Saturday, 24 August 2013

Mindful living and the Holstee Manifesto

The internet is such a great way of discovering new things and information, often accidentally! This week I stumbled upon  “The Holstee Manifesto” and it may have been one of the greatest links I have ever clicked on.

Holstee is a start-up that designs a range of products to encourage mindful living and positively influence the world.

I think their manifesto is great, as it truly reflects their vision for the world. The opening line reads “This is your life. Do what you love and do it often” I won’t go through all of it as you can read it and download it for yourself (see link above) but it really is something that is worth reading. I think it is something you should keep a copy of -  in a prominent spot at your desk, in your living room, or on your phone -  anywhere you are going to see it everyday.

How often do we do things without asking “Why am I doing this?” How much time do we spend on tasks that do not stimulate us, satisfy us or improve our lives?

Time is life’s greatest currency. You can always earn more money or have more stuff, but you can’t have more time. As each day ticks by, you have to choose how you spend your time, as you can’t get a rain-check if you don’t like how you have used your day.

Working as a health professional I am reminded more often than most just how short life is. I have come across many people who would have wanted nothing more than to have more time with the ones they love, or to do the things they love. No one ever wants to have more stuff or money when they are at the end of their life.

“Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.” This is the final line of the manifesto, and my personal favourite. If you don’t know what your dream is, start dreaming! Find your passion – what is it that truly engages you? If you don’t know yet, try new things, meet new people and have experiences that will help you to discover it.

You only get one chance to live, and you can never get any more time. There is no better time than the present to start living the life you want. So what are you waiting for?

Thursday, 22 August 2013

10 Things You Should Know About Your Health

When asked about the most important or most valuable things in life, health is often at the top of everyone’s list. Without your health, you do not have the ability to do, or have, much else. Being healthy means different things to everybody, and health status is strongly linked to happiness. But how much do you really know about your health- the things that affect your longevity? Here’s a list of ten things you should know about your health – as a bare minimum!

1.   Keep your vaccinations up to date

Vaccinations are an amazing invention that we take for granted in the 21st century. We can now avoid many diseases such has whooping cough, influenza, tetanus, and diphtheria, simply by having vaccination. Different vaccinations are available for different age groups, so check with your doctor whether you are up to date with your vaccinations.

2.       Diet and Exercise

Have you ever had a health professional review your diet and exercise regimen? Has a professional ever provided you with any recommendations? Have you tried to lose weight unsuccessfully? Your diet and exercise regimen has significant influence on your health and well-being, yet most people probably never have any professional input as to whether they are on the right track, or need to make some changes to achieve their goals.

3.       Undertake preventative screening

There is an array of preventative health screening programs available that are highly effective at detecting diseases early on. The sooner a problem is identified, the better the prognosis as early interventions can be made.  Pap smears, mammograms, bowel screening, prostate checks, mole checks and bone density tests are just some of the many available tests that can detect problems in the initial stages.

4.        Know your blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for a number of conditions, including heart attack and stroke. People who have high blood pressure are often unaware that there is any problem, as symptoms are only usually experienced at dangerously high blood pressure levels. Your doctor or local pharmacy can perform a blood pressure check, and identify whether further follow up is needed.

5.       Know your cholesterol and sugar levels

A simple blood test can determine your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. High cholesterol is a “silent” disease that causes narrowing and blockage of the blood vessels ; however there are no noticeable symptoms.  The first symptom experienced  could even be  a  heart attack or a stroke. Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the body can no longer regulate blood sugar levels effectively. It often has a gradual onset, with early symptoms being very mild. Both conditions are associated with a range of potential complications. However there are effective treatments available and these conditions can be well managed, especially with early intervention.

6.       Understand  your medications

Medications are routinely involved in the management of diseases and ailments. But how much do you really know about your medications? Make sure you know what each of your medicines is actually for, be able to identify the difference between the drug name and the brand name; and ensure you know how to take your medication correctly. If you are unsure, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

7.       Check your cigarette and alcohol use

No one needs to tell you that smoking is bad for you; this has been widely known for decades. Smoking damages every part of the body, and the sooner you kick the habit the easier it is for the body to reverse some of the damage that has been done. Alcoholin moderation does not appear to increase the risk of disease or injury for most people.  Moderation is defined as “on average no more than 2 standard drinks a day”, and this doesn’t mean you can save up your daily drink quota and binge on the weekend!

8.       Dental health check

No one likes going to the dentist, as it hurts the mouth and the wallet! But like most aspects of health, preventing dental issues is better having to treat them. Try to go at least once a year for a routine check-up and a good clean. 

9.       Eye health

We take our eyes for granted, if they are working fine, we don’t worry too much about them.  For people over 40, regular eye testing at least every two years is recommended to check for glaucoma, a condition where the pressure behind the eyeball becomes elevated and can lead to significant vision loss. If detected early on, treatment is available to slow the progression of this disease.

10.   Give yourself a mental health check

Often doctors won’t routinely ask about mood, stress and anxiety levels. If you are feeling “not quite right” emotionally, talk to your doctor about how you are feeling or visit a counsellor or psychologist for further help.

Do you know all of this information about your health? No? Well you are definitely not alone. It’s easy to put off looking after your health when your life has other demands and priorities. Yet if your health is important to you, do something about it!  Make sure you know how healthy you really are and what else you could be doing to improve or maintain your health and well-being.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Five ways to remember people's names

Remembering the name of every person you encounter may be challenging, but worthwhile in the long run. I recently had an experience at work that emphasized the power of remembering a person’s name.

Now I’ll be honest, I hadn’t actually remembered her name, but rather I’d just overheard her introduce herself to someone else. True, I had met this person before, but I did not have the faintest idea what her name was. Then when I went to speak to her, using her name, she was really pleased and said “You’ve got a good memory!” She was then really receptive to what I needed to discuss with her, and eager to be cooperative.

This incident really struck a chord with me, as my accidental “recollection” of her name was really important to her. She didn’t know I had forgotten it and only accidentally overheard it; and I wasn’t going to correct her as that would have served no useful purpose. People care about themselves, and there is no sweeter sound to a person than the sound of their own name.

Think about it, when you hear your name, your ears prick up, you pay attention, you look around to see who it is that  wants to speak to you. This one word is so important to each individual, yet actually being able to remember names is hard. Perhaps that is why people who can recall names easily get so much further in the workplace, in business dealings and in social gatherings, than those of us who lack such recall for names.

So how can we remember names? If it was easy everyone could do it. Here are a few strategies I’ve discovered to try to remember people’s names.

1.  Listen

You are never going to remember anyone’s name if you are not listening for it. When being introduced to someone, listen for their name and if you don’t catch it ask for the name to be repeated.

2. Observe the details

Look at the person closely to identify distinguishing features. Observe facial expressions; listen to how they talk and whether they display any defining mannerisms.

3. Repeat it

If you don’t use it, you will forget it! Use a person’s name a few times during your initial conversation; just be careful not to overdo it.

4. Associate the person’s name with what they do

This technique is particularly effective if the person’s name and occupation are highly appropriate, completely mismatched or humorous in some way. For example when you meet a doctor who is a Dr Love,  Dr Feelgood or Dr Death; it is going to be very easy to remember their name and face. Yvonne Stitch who is a dressmaker, Brad Tyler who is a tiler, James Makepeace who is a diplomat; are all examples of names strongly associated with what the person does, and consequently easier to remember. Clare Tall, who is 5ft, Nathan Stick, who is a beefy lad and Sally Green who is a red head all have mismatched names to their features. These contrasts provide a means for the brain to associate the person’s name to their face.

5. Create a mental image to associate with a person and their name

How often have you thought, “I know the face, I just can’t recall the name?” Our brain is better at remembering visual information, rather than verbal or written information. Creating a mental image of a person’s name helps to overcome this, and consequently this method is likely to be most effective for recalling names over a long time period. This “mind picture” method was described by Dale Carnegie, author of the ground-breaking “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, and several other personal development books. The “mind picture” technique involves associating an image that sounds like the person’s name, combined with some other detail about them.  The more ridiculous the image you create the better, as your mind is more capable of recalling names if the person’s face is associated with vivid image you have created in your mind.

Consider the following examples below:

- To remember Jason Deer who likes to drink a lot, you could associate his name with an image of a mason with a deer holding a beer. A mason sounds like “Jason” a deer is, a deer and including beer in this image helps to remember the drinking aspect of his personality.
To remember Samantha Fisher who owns Labradors, you could associate her name with an image of  Labrador holding a fish in its mouth being chased by a panther. Here we have a “panther” which rhymes with “Samantha”, the Labrador in the image helps to recall something defining about her and the fish in the dog’s mouth provides a visual link to the name “Fisher”.

The beauty of this method is that there is no right or wrong way to create the mind images; it is whatever you can come up with in your mind to help you remember that person’s name.

After my experience at work, I am going to try to remember people’s names more often. It is easy to think I have remembered someone’s name, only to find I am struggling a day, or a week, or a month later to recall it.  I’ve never had such a positive initial reaction from a person before; and if remembering names is what it takes to get this response, then I am going to give it a go!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Chronic Pain and Happiness

Being happy is a difficult challenge for most of us. It is a state of mind, an intangible state of being. No one other than yourself can say whether or not you are happy. But what about those people who have the added challenge of living with chronic pain? These are people who are not dying from their illness, but rather live a life with some element of ongoing pain.

Working as a health professional I come across many people who experience some sort of chronic pain condition. Arthritis, phantom limb pain, recurrent migraine, chronic back pain, diabetic nerve pain; the list goes on. There are so many people who have these conditions, yet while doctors do everything they can to relieve the ailments, sometimes these conditions cause symptoms that some people just have to learn to live with.

If someone punched you in the stomach, or you stubbed your toe or banged your head; in that moment it is highly unlikely that you will feel happy. While this may hurt for a short while and makes you feel a bit sore, this pain will go away. This is acute, short lived pain. For people with chronic pain, their pain is ongoing and has varying degrees of severity. Being in pain is a miserable experience, so how do people with chronic pain manage to be happy?

Happiness means different things to everyone, as does pain. Experiencing pain, like happiness, can only be described by the person feeling it. No one can measure or record someone else’s pain experience.
Pain management is such a complex issue, and emotional well being has a major effect on how well a person lives with their pain.  Understanding pain, learning coping strategies, taking medication, practising relaxation techniques, exercising as appropriate are all regarded to be essential in the management of chronic pain.

As we all know, happiness is a different state of being for each individual. Living with chronic pain does not make being happy impossible, far from it.  Being able to move freely or perhaps not experiencing any pain one day might be things that elate chronic pain sufferers. 

For pain sufferers, the extent to which each individual manages their pain has a huge effect on their happiness. Chronic pain management is a complex issue, and sufferers should seek help from their doctor or therapist, as there is no need for anyone to face chronic pain alone. 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Working in a GOOD team

Most of us have to  work to earn a living. Very few of us have the luxury of not having to toil for several hours a day, to earn money to make ends meet and enjoy life with what is leftover.  Working with a group of people is part of life for the majority of us. If you enjoy your job, this makes going to work that much more bearable but on the whole it’s the people around you that can make or break your work day.

I believe I am lucky enough to work with a really good team of people, and it was confirmed the other day when it was just one of THOSE days. Due to it being the cold and flu season, we were short of staff by about 5 team members, it was busier than normal and it was hard just to keep up the pace to get everything done before the end of the day.

In these situations it’s easy to have a meltdown. Pressure makes most people crack and make mistakes. We often expect our leaders and managers to be immune to pressure, and not feel the strain, or at least, not let it show. A great team knows when their leader is struggling and can step up to help make the workday a bit more bearable.  

This is exactly what my work team did last week. It was a tough day and rather than crumble under the pressure, everyone just worked a little bit harder.  Each team member helped each other out, undertook tasks without instruction, used initiative and even stayed back late after their shift had ended to help late staff get everything finished on time.

Some days at work are good, some are OK, some are horrible! A horrible day is that much more bearable when you have a supportive team.

Maybe next time you are struggling with work and just ready to crumble, look to your team. They might surprise you and flourish given the opportunity to help when you are having a tough day. Whether you are an executive or a junior, if a colleague is struggling, don’t simply ignore them and only focus on your workload. Help each other out to get the job done and you can both go home happy; and nurture a true team culture in the workplace. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Quote of the day

"Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today" - James Dean

I love this quote by James Dean. So very apt coming from someone who appeared to live by this attitude who had his life cut short by a car accident at such a young age (at 24 years old). It is an appropriate reminder that no matter how bad a day you may be having, you never know which day could be your last. Don't waste time having bad days, work on what you can do to make your day better. Be happy for today, and dream for the future. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Fitting In

I was out the other evening with a large group of people at a function. As a shy person, I’m not really one for flourishing under such conditions. I have a soft voice so even when I chat to people it’s hard for them to hear me. And in a crowd, I tend to get drowned out.  Everyone was drinking, with an open bar nothing less is expected. At one point in the evening a drunk version of one of my colleagues said this exact phrase to me: “Have a drink, come on, what’s wrong with you?”

I don’t really drink much alcohol. It just doesn’t do much for me. I might have a glass of wine occasionally but I’m not that fussed. I rarely drink when I go out because quite frankly it’s overpriced (yes I know it was free in this instance) and I tend to get sleepy from just one drink.  

This flippant comment really upset me that evening. This person has known me a long time and knows I’m not one for drinking, and I always get frustrated having to explain over and over again why I don’t drink.  It’s clear to see why so many people drink even when they don’t really want to. They want to fit in and not have people start interrogating them about why they aren’t drinking. Society says that drinking alcohol is normal; therefore if you don’t do you must be abnormal. 

How often do we do things we really don’t want to just to make other people happy? My colleague couldn’t really care less about me, or my reasons why I don’t really drink much. If I had just been holding a drink in my hand and not drinking it I would have been seen to be behaving how he wanted me to, and I probably would have avoided any upset.  If I had started drinking just to appease him then that would make him happy, not me.

Not behaving in a way that the people around us want us to can make it hard to fit in. Since I don’t enjoy getting drunk this is one of the many reasons why I don’t spend too much time with people who just want to go out and get drunk.  There is no enjoyment in being sober around drunken people!
As far as I can tell, choosing not to drink doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with me. Far from it, but I let this flippant comment upset far too much for my own good! From this experience there are a few things to be learnt:

1.  Drunk people are stupid and insulting
2. Try not to care about what people think of you; especially people of little importance.
3. Don’t let other people alter your behaviour. Make your choices for you, and what will make you happy.

Ultimately, you only live once so stop wasting time with people who make you feel miserable, and spend time with those who contribute to your happiness.