We’ve been in Wales this week and I thought it a perfect time to write about why being by the coast is seen by so many people as a healing place to be. I have to admit that I’m not a natural lover of the seaside, I don’t like crowds and I think it smells a bit, well, seaweedy! But in the name of research I’ve been putting my preconceptions aside and taking some time to really appreciate the unique qualities of the coast.
Luckily for me, the beaches and shorelines were very quiet when we visited the West coast of Wales. The sea was glistening and the air was clean and fresh.
One day was really breezy and the sea was foaming as the waves broke on the shore. Hardly anyone was about and I could really feel the sense of space. Being able to look at the horizon with nothing interrupting the view is a really special thing – it makes the mind clear and focussed.
This is where I could see the difference between my favoured outdoorsy space which is woodland, and the coast. Out in the woods, the benefit comes from becoming still, focussing on small things such as lichen on a branch, or a bird or insect, listening hard in the quiet for tiny sounds. Your mind naturally quietens and stills, and you can become very relaxed, peaceful, and calm.
Conversely, I found a different effect by the sea. The sheer expanse makes the mind open up, the breeze makes you alert and fresh. Rather than feeling relaxed I felt refreshed and invigorated. The empty horizon gives the mind the chance to expand and gives a little perspective to anything we are perhaps dwelling on or working out.
The power of the sea is used in many cultures and traditions to help people harness power for themselves, making affirmations and bringing power to intentions. The element of wind has long been known to symbolise strength, and tuning in with this can help fortify us internally. The fresh sea air also helps us sleep well and we tend to exercise more by the sea which makes us feel healthier.
I find it fascinating that there is a whole world of creatures living in the sea which we know very little about in reality. This also helps us put ourselves and our own problems into a better perspective, remembering we are only one among many, many others.
If you can get to the coast, let it work its magic on you! I’m definitely a fan of going out of season, the beaches are nice and quiet, and dog friendly! Ok, there was no chance of taking my jumper off let alone getting into a swimming costume but I’d much rather have the peace and quiet outside of peak times.
So, take a flask, snacks, and a blanket and enjoy the wild and beautiful coast this year if you can!
April is Stress Awareness Month and so here at the Harmonious Hub, we are going to be looking at the benefits of nature for stress relief, this week starting with woodland.
Do you have a woodland near you? If not a full woodland, you might have a copse or a little grove. At a public park near me, there is an area at the back reserved for trees and wildlife, a little haven away from the football pitch and tennis courts. You may have something similar nearby where you live too.
‘Shinrin-yoko’ is a Japanese term which means “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”. Regardless of the fact that it is a very trendy term at the moment, it’s a really meaningful practice, probably one that we already know without putting a name to it. Forest Bathing can be anything from twenty minutes to two hours of relaxing in a Forest environment and more and more people are becoming fans. You can join an organised group or just do it on your own, taking time to become mindful in nature.
Can you remember the last time you truly immersed yourself in nature? We know it feels good, but did you know there are very real benefits to our mental and physical health? And there are lesser-known benefits socially, culturally, and economically too. Read on to find out more…
Exercising in woodland provides an opportunity to exercise in a calm and restful environment. I much prefer the idea of exercising outdoors than in a gym, ok unless the weather is really dire! Exercising in nature has been shown to reduce physical symptoms such as high blood pressure and obesity, as well as mental symptoms of stress and depression. The setting makes all the difference. Walking in nature has been proven to help keep blood pressure down compared to using an indoor gym or walking through busy streets in a town. Not forgetting the vitamin D we get from sunshine, giving our immune system a boost.
This doesn’t mean we have to do a full workout in the forest. Walking and cycling are great and also help to manage the local habitat with schemes such as the ones provided by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers such as tree planting or clearing footpaths and has the dualbenefit of helping us keep fit but also taking care of the woodland.
Walking outside has extra benefits because the body has to exert extra energy adjusting to the outside temperature and so this means we feel more tired afterward, and often sleep better as a result.
The benefits of woodland spaces are so important that there is an NHS Forest project (see nhsforest.org) which works to add gardens, woodlands, orchards and meadows to the green space at healthcare sites. According to their website they have planted an incredible 73,999 trees on or near NHS healthcare sites since 2009, and 4,474 trees in the 2020/21 season! You can even sponsor your own NHS Forest tree.
Immersing ourselves in nature has a huge benefit for our mental health. There is something magical about connecting with the natural world, we can really feel its healing properties. Finding a “sit spot” is great, taking time to find a place to sit which “calls” to you, then just sitting and becoming aware of your surroundings. Being out in woodland has so many mental health benefits that some charities which work with veterans experiencing PTSD choose to hold sessions outside in woodland areas.
Being outdoors has so many advantages, the natural light during the day stimulates the production of melatonin when the sun goes down, helping us sleep better, we get fresh air and become more in touch with the seasons. For women, especially at times in our lives such as the perimenopause and menopause, making that connection with the seasons and changes in nature can help us feel more grounded.
From picnics to festivals being outdoors among the woodlands in a group feels great. Woodlands provide a natural play area for children and they are a great place to unwind and disconnect from tech.
Walking through woodland helps us feel calm, almost meditative, if we are worrying or dwelling on something we can get some clarity and space in our minds. The trees form a protective canopy and shelter us from rain and heat.
Research shows that walking in green space can put us into a meditative state. It makes us calm and reflective and helps us pay more attention to our surroundings. In this state, our creativity can flourish, perfect for problem-solving or finding a fresh perspective.
If you are in need of some creative inspiration then the woods may be just what you need, the trees, plants and animals, sounds, and scents are wonderful for getting those creative juices going!
Some tips for getting the most out of your time in the woodland:
Make sure you have clothes that are warm enough to allow you to sit for some time without getting cold
Try to minimise time on the phone, just ‘be’ in nature
Take pens/paper in case you feel inspired to draw or write
Or allow yourself to enjoy doing nothing – easier said than done!
Connect with the animals and insects you see and hear
Find ‘your’ tree, one which you feel a connection with
Try to revisit the same spot as the seasons change and really become aware of the way the woodland responds.
Always ‘leave no trace’.
So, what are you waiting for?! At the Harmonious Hub shop, we have some fabulous eco-friendly travel cups and bamboo picnic ware so you can pick up some gorgeous things to take out with you to your local woodlands.
Do you ever feel you are in a creative rut? If so, there is a surprising, and enjoyable, antidote: play!
To be able to engage in something purely for enjoyment, with no pressure to achieve a goal, and no pressure to be ‘good at it’ actually allows you to access your free-spirited, creative side which can feel hindered in a work environment with deadlines and external pressures.
It’s unusual for adults to just play without an ‘agenda’ such as learning a skill, entertaining children and so on, but just playing can be very empowering.
Thinking of trying it and not sure where to start? Just be guided by what takes your fancy, maybe painting, colouring, pottery, kicking a ball about, crosswords, storytelling…. the list is endless!
The most important thing is not to put any pressure on yourself to be ‘good’, just enjoy it, allow yourself to release endorphins and de-stress. You will see the results in your own wellbeing and your creative skills when you return to your work.
It is all very well having systems in place to help you be more productive, but what happens when you are not able to follow them? Mental health and productivity are intrinsically linked …
Mental health affects us all. We all have a brain and inside that sits our mind, and it can go wrong occasionally. Whether that is depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder there are many mental health issues that can affect any of us at any time.
“When they occur, our productivity can take a dive!”
So how do we deal with it? First and foremost, self-care is key. If you need to go to a doctor to get medication to help you through the issues, then go. If you need a break from work, then take one. If you need time away, then do it. If you need to spend time with family and friends, then organise it.
Secondly, if you can delegate or delay any work then do so. It helps if you have people around you to do that. For those of us who are self-employed that can be more difficult. However, you can hire virtual assistants, call handlers, and associates to take the workload off you while you take time to recover.
Take time to learn some positive coping mechanisms:
Talking therapy – very useful to help learn key skills and deal with any issues that could be contributing towards the mental health issue
Meditation – helped people for centuries to de-stress, which helps improve mental health
Exercise – great for lifting the mood and making us healthier in general
Socialising – when we have mental health issues it is tempting to hide away. Friends and family can really help or other social groups such as specialist mental health groups
Although mental health can affect your productivity, it doesn’t have to stop it in its tracks. Implementing one or all of the four points above, in little steps, could make a real difference and start you back on the road to what you consider to be normal productivity levels for you.
“Would you like to know more?”
If you’d like to find out more about mental health and productivity then do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call on 0116 442649 and let’s see how I can help you.
When I was at University I really, really wanted an allotment. I put my name down on the council waiting list where it remained for the full three years I was studying there. In the end I finished my course and moved away to take a job before I got to the top of the list! In hindsight this was probably just as well, as I now have a small allotment and I realise that I probably wouldn’t have put the work in that an allotment needs when I was a student – I was far too busy with my social life.
Now my allotment itself is a fair chunk of my social life, I go there and see my neighbouring plot holders and there are plenty of events organised through the year. However the main benefit for me is physical, I don’t have the motivation to exercise for the sake of getting fit, but I love it that keeping the allotment tidy, planting and harvesting not only provides us with some food but also gives me a good cardiovascular workout, keeps me supple and gets me out in the fresh air with all the benefits that brings. Bring on the summer!
What is body Image? In short, this is how we view our body, the opinion we have about our body. I’m quite fortunate, I think, that I have not struggled with having a negative body image, because I have a beach-ready Instagram perfect body!
My general contentment with the way my body looks simply comes from the fact that I don’t really care about the pressure to look a certain way. I do not look like an Instagram model and I am fine with that. Instagram models don’t always look like Instagram models themselves! As long as my body functions well and does what I need it to do, I’m more than happy. I feel very much the same way about my car. I refuse to give any worth or energy to anybody, or any source, which tells me I need to look a certain way to be happy or attractive. In fact, I might argue that the happiest people I know are also the most attractive, and it’s nothing to do with how they look, it’s because the attractiveness is coming from their lovely disposition, it’s not coming from the features of their body.
I do know it’s hard to push against this social conditioning of aspiring to look a certain way, but it’s a road that never leads to fulfillment or contentment, the only way to be happy with the way you look is to just be who you are, accept who you are and do things which make you happy. Not because other people say you should do them or that you should look a certain way. Any social media or adverts which push you towards being dissatisfied with your body are not worth giving any of your precious time and energy to.
The tide is beginning to turn, I think, as people are starting to be more real on social media (#nofilters) and mainstream TV shows like Loose Women are running campaigns for body positivity. We have a way to go but let’s celebrate uniqueness and insist every body is perfect, not just the ones the media tells us are. Why not?
One thing that gives me hope for the next generation is Turn Beauty Inside Out Day. It’s an attempt to expand our definition of what makes people beautiful and to support a healthy body image. This redefinition of beauty is based on good works, great hearts, and activism and children are encouraged to write and create depictions of their own positive images of inner beauty.
I’ll leave you with this link where you can read some winning essays by young girls aged 11-13 from last year’s Turn Beauty Inside Out Day. They make me smile and give me hope for the future.
Being in nature is naturally positive, it creates space in the mind and has many physical benefits as well.
Many people found that getting out into nature helped them hugely during the lockdown periods, tending gardens, growing veg. Lots of people discovered that they had time to really connect with nature, perhaps for the first time in many years. This gave them a sense of space and perspective.
Some people also took on personal projects to care for a green space, a garden or area, and as a result saw a corresponding improvement in their mental wellbeing. During the pandemic we have been very aware of our impact as humans on the natural world, and so by caring for nature on a personal level it feels like a way to give back rather than take, and to reconnect or start to make some amends.
Taking care of our natural world and the beings we share it with gives us something positive to do and something to care for. Especially at a time when our freedoms have been restricted, when we could not see or spend time with the people we would like to, the energy and desire to nurture and commune needs to be expressed somewhere to avoid feeling sad, lonely, or angry.
Today is actually Love A Tree day, and so to mark that here is a personal account from my very dear Mum who lives many miles away from me down in Devon. She writes about how taking care of a struggling sapling that she found in her local park has helped her to keep positive during the lonely months of the lockdown.
The Lockdown Tree
I call it The Lockdown Tree because I got to know it during the first Lockdown. It helped me survive the isolation from family and friends. It needed help and I could help it – and so we helped each other.
It had been planted by volunteers at the edge of a row of nut trees but unlike its peers, it was neglected and almost overwhelmed by creepers, nettles, and brambles. But it was determined and had managed to push a branch out with a few leaves visible.
Walking for exercise one day I noticed it, and realised I could help. So the next months – armed with scissors and gloves – were spent clearing all around the little tree and pulling up the nettles that separated it from its nearest neighbour tree.
It grew and grew and then one day I saw a bird resting on one of its branches. Wonderful. It gave me hope.
So to the end of the story so far. Two days ago (14months from the start of of the lockdowns) I went to visit the tree and saw that the man who cuts the grass in the park had carefully cut the grass all around the thickening trunk and between it and its neighbour! It belonged at last. It was happy, I could tell.
I will continue to walk there and talk to the tree as I did all those bleak months. I say Thank You to the tree.
As we head into 2021, are you hoping for a bit more balance in your life?
Collectively, we might find we get more balance as things eventually return to some sort of normal – but what about a more personal equilibrium? It’s that feeling of calmness and being grounded which comes naturally when we feel we have a balance in our lives. So where does it come from and how can we get it?
We talk about balance a lot, particularly with respect to our diet and fitness and especially at the start of a New Year. This is just one aspect of a holistic balance that we need to be happy and healthy.
Looking more closely, balance is when we feel that all the aspects of our life are satisfied and we are not being pulled too much in any one direction. It is interesting that sometimes what we think we need to create balance is not what we actually need. How many people craved more time only to find that when it was imposed on them in lockdown it did not bring the fulfilment they had hoped? In order to be fully balanced, we need the many unique facets of our lives to be acknowledged and nurtured, both externally and internally. This means giving time to each facet of our lives and not letting one overtake the other. The balance will be different for each of us and what works for you won’t be the same as what works for me. It’s an individual journey.
So where do we start?
Firstly, how do we know if our life is unbalanced? It may be that from the perspective of someone else, we have too much alone time or too much work, but for us it is ideal. I know that I need a little time alone for reflection each week, and if that doesn’t happen I really notice the difference to my feeling of balance. For some of my friends, it’s important to make time to chat, have time at the gym, to walk, to meditate or read. The key is to look closely and honestly at ourselves and acknowledge if we feel uncomfortable about any aspect of our lives – work, family, friends, hobbies and so on. If we feel uncomfortable or pressured about work, for example, it may be that we don’t have the balance we need there. Likewise, we may feel like we do not get time to make plans for our dreams and wishes.
A good technique is to think about what we deeply yearn for and consider if introducing this purposefully, even just as an aspiration for the future, will bring some balance into our lives. We may not be in a position to achieve our wish right now, but planning and contemplating it will help bridge that gap and help it materialise in the future.
It’s helpful to make a list of the important and key areas of your life and score them 1 to 10, if an area feels balanced it should get a 5. If you are yearning for more it should score 1 to 4 and if you feel you have too much, score 6 to 10. The next step is to see if any of the things that are out of kilter are temporary, perhaps due to lockdown, or can be fixed by a few tweaks to your daily life. It could be as simple as making sure you take fifteen minutes a day to read an inspirational book rather than read the news – again! Review your scores once a month for three months and see the difference.
Of course, it’s not always possible to change our circumstances, we have financial and family responsibilities we can’t just drop. The answer is to check if the area of our life that is out of balance is external or internal. If it is external and we cannot change it, then we need to work harder on our internal state, ie. our state of mind. Put simply, by nurturing our inner selves we can bring the scales back into balance even if we can’t adapt our external situations. If our job feels too pressured and busy, using the free time we do have in a really meaningful way brings our lives back into equilibrium: perhaps unplugging, having quiet time, breathing meditation, walking meditation, long baths, whatever works for you.
Conversely, if you feel there is something lacking from your external life, for example feeling a bit lost or bored outside of work, focus on bringing another aspect into your life. This may be a new hobby or learning a skill, meditating or joining a new class. Again, see what lifts your mind and brings the balance. Use the fabulous Harmonious Hub shop and blogs for ideas and products which inspire.
The key is to remember that feeling balanced is just that – a feeling. Be empowered to know that you can create a balanced feeling even if some aspects of your life cannot be changed. Be aware and honest about the many facets in your life, adapt and change what you can and counterbalance what you can’t change.
It’s a brilliant skill to have, and one which helps me work with whatever life throws at me. What do you already do for a sense of balance, or do you want to cultivate it more in 2021? Let me know in the comments and remember to sign up for more harmonious moments in 2021 below with our blog:
1) There is a disconnect between what you feel and what you see
There are none of the usual social cues that allow you to relax into the conversation. On video you can feel the presence of another person, but you can’t see them properly. There’s a meeting of your ideas and thoughts to satisfy the mind, but your body knows it’s alone.
With so much of our communication being non-verbal, knowing you can see the person, your brain expects to be able to read those signals. But in fact, it can’t.
The frustrations of technical freezes and delays aside, with video chat, you’re unable to see the subtle hand and face movements that indicate interest – or disinterest! And you’re aware that they can’t read yours either, so you sit there nodding incessantly like some dog sat at the back of a Skoda – just to make sure everyone knows you’re happy and attentive.
When someone looks away it’s impossible to tell if they’re listening, thinking, or reading an email. It’s exhausting trying to concentrate on what you’re saying while pretending you’re not trying to figure them out.
You speak while looking at so many mini screens within a screen, and you can’t catch the expressions on others’ faces, or hear the inhalation of breath that lets you know when someone else has something to say. In fact, collaboration has gone altogether.
There are no brief whispered parallel conversations going on as you might get in a face-to-face meeting. There is no real eye contact. No sparks of energy as two people suddenly come to the same realisation. Basically, it’s a conversation, but not as we know it. So, no wonder our brains are tired.
2) You can’t stop looking at yourself and the way you move
As if trying to read the nuance of another isn’t enough to give you Zoom fatigue, you can see yourself on camera.
‘Can they tell I’m looking at myself?’
‘If I look at them now, will they know I wasn’t before?’
‘Do I really have such a scrawny neck – what if I turn to this side, or stretch my chin forward?’
‘Do I really pull that face when I’m concentrating?’
Your discussion with your inner voice is distracting at best and headache-provoking at worst. But it’s just as tiring to ignore.
3) Technical interruptions often extend the length of the meeting
Back in the real world it was frustrating enough to have key people arrive a few minutes late, or to find yourself over-running. Thanks to video meetings you’re not sure if they’re going to drop out of the conversation mid-sentence.
Will they return?
Suddenly, you find yourself moved to a different platform in the same meeting, trying to surreptitiously write an email postponing your next call while pretending you are in fact merely listening intently. You thought you’d left plenty of time in between.
You never leave enough time.
The meeting is now three times the length it should have been. And you’re not even sure whether you’ve achieved anything.
Do everyone a favour – especially yourself. Ensure your meetings are necessary. Could you achieve as much by email or phone, where your brain can focus on one sensory input?
4) It’s a headache to find the right backdrop to your video call
You don’t need to be a chemist to notice the ever-increasing eyedrops on our high streets. Blepharitis is a thing. A dry eye condition, to be more specific. If you get pain between your eyes or at one or other eye socket, reach for the eye drops. Then book an appointment with an optometrist.
Remember those days when you got a break from screens while commuting, chatting at the coffee machine about your weekend indiscretions, or in face-to-face team meetings? Me neither.
But the more time you have on screens the more you have to care for your own well-being, or you’ll burn out.
6) Available all day? You’ll need to be extra cautious about your work/life balance
As a meditation instructor, I understand the importance of taking time out every day to care for my brain. Meditation exercises the brain the same way that push-ups do the body.
It doesn’t mean I’m always on point with my work/life balance, though. As a business owner, it’s easy to find yourself working every day.
As an employee, it’s just as easy to find your private time being eaten into by a micro-managing boss and their video surveillance. Or by meetings being organised during evenings or weekends…
‘Why not? You have access to your laptop all day.’
Yep – that’s the time to create some boundaries for your own sanity.
In summary: how to avoid Zoom fatigue
Give your brain a break. Of course it’s tired. There is dissonance between what it sees, feels and knows.
If a video call is really necessary, consider turning your mike or camera off at intervals.
If you do have to look at yourself, be kind. You’re not turning into your nanna. And who cares if you are? I’m sure she’s pretty awesome!
Don’t forget to take care of your body and your eyes. It’s hard being at a screen all day. Seek professional advice with regard to posture, exercises and the health of your eyes.
Lastly, it’s hard to separate work from play if you do both things in the same place. So, try to change that. And then block off times, and even days in your diary, for things you need to do for you – then fill in work around that.
A harmonious is mind is where it all begins. Everything arises from our mind. We imagine we want something and we go out to get it or do it. We do this every day. From cooking our dinner to buying clothes and choosing who to spend time with.
Obviously, we do not always get what we imagine. We may imagine we find a million pounds in our bank account, but it does not materialise. No surprise I hear you say! If we want a million pounds in our bank account we have to decide how we are going to do it and put a plan into action. That could be starting a new business, setting up a savings account or robbing a bank! Whichever route we choose, it comes from our mind.
So, why do we want a harmonious mind? Well, a harmonious mind is a happy mind. I’m sure you all know from your own experience that having an angry mind, or one that is jealous or annoyed is not a positive place to be in for you, or whomever you take those minds out on. When we have a happy mind, we feel in harmony with our body, our relations and our world.
I don’t mean over the top excited I’ve won the lottery type of happy mind by the way. I mean happy as in peaceful and content. Over excitement can be just as unharmonious. I’m sure anyone who has been to a kids party can testify. Eventually, the over-excitement turns into tiredness and tears.
Here at the harmonious hub, we want to help you increase the likelihood of you having a harmonious mind. Through informational and motivational blogs, goodies to help calm and soothe you, alongside practical tips from well-being practitioners, we have you covered on your journey towards a harmonious mind.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies.