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Category: W2W Posts

The Fourth and Final W2W Post (or my conclusions from this month’s not-so-scientific experiment)

PostItsI’ve completed my last week of my Walking to Work (W2W) Challenge! I’m super proud for having kept this promise to myself this past month. While it’s taken a little longer than usual to write this post, I’m excited to share my findings with you because I’ve had such brilliant and unexpected results!

To give you a bit of background on how I came to set myself this W2W challenge, like many people, I work in a desk-bound office job that exacerbates back niggles and leads to my feeling irritable in the office.

By designing my W2W experiment, I wanted to test whether moderate morning exercise (like walking) would help to improve my back issues and put me in a better frame of mind for the working day. Though I expected physical improvements from moving my body , what I didn’t predict was the massive mental impact of incorporating the Tony Robbins’ Hour of Power (HoP) techniques into my walk.

Technically, the HoP wasn’t part of my initial challenge. I’d recently immersed myself in Robbins’ practical psychology and came across his suggestion of priming (which I wrote about here in an earlier post here). Incorporating the HoP ritual into my walk, I hoped to get my physical and emotional exercise, in one clean hit.

Essentially, my HoP is a conversation I have with myself – out loud – during my commute. It’s forty-five minutes in which I’m:

  • intentionally focusing on gratitude;
  • dreaming about my future;
  • setting goals for the day ahead; and
  • affirming the greatest possible emotional state from which I can achieve my goals and be the my best self.

In this, my last post in this mini-series, I’ll dig deeper into the four elements of my personal interpretation of the HoP ritual, to explain what I’ve learnt by completing the W2W challenge.

#1 HoP Ritual: Gratitude

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”

Tony Robbins

This experiment confirmed that gratitude is the best remedy for negative emotional states, like depression or anxiety. Writing daily gratitudes in my journal  – a common self-help strategy the world over- had nowhere near the impact as does speaking my thoughts aloud to myself as I walk.

I now understand – in my body as well as in my mind – that all emotions are physical; the word “emotion” itself says it all. By changing our physical energy, we can change our emotional energy. Walking, talking and listening to myself, I use more of my senses, which helps me feel thankfulness in my body.

“Emotion is created by motion.”

Tony Robbins (2012). “Awaken The Giant Within”, p.178, Simon and Schuster

In taking the W2W challenge, I have proof that my emotions are under my control. Effectively, this month, I’ve been learning how to manage my feelings, which I’d previously assumed was beyond me. Through my HoP commute, I’ve experienced my physical and mental energy change as I become thankful for the world around me. In this positive, heart-felt manner, I’m “checking my privileges” and appreciating all I have right now, rather than wishing for more. As someone who’s experienced mental health issues, this is nothing short of miraculous. My W2W experience has empowered me to take control of my emotional responses, by practising choosing what I want to feel, and consciously acting to make it happen.

#2 HoP Ritual: Future Dreams

In the second part of my HoP ritual, I visualise what I really want most in life in that moment, and I tell myself this new story aloud, framing it as if I’m grateful for having already accomplished it.

In this way, the W2W challenge has taught me to imagine a future for myself. Having lived in a depressive state most of my adult life, “the future” was a totally alien concept. Not being able to think more than a few days, hours or even minutes ahead for so long, I found it very uncomfortable to try and imagine my dream destiny. Even as a kid, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I certainly never thought about getting married or having a family. In my teens I plan a life beyond thirty – I couldn’t imagine being that old (!) – and, taking risks with my health and safety, I doubted I’d make it that far anyhow.

So, as technically, I’d already exceeded my life expectations, I gave myself permission to dream of a future from now, for myself and those I love. It was difficult to begin with; I’m used to limiting myself to what I think is practically possible.Judging and critiquing my ideas to where I’m too afraid to act has become a bad habit. I believed not making future plans would save me from disappointment. What I now realise is that it limited my achievements and my life. 

Following the metaphor below from famous Buddhist teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, I’ve let myself drift along on life’s waves, and  at 34, I’m now only just ready to take control of my surf board and lead my own life.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

 Jon Kabat-Zinn

Through the HoP has encouraged me to dream big. After all,

Making a decision not to judge, censor or criticise my thoughts has freed me to allow whatever dreams I can think of to come to the fore. I’m daring to dream big – after all, I’m only talking to myself!  As I walk, I hear myself say words that have never come out of my mouth before. I’m acknowledging to myself, for the first time, that perhaps there are things I might want to experience in life. I do see a future for myself after all.

#3 HoP Ritual: Setting Daily Goals

Surprisingly, the hardest part of my W2W ritual has been setting goals for the day. It’s not easy to get excited about daily chores; they don’t exactly fulfil my wildest dreams. So rather than focusing on “what do I want to achieve today?”, I ask myself “how do I want to feel today?” This focuses me on my true purpose of every day, regardless of my future hopes and dreams: to feel great now!Knowing the emotions I don’t want makes it easy to think of those I do. Thanks to cleverer questioning, I’m now regularly experiencing empowering emotions – happiness, excitement, energy, confidence – that make such a huge impact and help me make the most of my day.

In setting daily goals, I’ve realised that I can ask myself for what I really want, and not just what I think I should want to do. By asking :“what small step can I take today to move me closer towards my dreams?”, I’m making space for my mind to devise creative ways of moulding my day to fit my longer-term plans.

The future can feel so very far away, and my dreams a million miles further still. Sometimes, when I’m trying to craft my daily goals to fit my dreams, I still hear my inner critic say “what’s the point?”. Yet I’ve learnt to wait, give myself time, and I know positive steps forward will come, however tiny. I then act in spite of any lingering negative thoughts. It’s working: I want to write, so here I am, writing this blog. I want to be a skilled speaker, so I’m volunteering to make presentations at work. I want to plan a future with my partner C, so I’m starting conversations I’d previously have avoided, and I’m speaking my truth. I’m facing my fears and risking rejection in all areas of my life because I want more for myself.

#4 HoP Ritual: Incantations

“Using incantations to help take direct control of your state can make all the difference in your quality of life.”

Team Tony @tonyrobbins.com

This is the most “hippy-ish” part of the HoP ritual that Tony teaches, and the bit about which I was particularly sceptical. Still, I made a decision to trust the method in this guy’s madness –  and I’m so glad I did! Amazingly, I’ve found this the most impressive tool I’ve learnt so far. With the power to instantly change my emotional state, incantations have had surprisingly long-lasting effects on me for the better.

I’ve already talked about incantations here on the blog; and the results of my W2W experiment speak for themselves. By the time I arrive at the office, I feel like a totally different person to the one that left my house. Depending on how I’d designed that day’s statement, I can feel confident, energetic, and enthusiastic for the day ahead, or maybe driven, dynamic and determined to make great things happen. Being the wordsmith that I am, I’m excited to craft my daily incantation and create the mood in which I want to live. You can see some examples of my recent affirmations, which I keep stuck on my desk or in my journal to remind me how I’ve promised to live.

And so…

In conclusion

I actually feel a bit sad that my “official” challenge is over. However while I may be done with my experiment, I’m definitely committed to the walking commute, and to the HoP ritual which has had such a huge positive impact on the quality of my life, at work and beyond.

Adding the HoP ritual to my challenge worked for me because walking to work is one of the few times I’m truly alone. Being on my own helped me to speak openly and honestly with myself, and not to be self-conscious in trying these techniques. There was no one to witness my sounding like Mary Sunshine, using words like “gratitude” and “joy” as often as many other (normal) people might drop an F-bomb.  Well, with the exception of the odd dog walker and runner who may (or may not) have heard me declaring my intentions to the Universe!

As potentially embarrassing as it may be, my HoP W2W ritual has taught me how I can practically take control of my emotions. By redirecting my mental focus in an empowering way, I’m learning to make decisions and take action that moves me forward each day, in a positive direction.  I’m shaping my own experience of life by choosing how I want to feel about it, rather than just accepting whatever emotions arise.

Happiness has become my new habit – and let me warn you – it’s addictive!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The W2W Week 3 Post (or how morning movement is helping me take back (mental) control)

Crocus

Source image

The third week of my walking to work (W2W) experiment has again proven to me the power of the body-mind connection. I’m both physically and emotionally stronger than before I took on this challenge. Having adapted to my new routine, I genuinely look forward to time alone with my thoughts. Eagerly anticipating how I might progress today in getting to know myself better, I’m excited to set out on my walk. This is exactly as Tony Robbins predicts would result from embracing an Hour of Power (HoP) ritual (you can hear him talk about this here). I’ve uncovered the ability to choose how I want to feel, and subsequently make empowering decisions about how I want to live,

So how exactly has the W2W challenge helped me determine how I want to feel about myself and life?

Well, firstly, I’ve noticed that by walking in the mornings, I feel far less back pain and stiffness. This was the outcome I’d hoped changing my routine would bring. It’s also encouraged me to move more during the day. For example, despite my return journey being largely uphill, I’m electing to walk home more often because it makes me feel good in my skin. This week has confirmed to me that acting in my body’s best interests means exercising as often as possible.

Alongside these physical gains, I’m also benefiting from feeling happier by consciously choosing to focus on what’s good in the world.  During my walks, I’ve learnt to craft a positive state of mind through connecting to nature via my physical senses (of sight, sound, touch, scent and taste)Spending more time outdoors, I’m noticing subtle seasonal changes. Leaving my house, sharp late-Winter winds lick my skin and light blue skies stretch out in front of me. Bird song fills the air, and flashes of purple and yellow show themselves through the green grass verges. Subtly yet consistently evolving, I’m reminded that change is the only constant for all elements of nature – including me. Witnessing Spring unfold before my eyes reassures me that its justified to have a sense hopefulness about life.

Prior to this experiment I sought to create a positive mindset for the day by journalling over breakfast at my desk. Writing out my gratitudes and intentions is useful to me in many ways. However, I’ve noticed that I have a much deeper, more immediate impact on my mindset through my W2W rituals. I think this is because it incorporates more of my senses than writing alone. Smiling and talking myself through my HoP ritual whilst walking, I feel genuinely happy and excited about life! Deciding to walk regularly,  I’m selecting the tool which works best to create a positive mental state.

I’ve also found that through practising my HoP rituals, I’ve learnt new techniques to create the kind of emotional state in which I want to live. In particular, using incantations has helped me to cultivate an empowering mindset. Incantations are essentially verbal statements of positive intent you make to yourself out loud. Unlike affirmations or mantras, Robbins says that with incantations, “… not only do you speak it, but you embody it with all the intensity you can, and you do it with enough repetitions that it sticks in your head.” I find my confidence grows with each iteration and as I reach the end of my walk, I own the enthusiasm, excitement and passion that I want for myself.

An unexpectedly welcome outcome of my W2W challenge, learning to craft a positive mindset has also taught me to recognise how I don’t want to feel and has given me the skills to take action to change my emotional state. A prime example of this in the past week was when I noticed myself feeling a little uneasy – a touch of guilt – from breaking my new routine to accept a lift to work. Feeling guilt for not exercising is a warning sign from my twenties; caught in an eating disordered loop, I was regularly plagued with thoughts of what I should do, eat or be. Perhaps it’s just the ghost of an old mental habit, but I’m reminded to take such emotional messages seriously and keep an eye on myself. Accepting the occasional ride to work, forcing myself to break routine, I’m acting to protect my mental health by incorporating a crucial element of flexibility into my routine.

DaveSnow

The W2W experiment has taught me so much more than I’d expected; it’s been an eye-opening experience. For the next week, I’m on leave from work so have put the final week of the challenge on hold. Technically, I’m on holiday, but I’m actually working with my partner on renovating our former home for sale. A very different kind of physical and mental challenge,  I’m actually really looking forward to it! Who knows what I might learn?! Having taken a break this week, I anticipate I’ll miss my routine and I’ll be excited to return to the W2W challenge in the first week of March.

My cat, Dave, and I are both hoping the snow lifts by then!

The Week 2 W2W Post (or how I’m striding into Spring with a whole new mindset)

“Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.” Tony Robbins

GardenSnowdropsI’m now officially half-way through this month’s walking to work (W2W) challenge and as the mornings are getting lighter, so is my mood. Spring is just around the corner! While I’m still in my scarf and gloves to keep warm, I’ve spotted blooming Spring bulbs reaching up through the grass, reminding me that brighter days are coming. This inspires hope, particularly having learnt so much about myself during my W2W experiment over such a short space of time.

Meeting a physiotherapist this week confirmed my expectations that by walking to work, I’d feel physically fitter for the rest of the day. Apparently, piriformis syndrome (an issue affecting my lower back and sciatic nerve) is often more acute in people who spend a long time sitting in desk jobs like me, interspersed with periods of intensive exercise. In my body’s best interests, it’s therefore sensible to add moderate daily exercise (like walking) to my weekday routine.

In addition to establishing this physically healthy habit, I’ve also developed a daily mental ritual which is making a huge difference to how I feel inside. I’ve designed my own Tony Robbins-inspired Hour of Power (HoP) ritual, where I’m essentially “priming” myself to be in a positive emotional state for the day.

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” Tony Robbins

One of the key ways I’m priming myself on my morning walk is by learning to visualise. Visualisation is essentially the ability to “see” events play out in your imagination before they happen. Being rather self-conscious and perfectionistic, I’ve previously felt so uncomfortable even trying to imagine what lies ahead for me, that I’ve been frozen in place by depression and anxiety. Yet this past fortnight, I’ve been surprised by how easily I’ve adopted this skill. Visualising my way into an optimistic state, my mind wanders freely, generating new ideas. On my W2W commute, I feel at my most creative and imaginative; I’m truly amazed at how much my mind has revealed to me about myself.

In this way, the W2W challenge is helping me get a clearer idea of what I want from life. I’m starting to have actual dreams about what I want in my future! Having regular, relaxed thinking time to myself of a morning, I’m creating increasingly detailed mental pictures of the person I want to become and the life I want to live. It’s been an  exciting and eye-opening experience!

Some of the dreams I’ve found myself exploring on my W2W this week include:

  • contemplating the potential benefits of parenthood;
  • exploring a viable career path as a writer;
  • generating ideas for future business ventures.

Through these my mental and physical morning rituals, I’m generating ideas as to how I might get what I want from life and achieve my dreams. Moving my body outdoors seems to give me the mental freedom to brainstorm. Perhaps this is because my mind reaches further for solutions under a vast expanse of sky? In any case, I’ve been arriving at my office with actionable plans I’m driven to fulfill. This past week, for example, dedicating more time to writing and persisting through  perfectionistic “writers’ block” has paid off. My creativity is on fire! I feel mentally awake and energized to achieve my aims.

Since starting my W2W habit, I’m even building better relationships with other people. Actively choosing my mood to be one of gratitude, joy and positivity at the start of the day is helping me create more meaningful, genuine connections. Priming myself like this has led to my starting conversations with colleagues and shop assistants, which I’d previously have avoided.  I’m greeting strangers I pass in the street and even talking to the ducks in the park!

“There is a powerful driving force inside every human being that, once unleashed, can make any vision, dream, or desire a reality.” Tony Robbins

Taking on this challenge, I expected to feel physically stronger and possibly a little happier from all the extra exercise. What I didn’t anticipate was developing a ritual which would lead to my having these mental breakthroughs. I’m primed to make progress towards a future for myself that I genuinely desire. I’m no longer simply standing still, letting life happen to me; I can honestly say I’m directing my own life.  As I stride into Spring, I’m excited to see what else I might learn over the coming weeks!

The Week One W2W Post (or how my walking challenge is going so far)

HeatherW2W

It’s just over a week since I’d set myself a walking to work (W2W) challenge. With the exception of one particularly frosty morning, I’ve walked in every day and so far, it’s been enlightening.

Before I report back on what I’ve found, I want to clarify a few things. Firstly, I can’t be 100% sure that the walking alone is what’s influencing my feelings, so it’s not an entirely scientifically accurate experiment. I’m unable to control other variables, like the weather, or even the mood I’m in when I wake. Also, since I’m reading Tony Robbins’ book I’ve added another element to my W2W experience. I’m incorporating his suggestions for an “Hour of Power” (HoP) ritual – with some truly interesting results!

As C has repeatedly mocked Robbins’ evangelical presentation style, I’ve not gone into detail as this particular element of my daily stroll. I’m naturally rather skeptical of anything “alternative” myself, so I admit feeling a bit embarrassed to be practicing this in public.  But thus far, it works for me. So what’s this HoP thing anyway?

Well, technically it doesn’t need to last a whole hour; it’s just about reclaiming time first-thing to set yourself up for peak performance. Essentially, it comprises of moving your body ; expressing gratitude; and visualising what you want in the future as well as for the day ahead. It starts with changing my breathing patterns and finishes with repeating a mantra to myself, which I change to focus on what I need to feel most that day.

Here’s what I’ve learnt from the past week:

“See what daily exercise does for one.” Seneca

W2W Lesson #1:  Walking in the morning puts me into a positive mindset

By walking when I feel great, as well as when I’ve woken up feeling anxious, I’ve seen first-hand that morning exercise has a consistently positive consequences. Moving my body gives me a sense of achievement as well as an extra energy boost. Being an introvert, I value having taken this time for myself before the day has properly begun. It gives me the head space to prepare for my day.

I’ve noticed I’m generally feeling happier, more optimistic and more confident in my ability to manage situations. Any anxiety I feel lifts and loosens by the time I arrive at my office, and this has a huge impact on how I feel about work: I’m less overwhelmed by people and problems, and I’m much more comfortable around colleagues.

So far, my W2W challenge affirms what I read in Tony Robbins’ book:

“Motion creates emotion.” Tony Robbins

Listening to uplifting music and doing my HoP rituals as I walk, my whole body changes: I smile; I walk tall; I breathe deeply and bounce along the pavement to the beat. If I’m talking out loud to myself (yes, I’m that person), my voice sounds different: It’s stronger and I sound more certain of myself. With my body telling my nervous system that I’m grateful, optimistic about the future and happy, it’s really hard to feel sad or scared. As someone who experienced serious depression for most of my adult life, this is quite a revelation!

I’m hopeful for the rest of this experiment. It seems like intentionally taking time to move first-thing, and while I do so, choose the state I want to live in turns out to be a real game-changer. There really seems to be something in moving my body that changes my emotional state for the better.

W2W Lesson #2: Prepare the night before to make the morning run smoothly

Preparing what I need for work in the evening ensures I’m able to leave on time for my walk. Before I go to bed I’ll wash my hair; lay out my clothes; pack my bags and prepare lunch. I make sure to drink my tea and eat an egg prior to leaving the house so I don’t turn into a hangry beast (!).

Thinking ahead like this minimises my morning decisions. I’m far more likely to follow through with my plans if I don’t have to make any choices. There’s not much mental effort required, which is exactly what I need at 6am. Instead, I can listen to podcasts and focus on getting ready for the day.

W2W Lesson #3: Changing how I use commuter “dead time” reaps unexpected rewards

I expected exercise would help me better handle my working day. However I didn’t expect it to impact on how I feel about life more generally. I’ve uncovered an ability to visualise my future. Having dedicated time and space alone, I’m able to let go and allow myself to dream. I feel safe; free to explore my thoughts internally, not even committed to writing them in my journal.  Whilst walking, I’m relaxed physically and mentally, so visualisation comes naturally. I’m learning what it is I want that I didn’t know before. This matters, because for so long, I could barely picture the next week, let alone look ahead several years. In depression, there is no future. 

I’m getting clearer about what it is I might want for myself in the future. The mental pictures I discover become increasingly intricate as the days go on. I’m not actually trying to create anything; I’m not artificially constructing a vision for myself. Thoughts arise organically as I walk, and I’m open to whatever comes up, rather than what or who I think I should want to be.

Using the time I spend commuting in this way sets me up for a more productive day.  The intentions I set myself are better aligned with my future hopes and dreams. Instead of my day’s activities being tailored to meet other people’s expectations answered needs, I’ve designed plans to move me closer to what I really want. For example, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities in the office to practise creating deeper human connections because it’s a skill I value. This week has also helped me prioritising time to write, as the idea of being a writer kept coming into my mind.

At the end of week one, I’m genuinely looking forward to what I might uncover on my walks. This challenge is helping me find my purpose and then put it into daily practise. As well as benefiting from moving my body, I’m also exercising my mind. It’s sparked enough curiosity in me to motivate my continuing this W2W challenge. It’s been an exciting and uplifting start to my day and I’m keen to see what happens over the next few weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

The Walk to Work Post (or why I’m taking small steps)

 

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I took this beautiful photo on my walk into work this morning. It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?!

As the cold January air brushed against my cheeks, I moved briskly in my snugly winter clothes. I stared in awe at the sky above, amazed by the fiery colours and its sheer vastness. Listening to my favourite podcasts, I breathed in deeply and realised  – I was happy. As I’m definitely not someone who’s raring to go on a Monday morning (!), this caught me by surprise.

Particularly as I was forgoing the usual ten-minute (heated) car journey with C to instead take a 350% longer solo trek, in what can be politely described as typically British weather.*

Walking into work a few weeks back while C was away, I noticed that I somehow felt better than usual when I arrived at the office.  Physically, my back felt less painful sitting at my desk; my body stayed warmer for longer; and my muscles were satisfyingly stretched from being exercised. Mentally, I felt accomplished and yes, perhaps even a little smug. I’d already done something healthy for and by myself (which is really important to us introverts) before the work day had even begun.

So I’ve decided to make this into a micro-experiment for myself for the next few weeks. A sort of self-science, if you will. I’ll test out walking to work to see what impact it has upon my physical and mental health.

“You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know. Knowing is not enough! You must take action.”   Tony Robbins

This kind of self-help experiment – where you have an idea (a theory) about something, design a way of testing it out and measuring the outcome – are at the centre of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and pretty much every other kind of therapy or self-help programme out there. It’s basic science and it doesn’t need to be complicated.

Let me show you what I’m doing with my walk to work experiment as an example.

1. What’s my theory? 

Walking to work may have a positive impact on how I feel during the day, both physically and mentally. 

Spell it out clearly, as you need to know what you think now to be able to test it for yourself.

2. How will I test it out?

I will walk to work at least twice a week. I will then compare how I feel during those days with how I feel on the days I get a ride to work.

Be specific and keep it simple.  Specific = what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. Simple = easy to remember (and hard to forget). Write it down.

3. How will I measure it?

I’ll make a note of them in my journal as I go, and at the end of the month, I’ll compare my feelings to see whether walking has made me happier.

Make it measurable, so you’ll know whether or not you’ve achieved whatever it is you set out to investigate. Record it at the time, and make it accurate. You can then look back later and make an objective decision as to the results of your experiments.

 

For change to happen, you need to change somethinganything – and you need to do it now.  Whether that’s what’s going on inside your head (the internal stuff) or what you’re doing out there in the world (the external stuff), testing things out for yourself is addressing the B in CBT. It’s taking action, which ultimately is what you need to do to move you forward.

In Tony Robbins’ 2001 bestseller Awaken the Giant Within, he talks a lot about taking “massive action”.  Okay, so walking to work a few times a week isn’t particularly massive, but what it is achieving is getting me past the theory of self-help and into the practise.

Taking incremental action – even on a relatively micro scale – is a brilliant way to instantly implement any suggestions you get from the self-help genre. It’s easy to feel all fired up when you first read or hear about something, but then you quickly lose momentum  to actually do anything about it by the time you get to the end. This way, you’re using the motivation you feel in the moment to see if what you’re learning is actually useful and practically applicable to your life now.

So this is how I created this step-by-step (!) action plan for the month of February, and why I think you might also benefit from designing your own mini self-help experiments. Let me know what you’re doing in the comments below. I’ll be updating you on my progress as the month goes on.

Heather

*Read: a shower of shite. AKA snow, sleet, hail and that weird sideways rain that somehow manages to get round and inside your coat hood, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

 

 

 

 

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