The week that started 9th December

I got sick this week. Might have been norovirus. So glad I increased my intake of fruits and beans in the run-up to that, because I’m sure that’s what helped me to recover so quickly.

Speaking of health… Been thinking about depression again recently. And I want more people to talk about it more. So, I’m attempting that.

Devastated by the election result. Gave into despair for two days. But now I’m asking the question:

  • What are 15% solutions for all of us thriving together in the hellscape of austerity?

Similarly, finding Seven Worlds, One Planet deeply moving; somehow both distressing and encouraging.

Healthy habits

Fascinated with sciences around health, lately. And that’s made a huge difference for my wellbeing.

I was so worried about returning to a 5-day week, after 3.5 years of not doing that. (After my penultimate job, I had a 2 month break, then 3 years working a 4-day week, and then a 2.5 month sabbatical.) However, it’s really working for me at present. I’d benefit from a little more time off, sure, but it’s fairly well balanced.

  • Eating satisfying food
  • Sleep and science (mostly eulogising about being in a parasympathetic state)
  • Doing fun things
  • Increasing physical activity (to be added)

What can I say, apparently I’m an amateur scientist… 💅🏿

I’ve been interested in behaviour change for some time now, at least since working with the Move More folks when I was at Macmillan Cancer Support in 2015-ish, I just never really gave it much time or energy.

Eating satisfying food

I’m less interested in weight loss, and way more interested in not having cravings for sugar and stuff. (Sugar has a really bad impact on my energy levels & fatigue, as well as my teeth.)

And I learned from this video how to block sugar cravings just by eating dark leafy greens, it’s called the ileal brake. And fewer reward centres light up seeing sugary things when we eat a lot of fibre (beans & wholegrains), thanks to all the bacteria of our bodies. “While it’s technically true that we can’t digest fibre, that’s only applicable to the part of us that’s actually human. Most of the cells in our body are bacteria” 😱🥰

Anecdotally, this is something I’ve noticed in myself, that not only do I have lower sugar cravings when I avoid sugar from a few weeks, but also that when I try something sugary after that time (mostly out of nostalgia) it tastes pretty gross and I don’t finish it. This feels like magic to me because I used to have such a sweet tooth, even only a month or so ago. Really grateful for all the fruit & veg at work.

Plant-based nutrition is something that’s been interesting to me for years now, thanks to one of my colleagues at The Vegan Society introducing me to Dr Michael Greger’s work at Nutrition Facts.

“The single best diet proven for weight loss may just happen to be the safest, cheapest way to eat, for the longest, healthiest life.”

Sleep & science

Importance of parasympathetic state for good sleep

The parasympathetic nervous system is our default setting when we are not in danger. It lets us conduct the day to day business of life. Eating. Sleeping. Recovering. Reproducing.

7 Ways To Restore Parasympathetic Balance – Ben Kochavy

It acts in concert with the sympathetic nervous system and conserves the body’s energy by bringing bodily functions back to homeostasis, particularly after the fight or flight response is activated by the sympathetic nervous system.

Without the parasympathetic nervous system, the monitoring and regulation of everyday body processes would be impossible. Further, the parasympathetic nervous system plays a vital role in maintaining both mental and physical health by helping the body to calm down from stress reactions that elevate blood pressure, dilate the pupils, and divert energy from other body processes to fighting or fleeing.”

Parasympathetic Nervous System – Good Therapy

“The only time our brains go from reception to reflection is when our head hits the pillow, and that’s the last time that you need to be ruminating and catastrophising, and having that rolodex of anxiety.”

– Matthew Walker, #43

“There are many techniques that a person can use to strengthen and activate their parasympathetic nervous system, causing a relaxation response in their body.

For example: [paraphrased list below]

Activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System to Decrease Stress and Anxiety – Terry Hurley, Oct 26, 2018
  • Nature
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Deep abdominal breathing from the diaphragm
  • Repetitive prayer
  • Focus on a word that is soothing such as calm or peace
  • Play with animals or children
  • Yoga, chi kung, or tai chi
  • Exercise
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Hobby or something else enjoyable
  • Gently touch your lips
  • Be mindful – don’t multitask
  • Use visualisation

“Take one or two fingers and lightly run them over your lips” is one I had no idea about. There are parasympathetic nerve endings in your lips, so this is a quick & easy way to get into a parasympathetic state. Amazing.

Some reading recommendations I picked up whilst looking up info about this:

“sleep is a sensory experience”, with paraphrased tips below
  • Light: Need darkness for melatonin, which promotes sleep.
    • Red for night lights
    • Stop using screens 30-45 minutes before bed
    • Dark glasses that block out blue light
    • Blackout curtains
  • Temperature
    • 18.3C (65F) within range of 15.5-19.4 (60-67) for adults (70F for babies)
    • Warm feet help cool your core temperature, by drawing blood away from the rest of your body
  • Sound
    • Music to block out things like dogs barking, car alarms going etc.
    • Use binaural beats with headphones, ideally 60-90 minute cycle, to change brainwaves, progression from alpha → theta → delta → REM sleep
    • Meditation music, especially chants or mantras
  • Touch
    • Work out whether touch is calming or activating for your nervous system, e.g. holding hands
    • Communicate about it if you share a bed
    • Experiment with what clothing feels comfortable at night
“melatonin is made of serotonin” and “highest concentration of serotonin is in the gut”, with paraphrased tips below
  • Avoid sugar before bed. Because high sugar causes insulin spikes, which causes sugar crashing, which leads to waking and anxiety. Having protein and fat with your meal helps balance out sugar.
  • Check your chronotype
    • & some other stuff about drugs / meds
on breathing

In addition, I appreciate the advice of this video, to take 10 deep abdominal breaths before each meal to aid digestion. Such a good tip.

Excellent advice in this video too: Laugh for parasympathetic state, listen to your biorhythms (rest when tired, get up when refreshed), do one thing at a time and slowly, hugging, stretching…

I don’t think I’ll get an Oura ring to track my sleep quality, amongst other things, but I did find this video interesting:

Doing fun things

Learning more about the parasympathetic nervous system, whilst shoring up my immune system in quarantine, I realised that I want to focus more on things I enjoy doing. Hence this list.

Seven Worlds, One Planet

If I were a bird, I’d be an oxpecker. 😆

oxpecker birds on an adult ox, with a calf behind

Loving the soundtrack too (there’s even an augmented playlist). Especially the title song featured in the extended trailer below.

Out There by Sia and Hans Zimmer

TwoSet Violin

Key & Peele

Learning by doing

Practising visual facilitation

We had a brilliant talk about ‘work life’ balance by Cate Murden, and I used my new visual facilitation skills to take notes for myself. That was pretty cool, since I want to practice with it every day at work.

And one of my colleagues gave me a set of wax crayons, which I really appreciate.

I love the illustrations on these Lotsen cards.

Pining for Neuland stationery

I looked up some info on colour, so I can decide what Neuland pens to get for visual facilitation. (I just want to get a few that all work with each other, rather than splashing out on a full set.)

This from an article about the colour wheel made me laugh: 

To use clashing colours is thought to be a no-no. At weddings, everyone is worried that the mother of the bride will clash with the mother of the groom. But in the home, if they are used carefully, they can look fantastic.Never thought about guests clashing colours at a wedding, never mind worried about it. 😆

This is a good video reminder of the importance of practising.

Especially love that this is called ‘learning‘ the hardest violin piece, not playing the hardest violin piece. Because it’s all about learning and trying and practising.

Last week in review

I wanted to continue focusing on improving physical activity and eating better this week. And I did, again. Yay!

  • Went to my yin yoga class at work, as planned, although not dance because I was unwell
  • Ate beans and fruit daily, sometimes multiple times, except when I was unwell
  • Looked for zumba classes near locations I frequent
  • Also, I’ve been finding the Spaces extension for Chrome so useful for managing all the tabs I have open at once. Switching to it from OneTab.

What next?

  • Look for pilates classes near work – didn’t do this yet…
  • Continue eating beans and fruit, at least 2 portions of each daily
  • Make a learning plan (minimum viable plan, LiLi, nothing huge) for trees & work
  • Sleep!
  • Get excited about having time off