Get yourself on the list (Get it Magazine, July column)

 

Excited to be contributing the Last Word in my Get it Magazine column again. Here’s a few honest lessons in gratitude. –Sarah

Read the issue 

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Another morning, another effort to get up. The sunshine wasn’t helping my mood and I knew before I touched it, that I should refrain from reaching for my mobile the second I woke. Inevitably the first thing that appeared would be bad news.

There was a period of time that was like this last year when quite simply, I was unhappy. It’s nothing you haven’t experienced, I’m sure. If we’re lucky, we know that actually – soon, hopefully – things will be brighter, bit at a time.

During my particularly stressful period, I was simultaneously dealing with illness in the family, a confidence crisis, finance worries, challenging business associates and a hopeless feeling of helplessness. Making matters worse, I was being particularly tough on myself for how I was reacting on the phone, over email and with friends. I kept apologising for being ‘that person’ who didn’t want to bring the lunchtime conversations down, and I was aware of carrying around a negative attitude. I wasn’t feeling, behaving or showing up as the me I wanted to be.

I am all about taking charge though, and knew the only person who could change what was being reflected in my world was me. I invested time into shifting my view on areas of my life that were getting me down. Included in this effort was a dedicated daily gratitude practice, because if there’s one ‘secret’ I’ve seen work wonders in a multitude of difficult scenarios, it is the act of specifically identifying what has been good each day.

When I was a child, I was encouraged to recognise that there is always someone worse off, so to be grateful for my lot. That sentiment is largely true, although now I get that the real power in being grateful is that like attracts like.

What I – what you – focus on expands.

Some say it works like this: like attracts like, and if we focus on the bad bits like hours of miserable news broadcasts, difficult colleagues or those who have cheated us, that’s exactly what is going to show up more in our own experience.

If, however, we practice the shift to an attitude of gratitude such as, ‘I’m grateful to have the cash to pay my rent’, or ‘I’m grateful to be catching up with Leanne today because she is an awesome friend’ (among thousands of other examples), more of the positives manifest in your world.

A little bit of magic. Quite cool!

None of this is revelatory though, so what was the big learning for me out of recent challenges?

I realised there was something I constantly omitted from my own gratitude list. Me!

Your list may include similar items to mine like ‘loving partner’, ‘friends and family’, ‘cool boss’, ‘dog’ (dogs plural, for that matter), ‘good health’, ‘upcoming travel adventure just paid off’… but do you include yourself?

I have given myself such a hard time in the past for feeling miserable and worried about a whole host of things. I didn’t consider that my resilience was carrying me through and that my nous was leading me to rewarding points of realisation.

You rock. We rock! I’m remembering to be grateful for that. I am grateful for my mistakes and the times I’ve spoken without thinking. I am grateful for the falls and how I picked myself up. I am grateful for the lessons learnt the hard way that I now share to help others. I am grateful for the words I can use to communicate, share and resolve.

These days I add ‘me’ to my list, up the top with a smiley face. My intention is that this serves as a reminder for you to do the same on yours (smiley face optional).

Regardless of what kind of day or week you’re having, take five to compose your top five things you’re grateful for now. Make it bright, bold, and uniquely you.

 

 

Travel and terrorism

Earlier this week an awful event took place in central London which has had me fielding queries and concerns about travel and terrorism and indeed about how safe our lovely London actually is.

You would have caught the news about a man who drove a car onto Westminster bridge and into a crowd of 50 people before stabbing others outside Parliament. He killed four people, including a police officer, and seriously injured numerous others.

As someone living and working in the city, I can attest to the fact that no matter where you are in the vicinity, it is unnerving to know what’s unfolding.

My work’s security team shared advice with staff and let us know that we were welcome to stay inside if fearful of travelling at the end of the work day.

During the afternoon we didn’t know if anything further would occur, and the insensitive, irresponsible Twitter users sharing photos of the dead from the scene in central London were not helping!

A number of my colleagues were also visibly shaken because memories of the 7/7 bombings of 2005 are still all too close-to-home – one of the bombs exploded on the no. 30 bus directly outside our building and with catastophic results.

Over the 24 hours to follow the events in Wesminster, Cooper and I received numerous calls, texts and messages on social media from apprehensive family and friends who were unsure of what to make of it all.

Now none of this is to diminish what has happened (and continues to) in places not too far from us in the UK, including France, Belgium, Tunisia, Syria… unforunately the list goes on.

But when things like this happen on your doorstep, there’s no escaping the truth about the nature of conflict and hate in today’s world.

That said, the next day, life continued.

We were all on the buses, tube and trains in order to show up at work on time. My friend Jackie and I even ran into this young hero from the day before in the lift in our workplace.

‘Keep calm and carry on’ was a slogan developed by the British government back in 1939 as World War II loomed.

The famous phrase was intended to raise morale in those dark days, and has found meaning and international fame in our contemporary landscape too.

Back in 2005 after the transport system – the beating heart of this metropolis – was attacked, people came back outside and stepped onto public transport in record numbers. They went on determined, just as they did after the many devastating air raids during the war.

Londoners will not be held to ransom by crazy people. None of us should be. I’m inspired by this tenacity.

The topic of travel and terrorism is raised in our circles quite a bit. People worry about us being in a city where terrorism a real threat.

But actually, terrible things happen every day, even in sublime and seemingly unsuspecting locations like Queensland, Australia, from where we hail.

It does upset me that the media makes a real meal out of influencing people towards a fear mindset.

Even before any details were available on the Westminster attack this week, the news had labelled it a ‘terrorist act’.

Can you tell me they are not trying to sell papers and seek ratings by inciting fear across the globe?

I’m seeing the same on this very day about a cyclone striking the eastern coast of Queensland and am trying not to worry too much myself, but it’s hard not to when the images, language and stories being shared are drumming up worst-case scenarios.

As for travelling here to Europe?

London is one of the safest places we’ve travelled to. We feel entirely safe living here, walking around and getting about.

Sure, there’s the risk of terrorism but that’s everywhere these days, especially with misguided individuals taking it upon themselves to wreak havoc on behalf of organisations they’ve often only seen represented online or in the news.

My point is, don’t let a disillusioned few stop you from being curious and getting out there to travel and explore.

Be mindful, sensible and don’t take unnecesssary risks, certainly. But whatever you do, do not choose to stay at home if adventure beckons. That’s letting the bastards win.

Responding and contributing to fear energy only magnifies it around the world.

I’ve read helpful advice on this that encourages us to acknowledge what’s gone on, reflect or meditate on it in our own way and send kind thoughts to those who have been affected.

You can do something positive to counteract the fear by showing up to your own life with determination and light, and inspiring your family, friends, kids and colleagues with that spirit.

Let’s not feed the beast.

And if you’re finding news or social media reports too much or too upsetting – turn them off! There’s never any urgent new updates you need; the reports are merely the same dire tales told in different ways.

Caring makes you human. Focusing on traumatic media stories though, only breeds fear and certainly does not help anyone.

Keep calm, carry on… and travel, I say.

If more of us appreciate first-hand the world and its many different perspectives we might eventually conquer the small-mindedness that leads to ignorant and evil deeds.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Happy and healthy holiday ideas

 

11 of the best healthy holiday ideas you’ll read this year…

One of the downsides of enjoying your work is that you tend to forget to take breaks – I’m very guilty of this, and in 2017 I intend to consciously seek healthy holiday ideas for real rest and relaxation.

Towards the end of last year I burnt myself out, became run-down and rather miserable.

The trips I took in 2016 weren’t actually holidays. While they were amazing (Stockholm for a conference and a super quick trip to Malta in the summer), I was pushed for time, over-indulged (because it seemed like a really fun option at the time), and ended up more tired than before I’d stepped on the plane in the first place.

Increasingly the pressures of modern-day life mean we’re always ‘on’, and Cooper and I are arguably becoming wiser with age, because our new world view incorporates happy, healthy holiday ideas where we want to have energy to explore, the chance to rest and the capacity to express our discoveries creatively but without overdoing our time spent online.

 

Healthy holiday ideas we now seek, mean that we’ll come back home feeling refreshed in mind, body and spirit.

 

11 of the very best happy and healthy holiday ideas

Worry-free ways on how to rejuvenate in mind, body and spirit in 2017…

Plan ahead

Whether you’re heading off on a road trip, coach tour or spending a week in a Tuscan villa, we’ve discovered the easiest healthy holiday ideas to implement include planning your meals and excursions ahead of time.

Lack of planning (or even boredom) often leads to impulse buying that spirals into unnecessary spending (and subsequent financial stress), plus food or alcohol intake that’s well beyond what was intended.

Then you feel sluggish for the duration of your holiday. Not fun.

Scheduling your time also means making the best use of it, so you can mix up hours spent exploring and being active, with time for simply chilling out and ‘being’.

In our experience, it’s easy to get tired when you’re travelling; your routine is different, you’re often on the go and that impromptu pint of beer is always an excellent idea … not!

For our recent trip to Ibiza in Spain though, I’d spent just a little bit of time planning where we could explore on foot from our accommodation, and I used the weather as a guide to determine which would be good days to be out and about (when it was sunny) and when would be better to just laze about (cloudy or rain forecast). It worked a treat!

Tip: Sign up for the local version of a deals site like Living Social or Groupon in advance of your holiday, and gather discounts on tours, dining, spa packages and local experiences before you go.

 

Shop at a supermarket

This is one of our best healthy holiday ideas that we share with everyone, and for good reason. It seems so simple, but a lot of holiday-makers fail to act on taking that quick trip into Lidl or Aldi.

By buying your own beverages, food and planning meals ahead, you’re taking control of budget as well as what you are putting into your body.

That is, you know exactly what’s going into each meal in terms of ingredients and calories; you have the choice to balance healthy snacks (e.g. fruit and nuts) with cheeky holiday indulgences (bring me corn chips, cheese and Prosecco!), and it’s much cheaper than getting to the point where you’re hungry so you pop down to the corner store for something over-priced and under-nourishing.

Local engagement

You don’t need a gym on hand to be active.

Of course, you could travel to a destination specifically to take part in a well-being retreat like yoga in Italy or Turkey. But if not, take advantage of modern technology and services like meetup.com to find running clubs, yoga classes, cycling groups or hobbyists who enjoy things you do (for example, bird watching, meditation, hiking).

Signing-up for meet-ups happening during your visit has two advantages – you can enjoy physical and mental activity while meeting locals and finding out more about the destination you’re visiting.

 

Explore on foot

City breaks, island adventures and regional escapes all have something wonderful in common – the best way to explore is on foot.

Certainly, you’ll possibly need to intersperse this activity with a local bus ride, hop-on-hop-off city sightseeing coach tour and even a bike or a boat ride, but to really see and feel a new place you’ve got to get on the ground and wander.

The other obvious benefit of this is the incidental exercise you get!

When we visited my brother and his wife in Japan we couldn’t have eaten any more food if we tried (so yummy, try a Watami restaurant for a large Izakaya menu, and Sukiya for delicious curries), but we walked so much that we went home lighter than when we arrived!

Additionally, when we visited Ibiza, nothing much was open as it was low season (winter) but that didn’t bother us because there were plenty of places to explore on foot, and even hiking was an option for those who are so inclined.

As mentioned, plan ahead to see what your options are; bring maps with you or take some from a tourist information centre or airport (be prepared in case you cannot access data on your phone when you’re out and about).

If you suffer knee or foot pain, ensure you pack appropriate footwear, support or even strapping if required, so that your adventure is safe and comfortable.

 

Walking tours

Many cities in the world offer walking tours that showcase the famous, quirky and interesting highlights of the place.

A lot of these options are either free or very inexpensive, run by locals who know their backyard and are keen to share their insider-secrets with enthusiastic travellers.

Once again, you’re enjoying incidental exercise by getting active; you have the chance to learn about a place and ask questions, thus putting the curious mind to work, and you’re saving on financial worries through this cheap tour option while also contributing to the local economy.

Win. win. win!

Before you leave for your destination, simply Google ‘walking tours in…’; research and contact your preferred operators and plan the excursion into your itinerary.

Remember to also search for niche options that interest you, which might be ‘walking ghost tours’, ‘walking history tours’, ‘quirky walking tours’, ‘insider secret walking tours’ and so on.

 

Pencil in ‘me time’

What is the one thing that you have discovered brings more light into your day?

Is it morning meditation, twenty minutes free-writing, drawing, reading or sparing some time to watch or listen to a motivating broadcast (e.g. on YouTube)?

Make time for this activity during your time away, in fact if you can, prioritise it.

Journaling is a pastime that I feel always brings benefit to my life, but I often lack the time to do it around my day job.

On our recent trip away, I made sure I took some time out each afternoon for this activity.

All you need is ten or twenty minutes a day, but making time for something that lights you up will help to invigorate your spirit in time for a return to the home and work routine.

Unleash your inner creative

A rising trend in the travel industry is that of ‘creative tourism’ which caters for the ‘creative traveller’.

This means that many of us are using holidays and travel adventures as opportunities to express ourselves creatively.

Maybe it means that you use some of your time away to work on writing your book or blogging?

I get just as much enjoyment these days out of writing and photography (and Cooper is really into producing vlogs) as I do taking the actual vacation. It’s one and the same, and we’ve both had conversations about how invigorating it is to indulge in our creative side while being inspired by different landscapes and experiences.

You don’t need to have a website or YouTube channel to delve into this though; creative art, cooking, writing, language and even fashion courses are on offer in many parts of the world now – simply research online whatever takes your fancy.

You could search by destination, or, many travellers are actually selecting destinations based on the creative experiences available to them there.

European regions including Tuscany, Costa Brava, Ibiza, Barcelona and the French Riviera are particularly leading the way on this front. Take a look at the Creative Tourism Network for more information, or contact the local tourism authority in an area you’re keen to visit to enquire about options. Elena Paschinger has also written a lovely book on the subject, The Creative Traveler’s Handbook. 

 

Switch off tech

The ultimate in healthy holiday ideas is to take a break from technology. While Cooper and I obviously need and like technology for blogging and vlogging, we schedule time for it now.

We’re aware it’s important to step away from online engagement so we actually have time to engage with each other, our friends and family!

Our big tip here is to set boundaries for when computers, phones and tablets should be put away, for example, within two hours of bedtime and/or not switched on first thing in the morning.

Mindful dining

While we are aiming for happy and healthy holiday options now, we also don’t believe in worrying about what we’re consuming. It’s all about planning ahead (as mentioned above), being sensible and mindful.

I freely admit – when I’m excited about a platter of cheese and a large glass of red being placed in front of me, I tend to guzzle without thinking about it!

I’ve recognised this pattern, so now I write myself little calendar reminders on my phone that pop up to say, ‘slow down’,  and I also ask a trusted travel companion like Cooper to remind me to mindfully enjoy my food and to savour the wine. It’s not a race, after all.

Being mindful during meal or snack times means you’ll slow down on consumption and are likely to get much more enjoyment out of the experience.

 

Make your intentions clear

If you feel in need of a healthy break away and want to make the most of your next holiday in ways I’ve discussed here, it’s important to let your travel buddies know of your intentions, or carefully choose who you travel with.

That is, try to spend time with people who have a similar mindset and who also want to take time out to reinvigorate mind, body and spirit while enjoying all the perks of a holiday.

You can all support each other in achieving this if the group’s intentions are similar and/or clear.

 

Give to receive

There’s no better way to replenish the soul than by giving, and in our case rarely are we happier than when we’re surrounded by animals (particularly dogs, though I would seek elephants and monkeys too)!

This idea might not be viable everywhere, but it’s worth looking into ethical animal experiences or volunteering options that will give you an authentic experience and one to ultimately be proud of.

Our friend Amy offers an excellent example in her blog where she tells of how she volunteered in an animal welfare centre in Thailand.

We also know that if you’re visiting Whistler village in Canada, you can offer to walk the dogs who are being taken care of in a shelter not too far away. I’d suggest there are opportunities to help in many destinations because all charitable organisations need a hand (but especially smaller ones).

If you have time, ask around where you’re staying and see if there’s a chance you can give your time (or money, if/where relevant) to support what locals are doing to make the destination you’re visiting a better place.

By giving, you will inevitably receive a beautiful experience, positive feelings associated with the helping of others, and if you believe in this as I do, good karma too.

 

Expert advice

We got so excited about this topic we decided to check-in with a couple of inspiring friends who are also wellness experts. Happy and healthy holiday ideas, they say:

You are on holiday so the most important thing is to relax. Listen to your natural breath wherever you are to calm a busy mind – this can also ease an upset tummy. Busy day sightseeing or long flight? Then lie on a bed and put your feet up the wall – this relieves tired legs and stimulates the restful part of the nervous system. And laugh – it’s good for the soul!”
Flavia Munn, health journalist and yoga teacher (and guest blogger here with a story about attending a yoga retreat in Turkey).

 

Particularly if you’re on a long holiday, it can be beneficial to try and keep up some of your home routines, though, without being too rigid and not allowing time to enjoy some decent rest and relaxation of course! I like taking a travel yoga mat with me for holidays like this. Having my mat around encourages me to make some time for my practise. It’s light and folds up small, so it’s easy to travel with. Even if I just do a couple of sun salutations or a few simple poses it helps me hold onto those positive habits or regular practise and more easily settle back into my usual rhythm when I return home again.”
Sarah McFadden, yoga teacher.

 

We’d love to hear from you with your advice, suggestions or questions about happy and healthy holiday ideas. Please drop us a line in the comments below.