Doing Nothing is Productive!

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Are you one of those people who needs to be productive?

I certainly am. Not from any external pressure –  I just LIKE getting stuff done, and I always have several projects on the go, a big fat to-do list, as well as a schedule that stretches out towards the horizon.  Life, and its possibilities, lights my fire!

But there is nothing like a good dose of burn-out to help you realise that less is more, and a dose of near-death really does help you to clarify your priorities.

Where one upon a time I worked endlessly, I now work in bursts, and then have some time out that is totally unscheduled.

Before my big cycles of crash and burn, repair, go full tilt, crash and burn, repair, go full tilt, crash and burn – okay, you get my drift – my life looked like this:

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I was a busy little robot working harder and harder, doing more and more, and somehow expecting that I could just carry on that way forever.

I actually thought that if I worked harder and harder I would achieve more and more, ad infinitum.  But of course you end up working with the Law of Diminishing Returns.  More does not make more.  More becomes less.

More work means less sleep. Less fun.  Less clarity.  Less inspiration.  Less connection.  Less well-being. Less healing capacity.  Less opportunity to be spontaneous. Less flexibility.  Less ability to cope with the unexpected. Less true creativity. Less chance of seeing new possibilities, meeting new people and expanding in new directions.

When you keep trying to fit more and more in, something will inevitably break, and that something might be you.

I know this, because I’ve been there.  More than once.  And most of it has been self-inflicted.

I’ve had to ask myself the big questions in life.

I am okay with diminished output if it means better quality of life, and a longer life. I mean, realistically, how much can you get done here if you’re dead? And in the end, does any of that stuff on your to-do list really matter?

So now my life looks much more like this:

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I have periods of deep rest, relaxation and doing totally NOTHING.  And then I have periods of doing things, being active, connecting, learning and being crazy-mad infatuated with taking up all life has to offer!

Truth is, I’m more productive than I ever was, in the areas that matter to me.

I hadn’t expected that.

Oh my goodness I wish I’d know this important little nugget of wisdom years ago.

Less is more.

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That’s right.

Doing nothing is good for you.

If you don’t know how to do nothing, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Naps.  Napping is awesome!
  • Curl up on the couch with a magazine.
  • Go to bed early or sleep in.  Sleep all day if you feel like it.
  • When something frees up in your schedule, don’t fill that spot with another task or expectation.  Let yourself luxuriate in that new spare time.
  • Dawdle. Potter along on a nice slow walk, amble through a park or shopping mall.
  • Go to the movies.
  • Read a book.
  • Nap.  Did I say that already?  Oh well.  Have another one!
  • Lose yourself in a book.
  • Hang out at the library.
  • Go for a surf.
  • Get a massage.
  • Take a bath.
  • Quit something so you can free up your schedule!
  • Say no to things you don’t want to do.
  • Have an early night and bunk down with some tasty treats and a good DVD.
  • Go on holidays.
  • Have a phone free, computer-free day.
  • Stay home and do… nothing! No housework, no odd jobs. Do what makes you happy. Maybe some craft, or cooking, or just hang out.
  • Spend time with the ones you love.
  • Sit in a coffee shop and read the weekend papers while having a long breakfast or an extended brunch/lunch.
  • Go window shopping, just to pass the time and fill yourself up with images, ideas and dreams.
  • Sunbake.
  • Sit by the ocean or the river.
  • Perch on top of a mountain.
  • Fluff around, not getting anything much done, but not minding that either.  Some people call this procrastination – I call it exploring my desk or kitchen drawers to see what’s really in there…
  • Spend time with the family pet – these guys really have relaxation down to an art!

Magic happens when we give ourselves down-time. And a magical life is definitely one worth living. You never know what might happen if you just create a little space in your day…

Image from The Fox and The Child, Hopscotch films, 2009

 

Eight Ingredients for Better Health

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To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.  Buddha

Our bodies are the vehicle for our Souls. By honouring and looking after our physical vehicle we are then much better able to access and work with our mental and spiritual gifts.

There are eight practical, proven and simple things that we can do or include in our lives each day in order to help build up energy within our bodies, and to maintain our physical health and vitality.  This is not rocket science – it is fundamental and basic information.  Yes, what I am about to share sounds like what your Nana might have told you (in fact, my Nana told me).  Yes, it works!!!

These ‘miracle’ ingredients for a long and healthy life are:

  1. Water
  2. Sleep
  3. Fresh Air
  4. Clean and Nourishing Food
  5. Movement
  6. Spiritual Health
  7. Love
  8. Self Control

Let’s explore each of these eight vital ingredients in more detail.


1.  Water

Drink plenty of fresh, clean water.

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Suggestions:  For best results take your water at room temperature to minimise pressure on your internal organs which would otherwise have to heat the water up before using it.  Keep a bottle of water with you at all times, even beside your bed.  Often residual low level fatigue is the result of chronic dehydration.  For even better results, write positive words and affirmations on your water bottle.  If you suffer from dizziness or low blood pressure, add a small pinch of celtic salt to your water bottle.  This will help restore the electrolyte balance within your body and assist with the uptake of water and oxygen by your body’s cells.

2.  Sleep

Get adequate (what your body really needs, not what you let it have!) sleep.

Image by ALAMY

Suggestions:  Most of us need a minimum of eight hours, and sometimes more if we are fighting off an infection, healing, growing or changing.   Did you know that most of the western world’s adult population is sleep deprived?  Since the introduction of the electric light bulb, and then television, adults have been slowly eroding their hours of quiet time and sleep during the evening hours.  Where we once had a few hours of quiet talk, or reading, or other gentle and relaxing activities to wind down before sleep, we now have over-stimulation from television.  We sleep from one to four hours less per night on average than our physical body requires.  The artificial light we are exposed to during the day in offices and shopping centres, and at night in our own homes reduces chemical and hormonal input from our bodies that would ordinarily prepare us for sleep.  We lose our natural sleep rhythms.  This sort of prolonged sleep deprivation, where you get substandard sleep or inadequate sleep takes some months to recover from, and prevents the body from healing, solving problems and spiritual connection during the sleeping hours.

To improve sleep, get some exposure to natural full-spectrum sunlight every day.  (Don’t wear sunglasses as this changes the spectrum of the sun’s rays.) Twenty minutes would be a minimum.  Don’t go to bed immediately after a big meal.  Let the digestion process have around two hours first to get started so that your sleep is not compromised.  If this is hard to do, eat earlier, or make your main meal lunch so that you are only digesting light food at night time.  Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and well ventilated.  Take at least half an hour before sleep to wind down.  Don’t do this in front of the television!  Take a shower, read a book, listen to music, meditate, make love.  You may also want to remove electro-magnetic radiation from the bedroom, or at least get rid of electrical appliances beside, behind or under the bed.  Lavender essential oil aids relaxation and sleep.  In winter keep your feet warm, or have a warm shower just before going to be so that you don’t get into bed cold.

3.  Fresh Air

Oxygen and clean air is vital to our well being on every level.

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Suggestions:  Get out into the fresh air and sunshine each day.  Oxygen is vital for our well being.  Sunshine is important for providing vitamin D. Use good posture to enable you to breathe deeply and to avoid shallow breathing.  Take several slow, deliberate deep breaths a few times a day to recharge and re-oxygenate your blood.  Make sure that your home, office and bedroom are well ventilated, with a good flow of natural air.  Don’t spend all of your time in air-conditioning, and if you do use an air-conditioner keep it well maintained.  Minimise dust and mould in your environment.  Avoid exposure to chemicals, especially within your home.  Don’t exercise on busy roads.

4.  Clean and Nourishing Food

Food is both fuel and medicine for our bodies.  Our bodies are the direct result of the quality of nutrition that we put into them.  Eat regularly to maintain a good supply of fuel to your brain and body.

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Suggestions:  Food is best when it is freshly prepared, chemical free, and made with love.  Blessing your food, and eating in a relaxed environment really does make a difference.  Favour a plant-based diet, with the inclusion of good quality fats and proteins. Choose organic meats and free range chickens, and wild caught seafoods.  Grass fed beef has the same essential fatty acid ratio as fish – grain fed beef does not, and is not nearly as good for you.  Make sure you get a good range of fresh vegetables each day – these can also be eaten as juice.  Fruit is better taken as a whole food than as a juice so that you can minimise your concentrated sugar intake.  Eat fruit and vegetables in season.  Out of season food has often had to travel a long way to get to you, and will have lost a lot of its vital energy and goodness.  Nuts and seeds are good, and so are whole grains.  Naturally fermented foods such as yoghurt, keffir and so on are also good for your gut health.  If a food has a prolonged shelf life, it will also have little life force.

Reduce and avoid food that is mass produced, fast food, or high in sugars, salts, stimulants (such as caffeine) fats and flour.  Avoid artificial colours and additives.  Eat when you’re hungry, and pay attention to when and why you eat so that you can identify and manage emotional eating – where we eat for comfort or entertainment rather than because our body needs fuel.  Sharing a meal with a friend or family member is always a good way to reduce stress.  Don’t eat in front of television, and don’t eat when you are upset.  Always calm down before eating.  Different bodies prefer different diet variations – if necessary find a good natural therapist or dietician to help you with your food choices.  Listen to your body – it will soon tell you what it does and doesn’t like.  In times of stress or illness, it may be necessary to take additional supplements of vitamins, minerals and/or herbs.  Seek help if you need it.

5.  Movement

Our bodies were designed to move.  They must be moved, nurtured and stretched on a daily basis.  Movement allows the internal organs to function well, it keeps joints lubricated, circulates blood, oxygen and lymph within our bodies, and helps us to stay supple, strong and mobile.

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Suggestion:  Movement helps decrease obesity, depression and a host of other ills.  The longer we go without movement, the more difficult movement becomes.  Find some exercises that you enjoy, and try to become active at work and home.  Learn some basic stretching, and if you want to understand and nourish the physical body on an even higher level, learn yoga, tai chi or qi gong.  Movement was never just about going to a gym, although you might enjoy this.  Movement is also about walking, surfing, lawn bowls, stretching, swimming on a hot day, skiing in winter, dancing anytime, gardening, housework, fencing, playing with children or animals, chasing your lover around the bedroom, building, creating, self expression and pure joy.  It can also be about the discipline of a martial art or practice such as yoga, or about the fun of teamwork playing footie, cricket, tennis doubles, or tug-of-war.  Not so bad after all, is it?

6.  Spiritual Health

Those people who have an active faith, and who practice regular connection with that faith have better physical health and longevity, lower stress levels, faster healing, greater rates of ‘unusual and unexpected’ recoveries and greater levels of personal acceptance and satisfaction.

Painting by Goro Fujita

Suggestion:  Spirituality isn’t about going to church, although for some people that can be an important focus of their faith.  It means taking time to talk with God and your Guides, Angels and Loved Ones who’ve passed over.  It’s about having a connection to the earth and all living things.  Some people do this through listening to music, some people do this through creating art, and some people do this through going for a walk in nature.  How you find your Soul, and talk with your God is up to you.  Spiritual Health is about making time to go within, through prayer, meditation and self reflection.  And doing these things as a normal part of your daily routine.  Take time to learn about your spirituality, to read and share and grow your faith.  Take time to practice your connection.  Use spiritual tools, and give and receive spiritual energy.  Pray for yourself and others on a regular basis.  It is also powerful to meet with like-minded people to share the experience.  This can be through worship, group meditations, sharing healings and readings, attending festivals and workshops, or even just holding hands together before a meal.

7.  Love

Love is fundamental to the human spirit.  We need to learn to give and to receive love, and to do this daily!  Love is the most powerful energy in the Universe.

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Suggestion:  Self love and self care top this list.  This includes treating ourselves well, and surrounding ourselves with energies that uplift and support us.  We all need someone to love.  Family, friends, partners, even animals.  We need to be able to actively demonstrate love through our thoughts, actions and intentions.  It is also important that we open ourselves up to receive love as well.  This is often much harder to do, than to love others.  Become involved in helping others.  Use your spiritual faith to help you find ways to express Love in the World.

8.  Self Control

Self control is a conscious development of our will.  It is the voice of our wise self, and it becomes stronger and easier to identify the more we use it.  Self control allows us to stay true to who we are, and to what we know is good for us.

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Suggestions:  Self control requires self trust, and self love.  If we come home from work feeling tired, it is easy to eat junk food and forgo exercise.  Self control is the wise and caring voice within us that urges us to eat something healthy, to take the dog for a walk, or to say ‘no’ to a second helping of dessert.  It is often difficult to exert any self control if we have not worked with this part of us for a long time.  When self control is not exercised, our inner critic – the ego, can make us feel very unhappy and inadequate.  This fuels low self esteem and can make the lack of self control even worse.  Our wise self whispers, “eat a salad and some fish” and we then need to exercise our self control to enable this to happen.  If instead we eat toast with jam, and a bowl of ice-cream, the ego will chastise us.  Your self talk might then sound like this: “Oh, you are so fat and weak.  You might as well eat another bowl of ice-cream.”  And so you do, and end up feeling worse about yourself, and believing that you have no will power.  If your self control is weak, start with small promises that you make and then keep with yourself.  As you fulfil each promise, this will strengthen your self control by building your sense of worth and self confidence.  If you slip back, be kind with yourself and just start again.

Journal Activity: Revisit each of the eight ingredients of good health.  For each ingredient, write down one small step that you could take in the next few days to strengthen that area within your own life.  Make sure the actions you want to take are small, measurable and achievable so that you can continue to strengthen your wellbeing, self belief and self control!

Emotions and their impact on your health

When your mind can know peace, your body can know healing. ~ Nicole Cody

(image by Evgeni Dinev)

Many of my friends are healers. They come from widely different schools and philosophies of healing – general medical practitioners, environmental medicine specialists, acupuncturists, naturopaths, herbalists, body workers, nutritionalists and all manner of other modalities. Over the past twenty years all of them have observed one thing; the number of people suffering long-term chronic illness, digestive issues, stress-related health issues and fatigue has soared.  Not only that, many of the simple treatments that once worked so well for bringing people back into balance no longer are as effective.

Why?

There are many external factors – more exposure to pollutants and chemicals, little exercise, poorer diet, less sunshine.

But even when these things are addressed many people are slow to heal. I, and many of my learned practitioner friends, believe at least part of this is to do with the state of mind we are in.

There have been numerous studies done which show that when a person is relaxed the surface tension of their skin changes.  Their blood pressure lowers, their heart slows, the chemicals responsible for sleep, blood sugar and hormonal balance rise and stabilise. In a place of relaxation people become more creative, more connected, happier, more adept at innovative thinking and problem solving. In a place of relaxation our bodies find it far easier to heal.  It is impossible to think a negative thought when you are in a deeply relaxed state.

What does negative thinking have to do with my health?

Go ahead.  Think of something that really makes you mad.  Or powerless.  Feel the changes take place in your body.  You will feel heavier, there will be a sense of tension in your face and body. You may have a surge of adrenalin or a sudden draining away of energy. Your heart speeds up, you may feel clammy and hot, agitated or ill.  This is not your imagination – this is your body’s autonomic response to your thoughts.  This is a natural reaction to perceived stress within your body. Worry, stress, fear, panic, over-thinking; this is what is stopping you from healing.

Over time, this sort of thinking has a destructive impact on the body.  It exhausts our adrenals.  It puts pressure on our thyroid and other parts of our endocrine system.  Our liver becomes stressed and congested and can’t function as well as it used to as it deals with the flood of naturally occurring chemicals WE have created in our body through the stress response.

In this place of adrenal depletion we can become addicted to caffeine, energy drinks, sugar and carbs to keep us  functioning.

The blood is always in our extremities as we ready ourselves to fight or flee (the stress response once again) so our digestion slows and becomes impaired.  Even if we gain weight we may still be massively malnourished, and our body may struggle to absorb supplements, herbs and better food.

We may resort to anti-depressants or sleeping pills.  We may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.  Or we may just go through life exhausted, sick and not coping but needing to get up and get on with it each day.

Our sleep becomes affected, and that avenue of healing becomes further reduced.  No matter who we see, or what we try nothing seems to work.  Or it doesn’t work for long.

Sound familiar?

If you are living with stress and anxiety, if there is something or someone in your life, or from your past, that causes you to feel unsafe, inadequate, fearful, anxious, angry,  resentful, or shamed… then it’s going to be an uphill battle to become well and stay well.

Positive emotions impact your health positively.  Negative emotions impact your life negatively.

The longer a negative emotion is the ugly background wallpaper in your life, the more you get accustomed to it, but don’t be fooled.  It will still be affecting you. And not in a good way.

Let me repeat an important point.  It is impossible to experience a negative emotion when you are in a relaxed state.  

What this means for your health is simple.  When you are relaxed, your body can know healing.  When you are relaxed your body can do what it needs to do to put itself back into balance, and to put you back into flow, connection and clarity.

So, by all means find yourself a skilled healer, a physician, or a team to put your body back together.  But remember you also need to do your part.  You need to take care of the housekeeping of your mind.

Do things that relax you.  Practice meditation, yoga or tai chi.  Listen to music.  Go for walks in nature.Take the dog!  Make time for YOU in your life. Do the things that give you peace. Find people, places and activities that nourish, validate and support you.

Let go of what no longer serves you in your life.

And if you need to, seek a counsellor, pyschologist, psychiatrist – someone trained in helping you undo what has bound you up in knots.

I know this to be true:  When your mind can know peace, your body can know healing.

This is a great meditation for relaxing that I recorded a few days ago.

Honour your body, work with your mind, and live from your heart.  Your body has an infinite wisdom, and that wisdom is free to reign when we are in a place of relaxation and ease. Do all you can to find or create that peaceful place within you. Healing can then be a natural flow-on effect of that energy.  Bless ♥ xx