Here we go! I write this as we climb the gentle slope out of lockdown. And though we’re not out of the woods yet, hopefully this time it will be towards our new normal. I also write this as Spring emerges and waves its snowdropped and daffodiled head.
CHANGE sits alongside death and taxes. Change has the potential to catch us unawares, to trip us up, to liven and enthuse us and potentially to stress us.
To be MINDFUL means to be conscious or aware of something. The concept of being mindful can be taken a long way as seen in the practice of mindfulness and meditation. As a mere verb we can consider it simply as enabling us to see the present moment more clearly. Being mindful is both an ancient and a modern concept and one that is the subject of much research and interest.
Finding ways to make the most of inevitable change and opportunity feels particularly pertinent right now. So let’s have a look at how I can weave your fitness, changes and being mindful into an article worth reading.
As shops and attractions reopen and movement beyond ‘our local area’ becomes possible, we will likely be spending less time sitting in our homes, with the comforts and eases that we have come to know so well. For gardeners, the garden now beckons, with all of the bending, lifting, digging and moving that this involves. Seeing more – or just some – of our family and friends may involve an changes in activity; walking, playing, sitting in a car for longer than you may have done in a while. Better weather can change our exercise habits. And if you ‘normally’ do a sport that isn’t permitted yet or get active as part of a group, the opportunity for doing these things is hopefully not far off. Warmer weather and kids now in classrooms could mean more, or less time, being active! A lockdown bicycle or dog may now boost your exercise levels as the sun 🤞 emerges. All of these adjustments and others bring with them a required mental adjustment. Be this positive, negative or neutral, a dose of mindfulness could help any transitions pass more smoothly!
There’s nothing quite as uncomfortable as taking a good, hard look at ourselves. And there is huge power in this honesty. If you know that you’ve enjoyed a little too much sitting time or cake recently, then acknowledge this to yourself kindly – the beating stick has been shown to be less helpful (here & here) – and factor it into what you do now. Your stamina levels may not be what they were. Gardening may be more likely to produce an injury than during the full flow of summer. Those aches and pains usually kept at bay by now-dwindled activities may have resurfaced. The same applies to our mental health; have a think aka be mindful aka take stock of where you are now. If you’ve thrived on less social interaction then acknowledge this. If lockdowns have made you more anxious then that’s your reality.
A 2018 study by the Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of those polled reported feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope during that year. And that was 2018!!! Wherever you’re at right now, that’s OK. Now is your chance to do something.
Thanks to Joe Wicks and a minor fixation on being able to do pull-ups, I am stronger than I was a year ago. But feeling overtired after a recent long bike ride functioned as a warning shot across the bows. My stamina levels are not where they were last summer! I’m going to (try to!) accept that the time on the bike that I can manage right now is OK. With more rides under my belt I’ll be able to ride for longer. Be mindful of your strengths. Make the most of them and use them as support when working towards the other things that you want to do.
Where have you tripped up in the past? What are the techniques and tools you’ve used before to get physically and mentally fitter, stronger and healthier? How did that work out for you? Our muscles lose strength, our tendons stiffen and our bodies and our minds adapt to what we do or don’t put them through. We all have habits and patterns that we tend to slip into. This may be this slacking on some aspect of physical activity, an old injury or weak body part that’s susceptible to problems, or negative thought patterns that generate anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. Bear in mind some tips on successful exercising and draw on mental health techniques that have gotten you through challenging times before. Facing a new problem? Here’s a chance to create experience – go get’em!
I’ve written about this before. Whether it’s a physically or a mentally challenging activity, make it:
Everyone has had an “alternative” ride over the last twelve months. There has never been a better time or excuse to strike up conversations with strangers, join a new group and find old and new ways to connect with others. Getting active with others can take away the difficulty in getting started and you never know who you might meet… Be mindful: reverse the mirror and think about how you would respond to someone who needed a smile, a chat or just genuine eye contact. We can worry about what others may think but just about everyone wants and needs to help, give and connect. I asked a (delighted) friend for help this week and a (delighted) neighbour for a favour. There were my two timely reminders of how just about everyone wants to help, give and connect.
If there’s one thing besides funding and management that’s likely to sink the NHS then it’s our inactivity. And arguably this features before any (in)action by the powers that be. Diabetes, heart and respiratory disease, some types of cancer and many mental health conditions have some whopping underlying causes in the form of obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise and self-care. There’s a confidence, a comfort and an ease that comes with being physically fit(ter). And because no feeling exists in isolation, positive ones can spill over into any number of aspects of our lives. So be mindful and then… walk up that hill, go for an open water dip, take the stairs, ditch the car today, get active in a way you haven’t before, join a class, dig that neglected garden patch, offer to help, run instead of walk, walk faster, dust off those yoga moves, sign up for something in the flesh for when we can get together safely with others again…