Taking Anxiety Down with a Breath

Last weekend, I experienced something new. It was overwhelming and both a physical and mental storm. I experienced an anxiety attack.

To me, it sounds silly because in the scheme of things, what I was anxious about did not warrant my reaction. If I think about the times or events in my life that should have been more likely to produce such a severe reaction – this past weekend should not have featured even for a second.

My 13-year-old daughter, had her first gymnastics competition for the year. She has been in the National Development Program since early primary school, so this is not a new thing. And let me just establish that this girl is a seasoned professional and a total poker face when it comes to competition – she trains for 18+ hours each week and knows her stuff.

Despite this, over recent years – my nervousness and anxiety with competitions has been increasing.

But last weekend most certainly took the cake. I made myself physically ill with stomach pains, nausea and a migraine as a result of my anxiety and irrational thinking. I found myself holding my breath at various points of the day – and this was before the competition even started!

There was no sympathy at home either because I am very careful to hide this anxiety – nobody needs that kind of negative energy before they start swinging around bars and pirouetting on beams do they?

My husband is the anti-thesis of anxiety and not many things get his heart rate over 80 bpm. He just reminded me that our girl had done all the preparing and she was fully able to do the doing. Great.

Just before the competition started – one of the other parents who was sitting quite a distance away from me (and clearly had a telescope) called my name – quite fiercely I might add. I turned around and she calmly looked at me and said – ‘breathe.’ Oh yes indeed, thanks for the reminder.

There are many things that we can do to reduce stress levels in our lives – getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, meditation and so many other ideas from people who are far more qualified than I to provide advice on how to manage anxiety.

But you know the one thing that is available to all of us, 24/7? Breathing.

Of course, breathing is something that we do without a seconds thought and yet, when we feel anxious or upset we often start with the whole shallow breathing thing or interval breathing (my fancy way of describing holding ones breath). Every week when I go to my yoga class, its all about the breath. Lets face it, it is almost impossible not to feel calm after yoga (unavailable poses aside) simply because the focus for 75 minutes has been breathing.

Anxiety presents itself in all kinds of circumstances – the work place, at home, sport, in relationships and so many other nooks and crannies. Clearly, deep breathing alone is not the cure-all for anxiety and stress but the beauty of engaging the breath is that you can access it anywhere, anytime without anyone being aware.

Taking three deep breaths in and out through your nose automatically induces calm. Research shows that blood pressure starts returning to appropriate levels, lungs work more efficiently, your brain can do its thing and a churning stomach works a lot better when oxygen is circulating.

Try the simple routine below to dial down the anxiety in three breaths.

The Power of Three Breaths to Take Down Anxiety
  • Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose (with your mouth closed) and get every last bit of oxygen in that breath. When you reach the end of that breath, hold it for as long as is comfortable and then let it all out through your nose not your mouth. We are going to do two more of these breaths.
  • Again, take a deep breath in through your nose and get every last bit of oxygen in that breath. When you reach the end of that breath, hold it for as long as is comfortable and then let it all out through your nose.
  • For the last time, take a deep breath in through your nose and get every last bit of oxygen in that breath. When you reach the end of that breath, hold it for as long as is comfortable and then let it all out through your nose.

What about you? Do you have a breathing routine that you find to be effective for reducing anxiety?

The beauty of a wellness retreat

A yoga and wellness retreat. Have you ever been to one?

To be quite honest, yoga and I have had a rather rocky relationship over many years. There have been many times that I have been so discouraged with my ineptitude that I lost all hope of the relationship going anywhere. There was certainly no zen to be found in any of our encounters. I tried courses. I tried programs. I tried just going. And yet, so many of the poses continued to be unavailable to me on a regular basis.

After a few years of much needed separation, one of my friends invited me to join her for a yoga class with a teacher she described quite simply as fabulous. Naturally I was wary of rekindling something that so far had produced only angst, suffering and anti-zen. But you know what? As I walked out of Mia’s cosy, calm and welcoming studio that day, everything had changed.

I got me some zen.

As a Performance Specialist, I show people how to weave movement, healthy food, sleep and less stress into their lives to enable them to access their best performance on a mental and physical basis. Of course, I can advise people how to do this in person, over the phone, in an online course or through sharing the written word but these are all delivered over short periods of time.

My friend Siobhan, a fellow Australian, had moved to Italy seven years previously and had been running amazing yoga retreats in the ever popular Tuscan region of Italy. We have much in common in the wellness arena and ironically fuelled by many a caffeine driven conversation, I quickly realised that bringing people together for an wellness retreat was something I would love to do. My mission was to incorporate all aspects of wellness and health in addition to amazing food, local wine full of antioxidants, a spectacular and restful setting, a spot of culture and a healthy dose of fun all underpinned by oodles of zen in the form of yoga incorporated into each day. Tall order you say?

Well, now more than two years of busting yoga moves, I have just realised a dream and finished running my very first Yoga and Wellness Retreat in Tuscany, Italy.

It seems that there are people around the world that agree with my tall order and last month, fourteen people joined me at the Yoga in Italy’s Il Borghino villa in the hills overlooking beautiful Lucca, Tuscany for seven days and nights. Quite the international cohort, the retreat attracted people from Western Australia, the UK, Scotland, Canada and the US, all looking for a slice of wellness.

By bringing people together from various corners of the world with unique personalities, outlooks and different life experiences, I worried that my retreat goers wouldn’t like each other or they wouldn’t enjoy what I had planned or the yoga would be too hard or too easy or they would struggle with vegetarian food. The list goes on. It became obvious within the first few hours of everyone arriving that I needn’t have spent a single second wasting energy on creating those elaborate scenarios. I had 14 beautiful people along for the ride and let’s face it – anyone making the effort to travel to a yoga and wellness retreat in a foreign country requires a positive mindset and willingness to be open to new experiences.

On that first night, whilst enjoying our welcome dinner of authentic Italian lasagne overlooking the shimmering pool under the stars, accompanied by the wine grown around us and fireflies drifting between the garden foliage, the week stretched deliciously ahead.

Each morning started with freshly brewed coffee or tea followed by 90 minutes of Iyengar yoga. Let’s be clear from the outset that I have not performed miracles and become a yoga teacher in the shortest time frame known to man. No, no, no.

Our yogi Vicki was a New Yorker but had been living in Italy for the past eight years. Along with everyone else in the group, I have never experienced yoga like this before. It is difficult to find the right words to describe Vicki – her way of teaching, her life lessons and the way that she instilled the love of yoga into every single person over seven special days was truly unique. The yoga experience in the room varied hugely, all the way from never having done a single move through to occasional yoginess and then right up to getting bendy every other day. Somehow Vicki catered to each level, making it comfortable yet challenging for each and every person and with gentle firmness throughout the session, she would remind us that we could do better or we could do more in particular poses and encouraged us to imagine what could happen if we held a pose for just that bit longer. Vicki made us all want to go that bit further and reminded us not to forget that time and space are essential for anything to grow. Namaste Vicki.

An activity marked each day and included – a scenic walk down (and of course, then back up again) to the very picturesque Tenuta Maria Teresa – a local vineyard where we sampled their wares, a bike and walking cultural tour of Lucca with the talented and entertaining Federico, a hike between the villages and over the mountains of the Cinque Terre with all its spectacular views and scrumptious seafood, a night out at the Puccini opera in one of the oldest churches in Italy and a delectable cooking lesson making pesto, gnocchi and tiramisu with Maria Angela our 76 year old chef.

Almost everyone at the retreat was not vegetarian and yet, the food was one of the highlights. Maria Angela makes the food each day with love, love, love and it showed in every single dish she created. There were ooh’s and aah’s around the table at every mealtime and animated discussions about whether we could recreate these delights back home. Thankfully, last year Maria Angela and Siobhan compiled “Food for Thought,’ a cookbook containing all the ancient recipes that are prepared on a daily basis for the yoga and wellness retreats. I think I have ticked off five items so far – only another 30 to go! Time and space, time and space.

How do you know if a retreat has been successful? It’s in the little and the big things and just like beauty, I think it is in the eye of the beholder. It’s having time and the space to check in with your physical and mental wellbeing, the opportunity to create a plan for how you could implement positive changes in your day to day life, feeling that sense of increased flexibility and strength in your body, the joy that comes from making new friendships and laughing a bucketload, the increased energy that results from putting the freshest, healthiest ingredients into your body and your senses being taken to another level by being soaked in Italian history, culture and countryside.

As retreat leader, I took so much away from those seven days. I know that the conversations that were had and the fact that my gorgeous group of attendees were refusing to entertain the idea of leaving Il Borghino EVER, were pretty clear indicators that they too, took much away back to their corner of the globe. Ciao for now Italia.

I truly believe that we all need something to look forward to and with that in mind, registrations are open for my 2017 Italian Yoga and Wellness Retreats. The first week in June is fully booked but the second week from the 1st-8th July is now open. If you or anyone you know would like to find some zen, drop me a line at julie@juliemeek.com.au for a brochure and further details.

Speed Bump Ahead

speed bump

A couple of weeks ago, a small disaster affected the functioning of my business. My website literally disappeared into the clouds (sadly not the ones that store stuff) as a result of a fatally corrupted server.

For about five days, while I anxiously waited to hear if the back-up had been successful, I contemplated the loss of a huge amount of my intellectual property over the past 8-10 years. All my blogs, newsletters, recipes and other valuable content were housed there plus the fact that like most businesses, my website is how my clients find me and pretty darn crucial.

Thankfully, the back-up worked a dream and put me back on the internet map. Yet, due to some of the security settings going a bit wonky in the process, this much-awaited restoration brought some unwelcome passengers with it. I had a flood of spam emails, which were super annoying with the exception of one that stopped me in my tracks. It was from ‘Miranda’ in China and it went exactly like this.

Dear Sir,

This is Miranda from china.

Glad to know your company has the intent on purchasing speed bumps. I wonder whether we could cooperate.

If u need more infos, please contact me directly, high quality will be served.

Best regards

Miranda

The only reason I looked at this email at all was because the subject heading ‘Do you want to buy Speed Bumps?’ had me intrigued. The concept of being able to purchase entire speed bumps and the logistics of this sent me into fits of laughter let alone the thought of buying any. But you know what? I had hit my own speed bump when my website bit the dust.

The speed bumps that we experience in our day-to-day lives can obviously be a lot more serious than losing a website. It could be big problems with your family, friends, life threatening health issues, financial concerns, job insecurity, moving house, relationship breakdowns or any one of life’s stressful events. All of these and more represent speed bumps from small to monstrous. Quite often though, speed bumps in our lives are just what we need to take the first step toward real change for our physical and mental well-being. Just like the ones we drive over every day, we need to acknowledge the speed bumps in life, take a breath and slow down. It’s the perfect opportunity to take your foot off the pedal, regroup and alter the path of our well-being.

Take a look outside

Fiona Wood

Dr Fiona Wood is a woman of many talents and maximises every possible opportunity to put them to good use. She became instantly known worldwide when the tragic events of the 2002 Bali bombings unfolded, with her team working day and night to care for badly burned victims.  It was during this time that the “spray on skin” cell technology pioneered by Dr Wood was used extensively and, in recognition of this work with the Bali bombing victims, Fiona was named a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003. Understandably, she describes this time in her life as brutal, with the workload, emotional toll and the travel hours extreme. For Fiona, in her line of work, the external environment of care could vary widely from a bombsite to a hospital bed to the scene of an accident at the side of the road.

When contemplating making changes to your own health behaviour, assessing your own external environment is crucial to success. Although your environment may not be as extreme as those that Fiona Wood finds herself in, it can change many times over a day or week and being aware of each scenario means that you can adapt and plan accordingly. Take a look at what is going on around you and think about the things that impact on your ability to lead a healthy lifestyle such as:

Do you work too much or do you need to change the way you work?

Identifying the ‘stuff’ that stresses you out and figuring out a way to reduce or eliminate it.

Do you get rave reviews when you cook or do your skills need a little fine-tuning?

Do you have food in the pantry or is the cupboard bare? Being organised with a shopping routine makes it easier to eat well. If you don’t have time to get to the shops (or even if you do), spend a fraction of the time doing it online and avoid all the temptations that are costly to your wallet and your body.

Have you got somewhere to exercise? Access to facilities, clothing and equipment to enable exercise are going to be pretty important for a successful fitness bid.

Are you racking up enough zzzz’s? The quality and quantity of your sleep routine can dictate the outcome of whether you exercise, what and how much you eat and how productive you are during the day.

Financial health – your income and budget can impact some aspects of leading a healthy life but sometimes its more about prioritising  how we spend our money.

The weather – we all know that rain is plain old water but factoring it into your exercise plans removes another barrier.  Perhaps you don’t want to get onto your bike in the pelting rain but Plan B might be the gym or weights at home for some strength training. Conversely, it is usually too hot to run during the day in summer (in Australia at least) but early mornings are too good to miss.

Skill power – are you aware of the skills required to steer your health in the right direction? How will you find out what skills you need? If you don’t possess these skills, how can you get them?

Looking after the environment in this case means your own patch of well-being.  Does it mean engaging a personal trainer or finding an exercise buddy, seeking out help from health professionals such as your GP, Dietitian or Psychologist? Upskilling of self by learning meditation, taking cooking classes, shopping online, doing a short course or further studies? Information is only a click away and it is yours to access.

Improving the quality of your life and reducing your risk factors for chronic disease or having enough energy to play with the kids after a hard days work are all worthy outcomes.   Of course, let’s not forget feeling good about yourself, being happy with your body and feeling fit and strong. These are great results not only for yourself but also for your loved ones.  Take a look around and see what you find.

 

That which does not kill us

buzzy wolves

I had the privilege and honour of interviewing Carina Hoang last year for my new book about personal performance, Ready, Set, Go. Carina’s story is the type that elicits goosebumps and deep emotion and is one that I will never forget.

On 31 May 1979, Carina Hoang, 16 years of age, joined the Vietnam exodus in a 25-metre wooden boat with her 12-year-old sister Mimi and 13-year-old brother, Saigon. The boat and others like it were built for fishing, not for the rough seas of the South China Sea, and was packed with 373 people, including 75 children. The cost of this perilous journey came at a price of $3000 US dollars or 10oz gold per person, a small fortune at that time. The emotional cost was immeasurable.

This exodus came about as a direct result of the war between Vietnam and Cambodia.  The journey that Carina took with her two siblings across the South China Sea was one that 1.5 million Vietnamese people took to flee their country and the aftermath of a civil war. Nearly half of them perished. Carina describes the conditions as unimaginable. The boats were unseaworthy, overcrowded and weather conditions in the South China Sea were harsh with severe storms commonplace. There was no food or water, with the possibility of cannibalism and the ever-present threat of ongoing pirate attacks with many women becoming victims of rape and violence.  The fact that anyone survived at all is a miracle.

Carina lists resilience, determination, integrity and respect as treasured possessions.  While these traits may be an inbuilt part of her personality, her life experiences so far have certainly developed them to an admirable level.

There is no doubt that resilience is a buzzword these days and is a term often used in relation to our kids. Resilience in psychology is used to describe the capacity of people to cope with stress and adversity.  Some experts believe it is the ability to ‘bounce back’ or recover to a healthy state of mind and functioning. Others such as Thought Leader Sam Cawthorn, believe it is to ‘bounce forward.’ In his new book Bounce Forward, Sam proposes that this is a more useful method of achieving resilience because bouncing back focuses on what was, while bouncing forward focuses on what can become.  In the same vein, the inspiring Nelson Mandela said in his book Long Walk to Freedom, “Forget the things of the past and press forward to what lies ahead.” This was particularly true for Carina Hoang in the years following her escape from Vietnam.

Resilience refers to a set of skills that a person has rather than their innate personality, meaning that it can potentially be taught. Martin Seligman, known as the Father of Psychology, points to research that shows that how people react to adversity is distributed in a known pattern. He describes how on one end of the scale are people who don’t cope and spiral into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and sometimes suicide. In the middle are most people, who at first react with symptoms of depression and anxiety but within a month or so are back to where they were before the trauma, by psychological and physical measures. According to Seligman, this is resilience. At the other end of the spectrum are the people who first experience depression and anxiety and may exhibit PTSD but within a year are better off than where they were before the trauma.  This is post-traumatic growth and what Friedrich Nietzsche was referring to when he said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

Although we each react quite differently when faced with difficult situations or adversity, we can develop personal strategies for dealing with these times. Resilience research suggests that instead off solely focusing on amending the adversity we should also be looking at promoting competencies, enhancing assets and developing resources, but not of the financial variety. In line with this, Yates and Masten in Positive Psychology in Practice provide an inventory of assets and protective factors that promote positive self-development including safe neighborhoods, connections to organisations such as libraries, close relationships with care-givers, positive sibling relationships, connections to competent and caring adult models, a positive view of self, good problem-solving skills, and an appealing personality. Some of these are a given but some further questions are put forward by these experts in resilience when looking at your own capacity.

  •  Have you shown self-regulation in the past by saving money that you can use in tough times?
  •  Have you built a community of friends and family who are ready to support you?
  •  Have you helped other people who may be eager to return the behaviour?
  •  Have you dealt with serious adversity in the past? If so, what were the skills and thought patterns that you used?
  •  Do you have good problem solving skills or a good friend with these skills?
  •  Do you have experience grieving from losses and then being able to let them go?
  •  Do you have a depth of positive memories that you can spend time reliving?

Adversity is part of everyday life, although some people such as Carina Hoang experience it at a greater depth than others.  The question is, when adversity presents itself, what competencies, assets and resources have you developed to build your own personal resilience?

Get me some yen

julie overlooking 5 terre

It’s time to come clean.  I have long been dedicated to eating well and exercising but for many years I have been  downright incompetent at balancing my life to enable adequate recovery and renewal, to my own detriment. A sea change has been required for some time and having just returned from a three month adventure in Italy , it really could not have been a better place to recover and work on changing unhealthy working habits.  I know that so many of you will relate to this and there is no doubt that our daily performance is greatly affected by how we design our work and daily routine. I know mine has been.

The past three months have enabled me to reflect on how I conduct my combined professional and personal life at a speed that is simply unsustainable.  For this to occur I needed distance and quiet time to do this but reflection comes in many forms.  Meditation and yoga are two very popular forms of reflection and stilling the mind and I have tried a handful of times over the past 20 years to embark upon both of these. I have tried introduction courses several times and each time finished the course feeling no more competent than before. So far, the well- known benefits of this age-old practice have well and truly eluded me. Mostly, because I didn’t allow myself the time and space to do so.

It is obvious to me now that one does not tackle meditation like an exercise program and that it is a ritual or routine that requires time and practice. Considering that people have been meditating for thousands of years, perhaps it’s not surprising that I haven’t been able to master it in a couple of decades.

The definition of meditation depends on the form you are practising, however, many forms involve training your mind to focus and achieving a state of being and awareness. The Australian Teachers of Meditation Association says, “In its broadest and most universal definition, meditation is a discipline that involves turning the mind and attention inward and focusing on a single thought, image or feeling.”

It is well documented that many successful people (including Ros Worthington and many others in this book) make meditation part of their day and find it essential to their health and for developing their ability to focus on the truly important things in their personal and professional lives. Meditation helps develop skills in:

  •   Knowing what your mind is paying attention to
  •   Working out where your mind’s attention needs to be focused
  •   Maintaining attention on what you want your mind to be focusing on

The difficulty with developing focus is not just the external distractions in our lives but also the internal chatter in our minds. It is very difficult to sit and keep your mind focused on a single thing when automatically your attention is often drawn to replaying the past, worrying about the future and other negative thoughts. Feeling relaxed and focused is an immediate positive side effect of meditation but it can also help develop mental strength, resilience and performance. Experts in this centuries old practice have various methods of meditation including focusing on the breath, counting and mindfulness. Although many people may associate meditation with spiritual practice, in a practical sense it is attentional practice.

If, like me, you have found meditation to be challenging, there is good news. In my research and practice over the past three months I have discovered that meditation doesn’t need to be lengthy. Sitting quietly admiring a view can do the trick nicely. Many have suggested that simply focusing intensely in a concentrated way for 30-60 seconds is better than trying to maintain focus over a long period of time, while your mind wanders here, there and everywhere.

Interest in maximising performance has been gaining momentum for a while but there is no doubt that times are changing. Amidst the incessant demands that we are subject to each day, people are more interested in things that bring balance, focus and harmony. Meditation (and reflection) is one of those things.

 

 

Just one thing

Italian barista

There are few people that would dispute my conviction that Italy produces the best coffee in the world and my current sea change in this beautiful country has meant that I have been able to conduct some serious research into the topic. This morning as I greeted my favourite barista and watched her expertly take orders, make my coffee and at least ten others, serve pastries whilst washing cups and greeting every single person that walked through the door with a smile, it was obvious to me that she was expert at multi-tasking. It certainly didn’t appear to be negatively impacting my Italian barista but is multi-tasking such a good thing? These days, multi-tasking is a term thrown around in all directions and is something we are expected to do in the workplace, at home and in the general management of our lives.

The term “multi-tasking” is not new though and originated in the computer industry, referring to the ability of a microprocessor to process several tasks simultaneously with the first published use of the word appearing in 1965.

Almost 50 years later, multi-tasking is alive and well and it is very difficult not to do it. We are expected to achieve a great deal each day (often quite unrealistically) and we are bombarded with a constant stream of information and technology. Most of us think we are good at it and it is common knowledge that many women believe they are much better at multi-tasking than men, quite often congratulating themselves on their prowess. Leading brain expert, Norman Doidge M.D. author of The Brain that Changes Itself, discusses some research in his book that suggests the left and right hemispheres are better connected in women and that women are better at multi-tasking than men. For all the indignant males out there, it is a moot point anyway as you will soon see.

Doing things like speaking on the phone while folding washing or watching the TV screen while on the treadmill are easy and possible without error, because they don’t require much brainpower.  However, if you want to learn a particular skill or do something well that requires concerted effort, multi-tasking is not advisable, according to Norman Doidge, who is a passionate anti multi-tasker.

It would seem that our brains just aren’t equipped for multi-tasks that require brainpower. George A. Miller, a respected cognitive psychologist, published one of the most highly cited papers in psychology that is often interpreted to suggest that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7+/- 2. This is usually referred to as Millers Law. When information doesn’t make it into short- term memory, it can’t be transferred into long-term memory for later use. The bottom line is, if you can’t recall it you can’t use it.

In The Brain that Changes Itself, Norman Doidge points to the detailed studies that have been done on multi-tasking which show that people don’t do things as well. It takes a certain amount of mental effort and time to switch from Topic A to Topic B and, if you’re truly multi-tasking – activity A to activity B, you are constantly shifting your brain just like a computer, booting up some circuitry and closing down other circuitry. In the end multi-tasking is working against you and results in inefficiency, fatigue and stress.

Multi-tasking can be dangerous too. Distraction is known to be the leading cause in 22% of car crashes and 71% of truck crashes, with one of the major distractions being the use of mobile phones and hand-held devices. The use of mobile phones, in particular texting, increases the risk of a car crash four-fold. Driving a vehicle is a multi-tasked activity itself and a classic example of where multi-tasking cannot work, constituting a major threat to life.

Children are no different to adults and do not possess any special ability to multi-task.  Many brain experts agree that learning to concentrate is a skill not just useful for academic pursuits but also for life.

So instead of reading this blog while watching the news, cooking dinner, and talking to your kids, try something new.  Just do one thing. Do nothing else and give your brain a rest. Everything else can wait.

The State of Happy = Health

With our lives conducted at a fast and furious pace these days, have you noticed that the pursuit of happiness now seems to be an Olympic event? It seems there are so many hoops to jump through to achieve this nirvana state rather than it just finding you. There is much made of the eternal search for happiness across all media modes perhaps indicating our interest in the subject and the desire to get some. Various dictionaries define happiness as “the state of well-being that is characterized by contentment through to intense joy.” Of course, this will differ between individuals. It is possible that the pursuit of happiness is fraught with danger, as results are never guaranteed and you never know what will be found along the way or at the end of the journey. There are always classic times in life that we remember and feel clear moments of happiness like finishing high school, earning your first dollar, doing fun stuff with your friends, getting married or the birth of children.  For me, some of my happiest moments include sitting on the back lawn as a kid with my parents and siblings in summer eating watermelon with the juice running down my chin; riding the waves on my first surf mat and spotting a dolphin when running along the river. Being happy doesn’t need to be complicated, achieved or completed. Very often it can be found hiding in the simplest things. There are a number of global ‘experts’ on happiness and, while there are various schools of thought, most agree that the following aspects can significantly influence our happiness.

The Life Juggle  – for most of us, having many balls in the air including work, home, play and relationships, is a relentless challenge. It can be difficult to feel happy and at peace when you are stressed and trying to keep a balance in your life. It is often difficult to say no to others but before you say yes to someone else, check first that you are not saying no to yourself. Kicking Goals – to give yourself direction, regularly set goals or plan things to look forward to. This gives your life meaning and a sense of purpose. It could be something as simple as making plans for the weekend or organizing your next holiday. Health and Performance- there is no doubt that your health and well-being is key to your overall happiness. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the most basic of needs have to be met before other aspects of your life can be addressed. If you are suffering from poor health, the issues causing this should be tackled first. Networked: research shows that those people with a strong support and social network are happier and healthier. A sense of community and belonging is essential to our well-being. Inner peace: reducing stress in your life is a bit like decluttering your home. Some items need kicking to the kerb, some need regifting and others remain cherished. Sometimes the same type of spring-cleaning is necessary in your own life. This may mean clearing space to do the things you truly enjoy, learning to relax through meditation or music or finding some ‘me’ time.

I recently interviewed my very own 91 year old Nan in the pursuit of uncovering her secrets to happiness. I figured she may have gathered at least a couple over the past nine decades.  Growing up in the UK during World War II and wife of a career military man has meant that she has experienced some tough times in her life but she is a tough one my Nan. Although at 91 years she now lives with heart issues, Nan is still an avid reader (without glasses) and sharp as a tack.  This nonagenarian has lived independently until only a few months ago and has only just entered a new phase in her life, moving into a low care aged facility where she enjoys plenty of visits from her extended family of nine grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. I have often wondered about the secret to Nan’s longevity, health and happiness. She believes it is due to her placid and calm nature. I think it is because she has never gone looking for happiness, it found her while she was content to be in the moment.

Nan -Happy Nonagenarian
Nan – Happy Nonagenarian