Changes

I haven’t posted anything in quite some time and now I have decided to get back to it. There are various reasons why but the main one was certainly time. It was just taking too much of my time to post and promote my blog and I found that there was less time for the actual writing. So I decided to take a break and with a step back came a new perspective. I haven’t stopped writing, it’s just all in my notebooks and for my eyes only, up until now anyway.

I also decided that major changes needed to happen in my life, for my own wellbeing as well as for those closest to me. It became apparent to me that I needed to repurpose and reprioritise my days and my life as a whole. I have done this through various means, some have been successful and are still a part of my life and some have fallen by the wayside. But all have been valuable experiences which I may return to one day, who knows?

It all started with running, that was over a year ago now and I am still going. Slowly getting faster, going further, feeling better and stronger. That was to be the start of my physical improvement and help mentally too, it feels good to be out there in nature getting plenty of fresh air and even better to be able to chase my kids around. But I was still stressed and anxious, some days were worse than others but something just wasn’t right. So I decided to make changes, do some of the things that I had read about and listened to people discussing. Once you hear several people recommending the same ideas it is perhaps time to listen.

Before I go into it all I would like to thank two people who I would credit with inspiring me on this journey. First of all Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, who is a British doctor and television personality, and I can’t recommend his books and podcast enough. You should read The 4 Pillar Plan and The Stress Solution, they both contain so much wisdom and I still find them enjoyable just to look at, leave alone read. I have taken several ideas from both books and included them in my daily routine. If you have a bad back do the exercises in the first book, if I wasn’t an atheist I would believe in miracles. Seriously I have had a bad back for 20 years and it disappeared after 2 weeks! The second person is Mr. Rich Roll, an American athlete and wellness influencer, whose personal story in the book Finding Ultra and even more importantly his podcasts have proved incredibly inspiring and influential to me. It is so easy to find inspiration in the modern world we live in, you just have to open your eyes and look.

The biggest change I made was firstly to give myself the time to do some of the things I wanted. I was always guilty of thinking there just weren’t enough hours in the day. How could I possibly find more time? I did it in a very simple way, I started getting up earlier. This concept was always slightly scary to me, I already got up at 6am every day. But I started getting up at 5 am to allow myself more me time before the rest of my household awoke. Once I realised that this was achievable by simply going to bed earlier and not wasting time in the evening watching television or YouTube then it wasn’t that difficult. I would say though that you need the agreement of your partner, he or she needs to be going to bed early too or you won’t sleep properly.

So what is my morning routine? It consists of stretching and light exercise, glute exercises for my back, journalling, meditation, pranameyic breathing, an affirmation and away I go. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But all in all it takes around 75 minutes, then I am in the shower, have breakfast and after 2 hours I am awake, alert and ready to start the working day.

There are many parts to this routine and they all work together but the most important, and the one I never miss, is my journalling or Morning Pages. That last phrase comes from the author Julia Cameron and her book The Artist’s Way. This is not a diary, it is free form writing where you just let your thoughts flow onto the page. You can also have particular ideas which you would like to explore but you think about them on the page. I find it a wonderful way to start my day, it slows the mind and allows you to really think things through, you can only write so quickly after all. As I said, this is the one morning practice which I never miss. Normally I would write 3 A4 pages but if there is some reason where time is a problem, when I am on holiday for instance, I will shorten my writing. But I will always do at least a page. I have been doing this every day for more than 150 days now and I have only had to change my routine on a handful of occasions.

All of these things add up to making a calm and purposeful start to the day and they have improved my levels of stress and anxiety immensely. Some people might still claim that I am a grumpy bugger, and they would be right, but I certainly feel better and that has to transfer to others too. I am a work in progress, it hasn’t even been a year and there were 47 years before that of totally different behaviour and routines to make up for!

Then that brings me to the latest change, I have stopped drinking alcohol. It started with a 28 day challenge and when that finished I felt good and not especially like starting to drink again, so I haven’t. I am not saying I have given up forever but I have done these types of challenges before and I was dying for a drink by the end of them. But this time it felt different, I finished the challenge with a shrug of the shoulders and haven’t really been tempted. Again there was a book involved, The 28 Day Alcohol-Free Challenge by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns. Reading this book whilst doing the challenge seemed to help convert a short term change into a long term lifestyle decision. I never drank that much, just Fridays and Saturdays, a few beers and maybe a whiskey, but I feel so much better with none in my life. No more fuzzy head on the weekend mornings, less grumpiness, more energy and I am ready to get up and get out there with my family.

Perhaps there will be more changes to come, I am sure I will read more books, listen to more podcasts and try new things. Some of them may work and replace things that do not but I will certainly be keeping the things that still work for me. As I said, I am still a work in progress, as are we all.

© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

A Healthy Obsession?

Can any obsession be truly healthy? Surely the very word has negative connotations. Obsessions can interfere with our lives, our decisions, and affect the path we take.

My current obsession, is reading. We all read for different reasons. To escape, to other worlds and into other lives. To escape, for relaxation and inspiration. We also, of course, read for knowledge, whether it be sourced from fiction or non-fiction.

I believe that reading simply improves us. Of course, we can read self-help books for this purpose. But any book exposes us to somebody else’s mind. Their thoughts, feelings and experiences, as well as their culture and history.

Travelling is, perhaps, the best way to experience other cultures. But reading is a close second. In a world which seems to be obsessed and suspicious over every difference then, maybe, I have a healthy obsession after all.

© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

Foreign: Just a word

Foreign.

What’s your first thought? The answer will tell you a lot about yourself. Does it strike you with fear? Or does it evoke a sense of wonder?

It covers most places in the world, most people, most everything. For me, the word evokes a feeling of curiosity and triggers the need to understand and learn. There is so much to learn and appreciate in this world. It doesn’t even have to mean leaving your country, although some people should definitely try this. There are things to learn on your doorstep, we are all foreigners to one another. There is another world inside each person’s mind.

But the further you move from home, the more variety you will find, and also be surprised by the similarities. Smell the air, it’s the same, but with a slightly different aroma. Taste the food, probably the same basics, but with a few additions which you wouldn’t have thought of. It’s the differences which make the world interesting.

It’s just a word but, for me, it stands for excitement. What does it mean to you? Take the test.

Foreign.

© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

Ignorance: My Allergy

This is probably a popular answer to the question, “What are you allergic to?”, but ignorance certainly gets the biggest reaction from me. Whether it is a lack of education, a lack of empathy or simply a lack of care. People’s ignorance makes me come out in hives. It is up to me to control my reaction, only this week I shouted at someone who was blocking the road, and I have to work more on controlling my thoughts and reactions.

And also have to remember, at those times, that I have my own ways of being ignorant too. Most people do, it’s just that other people’s foibles are more irritating than your own. So, take that deep breath and practice some empathy before criticising. But, sometimes, it’s easier said than done.

© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

The Age of Benightedness

Sometimes it seems that the world is running in reverse gear. The search for knowledge and improvement, as a species, grinding to a halt. Meanwhile, old-fashioned beliefs are coming back to the fore.

Whether it be the return to religious fundamentalism, isolationism or authoritarian rule, there is a movement happening. It is a small movement, for now, but is has a wide appeal.

In the West, people call it populism, but doesn’t every politician wish to be popular? Doesn’t populism just mean pandering? Pandering to the masses. But the problem is, where do the masses get their information from? Can their opinions be trusted? Now this isn’t me calling people stupid, but there is a mass of misinformation out there. None of us are immune, we must be on our guard.

Whatever you may think of countries, and regimes, such as China and Russia, they are run by intelligent people. These people know what they want, and how to get it. Unfortunately other countries, like The United Kingdom and The United States of America, are not quite so organised. Pandering to popular attitudes and fears is at the root of both countries problems.

Britain went for Brexit, with no clear plan of how to achieve it. Now it is floundering, not wishing to reverse course, but just circling the waters, seemingly hoping to run into an idea or solution.

Meanwhile, in America, chaos reigns. A powerful country run by, what? Opinion is split as to whether he is stupid, senile or both. Certainly he is totally lacking in understanding, both of policy and people. A man with no heart, who believes he is the boss and everyone should jump.

So, what do we do? We can all fight our own corner, stand up to ignorance and abhorent ideas. Welcome enquiry and suspicion. Think, before the monsters creep up behind us and it is too late.

© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

via Daily Prompt: Enlighten