Feel even better – mindfulness and exercise

(Originally published on Blogspot)

If you read my blog ‘Feel better with mindfulness’ you may have tried mindful breathing for 5 or 10 minutes each day.

The chances are that there have been a few lapses and maybe you have given up or maybe you are carrying on. I hope this post inspires you to keep with it or just pick yourself up, accept you are human and try again if you lapsed a bit. I bet you felt better when you tried it.

Well – you can enjoy things even more and gain more wellbeing through having a focus to your life, such as a hobby or a sport. I am a great advocate of Steve Peters’ an amazing person who I have been lucky enough to meet and learn from. His book, The Chimp Paradox provides insight into human life and a set of tools that can lead to increased happiness for anyone.

john and karenSteve is probably most famous for his work with British Cycling and particularly in his involvement in the success of athletes such as Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, among many others and it is in sport that I see another route to recovery, personal development and fulfilment.

The picture is me and my friend Karen Darke, taken when I was a coach with British Cycling, coaching Karen as part of the London Paralympics 2012 Handcycle team.

Steve quite rightly identifies that for a humans to be happy they need a goal, this can be anything – as simple as getting the shopping for the day or as complex as calculating the trajectory of a space craft and managing the travel to a different planet. The keys seem to be that the goal captures our interest and is something we want to do.

For those of us with some sort of life difficulty, depression, anxiety, low self esteem, suicidal tendencies, food/weight obsession, exercise addiction – the goal can also provide a new focus, gradually taking over our negative focus to a positive.

In sport we have a perfect example, sport isn’t just a high level thing for talented athletes, it works at all levels – even trying to walk a mile can be a sport if it has a measurable goal and an aim to progression.

Sport provides a safe environment for goal setting, you don’t have to tell anyone, you can set clear goals and measure progress and make changes to your lifestyle to better your performance… and the key is that a lot of success in achieving the goals is dependent on how you think and how healthy you are. Being too fat or too thin hampers progress, negative thinking isn’t very helpful so you can look to make changes to all these things and see improvement in your performance that is measurable. Seeing progress is a great motivator. Best of all, exercise actually promotes a feeling of wellbeing both physically and mentally so by making this simple change you can’t fail to feel better.

My philosophy is that sport can provide a focus to help many of us feel better, I have many examples including myself, of those with serious life difficulties and I am going to work on this over coming months, promoting the idea and working with individuals to help them.

Get a Life – Freedom Through Sport is the motto – please let me know what you think.

Get a life

(Originally published on Blogspot)

smiley landscape (1)It’s been an interesting week – I have been in Doha for a few weeks, working and staying in a hotel. I don’t have many friends here so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking – one of the things I enjoy about travelling, combined with seeing new things and meeting people from different cultures who think so differently.

As I said last time, I believe just sitting observing one’s breath for a few minutes each day is the best way to feel better, see my last blog. On top that, the theme of this blog – ‘get a life’ – get out there and enjoy a high quality life.

To paraphrase Steve Jobs I have been ‘connecting the dots‘: I mentioned rereading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance last time. Robert Pirsig talks about quality and how the quality of our experience influences our lives and our present is made up of the qualities of our experience, the past makes us who we are and therefore our value structure.

I am currently reading Vivienne Westwood’s biography and she speaks of similar things, being true to ones self, living life in the highest quality way. The book has been inspiring for me, learning the background of the punk era, developing thoughts on Situationist art and how fashion and art can change ones outlook and ultimately our live. As anenvironmental activist she proclaims the virtues buying less, higher quality things that stand the test of time… as a lover of art and culture she proclaims the longevity of quality, taking much of her design ideas from the qualities she sees in the past. Her ‘Get a Life’ manifesto is intriguing, I get the idea but will need to read it again. Essentially she is advocating living life in the most high quality way we can, which in turn is the most ethical.

Here are a couple of quotes that I like:

Culture is the antidote to propaganda and consumption (I have a manifesto about this). The idea is ‘Get a Life’: you get out what you put in. And if people get a life right now by being engaged with the world (and human genius from the past) they can hopefully get a life in the literal sense for the next generation. (Vivienne Westwood)


One of the key tent poles, if you will, of trying to overcome climate change and have a better world is to link culture and climate change. We’re talking quality: The quality of life, which very much involves culture. It’s about a sort of mindfulness, if you like: paying attention to what you are doing and creating and how you are living. (Vivienne Westwood).

Interesting she mentions quality and mindfulness. Like Pirsig.

So to try and capture my thinking – the keys to a happy, high quality and fulfilling existence seem to be to lead the highest quality life one can by taking time for oneself, being mindful of one’s behaviour and where possible avoiding the low quality experience and moving to more high quality experiences. That might be just treating yourself to nicer coffee and a ponder in a nice environment rather than rushing down the road with a takeaway or simple things like that.

You may ask what is higher quality and in answer I refer to what Phaedrus, Pirsig’s central character would have said. You know what quality is and it is different for us all because we are each unique, made up of our past experiences and our particular sensitivities – just think about what feels right.

Have fun and enjoy a good life….

Feel better with mindfulness

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is better to spend my energy trying to do something useful than performing potentially endless introspection.

I think the most useful thing anyone can do to help themselves is to spend 10 minutes just sitting and breathing, observing their breath. At the most simple level this is what we learn from mindfulness and there is plenty of evidence to show it helps depression, anxiety and general wellbeing.

Try it now:

  • find a comfortable place,
  • close your eyes and breath naturally (I breathe through my nose but do what’s best for you),
  • observe your breath as it flows in and out,
  • the cooler breath in and the warmer breath out…
  • you can focus on a point that the breath passes and feel how the in and out breaths flow past it…

sit for a few minutes and when you open your eyes check out how you feel. That is it – all you need to do for 5 or 10 minutes each day and you will feel better….

Walking woman Doha (reduced)I speak from experience – almost everything I recommend I have tried and learnt through my own experience.

Of course, there is a lot written about mindfulness and various routines but the basics are as above and that is all you need to do. Just do an internet search if you want to learn more.

Being mindful as you go through your daily life also helps – that is also simple so forget all the complicated stuff and techniques at first and just try it. Notice how if feels to wake up, what is around you how you may feel if anxious, tired, depresses, specifics are important like cleaning your teeth, walking, smiling, laughing… NOTICE – ACCEPT – LET GO.

If you notice, let go and accept yourself, accept you make mistakes, get upset, feel stressed, eat too much, eat too little, let people down, just like everyone else does you will feel better and do better. Love yourself and accept yourself as everyone is different and everyone including you can be happy or sad – you don’t help anyone feel better by punishing yourself and being sad, just think about it.

I just reread Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, which I enjoyed immensely. I was apprehensive that I wouldn’t like it, having enjoyed reading it as a teanager but I did and I can recommend it as a book just as relevant and interesting now as when it was written. It is a book about mindfulness as well as many other things.

I was going to write about Apps I use to track my feelings, and stress levels and other stuff but I think that is enough so next time.

Please like/comment or just use this as you like but I’d love to know what you think. Most important, smile and enjoy your life – you may as well and you only get one chance.