As a farmer I spend every evening locking my animals away for the night. This evening I noticed that as the sun was dropping below the horizon the sky had turned a beautiful shade of red. I allowed myself a few minutes to soak in the landscape.
The moon was already working it’s way across the sky and was shining brightly. The trees on the hills around, still leafless, were silhouetted against the pale blue background of the sky, like giant sculptures. The air was turning colder, now that the sun had gone, but it smelt fresh and there was a slight hint of wood smoke lingering. The birds were participating in their evening chorus and the haunting cry of a Tawny Owl drifted through the twilight.
I felt at peace, calm and relaxed, enjoying the “show” that was going on all around me, stimulating all of my senses.
This cacophony of sound, sight and smell occurs every day and yet I don’t always notice it. And it’s not just happening where I am. It’s all around each of us, if we only took the time to “PAUSE”.
Learning to be present in the moment is an essential part of living a Healthy Life. It eases worry and stress. It allows us to realise that we are a small part of a much bigger spectacle going on around us. It does us no good to live constantly in the past or in the future.
We need to learn to be fully present NOW.
And as most things I teach in my Healthy Living Online Course, it is a skill that can be learnt, a good habit that can be formed.
Try stopping for just a couple of minutes and allow yourself to be absorbed in your landscape. Let your senses run free, soak it all up, notice everything and allow yourself a little bit of calm.
What does a person need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?
It’s customary at this time of year to make all kinds of promises to ourselves, or resolutions.
I’ll go to bed earlier
I’ll get up earlier
I’ll eat more healthily
I’ll exercise regularly
I’m going to lose a few pounds
It doesn’t seem to take long before these promises are forgotten. Is it because we didn’t set realistic goals? Probably not. The fact is that to make these kind of changes we need to form new habits.
Now that might sound easy, but obviously as we quickly move on from these promises, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Understanding how habits are formed is crucial to successfully creating new ones, and ones that will become a daily practice within our lives.
Our brains respond in a predictable way where habits are concerned and it doesn’t differentiate between good or bad habits.
Our brains respond to a reminder, or trigger, that causes us to carry out a particular routine, or habit, knowing that when we do it (the brain) will receive a reward, normally in the release of dopamine, the pleasure chemical. To form a habit takes time. Some say 28 days and other studies say even longer. For me, a lot depends on the motivation for wanting to form the habit. If your motivation is high then it will probably take a shorter time to create.
The key is to start small. Set yourself a reward for when you have genuinely succeeded in creating your chosen habit.
In all our courses learning about habits is always the first module we study – it’s that important. And learning how to develop new habits is vital to changing our lives.
If you’re interested in learning more then you can check out our available courses. New courses coming shortly include “Long-Term Weight Management” and “Living More Simply”. If you would be interested in finding out more about either of these courses please get in touch.
Here’s an interesting study looking at yet further benefits of the regular practice of meditation. Meditation is a vital part of all our courses and is a great habit to form.
Mediation and exercise lower your risk of getting the flu, study claims
Adults who engaged in exercise or meditation reduced their chances of getting sick by up to 30 percent
Those who didn’t perform either activity missed 105 days of work compared to 82 for the exercise group and 73 for the mediation group
There were also fewer visits to a healthcare professional among the meditation and exercise groups
We’re all told that exercise and mediation can help us lose weight, reduce stress and improve our heart health.
But they could also have another hidden benefit: preventing us from getting a cold or the flu.
Researchers say that mindfulness meditation or moderate exercise reduced the chances of getting sick by nearly 30 percent.
And the adults who did get sick, but engaged in either activity, had less severe symptoms, missed fewer days of work and paid fewer visits to the doctor than those who did neither.
The team, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says it hopes the results lead to doctors ‘prescribing’ one of the activities to their patients in addition to the annual flu shot.
A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found mindfulness meditation or moderate exercise can reduce the chances of getting sick by nearly 30 percent (file image)
For the study, published in the journal PLoS One, the team looked at nearly 400 adults between the ages of 30 and 69 between 2012 and 2016.
They were divided into three groups: the first took an eight-week exercise class, the second took an eight-week meditation class and the third took neither class.
None of the adults regularly exercised or meditated prior to the study and reported they get on average one cold per year.
The participants took their classes between September and October and were followed through May weekly to look for signs of acute respiratory infections including incidence and duration.
Over the course of the eight months, there were 112 cold and flu episodes among the mediation group, causing them to miss a combined 73 days of work.
Among the exercise group, there were 120 cold and flu episodes, which made them miss 82 days of work.
But in the control group, there were 134 respiratory infection episodes, for which 105 days of work were missed.
There were also fewer visits to a healthcare professional among the meditation and exercise groups.
While the meditation and exercise groups had 22 and 21 healthcare visits, respectively, the control group had 24 visits.
The authors also calculated the average economic cost – including the lost days of work and insurance co-pays – for each faction.
The exercise group lost about $119 from illness and the mediation group lost about $140 compared to $163 for the control group.
From these evaluations, the mediation group did about 27 percent better and the exercise group did about 17 percent better than the control group.
The researchers also noted that the meditators and exercisers showed improvements in their quality of sleep, stress and general mental health.
‘More research into the benefits of exercise and meditation is warranted, maybe in higher-risk or sicker populations, where there are more health benefits to gain,’ wrote lead author Dr Bruce Barrett, a professor in the department of medicine and community health at UW-Madison.
‘Until that research is done, we feel justified in advocating for both mindfulness and exercise because benefits appear likely, and there are minimal risks.’
The new research follows up on a past small study conducted by the team in July 2012, which found that meditation or exercise could reduce cold and flu episodes between 30 and 60 percent.
Learning to live a Simple Life is a process and a journey. It’s not something that happens overnight. The journey involves creating good habits, one habit at a time, and working on them until they stick and become a natural part of our daily rhythms.
Decluttering is one of those good habits.
It’s not just about having a tidy home, although that is the eventual outcome, but it’s choosing to clear away all those things that are not essential to our lives, clearing out the years and sometimes decades worth of “stuff” that we collect and hoard.
Often, and I include myself in this, I make excuses as to why I don’t want to deal with it – There’s too much to sort through, it’s too overwhelming, I’ve got too busy, I’m too tired. Excuse after excuse. We procrastinate. And, as it turns out, we can become very good at procrastinating. But clutter is procrastination!
So it’s time to deal with the excuses, face them head on, and start with one small step at a time.
Start small – Choose one small area, a drawer, a cupboard, a worktop, wherever it may be. Clear the space completely and only put back, neatly, what you really need. Get rid of the rest – throw it, recycle it, sell it, donate it. Job done. You’ve taken your first step.
Repeat – one small area at a time – Feel good about what you’ve achieved so far, but there’s a long way to go to clear your whole house! The only way is small steps. Set aside 10 minutes a day or longer if you get into it. Maybe spend an evening, a day off, or a weekend if you feel like it and tackle a much bigger area. Don’t panic. If that still feels too overwhelming just keep the momentum going and tackle another small area on a regular basis. It’s not a race. It’s the continued progress that we want, however small the steps may be.
A simple method – It’s helpful to have a simple method as you declutter. I would suggest clearing the area into a pile, and then working through that pile one item at a time. Ask yourself, “Do I need this, do I use it?” If the answer is “Yes”, then place it back, if the answer is “No” then get rid of it. Try not to think for too long. Try to make a quick decision. Hopefully you should be able to work through a pile quickly deciding “Yes”, or “No”. Bag up your “No” pile, place it by the door and get rid of it as soon as you can. You’ll find there’s a release and sense of achievement as you give the items away.
The 6 month rule – If you really can’t decide whether to keep an item or not then place it in a box with the date written on it. If, after 6 months, you haven’t used that item then it’s time to get rid of it.
Keepsakes and Momentos – For most people these are the hardest things to part with. We all have things that have a sentimental value or a reminder of someone or some event in our past. These people and times are part of our journey through life. Sort through them carefully and get rid of anything that you know longer want, or can’t even remember why you kept it. For those items you would like to keep consider creating a scrap book or something similar to keep them all together.
Enjoy the journey – Recognise that decluttering is much more than just tidying. It’s a process, working towards living a more simple life. Enjoy the journey. Rather than seeing it as a challenge or something that has to be done, relax and embrace the process. Ultimately it leads to a less cluttered home, a change in your attitude towards “things”, and a more peaceful and relaxing environment in which to live.
It may take months to clear your home, but step by step you can get there. Decluttering ultimately leads to a less cluttered home, a change in your attitude towards “things”, and a more peaceful and relaxing environment in which to live.