Be a rebel!

‘A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.’  Thomas Jefferson

Be a rebel! No, I’m not talking about taking up arms and fighting for a band of mercenaries. Not that kind of rebel.  I mean – do something out of the ordinary.  Do something that you wouldn’t normally consider doing.  I sometimes wear my Olay night cream during the day just for the hell of it! And recently, I went the entire day wearing my knickers inside out although that probably wasn’t as much about being a rebel, as having a senior moment, so we’ll skip that one!

Day to day, most of us live our lives in pretty much the same routine.  We get up at a certain time, have breakfast, rush out of the house and catch the same train to work each day.  Even if you’re a stay-at-home person like me, I still have my routines that I try to stick to.  I’m not OCD about it all; there are some days when for whatever reason, I’m not dressed before lunch time but I’ve usually had a brilliant idea for either my website, or one of the four books I’m currently writing, or even this blog – and rather than wait until I’m washed and dressed – and losing momentum while I wait – I sit down and write it out of my system.

Sometimes it does us good to do something different.  Go to the cinema in the morning or the middle of the afternoon for a change.  No, it won’t necessarily be heaving with people when you go, but that’s the joy of it.  You can watch the film in peace and quiet and actually enjoy the quiet, rather than hearing the constant rustle as people unwrap chocolates.

There is something about doing that – going to the cinema in the middle of the day – that feels slightly ‘naughty’ as if you’ve bunked off school and missed double science or maths. And that in itself makes you feel different.  You’ve got one over on ‘authority’; you’ve jumped ship to enjoy your day in a slightly different way. Psychologically, that will make you feel better.

There is a ‘Stepford Wives’ feeling about doing the same repetitive things over and over again, day after day, at the same time in the same way.  That’s why it’s so good for your morale to break out of that mould and cast your inhibitions to the wind. You can become overly focused on dieting, or exercising so that it becomes the most important thing you have to do each day.  This is not healthy.

When I have been on diets in the past, from the moment I wake up, till the moment I go to bed, my every thought is about what I can eat.  From right after breakfast, I am planning what I want for lunch and after lunch, I think about what I can eat for my dinner.   And that isn’t healthy, either. To be so focused as to not be enjoying your day, your life is just not good for you.

I don’t tell myself I’m on a diet any more. And I don’t ever begin a diet on a Monday because it is a busy day and therefore can be too stressful.  Tuesday is a better day to begin a diet (or any challenge) and I believe you‘ll have more success if you start on a Tuesday.   If you have a sensible breakfast (porridge, for example) you are less likely to get hungry a few hours later and reach for the biscuits or snack bars.

Instead, I tell myself I am eating sensibly and my brain accepts this and doesn’t go into sabotage mode. I also tell myself that I am ‘letting go’ of my weight instead of ‘I am trying to lose weight.’  When you lose something, you want to find it, don’t you? If you lost your car keys you search high and low until you find them.  ‘Lost weight’ has a habit of finding itself back where you didn’t want it so let go of your excess weight.  And you can do this by mentally visualising baskets of yellow fat (disgusting sight) being lifted up to the skies with balloons – up, up and away, never to be seen again.

So do something just for yourself that you wouldn’t normally do – and enjoy the experience.  Be a rebel for a change.

 

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Bare necessities …

‘What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly.’

I was in the bath this morning and you might ask ‘so, what is special about that?’  The answer is ‘nothing’. But – my bathroom is downstairs next to the back door.  As my bathroom is small (bijou still doesn’t adequately describe it) I leave the bathroom door open otherwise it feels as if I’m in a cupboard. Next door’s cat – Clive – came hurtling through the cat flap to escape the torrential downpour giving me a cursory glance as he made his way to Casey’s leftovers from breakfast.

There are some things that should never be seen and Clive should never have seen me naked.  I could imagine him later cosying up to his Man, in a bid for some one on one bonding, off his whiskers on an over-indulgence of catnip, telling Man all about ‘the lady next door’s bits and pieces dangling everywhere.’  How can I ever look Man in the face again as we chat through the trellis on top of the fence that divides our gardens? And no doubt, Clive will be smirking in the background, unless, of course, he’s seeing a feline psychiatrist dealing with PTSD (Pets That See Dangly-Things)

That got me thinking about our pets in general.  Cats, dogs, hamsters, gerbils, all the pets that reside with us humans do see us with all our glorious imperfections yet they still love us.  The hamsters and gerbils are a bit unluckier as they are in cages and couldn’t get out of their prisons unless they are ambitious and start an Alcatraz type escape plan and fashion papier-mâché look-alikes curled up asleep in the straw while they whittle through the bars before making a bid for freedom.

But dogs and cats spend the most time with their people, don’t they? They see us in the mornings when we’ve just got up; they see the tousled hair; the tatty dressing gown and slippers; the morning dog breath yet they don’t rush to get away from us.  We are their best friend and any minute now we’ll be putting down a dish of awful smelling pet food which they will wolf down with relish.

If we go out of the house for any reason for any length of time they greet us as if we’ve been on a round the world trip and been away for years.  Such is their pleasure at seeing us again.  I even get the ‘Oh my God, am I pleased you’re back, I was about to ring all the hospitals’ routine off Casey when I pop up the road to post a letter – a round trip of about 5 ½ minutes but you’d think I’d been gone for months the way he greets me.

And that set me thinking on other things. Our cats and dogs see life in very simple terms.  They eat, sleep, defecate, get exercise and interact with their human family each day following much the same routine as the day before.  They are genuinely pleased to see us each morning when we get up, and each time we return home from wherever we’ve been, whether that’s from a shopping trip, from school, work, holiday, or just to post a letter. We are the best thing since sliced bread in their eyes.

Don’t we owe it to ourselves to greet each day with as much enthusiasm as our pets do? To see the positive rather than the negative? You know, if a cat isn’t happy with his home life and family, he votes with his feet.  He’ll find another home without a bye your leave or thank you to his former home.  But it’s a sad fact that even a dog that’s been abused or neglected by his owner will still wag his tail with hope and love shining from his eyes.

I watch my cats, Casey and Gibbs, as they stretch after a sleep.  First, they stretch the front part of their bodies, and then their back half.  Then they’re good to go.  Stretching is so important to do when we first get up out of bed.  While we sleep our spine compresses.  That’s why, if you’re measured at the doctors’ surgery or a hospital in the morning, you’ll be shorter than if you’re measured later in the day.   Not a lot of people know that!

So, stretch out several times during the day, not just when you first get up.  Reach up as high as you can without hurting yourself.  Then try and bend over, trying not to fart on the cat as you do so (a common occurrence in this house as Casey can testify).  Again, don’t overstrain the reach.  If you can touch your toes or the floor with your fingertips (not your boobs!) then great; if its only as far as your thighs or knees, that’s also great.  Baby steps.  Try a little bit more each day.   Before long, you’ll be doing cartwheels and handstands up and down the hallway.

 

Fail to prepare – prepare to fail

‘If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.’ – Albert Einstein

How many times have you heard that statement: Fail to prepare – prepare to fail?  Preparation – or planning – is necessary for probably everything we ever strive to do, from taking – and successfully passing exams, to buying your first home, going on holiday, and changing your lifestyle.  Success requires careful planning.   Oh, you’ll get the whizz kid who’ll tell you that they got through school without ever revising and ended up at some prestigious university.  Or the couple who just went to the airport with cash in their pockets, looked up at the flight destinations and bought a last-minute ticket to Timbuctoo and found the hotel of their dreams once they arrived.  Yes, I grant you, these things do happen.  But for us ordinary bods life isn’t that easy.  Most of us have to work relatively hard to achieve the success we want, the grades we want, the job/house/holiday we want.

After yet another poor night’s sleep and lying on the sofa after breakfast feeling sick, empty and giddy, I had another one of those ‘aha’ moments.  The bad night’s sleep was not down to me sitting on the computer for hours, first let me get that out of the way; it was down to my internal organs rebelling about something – who knows what – and I was writhing about in pain.   At 4am I took myself downstairs to the bathroom and – well, I’ll spare you the gruesome details.  Casey and Gibbs had taken it upon themselves to guard me while I sat pondering; Gibbs in the doorway so no masked intruders or zombies could get past him, and Casey sat at my feet, looking up at me, a perplexed look on his face.  Night time Mum is definitely more scarier than day time Mum, with one eye closed and hair standing on end.  Seeing me at 4am is a very rare occurrence and they optimised the situation to their favour.  Once I’d finished in the bathroom, negotiated getting over Casey and navigated the doorway and climbed over Gibbs, I was about to turn all the lights off and go back upstairs to bed.  They had other ideas.  Both sat next to their food bowls and with upturned angelic face far too hard to resist, I caved and gave them another bowl of dinner or perhaps that should be a ‘pre-breakfast breakfast’.

Satisfied that they were happy, I bid them goodnight and went to bed.  I woke up less than four hours later feeling decidedly giddy and very unwell.  This is what a combination of late nights, early mornings, and poor choices throughout the day (not necessarily food, I hasten to add) will do to you.

The answer?  Well, I had to formulate a plan.  Obviously, my body is in the habit of going to bed late but it also wakes up early so I’m lucky if I get three or four hours a night.  Margaret Thatcher may have famously got by running the country – or ruining it depending on your viewpoint – on just four hours sleep but I need at least 7 or 8 hours.  Maybe Denis Thatcher was a highly sexually charged man and that was why she got so little sleep, but I don’t even want to think about that scenario.

So, a plan was needed.  And I came up with the simplest of ideas.  Before I tell you what it is can I just say that life never needs to be difficult.  Simplicity is best when it comes to making any decisions about anything; keep it simple.   There is less to go wrong when the plan isn’t laden down with complicated caveats.

In order to go to bed earlier, I would set my alarm clock for 7.00am.  I know a lot of people get up a lot earlier than that, but I am at home all day and having spent years getting up at silly o’clock to get a train into London every day, and getting home at all hours, I don’t really want to get up any earlier than that.  There is no need unless we’re doing one of our infrequent boot fairs, then I have to get up at 4 – 4.30.

Getting up earlier would hopefully kickstart my mind (and body) into accepting going to bed earlier.  And instead of saying I wanted to be in bed by midnight, I revised that to 11. If I could get to sleep shortly after 11 and get up at 7, then I would, hopefully, get about 8 hours sleep a night – which would be perfect.

In order to make sure I went to bed early, it was important not to have my evening meal too late, so I revised that time as well.  I decided I would eat no later than 7, earlier if possible and that would give my meal 4 hours or so to digest, hopefully eliminating the painful gut problems experienced last night.

Coupled with a short walk after lunch, or some vigorous dancing around my handbag in the front room if the weather was inclement, I had a plan. Let’s see if I can make it work.

 

Introduction – let’s get started

Bad habits creep up on us when we least expect it.  Something we’ve been doing for some time suddenly is the reason why our clothes are too tight, or our knees or back hurt.  We can blame our wardrobe if we want to, saying that during the winter months while our summer clothes are safely tucked away, the fairies got in and shrunk our clothes, but who are we kidding?

Time is of the essence and there’s no time like the present to begin a new makeover; a complete overhaul; an MOT; call it what you will, to ensure that just because you may be living an unhealthy way at the moment, it can’t be fixed.  It can be fixed.  Starting with right now!

Welcome to Living Well, Being Happy because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?  We want to live to the best of our ability and we want to be happy.  How many of us are living a bit too well, perhaps, but are unhappy with what we see in the mirror every day? I am not going to tell you what to do, by the way.  I can only suggest things that have worked (or not) for me.

We are all human, and we all try and fall down all the time.  And that’s OK.  What’s not OK is if we don’t try at all.

Let’s get going.