How to Switch OFF During the Holidays

I’m going on a family holiday soon and I cannot wait to board that plane. It’s been very busy in work in recent works with a fair amount of stress experienced. So when it comes to holidays, the trouble I’ve had in the past has been this: I have probably spent the first few days of a holiday still in “work mode”. I have found myself ruminating on work issues, thinking up new work to-do items and worrying about how things are going without me. The middle of a holiday seems fine and then as we get closer to the end, I start ruminating about work again as the dreads of going back start to emerge.

Does this sound familiar? Is this you? It doesn’t sound like much of a break, does it?

Well with this one step, you will be much better able to engage with your well-earned break and come back refreshed.

Continue reading “How to Switch OFF During the Holidays”

Purpose-Filled Career?

This article was so good that I thought I would just republish it verbatim here.  I subscribe to a blog called ZenHabits by a guy called Leo Babuta. I find it excellent and his content and articles seem to strongly resonate with me.

As context to this article, I have and often still do struggle with my sense of purpose and fulfillment when it comes to what I do for a living. I have chased many shadows in terms of changing job in search of more fulfillment and am still learning what it really means to live a purpose-filled career. This is why I like this article so much and I want you to read it too.

How to Choose Your Purpose-Filled Career

By Leo Babuta. Original post here.

The other day, I was thinking about what advice I’d give to my teen-age son and nephew as they think about what work they want to do in the world, as they grow up … and at first, I thought of the usual ways people think about it …

When people think about choosing work that’s filled with purpose, they often do it in one of several ways:

  1. Think about what they like to do. If they like writing or playing video games or doing crafts, the might consider these things. This is not a bad way to go, of course, but you can’t always make money doing things you like (like video games, smoking pot or drinking beer). And sometimes thing you like are better as a hobby or side passion.
  2. Think about what pays enough, that they can do, and that doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe a doctor, engineer, lawyer? Or maybe that’s out of your educational reach so you choose teacher, office work, retail worker or landscape work. These (and many other possibilities) are all great choices, but often it’s not something you’re really passionate about. It’s kind of like just doing something because it’s there — not very inspired.
  3. You’re already doing it. If you somehow got a job to make money but didn’t do it that consciously, because you had no idea what you want to do … you might still be doing that years later. It’s your default, so you keep doing it. That’s not super inspired either, because often you’re just clocking in.

So these common ways are not horrible ways to choose a career … but there’s another way that is (perhaps) better:

Try to do something to help others or make the world better, that you might enjoy.

Before you move on, consider the possibilities of serving others or making the world a better place:

  • Volunteering to help the elderly, the homeless, underprivileged children, disaster relief, building homes for the homeless, taking care of animals, etc.
  • Becoming a doctor or nurse or massage therapist or physical therapist or fitness trainer because you really want to help heal people or make them healthy.
  • Taking care of children, teaching or studying child counseling, because you really want to help children get a great start in life, or blossom into who they want to be.
  • Becoming an entrepreneur, or learning to program and then starting an app company that will change the world in a better way.
  • Getting into government or social work to improve the conditions of the community you live in.
  • Writing or coaching or teaching people online to help them solve their problems, improve their lives.
  • Making fun spaces, restaurants, activities, hikes, so that people can find joy in their lives.
  • Becoming a yoga or meditation teacher so people can find peace in their lives.
  • Becoming a scientist to help alleviate the environmental crisis or find a cure for a terrible disease.

And so on. Each of these is just one of many possibilities of making someone’s life better, of serving a community, of making the world better. Each of them is filled with purpose, and if you choose one of them for that purpose, you will serve in that work feeling a sense of purpose each day.

There are endless ways to do that, of course — you could be a manager that serves a team, a customer service representative that puts smiles on people’s faces, a web designer that helps businesses shine online, and so forth. The point isn’t how you serve the world, but just serving the world in some way will help you feel filled with purpose.

If you choose a purposeful job that also seems like fun, that seems enjoyable, you’re way further along than most people.

It doesn’t have to be a typical job, either. You can volunteer or create something that doesn’t exist in your area (a place for peace and relaxation, a place for adults to play, a place for animal lovers to connect to each other), you could just connect other people of similar interests and make their lives better through connection and community. These don’t seem like typical jobs, but I bet you that if you served people in these (and other) ways, you’ll eventually find a career doing that, a career that feels purposeful and beautiful. It can take awhile to actually make a living doing it, but it will very likely happen. And even if it doesn’t, you still served people in a wonderful way and were happy doing it.

How Do You Deal With Depression & Anxiety?

I can feel it coming. It feels like a wave of numbness that starts in my gut and spreads from there. It is a strange feeling of detachment and separation from the world around me, an acute sense of wanting to isolate. It eliminates any interest I have in anything around me. It makes me just want to disappear and withdraw. I don’t care what happens to me and I feel completely lost. This is what depression felt like for me.

Since I first recognized and sought help for this massively under-rated illness (I did not know it was depression at the time), I’ve been to support groups, I’ve been to counseling and have been down the medication road.  I am in a much better place now than I was when I was ready to let it all go. I was ready to walk away from everything and go to god knows where. I was experiencing a super heightened level of compounded anxiety, chronic stress, a crisis of self-esteem and burn out to the point where I was broken, physically and mentally. Taking the first steps to determine what was happening to me were so hard but so crucial.

Today, thankfully I feel like the worst of this illness is behind me and that I have better tools and techniques to help me deal with things. Whenever I can feel myself getting out of whack, I try to take some small steps and do some things that I have learnt are helpful for combatting depression and anxiety and that would promote an increase in serotonin levels – I meditate, I run and I rest but possibly the most helpful thing I’ve found of all is to talk to people. Ironically, this often feels like the hardest thing to do at the time.

I didn’t talk about how I was feeling exactly but I just talked about work issues with work people, home issues with my family and friends – I just talked and engaged with people and through this one step, I felt less isolated and my issues seemed less overwhelming afterward.

The hardest thing to do is often the right thing to do. Talk to people. Engage with the world, especially when this is the last thing you want to do.

Running and general exercise also really helps. Post run I literally feel like a different person, much stronger and more capable of taking action and less willing to dwell on the negative.

During this journey, I have learned a lot about this illness and just how delicate our minds can be if they are not cared for and minded properly. I have seen first hand the devastating effects that chronic prolonged unmanaged stress can have if left unchecked.

One of the best things that I have learned is that depression is not forever. It is possible to build mind muscle, to learn techniques to help you deal with your stress and become more aware of it. Accept the fact that you will never eliminate stress but you can ensure that your daily habits make you stronger and more resilient to help you deal with it better when you do experience it.

A message to any men reading this – don’t let work or life stresses go unchecked – recognize the tension in your body and find ways to release it – run, meditate, go outside in nature, talk to people (about anything) or write about it. It all helps.

A message to any women out there – Mind your men.

Yours in health and happiness,

JP

Self Sabotage & Why You Self Destruct

I’ll be the first to admit, I am not an expert on health. I am an ordinary guy, a dad, a husband, a friend, a son on an extraordinary journey to achieve better health and longevity. I’ve learned alot but I am not an expert on nutrition nor do I claim to be. But I have learned that good nutrition starts way before anything lands on your plate. It starts with your hormones, your mood, your days experience and your reactions to the events that happen around you and to you.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and I am no exception. In a last few days, I made a pact with my wife that we will jointly try and both lose a few pounds that have crept on during the winter months. The days are getting longer and brighter here so our thoughts are probably turning towards summer holidays – better lose the bellies. So off we went, made the food plan for the week, did the shop and all set. While my wife has been very steady and doing really well on the plan, I seem to have gone completely the other way. I started well – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday all good (ish). Thursday & Friday – a complete disaster. Burgers, chips, fizzy drinks, battered fish, chocolate, jellies, beer, crisps, nuts – you get the picture. To top it all off, now I need to take some pills to help with the stomach pains and cramps that I am experiencing literally as I write this.

So I sit here asking myself – why have I very deliberately sabotaged my own efforts to succeed on this plan? Why am I using food as a weapon to inflict harm on myself and my body and make myself sick? Why does it feel like I just want to eat everything and anything in my path until the point where I do get sick?

I know that the foods I have eaten in the last 48 hours cause huge inflammation in the body, they promote disease and illness, they cause huge pressure on my digestive system which I can literally feel is in pain right now as it tries to deal with all the toxins and chemicals in these artifical and fattening foods. Worst of all, I know that these are the exact foods I should be avoiding if I want to lose excess weight. Weight loss and gain is far more rooted in the mind and the mood than it is with what’s on the plate.

Deep down here’s what I think is going on.

  1. I know my wife will be better at this plan so I am failing fast on purpose so not to even really compete – even though I know, at least intellectually, this is not a competition. Ridiculous male ego stuff, I know.
  2. I am not owning it. I am not taking responsibility for my choices and actions.

I am going to bed now with a renewed sense of purpose. Tomorrow is a new day and I will start over. I am forgiving myself now for abusing my body with these dead artificial junk foods. I vow to be kinder to myself and to nourish my body and mind.

Mood follows action so if you want a better mood, take more deliberate action. Better mood = better choices = better health.

Here’s to fresh starts and forgiveness.

Yours in health & happiness,

JP

The Circle of Life

What is the current state of your finances? Your financial health so to speak. I’m guessing, if you are like most people, you have no idea.

What about your career – what state is that in?

Do you have a spiritual practice?

How are the relationships in your life?

What do you do for fun?

All big questions right. These are all very important facets to our overall health.

Our health is much more than just what is on our plates. Food can act as a portal to start improving your health and indeed, it is the first place alot of us start with but if you consider your holistic health, you have to see the bigger picture and see how things are connected.

It doesn’t matter how much kale you have on your plate, if you are desperately lonely with no fun in your life or are in a job that you hate, you are much more likely to make poor food choices that negatively impact your health.

The circumstances of our lives affect our choices every day – what we do, what we eat, what exercise we do or don’t do, who we like, where we work.

How many of us objectively assess how we are doing across these key areas of our lives regularly just to see how we are doing. This is where the circle of life tool comes in.

When things are not going well for you, it can be really hard to see where the issues really reside. This is why it can be really helpful to use a simple tool like this to see where your life is off balance.

Step 1

For each segment of the circle, place a dot on the line to indicate your level of satisfaction in each area. A dot towards the center indicates dissatisfaction and a dot towards the periphery indicates satisfaction. For example, if your social life is really abundant, place a dot on the line somewhere towards the outside of the circle.

Step 2

Connect the dots to see your Circle of Life.

Step 3

Identify imbalances and determine where to spend more time and energy to create more balance.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 12.32.41

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 12.32.56

 

Yours in health and happiness,

JP

Step Away From The Smartphone

Are you addicted to your smartphone?

It’s a bizarre question but one that describes a scenario that is becoming more and more common, but as yet, remains relatively undiagnosed. Since the 1st iPhone debuted in June 2007, just over 10 years ago, our ability to access the internet has accelerated and the proliferation of apps and tools that run on these devices has exploded. Fast forward to 2018 and we now live in a very “connected” era. We have access to dozens of social media tools and platforms, we stream tv, movies, and music like never before, we pay for very little and can access the web at a fraction of the previous costs. With faster internet speed has come a faster pace of life and with that comes increased stress, distraction and the elimination of our ability to wait and be patient. We want it all and we want it now!

Or do we?

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 22.15.22

On a personal level, I have witnessed my own interest in social media, Facebook, Snapchat, Linkedin and even WhatsApp more recently, really taking a nosedive as I became more aware of not only my own habitual use of these apps but of the value they bring into my life. At this point, I have concluded that most of the activities I habitually do on my smartphone – scrolling, swiping, liking, searching – are not only a huge drain on my time and attention but they are utterly pointless and bring me little or no value whatsoever.

I have written about the arms race for your attention before (Today’s New Currency: Your Attention) and as a software product manager myself, I am all too aware of the pressures that exist in software companies today to remain relevant in a constantly evolving and highly competitive product landscape.

So with this new awareness, I began to research if there were other people feeling the same way – disenfranchised, disengaged and disillusioned with what the smartphone has become. This search has led me to a very interesting new product called light. It is a very basic phone that is designed very deliberately to be used less. It allows you to move away from your smartphone but still have some basic useful tools – like the ability to call friends, text people, get some basic directions, play music, set an alarm – tools, not feeds of useless information from people that you barely know anymore. Judging by the success of their current crowdfunding campaign, the wave of people that are turning their back on their smartphone and adopting a more deliberate device that actually helps them is growing.

light

I believe my own smartphone usage has come to a head. I am at the point now where I can live without it. I want to live more deliberately and consciously and these devices simply do not allow me to do that. They have ceased to be of real value to me.

Now the challenge remains what to replace it with and from looking at light, this might just be the perfect fit.

Yours in health and happiness,

JP

 

The Triple 7 Challenge

A few years back I learnt a very valuable tool which I have seen imitated in various different ways since. The original idea that I came across was from one of my favourite people in the medical and wellness world – Dr Dean Ornish. Asides from being the spit of Gene Wilder, Ornish has been a powerhouse in the functional medicine world in the U.S, a huge advocate of a wholefood plant-based diet and a holistic approach to healthcare. He developed the first medical program in the world to be fully endorsed and covered by Medicare (the VHI equivalent in the US) and his program has helped thousands of people heal, prevent and even reverse their heart disease and diabetes.

The program stands on 4 pillars – Diet, Exercise, Stress Management and Love and Support.

Interesting right? I think it’s so cool and useful to be able to boil your health and welfare down to a few basic buckets like this.

ornish undoit

I frequently use this tool to help me see where I am off balance in my life. So, for example, today, I scored myself as Diet – 7/10, Exercise – 6/10, Stress Management – 4/10, Love & Support – 9/10. So lots of love going on which is great but the exercise and stress areas need attention.

So now that I know what I need to focus on, I can take action in that direction to address the imbalance and get my scores up.

So starting today, in an effort to improve my stress management score, I am taking on the 7/7/7 challenge. For me, this means meditation for 7 minutes at 7am for 7 days straight. I have always struggled with being consistent with meditation so setting a short-term goal like this helps keep me focused. Meditating in the morning is the best option and can help you set up the day for success. I’m adding one safety net to this challenge – if I miss the 7am commitment, I have one more chance to get it done at 7pm. The key thing is being consistent and showing up each day to do it.

Do you think you could do your own 7/7/7 challenge? Comment below if you are interested.

Yours in health and happiness (and zen),

JP

Credits: https://www.ornish.com/

 

 

 

Gratitude – Does It Make You Less Stressed?

Today, I have a lot to be grateful for. Today is my daughters 5th birthday.
5 years old. Wow. Where has the time gone?

I would bet that most (read all) parents have pondered this almighty question at one point or another and the reality is, in amongst the brain fog, sleepless nights, bottle feeds, potty training, tantrums, hugs, kisses and tears, the clock just keeps on ticking. Relentlessly.

As a wise elder lemon used to say to me about becoming a parent – the days are long but the years are short. Very true words.

I took some time today to reflect on the last 5 years and to mark this major milestone in our parenting lives. As part of the reflection, I became incredibly grateful (to God, to my higher self, to the powers above) for all the good fortune I have experienced in the last few years. I have chosen to look at the tough times in the last few years as opportunities to grow, to learn and to experience – so they don’t actually seem that bad to me anymore.

The feeling of being grateful is a wonderful one. It fills me up in a way like no other. It is respectful and humble, appreciative and warming. It makes me feel good to focus my attention on the most obvious things – my daughter is healthy, she feels loved and secure, is happy at school, has some friends and great parents (slightly biased). She has food on the table, clothes on her back and a roof over her head. Everything else can drop away and she would still be happy.

If we focus on them, we all have people and things in our lives that we could be more mindful of and grateful for.

Here’s to paying more daily attention to the small, obvious and often overlooked things in life and living more deliberately.

Yours in health and happiness,

JP

Adventure

On my quest to better my health over the last few years, I have learned a lot about life, happiness, balance, focus, energy, food, relationships, finances, career, growth, and contribution. One thing that I keep coming back to and that seems to be a bottomless pit of contentment for me is the importance of having more fun in my life.

As a kid, I played football and other games (kick the can anyone?) with my friends from the road, getting up to mischief, climbing trees, building hideouts, laughing, exploring on our bikes and getting into trouble sometimes too no doubt but at the core of it was a desire to have fun and experience adventure.

As an adult, society, jobs, mortgages, responsibilities, marriage, parenting and unfulfilling careers do their level best to beat that sense of adventure and desire to have fun out of you. It certainly did to me, until now.

I think having a light touch attitude to life, having frivolous fun, making people smile and seeking adventure in the ordinary day are some of most powerful lessons I have learned to better improve my health and wellbeing. They are great stress relievers too which I had to learn the hard way as I suffered from chronic stress for years.

These are things that cost nothing. They are an attitude to life that is helping me enjoy life more. Don’t get me wrong, I am still learning and am far from perfect myself but all improvements seem to start with better awareness of your current state.

Recently I bought a little Italian scooter to make it easier to get in and out of work. This is something I wanted to do for years but had always deferred it due to safety concerns. I was inspired to move forward with it recently and just went out and bought it. It’s been a superb week commuting in and out to work on this little machine. My ordinary commute, which took about an hour, has been transformed into 30 minutes of fun and adventure each day.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 08.51.21

I am really enjoying learning to look at life a little differently, to spend time working out what is important to me and then taking positive, deliberate action in that direction.

We all have 24 hours in the day, make sure you choose to have some fun and experience some adventure in that time each day.

Yours in health and happiness,

JP

Are You a Minimalist?

Have you ever heard of the idea of minimalism? The concept of less is more, decluttering, ridding yourself of material possessions that no longer give you any value, the idea of getting rid of the excess things in your life to allow you to focus your attention and energy on the things that truly matter?

I’m guessing you are familiar with some of these concepts but may not have ever heard of the term minimalism as a concept or as a lifestyle choice, which is what it is becoming these days.

I first came across this idea of minimalism while out running and listening to an episode of the Rich Roll Podcast where he was interviewing a guy I had never heard of about this topic. His story really hit a nerve with me – he was a corporate go-getter, eagerly climbing the rungs of the ladder, achieving “success” along the way and then realising that all this perceived success – the job title, the salary, the stuff you buy with the salary, the debt you run up, the excess, the waste, the overindulgence, the mindless consumption – it was all a complete waste of time – none of it made him even one tiny bit happier. He and his friend and co-author, both chose to live life differently and from there embraced the concept known as minimalism. They didn’t invent it, they just made it mainstream. From there, I watched their documentary on Netflix and I was sold.

Check out the trailer.

We live in a very commercial and materialistic world right now, where wealth and food and possessions are in abundance. But all that wealth and abundance comes at a cost – the cost of your attention, your energy, your contribution to the world around you, your growth as a person and I believe it feeds a greed inside all of us that is never satiated by material things, no matter what size of a tv you buy, there is always a bigger one. Not to mention the environmental cost of all this mindless materialism.

These ideas just make sense to me.

Have less. Take less. Be more. Give more.

For me personally, it is a great reminder to focus on and put my energy in the direction of the things that truly matter to me – my health, my kids, wife and family, my mates, having fun and doing things that truly give me joy – like writing this silly blog. These are the things that fill me up on a physical, mental and spiritual level – these are my true happiness levers.

All the stuff that gets in the way of these I am slowly trying to remove. This is not just about getting rid of lots of stuff (although that is one of the best bits), it just feels better to be in control, to be able to say No to things or people and to do what you know (and you always know) is right.

Here’s to having less and living more.

JP

Today’s New Currency: Your Attention

I regularly use public transport as a means of getting to work. I find it amazing to witness how “plugged in” we, as a human race, have now become. Nearly every single person I can see on the train has their face well and truly planted into a smartphone. Swiping, scrolling, checking, validating, commenting…completely absorbed into the virtual world, leaving very little space for the here and now. I know the daily commute is anything but entertaining and smartphones offer an entertainment channel while on the move, but I think there is something deeper going on here.

With the relentless rise and rise of smartphones, apps and the on-demand economy, the race is on for your attention. The big tech companies have invested significantly in techniques designed to pull your attention back to their products again and again and it is working.

The engineers of the now infamous Facebook “like” button have described its use as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive.

The origin of the like button was well intended – in a single click – to “send little bits of positivity” across the Facebook platform. When it launched in 2009, it was wildly successful as the user base took to it like moths to the light and enjoyed the short-term boost of dopamine it generated in our brains as we affirmed each other’s posts and photos, and in the process, Facebook gleaned very valuable insights into its users’ preferences. Since then, people have claimed to be addicted to the like button, to sending likes but especially to the receiving of this tiny affirmation from their peers. In a virtual world like this, addictions like this are becoming more and more common but most people assume it is their fault, they don’t realize they are being manipulated.

When we deliberately look closer at the popular social media platforms, it is easy to see how LinkedIn exploits a need for social reciprocity to widen its network; how YouTube and Netflix autoplay videos and next episodes, depriving users of a choice about whether or not they want to keep watching; how Snapchat created its addictive Snapstreaks feature, encouraging near-constant communication between its mostly teenage users.

How the “pull down to refresh” feature of Twitter feels a bit like pulling down on the arm of a slot machine and waiting to see what pops up in the latest feed.

Last April, software designers, programmers and tech entrepreneurs from across the world gathered at a conference center on the shore of the San Francisco Bay. They had each paid up to $1,700 to learn how to manipulate people into habitual use of their products, on a course curated by conference organizer Nir Eyal.

Eyal, 39, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, has spent several years consulting for the tech industry, teaching techniques he developed by closely studying how the Silicon Valley giants operate.

“The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions,” Eyal writes. “It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later.” None of this is an accident, he writes. It is all “just as their designers intended”.

I am 41 years of age today. I am part of the last generation of people that will remember life before the smartphone when phones used to be plugged into walls. Today’s children that will grow up in a world where the smartphone, iPads, tablets, smart TVs, smart homes are all the norm. The pull for their attention is very very strong. It can lead to constant distraction, a lack of focus, an inability to concentrate for any longer than a few seconds, anxiety, addiction and even depression. It is very concerning, especially given that schools are now introducing iPads for use in the classroom. Personally, I think this is an ill-informed decision to appear to be progressive and keeping pace with technology when in fact it will have a detrimental effect on children’s capacity to focus.

I have three kids and I regret every minute that I am not paying attention to them because my smartphone has sucked me in.

Parents and children of this generation need to be aware that all is not lost, that we are in fact in control. Once you become aware of these pulls, you have a choice to uninstall that app, disable those notifications that constantly pull for your attention, start using tools that will help you stay focussed and minimize these distractions.

Remember the most important button on your smartphone?
The OFF button. Now you can breathe…

Credits: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/05/smartphone-addiction-silicon-valley-dystopia

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑