Cooped up? Feeling stir crazy? Licking the wallpaper? Kids driving you nuts?
We’re guessing you’re exhausted from looking after everyone else so we thought we’d come at this article from a different angle. The absolute bedrock of human flourishing is that you must take care of yourself.
Why? Because when you feel amazing, you will radiate happiness and wellbeing to your nearest and dearest.
The three physical keys to being fully charged are eat, move and sleep. They’re what Andy and I call ‘keystone habits’. Get those right and everything else becomes a whole lot easier.
That’s eat, move and sleep. Not one or two. All three!
Because you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. And eating salad doesn’t compensate for bad sleep habits.
Let’s remind you of a whole load of stuff that you already know. But, ahem, knowing and doing are not the same thing…
Humans are hunter gatherers. The world has moved on faster than we have, so nowadays we hunt and gather in the supermarket rather than on the savannah, but our bodies are built to move. I promise you, your body wants to be fit. If ‘exercise’ came in pill form, it would provide the biggest boost to wellbeing and mental health ever invented. The benefits of enhanced energy, mojo and mental health would change entire communities.
Your body is crying out to be exercised. So exercise it! We’re not asking you to be stupid about it, but treat your bod to a brisk 30 minute walk every day or maybe some yoga or Pilates. And when someone opens the lockdown door, treat your body to a park run, 10k, half marathon, Zumba, ballroom, weekly swim or game of badminton on a Wednesday night. The physical you will love you for it and it has the added bonus of making the emotional you much more resilient.
Commit, not just for a week, but for life.
Yes, we know that ‘for life’ sounds like a long time so here’s a super-smart life hack. Sometimes, in order to secure long lasting permanent change, you have to change your identity. No, not literally. You don’t have to march into the passport office and apply to be Esmerelda Hartington-Smythe IV (whoever the heck she is), but you do have to switch your thinking and decide to be a different version of you.
It’s subtle, but oh so powerful.
For example, instead of thinking of yourself as ‘someone who’s always on a diet’, you switch identity to ‘someone who makes good choices about food’. Become that person and you’ll never have to diet again.
Similarly, changing your identity away from ‘I’m someone who hates exercise’ to ‘I’m someone who looks after my physical health’ will reap massive long term results.
Please note, this is about a million times more powerful than it sounds when you read if off the page. Here’s the bare-knuckled truth: if you look around you’ll notice some people have yo-yo dieted for their entire adult life. They have tried everything from shakes, to kale, to slimmer’s world, to oily fish, to dust, to low carbs, to high carbs, and back again. Everything, that is, except the only thing that actually works which is to become the kind of person who makes good choices about food and exercise.
That’s a big tick in the physical wellbeing box, so now to your mental health.
Why not indulge in the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ (pronounced ‘hoo-ga’). It hasn’t got a direct English translation. The best we can give you is ‘cosy’ or ‘cuddly’ or ‘enveloped in snuggliness’. The best thing about hygge is that it’s experienced in the moment. It forces you to sloooooow down and absorb the wonder of ‘right now’. Notice the blossom, the bumble bees, the dewy grass, the cosy fire, the hot chocolate, the soup and crusty bread, the drizzle making patterns on your window…
The modern world is very good at making us impatient with this moment because there’s a better moment, somewhere in the future. We end up rushing through life in a relentless pursuit of happiness whereas hygge allows you to fall in love with THIS moment. The truth is that your entire life is lived in the present moment, so falling in love with NOW means you’ve fallen in love with life itself.
Once again, that’s a much bigger point when you live it rather than read it.
If we knit it all together you get the biggest parenting point of all. The absolute truth is that your children won’t do what you say. But they will do what you do. Whether good or bad, YOU are their role model. That’s how parenting works.
Eat. Move. Sleep. Hygge.
If they see you engaging in good physical and mental habits, you are setting them up for life.