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Just a thought (Find your own Way)

31 Oct

yellow-arrowWhen we keep life simple it is surprising how good our lives can feel. Happiness is not complicated, it was never meant to be.

Our lives can feel complicated because life around us can feel that way. Organizations constantly ensure that nothing seems straightforward. Just listen to all the waffle involved in banking A.P.R, A.C.R or A.E.R all have something to do with interest rates but  just complicate something that should seem simple. Try to book a flight on a low-cost airline and not feel stressed. I did this recently and very diligently ticked and un-ticked the boxes provided( somehow I have a feeling I won’t be able to avail of the toilet on my flight due to not! ticking a box)  what actually happened is I ended up purchasing travel insurance I never asked for!!!  Read the legal terms for anything you purchase or sign up to and resign to the fact you  don’t know what was really said. Purchasing insurance and getting caught out by the small print just proves that small print should be banned. Advertisements on radio try to sell us a product with happy jingles and humour and just as we begin to think Yep I am buying into this we hear the last refrain from the narrators audio”Terms and conditions apply…..” Which usually means you have to jump through hoops to get to the next step. Some Solicitor gets the guy who robbed your house or crashed into your car off on a technicality when he knows a crime or infringement took place

Sometimes you just want to switch off. The truth is you will feel better if you do. Advertisements make us feel worse. Ultimately the director is trying to make us feel positive about a product we could not care less about and eventually purchase it. We panic about not having the right car,life,home or health insurance……the list goes on. We feel we are not participating unless we are purchasing. Our leaders ask us to stop saving money and get the country back on track by ………shopping!  Our thinking , societies thinking and those that lead us do nothing  to create the lives that we deserve. Oil companies in The U.S receive subsidies of $4 billion a year and McDonald’s costs that American Taxpayer $1.2 Billion annually because workers are not paid enough to support themselves. They serve food that contributes to a nations ill-health. Yet the media nag govt get excited when a fast food chain announces 100 new jobs, yet we never get to look beyond the real cost to our society.

It doesn’t make sense. We are thinking completely the wrong way. Opting out to live a simpler life allows us to create a less stressed world. Not always an easy thing to do!

This Summer I took 5 weeks off and travelled across Spain on the beautiful Camino. I made a conscious effort to disconnect as much as I possibly could. No Emails, no phone conversations about 5 in total. No newspapers no news, no Tv = no worries.

I didn’t have any idea what was happening in world news or my home country’s news and guess what…. it didn’t matter. I connected with people every day. We talked , we supported each other ,we laughed, we broke bread together and we perfected the skill of being able to stay in the moment. We carried our essentials in our backpacks so we had no luxuries. Shower gel  and shampoo were luxuries rarely found. Nothing else mattered each day but the yellow arrows that guided us to our destination and the wonderful awareness of each step. The masks came off and it was just our t-shirts, shorts and boots, your afternoon shower was the cleanest you would be for 24 hours. Yet it is in these simple actions that we are happiest. No longer bombarded by tv or media but completely aware of ourselves and those around us and experiencing what everything…. your past…. your future is made from…….  a series of Nows.

Wake Up! Turn off the world once in a while and spend time in silence away from the manufactured complications of this world. As the yellow arrows that guide you along the Camino( the Way) signify a simplicity in moving forward. It is by welcoming this simplicity to that you will embrace moving forward.

Thankyou to my fellow travellers who made my journey so much easier and wonderful beyond words Netje,Carlo,Amy,An Nie,Doroty, Jerry,Kazuyuki, Raimon, Denise, Becky,Martin, Rory and Raquel… there is a special place in my heart for all of you.

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Happy vs sad workers

8 Jul

You don’t need an infographic to tell you that most of North Europe does not experience high levels of sunshine throughout the summer months. Turn left at the UK and you will see Ireland a rocky outcrop on Northwestern Europe. Here is definitely not sunnyville. This week for some reason we have been hit with a sunny heat wave and it rocks.

The dilemma for most of us when the weather is this good is do we go to work or do we invent an illness and stay home. Or as an employer do we provide concessions to our workers and wrap up proceedings a little early and send your staff to the park or beach.

Weather like this in our part of the world does not come very often, would you blame us for wanting to soak up as much of that vitamin D as possible. Employers should take note. If you feel your staff have gone the extra mile for you throughout the year then this is the time to do pay them back. This will all depend on the industry you are in. A mass exodus of Traffic controllers from Dublin airport is not the wisest thing no matter how liked you want to be as a boss.

Yvon Chounaird  head of Patagonia the outdoor lifestyle company is a great believer that if the weather is right and your staff are looking to head out whether it is climbing, trekking or surfing just let them do it. After all his company was built on people being passionate about the outdoors. They will repay you in many other ways. Trust your staff to do the right thing.

Ricardo Semler from the Semco organization in Brazil trusts his people, that is how he turned Semco into a €1 billion organization, by giving his staff autonomy to the point that they can decide their own salary. If you have the right people onboard the salary they choose will define what they are worth and will correspond very closely with what you would offer. As Ricardo says

“I am not interested in…making sure that you (the employee) are here, that you are giving us so many hours a day. We need people who will deliver a final result.”

If you believe your staff need to be supervised constantly the likelihood is that they feel that way too and will want to down tools as soon as you are not around. My blog here explain Maslow’s X and Y theory and it’s connection with your workforce happiness.

Today or this week as the sun shines, think about what you can do for your staff that will make them feel valued (as they should be) . A round of 99’s or an afternoon off it’s up to you. The payback from your staff when that extra mile is needed. The wellbeing of your people must be paramount. Remember some of them see more of you in the 40hrs or so a week that they spend with you than the ones closest to them.

Happiness and motivation are created never bought. As Yvon Chouinard says“Let my people go surfing”

Positive Mental Health- The Weather

6 Jun

sunny dayDon’t know what the weather is like where you are but here funnily enough it’s brilliant. The Sun is shinning it’s about 23˚and everyones mood seems to have lifted.Plenty of people are out and about and the cold miserable January weather seems a million miles away. Actually this Easter the temperature barely rose above freezing at night and 6˚during the day. This morning I did an interview for radio on the impact of good weather on our mood. Last year funnily enough the weather was the opposite to what it is now and I was interviewed by the same radio station on the impact of the poor weather on our mood.

Does Sunny weather improve our mood?

Well here are a couple of different things that happen when the sun shines

  • Ice cream sales go up!
  • We want to do more activities.
  • We feel like spending more time outdoors.
  • We feel happier.
  • We create more Vitamin D from direct sunlight.
  • We produce serotonin from sunlight.
  • We have more energy.
  • We feel worse if we stay indoors.

Vitamin D is great for building strong bones. We get it from  exposure to direct sunlight . Remember I told you before that we get a lot of help from our bodies to naturally help us feel good like the production of Endorphins when we exercise. Vitamin D not only helps us build strong bones it can also enhance our mood and help us to produce Serotonin.

Some countries have struggled with this. In 2011 Scotland had a problem they wanted to remedy. It was discovered that The people of Scotland suffered from low levels of Vitamin D. A couple of things might play into this. As beautiful as Scotland is it’s not likely that you have booked a holiday there in the hope of getting a tan. Actually some of the Northern reaches of Scotland of Scotland like the Shetland and Orkney Islands might only experience between 1,000 and 1,400 of sunlight a year. It also must be hard to watch the BBC weather forecast and see the South East of Britain basking in 28˚heat and above at certain times of the Summer when you are lucky to hit the high teens in parts of Scotland.

Scotland actually has one of the highest of not the highest rate of Multiple Sclerosis sufferers in the World with 10,000 people diagnosed at present,. The lack of Vitamin D seems to be contributing to this. Scotland has also high levels of asthma and allergy sufferers.Direct sunlight levels are poor and I presume that most fair skinned Scots wear high sun protection once the sun comes out.  This prevents the benefits of Vitamin D from reaching our bodies.

Why then do countries like Iceland and Denmark not experience low levels of Vitamin D like the Scottish. It seems that oily fish which plays a big part in both countries diet  supplies Iceland ,Denmark and other Nordic or Scandinavian countries with essential Vitamin D.

Funnily enough there are now reports that Countries like Australia and Kuwait are reporting lower levels of Vitamin D in their populace. Two sun filled countries that you would think are brimming with sun filled citizens overloaded on Vitamin D. It seems that lust like the Scots certain aspects of Australian/Kuwaiti life are preventing the benefits of the sun from getting through.

  • Sun cream prevents the benefits of sunlight from getting through to where it is beneficial.
  • Australians and particularly Kuwaitis are spending more time indoors. Most of the Middle East is so hot that spending time outside is oppressive. People jump from air con building to air con building.
  • Sun lights UV rays don’t make it through glass as we spend more time in buildings cars and offices.
  • Traditional dress in countries like Kuwait covers up most of the body especially in women which blocks the benefit of sunlight.
  • Oily fish may not play a big part in Kuwaiti diets.

Vitamin D aside there are other contributors to our mood and the weather.

Light also stimulates a part of our brain called the Hypothalamus which controls our mood,sleep and appetite. When the first bit of sunlight hits our retinas in the morning we begin to produce Serotonin which acts like our ON button. We are ready to greet the day and get active.

Lack of light or darkness the pineal gland produces Melatonin and we begin to feel sleepy. So at night time we wind down and in Winter we do so too by putting on a few extra pounds to fend off the cold and generally sleeping longer hours than in Summer. Farmers are busiest in Summer months and activity wise so are we.

So when we jokingly say “we are solar powered” we actually mean it. We need the sun to energize us and to contribute to our mental health.

But remember that

Here are a few tips for Summer sun

  • Get out and enjoy at least 30 minutes of unprotected sun. If you live in the Sahara or Kalahari desert maybe this is not a great plan.
  • Don’t excessively cover up. Let some sunlight in.
  • Think of all the things you spent your winter wishing you could do. Surfing ,picnicking,running,swimming, playing games or just walking with nature-go do it now.
  • Don’t spend your day looking out at the good weather but not coming out actually decreases your mood.
  • Soak it up while you can it wont last forever.

Think of it like this. All those people who live in eternally sunny climates look forward to visiting countries with seasons. Sometimes the heat in these countries becomes so oppressive that the ability to do any outdoors activities is sapped.

Think of that song by WizardI wish it could be Christmas every day” chances are you wouldn’t. The same applies to the sun.The happiest countries in the world are not Saudi Arabia, Turkey or South Korea but surprisingly un-sunny Denmark,Norway and Sweden. Go to Iceland any Summer and you will see people running naked around all kinds of festivals and enjoying the short summer.

Enjoy it while you have it.

Lessons for living -Travel more

21 Aug

As someone who has just returned from 10 days travelling and surfing the West coast of Ireland I can vouch for this. Travelling opens us up to activities and experiences that remain within our memory for a very long time. Not only do these memories stay with us but the happiness that we experience from meeting new people (remember we love to make social connections) and exploring new environments and cultures make some of the highlights of our lives.

Some of the greatest stories that we tell about our lives are the stories we experienced while travelling. All the Elders that had come to the latter part of their lives realized that travelling more was a great contributor to happiness in life. I am only thinking of the people I met while hostelling in Doolin Co Clare last week from Germany Italy , France and Austria that I would not have met if I had not left my sitting room couch. Similarly the beauty and memories of an ice cold Prague in February or a sun drenched Turkish holiday to some of the worlds most amazing archaeological sites would not have been realized. Sitting in the Roman arena in Verona with 20,000 other people as the opera is about to commence or surfing on the Australian East coast in beautiful warm waters are also treasured. Travelling by train across the southern alps in New Zealand or riding a bike with my daughter around the beautiful walled city of Lucca in Italy.

Not all flowed so easily  though like having no visa in Johannesburg for a flight to Australia. Losing my credit card on a hung over morning in Ko Samui in Thailand with 18 hours travelling ahead and no money at all to pay the exit tax from Thailand. Those experiences stay with you forever and become moments in your life that you can dip in and out of. They are the blueprints of a lived life.

If necessary you should sacrifice other things to ensure that travel becomes a large part of your life. It also allows you to experience life outside your comfort zone and this is where you grow.

As older people in Dr Karl Pillimer’s research the legacy project have said “Most people look back on their travel adventures as highlights of their lives, If you have to make decisions whether you want to remodel your kitchen or take a trip- well then take a trip.”

Lessons for living – Connections

14 Aug

The one contributor to unhappiness in later life is the loss of connections with other people.

As we get older social connections can be more difficult to maintain.  Friends move in and out of our lives or pass away. We retire and miss the camaraderie we experienced with our workmates or the interactions with our customers. We look at our partners and wonder what connection we had all those years ago.

We lose touch with what matters… Other people.

We know that having social connections is a strong predictor of our health.

What is the key: we need to get involved in social networks  and meaningful roles. All life needs a purpose. Volunteering is a good way to participate in a positive way. We feel better when we contribute to helping others and giving something back.

Being isolated when you reach old age is not good for us. Remember this when you are moving through your life. Connecting with others is the one thing that us as humans yearn for. I see the importance of this constantly in my programmes. Be mindful as you slowly discard relationships that were once important to you in life.

Music Lifts our spirits

31 Jul

Bombay bicycle club- Shuffle

It’s raining again. The weather really has not been up to much this summer. We live in a wet, green, rocky outcrop on the western seaboard of Europe. People are being affected by the unpredictable weather this summer has brought. I was asked to talk on WLR radio last Thursday on what we can do to lift our moods during the rain soaked summer days. More about that on another day. We know that music has the power to lift our spirits on those dark days. For now even as I look out of my rain battered office window I can only feel a lift in my spirits when I listen to this song. Enjoy

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