOWS’.
Search for him on youtube or access the following website for the best fitness trackers in 2017.
Finally, I’m not writing this from the perspective of a doctor, but as a user of the technology.
What I will do in this blog is give you my unique getaheadspace perspective in how trackers have helped me, and where the benefits & flaws in each lie.
The tried and tested three fitness trackers to be discussed:-
1.) Jawbone UP3
2.) Microsoft band2
3.) Fitbit blaze
This is my personal heart sink tracker.
It is the cheapest of the list, and the most motivational with the ability to track your moods, and gives you helpful (albeit corny at times) reminders.
It’s my heart sink as there is talk that production of their trackers is reducing (http://uk.businessinsider.com/jawbone-stops-production-of-fitness-trackers-2016-5?r=US&IR=T), and I had to send it back. Read on.
Forbes this year reported that jawbone was ‘jumping out’ of the fitness wearables altogether :(https://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2017/02/06/jawbone-ditching-consumer-wearables-up4-fitbit/).
*I couldn’t access the above forbes link despite trying multiple times on a work night. Hence, I gave up – you are welcome to try*
Jawbone thankfully deny the above, however they haven’t had an update for awhile, and from both my partner’s and my personal experience, their customer service is *whack*, as in not up to scratch. Sorry, I wish that hadn’t been our reality.
Pertaining to the later point, the metal heart rate detectors noted in the strap (see image), started coming out, and the strap after about 6 months started to become harder to adjust.
I ended up returning the item, but REALLY, REALLY liked the app. It was a sad day.
A) affordability (currently £32.99 on amazon.co.uk or anywhere from $55 – 39.99 on amazon.com – price differs depending on the colour and patterning).
B) If your looking for something subtle & don’t want something with a watch face to upstage your current watch.
C) If your new to fitness, and would find benefit from the motivational messages & can get past the at times cheesy tone.
D) Kick up the back side – that’s what your here for right?
On most trackers you can set your goals, e.g. 5,000 steps a day. Remember the national recommendation in England for a healthy lifestyle is 10,000 steps.
The UP3 will tell you how many minutes you have to walk to achieve your target. Other wearables might just tell you how many steps you still have to do.
E) Comes with ‘smart coach’, essentially your personal coach, that will tell you what you need to do to reach your goals
F) Sleep data: will break down your night Zzzz’s into REM, and the other stages of sleep, and give you tips on how to get a better night’s sleep
G) Allows you to track your food by scanning the barcode.
CAUTION! Many barcodes, especially from the more niche producers won’t scan, but you can input the nutritional stats manually.
i) Customer service
ii) Strap: flimsy. Of course if your less likely to need to adjust it, it is more likely to give you longevity
I sent it back, as did my partner. Without a durable strap and appropriately attached heart sensors (embedded in the strap) it’s ability to perform core functions, such as monitoring your heart rate, diminishes.
It’s still available.
If you check out the jawbone UP website and you like it, I think it is a great wearable to start with.
WELLBEING plus with the JAWBONE UP 2 (JB2)
Although corny, now i no longer own the JB2, I have come to miss the messages, encouragement and smart coach feature.
It is definitely more holistic than other fitness apps with the ability to document your mood.
This allows you to research if there is any pattern between your ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days in relation to your moods, and how you can make amendments to your habits and lifestyle and maximise those good days.
MICROSOFT BAND 2
Probably the most aesthetically desirable in my opinion.
See below for the good and bad.
1.) Aesthetics and durability
It is sleek, and made of a plastic/silicone combination that makes it comfortable to wear.
The screen is made with gorilla glass, which gives it great clarity and durability. No scratches on this wearable baby!
2.) You can get: INSTAGRAM, TEXT MESSAGES, EMAILS, CNN updates on the display. Instagram likes and follows come directly onto your wrist, and news updates – of course you can customise what notifications you get.
This enables you to keep connected whilst your phone isn’t around, which is a big bonus for me as I detest carrying my phone everywhere.
If you are of the tribe that however opts to take your phone to the loo with you, this feature won’t make you drool as it has done me. Granted.
3.) Sleep data
It goes a step further into analysing the data, by not just telling you about your sleep stages, but also about your sleep ‘efficiency’, which calculates the time spent in sleep divded by the time in bed.
4.) Comes with workouts!
Has customised workouts from high intensity interval training workouts that you can do in 4 minutes, with video footage on how to do the routines, to longer workouts.
This might be particularly beneficial if you don’t have a gym membership or would like to perform your workouts in the comfort of your own home
5.) Ease of use
You can track different exercises from walks, weights, biking, runs, etc but you can also just tap ‘workout’ and it will track that activity.
Monitors UV exposure so tells you when you should slap on the sunscreen.
In London, UK this isn’t essential, but for people from sunnier climates it’s desirable.
Risk of skin cancers can be reduced, by covering up and sunscreening yourself down.
i) Battery life!
Battery lasts approximately 48 hours. If your using certain functions like GPS, this maybe even shorter.
If your having a particularly active day, charge the night before, to avoid John McEnroe cries of ‘you can’t be serious!’, when the battery dies just after you’ve narrowly avoided collapse by smashing your goals.
On the more expensive side, depending how deep your pockets are able to go.
Currently selling on amazon.co.uk from third party sellers for ~£300 (for small wrists) or ~£160 for large wrists (Bizarre. To all the small wristed, I will petition this with you), and the later price was USED purchase.
When I bought mine it set me back approximately £150 in October 2016 from Amazon.co.uk.
$110 – $400 from amazon.com
iii) Food Tracking
Will count calories burnt, but you can’t log calories consumed, unlike for jawbone and fitbit.
WELLBEING PLUS for MICROSOFT BAND 2
**Nothing in particular on the wellbeing side from me**
More of a focus here on fitness and sleep aspects, for the busy person who wants to keep abreast of news and social media.
Fitbit is one of the leaders in fitness tracker technology.
The fitbit blaze is one of the best all-round fitness trackers out there according to many.
1.) If you don’t have a watch, this might just be the one for you.
Both fitness tracker in the design of a watch.
2.) Battery life: lasts approximately 5 days.
3.) Does the following well:-
a) tracks heart rate
b) records sleep
c) enables you to track food by scanning barcodes – more effective than jawbone UP wearable
d) records steps
4.) Cardio fitness score
Works out how fit you are in relation to people of the same sex and age, based on your heart rate, weight and other variables.
5.) Reminders to not only move (you can customise this to your liking) if you have been idle for awhile, but encourages you to take a certain number of steps.
The Jawbone 2 and microsoft band will also vibrate you into movement if you so desire to.
6.) Partners with ‘FitStar’ a mobile app fitness trainer.
By clicking the ‘guidance’ button on the app, based on your recent activity (e.g. whether you’ve gone for a run / walk, etc) will suggest what work out you should do.
The work outs are video based from FitStar and easy to follow
Gives you a 2 minute and 5 minute guided breathing exercise (the RELAX feature) which may help some in times of stress
i.) Strap at times can feel uncomfortable when wearing.
ii.) Price. This is debatable. Many who are in the fitness industry feel that this is well priced for its functions.
Now for the price.
Amazon.co.uk: £149.99 currently
Amazon.com: $198.95 currently
Prices vary depending on colour of strap and size.
WELLBEING BONUS for FITBIT BLAZE:
The Relax feature, for sure.
NOTABLE POINTS not covered above:
None of the above can be used to track swimming.
Both fitbit and microsoft have GPS tracking.
HOW TO CHOSE
So you’ve decided you want to purchase a fitness tracker.
Which do you go for?
BE GUIDED BY YOUR NEEDS & YOUR GOALS.
If your goal is to improve your sleep, there are different additional factors that each add to this area. It depends on how detailed you want this information to be.
If tracking your food is important to you, make sure that the tracker you get has a good scanning function that covers a range of restaurants/super market products that are as SPECIFIC TO YOUR COUNTRY as possible!
If you are an avid swimmer, there are trackers such as the apple watch and misfit shine 2 that are waterproof.
You don’t need a fitness tracker to make changes to your sense of wellbeing.
Some people though (if they are in a financially sound position to), may benefit from this in motivating you to meet your health goals. I know that it has had that effect on me.
Self awareness is key. If you know you won’t use it, don’t commit, and instead consider free options.
There are FREE apps which will help you track your food and water consumed, and give you popular health related tips, such as ‘myfitnesspal’.
Some phones will now track your steps. If your interested in this, ask if your phone already has this feature and download a free food tracker. Movement and munchies check!
Personally I’ve found these trackers have both revolutionised my commitment to physical health, and has given me a great outlet following work, and life in general. I feel even happier, and have become more aware of my personal health needs to make me feel energised.
I guess that is one the benefit of them all. They all make you more aware of your habits. They are essentially habit trackers where it comes to how you eat, move and feel.
Whether you decide to buy a tracker, or download free apps that will assist you, just take time to engage with it and use the data it generates to make mindful choices that are right for you, from your particular starting point.
Then I took it a step further and thought what would be right now, five ways to change how you feel in a day.
These thoughts started with a conversation I had with my partner about how our emotions or feelings about ourselves, are central to how we navigate our lives. If our feelings could change, our actions were more likely to change too.
Imagine if you had a goal. Any goal you could think of. The possibility of it coming to fruition is in part about how you feel about that goal, with regards to if you feel it is possible/achievable, whether perhaps people you respect think you can accomplish it, etc.
If you changed how you felt about those things by changing your emotions, attitudes and beliefs about those things, and then acted on those changes, your actions might have changed to a degree that would be more inline with achieving said goal.
My partner feels that they are at a weight that they aren’t comfortable with. This makes them less confident at work & socially, which in turn has an impact on the choices they make in relation to these areas, not to mention influences how they perceive themselves in spaces outside of work and socially.
Others may be the same weight as my partner, but see that as a reflection of strength or beauty, or any other more positive attribute. This in turn, may make that person’s sense of value be at a level where they are more confident socially and at work, as well as other areas in their lives. They may be more likely to make necessary changes, as they are confident that they will succeed.
It got me thinking that if we could control how we feel about ourselves, even if the circumstances haven’t changed, just the dialogue we have with ourselves alone, that could create a shift, that would lead to different actions and more likely success.
So how could we try and do that? Change our mindset, with the aim of adjusting how we feel?
Last week I tried the following five things that made me feel more able to have a successful day and achieve my goals.
Five ways to change how you feel
1) Have a goal/plan your day
This simply sets the tone for the rest of the day.
It puts you in the driver’s seat of how you want your day to go, and makes you automatically feel more in control, and therefore in a more powerful position to achieve your goals, as you’ve planned for them.
It also makes you front load your priorities, rather than other people’s priorities and therefore is more likely to make your goals achievable. It’s a mental switch from working for other people to achieve their aims, to working for yourself.
2) Turn thoughts of anxiety into tools of excitement
If you have thoughts that make you feel less able to attain your goal, ask yourself the following:-
A) Is it true?
B) If it is true how does it make me feel?
C) How would it feel if i didn’t have this thought?
D) How different would my reactions/actions be if I didn’t have this thought?
E) Act out your feelings as if you don’t have the limiting belief/unhelpful thought/anxiety provoking idea. By doing this, negating the unhelpful way you feel, and acting in a way that is opposite of how you feel at that time that is less than helpful, you are still generating momentum towards your goals and feel more positive doing it.
The above points (A to D) I sourced from a website, and when I find the link, I will put it here – I take no credit for coming up with those points. I added point E however, as when you have reflected and challenged particular thoughts, action is key to bring about change.
I’ll be transparent. When I first read about this tool, it didn’t resonate with me until I tried it.
The ‘penny drop’ moment, was by interrogating a particular thought in my head by using the above framework. I came to a deeper understanding about why I had that negative thought in the first place, which was helpful in making me act in a more positive way.
Try it once and see if it helps. If it doesn’t, that is still helpful data – your one step closer in honing in on what works for you and what doesn’t.
Nothing is wasted.
If something isn’t useful to you, change it, alter it, manipulate it, or discard it. Have precision thinking about what is of use to your progression.
This can increase your personal sense of achievement. Now that you’ve achieved that (going on that run that you’ve dreaded for instance), what else can you win at.
Exercise also increases all those great hormones that make you feel better.
4) If a thought doesn’t assist you, challenge it, then trash it (‘ACT’)
5) Be mindful
We are what we do every day.
With that being said, be mindful about how you act, from the little things, to the bigger more impactful things.
Think about how you sit in your chair, breathe more deeply, try focussing on one thing and doing it well. Form positive habits, from which you can hang the rest of your day on.
I’m walking and running outdoors! For some reason this fills me with a sense of achievement. I’m not running for the bus, or walking begrudgingly round the corner for some milk, no, this was planned. I’m actually shoving my feet into my trainers because I’ve decided to go for a walk, and then a run, for the sake of it. If I could, I’d walk and run home so I could just show and tell my parents.
I went on a walk, then a short run, then a walk in Brockley park yesterday.
See some of the photographs from it attached here. [Disclaimer: I am absolutely not a photographer!]
I started walking, intersected that with a run, and then walk back to base, in the outdoors last week. I wanted to see how walking and running outdoors would make me feel, as opposed to going to the gym, regarding my physical and mental wellbeing.
Being outdoors with the sound of branches cracking (actually, I’ll clarify that with thudding/even thwacking) under my feet felt unfamiliar.
I had become too used to the feel of my feet inside my slippers, work shoes, & my trainers, on my way somewhere other than on a run.
This felt like coming to a place I should be in more, but took some mental effort to get there. Having to get out of my more familiar places, put my work-out clothes on, pack up my water, forget my keys (something i appear to always remember to do!), open the front door and then close it behind me.
Then I get outside, and the walk is the ice breaker.
It seems to be instant that I forget all my anxiety about starting and I’ve gotten out.
It’s not quite like that when I go to the gym. The transition isn’t as clean, because I enter my code at the door, & dump my tower of a rucksack in my locker (not to mention the time it takes to find the right one – why are there so few of the bigger lockers, compared to the kiddies sized ones?). In that time I’ve meandered through what appears to be a ton of people. A quiet anxiety comes. I just want to start, and I haven’t yet.
Being outside brings me a sense of clarity, as any problem, issue or rumination, appears aired out outside. If it’s anywhere near the forefront, I seem to be able to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes by taking it out, rather than it gaining weight & momentum which it effortlessly does when I’m inside. And, I haven’t had to find a locker, go through the ton of people to ‘bagsy’ said locker.
I have no idea how, but it (clarity) happens. If it hasn’t by the end of the walk, it hits the curb when the run starts. There is only the space to think of my pace, my breath, and the attention to keep from twisting something I shouldn’t!
That sense of needing to be more alert outside from that stray log, or uneven pavement, drives my mind away from the neediness of my minds thoughts from the preceding day.
The gym is in some ways a more protected space in this way, as the elliptical allows you to jog whilst suspended in the air. As long as you hold on to the arms of the machine, your unlikely to put a foot wrong. The running machine has the safety tag that you attach, so that if you lose your attention, the machine will stop.
My focus in the gym though goes to the hulks lugging the weights, or the squatters, or the damn music videos that accompany songs i just don’t want to hear. My body is safer, but my mind is active elsewhere. It’s less a space to focus on my body, than on other peoples bodies, whilst i go through the motions.
Perhaps I’m greedy, but I want my work out to make my body sweat, and make my mind calm. That’s where the out-doors comes in & the clarity with it.
2.) Reflective without reflection
Your not alone in the gym. Your in competition not only for the apparatus, but for the space to exercise in the gym.
Waiting around the gym doesn’t seem to quieten the mind, as stopping to see the green, the grass, the bird, the fox, etc that meets you on your way outside.
So doing the walk, run, walk alone outside appears to better the functionality of my mind. As being outside gives me another scene in which to play my part. That scene is more conducive to think about the task at hand. I’m not waiting, I’m not competing, I’m just walking or running. In that simplicity, I find myself reflective without trying to reflect/be tranquil. Bonus.
Moving the body wakens it. The movement of walking and running can start the day, end it, or be at that sweet time in-between. Doing it outside when the day of the season hits your senses, is less agitating than the noise from the TV at the gym.
The sun, the air, the colors from the ground and overhead rouse me to be present. I’m not in the future or the past, just in the present, which is where we should be all of the time right?
4.) Decreases tension, increases energy
Studies (see below) have shown that taking part in physical activity outside reduces tension.
Not only that, but when compared to indoor activity, also:
Increased feeling of revitalisation
Decreased confusion, anger, depression
Increased sense of energy
The same study interestingly found that it didn’t increase feelings of calm when compared to indoor pursuits. Perhaps that’s where the jogging on the elliptical comes in..
The findings came about by reviewing a range of studies on this area to bring a solid review (systematic review) of the topic.
Each episode of walking indoors for example, was matched with a comparable level performed outdoors.
The systematic review included thirteen trials, which equated to 833 adults. Now that’s a ton of people.
See the following link for further: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/es102947t
[Link above refers to: ‘Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors?’ A Systematic Review, by Coon et al, 2011]
Expect more blogs on health benefits of walking and running outdoors and running outdoors for beginners.
I wasn’t sure that I saw starting a blog as that! However, this is a new beginning in my life, as I’ve decided to hold myself to a higher standard.
I wanted to have more energy at home and work. To get more pleasure in a job I saw great value in, and spend more time with my loved ones, and by myself. I also wanted to feel less harassed by ideas of needing to be more efficient, more knowledgeable, more of a myriad of things!
These two examples (efficiency and knowledge) aren’t bad ideals in and of themselves, but with work demands being increasingly associated with timescales, and available knowledge in every sphere ever more accessible with the internet, the expectation of being able to keep up with it all, can sap away the time with loved ones, and lead to a less desirable working life.
Once i decided to expect more from myself in both my work and play, for example to actually spend time reflecting on why I was tired on particular days (ok, everyday!) and how to remedy it, I realised that I was going to have to prioritise my mental & physical wellbeing.
I just wanted to not live my life on autopilot anymore, and really interrogate how I do things, and if i could do them better.
Mental wellbeing & mental health
There has been much talk in the British media about ‘mental health’ of late, which I for one welcome.
The conservative government in England, have recently prioritised mental health, pledging approximately 1.4 billion pounds of investment in this area, and Princes Harry and Edward have declared the importance of talking about mental health & are heavily involved in the heads together organisation, (https://www.headstogether.org.uk/) which aims to get us discussing and become more comfortable with our and others mental health.
It made me think of the related term ‘mental wellbeing’, which to me is the natural partner of physical wellbeing.
Mental wellbeing appears to be associated with positive attributes, and less about a defined mental health disorder. Mental health is thought by many to be about ‘madness’, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, to name but a few.
Whilst mental wellbeing is correlated with happiness, mental health is linked with an issue, a problem.
In fact the oxford dictionary describes ‘wellbeing’ as:
”The state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.”
Despite perception of the phrases mental health and mental wellbeing, I was interested to find the world health organisation (WHO) definition.
Mind.org credit the World Health Organisation’s definition of mental health as:
“Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined 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.”
I read the WHO definition and thought, ‘that’s what i’d like & more’. To realise my own potential, not just to think that it might be possible, but to realise it, manifest it. I wanted to not only ‘cope’ with normal stresses, but welcome them with a smile when they entered my life.
If i fully realised my potential, my worth, and was able to bat my stresses away with an absentminded turn of my hand, or at least co-exist happily with them, i could make a significant contribution, as we all could.
I had read countless times, that one of the most effective ways to pursue any goal, was to journal (apparently it’s what successful people do!), and i felt an effective way to make myself more accountable to that practice was to blog.
Mental wellbeing is one facet of an overall sense of wellbeing, which includes physical wellbeing. In fact the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) researched the area of ‘wellbeing’ and noted that it could be thought of on many levels:
A sense of wellbeing can have implications on how we work & how we see our work.
The CDC speak about employment as being important to a sense of wellbeing and in the arena of policy, use employment as an objective measure.
Unemployment appears to effect wellbeing in a negative way as shown by different studies that include work by Warr, Argyle and Lucas (see reference list below for further).
I know personally, that I tend to get the worst sleep on a Sunday, and that is echoed among many working populations. Perhaps because it is the day before the working week? Even for those that seem to like, love or be indifferent about their jobs, we tend to snooze less well on a Sunday.
Work can, even to the well-adjusted, be a source of stress.
Google ‘mental wellbeing’, and one of the most popular searches underneath it is ‘mental wellbeing at work’.
Organisations now exist to improve wellbeing at work. An example is ‘work well being’ (http://www.work-well-being.com/) which strives to make the workplace integrate health for its employees, through programmes & other avenues, in England.
I aim in this blog to address how beneficial habits can help work place stress, and hopefully reduce burnout, and an exodus away from the work force.
Mental wellbeing and apps
No, you haven’t read the above heading wrong. It does read ‘mental wellbeing and apps’.
It is a booming field. Many people who feel stress, or are interested in their general sense of wellbeing, are opting to the digital realm to access something that may benefit their mental wellbeing that is specific to the individual, as some apps measure discrete changes in your heart rate for example, and correlate how you may have felt at the time (or you can log that in yourself) & can map this to what you did or didn’t do (did you have that 2L jug of water this morning which has led to a lower resting heart rate?)
There are apps for meditation, mindfullness, to aid sleep, to breathe better, and this just appears to be the beginning.
I intend to review some of these apps and find out if they may benefit me, but also explore what has led to their increased presence.
Who am i?
[Above street art image was taken in Rio de Janeiro – Saude & Centro, Brazil. Artist unknown]
I could answer this in different ways. With facts such as my gender and where i was born. With measurements to include my height, weight, hair length & how i like to wear it. What I like & don’t like. What I do & don’t do, etc.
I thought i’d settle with this.
I’m a 39 year old woman who works as a doctor. Next year I will be a general practitioner (in fact that is one of my goals for this year. In order to achieve this, I have to pass mandatory professional exams).
I have a close knit family, who i feel i don’t see as much as i would like.
Already by saying the above I’ve answered why i wanted to write this blog.
I wanted to manage my time & myself better, and in order to manage my time better I had to manage my sense of wellbeing, (both physical and mental well being), so i felt more able and productive in my life.
This blog’s intention is to find elements of my working week & within my personal life, that make me reflect on how i can live and manage my life more effectively, and ultimately, with even more happiness.
It’s focus will be on mental wellbeing and what i have found aids it.
Not surprisingly so far the more i tend to my physical health & pay attention to my diet, the more my mental health seems to benefit & vice versa. Naturally then, physical wellbeing and the role dietary factors have in that, will have a place here.
I don’t write this blog in a position of expert knowledge in any of the areas that I speak about. I find that prospect exciting though. That sense of being a beginner, a starter, the ‘not knowingness’ of it all is quite exhilarating.
I’m wise to the fact that I’m not sure how best to achieve sustainable mental and physical health. As a result, I’m eager to prioritise it daily.
I’m certain that by doing this I will be healthier, happier and more able to achieve my goals. I hope also to create a community of like minded individuals who are able to reach others through what we learn here.
Get a head space
I just wanted to create a ‘headspace’.
For my mind to not always feel as if i’m reacting to the latest invasion to my day. For my mind to not feel like a firefighter, but as a conscious element that is in tune with it’s environment & experiences.
I wanted it, so started ‘getaheadspace’.
See the above blog, for references not noted below.
Warr P. Well-being in the workplace. In: D Kahneman , E Diener, N Schwarz (eds.) Well-Being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation Publications; 2003:392–412.
Argyle, M. Causes and correlates of happiness. In: D Kahneman, E Diener, N Schwarz (Eds.) Well-being: the foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation; 1999:307–322:353–373.
Lucas RE, Clark AE, Georgellis Y, Diener E. Reexamining adaptation and the set-point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2003;84:527–539.