Taking Time To Notice

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Getting out into the beautiful countryside around where I am fortunate enough to live, formed the central part of surviving the early stages of lockdown. Our household calendar, hanging on the kitchen wall, has a daily record of where we went on our walk, run or ride. But now, 21 weeks in, I am managing an injury and we don’t get out every single day. I am in the phase of changing patterns so I can make these new habits sustainable for the longer haul; while maintaining daily activity (even if it’s a little walk around the village), stretching and physio prescribed exercises!

I am someone who likes lists and I enjoy our calendar records. I am also proud of being able to cycle up hills I could not have done at the start of March. However it has been how we have done these activities where my biggest learning has come. It is not just about completing the activity, going faster, ticking it off the list (though I also take my endorphin hit as I mark that tick!). Rather it is in the how. And my partner is an expert in the BEing outdoors, not just the DOing outdoors. Go more slowly; look at the scenery; nap on the grass or in the mountains; stop for another picnic and just appreciate the view; play in the stream; notice the rocks, lambs, flowers, the dead branches in the Ash trees, the diggers in the quarry, and the life cycle of a dandelion.

For me this is a lesson worth translating to the rest of life – especially at this time. This simple noticing can happen anywhere and can enrich our lives – the warmth of the water while doing the dishes, the bird outside the window, shapes in the clouds, a flash of colour, the sound of a laugh, the smell of toast. Drawing our attention to these things we notice, especially those that bring us pleasant sensations, can help to bring balance and regulation to our nervous system and enhance our wellbeing.

Using our senses to BE and notice our BEing.

Growing New Habits


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We often describe ourselves, humans, as ‘creatures of habit’. I think we can find a comfort and stability in our routines and habits, especially in times of busyness or turmoil. But what about when we want to add to / shift / or even radically change these habits? How do we build new ways of being and doing into our daily lives? How do we create new patterns in our thinking and new ‘go to’ things we do.

I have read that it takes 10,000 repetitions to master a skill and develop the associated neural pathways; or that on average it takes a person more than 2 months before a new habit/behaviour becomes automatic (depending on the person / behaviour / circumstances…). The advice is usually to start small. Give yourself achievable goals. Celebrate success. Manage expectations. Keep going, and try again.

At the start of this year I decided that I wanted to build in some new good habits. My caseload at work has been heavy and in order to take care of myself and be able to keep doing my job as well as possible, I knew I needed to find a way of helping myself do all those things I knew were good for me and I wanted to do, but was finding it hard to do on anything like a regular basis. So while everyone needs to find what works for them, I am a lover of lists, and so one satisfying list later (daily and weekly goals for a month in a lovely table printed out and stuck on the kitchen wall) I started. Everything is achievable, nothing is unpleasant, and I get a mini endorphin hit every time I tick off an item on that list. Getting to add a tick even motivates me to do something later on in my day.

I am now at the end of the second month. The second sheet may not be quite as fully ticked as the first month, but there are a lot of ticks and I can see which activities I am going to have to work harder at incorporating into my life. I can also say with a sense of achievement, as well as one of increased wellbeing, that overall I am feeling better about having more stretching and breathing and journaling and art-making and card-writing (to name a few) in my life. I am happy to be a creature settling into these habits.

Sparkling Moment

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What has been a ‘Sparkling Moment’ you have experienced in the past two weeks? This was the question to start our time together in a recent group I was working with. For some this was an easy enough question to answer. For others it was harder to think of something. They felt they were stuck in a negative way of seeing the world. This may be partly personality, and also a hyper-vigilant response to multiple crises/traumas; but as humans we can tend to have a negativity bias. While this is an important part of the survival response designed to identify threat, it can become less helpful when over-active or stuck ‘on’.

However the study of gratitude has shown us the value of noticing the positives, in terms of wellbeing and mental health. How can I notice and be grateful for the small and the large moments in my day; the sun, the smile, the hello, the coffee, the connection, the home… What can I be thankful for today? I recently spoke with someone who was working to notice three positive things each day, in an important but challenging relationship. This was an intentional choice to build on gratitude, and focus on the good moments.

The approach of ‘Appreciative Enquiry’ allows for us to reflect from a stance that seeks to notice ‘what is going right?’ not just ‘what is going wrong?’. This can have a significant impact on how we develop our work and what we do.

So what about you? What is your ‘Sparkling Moment’ from this week?