Health ballz

Awesome bites of energy that taste as bad for you as they are good for you. 

  • Cocoa powder
  • Dates
  • Pumpkin seeds 
  • Flax seeds 
  • Sunflower seeds 
  • Pine nuts 
  • Cashews 
  • Ginger 
  • Turmeric 
  • Cinnamon 

Smash em up in a food processor and squash into bite size balls of goodness. 

An exercise in Optimism 

  The problem Facebook and Instagram, and various other forms of social media, are amazing. They let you keep in touch with friends and relatives around the world, organise events and share photos, you can even make a living from them. However I’m pretty sure they are absolutely terrible for your mental health. Remember at school when […]

The metaphor

Don’t take life too seriously – nobody gets out alive anyway…    

-many people, at varying points in time

 

I’m rather firmly of the opinion that there isn’t much to life other than surviving as long as you can, having kids if you want them, and spending as much of that time being as happy and kind as is humanly possible. As far as I can see, If you nail those things, you’re pretty much golden. You’re going to die at some point, *sniff* and the world is going to carry on as it was, drifting through the inky abyss, until everything explodes, collapses, and maybe starts again. (contentious)

 

 

Maybe you’ll come back as a duck or something.

 

I’m a complete sucker for the feel-good, motivational, ‘you-go-girl’ quotes that get banded around the internet. They’re often pretty quirky, and leave you with a quick, tingly feeling of motivation or sudden renewed faith in humanity.

Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later – Og Mandino

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it – Charles R. Swindoll

Start where you are, do what you can, use what you have – Arthur Ashe

Other times they’re just crap.

I can’t see myself without pink lipstick. I can go without it for a couple days, but if there was no more pink lipstick in the world, I’d be useless. Seriously. – Nicki Minaj

 

 

Sometimes they have a really profound impact on me, and I actually try and learn something from them, such as – The Magical Bank metaphor…

It goes along the lines of:

  • Each morning you get £84000 thrown into your bank account
  • At the end of each day your account is wiped clean, and you start again the next day
  • The bank might crash at any point, and the game is over
  • Anything you don’t spend is lost, anything you buy you get to keep

Sounds awesome right?

Gives you a new perspective on the 84,000 seconds you wake up with each morning to spend how you please, knowing that any time you don’t use will be lost forever. If someone stole £300 from you, would you spend the remaining £83,700 trying to get them back for it? Probably not… So why spend the rest of the day fretting about something that can’t be changed, or someone that wasted your time? Surely you can’t afford it!

 

 

Don’t watch the clock. Do what it does, keep going – Sam Levenson

 

 

 

 

The 1 minute rule

If something takes less than a minute, do it now.

 

I used to be absolutely terrible when it came to having a whole load of little jobs to do. I’d try and work out the best order to do things in to be productive, or write a list and work my way down it but it seemed so frustratingly endless. So I started using the one minute rule. If you’re part way through a task, and another one lands in your lap, either from an email, facebook post or housemate – and it is likely to take less than a minute to achieve, do it straight away.

The logic is that if you add it to the list of things to do, or try and work out when best to do it, you’re already spending nearly a minute just fretting about when to do it, so why not just get it done?

Fail, a lot

 

Failing sucks. Nobody likes getting it wrong, but it is an incredibly useful way to learn to get it right next time, because the emotional response to failure (especially in neurotic med students) really cements it in your memory. At medical school you have five (or six) years of opportunities to make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them, without having any genuine responsibility. This is invaluable and so take every opportunity to try things that you can. Obviously don’t try to fail, but don’t be put off by previous attempts or the fear of getting it wrong. The only way to be good at medicine is through repetition, and what better way to do so than when you’re not going to be blamed for getting it wrong?

See the post ‘It’s okay to fail’ for more indulgent tales


Lose control


More specifically, don’t try and control everything…

Having spoken to a number of my senior colleagues about how they ended up where they are, one thing became apparent: a lot of things are completely beyond your control, and this is not always a bad thing. One consultant described how he had applied for a job, and while awaiting a response had accepted another, as he was unsure whether the first would pull through. A few days later his original application was returned to his house by the postman as he hadn’t put enough stamps on the envelope. Opportunities may arise that you hadn’t anticipated, while other aims that you previously had may become unachievable for one reason or another. Whatever happens, as long as you keep in mind a vague idea of what you would like to achieve, and what makes you happy, you’ll always end up somewhere good.

 

Why I stopped using Facebook

 

Facebook is toxic. It’s an incredible tool, an ingenious creating, allowing potentially unlimited communication between anyone with internet access, but psychologically it is an absolute nightmare. When I’m feeling crap, and I go on Facebook to distract myself, I invariably feel more crap after five minutes of scrolling. Why? Because I’m warmly greeting by a glistening barrage of how wonderfully blissful everyone else’s life is in comparison to my own. Jack got a new car, Amy got married, Simon managed to drink two entire boxes of red wine at that incredibly exclusive party and Anastasia continues to discover new filters to emphasise her perfect body. Nobody posts the bad stuff because we don’t like to show it off, and so our feed is simply a continued reminder of others’ successes. To compensate, we put our own super-hot selfies and achievement-photos up to demonstrate that we, too, are surviving in this world of cloying perfection, and to lap up the modern day heroin that is the Facebook ‘like’.

I stopped going on facebook. It made me so happy. I spent time thinking about my own plans and the friends that I genuinely enjoyed the company of, feeling no need for validation from the strangers that I knew deep down, at least in part, resented me for any achievement that I plastered across my wall. And why wouldn’t they? If I walked around Trafalgar Square with an A1 poster with my own face on it, shouting ‘This is me on my super-expensive holiday!’ passers-by would probably be want to tell me exactly where to shove it, or have a go themselves.

I lie… I didn’t stop completely. It’s a really good way to organise events and share photos, and occasionally link ridiculous cat videos to equally bored colleagues. Equally, I’ll totally admit that I get a warm buzz inside when someone likes a post or photo of mine, but it feels so much better when I know I put it there so my mum could see it while she was away, rather than to see how many likes I could rack up.

Redefine Success

 

The obvious social markers of ‘success’ are usually money and popularity. A big house in a sought-after neighbourhood and nice clothes that demonstrate your lack of concern for financial minutiae.

I tried to stop caring about money. I couldn’t completely not care because sometimes it would be nice not to have to think about whether I could afford that coffee in the morning, and sure if you offered me a stack of free cash I’m not exactly going to turn it down (I might question your source first). But I’m not obsessing about money.

I used to see people with loads of spare cash and assume that they were happier than me. Sure money brings freedom, nicer possessions and the ability to partake in enjoyable experinces more often, but there are two critical things I force myself to remember when I find myself envying that nice watch on the tube :


– I don’t know what that person sacrificed to get that money

– the human brain is the most remarkable learning machine on the planet

Why the second point? Notice how quickly you get used to stuff when you practice a lot? Like driving or using your phone? Your brain adapts to its environment extremely quickly – it’s a very useful survival skill. However it also very quickly starts searching for more – another great way to survive.

I’ve found that whenever I’ve changed something in my routine, such as buying nicer food or getting a new phone, within a few weeks or months I’ve quickly forgotten how much of a luxury it is, and it has become the new normality. My baseline assumption of what I expect my life to include has simply absorbed this new, expensive addition, and business continues as normal. However when I deliberately avoid incorporating something nice that I probably could just about afford into my life, I look forward with a childish eagerness to the one day per week/month/year that I allowed myself to indulge. It’s such a treat to go out for dinner once a month. I get so excited about buying Tesco finest aberdeen angus burgers. It sounds tragic, but it’s the opposite. I get a massive hit of enjoyment off a tiny increase in expenditure, far more than anyone who’s used to that lifestyle everyday, and like an unshakeable addiction, greater and greater doses of glamour and expense are needed to bring such a rush.

What’s my point? By not having lots of nice stuff all the time, I get more enjoyment out of simple everyday things that other people wouldn’t grant a second thought. As a result, buy not having as much money, I’m more happy. Weird.

I just saw a man in an Armani suit walk on the train with his Ipad blasting through his £300 headphones. Poor soul.

Measure you against you

 

What makes me happy is progress. I don’t care what that progress is, as long as I am getting better at something, or someone else is getting happier, I’m happy. It says so right there in the big five. So it makes absolutely no sense to use other people as a mark of your own achievement. They’ll have their own goals, their own achievements and problems, and their own motivational tools. Chances are if they’re out in public, they’re hiding what’s bothering them and putting on their best ‘everything’s going great’ face, which is only going to make you feel worse. I’d be lying if I said I totally didn’t care what other people think of me, because it’s natural to want to be liked – evolutionarily it improves your chances of survival if you’re accepted into a group – but I have always inflated the importance of other people’s opinions in my own mind, as if they had some great insight into what was expected, or sociably acceptable, and it was tiresome trying to compete with an apparently insurmountable level of expectation. Interestingly what I discovered when I stopped putting so much effort into pleasing other people, and started to focus on just doing what I enjoyed, other people started to show more interest in what I was doing, and what I thought. I was always caring what other people would think. My only regret is that I hadn’t realised that it couldn’t matter less at an earlier age.

Stop trying to achieve

 

The single most sinister element that’s hampered me all along the way, which I assume runs rife within our westernised population, thriving on an infusion of instant technological and financial gratification, is the fear of failure. The fear of regret, the fear that this project will flop, as will the next one, and the fear that the amount of energy and time that I’ve put into it will never be retrievable, so surely my time is better spent doing something else?

As a medical student there is increasingly little time available for anything other than academic and clinical advancement, so I found myself constantly questioning whether those precious morsels of time could be more effectively spent, and it made me so sad. I was never in the moment, enjoying the activity for the simple pleasure of doing something that made me feel good – everything had to be ‘productive’ or set me up in someway for my career to progress in the direction that it should. I don’t even know what ‘should’ means. Did I even want a career? I’d always assumed I had, but it recently struck me that I had spent so much time thinking about what I should do that I hadn’t stopped to think what I wanted. In truth, I have no idea. All I know is that it is going to fulfil the big five, and that’s what I’m going to spend my time doing.

Neurotic

I’m an incredibly neurotic individual. Always have been.

As a result I’ve spent a lot of my life being incredibly sad, as persistent self-doubt slowly constricted the enjoyment out of everyday life. I’ve preoccupied myself with what other people think of me, and the baseline assumption has always been a fairly negative one. As a result I’ve found that I have tended to lose concentration very rapidly, losing interest in things and generally becoming less and less motivated to get stuff done. There have been huge numbers of things that I wish I had done, but never did, simply because of what others might think. I’ve always enjoyed weird things like circus tricks and magic, but never really pushed myself to get good or show anyone because it was just too scary to put myself up for scrutiny by those around me. I once rode my unicycle to lectures, and found the whole experience was ruined by the embarrassment and fear that I’d made someone, somewhere, think I was an idiot for doing so. (It was awesome fun though…)

Over the recent years I’ve gradually come to the realisation that what makes me happy, and I mean genuinely content with myself and my life, has very little to do with other people. Even less to do do with what they’re thinking. To this end, I decided to write down a list of the common characteristics of things that I would say actually make me happy:

  • To learn new information
  • To master new skills and perfect old ones
  • To make other people feel better
  • Exercise
  • To create something meaningful

That was it. My whole life, everything I’ve ever wanted and am ever going to need is in those five bullet points. I call them my big five. Imaginative I know…

I wanted to be a doctor because I believed it would cover the first three of these, and it so far it certainly has. The wealth of continually growing knowledge in medicine would ensure I never ran out of things to learn, and the practical procedures are always great fun to practice. Hopefully I’m making people feel better along the way, too…

However what I found was no matter how hard I tried my neurotic brain got rather proficient at throwing a negative spin on each of these characteristics, and pretty quickly they morphed into a rather acrid, menacing set of doubts:

  • I’ll never learn all the necessary information
  • There will always be someone better than me
  • I can’t help everyone, and at some point I’m sure to screw up and make it worse

This threw me into a tailspin, and I lost considerable faith in what I was doing. Something needed to change if was to remain motivated to tackle such a demanding career, and maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle.

So I started to break things down to the level of the big five.

Is this going to teach me anything?

Is it making me better at something?

Is it helping other people?

Is it exercise?

Is it creative?

I focused entirely on these five. I tried to only do things that fulfill at least one of them, and when I was doing something that did, I didn’t question it. Of course my neuroticisms would seep through the cracks of optimism, trickling thoughts of doubt tugging away at my motivational drive, but I forced myself to say ‘yes, this is a good thing that I’m doing, and I’m going to keep going‘. The result?

I got happy.

Not laugh out loud happy. Not even smiling happy. Just ‘content’. It was huge – everything felt warmer and all the colours had a brighter hue. People seemed friendlier while day-to-day jobs seemed more enjoyable. My concentration began to climb, to the point where I could sit comfortably for up to an hour and a half, gently plodding away through some work, and actually enjoy it. I found my working memory steadily improving as it was no longer clogged with negative assumptions like some old oil filter, and my interest in both my work and the people I interacted with was on the rise too.

I decided to use this improvement in my outlook to try and describe what I had been through in the hope that maybe someone else feeling the same thing might read it and find the same results that I did. Below are a number of things that I found made significant improvements to my own wellbeing and helped me to start doing what I wanted without the crushing worry that was holding me back in previous years.