With the high demands of the culture we live in, one could be forgiven for thinking that not sleeping well, waking up tired, pushing through stress, energy dips, craving sugar, food, coffee, wine or whatever it might be, is normal. It isn’t.
It’s a by-product of our unnatural habits. These are all symptoms of a lack of wellbeing and, contrary to popular belief, can be easily fixed.
For many of us, our lives tend to be fuelled by pure will. However, in order to continually climb the next mountain, the idea of ‘getting more out of yourself’ simply will not do the job. Instead, we have to learn how to more wisely invest into ourselves and change our habits and thinking.
In order to provide some insight into ways we can alter our lives for the better, I turned to reading and learning from people who are the best in the world when it comes to fitness, physical and mental endurance, recovery, nutrition, resilience, mental clarity and flow, brain activity and optimisation.
The result is my recommended list of simple rituals to accomplish at least once a week, perhaps on a day off. Many can also be done throughout the week, regardless of how demanding your schedule might be as they do not demand a high investment of time.
1. Mental programming
Time: 20 minutes
Thoughts are creative. It was Buddha who said, “What we think, we become.”
Mental programming focuses your mind on what you will create, and gives you a huge sense of clarity and confidence in your ability to produce it. Visualisation, goal-setting, planning, prioritising, setting up and scheduling the coming week, will all help you to consciously create.
Time: 10 minutes – 3 hours
To rejuvenate the mind, follow your curiosity. For many, learning can rekindle a passion and create new ideas. It might be a documentary found on Netflix, an interview with someone extraordinary, a vlog on Youtube, a great book, or even a great conversation with somebody. Get lost in learning, if only for 10 minutes, and your mind will be refreshed.
3. Rest and sleep
Time: This will be a balance between the time you can take, and the time you want to take
Rest is important whether it’s doing nothing, down time with loved ones, time by yourself, sleep, getting a massage or even watching TV/movies that have zero intellectual stimulation. Take time to switch off and just be. The key here is to allow yourself rest time and not feel guilty that you are not doing something productive. The time spent resting will improve your productivity and can therefore be justified.
4. Hot and cold immersion
Time: 3 minutes – 52 minutes
Nothing stimulates the system (physical and mental) like a radical and immediate change in temperature. Biohacking research by Joel Pearson PhD, Associate Professor of Innovation at UTS, suggests that saunas and hot / cold therapies were in the top three things a person could do to improve personal performance.
Using saunas for heat therapy flushes out toxins, helps builds new brain cells while also relaxing muscles and stimulating muscle growth. It accelerates recovery after a high exertion activity, increases red blood cells, helps develop better blood sugar level control, increases endurance, significantly increases mental clarity and improves sleep.
Cold water immersion significantly improves immune function, increases blood and oxygen flow, lymphatic circulation and reduces muscle inflammation. It can also reduce cortisol levels to lessen feelings of stress, triggers sleep hormones for a deeper sleep and releases positive brain endorphins to boost happiness levels. Scientifically speaking, cold immersion activates the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response), increases beta-endorphins and noradrenaline, and increases synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain.
An easy way to start hot and cold immersion is to make your morning shower cold and visit a sauna several times a week. You can also set aside numerous times a week do a full hot/cold routine comprised of 20mins sauna then 3min shower, repeated three times. There are also more extreme cold therapies like 3 minute Cryotherapy where you are cooled with a liquid nitrogen mist to approximately −150°c which can be to be quite energising and great for recovery too.
Time: 20 – 60 minutes.
This might be resistance training at the gym, jogging, walking, swimming, bike riding, kayaking, rock climbing. The level of intensity will vary depending on your preferred approach and stage of life, this is really anything that gets your body moving and lungs breathing. Where possible, try putting yourself in situations that are new or uncomfortable to force your body to adapt. Pushing yourself further and playing outside your comfort zone can have a profound effect on fitness and wellbeing. While this is a must on a day off, also train three to five times throughout the week.
6. Healthy eating
Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Science is now demonstrating what many of us intuitively know to be true; that our mind, body and soul are all connected and therefore a decline or an improvement in any area will cause a direct effect on all areas.
When it comes to healthy eating, principles are few and methods are many. Dr Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D in biomedical science and an expert on nutritional health, brain & aging, points to emerging research that outlines depression is fundamentally caused by systemic inflammation. Inflammation is caused by a poor diet, inactive lifestyle, stress, lack of sleep and other factors.
When it comes to setting up a healthy eating plan, work out what healthy foods you love to eat, and reduce or eliminate all of the foods that we know to be unhealthy. One simple change suggest is cutting out sugar and fried fats Sunday to Thursday, allowing you to eat what you like on Friday and Saturday. It is a small change which doesn’t require much commitment but makes you feel lighter, fitter, clearer, and even shed body fat.
7. Connect with nature
Time: 10 – 60 minutes
This might be watching the sunrise or sunset, walking through nature or swimming in the ocean. In today’s culture, particularly for those of us that live in a city, we’re often surrounded by concrete and cars. Human beings are natural creatures, there is a grounding effect that rejuvenates the mind, body and soul when we reconnect with nature.
Time: 20 minutes
Most human beings have an internal battle between head and heart. Do I follow my heart or do I do what seems sensible and ‘right’? The truth is that we need both. We need to follow our joy and let our heart guide us, while also walking the path intelligently.
The heart leads. What do you yearn for? Where you feel yourself being pulled? Go there and build your intellect in order to do it in the most effective way. Journalling is about coming back to heart and soul. When we’re ‘thinking’ we’re often intellectualising which, while useful, shouldn’t be our compass. Journalling is a place where you can remove critical thinking, come back to heart, and ask, “What is my life telling me, am I living in alignment with my soul’s intention and what am I choosing to create?”
Time: 10 – 40 minutes
When it comes to connecting with your soul and the universe, there is no more profound practice than meditation. Each soul comes to earth with an intention. Meditation is about reconnecting to the energy of your soul so that your life may be guided by it. It is about removing judgement and critical thinking, and opening up the space to receive guidance, information and energy from a source far more intelligent than us.
The commonly held misperception about meditation is that you need to ‘not think thoughts’. Meditation is not about clearing thought but instead about focusing the mind on the breath or a mantra, and allowing thoughts to come and go, without judgement, like clouds floating past in the sky.
Meditation can be done for ten minutes three to five times a week and for those who have trouble quietening the mind, there are plenty of great guided mediation phone apps that can assist. However, to experience the full benefit of reconnecting, meditate for 20 minutes, twice a day, morning and night.
Time: 60 mins (or more)
Most of my Saturdays now start with cold/hot immersion at Bondi, a swim at Icebergs and a yoga session. I find practicing yoga not only meditative, but also beneficial for health, so it’s a perfect way to round out my weekend routine.
You don’t have to complete these rituals in the order listed above, but instead create your own preferred or necessary order on any given day.
When you have a tight schedule we suggest starting with the Soul Rituals, as it gives a good grounding and sense of higher clarity to move into the next two areas. Put aside time at least once a week to go through all the rituals and use any available time during the week to pick and choose which you can accomplish in order to create a balance.
Life is a journey of discovering and developing who you are. In the pursuit of building a successful business, a successful career, or are just looking for personal growth, understand that you will not only be more effective, but also more fulfilled, if you view it as a holistic endeavour. Your levels of energy, vitality, mental clarity, well being, how happy and ‘on purpose’ you feel, will all coalesce into making your masterpiece what it is.