Move-ish

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(Gratuitous pic of my walking buddies)

So January didn’t go quite to plan.  My month of ‘Move’ came to a bit of a halt 19 days in when I aggravated my back, an injury I had nearly 10 years ago but which reminded me it can still knock me down nearly as much as when it first happened.

I am a huge advocate of continuing to move despite pain, within your own limits, of listening to your body and doing what you can wishing your own pain experience, all the while understanding that when it comes to chronic pain, hurt does not (usually) mean harm (further tissue damage).  I’ve had to put my now beliefs into practice more consciously over the past 10 days, because I can tell you, laying on the couch seems the best option most of the time!

I live on a hill, so my usual morning walk has been put on hold until I feel walking down and then back up the hill won’t result in another flare-up, so I’ve been trying to be active in other ways – walking around town while doing jobs, standing more than sitting when I’m working, parking the car further away from my destination where I can.  I’m the first to admit that I haven’t done as much as I could have, but in conjunction with reading a book called ‘No Sweat’, I’ve been re-thinking what daily movement looks like in my life, movement with the aim of being active and contributing to my wellbeing.

We tend to think of movement as ‘exercise’, and that we need to schedule a certain activity for a certain amount of times per day/week/ etc, and there are certainly evidence-based recommendations and guidelines to this effect.  For the record, the Australian government (based on researched evidence) advises the following:

  • Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.

  • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.

  • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.

  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

(For the record, they also say that absolutely any amount of exercise is better then none!).

These are perfectly reasonable and achievable guidelines, especially when we think about them in the context of activity and movement as opposed to specifically structured exercise.  I have tried to go to 2-3 gym classes or workouts a week for more than 10 years, and have always struggled to maintain the program.  However, I can maintain a daily walk for 20-30 minutes a day (sometimes more), plus walking whenever I can in other environments (e.g. around town doing jobs), plus gardening (which can certainly involve strengthening activities), even carrying the shopping requires strengthening movements! Of course there are many other activities that people engage in that probably wouldn’t be considered ‘exercise’ as such, but which keep up active and moving – golf, dance classes, housework, running around after kids (quite literally sometimes!), swimming at the beach – basically if you’re not sitting, lying down or standing still, you’re moving, and it counts!

What I like about the current guidelines is that they recommend an amount of movement per week, as opposed to certain amounts of time per day per week, which means that movement accumulated through the day ‘counts’ as much as if you have a 1 hour session of exercise structured exercise.  Of course, if structured exercise is you thing, then great, that’s what works for you!  That’s what this whole journey is about, finding what works for you and embracing it.

One of the key philosophies of Michelle Segar’s ‘No Sweat’ is looking at why we don’t sustain particular exercise programs, even when we have the best of intentions.  What she says really resonated with me, because the stories of her clients was just so familiar to me – set good intentions, for really good reasons (lose weight, become more healthy etc), and continually fail to stick with the program.  She suggests that the reasons we make decisions to exercise (generally all reasonable and good) aren’t actually effective motivators for behaviour change because they’re usually aimed at outcomes that are based in the future, and we don’t feel like we’re getting any immediate benefit, therefore we are more likely to stop what we intended to do.  However, by taking a step back and really looking at our motivations, we can identify what we want to achieve or how we want to feel now, in the present, and that becomes a more powerful motivator.

What I’m particularly loving as I read this book is how I can see the philosophy of motivation impacting all behaviour change in life, not just movement, because our actions come from motivations, and understanding our motivations will shape the outcomes we desire.  For example, my reasons for exercise/activity.moving have always been the same – lose weight, become more healthy, ward off any health issues in older age, keep fit to manage the chronic condition I have etc etc.  And yet I’ve never managed to maintain consistent, active behaviour.  So I’ve been asking myself ‘why do I want to move?’.  My answer was actually ‘I don’t want to, I’d rather lay on the couch and read a book at any given point in time’.  Ouch.  Talk about a reality bite!  So I reframed the question to ‘why do I want to make regular movement a part of my life every day?’, the answer to which surprised me – ‘because I want to achieve a goal (in this case of daily movement)’.  My motivation has nothing to do with health or anything physical – it has more to do with the satisfaction of ticking off a daily activity on a habit-tracker and achieving a goal, which comes from a life-long sense of disappointment at not achieving goals I set (for  whole variety of reasons), and feeling like I constantly fail and what I want to to.

Michelle also goes into looking at our perspective on the activity before us, and evaluating if we feel it is something we should do or something we want to do, because how we see what we do makes all the difference. For example, if I think ‘I have to go for a walk’, I’m going to immediately be resistant to the idea, because I feel like it is something I should do, as opposed to something I’m choosing to do, whereas if I think ‘I get to go for  walk’, my perspective is immediately flipped, because the same activity has now become something I am choosing to do (because I want to, not because I feel I have to), and I’m thinking of all the good things that will come with the chosen activity.  The possibilities of how we can apply this perspective to all areas of our lives is endless!!

So there you have it.  Whilst this month’s Way of Wellbeing didn’t exactly go to plan, I’ve still learnt a lot about myself, and gained some insight on behaviour motivation and how to apply that to probably nearly every area of my life, which can only be a good thing!  Next month I’ll be focusing on Sleep, and I for one will be interested to see what happens, I’m hoping you’ll join me and share your stories along the way!

 

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Ways of Wellbeing

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In the interests of full disclosure, this is not a representation of how I feel right now – certainly not physically anyway, but I am just a little bit excited on the inside about what has been brewing in my heart over the past couple of days, a culmination of ponderings and musings that have been simmering away for, well, for a long time.

As I wrote in my previous post, I am making a commitment to improving my wellbeing by making purposeful, intentional changes to live a wholehearted life.  And I actually have a plan – well, somewhat of a plan, anyway!! It might be better to say I have some sign posts, some markers to guide me along a path of discovery which I believe will lead me to a life of thriving, the abundant life that Jesus speaks of when He said the enemy comes to steal and kill and destroy, but He came, Jesus, the Son of God came so that we may have life and have it to the full.  To the full.  The definition of ‘full’ is ‘containing or holding as much or as many as possible; having no empty space; not lacking or omitting anything; complete’.  

Having no empty space.

Not lacking or omitting anything.

Complete.

This is how I want my life to look.  Full of Jesus.  Full of life.  Life abundant.  Just as God intended. Just as Jesus promised.  Who am I to turn away from that, to reject it in preference for anything that cannot fill me, cannot satisfy me no matter how appealing it might look at the time?

As I thought about all this, I read about a blogger’s year of wellness journey, and the idea of focusing on a particular area of life a month at a time really appealed to me, having time to explore that part of my life and working out what works and what doesn’t, what changes would benefit and what could stay the same, what can stay and what can go.  Then as I was out walking yesterday morning (I’ve already started making some changes!) the particular areas I want to focus on became more clear, and I knew I had the bare bones of the journey ahead – and I even had a name for it.

And thus, the Ways of Wellbeing came to life, and for the first time in a long time, I began to feel excited about something, truly excited about possibility, the good ‘what ifs?’ of life, the potential of lasting change and what it would mean to thrive rather than just survive.

So what is wellbeing?  The dictionary definitions of wellbeing generally describes it as the ‘state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy’.  But that doesn’t sit with me as a thorough definition, because I believe an abundant life is about much more than just being comfortable, healthy and happy, that thriving is more than just feeling good.  It’s also about accepting that much of life *doesn’t* feel good and learning how to not to let circumstances define our feelings and actions, challenging deep-seated habits that aren’t healthy and pushing out of our comfort zones. My list of life areas gives a much more wholistic overview of what makes up a full life, and I’ve opted to focus on one area each month, starting with what has been my biggest frustration – moving (or the lack thereof!).  So here’s what my journey in 2018 looks like –

January      – Move      (Increasing daily movement)

February    – Sleep      (Improving sleep habits and quality)

March         – Eat          (Refining what my body does and doesn’t tolerate)

April            – Grow     (Personal and professional learning and development)

May              – Play       (Bringing more fun into life)

June             – Create    (Prioritising daily creating)

July              – Spend     (Budgeting and financial planning)

August         – Give       (Exploring ways of serving the community)

September  – Pray       (Focusing on daily spiritual growth activities)

October       – Think     (Challenging unhealthy thought patterns)

November  – Breathe  (Slowing down, being intentional, noticing the world around me)

December   – Love       (Intentional connections in my relationships)

I plan to document my experiences on Instagram with a few posts each week and a weekly review here on the blog, and each month I’ll share my ‘why’ for choosing that area of life to focus on, why it’s important to me and how I believe it contributes to wellbeing.  I’ll also share resources, podcasts, blogs and articles I find helpful for each topic, and I plan to read a book relative to each area during that month, some that will be new to me and some I’ve already read and found beneficial. And because I love to hear people’s stories, I’ll be talking to people whom I admire in these areas for their experience and skills, and who inspire me with their love for what they do.

I would *so* love for you to join me, because you are part of my why – the reason I’m embarking on this journey is much bigger than just my own transformation, it’s about encouraging and uplifting others in their own journeys, fulfilling the calling God has placed on my life to love and serve others whenever I can, in all the ways I can (however imperfectly that may be).  Please join in the conversation on IG at @alison_jane_again, or leave me a comment here, I would love to hear what wellbeing means for you and perhaps what areas of your life you’d like to see transformed.

‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together’

– African Proverb

 

 

 

 

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I have a fondness for the semi-colon, how it allows a bit longer pause between sentences without interrupting the flow of the story, how they allow related parts to remain connected but can also allow the story to take a different turn while retaining its relevance to what has already taken place. And how it means the story isn’t finished, but there’s more to come.

The beginning of 2018 feels like a semi-colon, a pause in the story right before it’s about to take a new direction, taking me along a path toward a destination I don’t see clearly yet. Which is at the same time exciting and daunting, but in the best way!!! I’m comfortable with change (in fact I get antsy when thingsstay the same longer than I’m used to!), and I’m used to dealing with the unexpected and stepping into the unknown, so not having a step-by-step plan for the year ahead is not unfamiliar territory, and I’m learning to embrace this reality. But this year, I’m determined to be intentional in what I *can* do, what I *can* make happen, and for me that’s about my wellbeing, seeking the fullness of life Jesus has promised us.

I’ve lived reactively and in response to what goes on around me for most of my life, and while I’ve made significant changes in some fundamental areas of my life, my wellbeing is not what I want it to be. It’s more surviving than thriving, and that’s not what my life has been created for.I know, I know, anyone who knows me or has followed me here for any length of time has heard this before, has been witness to my intentions to change and the subsequent loss of momentum. And I can’t promise it won’t happen again, but I can say today, this is where I am, and this is what I intend to do. Well, I will when I gather all my thoughts and pull them into some semblance of a plan 😊 But for now, I’ll leave this as my intent for 2018 – to improve my wellbeing by making purposeful, intentional changes to live a wholehearted life. Will you join me?