May 11th 2017
The healthy habit diaries: entry 2
October 11th 2016 / 0 comment
From digital detoxing to going to the gym, more water to more walking, how has the Glossy Posse fared in sticking to their healthy habit challenges? The results have been mixed...
Last month, the Glossy Posse decided to embark on an experiment to see if we could learn a new healthy habit - and make it stick. From meditation to detoxing (of the digital variety), choir singing to learning how to ride a bike, our chosen challenges have proven to be tests of body and mind that have seen both successes and unexpected setbacks along the way.
With these sorts of things though, it’s not uncommon for plans to go a little bit pear-shaped...no matter how good our intentions were to start off with. “A lot of it has to do with expectancy. People think it should just be natural to change a bad habit to a better one,” says clinical hypnotherapist Terrence the Teacher. “They are often surprised by the effort it takes emotionally, mentally and physically to shift old patterns. There is no quick fix - it would be good to remember how long it took for the old habit to set into your life.”
Failure can in fact make for an essential part of the journey. “Understand that it is expected, normal and part of the process to sometimes revert back to the old habit,” advises Terrence. “Do not make it bigger than it is. Even top athletes falter. It does not mean they stop being an athlete. Immediately refocus on the new habit and keep moving forward.”
Now at the halfway point, the past 30 days have been a unique combination of the infuriating and rewarding. Read on to see how we’ve been getting on with our individual habit overhauls...
Susannah Taylor, Editor-in-Chief
Healthy habit: to stop wasting time on social media
“I could write an essay on my attempt at digital detoxing but I’ll try to keep it short(ish). I feel like I’m failing and winning at the same time…I’ll explain. My body is obviously so hard-wired to look at my phone the whole time that I go to pick it up to open Instagram or look at my emails a lot. I find myself grabbing it automatically then realising I’m not meant to be and then putting it down again. I guess this is a small win. I am also managing to sleep with my phone out of my bedroom. In fact, I now leave it downstairs – at first I felt the need to sleep with it in the spare room until I asked myself, ‘How many times in my life have I had a call in the night?!’ The answer was actually ‘never.’ Was my addiction so bad that I felt the need to be near it at all times?! I’m sure I’m not the only one. The result of this phone-free zone is that I’ve read two books in a few weeks which has been strangely comforting. I’m also slowly beginning to sleep better and the 4 am wakeups I was having frequently are becoming fewer and further between. Another win is that I’m really not looking at Facebook anymore and I’m not missing it one tiny bit…I might post something if I have something to say or am promoting work, but I have really cut back from scrolling that addictive feed. Am I missing out on anything? No. Not. One. Damn. Thing.
What am I failing at? Well I was meant to be checking emails only a few times a day - this has gone right out of the window. I find myself automatically replying to work emails on the train, when I’m in the gym, when I’m in the kitchen, everywhere! This is my next goal - to look at them at say three points during a work day, maybe 9 am, 12 pm and 5 pm. On this note I met with top yogi and positive psychology coach Mercedes Sieff who rightly says, “It’s unrealistic to say we are cutting ourselves off from our devices altogether – we’re not going to go back to pen and paper.” She went on to explain, “Instead of being down on your phone altogether or banning it entirely, we need to be realistic. Limit emails to a few times a day and ask yourself what it’s taking you away from? Your work? Your children? Then focus on that instead.” It’s so true that constantly checking my phone at home takes me away from quality time with my kids. Another friend rightly said, ‘It’s like we’re all acting like children or teenagers ourselves – we’re hiding under the duvet looking at Instagram.’ And while I’m not that bad when I’m with my kids, I am really trying not to check the damn thing. The result? More reading time, homework is done quicker, I’m on top of all that damn paperwork you get in school satchels, and I even have time to make them better food.
What else? Being off my phone has meant I’m looking around more, and when you look around you realise you weren’t the only addicted one. It’s actually an epidemic. Arianna Huffington calls us, ‘The digital Walking Dead’ - everyone glued to their devices crossing the road, on the train platforms, in the supermarket, at the school gates...this was brought home to me on a recent trip to the amazing Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire near where I live. I was watching my kids swimming in the beautiful surroundings when a lady took her son out on a rowing boat on the lake by the pool. It was raining and they both looked super cute wearing towelling robes. However, the mother spent the entire time in the boat on her phone, oblivious to her son splashing about with the oars (maybe it wasn’t his mother, but that’s not the point). She never once looked up. It made me so sad, but also made me realise how people are missing out on valuable life moments because of a silly small screen.”
Gemma Bellman, Managing Director
Healthy habit: walking at every opportunity
“Surprisingly, I’m actually really enjoying this new habit. (Think I’m allowed to call it a habit now it’s been 3 weeks… sure I read that somewhere!) Although, some parts of my walking challenge are easier to conquer than others.
By far, the easiest walk to get into my day is the walk from the station to work and back, as it’s now just part of my daily commute and I don’t give it a second thought. In fact, not only does it mean I’m getting my heart rate up for half an hour a day, but it actually means I arrive at work more alert, perhaps a little chirpier(!) and really ready to go. There’s also something strangely satisfying about carrying yourself to a destination with your own two feet without the swarm of other tube-goers, barriers, delays and costs! Come to think of it, perhaps I’ll start getting off two stops early from now on!
The other walking feat I’ve managed is walking to and from my Saturday yoga class which is actually a, not insignificant, one hour round trip. This, coupled with an hour and a half of yoga, sets my weekend off perfectly. Where I used to look out of the window and excuse myself from any outdoor activity at the slightest sign of a rain cloud, I now just wrap up, arm myself with my husband’s generous golfing umbrella and away I go.
The only area of my walking challenge where I need extra work is the recreational walking part. I’ll always find time to fit in long walks with my dog (when he’s with us at the weekends), but the afternoon strolls with hubby may have been an aspiration too far!
The key for me is allowing a little more time and replacing journeys I need to take anyway with a walk.”
Judy Johnson, Online Editor
Healthy habit: to do something creative once a week
“While I think I deserve top marks for enthusiasm (I was oh so optimistic when we set out our healthy habit plans), I haven’t quite achieved what I set out to do. Somehow a month has passed and my creative output is definitely lacking. September rushed by in a blur of busy plans - there truly are not enough days in the week to fit in friends, relationships, family, work, life admin and laundry - and so my initial hope of setting aside one evening a week for creativity was scuppered instantly. The only solid plan I have booked in my diary is my second life drawing class next week.
However, I have written a couple of blog post drafts in my trusty Evernote when the mood has taken me; I have been reading more, and more widely, which I find always helps to put me into a writing mindset; but most of all, I’ve been thinking more creatively. It’s a subtle change and of course doesn’t make the habit a reality, but every time I’ve heard a piano play I’ve thought about taking up lessons again and wondered what key they’re in; when I see a tweet promoting an art class I save it for later rather than ignoring it as something I’m too busy to do. I’ve also just visited Barcelona for a mini break, possibly the most creative city in the world, and been in awe of the architecture, Gaudi’s use of colour and Picasso’s early paintings - the perfect incentive to use that side of my brain again and a trip that pushed me to play with my photography skills for my holiday snaps on Instagram rather than just posting hot dog legs (I would never) and a photo of my lunch.
If a month ago I was optimistic, now I’m realistic and trying to fit it in wherever I can, whenever I can; whether I publish what I write or not, whether the art classes become a regular occurrence or just an occasional treat, I’m in the right mindset and looking for creative outlets wherever I can get them. And look - I just wrote three whole paragraphs, so that’s a start, right?”
Anna Hunter, Senior Features Writer
Healthy habit: to join a choir
“Queuing up to sign the choir register elicited extreme first day at school feels. Surrounded by perhaps 100 strangers, preparing to let my vocal chords loose in a way that I only do when alone in my flat (windows closed), I was feeling more than a little hesitant. I also had to decide where my voice fitted in the grand scheme of things - soprano 1 (full on Celine Dion), soprano 2 (marginally less Celine), alto 1 (more in the Adele range), alto 2 (Lana Del Rey?) or tenor (on the Pavarotti spectrum). My inner homing device took me straight to the alto section, and I settled in with the ‘ones’, which is so far working out well. I ended up in the soprano area one week by mistake and this proved me right.
Being a part of a packed, energetic chorus for two hours a week is uplifting to say the least, no matter how stressed you are on arrival. Deadlines, tube hell and sleep deprivation melt away as you either blend your vocal part in with all the others or sit and listen to a particularly spine tingling soprano section. There’s no sheet music involved, just a ‘copy and repeat’ methodology, backed up with Dropbox recordings of different vocal parts so you can practice at home (loved ones take note). Some Voices is a choir with a sense of humour, and if you belt out a bit that’s….not your bit, you’ll make friends rather than attract scorn or feel the need to dive under a pew and wait it out. All rehearsals take part in churches, due to capacity requirements rather than religious reasons, and the songs that we’ve run through so far are suitably festive without making me feel that I’m that person humming Christmas tunes in October. Four weeks in, I’ve already been invited to sing at the Southbank Centre and this week there’s a Bowie medley going down on Radio 3. Pretty incredible stuff I’m sure you’ll agree, and just wait for the Christmas concert…
n.b. In the spirit of honesty, I ended up missing last week’s rehearsal due to aforementioned deadlines + tube turmoil. Will work harder.”
Ayesha Muttucumaru, Senior Features Writer
Healthy habit: to learn how to ride a bike
“While my plans to one day tour the world on two wheels initially started on the right track, I unfortunately encountered a rather unfair twist of fate - I twisted my ankle. Sustained during a charity dodgeball tournament (we came fifth out of around 30 teams - a real underdog story), a swollen cankle ensured I was unable to start my journey on the right foot (well, my left one technically). Delaying my start date by a whopping three weeks, I reluctantly had to put my preparations on standby to ensure a full recovery - a frustrating albeit necessary detour.
With my ankle restored though from Nutty Professor proportions to normality last week, I thought what better way to get back on form than signing up for a Psycle class with my favourite instructor - Kaya Cansfield. Okay, okay, I know the bike’s stationary, but I thought it was would make for a fitting way to rejig my healthy habit journey. With my mindset reset, I was good to go and relayed my revised plans to my dad later on that night during one of our family phone call catch-ups. However, my idea to either seek the help of a teacher or even, to ride solo were met with some unexpected parental guidance.
‘But we want to be the ones to teach you!’ exclaimed my dad. ‘You can use your sister’s bike! Don’t go on roads! Buy a helmet!’ chimed in my mum, who’d suddenly picked up the phone from upstairs (I swear, her maternal radar is almost Jedi-like). It appeared to be very much a case of unfinished business on both sides. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was six at the time and my dad had been trying to teach me how to ride a bike over the previous few weeks. I wasn’t past the stabiliser stage, but all of a sudden, we just stopped. Neither of us really questioned it. Maybe the weather turned, maybe my bike broke, but whatever the reason, it was a silent understanding between the two of us that we would no longer continue, both of us completely at peace with the situation. But how wrong I was.
Fast-forward 24 years, and it seems that it’s been playing on the minds of the heads of the Muttucumaru clan for as long as mine. So, to finally put the past to rest, we took to our local Church car park last Sunday for my first lesson. Have I learned how to ride a bike yet? Not quite. However, I did get my feet up on the pedals for a few exhilarating seconds, before promptly losing control of the handlebars and nearly veering into a few rather confused early arrivals for the evening’s service...next lesson, turning - and stopping!”
Sarah McGinnis, Art Editor
Healthy habit: to practice greater gratefulness
“So we are in October, it's cold, I'm out of money and I've used my holiday quota up for the year. This positive mental attitude vibe is going to be hard! My goals were to focus on what makes me happy and to try and take a step back and be grateful for what's going on in life, however small that may be. When you stop and think about it, it's hard to set aside time to be 'grateful' and it really should be a part of everyday life - but life is busy and hectic, and more often than not stressful, so it’s easy to forget about the important things. I started off by ensuring I put time in for myself. I love a bit of yoga and barrecore, and I started making sure I fitted this into my evenings. I've been leaving that half an hour earlier to fit these classes in, so that I still get home at a reasonable time, resetting my work-life balance. I've been heading down to another_space for hot yoga and it is an actual sanctuary to reconnect with yourself in the busy city. I usually follow this with (if I have time!) a soak in the bath and lighting my Neom Tranquility candle, £16, and using my favourite Aurelia Body Oil, £48, before bed - it’s the perfect way to switch off.
I also have one of those 365 day question books, which I write in every evening before bed - I find this is a great way to reflect on the day and remember everything as time moves so fast. However, by the next morning I am stressed once again and forget everything I taught myself the night before. Maybe I just need to live in my Sri Lankan yoga retreat forever?! I've just stepped it up a gear and purchased myself a gratitude journal - it seems ridiculous but I think it sounds rather therapeutic and a great way to channel the negative thoughts!”
Gemma Painter, Digital Marketing Manager
Healthy habit: to go to the gym three times a week
“Where has September gone? I mean, where did it go? Did it even happen?
The truth is, September did happen. You were there! But I have been very busy with 1) work 2) dealing with the stress of buying a new flat and having to move into it. So with all this, it has rapidly passed me by.
I swear for some people, moving flat is just an everyday occurrence and they glide through life like everything is simply normal - not allowing events like this to upset their debaucherous social nights out, strict healthy diets, ambitious weekly culinary exploits in the kitchen, weekends away and…trips to the gym. Me however? Something as momentous as buying and moving into a new flat means my life has shut down and gone completely on hold. Nearly every day has been filled with the worry about what jobs I need to do to ensure the sale of the flat goes through, budgeting for furniture, shopping for furniture, arguing with the boyfriend about my choice in furniture, revisiting the shopping list for furniture, arguing (again) over the budget being spent on furniture, and deciding what I am going to take/throw/sell/give to the charity shop, as well as - well, pack - lots and lots and lots of boxes.
I knew the frequency of trips to the gym would deteriorate over the month as other un-work related jobs got bigger and more time consuming, but rather go as frequently as I could when I could, which I had been doing with reasonable success since I started back in May, I decided I would take a complete break and not go to the gym at all. It appears that rather than continue to make the attempt to go more, I was too ‘stressed’ to have to concern myself with going at all, and instead, I ended up achieving the COMPLETE opposite...
The question is: do I regret it? Not really. This month was always going to be a stressful time for me and in a way it’s been a treat. Does my body look good? No. But I have my flat now and it’s going to look so awesome when I have settled in and that is going to make me really happy. Plus, there is always October to make a new start in the gym…”
Lorna Patrick, Marketing Assistant
Healthy habit: to drink at least 6 glasses of water a day
“I did not realise how difficult this was going to be. 6 glasses of water a day sounds easy, I mean 8 glasses even sounds do-able but honestly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s a difficult one, I feel like I’ve done terribly but not so terribly at the same time. I have increased the amount of water I drink - but drinking the NHS’s recommended amount seems near impossible right now. On a bad day, I used to struggle to drink a small bottle of water at my desk and would suddenly be left with a desperation to drink something when serving up my dinner, (a little like Tom Hanks in Castaway - no Wilson involved though). I’d down a glass as though I was chugging a beer in some sort of drinking contest. Thankfully however, I’m not quite there anymore.
I started this process by filling up a glass of water as soon as I got into the office, and would continue to drink it through the day. I’d get through about 3 glasses, and would maybe have a bit more when I got home in the evening. I realised though I’d have to start having another glass in the mornings and turning that ‘bit’ into a bit more in the evenings to reach my full daily quota. This was impossible because I realised sleep takes a bit of a priority in my life, consciously or not. I’m either pressing the snooze button in the morning or falling asleep on the sofa in the evening, leaving me without those precious extra drops of water I need.
In actual fact, when I started to tell myself I needed to drink more, I just found myself getting worse. That’s when I realised I needed to start looking into tools to give myself a bit of a boost. So I gave the HydrateM8 motivational water bottle, £13.99, a go. It takes the stress out of the process and is 100% helping me on my way to drinking 4 glasses in the office a day, meaning I can skip the extra morning glass that was proving to be the biggest difficulty. The bottle is embossed with the times of the day, and where you should have drunk up to in the bottle. It’s fun and on day 1, I outdid myself, managing to exceed the drinking quota of 2 bottles before 6 pm. The novelty soon started to wear off but that being said, it still does help me up my office intake.
Going through this process also made me realise that actually drinking the extra water isn’t my only problem. I’ve always had a bladder of steel and I thought I was just extremely good at holding it in, but in actual fact, it was just that I wasn’t drinking enough to have to hold in in the first place. Cue one particularly memorable night when I was wearing a jumpsuit. Thanks to my increased water intake, a run to the loo was imminent. Ripping the jumpsuit off, I soon realised that I’d broken the zip along the way - yes, this did actually happen. Oopsie.
Troubles aside, I really have noticed a difference from the added water I have been drinking. My skin is slightly less dry and dehydrated and I’m just feeling a bit better in myself overall. Just imagine what it’ll be like once I finally hit my 6 a day target…”
Victoria Woodhall, Deputy Editor
Healthy habit: a daily meditation practice
“It all started so well. I found myself an incredible meditation teacher when I took part in a week-long detox retreat with Bodhimaya.com in the south of France. There’s nothing that co-founder and mind and meditation expert Cornelius O’Shaughnessy doesn’t know about how tricky it is to calm the mind. He spent two decades immersing himself in all the major global religions and philosophies in his quest to cure his own treatment-resistant depression and find peace of mind. He is renowned for helping people navigate through challenging situations and his clients include some of the world’s leading businessmen and women, politicians and celebrities. His method, a combination of jnana yoga (the yoga of knowledge) and a Buddhist teaching called shunyata, works almost in the opposite way to any other forms of meditation I have tried (and failed at). Rather than doing various mind-taming exercises such as a body scan or counting, he starts by giving you the knowledge of how the mind works, something that in other schools comes much later after years of practice. He simply asks you to watch the breath going in and out of the nose and become aware of how the mind likes to jump up at you to get your attention, (because, from an evolutionary perspective, that’s what it’s designed to do, to interpret our experience, to problem-solve and to help safeguard our survival - which is why it doesn't want to stop.) But we are not our mind, we don’t have to believe all the stories it tells us about what kind of person we are. There is a self which exists independently of the mind and in paying less attention to the mind, we are better able to connect with that part of ourselves, ignore the often unhelpful narratives in our heads, and sit with who we really are.
The twice-daily meditation sessions on the retreat were book-ended by informal discussions with Cornelius, where we discussed why the mind worked in the way it did and voiced our own difficulties with or experiences of the meditation. For me, learning in this way was hugely motivating and has helped me make sense of the noise and chatter in my head, and allowed me to step back from it. It’s a technique that I can call upon at any time during the day when overwhelm and stress strike.
The first couple of weeks of home practice after the retreat were relatively easy. I got up at 6.30am, half an hour before my children, made a cup of tea and sailed through 15 minutes of quiet sitting, watching the breath and not ‘going there’ with any trains of thought that started to arise. At that time of the morning my mind had not had the chance to rev up fully and shout to-do lists at me, so first thing is the ideal moment to meditate. Time seemed to fly by.
But as the holiday effects started to wear off and life became busier, I started to slip, missing the odd day. I would check my phone on waking (I used it as a meditation timer, big mistake) and couldn’t resist the temptation to read a few messages - which set my mind whirring and, of course, made meditation harder. Sometimes it even scuppered my practice altogether as I’d used up my 15 minutes pre-kids quiet time on my phone, leaving no time to sit.
I knew I needed to regroup last week when my intermittent insomnia returned. It was 5.30am on a weeknight and I still hadn’t got to sleep.
I have since made time every day - if I miss the morning then I do it in the evening or whenever I can. I have bought an old-fashioned kitchen timer.
My next step is to contact Cornelius for advice and a bit of meditation personal training. Meditation is like mind muscle you have to flex regularly and, like any other form of exercise, the more you make a habit of it, the easier it gets. But I sense now that I need a bit of expertise to integrate meditation into a busy working life.”