The Bibbulmun: an afterword

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. I wrote this four weeks after I finished.

It feels like something is happening. A really deep, seismic shift. The deep cores of worthlessness, hopelessness, self disgust and despair are being aired, opened, examined. In a new light – the light of feminism (I was conditioned to hate myself by society!).

There’s a part of me unfurling – it feels inevitable and un-doable. And as though it’s going to change a bunch of stuff. There’s a crack, and I can finally let the light in. I don’t need to hide anymore. I can actually be me. Embody myself. All of myself. With love and acceptance. And without blame or judgement. If feels like I might finally be able to love myself. For reals.

I’m kind of shy and excited to meet this fresh new self who’s emerging, like a soft pink new born. Like when you’re a kid and you see your favourite cousin who you haven’t seen for ages, for a few moments you feel shy and don’t make eye contact. Then one of says ‘you want to go play?’ and then you hold hands and go off together, inseparable until your parents force you into two separate cars at the end of the night. It’s like that, meeting this new, soft and shiny self. Only this time we get to hold hands and run off together, and not leave in two cars. This time we stay and play together.

Right now though, I’m still at the shy part. I’m anticipating it’s going to be fun but I’m not yet brave enough to offer my hand. It also feels good not rushing it. I can sense the unfurling, but there’s no shortcut or speeding it up. It’s going to bloom in it’s own time. Somehow I feel certain that it’s happening though. Even though there’s not that much evidence yet, something feels different.

When I finished the Bibb, I was disappointed that with all the time I spent mulling over the problems in my life, I hadn’t solved any of them. I didn’t think I had any answers, no conclusions about whatthefuckdoidowithmylife. And yet, since coming home, everything is shifted and nothing is what it was before.

Each day, each km, each step – they were like gentle waves on a beach, each washing away another fine layer of silt, to eventually reveal what beauty lay beneath the whole time – beauty that was previously concealed. Me.

The Bibbulmun: day fourty nine – Torbay -> Muttonbird -> Sandpatch

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Well – it’s the final night. + Tomorrow is the final day. Slept v badly last night. Aching left hip. Got up around 11pm to take pain killers (panadol wasn’t cutting it, needed voltaren) and have a wee – saw that stars were so good I went back to hut for camera to do a little night photography! Still not that good at it. Saw a shooting star. Finally got back to (restless) sleep. Awake 4:30, got up. Left hut early thinking I’d walk to cosy then make a coffee. Got there around 6, to SUCH a beautiful morning – went for a dip instead! Couldn’t resist the early morning sea. Shower after to remove salt at the public toilet block there, the shower water was colder than sea (gave me a cold headache, instantly!). Mum arrived with a brewed coffee in a travel mug from Dad! Perfect. And Poet. She walked up to end of Perkins with us, then drove everyone’s packs and Alison around to Muttonbird.

Walk on beach was so cruisy without packs, and was a glorious morning. Light breeze, sunny, water unbelievable jewel/aqua colour. Many surfers @ Mutts. Reached top of stairs 5 min before Mum! She was bearing fresh apples. She ended up walking through to wind farm carpark from Mutts. Was nice, good chatting. 1 x tiger and 2 x legless lizards or baby pythons.

Around the wind farm, saw pod of dolphins moving along the coast the same speed as me. Fishing first, then surfing! So magic to watch them*. Long and dragging last 2.5 km to hut – very windy here. Got in around 1pm and did all the things. That feeling/dilemma of what to do first is still here! Every time I got into a hut it was this frantic feeling of like, should I unpack? Or eat? Or set up my stuff? Or take gaiters and shoes off? Or toilet? Etc.

Others weren’t far behind me (30-60min). Mum gave me some red wine in my water bottle so have become one of those people I mocked at the beginning of the walk, bringing in alcohol! Want to celebrate/commemorate my last night. Bibbulmun being name of Noongyar tribe known for walking long distances for ceremonial rituals. Must have my own ceremonial ritual for finishing.

Have sore throat – not sure whether dehydrated or actual sore? Have drunk heaps.

Not sure what to think for final day – just doing same as any other arvo- read red book, eat, Harry, write. Last night with hip discomfort and not being able to sleep, was ready to be done. Looking forward to real bed. Going to the gong tomorrow with the gang (March girls and Helle) and Mum and Rachel. Straight back into life.

Feet not too bad today but feeling left hip again. Plus now throat – ready for some comfort. Things I want to do when I get back: Facebook less – maybe only on a Friday? Potentially no social media at all…unsub from more newsletters/emails. Get out of city to proper nature every 1-2 months. Volunteer at horse place. Get some equine assisted therapy/learning at Torquay. Not get on laptop first thing ANY DAY. Not even for yoga/meditation. Too easily swayed. Somehow get more ocean time in.

So looking forward to giving my feet some loving: body, this has been hard and I’ve asked a lot of you; and you’ve carried me well. Thank you body. Very clear signals from body that need to stop – don’t feel could turn around and keep going! Hut mates over the whole trip spanned 18-78 – crazy. Didn’t matter as track important here, not age. Nice learning. Also think will let go of website and change to just be a blog, and not focused on mental health. Just at this instant, I want to be done. It’s blustering/windy and my mossie net/tent is flapping about and there’s no where to escape from the wind, my hips are so sore and I just had a hankering for a shower and comfy bed. It’s good, it helps decrease the sadness about finishing. Going to see now about red wine and cheese.

*see pics of them on instagram

The Bibbulmun: day fourty eight – West Cape Howe -> Torbay

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Beautiful easy day. 16.5km. Wound through quite a lot of burnt section around West Cape Howe, from fires in March this year. I actually don’t mind the burnt parts – visibility is great, no shrubs to hide snakes or scratch you. There’s a kind of stark beauty to the blackened trunks and branches. Up onto a high hill overlooking Shelley Beach – beautiful. Some people on the launch ramp but no  hang gliding action as I watched so kept going. Just continually blown away by the jewel blue/aqua of the sea – especially Dingoes beach. So amazing. So lucky.

2-3 crows/ravens hanging around me at the moment – Lisa would say it’s meaningful. Protectors, or something to do with my soul journey. Got into Torbay hut around 11:30, instant mash and tuna sachet and cheese for lunch – YUM. Chill out, went down to Hartmans beach with Lynne and Alison. Walked another km or so to check out the potential burn diversion but no sign of it – although I could see the burnt section. So many orchids around here – I’ve lived here all this time and never knew! Less than 40km to go now until THE END. It feels weird being here in this oh so familiar land. It kind of makes the whole walk feel surreal, like it never happened. Starting feels so long ago. Halfway feels so long ago!!

Met a girl walking north to Denmark this morn, carrying a huge pack! She had a chunk of foam under her hip belt and each shoulder – too bony, she said haha. Plus it’s a pillow when she stops. Lyn just pointed to the beach and said, so we’re doing the left side of this tomorrow? And I said, all the beach you can see, we’re going to walk tomorrow. No! She says. That’s more than 4km! Uh uh, I said. All the way to the rocks. Haha.

And this hut is where it began. Being here on NYE last year with Mum and Rach, seeing all the entries in the book of solo e2e’s, thinking, I could do the whole Bibb. Maybe I will. And now look at me: I did. Mum will meet us at Cosy Corner beach tomorrow and pick up our packs and take them to Muttonbird. She’ll walk a little way with Poet too. I’m pretty sure this trio of crows is the same trio that was hanging with me down at Hartmans. Also not sure that I’ve gotten that much better at sitting around doing nothing. Still wanting distraction with Harry, phone (when internet avail). Even this writing.

I’ve got a vague headache – have had for last couple of days. Not sure what from. My nervous system is definitely chilled out. It’s nice. Still not sure how I feel about going back to city life. Feet not as sore today so that’s always a thing that makes me think I could keep going. It’s funny with Lyn here, even though she’s a hiker and did the 1st section/s, she’s on a diff schedule/zone to the rest of us. She slept in much later this morn, and the other 2 left without her after she hadn’t packed up and was hanging out having her second coffee. Perhaps that is her normal way, but all the rest of us are so in the habit of just wake up, pack up, eat, go. I woke around 4:50 today – a sleep in! Dozed around listening to waves until 5:30. Fucking mozzies flying around woke me – even thought they can’t bite me through the tent, the noise still bothers me. Just my fingers are brown and tan – and I think I have a few more face wrinkles. I haven’t lost much weight – maybe just the tiniest bit off my legs. I actually don’t want to put it back on. I feel like I already put some that I lost back on, maybe being in so many (relative to first 2 sections) towns and carrying more food? Eating 2 packets of ‘2 serves’ back countries meals a day, on many days! Thanks to Peter and Sonja’s boxes. Also much in the way of energy/protein/fruit bars. It’s my second last night. I’m already transitioning, making plans to catch up with friends when I’m in albs etc.

Enjoying reading the red hut book* notes of Seri, Bacon, etc. Seri wrote one yesterday, I’m bummed I didn’t photo it – something like: ‘if to get ‘track fitting’ means that my body hurts all over but I still keep walking everyday anyway, then I suppose I have gotten track fitting. ‘ So glad I’m not the only one who’s still in pain @ this point in the game! She said she had sore shoulders, back, ankles, feet. I’m mostly feet/ankles. Also hips ache, but that could happen anywhere. I also had grand thoughts of getting track fit and that I’d find myself being this walking machine that just gets through the km without much effort/pain. Nope, not at all. Similarly to Seri, my version of track fit means being in loads of pain and just walking anyway. Hah.

Getting hungry again – 4:40. Might have pre-dinner of more mash and tuna. Bag too heavy! Don’t need much to walk into Albs, only 12km from Sandpatch – assuming I make the double from here tomorrow. How will I manage to stop eating when I get home??

Things I’m looking forward to

– a gong

– a haircut

– wearing a dress

– a bath

– clean toenails

– clean self in general

– shaving my legs

– grooming in general.

I’d actually like to embrace that feminine side of myself more – I have something about wearing makeup/heels/dresses/dressing up, where I have this story that if you do it it’s tacky or tryhard or means you don’t feel good about yourself/are sucked in by consumerism. But why not embrace my feminine side and enjoy feeling pretty? I can be manly and tough when I’m doing aikido. Time for new mental stories. Same with stories about money – if you have it/want it that means you’re spoilt/up yourself/a wanker – GET RID OF THAT STORY – new story – dressing up and wearing heels and makeup and having styled hair can be an enjoyable way of expressing my femininity – and I AM NOT too dorky to do it. (Although someone might need to teach me how to put on makeup (Youtube?))**

*shared journals in each hut where hikers write down thoughts or rambles or draw pictures etc

**Note: my level of dorkiness has not improved since finishing the Bibb

The Bibbulmun: day fifteen – Possum Springs -> Yourdamung

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

I’m at Yourdamung hut – fanged it here this morning to arrive by 11:20 although I wasn’t sure I would. I was thinking if I made it before midday that I’d keep going to Harris Dam – I was cold and hungry last night – literally dreaming about food, and all I could think about all day is food. I don’t have enough to be comfortable another two nights. Whilst walking, to pass the time (and because LITERALLY all I could think about was food related things, I came up with a long winded analogy to try and describe how hungry I feel: imagine having a bucket, one of those ones that you might take out to the garden and fill with potatoes you’ve dug out of the ground (could it be a 20L bucket?), and you get given the task of filling it with coins. Then you throw in $2.50, in silver, and ask, is it full yet? Not. Even. Close. But now I’m here at Yourdamung, and there is a freeze dried meal! Pasta (gluten) but I’m not picky at this point. But it throws up another question – eating it for lunch (which I’m doing now) will that make the rest of my food last till Collie for another two nights?? Possibly. Just not looking forward to thinking of nothing but food for the next two and half days – it’s so boring. And not fun/enjoying the scenery…On the other hand, feet are already sore after 19km, another 14 and they will be even more sore…which is bigger priority? If not for the food in this hut then food definitely would be…will see how feel after eating.

——

I had actually just made the decision to move on, but then did the ‘body compass’ check in and the result was to stay here – marginally. I guess what my body really needs is more resting of feet rather than food, as I’ve just eaten lunch. It’s pretty much the time of day where I have to make a call either way. I think I’ll stay here. Keep my original itinerary, no rest day in Collie, easy 15km tomorrow to rest the feet even more and then 22 into Collie in the morning. Can leave early to arrive to Collie by noon…Just means today and tomorrow will be hungry. And maybe two more cold nights. But hey. Character building, right? Food coma. Nap time.

——-

Got hungry <2 hours after eating. Have had snacks but still hungry. I guess this is ‘hiker hunger’? Perhaps it will be this way for next 5 weeks? Like 5 km of straight road today – felt like it had been going since forever, and was going to last forever (until it stopped of course). Strange sensation of just, foreverness. It has been raining on and off all arvo – hopefully will stay cloudy and therefore warmer tonight. Feel am becoming something else now – discussing with Mr Deer – we’re not normal humans anymore – we’re bush humans. Listening to Harry, stretching, drinking tea and eating choc. Not a bad arvo. Lots of doing ‘not much’ on this adventure. Also lots of doing lots, too, I guess. I’m now thinking I’ll double tomorrow. It will be v. punishing to my feet I’m sure….but, food. No phone since…Wed morning? Maybe Thurs morning…It’s now Sunday. Longest I’ve gone in long time – even overseas there’s internet more regularly. Like it, but also keen to get into range again. Want connection?

Why do I keep pushing myself with the walking when my feet hurt so much? The two joints seem to be getting worse not better which is distressing for me (as usual). Although my left toe has improved a lot, and my right heel is a lot better when I wear my shoe as a slipper – and both of those, at home, would’ve caused me to stop doing whatever I was doing. Maybe can push through this foot pain too, to the other, less painful, side? So frustrating when rest of self is keen to walk (and eat). Constant thinking of food. So boring. Also. My fingernails are black, there’s dirt ingrained in the lines of my hands. I’m kinda sticky from layers of sweat and I’m sure I smell. Such is life! Dinner time is getting earlier and earlier. Trying to wait until 5:30…it’s hard. Also – the couple of times I managed to go to sleep last night and not wake up cold, I woke up drooling on my ‘pillow’ instead. Fuckdamn.

Sore feet and a lesson not learned

Today I had the first (of two) MRIs. Right foot first, because right foot is the most sore. The radiologist asked me before the scan started, ‘Where does it hurt?’. I said, ‘Here. Oh and here. And here, and also here, and sometimes here.’

It’s a funny position I find myself in. The number of times people have made some sort of joke about how I probably walked to the party/cafe/office/wherever it is I’ve met them. Every time I laugh and say ‘Haha no.’ thinking to myself, I wish I could have.

There’s something ironic in walking 20km a day for 50 days, only to get home and not really be able to walk anywhere, even around the block. I mean, I could walk places. I would get sore though, if I did. And somehow, while it felt acceptable that my feet should hurt every freaking day while I was walking the track, it no longer feels ok for me to keep pushing my feet to the point of pain and swelling every day. The pain felt like something I should expect while I was on the track, now it feels like something is wrong. Something probably was wrong, the whole time. But my determination to finish was overriding that message. And now the message of wrongness is overriding the other messages I have, of wanting to walk and be active, of wanting to keep training at aikido. I initially went back to training (I was going to have a grading for a new belt in December) but now I’ve had to pull out of the grading and just stop training altogether. Just. Stop.

I’m trying to not even walk the 750m to the train station at the moment – I’m riding my bike instead. It seems that walking on concrete/bitumen is much harder on my feet than the bush (no surprises there), so they get sore very quickly.

I feel an uncomfortable shame in admitting this. Somehow its another reason to find myself not-quite-good-enough. As though its a personal failure that my joints are complaining after holding me up through a 1000km hike. I’m also frustrated that any fitness I built up is just melting away again as I spend day after day sitting around in the office or on the couch at home. It goes against my self-identity to be sitting around doing sweet FA. And yeah, I know, I could be swimming or out cycling. But I’m stubborn and fussy and want to just do the movement that I want to do, not my second-tier movement options.

And still, I have no regrets. If I went back in time and knew what I know now, I would still keep going til the end of the track. The benefits I’ve gained from the whole experience outweigh the tendon damage. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this is part of it. To experience coming home and having to compromise. To have to make a (tough) call to stop my aikido training, to finally get to the point where I’m forced to honour the calls from my body and stop pushing it to be something it’s not. Its been a recurring theme for me throughout my life, from the time I was about 16. To be experiencing regular (usually daily) body pain, but to be in conflict about it. Ive always wanted so badly to be active that I would, again and again, keep pushing myself through the pain, whilst wondering two concurrent thoughts – one, am I just being over sensitive and complaining? Probably nothing is really wrong; and two, I’m worried that something is really wrong and I should probably find out what it is so I don’t do myself serious damage.

This is the almost constant push/pull that I live with on the regular. For some reason, I still don’t completely trust my body when it tells me something is sore. Perhaps because there’ve been times when I have had some pain or another, which has just settled down and not ended up to be a big deal. Or I’ve just learned to live with it. But there’ve also been other times when I’ve pushed on for months (years!) only to find there was a legitimate reason for my pain – torn ligaments, usually. So obviously I still haven’t learned whatever lesson I need to learn here.

How to trust my body. When enough is enough. When to ask for help. When to admit that I’m struggling. When to stop. When to keep going.

Tomorrow I get the MRI results, and hopefully can then make an informed decision about how best to honour and care for these hard-working and long-suffering feet of mine.

What’s the difference between self-care and self-fixing?

Today I’m feeling hopeful. It’s the first time I’ve felt hopeful in a while, so I’m pretty excited about it. So excited that I rang my boyfriend to tell him – I thought it would be a nice novelty for him to get a happy phone call from me rather than a grumpy or crying one.

 

I’ve been feeling crappy for a pretty long time now. Not 100% constantly crappy, but up and down-y, when I think back over time I mostly see it as grey, forget-about-the-happy-days kind of crappy. And when I saw a long time, I mean months, not days. When I first started feeling consistently down, as opposed to just having a bad day (or a bad week), I had so much happy-and-well-ness built up in my tank, that I was ok about feeling shit. I was almost (not quite) looking forward to the challenge of depression (again) in a sort of yay, now I can try out all of those strategies that I’ve been talking about for so long! Put it to the test! kind of way. When I felt good for a few days in a row, I had this (very, very, tiny) sense of disappointment – oh, it’s over now, I didn’t even get to let myself get to the depths so I could write some really great depressed connecting blog post about depression and it’s shitness. But oh well, to be well is better anyway.

 

But then I wasn’t really well, for a long time. The happy streak didn’t last. Even the mildly cheerful didn’t hang around. The grey kept going (keeps going). And that big tank of happy-wellness that I had carefully cultivated over the previous few years slowly dwindled, as I drew on it again and again without ever really having the opportunity or energy to refill it. And then I found myself empty of it, completely. And shit got cray. And when I saw cray, I mean, bad. Unhappy. Crying-y. Life-has-no-meaning-or-purpose-y, why-do-I-even-bother-being-alive-y. And I dragged myself onwards, in this state, for weeks. I cried every day, often multiple times a day, often triggered by almost nothing. I raged and snapped at the people I love most in the world. I avoided my friends because it was too much effort to pretend to be ok, and if I let slip that I wasn’t ok, I was going to collapse with the outpouring of despair and sadness. And on the good days, I put on my shiny face and I laughed and worked and I did life, like a more or less normal kind of person.

 

And then eventually I took some drugs that a doctor gave me because it was either that or a slow rotten death of my life and my love and my relationship and my job. But unlike in the past, the drugs didn’t help that much. They helped enough that I didn’t cry every.single.day anymore, and I avoided my friends less. But I still had recurring thoughts of what the fuck is the point of my life?

 

Interestingly though, I fell for the story that this life pondering was a meaningful, legitimate question. I thought I was searching for a purpose, like all the good entrepreneurs and life-changers and move-makers. But, all of a sudden, after reading a line in a book a few weeks ago, I realized that all this pondering of purpose and meaning and point to life, while veiled in an illusion of ‘productive action-taking to define your mission and fire up your doing-ness’ was actually a destructive thought pattern that was triggering me over and over into grey-pointless-meaningless land.

So there’s that.

You think you’re being proactive and bettering your own life and then BAM! You realize you’re bringing yourself down.

 

Then, shortly after, I admitted another hard truth to myself. Somewhere along the way in between my tank emptying and now, all the strategies and things I was doing (there were many – like: going to integrative doctors ($$$), taking buttloads of supplements, movement, reading self-help, talking about ‘it’, doing things that made me laugh, etc) somehow ninja-ed without me even noticing into something they didn’t used to be. They started off as beautiful acts of self-love, where I cared so much about my health and my wellbeing that when I saw I was down, I was offering my love to myself through actions, in the hopes that I may accept those actions of love and feel better. Along the way though, unbeknownst to me, they turned into actions of desperation. A desperate, clawing attempt to fix my broken self, to rid myself of this fucking way of being. A product of disgust, despair, and dislike about who I was as a person, and a last-ditch attempt at escaping this horrendous way of life, which as many of you know, can be quite excruciating with its discomfort.

So there was also that.

My acts of self-care and kindness had become acts of self-loathing and fixing myself.

 

Farrrrrrout. Where does one go with these realisations? How to get back to a place where my self-care is about love and kindness and not fixing? How to fill up my tank again? How to accept myself completely as I am, and love myself through that, while simultaneously acknowledging that how I am is pretty fucking uncomfortable right now, a lot of the time? I don’t necessarily have the answers to these questions, but I am letting them marinade while I continue with life.

 

I also want to point out that I haven’t shared a lot about how I’ve been faring for months, as I really resonate with what Brene Brown writes about vulnerability. I’m paraphrasing, but it’s something along the lines of how sharing your vulnerabilities with people when you’re still hurting and healing isn’t being vulnerable, it’s over-sharing. She says, “I don’t tell stories or share vulnerabilities with the public until I’ve worked them through first” and goes on to say that sharing a vulnerable story in an attempt to meet a need for attention or care isn’t a great idea. All this to say that while I’m still going through things, as we all are, I want you to know that this isn’t a desperate cry for help, I’m doing ok. I deliberately haven’t shared it for a while, but now seems like a good time, for whatever reason. So there you go.

The one thing you need to do to be healthy (it’s not what you think)

The one thing I would suggest you do to be healthy, is stop reading articles like ‘the one thing you need to do is…’ and trying to apply them to your own life.

 

We are living in this somewhat crazy world full of social media and online marketing, and click bait is where it’s at. It’s also all about random people who have gained social-celebrity status by being attractive and flexible telling the masses how they should change their lives in order to be more healthy (skinny, happy etc). This could be by going vegan, working out in accordance to a particular guide which will whip your flabby body into a bikini-ready state (just look at all the before and after photos!) or drinking a particular bum-flavoured tea.

Can you tell this culture doesn’t sit well with me?

I was walking on the beach recently, first thing in the morning after waking up while on a solo camping trip (an aside – this is a great kind of trip for pondering life). As I strolled I was considering my own health and what I need at the moment. I came up with a few things that I’d like to change in my current lifestyle. I’m not going to tell you the nitty-gritty of the particular things I settled on, because you know what? They won’t be the same for you.

(Well, given that we’re all humans and many of us are suffering from similar afflictions of too much stress and not enough sleep etc, some of them might overlap, but you know what I mean – my prescription is not your prescription.)

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I really believe that people are their own experts.

I did some training recently in Recovery philosophy, which is a framework used in mental health. The philosophy is that everyone is on their own journey; that people already have what they need in order to be well; and that their recovery/wellbeing is up to them and what they want it to be, not what a mental health clinician or psychiatrist tells them it should be. I think the same philosophy should apply in the whole of health care. What you need to be healthy is best known by you, because you know yourself from the inside out. So much of the time people know what it is they need (more sleep, less stressful work, healthier eating, less drinking, the list could go on) and they don’t need someone to tell them that, they need someone to support them to make those changes. But when the decision comes from you, where you say ‘this is what I need’ the motivation is so much stronger to actually create the change.

This is not discounting the role of doctors or health professionals: what you most need, at time, might be to seek the expert opinion from a specialist or doctor or naturopath or exercise physiologist – but on your terms. Going at a time when you’re ready, when you’ve decided this is the best course of action for your own wellbeing.

What do you need to be healthy? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email instead!

Goodbyes are so hard (or, why I’m saying see ya later to TV)

I’m currently working on something that’s been years in the making.

That thing is: not being on anti-depressant medication. I have to say, it’s been pretty tough the last few months. Part of how I’m going about it is writing my own prescription for what I need to live a meaningful life. This involves a number of things, which I’m planning to write about soon in an up-coming blog post (stay tuned!).

One of the factors of my plan? Less TV.

This comes about because I’ve noticed a recurring pattern of action and response. The action is : watching TV, whether episodes in a series or a movie, usually with dinner (or lunch!), and may be anywhere from one twenty minute episode to three movies in a single day (yep, Oceans 11, 12 and 13 one after the other! Yes, it was epic).

I don’t have a belief that watching TV is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, rather, I’ve noticed that for me personally, when I switch it off after finishing, most often I feel a bit crappy. Either tired, or bored, or just kind of empty and frustrated. Which tells me: TV is not filling my cup or meeting my needs.

I’m also noticing that increasingly, while the TV is on, I’m picking up my phone and just casually checking in on instagram or something similar. Which tells me: I’m not fully engaged in the TV watching.

The hard part though?

I have the thought ‘All I want to do is lay on the couch and watch TV’ multiple times a day. It’s a really tricky part of depression, (and also everyday life!) where our thoughts really aren’t true, or helpful. In the case of this thought, I have tried appeasing it, and going ahead and watching the TV, and I’ve also tried opposing it, by going to work or going for a run, or doing anything else. As I mentioned, when I’ve been appeasing the thought, I’m mostly ending up feeling crappy. When I’ve been opposing it? I usually end up feeling better.

So I’ve decided to make a call – this thought is no longer helpful, and therefore I’m going to let it be there without letting it run my life. My more in-tune self knows that I feel better when I do something that isn’t watching TV, so that’s what I’m going to do.

goodbyes-are-so-hardThe problem remains, I’m still going to have the thought that I want to watch it. How do I deal with that?

Three things:

  1. Practice ACT principles of making space for the thought through mindfulness and breathing practices, allowing it to be there, and make a choice to act based on my values, and
  2. Prepare alternatives for those times when I want to watch it.
  3. Not go cold turkey. I’m allowing myself TV nights on Friday and Sunday.

The alternative activities I’ve come up with so far are:

  • have a bath
  • read a book
  • do some colouring in
  • do some writing
  • do some cooking

Have you got any other ideas about what to do in the evening that doesn’t involve a screen? Do you want to watch less TV too?

Five ways to move for your mood that you might not have thought of…

We’re all being constantly bombarded with statistics and information telling us we don’t do enough exercise, we’re too fat and we’re not burning enough energy because we sit all day.

I’m not (necessarily) disagreeing with those sentiments, but I do believe that moving your body is about SO MUCH more than just energy burnt, or minutes logged. For me, moving your body is about connection with yourself, enjoyment of life, and self-care – honouring the incredible physical feats our body achieves on a daily basis – for example, when you start moving faster, you don’t have to think about breathing more to get more oxygen – your body is constantly measuring minute changes in your inner-chemistry, and just makes this adjustment naturally – how rad is that! Getting more movement doesn’t need to mean going to the gym, signing up to a team sport or joining a group fitness class.

Here’s a list of five ways to move that are about getting to know your body and the different shapes and movements it’s capable of, but also having fun and feeling good!

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Free, expressive, no-instruction dance.

Try No lights No Lycra (just what it sounds like – a darkened room where you ‘have a date with yourself on the dance floor’), 5rhythms (creative expressive dance) or just turn up the stereo in your lounge-room! Try thinking about how your body naturally wants to move to the different rhythms you hear, instead of thinking about how you look.

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Self massage/rolling

Movement ≠exercise. Moving your body doesn’t have to be about getting a sweat up. Using therapy balls, tennis balls, foam rollers, yoga blocks, or other soft-ish bits and bobs you find around, you can get to know areas of your body that you might have lost touch with. Proprioception is the name of our sense of knowing where our body is in space – and self-massage can help to improve this. My favourite therapy balls come from here.

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Your local play-ground

Sure, the local council may have built the play-grounds with kids in mind, but there’s no rules to say adults can’t use them too! If you have kids, take them along and join in the fun, if you don’t have kids, playgrounds are often pretty empty during school hours or first thing in the morning. They are a great place for trying out some movements you might not have done since you were a kid – like hanging, climbing and crawling through tunnels. Bonus – it’s free!

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Bouncing

How many years since you bounced on a trampoline? Bouncing has become a popular activity recently, with companies like Bounce Inc and Xtreme Air opening up giant buildings full of fun things like mega trampolines and ball pits. You will definitely get a sweat up with this one – I recommend getting a bunch of friends to join you (so you have a team for dodge ball!).

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Indoor rock climbing

Indoor climbing is great for many reasons – it’s great for your coordination and neural stimulation (brain training!) and you will definitely feel your arm muscles the next day! More than that though, you need to have trust in the person who is belaying for you (holding your harness rope taut) and it can be quite exhilarating when you make it all the way to the top for the first time – it’s quite high! This is another good one for bringing a friend along – it helps to have someone handy to belay for you. Check out Hardrock if you’re in Melbourne.

 

What about you? Do you have more ideas for fun ways of moving your body?

 

The major factors to consider when choosing the right yoga class for you

Often when I tell people that I work with peeps who want to use movement to help manage their mood, they respond with ‘Oh yeah, like yoga and stuff’.

There’s a reason that yoga is one of the first places peoples’ minds jump to when they think ‘movement’ and ‘mental health’ – several studies have shown results like decreased rumination (focusing on unpleasant thoughts), improved sleep, decreased severity of depression and improved quality of life. One study even found that a yoga intervention worked better for improving depression symptoms than pharmacotherapy (drugs)! So, there’s certainly validity in using yoga as part of a movement practice to improve mood. But, the difference it makes can depend on a few variables…

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Photo by Leo Prieto

The style

Of course, the style makes a huge difference, and there’s no ‘better or worse’ –it depends on your purpose. If you want to work your muscles, get warm, and sweat it out, and increase energy, power yoga or vinyasa might be good for you. If you want to chill, breathe, stretch and find some calm, perhaps yin yoga or restorative is a better bet. I recommend doing some research, taking some time to think about what you want to get out of your practice, and then make an educated choice about which style you choose. And why not try a few different styles to see what works for you!

 

The teacher

Having completed many yoga classes with both fantastic teachers and those that made me go ‘meh’, I can say from experience that having an experienced teacher who is in it for more than the fitness aspect is a totally different experience than a class run by someone who is mostly about building muscles and improving flexibility. My favourite classes are always those that have some greater meaning or message built into them, whether that be in the form of a theme for the class, or just a few words that the teacher offers during savasana. Traditionally yoga is much more a spiritual practice than just physical poses, and teachers who offer a little bit of something for the psyche on top of teaching the physical movements are always my faves.

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The time

I’ve done classes that go for 45-50 minutes, like group fitness classes in gyms, and I’ve always found they don’t really allow enough time to do a proper stillness practice. Some have written about savasana (the corpse pose) being the most important asana (pose) in yoga and it’s certainly important from my perspective. I love the practice of it in the studio, of taking a moment to let your body consolidate what you’ve just gone through in the last hour or so, and just focusing on breathing. I also love taking that concept into the rest of your life – allowing time for processing, resting, and taking a breath before moving on to the next thing. In shorter classes, there is usually only a couple of minutes of stillness, which I reckon isn’t enough. My fave classes go for 75 – 90 minutes.

 

The environment

I’ve done yoga in some pretty picturesque places. Like open, bamboo studios surrounded by papaya trees and jungle, or huge, converted warehouses with exposed wood beams and huge windows through which the afternoon sun streams in…And, while it’s not 100% a prerequisite for a good class, I reckon the additional calm and peace that comes from spending time inside a beautiful studio (as compared to a plain walled room with minimal natural light or air flow) is important.

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That’s what I reckon has the most impact on what makes a good class. The other stuff, like the mat or the clothes: less important from my perspective. Although having a good mat is a nice luxury – I’m currently using a really ratty old mat that sheds little pieces of rubber every time I use it. It’s kinda annoying. (Recommendations for good brands of mat welcome!)

 

Did I miss any important considerations for a good class? Where’s the most beautiful studio you’ve practiced in? Let me know in the comments…