Geeky wellbeing favourites: October 2022
New seasons, the art of gentle goal-setting, plus the usual mind–body science highlights
While at heart I am a summer baby, there’s something really beautiful about autumn – the colours, the change in the air that makes you reach out for a warmer, comforting sweater (and lights up my desire to knit). And new beginnings and challenges, because despite pretending to be an adult for over 20 years, autumn will always be linked with the start of the school year.
In the spirit of this, I joined a 100 days of writing challenge that my online writing community set up, partly for the accountability and partly to have a goal to work towards for a project that I have been trying to focus on since January and never quite made it a priority. Instead of big milestones, I decided to create small and manageable goals for each day, and focus on what I will gain every day rather than what I need to do to complete it. Basically taking it one step at a time and focusing on enjoying it.
Then, I figured why not apply the same principles to self-care? No big goals of 30 minutes meditation and 1 hour yoga practice every day. And no more demanding that as a yoga and meditation teacher, I must always self-practice. Instead, I’m going for small and gentle change.
What about you? What autumnal change are you looking to make and how could you use gentle goal-setting towards it?
I actually love this article about pointless goals. What joy, to just do something for the fun of it. We’re all conditioned to always be working towards something (5 year plans and so on); even self-care can become a productivity tool. It’s a useful reminder for me, for instance, on why I write this newsletter or why I teach yoga.
Read a bit more
Sceptical about gentle goal-setting? Here’s an article that advocates for a gentle, one step at a time approach for habit formation (no willpower needed), and another that recommends killing the critical drill sergeant and instead focusing on the joy of the behaviour you want to adopt (meditation and writing both are featured here, what synchronicity!).
Self-care is incomplete without some yoga nidra. Here’s a lovely practice from a fellow Substacker (who I believe trained with the same teachers I did). Check out her full profile and subscribe for a regular dose of yoga nidra. I especially love how she introduces the opposites part of the practice.
Practice a bit more
My lovely friend Chiara leads a yoga nidra on the first Wednesday of each month at 9.30 BST/GMT – check out her website and email her for details to join. I may be biased, but the two that I attended were beautiful!
Mind–body science highlights
Mind–body practices keep brains healthy in old age: This article reviews the evidence that mind–body practices, specifically tai chi, qi gong and yoga, can help reduce cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease. Although there doesn’t seem to be any good evidence in Parkinson’s (possibly because they don’t help or because the studies were not great), there is a fair amount of evidence in the general elderly population to warrant consider adopting one or more of these practices if you don’t already.
Yogic breathing for sharp minds: This one comes with huge caveats because it is guilty of so many study design flaws (small sample size, all male, all university students etc), but interesting to see more evidence that coherent breathing (especially as alternate nostril) improves working memory. Worth applying when you need to be at your sharpest, although 30 minutes might be a bit much.
Yoga/breathing/meditation tackles stress in IBD: A small randomised controlled trial found that a 12-week stress reduction programme improved stress and health-related quality of life but not symptoms among those living with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis). The programme included yoga, breathing and meditation alongside psychology/CBT-based tasks.
From the blog
I’m in the process of re-thinking what I want to be writing about, and would love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a note with any feedback or topics you’d like to see in future.
Can behavioural science help me hack self-care?: Here’s my take on using behavioural science to help me practice self-care, specifically meditation and breathing, more regularly.
How to form a yoga habit: Unconsciously, a couple of years ago, I was very good at self-care, especially exercise. Here’s my slightly meta analysis of how that happened.
What having a vitamin B12 deficiency taught me about behavioural science: Ok this kind of goes against the articles I linked to earlier, but sometimes you have to scare yourself into a new behaviour (and in case you are wondering, yes, I still take my B12 every day, although since I wrote that I have created a little routine to make it happen).
Until next month!