The stories we are told have an effect

Story book


I’m in the minority of people my age, I don’t have any kids. I’ve never had to rear them, house train them or release them into the wild (but in case you didn't notice, I have had a fair amount of experience with animals…)

Despite this lack of experience with kids, I do know that the things they are told and the stories they hear play a big part on their development. I know it’s wrong to keep saying to them, things like:

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The Stages of Learning

4 stages of learning

The Stages of Learning is a model we talked about in Why Awareness is Essential for Your Wellbeing. It is a simple and effective model/theory explaining the different stages of learning experienced when approaching any new skill or technique. It applies to all learning and growth, from trying something completely new, to changing a habit, such as a new healthy eating regime.

Let’s look at this in a bit more detail so you can add it to your toolkit to help you when facing a new challenge.

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Why Greater Awareness is Essential for Your Wellbeing

Ice berg with the tip showing representing conscious mind and the mass under the water line representing subconscious mind
Awareness require effort to become conscious thought

Looking after your physical and mental health and wellbeing requires constant attention. There are many factors that impact your wellbeing which fluctuates in response to your life circumstances and experiences.  In the Eat, Move, Be Happy Mental Health series, we explore the link between our physical and mental health more, introducing self-awareness as an important tool in helping you develop good health and wellbeing practise. See How Healthy are You? and How can we fight the stigma of mental illness?  In Eat Better we also talk about the essential role of regular debrief time in helping you develop healthier eating habits.

When something is worth valuing, it also requires effort and energy to build and maintain. For example, people accept that relationships, be they with a partner, friendships or colleagues, need attention to be at their best.  When learning something new or developing a skill, you expect to spend time to understand the theory and knowledge required and then to practise the steps in how to apply the knowledge or skill in the right way. You are prepared for this to take time, with some repetition, mistakes and for this not to go without a hitch or two along the way. No-one expects to be able to jump behind the wheel of a car for the first time and be an expert driver.

Maintaining optimum health and wellbeing is no different. It doesn’t happen by magic and requires energy and effort to understand your personal complexities and nuances that help you be the best you can be. You know yourself better than other people do.

This module looks at ways you can help yourself develop greater awareness of your health and wellbeing and channel your energy and effort more effectively.

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Is the Water Getting Too Hot to Jump Out?

cartoon frog leaping away from a pot of boiling water

I came across a story several years ago that I refer to frequently, including once in an interview. The boiling frog phenomenon describes how, if a frog is placed in a pot of boiling water it will immediately jump out, the water is too hot. However if a frog is placed in a pot of cool water and a low heat applied, the immediate surrounding is comfortable so the frog stays in the water.  Eventually the water heats up and gets too hot for the frog to jump out.  

I know that is a pretty grim analogy, however how often have you found yourself in a situation where you suddenly feel totally overwhelmed, helpless and maybe even hopeless? When you find yourself in this place, not only do you not know what to do for the best, but often you do not have the energy to do it. 

It is likely that your feeling of being overwhelmed increased gradually, much like the temperature of the water for the frog.  By the time you recognised the potential impact of the situation on your stress levels, it was too late to avoid that feeling of lack of control and hopelessness. Not a good place to be and a sign of chronic stress, or a long-lasting exposure to stressful triggers. 

Not all stress is bad for us. Some stress can be motivational, for example physical training is a way of putting your body under acute stress to challenge it to improve in either fitness or strength. Acute stress responses are also the body’s way for humans and mammals to prepare for fight or flight, an evolutionary survival trait. 

The trick is to be able to pay attention to the temperature of the water isn’t it? At Eat, Move, Be Happy we also think it is about paying attention to what is causing the water to heat up in the first place and having ways of cooling the water down, or of jumping out, before it gets too hot to handle.   

This article looks at ways you can improve awareness of your stress levels and what triggers an increase in stress for you. It also explores why some people appear to be able to cope better than others with more stress and ways you can be more effective at maintaining more acceptable stress levels more of the time. 

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The Myth about Willpower

What is Willpower?

hand reaching for a fairy cake

At Eat, Move, Be Happy we regularly have conversations with people about the habits they want to change and how, for all sorts of reasons, they think they can’t. Typically these habits are about healthy eating and exercise. And what we hear are comments like:

‘I can’t resist the cake/chocolate/crisps, I haven’t got the willpower.’

‘I am too tired to exercise today. I will try harder tomorrow.’

‘I haven’t got the willpower to resist all the things that are bad for me, so what is the point in trying?’

They think about willpower as something you either have or you don’t.  And people who have it are better in some way, than those who don’t. Using this logic, people who can resist a slice of cake or get out of bed half an hour earlier to run in the morning are somehow seen as being better than people who eat cake or stay in bed and snooze. 

And that is ridiculous, right?  That seems to seperate us out into “have” and “have nots”, or “elite” and “lower” classes and by implication, we are destined to stagnate with no potential to improve or choose not to eat the cake. 

So I started wondering about this mystical willpower that seems powerful enough to influence people’s belief in their ability to make decisions and shift habits to more healthy eating and to exercise more consistently. 

I thought answering the question, what is willpower? was a simple enough place to start an exploration of willpower. Why do some people seem, on the face of it, to have more willpower to resist temptation and stick to their intentions than others? I wondered if this was actually true and, if so, where people who have more willpower get their supply?

However, it turns out the answer to the question ‘what is willpower?’ is not so simple. Understanding this is tricky. There are many variations in the definition of willpower and how people think about it. Even dictionary definitions vary and this in itself creates confusion. 

Rather than beating ourselves up because we ate the cake, is there a different way? And what part does willpower play?

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What do you want to be different and why

"What do you want?

Why?"

These are 2 of my favourite questions to ask.  I’m always amazed by what I can learn by digging into the answers a bit.

Eat, Move, Be Happy is all about helping people be and feel healthier, fitter, happier.  Sometimes, to achieve this, we decide we need to change something in our lives.  We think, “If only something were different, we would be happy”.

But there is more to this than you think...

Before we can hope to make changes and be happier, we need to know the answers to the above questions.  And that is where the story starts…

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It’s Ok to be Selfish…

Self-care is commonly referred to in relation to looking after mental health and wellbeing and is often mis-understood. I have heard it described as being indulgent or selfish, putting personal needs above those of others and as a practise for people who want to spend time alone.

Broadly speaking, self-care is about looking after yourself and it seems like common sense and pretty straight forward doesn't it? 

Human behaviour tells us time and time again that common sense is not so common. There are many examples of seemingly obvious choices that would benefit our health and wellbeing, for example eating less junk food, exercising more frequently and yet we don’t do it. We have looked at why this happens in What is Stopping you from Starting? 

Self-care is another classic knowing-doing gap (see Turn Your Plan into Action for more on this). On a basic level it makes perfect sense and not many people would disagree - and yet we don’t always think this applies to us. 

This article will help by:

  • Improving awareness of what self-care is and what it isn’t
  • Challenging thinking about your current self-care approach
  • Sharing practical Top Tips on how you can broaden your range of self-care resources and practise it more of the time.

Let’s start with one of our favourite stories…

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Look after your Wellbeing and Build your Resilience

What is Resilience? 

Resilience is often thought of as a quality that some people have and described as the ability to ‘bounce back’. Lots of social and psychological research confirms this is only part of the story.

According to the charity Mind:

“Resilience is not just your ability to bounce back, but also your capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining a stable mental wellbeing.” 

This makes sense to us at Eat, Move, Be Happy.  We would also add resilience is learning from tough experiences, gaining confidence and growing emotionally stronger as a result. We particularly like thinking about resilience as something everyone can develop with practice, rather than a personality trait that people either do or don’t have. 

We all have resilience.  And it’s in our capacity to increase it.

This is where this story continues...

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Lessons from Lockdown

As this time of lockdown continues amid the huge impact of Covid-19 on our lives and lifestyle, I have been struck by the number of times I hear about what life will be like once this is over. Which got me thinking… 

When Lockdown is over...

The issue of ‘when lockdown is over’ seems to mean different things to different people. I hear about ‘looking forward to getting back to normal’ and ‘I’m going to keep going with my exercise…’ or ‘I can’t wait for this to all be over’. And in this time of uncertainty, one thing is certain, lockdown and the restrictions that come with it will not be over in the flick of a switch. I think a more accurate way of thinking about this is as lockdown relaxes. However, as the restrictions change this will also bring new levels of uncertainty and take time to adjust.

In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.

David Hollis

Which raises some interesting questions?

  1. How can we focus on the things that really matter to us and move forwards?
  2. How will we continue with the important things once lockdown relaxes?
  3. How can we get better at living with the uncertainty that impacts our everyday life?

So looking at these one at a time...

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Lockdown Relay Challenge Aftermath

A huge thank you to everyone who get involved with the Lockdown Relay Challenge yesterday! In the end, we had over 50 people taking part, doing a physical challenge and cheering each other along.

I know it was really great watching all the pics and comments coming into the Peer Support group through the day. And you can see them by clicking on this Facebook link here.

Above all else, I think it showed what a great bunch of people we have here. Willing to get stuck in and do something to make both their own lives and the lives of others, that little bit better...

Thank you to you all!

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