We’re not living through the best of times but our attitudes and actions can make a big difference. I’d like to share five tips which have helped me these last few months – when I actually follow them!
If one helps you, I’ll be happy. Job done.
To quote Julie Andrews ‘Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start’. These five relate to the morning and my next blog will share another five for the rest of the day.
When you wake up don’t sigh and think ‘Groundhog Day’. Instead think positive and follow the advice of the Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, :
Be grateful for this ‘precious privilege’ and for everything you have. We are the lucky ones.
Studies have shown that practising gratitude is extremely good for your health, happiness and much more. It is one of my eight steps for ageing joyfully.
Enjoy a healthy breakfast. Although some now recommend skipping this meal (for example, if practising intermittent fasting), many others maintain it’s an important, if not the most important, meal of the day.
If you have a poached/boiled egg, yogurt, wholemeal toast, porridge or wholegrain cereals and fruit (probably not all at the same time, as quantity counts), your body will thank you.
For me every meal is important. Until I’ve had food and above all coffee in the morning, I’m to be avoided at all costs. Luckily evidence shows a certain amount of coffee is good for you.
One of the joys of my retirement is getting up at a reasonable hour – late to most people – and eating a leisurely breakfast, usually listening to the radio and catching up on Twitter and emails. (This breaks one of my own tips on eating right, which is don’t do something else while eating). I’m not admitting what time I’m ready to face the day but, for Radio 4 listeners among you, Woman’s Hour can be long passed.
Eating the right foods in the right quantities is another of my steps with 37 tips in ‘How to Age Joyfully’ to help you eat well and lose weight if you really need to. Tackling obesity is particularly important in this pandemic, as we all know. If you start the day eating healthily, and with hunger satisfied, you may well feel more motivated to continue eating more healthily at lunch and dinner.
But you don’t have to follow a perfect diet. Treats, in moderation, are definitely allowed because:
Breakfast digested, you need to start moving and keep moving regularly throughout your day. I’m now sitting for far too long, staring at a screen or TV without a break, but I try to get up and move about every half-hour which is recommended.
Physical activity is probably the most important of my eight steps.
‘You can’t turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again.’
Bonnie Prudden, physical fitness pioneer who lived to 97.
Some keen souls walk, jog, or even run, before breakfast. Being a lazy owl, not a lark, that smacks of masochism to me. But if I exercise in the morning, I do feel much better and it sets me up for the day.
There is some good news. New research by University College London has shown that since lockdown the over 65s are the only group that have not only maintained their activity levels, but have been exercising more! The experts are unsure why. I suspect we have more time, motivation given our greater vulnerability, and opportunity with more classes online. Read on.
Walking is of course readily available to most of us, but it’s now easier than ever to do an exercise class at home, if you have the space. I’ve found there are several advantages to a recorded YouTube video or DVD. There’s no travel, it can be done whenever I want – and in pyjamas – and no one sees me struggling to maintain ‘the plank’ for 30 seconds.
And the live Zoom classes I do are just as enjoyable and probably more beneficial with an instructor helping and encouraging us. We’re now spoilt for choice on line, with tai chi to HIIT, and so many classes are free – one positive of this pandemic.
I highly recommend Joe Wicks, the Body Coach, as he’s hugely motivating and engaging. A few million others agree. I discovered he’s done several short Workouts for Seniors on YouTube which are excellent if starting out on aerobic exercise. He also has Chair, low impact, fat burning, full and specific body parts workouts…..so there’s bound to be one that suits, whatever your level and needs. Thanks, Joe and congratulations on your well deserved MBE.
Another personal recommendation is the very best stretch class I’ve attended (and I’ve done a few in my time). It’s called Stretchworks and is the creation of former dancer Alison Evans. We now have her DVD which is suitable whatever your age or ability, and I believe she also has online classes.
(And just in case it was crossing your mind, no, I’ve not been asked to give either of these recommendations. My influence and reach is not quite there yet!)
If you don’t fancy an exercise class, just do whatever physical activity you enjoy. For me it’s mostly dancing but that’s a whole blog of its own.
At breakfast, it’s time to consult my daily To Do List. In fact, I have medium and long term (wish/bucket) lists as well. I couldn’t cope without my lists, which are still done with pen and paper, although I’m aware there are helpful apps. Just search online for ‘to do list apps’ and you’ll be amazed at the amount of information out there – about 2,950,000,000 results in 0.67 seconds!!
In these unprecedented times, when days can seem indistinguishable and planning ahead is almost impossible, it is even more important to enjoy the moment and focus on the present day.
Don’t waste today worrying about tomorrow.
I revise or redo my list most days, as hopefully there are at least a few items I can vigorously cross out – far more satisfying than just ticking a little box. I’ve even been known to add something I’ve already done and then immediately cross it out. I expect you aren’t that desperate for an instant sense of achievement!
However, despite having more time, I’ve been achieving less since lockdown began. You may be too. My answer? Don’t feel bad – just make your list shorter and more realistic for these times. It’s far better than facing daily disappointments and rewriting the same items day after day. Often I then find it’s too late to do them anyway, adding guilt (but sometimes relief) to disappointment.
I now only include the most important and urgent things, plus a few very quick and easy wins. Everything else goes on my ever growing medium term list. Result? I feel pleased with myself and more positive. But I’m still waiting for the day when I’ve crossed out every item on even my shortened list.
My daily list also includes most of my ‘me time’ items, whether a class, a video call with a friend, catching up a missed TV programme or online event, or whatever I want to do. This increases the chance of my achieving them and it makes my list far more appealing. ‘Fun To Dos’ are as – if not more – important especially now, as ‘Have to Dos’. Housework (definitely not my idea of fun) is, in fact, the subject of my next tip.
…tips six to ten, will appear in a couple of weeks. Hope you’ll come back then.
In the meantime, enjoy all your ‘todays’ and
Stay safe; stay strong; stay smiling.