So often as women we get consumed with our loved ones, our family and friends, and in our work. We pour every ounce of who we are and what we have to give into being the best possible mother; the dedicated wife; the reliable friend; the loyal daughter; the ideal employee. I could go on and on. We not only forget to take the time for ourselves but we also feel guilty for wanting/needing to. We develop this mentality that we would be wrong to say “No, I cannot (or won’t) do that right now”. We feel guilty for taking a 30-minute bath or leaving the kids for an hour to go to the gym or to go swimming. We think it selfish if we spend $100 at the salon or spend a couple days in the month not constantly doing for others, but instead reading a book or watching a show.
The problem with this mentality is that when we are not taking time for ourselves and recharging, we have less and less to give to our loved ones, to our friends and at work. This mentality needs to change. The guilt needs to be removed. The stigma of “me time” needs to be vanquished.
We need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else. Three years ago, after I had my second daughter, I was so blessed to be introduced to a group of women who call themselves FOMM, for Friends of Muskoka Midwives. In addition to supporting the Muskoka Midwives Clinic and helping to raise money for them, they also created an event for the mothers called “Fill Up Your Cup”. It was there that I realized just how much subconscious guilt I personally held for leaving my girls with ANYONE, for ANY REASON. I realized that I felt shame when I didn’t get the laundry done because I was exhausted and needed to nap with my baby. I desperately missed my friends because I wouldn’t leave the girls at home to go out even for a coffee and my friends did not always want me bringing my kids with me.
I share all of this because I feel it is so very important. I listened to other women and other mothers talk about all of their struggles and “shortcomings,” none of which were in fact shortcomings. I realized that all of us were just normal women and that we cannot be superwomen all the time. The number of women at that event that advocated for each other taking a breath and “filling up their cups” was empowering and life changing.
If anything I have said has resonated, please talk about it. Talk to anyone…even a stranger. Perhaps there is another mother at the park that you could chat with or a co-worker that seems to be just as exhausted as you are. You are allowed time for yourself; you NEED time to recharge and breathe. If you are empty, you cannot assist anyone else. Even if you just set aside 10 minutes a day where, sans a life-threatening situation, nobody can disrupt you or ask anything of you, that would be a good start.
Many people suffer anxiety. Since COVID more people than ever find it stressful to complete day to day tasks. A close girlfriend of mine hums when she is in a situation that makes her feel overwhelmed. It is a subconscious coping mechanism to calm her nerves while she deals with the problem. Another 19-year old gal breaks out in hives and cold sweats when she enters a store and fears she will have to interact with a stranger. A young girl hyperventilates and feels faint when she is put in an environment that makes her feel inadequate. These are just three of countless situations that demonstrate how pervasive anxiety is in our daily lives.
When I was younger I don’t remember my friends suffering from anxiety disorders. Perhaps they did but we didn’t call it that. Nowadays, every teen group has a number of kids that have trouble with nervousness and worry, and it is common knowledge amongst their friends. Recognizing the problem is one thing; fixing it is quite another.
One way of trying to combat the issue is to employ visualization. Visualization is designed to help you imagine situations in which you become nervous and then develop and implement coping strategies for dealing with the stress generated by the situation. If you practice how you are going to cope, it makes it easier to actually do what you practiced in real life.
I have found a handful of videos helpful in this regard. A woman named Paige Pradko speaks frequently about dealing with anxiety and staying calm. Developing the ability to stay calm in life is a critical skill and Paige’s methods seem to work for some people. There is also a woman named Kristen Ulmer who talks about visualization as it relates to sports anxiety. Many athletes, even at the top levels of sport, become debilitated by anxiety and need help to overcome the feelings of inadequacy and fear.
If you can learn to harness your emotions and calm yourself when your body becomes stressed, your life will dramatically improve. It may enable my girlfriend to stop humming; the 19-year-old to enter a store without feeling nauseous; and the young girl to stay upright and breathe when she enters that intimidating environment.
Perhaps spend some time watching Paige and Kristen and give visualization a try. I would be interested to know if it helps.
Adults are generally more serious than children. We are the responsible ones who must earn a living. We raise our own little ones and support ourselves. Hence we laugh neither as often nor for as long as we used to when we were younger. We don’t take time to play. That is an obvious trend. Yet humour and playfulness definitely make life better and help keep us young. We discuss the benefits of play in this article.
We can infuse humour and playfulness into our lives as adults by resuming playing like when we were children. This takes effort but it is worth it. The play in my case is basketball. When I was in high school, I was a gym rat. I would wake up early and head to school by 7:30 am so I could play an hour of basketball with the boys before school started. Girls’ practice was after school a couple of days a week and we had a game or two as well. Some of my best friends were on the basketball team.
Tournaments were a blast. Teasing and goofing around was compulsory. I won London’s Fran Wigston Award for best high school basketball player of the year and played varsity basketball at Western. Basketball was a huge part of my life as a teenager. I have recently reintroduced it into my life in middle age and am the better for it.
Basketball back in the 1980s and 1990s was a team game. My dad worked for Ford Motor Company who had their head office in Detroit so I cheered for the Detroit Pistons with Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars and John Salley. They were the bad boys of Detroit and I loved how they played ball. I watched them win everything in 1989 and again in 1990. Their physical method of playing was impressive. The grit and toughness they showed on the court was to be emulated. They were all that for me growing up.
In contrast to Detroit, on our high school team, our method of play was entirely different. Our crew of girls would often go up by two points then roll into a four-corner stall. There were neither shot clocks nor three pointers when I first began playing high school basketball. Defense was key and driving to the net was the most common way to score. Running was mandatory and suicide drills occurred in every practice. The best conditioned team was likely to win. Coaches preached about cardiovascular fitness and defense. Needless to say, we were not as exciting to watch as the Pistons.
Basketball gave me a lot. It inspired my confidence as an athlete while providing a modest sports scholarship which coupled with an academic scholarship assisted my attending university. It improved my motor skills, coordination, conditioning, and overall fitness level while providing friendship and good times as many of my closest friends were on the team. I was attracted to fellow basketball players on the boys’ teams in town. Basketball gave me some swagger.
I stopped playing organized basketball in the early 1990s and did not pick it up again until after the birth of my fourth child in 2013. Within a few weeks of giving birth, I entered a league with much younger women and ran off my pregnancy weight for eight weeks straight. It was torture and I was glad when it ended. I figured basketball had passed me by. That view didn’t change until recently when one of my neighbours invited me to join Swish Sisters. I loved her description of the program. She explained that the women all had to be at least 35 years of age and to have given birth to at least a couple of kids to be qualified to play. It sounded like just my speed.
The first session was physically painful but emotionally enjoyable. I had forgotten how much fun women who play basketball can be. The mood is diligent in that we want to improve, but it is also highly humourous and light in the jibes back and forth with frequent guffaws and hoots. Female athletes on teams are a robust, physical, funny, loud and rambunctious bunch of women.
There is a joie de vivre that comes through as we put our older bodies through drills that our younger selves would have relished. Pushing those bodies to do things that used to come second nature feels damn good. And the muscle aches the next day remind us that we once were pretty great at the sport. What is most gratifying is the improvement that has occurred over the past six weeks since I first joined. I am better now than I was six weeks ago, and there is a glimmer of the old me from back when I wore Converse basketball shoes and big hair with a side of hops. That is a great feeling (minus the shoes and hair).
The benefits of team athletic activities for adults are significant.
The improved fitness level is a given. As you age, fitness levels inevitably decline so anything you can do to improve your ability is worth doing. Also the variety of adding a different activity is beneficial. I swim each day but basketball winds me in a completely different way. Different muscles are engaged and strengthened.
The friendships that you make. There is a sense of camaraderie. You share the suffering and the improvements. The new relationships also inspire goodness. On our team, the instructor’s daughter has just made Team Canada’s Beach Volleyball team so we are going to attend a fundraiser to help her pay her travel expenses to compete.
The teasing and laughter that abounds in that environment. There are a lot of smiles. Dashing out of emergency exit doors while squealing with laughter at the ringing alarms takes me back to my youth and the more reckless, crazy behaviours that were more common back then. Being with a group of women out to have a good time is always entertaining.
The endorphins that flow from the physical exertion stimulate the amygdala and hippocampus of your brain. That energizes you. That coupled with the continual laughter makes group play good for the soul.
The benefits of play should be significant and obvious.
Playing for a few hours a week allows us to park the more serious side of our adult nature for a little while. We come away from the 90 minute practice and scrimmage happier and more positive, ready to smile at strangers and embrace the day. Incorporating some childlike play into your day will boost your mood. These are all some of the benefits of play. I for one highly recommend it.
Other than playing shinny on a frozen pond, what is more Canadian than jumping in the lake for a summer swim? When it is warm, Canadians flock to the lakes and beaches to play in the sand and the water. Most Canadian children have happy memories of canoeing, paddle boarding, building sandcastles, swimming, and hanging out on the dock. The lake water provides energy and makes Canadians feel buoyant and alive. One of the first things most Canadian children learn to do is swim so they can fully and safely enjoy and embrace the abundance of lakes and rivers in Ontario.
As you grow older, if you want to swim year-round, you will need access to an indoor pool. I have many fond memories of swimming as a kid, and I trained as a lifeguard in my teens so have always been happy and comfortable in the water. Just in the last five years, though, have I begun to swim laps regularly…and I have never felt better.
There are five specific benefits to be derived from a daily swim.
Your Fitness Level Will Improve.
Swimming manages to satisfy the trifecta of exercise objectives: it increases your flexibility, improves your endurance, and makes you stronger. It is also ideal for any age since it is low impact and easy on the joints. Swimming regularly makes your arms far more defined and much stronger. Your legs will become toned and your belly will be tighter. Swimming elongates and stretches you so that you stand taller and feel sleeker when you are finished in the pool. Your body will look and feel leaner than before. My personal objective when I do laps is to ensure I am breathing heavily and panting when done. Others take it slower and less taxing. Still others love aquacise and how it makes their bodies feel. Any activity in the pool will increase your fitness level.
Your phone cannot come with you into the pool. Your children typically cannot come with you into the pool…same with your spouse. There is a blissful sanctuary about being in the water by yourself. The water surrounds you and you float. You can collect your thoughts and enjoy the stillness and the silence that comes from being submerged. Your mind can rest and relax. Sometimes I ponder problems when I am swimming. Other times I shut off my mind and just enjoy the physical sensations of swimming. Still others I remember books I have read or movies I have seen and re-live them in my mind. It is a wonderful time for me and such a nice break from all the distractions that are everywhere during our waking hours.
3. You Will Feel Better About Yourself:
Being in the pool every day always makes you feel better. Once you are done your workout, the endorphins are coursing through your system giving you that exercise high. Your body will smell of chlorine or salt which swimmers typically grow to love. If you are a member of a club, you can enjoy a steam room or whirlpool after your swim along with a shower and spa experience with body cream, face cream, and all manner of pampering products. Taking time for yourself will improve your self confidence and self esteem. I always feel great coming out of the club because I have exercised, my endorphins are flowing, I have cream all over my body, my lungs feel good from a steam, and I am happy. I feel healthy. It is a great feeling.
4. You Will Be More Optimistic:
The luxury of swimming every day makes you feel lucky. When you embrace the experience, you cannot help but leave the pool happier than when you entered. Your body will feel fluid and strong, and your mind will be recharged from the silence and embrace of the water. The social aspect of swimming will also uplift your spirits. Inevitably when you leave the pool you are happier and more optimistic than when you arrived. That sense of optimism bucks you up throughout the day and permits you to be more positive and encouraging. Swimming is a wonderful lift for anyone who is frustrated or stressed or depressed. The pool is a place for shedding all your anxiety and allowing the total immersion of your body and the restoration of your mind to become a balm to your spirit.
5. You Will Expand Your Social Circle:
Swimmers are creatures of habit. They typically swim at the same time each day. They wear the same suits. They use the same goggles and swim caps. They do the same routine. They follow the same pattern each time. They track time and laps. That means that once you become a swimmer, you will identify with other swimmers and will enjoy getting to know them and relating to them each day that you see them. Swimmers can be any age, but regular swimmers are generally in their 40s and above. They are often people who may have done power sports in their younger days and have turned to swimming now because of injury. There is a connection you will find with other swimmers that will forge relationships and permit you to make friends and acquaintances with your peers and elders. Those relationships will encourage you to view the pool as a social outing in addition to a place for health and exercise.
There are many places to swim in cities and towns. Usually the local YMCA permits swimming as do local community centers. Many fitness clubs have pools and they are often the least used amenity so you will sometimes have the entire Olympic sized pool to yourself. Whether salt water or chlorine or some combination thereof, the water is clean and clear.
I love to do a mile worth of laps. I like variety so I start with 40 meters of breaststroke followed by 40 meters of front crawl, then 40 meters of back stroke followed by 40 meters of back crawl. I then do side stroke and end with butterfly, 40 meters each. This takes me about six to seven minutes per cycle. Rinse, wash, repeat. I swim a mile – 1609 meters – in about 46 minutes. Other swimmers do different things. No matter what strokes you prefer, swimming will uplift you.
You may choose to swim to improve your fitness level; you may swim for sanctuary, peace of mind and quiet contemplation. Perhaps you seek to feel better about yourself and improve your self perception, or maybe you want to encourage a more positive outlook on life. Alternatively maybe you want to meet some like-minded people. Whatever your reason, swimming is so beneficial to our bodies, minds and spirits that you may want to give it a try.
If you want to send a message to your staff that shows you care, start with a robust benefits package. Getting creative with benefits attracts talent to your business, makes you stand out among competitors, and improves your bottom line. These examples (presented below by Norma Walton) can help you start thinking about innovative ways to create or improve your benefits package.
Traditional Benefits Improvements
Employees expect paid vacation days and health insurance, but you can make it more exciting. Consider offering paid personal days or extra paid vacation time. Surveys show that daycare cost is astronomical almost everywhere. ZenBusiness suggests offering supplemental daycare assistance or even building a workplace daycare.
Offering dental and vision insurance in the healthcare package is a strong improvement, but you can also actively promote healthy living. Provide nutrition education or fitness coaching programs. Move brainstorming meetings from the conference room to walking trails outside to get everyone moving. Some companies occasionally extend the lunch hour to incorporate intramurals. It promotes exercise and is great for team-building. Emphasize mental health with counseling sessions or paid days off to regroup after a long week.
Many companies have started offering experiences for employees after-hours. You can turn some benefits into fun surprises. One company allowed employees to participate in a luggage party, holding a drawing during the workday and sending the winner on a free weekend trip. Offer a vacation bonus that employees can spend on any trip they choose. Provide sabbaticals outside of the standard annual vacation days. For example, you can include a three-week, paid sabbatical under time-off benefits, and implement it after 10 years of employment and every five years following. If you want to offer a fun short break in the year, appeal to nostalgia and bring back spring break.
Find a way to contribute to everyday life after the workday. Chore help, such as weekly laundry services or cleaning crews, frees up time for your employees after work hours. If you have employees with a long commute, offer a subscription to Audible. Pay your employees to use their free time volunteering. Many companies are offering 40 hours of paid volunteer work annually. Employees can distribute it throughout the year as they please.
Your employees spend a substantial amount of time at the workplace. You can use the benefits package to change up the workday. Some companies implement a break in the day for relaxing activities, such as yoga classes. Allow for flexibility in the form of work from anywhere, not just from home. Schedule social activities, such as Wednesday morning coffee or Thursday off-site lunch together. An increasingly popular move is to reduce hours. In the tech industry, some companies are eliminating the five-day workweek and giving employees Friday off.
You can also help employees develop personally. Provide tuition assistance or funding for classes and conferences. Helping employees further their education benefits the business as well. Create a workplace library for a quiet break. Put in a bookshelf and some informational reading and encourage employees to share their favorite books.
Employee appreciation comes in a variety of forms, and it doesn’t have to stop when the workday ends. Your employees will recognize when you are invested in their productivity and well-being. In return, they will become more productive and beneficial to your company.
The fact that exercising is a must to keep you healthy is no secret. We all know how important physical activity is, yet many of us find it challenging to add more movement to our days. If you want to reduce your risk for illnesses such as cancer, obesity, chronic pain and cardiovascular disease, your best bet is to keep your weight down, enjoy a healthy diet, and keep moving. Here are 13 ways you can add more movement into your daily routine.
1. Consider Using a Standing Desk
My friend Wayne uses a standup desk and his health has improved immeasurably as a result. His back feels better, his weight is down, and he has more energy. You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. However, if your work involves mostly desk work, it can be difficult to avoid sitting. The introduction of “standing desks” has completely changed the way we look at the typical workstation. These height-adjustable desks allow you to mix up your day by choosing to stand part of the time. Even doing so in 15-minute intervals throughout the day can make a big difference to your overall health. Your goal should be to stand for half your workday whenever possible.
2. Change Positions Often
Moving while working is a good break. Any movement helps. If a standing desk isn’t an option, make constant changes in your position throughout the day. Remember, you don’t have to participate in traditional exercise to increase movement. Do stretches, get up and walk around your office, do a few squats now and then, or even change the position of your legs frequently – all of these movements add up and can make a difference in your daily stationary routine.
3. Stimulate Your Nerves
Any sort of movement that stimulates your muscles and your joints is good for you. Whether you sit or stand at work, you can stimulate your nerves to help reduce chronic pain and keep your blood circulating. Things like standing on a shiatsu mat or running your feet over a tennis ball or foot massager can stimulate your body and nerves throughout the day. That also eases constant pressure that can lead to aches and pains.
4. Take the Stairs
I always try to take the stairs. This is an easy solution to your movement challenges as you can do it whenever the opportunity arises. Instead of always opting for the escalator or elevator, you can take the stairs. If you’re too many floors up, just do a few flights, or even one to help keep you active. My dad heads up the stairs when he is in Florida…all five flights of them…and it keeps him both healthy and energetic. Even if you work from home, if you have a bathroom on another level, you can use it instead of the one on the same floor of your home office, you can get in some extra steps.
5. Use a Timer
Timers are always going off in my household to remind various members of the family that they want to do something or other. If the half-day of standing is too difficult, use a timer on your phone to remind you to stand up and move every 30 to 60 minutes. This allows you to take a physical break so you can squat, stand, stretch, and walk up and down a flight of stairs to keep moving. Ideally spent two minutes of activity when taking a break.
6. Exit a Stop Sooner, or Park Further Away
Incorporating more walking into your day is critically important. If you drive or take transit to work, consider parking further away or getting off a stop or two sooner. You can get in some extra movement when you need to walk to your door instead of ending up a few steps from the door.
7. Try Calf Raises
Whenever you think about it, lift your heels off the ground to do calf raises. You can do this either sitting or standing and do them whenever you have the chance. Waiting for a bus, standing in line at the grocery store, stuck in a meeting at work, taking the elevator – all of this “dead” time can include these easy exercises throughout the day. They don’t require any space like lunges and are far less noticeable than doing squats so that they can be done anywhere, any time.
8. Take and Make Phone Calls Standing
When I walk in the morning, I talk on the phone to friends and family. Cell phones are known as mobile phones for a reason. They allow you to take and make calls from anywhere. Rather than sitting at your desk while on the phone, walk around the office or for a long call take a half hour walk or stand until the call is complete.
9. Ask Co-workers to Join You for Walking Meetings
If you know that your co-worker is active or wants to be more active, ask them if they would mind having a meeting walking instead of sitting. Don’t let the conventions of the workplace keep you stuck inside or in meeting rooms all day. Walking meetings are far healthier and usually result in a faster meeting. This is perfect if you need one on one time but also works for smaller groups. In nice weather, you can take it outside and get some fresh air.
10. Take a Breather When Stressed
Breath is one of our most powerful tools. Taking a deep breath can calm our body down and energize us. It can remove stress. It impacts our entire body and mind. If you find you are having a particularly stressful day, use it as an excuse to take a breather. Remove yourself from your work environment — anywhere you can move around, take a break, and regain a sense of calm before returning to your day. Breathe deeply into your belly, hold it, then release it entirely so your belly is empty. Repeat. You can also do shoulder shrugs and shoulder rolls while breathing. All of this breathing will definitely decrease your stress.
11. Watch TV Standing or Stretching
If you’re binge-watching your favourite show, consider doing something physical instead of just lying on the couch. Do some stretches, walk on the spot, lift some weights, go on the treadmill, and move a bit. Whatever you can do to keep moving works. If this isn’t appealing, at least stand up during the commercials. You spare yourself having to listen to the same messages over and over again and benefit from the movement.
12. Take a Walk at Lunch
Walking outside is so beneficial in so many ways. The movement, the blood flow, the fresh air, the wonder of nature…it is all positive. Hence consider using your lunch hours or break times to go outside and take a walk. Ask a coworker to join you if you want company, or head out on your own for some solitude with nature. On the weekend, don’t break the habit. Have a morning walk or ask your kids or partner to join you on Saturday and Sunday.
13. Take Up a Sport or Activity
An organized sport or activity will permit you to exercise regularly, have fun and potentially meet new people. Think of a sport or activity you could start to avoid spending so much time on the couch. Consider swimming, dancing, tennis, playing catch, biking, frisbee, golf. You are seeking active and healthy.
The more you move, the healthier you are. Your body will feel good with the added activity and will provide you with more energy. Hope you find a few of these tips helpful and capable of being incorporated into your daily routine. The result will keep you moving to hopefully enjoy a longer, healthier and happier life.
I remember reading that Michele Obama woke up really early to ensure she fit a workout in every day. When her first daughter was four months old, that meant 4:30 am. That is a little crazy-early for me. Nonetheless, the concept appealed to me that if you fit your workout in first thing in the morning then it is done for the rest of the day.
I love a morning walk. The weather is fresh; it is quiet, still and peaceful; you get your exercise out of the way for the day; and you feel more invigorated with energy for the remainder of the day. It definitely takes extra effort to get up early to add a walk into your morning regime but for me, the benefits far outweigh that one challenge. I am now used to the early rise and like being up before the rest of my crew. I have found that my morning walk brings the following health benefits:
We’ll start here because it is the first thing you’ll notice following your walk. Exercising outdoors is an excellent way to increase your energy. The fresh air and morning quiet gives you a boost. Although I typically walk for between 30 and 60 minutes each morning, it takes just 20 minutes of brisk walking to enjoy the newfound vitality. Instead of reaching for that cup of coffee in the morning with your eyes half closed, may I suggest you instead lace up your shoes and head out to take in some fresh air and get your circulation pumping.
I tend to run happy but notice that even generally cranky people benefit from exercise. So if you live with someone who tends to wake up angry, drag him with you on your morning walk. Mood improvements are a wonderful benefit of morning walks, which can create an overall feeling of well-being. Pumping a few endorphins through your body first thing can improve your mood for the entire day. Your daily constitutional can also improve self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety, shake off fatigue, and even ease symptoms of depression. All of these positive feelings can be achieved with a 20 minute walk five mornings a week.
Get Exercise Out of the Way
If you’re like a lot of people, the thought of exercise might be a real turn off. However, a morning walk can provide enough exercise for the day. It is one of the best forms of physical activity and I find it far more pleasant than trying to work out at home or in a gym. If you find yourself trying to avoid exercise, walking feels more like a treat than the drudgery of exercising. Even a slower paced walk can do wonders for your health.. Walk at whatever pace you feel comfortable. After your walk, you will feel satisfaction in the knowledge that you’re done for the day.
Weight Loss and Avoiding Weight Gain
At my age, the objective is not to gain any more weight. A daily walk helps me maintain my weight. For some, a daily walk will not only permit you to maintain your weight but will allow you to shed a few excess pounds. Weight loss typically makes you look better, move easier, and improve overall health. A brisk morning walk lasting 30 minutes burns approximately 150 calories per walk. Walking five days a week means you are burning 750 calories a week from walking. That makes a difference…that is a pound of weight lost each month you walk.
For Your Health
Walking will improve your health. A morning walk can help you better manage your health, prevent some health problems, and make it easier to live with chronic health challenges. Because you are exercising, you are receiving an immune system boost, coursing endorphins through your body, promoting weight maintenance or weight loss, and reducing your risk for heart disease. If you suffer from diabetes, walking can also help you better manage glucose levels. There is even some research suggesting that walking daily will reduce your risk of contracting some forms of cancer and will increase your lifespan. What’s not to like?
Improve Muscle Strength
As we age, we lose muscle and gain fat. Our bodies change in ways we typically don’t appreciate. A nice brisk walk can help strengthen leg muscles. Going uphill or taking the stairs can further increase the impact of walking on your leg muscles and also increase your leg strength. Even a slight incline gets your heart and muscles pumping. A walk is a pleasant way to keep leg muscles toned. To get your arm muscles into the act, consider carrying small weights with you or bringing Nordic poles along on your walk. I often walk to the grocery store in the morning then walk home laden with groceries in my back pack and in my arms. Although sometimes I feel like a pack mule, I have no doubt it is good for me.
For me, being quiet in nature is an excellent stress buster. If you live in a neighbourhood with green space, you can clear your head by drinking in that natural beauty each morning. Even in an urban space, you can improve mental clarity with a morning walk but the more nature you can incorporate into your morning walk, the more you will benefit. As we age, our brains become foggier. A morning walk helps keep that youthful cognitive function that keeps your mind sharp. If you do creative work, a morning walk can open up your creativity and remove blocks. You can even experience improved problem-solving skills. I always find solutions to my problems come to me after a good night’s sleep and a morning walk.
A Good Night’s Sleep
When you are up early for your walk, you tend to tire earlier at night. When my head hits the pillow, it is easy for me to fall asleep. In my view, even though you are walking in the morning, that activity actually helps you sleep better at night. Also, if you suffer from mild insomnia, a morning walk is better than an evening walk because you don’t want your body moving into an energy-producing mode just before bed. Also, with a morning kick start, your metabolism will work better throughout the day. Once your morning walk is a habit, you start to create a nice cycle providing yourself with much needed energy in the morning and throughout the day with improved sleep at night, allowing you to wake ready for your next walk the next morning.
Toronto has been hot the past few days. Walking in the middle of the day would be uncomfortable. Walking in the morning allows you to take advantage of the coolest part of the day. I always drink a big glass of water before heading out for my walk, and another one upon my return. Others bring water with them.
Motion is Lotion
Three members of my household suffer from back pain. Although laying down may seem the obvious fix, they find it is actually the worst thing you can do. Staying up and staying active will help work out the back problem faster than lying prone and still. If you suffer from chronic pain of any kind, it is hard to get into the spirit of the motion-is-lotion movement. However, I believe it is true and can help you relieve your pain. You can start out with slower, shorter walks and avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. Instead, take your time and remember that every step is one towards improved health and a reduction in muscle stiffness and joint pain. Walking actually helps protect your joints, as it promotes production of lubrication while helping to strengthen joint muscles. Once again, this is very important as you age, as it can help manage issues such as arthritis. As a low-impact exercise, it is the safest way to avoid increasing pain, and instead helps reduce swelling and stiffness.
I still think Michelle Obama is a little crazy being up that early. But I agree wholeheartedly with her opinion that morning is the best time to exercise. Hopefully the above benefits have encouraged you to give a morning walk a try if you don’t already enjoy one. If so, then lace it up, take it slow to start, and always stay hydrated.
Life is loud. The humming of your computer; the dinging of your smartphone; your air conditioner kicking in; traffic on the highway; laundry spinning; the dishwasher cleaning…all of these sounds take a toll. It is difficult in the midst of modern living to find peace and quiet…true live-in-the-country, watch-the-stars quiet.
I am blessed with four healthy children aged 8 to 15; an additional teenager bunking with us during the pandemic; a 94-year old mother-in-law; and a husband of 30 years. All of these creatures are loud more often than not. All of them are loving about being noisy most of the time and our house is generally a raucous, rambunctious, happy place. But it is rarely quiet.
I have read a few articles and talked with a few people who recommend meditation for at least 25 minutes a day to calm the mind and promote health and longevity. Although a laudable concept, meditation is not for me at this point in my life. Yet I need daily moments of stillness…of peace…of quiet. Hence determining how to find peaceful intervals during the day is important. I have made a few such breaks part of my daily routine. What follows are six steps that help me find peace and quiet in the midst of the chaos that is our modern society and daily lives.
1. Walking the dogs: We have two Yorkshire Terriers. They sleep with my children but the moment I wake up, they start to snuffle and whine and move around because I walk them each morning and each evening. I have found that the 20 minutes I spend walking the two dogs twice a day is a time of immense peace and happiness for me. Other dog walkers are generally friendly but most of the time I am alone with my puppies and my thoughts. It is an ideal time to bask in the quiet while also marveling at the natural beauty all around. Walking the dogs is a time of quiet reflection for me.
2. My daily walk: After walking the puppies, I walk myself. Rain or shine, I am typically out for a morning walk of between half an hour and an hour in duration. Although I enjoy calling and catching up with my folks or my friends during my morning walk, half of the time I walk in silence just thinking, looking around, greeting other walkers, and being present. That is a good time for me. I always come back from my walk refreshed and feeling much better.
3. Stretching in the shower: I love a hot shower and after I shower, I always stretch for at least a few minutes. The air is warm and full of moisture and I inhale deeply while stretching with the water beating down on my back. It is peaceful and my body appreciates being limber for the day because of the calisthenics.
4. Reading a good book: I have always loved to read. My first part-time job was at the Byron Public Library where I would bring home loads of books every day after work. Still decades later when I want to relax, I tuck into my chair with a good book and can read for literally hours at a time. Jeffrey Archer is a favourite author along with John Grisham, but anything that engages me will do. Reading a good book always makes me feel relaxed and happy, as does going to the library to find my next one.
5. Journaling: I keep a current journal with photos, pictures, words, poems, quotes, ideas, financial plans, business ideas, goals, items from the kids…anything that I find meaningful. Spending time writing in my journal or cutting out a photo or picture that speaks to me and taping it in is satisfying. I like the feel of the thick paper in my hands as I dream and create. That activity makes me feel good and at peace.
6. Hugging loved ones: The moment of a hug is a peaceful, happy point in time. We sometimes forget to slow down and hug our children, our parents, or our spouse. Life is rushed and hurried and often stressful so we race around oblivious to the power of touch. When we do take a moment to put our arms around someone we love, time slows down or stops. That point of touch allows us to take a deep breath in and out to remember the value of the people around us whom we love. When we take the time to show them we appreciate them, life always becomes a little bit better.
Daily life is hectic. Modern society values speed. Rushing around has become the norm. We are rarely without our phones. It is no wonder, then, that many people are anxious and unhappy. Being stressed on a regular basis is not healthy. In contrast, being able to find peace, stillness and relaxation in the midst of your day keeps you grounded. Your mental health improves with every touch, with every deep breath, with every positive thought. It doesn’t require hours of your time but merely minutes to change your mood. Yet taking those minutes is crucial to enjoying your life.
The key for me has been incorporating the above six steps into my daily routine. Once something is a habit, there is no need to motivate yourself to do it. You just do it. The above examples are mine and reflect what I find provides stillness and peace in my life. You may have different activities that make you feel happy each day. The key is being aware that you need some quiet in your daily life then determining the activities that provide you with that time. The objective is to find your own activities that bring you contentment and then incorporate them into your daily life and daily routine. Life is still loud. I don’t live in the country and the lights of the city make the stars hard to see. But the six activities above have permitted me to find stillness and contentment in the midst of all the noise. I am much happier for it.