Wellbeing

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5 Wellness Questions To Ask Yourself

Taking a moment to pause and reflect is a great habit to include in your routine. As our comprehension of health evolves and we learn to understand that our health includes our mental and emotional state as well as our physical and nutritional habits, it is important for each of us to survey our wellness holistically, to ensure we are headed in the right direction in our entirety.

To understand your health and wellness, means asking yourself a range of questions on topics that society is only just beginning to understand;  It wasn’t too long ago that health and wellness focused exclusively on nutrition and exercise and on a societal level, weight loss was the only concrete measure of our health. As a result of this, or maybe because of this, we have endured almost a century of diet crazes, dangerous FADS and expensive exercise classes over-promising on their results without explaining the commitment required from their attendees. Thankfully, the UK’s health and fitness industry has come a long way since this. Although there is still a long way to go with many ‘qualified’ fitness trainers and organisations still overlooking fundamental aspects of health and wellness, the health and fitness industry is now beginning to acknowledge that there is so much more to understanding our personal health.

Being healthy still includes exercising and eating nutritional food but those measures alone are not enough to ensure our overall wellness. Our bodies are a series of complex integrated systems that do not stand alone. Science has opened the door to a greater understanding of the importance of stress management, hormonal balance, depth of sleep, food choices, and mental and emotional health. Singular approaches to health do not work. So it is important that we ask ourselves questions from multiple angles to determine if we are in balance, and therefore, truly well.

To help you to understand your current wellbeing, ask yourself these 5 wellness questions…

1) DO YOU EVER STOP AND TAKE A MOMENT TO REFLECT?

Do you ever just stop what you are doing and take a breath. To take a moment to notice what emotions you are feeling? To acknowledge the thoughts you are thinking? To see where your energy level is? To check that your posture is good? How many times can you honestly say that you are truly in the moment and really enjoying the task you are doing?

Do you ever stop to ask yourself, are you doing what you want to be doing at this very moment?

In our fast paced day-to-day regime of “doing”, it is easy to forget to check in with ourselves. Our minds are hardwired to create routines and habitual behaviors that we grow up with and continue to cement into our daily lives and before we realise what has happened, we are living the same routine, day after day after day, completely oblivious to the repetition of our routine as we mindlessly perform our tasks without a second thought to any dreams or aspirations we have about what we really want to be doing. This state of mind is a perfect stage to get lost in as you continue in a loop while your to-do list, doubts and anxieties dictate your life and blind you to the fact that you do have choices and every morning when you wake up, you choose what you do with your day.

Each time you stop and reflect, it allows you that moment to remind yourself that you do have choices. We all have choices. Some choices are easier to make than others, such as where you would like to go on holiday as opposed to whether to leave your 9 to 5 job to pursue your real passion as a career?

By stopping periodically to take a moment to yourself, to look at what you are doing versus what you want to be doing, you will find yourself better placed to identify what it is that you really want to be doing with your days and what you want out of your life overall. By mindfully invoking these pauses and encouraging your curiosity, eventually as your realisation grows, you will start to take steps towards realising your dreams.

This process does not happen easily and it requires you to remain mindful. This is why we practice mindfulness and integrate it as a foundational principle in our LIFE Fit Programme 

2) ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR LIFE AT THIS VERY MOMENT?

The word happiness is often associated with fleeting moments of pleasure. It is often a misunderstood emotion believed to be felt because of the actions of another towards us. The problem with this is that, if you have placed the responsibility of your happiness in the hands of another to fulfill, not only have you unfairly burdened someone with something that is not theirs to carry but you will ultimately be chasing a feeling that will never truly be quenched.

We have been led to believe that happiness is something to chase and that we will find happiness through materialistic objects. That we will be happy if we buy that perfect new outfit, or own that little sports car, or once we have lost some weight or moved into the dream house. It is the classic ‘the grass is always greener’ syndrome. The fact is, the grass will be greener on the side that is tended to the most. No amount of items purchased, or weight lossed will change the person we are within and until you are truly happy with yourself and who you are, you will not find happiness through any other attempts.

We all understand how good it feels to do something that helps another person feel good but this is not to be confused with thinking that any one person can make any other person happy. You are not responsible for anybody else’s happiness and nobody else is responsible for yours. Happiness is something that only you can create within you. 

Once you have accepted your past, are confident and joyful with who you are now and are excited about who you are growing into then you will start to feel happiness within you. You will learn that you are not reliant on anybody else for happiness and you will understand that while a sports car may be nice to have, your happiness doesn’t depend on it because you are already happy with yourself and this is the only place where happiness can be found.

This can be a long, confusing and sometimes painful journey to take and this is why we incorporate it in our LIFE Fit Programme 

3) DOES YOUR ENERGY-IN MATCH YOUR ENERGY-OUT?

Think of yourself as a rechargeable battery. Every day, you perform actions that both charge your energy and drain your energy. Eating nutritional food at the right times, drinking enough water throughout the day, having a regular exercise regime, moving periodically throughout the day and getting enough sleep each night are all fundamental elements for your health and wellness.

Your brain and your body are constantly working, even while you sleep, they are using energy; lots of energy. Your energy comes from good food sources and your energy levels will be at their optimum if you are being fuelled with complex carbohydrates, proteins and fats at the correct quantities.

Your energy is used by the activities you perform throughout the day. The more active you are, the more energy you use.

This sounds like a simple calculation to live by but it is very common to get the balance between energy-in and energy-out completely wrong, in either direction. Whether you are taking in too much energy by eating too much compared to the activity level you perform each day or not taking in enough energy by not eating enough while trying to complete high daily activity levels, either imbalance can be devastating on your health both physically and mentally.

Energy when discussed in this context is measured in calories. Food and drink contain carbohydrates, proteins and fats and the amount of each will determine how many calories are in that food or drink. Your body uses the energy from the food you feed it to function and to perform the tasks you ask of it. The more active you are, the more calories you will use. So to put simply, if you eat more calories than you use each day, you will gain body fat. This overtime can lead to health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol. On the flip-side, if you are not consuming enough calories to support the activities you are performing each day, you will lose body fat. This too can lead to health issues if continued over a period of time.

Both methods are used when trying to gain weight or lose weight and when done under controlled limitations, this is not necessarily a concern. The problems arise when these methods are used obsessively by someone desperately seeking a certain body image or mindlessly by someone who is unaware of the consequences of their eating versus activity levels and therefore continues with this energy-in versus energy-out imbalance, completely unaware that this could well be the reason for any physical or mental ill-health they are suffering with.

To find your balance with your energy-in versus energy-out can be tricky and will vary from person to person. It is a vitally important aspect of your overall health and this is why this is a fundamental aspect within the LIFE Fit Programme. 

4) ARE YOU WORKING TOWARDS A BETTER VERSION OF YOURSELF?

Do you have a plan for your future? This could be anything that is important to you. Whether you want to learn a new skill, visit a new country, retire and travel the world, build your own house in the country, learn to meditate every day, master a headstand or run a marathon, it is a very good idea to harvest and nurture these dreams. It is all too easy to allow each day to pass by in a flurry of repetitive tasks and before you know it the weeks, months and years have passed by and you are no closer to achieving your dream. If you have any goals and dreams it is important to put a plan in place to help you to achieve them.

Without a plan, how are you to know how to get to where you want to go and if you don’t know how to get to where you want to go, how will you ever get there? Any goal is achieved successfully with a series of small, incremental steps. Each step, no matter how small or seemingly trivial, will be a step closer to your goal. Learn how to achieve your goals by reading 6 Steps on How To Create Real Change

If you do not have any goals that you are currently pursuing, perhaps now is a good time to review your passions. Write yourself a list of 5 things that you would love to do each day. Then write yourself a list of 5 things that you do everyday. Now compare the two lists. If the lists do not match, perhaps now is a good time to review what it is that you want from your life and start making a plan to see that you get there.

These are not necessarily easy steps to follow, especially as we live our lives through busy days of home, work, social and family commitments. As John Lennon said “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans” This is why we incorporate goal setting, planning and actioning into our LIFE Fit Programme 

5) DO YOU FEEL ABLE TO ASK FOR HELP?

Asking for help can often be the bravest thing you can do? It can also be the one thing you do that could accelerate you to progress further than you had even imagined.

Sometimes the smartest way of getting to where you want to go is by asking someone who knows how to get there. This isn’t a sign of weakness, it is an acknowledgement of your own growth and the recognition that someone can assist in your development without diminishing your efforts.

We each have our strengths and weaknesses and the world is a better place for it as it allows people to grow by both sharing and accepting knowledge, skills, passions and expertise with and from others.

We have a wealth of knowledge, passion and expertise at LIFE Fit and love nothing more than sharing this with as many people as we can. If you feel you would benefit from this, there is a quick form below to make it even easier for you to get in touch with us. Simply complete the form and we will be in touch with you, ready to help you achieve whatever it is you want to achieve.

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Taking the “sins” out of food 

From a psychological perspective, as professionals in this field, when we look at many of the numerous diets and eating fads that exist today, especially some of the more popular ones, we shake our heads in sadness and disbelief.  

The reason we view these “programs” as we do, is because of the negative impact that they can have on their participants. This is because they tap into our fear mechanisms and at best could simply perpetuate them, but unfortunately in many cases they have the potential to ingrain even more deeply self sabotaging behaviours and in some cases, may even be the final straw of some peoples development of full blown eating disorders or worse. 

Even down to the seemingly innocent use of the phrase ‘sins’ to quantify food types, on the face of it you may ask what is wrong with this as it is a term in common use in our society today. The issue is that it literally “demonises” food and so anything that goes with it. This is because in many cultures the term “sin`’ is associated with the worst aspects of what it means to be human, such as cheating, guilt and shame and so will often lead to the hiding and denial of such behaviours, even to oneself and so follows feelings of self loathing and an ever deepening and reeferming of personal insecurities, such as being a failure, unworthy of love and not good enough. This, in the cycle of addiction is entirely the opposite of what is required to nurture in regards to living a healthy and happy life free from addiction, abuse and oppression. 

Another of the seemingly popular fads is to openly inflict personal castigastions, bullying and self abuse and in particular cases with unhealthy doses of splitting. Some of these methods are even created by Psychologists, albeit with questionable motives and the participants are encouraged to use a defence mechanism that in psychology is referred to as splitting. Splitting is where you identify aspects of yourself that you are uncomfortable with, so attempt to distance yourself from them, often to the point of burying them in your subconscious, because of the uncomfortable feelings that can be felt when observing them in yourself. In a healthy therapeutic relationship the psychotherapist or counsellor will work with you to help you understand why you feel these ways about yourself. This enables you to bring them into your conscious awareness and so you are then able to reintegrate these “split” off aspects of yourself, enabling you to feel more comfortable and at peace with all the aspects of yourself.

Any approach that is taken to encourage a disintegration of the self and to attack it and ridicule it is entirely unhealthy, because you are attacking and abusing yourself. This inevitably leads to lower levels of self respect which manifests into further and ever deepening levels of self abuse and in this way creates a self perpetuating and deepening cycle of self abuse. This cycle of self abuse if left unchecked can often lead to not only a perpetuation of the behaviours that are attempting to be addressed, but could even lead to a worsening of the situation, such as seeking ever more abusive ways in which to treat oneself. 

The ways in which we talk to and see ourselves is of fundamental importance to our mental health. The exploitations such as the ones above will inevitably create an almost endless cycle of repeat customers, which is great news for the profits of the companies delivering such methods, but will rarely if ever, result in a positive and lasting change for the participants.  

As with so many things, to find a long lasting definable resolution requires personal understanding, because each of us do what we do and act as we act for our own personal reasons. Many of these will be similar to others in many respects, but how we deal with them will come from personal insight. This on the face of it may seem the more challenging option, but when you weigh up the other options, such as the perpetual downward spiral of disappointment and self abuse as felt from the examples above, against the contrast of a happier, healthier and more vibrant you delivered through a journey of actual self discovery, the choice seems a little clearer. 

Learn How to Stop Binge Eating

To understand what drives us to continue doing something, including actions that we would like to stop doing, it is important to understand that our brains respond to stimuli and when we are talking about addictive behaviour, we are referring to the way our brains are responding to certain stimuli. So, If you want to change a response, such as reaching for the biscuits whenever you feel upset, for example, it is necessary to consciously develop a new reaction to the feeling of being upset.

To do this effectively and meaningfully it is important to understand how our neural pathways are created in the brain; if a person behaves or responds to certain situations, emotions or events in the same manner over a long period of time, eventually that person builds a neural pathway so that when the activating stimulation presents itself again, the brain automatically returns to that response, because this is now an unconscious reaction. This is how behaviour is formed and this is how addiction is formed.

It is also important to understand that we are dealing with very strong neural connections that formed in the brain over a long period of time. That’s why it seems so difficult to change things about ourselves. The stronger the neural connections, the harder it will be to create new ones that are strong enough to override the old ones. The good news however, is that the brain is malleable and can be changed. This is known as neuroplasticity which sounds more sinister than it is.

As humans, we have the unique ability to stand back and observe what is happening in our personal lives. We are not our emotions, we are not our thoughts and we are not our behaviours. We have emotions, we have thoughts, and we have behaviours and what’s more, we can actually stop to observe each of these within us.

Likewise, we are not addiction. We can have an addiction and we have the ability to observe an addiction. Once we acknowledge this and believe we have the power to consciously rewire our brain, we can begin noticing our triggers. We can identify our compulsions and urges and we can learn to override these urges by making alternative choices and taking different actions or responses to them.

There are generally four components of our addictions; doing, thinking, feeling and physiology.

DOING
This is the action you physically perform, such as opening the biscuit tin.

THINKING
These are the thoughts we have to justify our behaviour, such as “I have worked really hard today, I deserve these biscuits” or “I’ve eaten five already, one or two more won’t make a difference” or “I’ll run longer on the treadmill tomorrow to burn them off.”

FEELING
This is the emotion we get as a result of the thoughts we have just had to justify the ‘doing’. In the case above, you might feel happy or excited after having convinced yourself that what you’re about to do is okay and justified.

PHYSIOLOGY
This is the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. These neurochemicals are released as a consequence of the behaviour we just engaged in.

These neurotransmitters create a feeling of pleasure and gratification but we eventually build up a tolerance for them and therefore require more and more extreme behaviour to get the same neurochemical response. To explain, this means that, whereas 5 biscuits may have satisfied you enough last week, as your tolerance levels to the neurotransmitters increase, this week you may require 8 biscuits to experience the same feeling of pleasure and gratification. The more you do this, the more that neural pathway is strengthened and the stronger this pattern of behaviour becomes.

So how do we break this cycle? Most importantly it is necessary for you to acknowledge that a behaviour change is required and then it is important for you to make the decision to want to change this behaviour. For those of you who follow our blogs, you would have already seen our article on ‘6 Steps on How Create Real Change’

In acknowledging your desire to make a change, it is now important to change the components referred to above, that create the addiction. The first of which and the key element to this is to change the ‘doing’ component. If you are able to change the ‘doing’ such as opening the tin of biscuits, we subsequently change the thinking, feeling, and physiological components too. In order to do this however, it is important to be able to observe the thoughts and emotions that lead to the ‘doing’ aspect in the first place. Without this awareness, we won’t know when to change the ‘doing’ component.

Once you have recognised that when you are sad, you generally reach for the biscuits you can then become aware enough to look out for this trigger and your response to it. For example, if something happens and you suddenly feel sad, try to stand back and observe that emotion. Consider and examine it. Then instead of reaching for the biscuits, be deliberate in choosing a different reaction instead such as going for a walk or calling a friend for a chat. Making yourself a drink or turning to a calming App on your phone to use. If you change the ‘doing’ component, you will consequently change the ‘thinking’ ‘feeling’ and ‘physiological’ components, too.

By continuing to make these conscious decisions you will over time, change your neural pathways and before you realise it, a new habit is formed.

This is no easy task and it requires you to remain focused and to make conscious decisions, every day. The longer you do this, the easier it will become as new habits are formed, which in turn will become your unconscious patterns of behaviour. 

It takes a lot of effort to change yourself, but once you understand that you can literally train your brain to react differently you can change your neurochemical makeup and new pathways can be created until they become automatic. In that moment after you have the urge to open the biscuits and right before that behaviour is initiated, you have the ability to redirect your attention and choose a different behaviour. It is a good idea to choose ahead of time what that reaction will be so that you are prepared when the moment arrives and choose a behaviour that is realistic for you to do in that moment. The more you do this, the more you strengthen the new neural pathways and the more the old ones weaken.

Every time you practice this new behaviour, you are giving your mind the awareness of the new experience and the old pathways leading to your previous, self-destructive behaviour are diminishing.

It is not easy, it can be frustrating and it does take time so it is fundamentally important for you to be patient, persevere and most importantly, be kind to yourself.

Fear and the Zone of Familiarity

Fear can manifest in many ways, it is an amazing safety mechanism for keeping us from harm but it can also cause debilitating anxiety that can effectively paralyse us and to this effect, it can also be a primary anchor for holding us in the places we currently are. This is because our fears can be triggered by even the thought of doing something differently. The main reason for this is that we have beliefs of how the world “should” be, and we then attempt to get the world to fit this image.  Because when it fits this image we can believe, rightly or wrongly, that we are “safe”. This can be because we have an understanding of how to deal with the situations within this world view and so things are in essence familiar to us. This is often referred to as the “comfort zone”, but we have worked with and seen so many people in situations that you would not readily refer to as comfortable, so we refer to this now as the “zone of familiarity”. 

For example, a common start to a fear response is “But what if” This can be looked at in many ways. It can be seen as the beginning of a plan to help us navigate the best route we can see to a new destination, or it could be the barriers we place in our own way, so as not to set out on the journey in the first place. This then keeps us in familiar territory because we feel comfortable with our actions within that environment but are scared they may not be effective outside of this “zone of familiarity”. One of the interesting aspects that is not necessarily taken into account, is that you may not even require some of the safety measures you have knowingly or unknowingly put in place if you were to leave your “zone of familiarity”.

There are numerous reasons for this being the case, many of which we have learned growing up. As fear is predominantly linked to our survival instincts and seeing that the people closest to us have survived this long, we adopt their strategies. This cycle has been going on for centuries in varying forms that adapt in part to the changing environment, but so often remaining the same, beneath these superficial changes. 

One of the main reasons we now refer to this as The “zone of familiarity” instead of the “comfort zone”, is that our words influence us so greatly. Our words are essentially the labels we place on things so as to be able to communicate what we are referring to with not only other people, but also with ourselves. This is because our thoughts are organised as words and labels, that we use to understand the world around us and the feelings that occurred during the first experiences of this labelling process are also attached to them. So if we label things as comfortable, then this is the story we are telling ourselves about this thing we are referring to and as we have already described, some of these situations can at times be far from comfortable or healthy for us. If we instead refer to them as familiar, this is a more accurate way of describing them and does not attach a connotation of comfort to them and so we are able to look at them more impartially. Creating this more impartial viewpoint allows us to observe a situation from other perspectives and can allow us to see that maybe it is not so comfortable after all. The recognition of this is essential for us to move into a position of acknowledgment, which is a fundamental step in the process of change. 

Understanding how the mechanism of fear works is a big step in understanding how we see the world, at an often unconscious level. In understanding this we can begin to see why we do the things we do and follow the patterns of behaviours and habits that we do and have the insight into changing them for ones that are more healthy for us. It also opens the possibility to hand down healthier labels and associated feelings to those that come after us, such as our children, which is a worthy cause indeed. 

Abuse Spotting

Everyone is responsible for their own actions, but this does not necessarily mean that people are always aware of their behaviours, as we only see the world through the lens of our own experiences and belief systems. So to an abuser (and to an abused person) it may appear to them that all is normal. This can be because to them, their actions of abusing is normal in their personal zones of familiarity and because they view it as normal behaviour, they are not necessarily aware that their behaviour is anything other than normal.

In this unconscious way of being, it does not absolve us of our responsibilities and the onus is on the individual to address the harm they have caused by their behaviour. In saying this though, it is not always easy to begin to resolve a state such as this; if someone does not recognise their behaviour as abusive, how then do they acknowledge its existence in the first place and if they don’t recognise it and acknowledge it, how do they then move on to the next step of having the willingness to do something about it.

The other thing to consider here is that there are those that behave in an abusive manner with a sense of understanding and knowing. This is a very different scenario altogether. Although it is important to consider that the driving mechanisms of such behaviours could still very possibly have roots in what lays out of the view of their conscious awareness. 

Unfortunately, recognising that you may be in an abusive situation can be a challenge and confusing to identify. There are however some characteristics worth looking out for if you feel you are being abused.

  1. You feel you are being abused.
  2. The abuser does not want to discuss opinions with you and or listen to anyone who does not agree with them.
  3. You detect underlying threats contained in many of their communications. 
  4. You feel manipulation, coercion or even blackmail tactics are used to get a desired outcome from you.
  5. The abuser has polarised or concrete thinking, demanding that others do what they deem to be the “only way”.
  6. You feel that the abuser is promoting social isolation and that you are being discouraged from seeing your friends, family or any form of social interaction.
  7. You have felt, feel or often feel fearful.
  8. You are beginning to make unreasonable and / or illogical excuses for the abusers behaviour against you.
  9. You have felt, feel or often feel a trepidation of the abuser, a feeling of ‘walking on eggshells’ as a result of never knowing what is going to happen next.

The most important part of abuse spotting is the act of recognition. Without this first step it is unlikely that the following steps of acknowledgment and action are ever likely to occur, so the patterns of behaviour being used against you and your acceptance of them, will more often than not be repeated time and time again. This is because it is important to understand that by allowing the situation to continue is in essence making you complicit and until actions are taken to change the situation, the abuse will more often than not continue.

Once you have acknowledged that you are in an abusive situation there are important steps to take to remove yourself. The most important of which is the recognition that our lives are determined by the choices we make. We can choose to allow ourselves to remain in a situation we are not happy with, or we can choose to remove ourselves. 

We entirely acknowledge that by saying you have a choice is an extremely simplified perspective on what can be an incredibly challenging situation. As with all change, things are achieved one step at a time and the important first step in an abusive situation is deciding to take personal responsibility and remove yourself from the abuse. 

We also entirely acknowledge that removing yourself from an abusive situation may not be easy and we are not belittling this act on any level. This is the first step of many where we encourage you to start looking within and to start acknowledging your own self-worth and what you are willing to accept for yourself.

There are no step-by-step guides to follow here as everyone’s personal circumstances and situations have their own intricacies. A good first step however, and the one we will leave you with here; look in the mirror every morning and ask yourself, are you where you want to be? Are you happy? And what can you do differently. If the answers are ‘no’ to any or all of these questions, then take a look at our blog 6 steps on how to create real change