Mindfulness Requires Organisation

It’s fantastic living in the moment; but I only seem to manage to do it when playing or competing in sport – when in ‘flow state‘.

In practical terms, it is very tricky to be 100% mindful at home, and especially in work…but I think it can be done.

You just need to be very organised; if you know everything you need to get done is ‘in a system’ that you adhere to everyday, then you can relax, or at least focus 100% on the task in hand.

If you don’t have a ‘system’, then you’re constantly worrying about whether or not you’ve missed something…

I’ve made an attempt to do this recently, here are some tips on both Mindfulness & organisation:

  • Have a “Family to-do book” at home.  Rather than telling your partner, and vice versa, stuff that needs to be done over-dinner, or when you’ve just stepped in from work – put it in a book that’s next to your seat in the lounge or somewhere easily accessible.  Have a quick review of it each night.  This stops you from getting it in the throat for ‘not listening’ and not having done A and B at the weekend.
  • Make a list of 3 things that need to be done each day and label them A, B and C in terms of priorities.
  • Have a list of everything that you need to get done in 1 place.  I’ve been guilty in the past of writing tasks down in loads of different places.  It’s much easier if everything organised in 1 place
  • Turn the radio off in the car on the way home.  This helps you from not feeling ‘over-stimulated’ when you walk in at home.
  • Try and focus 100% on whatever you are doing. If you are doing the dishes, stop rushing it, focus on the task at hand, feel the water and plates etc.  “Nothing is more important or enjoyable as the now”

Meditate – focus on your breathing, and keep bringing the focus back, as the mind wanders (which it will).
If you can’t meditate for any reason, just be mindful whenever possible. For example; when typing, focus on the feeling of the keys when you touch them.

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Image source

Active Breaks in North Wales

The wild and wonderful countryside of North Wales has always been a popular destination for avid walkers, with Snowdonia National Park standing out as a haven for anyone seeking to spend some time in the great outdoors.

There’s far more than just walking to be done in North Wales, however.
There’s a wide range of activities to experience, providing fun for the entire family.
What’s more, there’s no need to leave the dog at home when you visit – thanks to
the abundance of dog-friendly holiday cottages in Wales, they too can experience
the stunning Snowdonia countryside.
If you fancy combining long country hikes with something a little more challenging,
then here are just a few of the best places to visit for a more active break in North Wales…

Bear Grylls Adventure Day

Head over to the Dragon Raiders Activity Park on the Lleyn Peninsula to test yourself against the wild and rugged terrain on one of Bear Grylls’ Survival Academy’s Half Day courses. Once there, you will combine essential survival skills with adventure tasks, all under the guidance of a team of highly experienced instructors. You’ll learn how to build a fire, to find edible food and even build yourself a usable shelter. It’s a fun, exciting, educational adventure that is perfect for families, school trips, and even team building exercises.

Segway Adventures

Also situated at Dragon Raiders Activity Park is the chance to experience one of their thrilling Segway adventures. Set in over 30 acres of woodland, the latest Segway X2 will allow you to zip about in style on one of their tough and durable machines. It’s your choice between a relaxing forest trek or a far more vigorous off-road rally.

The National White Water Centre

If you fancy a real adrenalin rush then why not tackle some genuine white water rapids on the River Tryweryn at the National White Water Centre. Here, you can experience a range of water sports, including rafting and kayaking, down the wild mountain river that presents an imposing challenge all year round. There are multiple routes to tackle, so don’t panic too much as all abilities are amply catered for.

Zip World

Zip World has three locations in North Wales, each offering a special high-velocity adrenalin rush. At the Blaenau Ffestiniog site, you can experience the first 4 person zip line in Europe and a unique subterranean adventure in their fantastic unground site. At their Bethesda site lies their “Velocity” zip line, the longest in Europe and the fastest in the world, which is a huge rush and certainly not one for the fainthearted. Finally at their Betws-Y-Coed site, you can go on a spectacular zip safari through the forest treetops and enjoy the enormous five-seater swing, known as the Skyride.

Go Below

Go Below’s Underground adventures take you deep into the former mines of Snowdonia. It’s a fascinating chance to explore a spectacular underground world as you undertake a series of challenges while abseiling and zip lining through gaping caverns and lakes. Your nerves will be tested as you are challenged to climb a vertical shaft and abseil down a waterfall. It’s all hosted by some of the country’s premier mine exploration experts and the adventure can be tailored to your group – be it a school trip, a family outing or a stag or hen do.

 

Cycle Paths and ParaCycling

If cycling is more your thing, then North Wales has plenty of options.  In fact, it’s arguably the best place in the UK for cycling fans.

Off Road Routes include:
Coed Y Brenin – http://www.beicsbrenin.co.uk/trails/
Llandegla – https://oneplanetadventure.com/
The two lake tour – http://www.ridenorthwales.co.uk/english/routes-detail.asp?rtype=18

There are also a number of great, circular on-road cycle routes that can be found here.

North Wales also has a number of para-cycling and para-triathlon events. If you are interested in All Ability Cycling, I’d recommend checking out Quest 88’s site here.

 

 

Where’s your favourite place in North Wales for an active break? Let us know in the comments!

Britain’s Botanical Gardens

Over thirty million people a year visit the UK as tourists, making the UK one of the most popular global tourist destinations. Every year, more and more tourists holiday in the UK – not surprising, given the abundance of natural destinations, heritage sites and cultural attractions. One of those quintessentially British attractions: our wonderful botanical gardens, dotted across the country. We’ve put together a list of absolute must-sees, including a few hidden gems that you should try and visit in 2016.

Fenton House & Garden
Fenton House & Garden is an Edwardian garden in London’s charming Hampstead area. Expect roses galore, curated hedges, and an apple orchard in a garden that has remained almost unchanged for 300 years.

 Fenton House Hampstead front February 2006.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenton_House

 

Ness Gardens

On the Wirral, just down the road from the old Roman city of Chester, Ness Gardens is a must-see in the North West. The gardens themselves have a focus on preservation, creating a ‘living library’ of conservation in this treasured local feature.

 

 

Benmore Botanic Garden
Once part of the estate of a Scottish trade baron, the Benmore Botanic Garden serves to host a rich collection of living plants, focused on conifers and rhododendrons. The Edinburgh Botanic Gardens are also worth a visit, if you’re willing to travel between the Scottish coasts.

 

 Benmore's majestic avenue of giant redwoods

 

Snowshill Manor & Garden

Not far from Gloucester, the Snowshill Manor & Garden offers you not only a lovingly cultivated garden, but also the chance to explore the museum/house designed by architect and poet Charles Wade. Wade has assembled a manor full of curiosities, including weaponry and scale models of boats.

 A view of Snowshill Manor in Gloucestershire from the gardenhttp://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/snowshill-manor-and-garden


Throckmorton Family Gardens
The gardens, south of Birmingham, are a part of the wider Coughton Court. Designed to be experienced as a series of rooms, Throckmorton Family Gardens offer you a walled, labyrinthine garden.

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http://www.coughtoncourt.co.uk/

Mottistone Gardens
The Isle of Wight is already a beautiful destination for a trip, but the Mottistone Gardens are a distinctly peaceful and gorgeous valley filled with exotic and local plants. With ocean views from much of the garden, part of the garden’s mission is to bring plant life to the UK and see how they fare in our changing climate.

 Summer flowers and plants in the gardens at Mottistone, Isle of Wighthttp://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottistone-gardens

The National Botanic Garden of Wales
Just a short drive north of Swansea, Wales’ national botanical gardens are fantastic. Playing host to the world’s largest single-span glass greenhouse, there’s a huge host of Mediterranean plants under one roof. Outside of the greenhouse is a geological time-walk through Wale’s natural heritage, as well as a series of themed gardens.

Melbourne Hall Gardens
South of Derby, in the village of Melbourne, the Melbourne Hall Gardens is very much a Georgian manor. The house itself is open to the public, and features seven rooms that you can visit in a house that is still occupied by Lord and Lady Ralph Kerr. The gardens themselves are vivid and tranquil, and host some rare shrubs in the planted borders and intersecting paths.

Have we missed one? Let us know in the comments if you just can’t believe we missed your favourite garden. We’d love to hear from you!

Middle Age Training – Fitness for the Male Menopause

I recently listened to the Joe Rogan podcast, featuring Steve Maxwell, some great takeaways for the over 35s still training hard…

Super Slow Reps and Time Under Tension
Try not to worry about reps and weight so much, instead look to increase the time you can do an exercise for, without pausing in between ‘reps’.
For example, instead of smashing out chin ups; try slowing things down:
Take 4 seconds to slowly bring your chin up above the bar
Pause for 2 seconds at the top
Take 4 seconds to lower yourself down (95%, don’t lock out completely)
Pause for 2 seconds at the bottom
Then repeat for as long as possible.

Slow reps are less likely to cause injury, as is a lower weight.
I’ll do these reps for chins, then I’ll finish with one ‘explosive’ set at the end, as I still train in MMA and Jiu Jitsu, I need to be explosive in the ‘scrambles’ for positions.

Avoid Overhead Presses
Be very careful with your shoulder joints, these are almost always ruined in older guys who have trained intensely over the years.  Again use super slow reps if you must do overhead presses, and or use bands (my tips). Bands increase in resistance as you move/stretch them, so there’s less pressure on the joints.  I use chains when doing bench press, the weight is light when I start pressing, and gradually gets heavier as I extend my arms – and as the chain lifts off the floor.  This takes the stress off my shoulder joints a lot.

One Set Training
Something I was introduced to in uni, apparently Kelly Holmes would do one set training, as otherwise her running sessions would be negatively impacted.  Then Mike Mentzer has similar concepts with his Heavy Duty training system.  This is also good for middle aged men, warm up, do a couple of light sets, then one working set to failure. It works especially well if you are training for a sport – it’s easy to overtrain.

The best fitness for a sport, is generally doing your sport.  I love to do Tabata Intervals with a given movement from my sport.  For example, for wrestling I’ll do ‘sit throughs’ for a tabata interval.  Do 20 seconds of 100% intensity work (e.g. sprint like mad on a bike), then rest 10 seconds, then do another 20 seconds 100% intensity burst, then rest for 10 etc.
Repeat until you have completed 4 minutes in total.

Meriva Curcumin
Got this tip from Dr Rhonda Patrick. Found it great. Tumeric’s ‘active compound’ is curcumin, but it’s absorbed poorly. You can take it with black pepper to increase the bioavailability somewhat, but warpping in a ‘phytosome’ (Whatever that is) is proven to dramatically increase the absorption and anti-inflammatory effects.  More info here.

 

 

Enlightenment on a budget

So you finally ‘woke up’, you can see through all the marketing, the consumerism and the general BS that drives most of the economy.
But rather than feeling liberated and freed, you’re stuck in this kind-of cynical and depressing middle-ground.

So next step, you start meditating and going to yoga class.  To take things to the next level you start researching online and hear about all the yoga retreats that you can attend, and even read about ayahuasca retreats tripadvisor.

Ayahuasca, if you haven’t heard, is a herbal ‘drink’ that is often used by indigenous tribes in Peru.  It has been touted by the likes of former CNN reporter Amber Lyons as a cure (for want of a better word) for mental health problems including anxiety.

As good as this sounds, unless you have a spare grand or two floating round in your savings account, a trip to Peru to speak to ‘Mother Ayahuasca’ is probably not on the cards.  Other ironically expensive Buddhist-treats including flotation tanks, are beyond the budget of many of us too. So if you can’t afford to buy into the ‘enlightenment industry’, what can you do?

Flotation Tanks
You can learn more about them by watching this documentary:

 

American comedian, and martial artist Joe Rogan has one is his basement.  But he’s rich, and I am not.

Here is an alternative, which I’ve found a lot more effective for sensory deprivation than a floatation tank. Although, you will look proper mental.

Listening to white noise on it’s own, with sound proof ear phones is enough on its own, to normally produce hallucinations etc, due to the impact of sensory deprivation. Add the weird white-eye-mask to this, and you’ll feel ‘bodyless’ in about 20 mins.

 

Ayahuasca
Whilst ‘Mother Ayahuasca’ possesses the female energy, San Pedro and Peyote cactuses posses the male. 

 

You can’t use San Pedro or Peyote in the UK :(

You can however get an Easy Jet flight over to Amsterdam, and buy and use Peyote or San Pedro legally. I have never done this myself, so cannot tout for the quality etc of what you can buy, but do feel it necessary to emphasise the importance of site and setting at this point. Don’t use it in the cheapest hotel you can find in Amsterdam. I’d recommend reading up and making some enquiries on Reddit.

Creating Positive Change

So I just watched this Ted ex video –

 

This screenshot pretty much summarises the take-away message form the talk:

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 20.19.20

Do these things for 21 days, and we should all be wonderfully happy…so here goes:

  1. My 3 Gratitudes
    Today I am grateful for:

My piglet

Elinor

2. My next door neighbour being a plumber after the sink decided to explode this evening.

3. My wife being an ace Mum

 

2. Journaling – I guess that’s what I’m doing now

3. Exercise – done today in work

4. Meditation – will do the ‘headspace meditation’ for 10 minutes on youtube after this

5. Small Acts of Kindness – ah hell, will have to find something nice to do before i go to bed!

Getting Focused on Work or Studying

Get a binaural beats study ‘soundtrack’ on youtube:

Proven (to a certain extent) to aid focus, mood, reduce anxiety and some aspects of creativity.

Set and start a Pomodoro timer – http://tomato-timer.com/

This allows you to work it ‘sets’ of 25 minutes, with 5 minutes break in between. Ideal for focus.  Wait until your 5 minute break to think about what else you need to do etc.

And off you go…

 

If you don’t like binaural beats, instrumental rock (or any music without vocals and with a beat) seems to work just as well for focus.

 

Here’s an interesting infographic too – cancel all meetings is the basic, underlying message by the looks of it!

optimizing-workflow-infographic.jpg

Image Source

 

 

Your Children are Not an Extension of your Own Ego

Having being brought up under the giant shadow created by, and constantly compared to Graeme ‘The Rock’ Sutcliffe, competitive parents and parenting has long been something that annoys me greatly.

Want to make your child feel not good enough?
Then quote your Mum-friends comments to your own children, and paraphrase their totally genuine anecdotes about how great their children are…and how your child must do better

Want to make your friends feel shyte?
Then tell them how great your child is, how they came 1st in every exam ever and are destined to be the next saviour of the free-world.
This in turn will no doubt lead said-friend to evaluate their child’s relative short-comings and pile tonnes of pressure on to their yet-to-fully-develop shoulders, so that they may then bask in the vicarious success of their own offspring when this fantastic parenting technique starts to pay off.

I’m working on some default responses for when a parent attempts to passive-aggressively put-down my child…these include:
“oh wow! your child is amazing! please tell me more…”
“Go away before I punch you in the throat”

Obviously, it’s best not to react to any type of boasting. It’s generally a sign of insecurity on the part of the person doing the bragging.
Just see it for what it is – a knobhead move

 

On a slight tangent – there’s a pretty cool article here  – If you want your child to perform well at Sport:

Based on psychological research, the three healthiest statements moms and dads can make as [kids] perform are:

Before the Competition:  

Have fun.

Play hard.

I love you.

After the competition:

Did you have fun?

I’m proud of you.

I love you.

 

 

How Watching Made in Chelsea is Consuming your Soul

Now I realise that TV producers find the biggest morons possible to make these shows more ‘entertaining’, and that the likes of Joey Essex pretend to be thick as pig-poo just to market themselves – for example by pretending he can’t tell the time – you didn’t believe that one did you?

Even with this awareness, watching horror/comedy programmes like TOWIE and Made In Chelsea is rotting your soul.
But Why?

Jealously!
Even though every philosophical book and self-help book tells us not to compare ourselves to others, we can’t help it.  Jealously is regarded as a secondary emotion. Triggered by anger or fear.  In this case, we all tend to get angry by watching a group of idiots, live amazing lifestyles that are way beyond most of us.

This ‘unfair treatment’ makes us angry – we work hard all week, and we can only dream of a lifestyle like that – unless we take out a ruck of loans that is.  Don’t do that.

Anger at what we perceive as unfair treatment, such as unequal-pay for doing the exact same job as someone else, is such an instinctive reaction, that even monkeys display it:

The only remedy to this anger is – not to watch the tripe in the first place, and find some intelligent friends who can see through the ‘consumerism culture’ and can enjoy doing things that don’t cost any money. Like blogging.Made-In-Chelsea--007