Last week Aodan talked about what to start doing this New Year. In the second part of this series, we discuss things that you stop, followed by things to continue.
Bringing technology into the bedroom
After two decades of the twenty-first century, we have comprehensively lost the battle of control with technology. There’s hardly an aspect of our lives that is now immune from the screen and the ‘ping’ of the update. No need for us to feel shame about it, the forces in play are much stronger than our capability to withstand.
However, there is still one sanctuary available to us: our bedrooms. Keeping technology out of our bedrooms will allow us to sleep better (still an underrated activity) and will also reinforce our belief that we can function perfectly well without a screen.
Charge your phone in another room, keep the TV downstairs, and invest in a good alarm clock. Demonstrate to yourself that you can successfully spend at least one third of your life in an offline state.
Carrying around open loops
Twenty years ago, the concept of ‘boundaryless collaboration’ was the in-thing in the corporate world. Alas, the removal of boundaries has been too successful! Now, everything seems to blend together. We have integrated our working lives with our home life, our privacy with our public interactions.
One unhelpful aspect of this development is our tendency to keep things open or ongoing. Instead of closing the book on a good day’s work, we instead carry around unresolved issues or open tasks that are pulling at our mental strings just at the time when we need to be relaxing.
Aim to bring clarity and closure to the end of every working day. Never end a conversation or a meeting by leaving things ‘hanging’ with uncertainty about what’s to be done or who is to do it. Develop your radar for spotting an open loop and build your muscle for closing them.
Listening to the inner critic
We have enough challenges in our modern lives. We don’t need an unhelpful critic following us around, chipping away at our self-confidence, dampening our mood, and draining our energy. Yet, that’s exactly what we do to ourselves!
We can’t, or shouldn’t try to, control our thoughts but we can get better at noticing when our internal critical commentary shows up. Try to think of this voice like a commentator at a sporting event. Their version of what’s happening on the field isn’t absolutely correct and you can see with your own two eyes just as well. Trust your own vision, and feel free to ask the person sitting next to you in the stand what they think too!
Another helpful technique is to put a name on the inner critic. Maybe the voice reminds you of a well-meaning but unhelpful parent, family member or teacher. Give him/her a name! Whenever they show up, don’t fight their arrival but just say thanks for the input and move on anyway.
All three ‘continue/do more’ suggestions are things you’ve been doing all your life but maybe you’ve just fallen out of practice a little.
First up is to increase your level of movement every day.
The science is clear on this: greater movement leads to improved physical and mental health. Now, we’re all coming from different levels of physical capability and fitness but no matter where we are today, we can do a little bit more. There’s no need to sign up for a marathon or a mountain climb immediately (although it might be time for that for you). Instead just get clear on how much you are moving in a typical day right now, and aim to do no more than 5% more tomorrow.
Wearable fitness monitors, even the most basic wristbands for tracking steps, are useful here. They also wisely use the philosophy of small but steady improvement. As long as you’re noticing, and working to improve, then you’re winning!
The onslaught of content through the internet and broadcast media has negatively impacted our ability to sit and read a book. Many report that they find it hard to concentrate for more than a couple of minutes. This is an alarm bell ringing loudly for you!
Here’s what I recommend: get yourself some books that are fascinating for you. Books that you feel compelled to open every time you see them. Leave them in places where you know you can grab a few minutes of uninterrupted reading. When you get a chance, start reading but set an alarm for five minutes. When it’s over, get up and move on! Maybe in a few weeks of doing that regularly, you can push up to six, or seven, minutes. Rebuild your reading muscle in a slow and steady fashion. Who knows where you’ll get by year’s end.
What you’re reading isn’t as important here as the act of you choosing to read something you want. Too much of what we are consuming is being pumped at us without our conscious approval so this will help rebalance the dynamic for you. If you’re saying to yourself you don’t have time for five minutes reading, then start with audio. Just start.
I’m sure you’ve seen headlines that scream, “Sitting is the new smoking!”, leading articles that exhort you to get your butt out of your chair. I’m not talking about that kind of sitting here. My focus is on deliberate sitting with an intention to slow down and notice.
Mindfulness has become increasingly popular in recent years, largely as an antidote to our always-on, hyper-connected culture. Maybe you’ve experimented with some meditation, and maybe it’s become essential in your life, or maybe you’ve already told yourself it’s not for you. Whatever your present capability or interest, you will find benefit from just giving yourself a chance to sit, without agenda, without activity and just letting whatever happens, happen.
Just like the activities of moving and reading, start small and focus on establishing the habit first. By all means build up to an hour-long meditation if you can, but remember that even a single deep breath can help you reset and show up in the way you want to be.
Remember all laya healthcare members over 16 can use our 24/7 Mental Wellbeing support programme for advice from our team of qualified and experienced psychotherapists covering areas like counselling services, legal services, financial services, consumer advice and mediation services.
Our members can also find a number of wellbeing programmes such as overcoming anxiety in their healthcoach app.