A Simple Guide To the Basics For A Healthy And Happy  2015

A Simple Guide To the Basics For A Healthy And Happy 2015

Now let’s get something straight up front: I’m not writing this for you, I’m writing this for me. I know that’s the polar opposite of all good copywriting advice but in this instance I’m ignoring convention because I reckon we want the same things (No, Belinda – I think we may have different dreams, trust me on that…).

I’m not one for New Years Resolutions. I resent the idea that there’s this burst of enthusiasm to not be unhealthy and be more positive that starts on January the 1st and dissipates steadily throughout the year until finally, just past the Christmas binge period we’re all ready to start trying again. The same every year because we’ve never yet managed to stay on point. So here’s my list of things I want to focus on ALL year long.

  1. Be happier, with a more positive outlook, better relationships with everyone and far less stress

  2. Apply some real goals to my career, genuinely enjoy whatever I do to make money and far less stress

  3. Feel great inside my own skin; a lean, mean lovin’ machine. And far less stress

I didn’t say it wouldn’t be ambitious. But if you could look yourself in your cheeky face and say to yourself, with all honesty, that you’d nailed that lot – you’d be perfectly chuffed wouldn’t you?

The idea is I’ll keep this on point, as super simple and straightforward as possible (not easy for a genuine witterer) – Just the facts. And if you want to know more about anything – ask me. Or Google it.

Be happier, with a more positive outlook, better relationships with everyone and far less stress

All that stuff dovetails nicely. If you’re doing one of those things then the others will fall into place around you.

But be happier? That’s a bit broad isn’t it? And obviously there are no easy fixes or magic bullets for that are there? No, probably not. The fact is I already kind of know what makes me happy (or when I’m happiest) and it’s a lot of things at different times; it’s acumulative and impossible to chase with just one thing. I’d say it’s easier to define what doesn’t make me happier: Buying more stuff, eating crap, getting drunk and so on. In other words, all the stuff that I’ve always done when I want to feel happier but I always say ‘not doing that again’ afterwards.

It’s a bit like trying to eat healthy. Sometimes just cutting out the stuff you know you shouldn’t have automatically creates a vibe where you just seem to fill voids with the stuff you should have. Check out this post I wrote recently that explores ways to define what makes you happy:

I’m not getting all ‘Airy Fairy’

A ‘positive outlook’ is another of those airy fairy, undefinable bullshit terms that gets bandied about the place like a wet kipper (no idea, too much coffee probably).

On the other hand we all know those times when things are just that much sunnier right? Problems aren’t so difficult to navigate, people seem to be more agreeable and less annoying (than they oh so often are) and you find yourself predicting positive outcomes for yourself rather than facing defeat before you’ve lost.

Again, chasing this pony (again, don’t know, but a pony is as good a metaphor to chase an any other I reckon) can be a tiring waste of time. You can’t FORCE your brain to look at anything optimistically. You’ll only remember that time when such and such let you down or that thing broke (your vase, your heart etc) and your boiler packed up on a cold Christmas Eve (looking at you my actual real life this year – fact – thanks Paul you amazing plumber you).

Here are my two top tips that I’ll be using this year, not to have some kind of magical ‘positive outlook’ on everything, but to create a day to day existence in which there’s less negativity around. Then the positive can seep in all of it’s own accord.

1. Avoid negative people

I know you’ve heard this one a gazillion times and you don’t need to me to bore you with all the benefits of avoiding the people who suck your very soul out through your ears with their constant pessimism. But I also know that it’s never that straight forward because often these people are our family or our best friends or our freaking PARTNERS (and no, I’m not referring to anyone in particular – It’s new folks I’m wary of these days) and that means we can’t always avoid them.

So those on the periphery of your life who make you feel blue just by being within 10 feet of you. Cut them out. Nicely and with perfect tact of course, but seriously, cold as that seems you need to remember that:

You are the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with

And if those closest to you are the ones sucking the most soul out of your life then maybe it’s time to start evaluating those relationships too. Some relationships are a choice, others aren’t. Some are avoidable, others aren’t. You need to think about YOU because your loved ones count on it. I don’t believe that ‘life is short’ – I’m with Seneca: Life is long enough if you know how to use it.

That includes who you spend time with. Find your 5. Go, now, find them and surround yourself with them until they rub off on you (stop it).

2. Embrace defeat

This is very important – so much so there’s a blog post on it’s way about this one – but here’s a simple way to get you moving in the right direction (I mean me, getting me going in the right direction, it’s not for you)

Every time you lose at something, every time you make a mistake and upset somebody or break something or are faced with a choice and you chose the one that costs you more money than you could afford to lose or you get punched in the face, or you get ill, or your bloody boiler breaks on Christmas Eve – Remember, it’s a good thing.

That’s right, failure is actually one of the best things that can happen to anyone ever. Lost your job? Yee-ha! Sucked at your job interview and didn’t get it? Woo-hoo! Tripped up in the high street, face planted a hobo’s dog and everyone laughed at you? Even the pigeons? Score!

How on Earth can that be right? Because it’s so wrong, it’s more than right (I don’t have to make sense if I don’t want to)

Let’s step back a bit. Say about 3,500 million years in fact, to when the first microbial life-forms were swimming around in the primordial soup of early Earth – stay with me – A process began that has shaped everything that has come since. A little driving force called EVOLUTION. And what drives the process that has lead to you, me, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, possibly Jesus, Steven Gerrard, tinned tuna, trees, Alton Towers and tea (other people, things and ideologies are available)? Yep – it’s failure. Great big cock-ups. Whopping great mistakes at fundamental levels.

Every time some tiny part of the DNA of a life-form mutated (that’s mutated, a mistake, failed to be what it was meant to be, not performed as advertised, didn’t bloody work properly) evolution took a look at that mutation and pondered the positive benefits that might be gleaned. The process looked for the mistakes that made something better in the longer term and went with it. It took the mutation and ran. You are the result of a gazillion f$@k-ups and glory be to that (yes I needed to swear at that point, its a great point and a great place to swear).

Let’s reverse the idea and you’ll notice it still works out OK.

If we stopped making mistakes, everything would be crap. We’d learn nothing. We’d have no opportunities to learn, to improve, to problem solve, to build better whatevers, to run faster, fly straighter, grow. Might not losing your job present you an opportunity to learn new skills, start your own business, meet new people? Maybe you’ll have to move house, sell stuff you didn’t need (but find didn’t make you happy anyway), walk more often because you can’t afford the petrol (and get fitter and lose weight and see glorious sunrises) or perhaps you’ll meet the love of your life in the job centre.

When I fail at something I learn something (and I fail a lot). I fail a lot because I try a lot of things. If you’re failing a lot, you’re doing things right because you’re DOING THINGS. The more you get wrong the more you’ll learn and ultimately the better everything will become.

You don’t need to chase a stress free life, you just need to see some of the more stressful things as the potentially amazing things that they can potentially be.

So rather than simply deciding to ‘be happier’ or be ‘less stressed’ or have a more ‘positive outlook’ I’m just going to work a bit harder at eliminating a few things and looking through the tiny cracks in various problems and try to mine the opportunities that are hiding in them (with my tiny brain chisel).

Relationships get better when you’re happier (doh!). And you’ll find that when you’re taking care of you a bit more you’ll be better for them, whoever they are.

Apply some real goals to my career, genuinely enjoy whatever I do to make money and far less stress

I’m already halfway there with this one. I work for myself, have done for years and wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s not always easy and the yin and yang of it dictates that for every benefit of self employment, there’s a scary financial consideration. There are good times and bad and it’s one of the primary reasons I want to be better at looking for more opportunities in failure like we discussed above.

But overall it’s such a pleasure to be able to do things I genuinely enjoy to in order to pay my bills and support my kids. I can get my work done from 5am to 11am if I so choose and be available for school runs in the afternoon and football in the park. That’s irreplaceable time right there! There’s no office politics to navigate, egos to upset or holiday entitlements to worry about. I might be able to make more money on a salary somewhere but I’m time rich and given that my favourite quote in the history of quotes is “Life is long enough if you know how to live it” I can’t put a price on that.

So this year I’m really looking forward to setting some serious targets for my company, and look for ways to evolve our offering in some exciting directions. And most importantly to choose directions that I know I’ll enjoy (regardless of their income potential) because if I enjoy doing something I’m infinitely better at doing it. Fun is sustainable so you might as well enjoy doing what you spend most time doing.

This is my guide for me, remember? But if you’ve EVER considered going it alone, if you’ve ever wondered if you could do it, if it would work then for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS MINTY – Do it.

It’s not for everyone, some folks love the simplicity of a salary and a days work they can walk away from at the end of the day; some folks are vocated to caring for others, teaching others or making sure communities don’t burn or turn to chaos (and need paying properly for it too I might add – tight fisted governmental gits) and haven’t finished with what they’re loving yet. But if you’re not there, if you’re unhappy at work and unfulfilled or bored then please don’t spend the next 30 years doing that. Fill your productive work time with something you love, something you enjoy. You might as well right?

There are a few ingredients. This isn’t a guide to quitting your job and becoming self employed but if it’s a inspirational stepping stone then I’d be happy with that:

  1. Be brave. You can do anything and failure is good. I’m happily and successfully self employed and I fail on a monthly basis, always have, always will. Everyone I’m inspired by has failed big time at one time or another. Failure is the ONLY option. But it’s certainly not an excuse. With that mindset you’ll succeed ENOUGH and that’s all you need. You’re more than good enough and you know it.

  2. Do what you love. You’ve heard it so many times because it’s TRUE! You’ll know when you’ve found your Muse; your inspiration, the thing that you know you can do better than anyone else (or just well enough to make your living with it). You don’t even have to be good at it. If you love it, learn it. You’ll get better until you’re good enough – then you have a business. yes, it’s that easy!

  3. Take your time. You don’t have to quit your job on day 1 and just hope you can sell yourself or your product. Take your hobby or your idea and put some hours in, in the evening. Start small and watch it grow, don’t be afraid of the hard yards, they’re a means to an end; to handing in your notice on that glorious day that’s ahead of you. It really is!

  4. Don’t overestimate what you need to survive. You can get by perfectly well on far less that you have now. Of course you might be taking a pay cut to start with (and you may well end up making more than you think and far exceeding your old salary) but it’s not a reason to not start. Wealth isn’t always money. If you’re eating healthier, you’re eating cheaper. Start your business in the spring when your gas and electric bills are a quarter and veg is cheaper.

  5. Ignore the Negative Nancys. They are the ones that you shouldn’t be surrounding yourself with anyway! Remember the old ‘You’re average of the 5 people you surround yourself with’ vibe from earlier? Go with that. Find those 5, tell them your dream and watch them pull you through.

What are you waiting for? No seriously, what are you waiting for?

Feel great inside my own skin; a lean, mean lovin’ machine. And far less stress

Alright, I know I’m a slightly OCD nutrition and exercise nutjob. I know that’s not everybody’s thang. But look at it this way, if I’m doing it to myself and finding out what works and what doesn’t then you don’t have to; you can just cherry pick my best bits and avoid all my astounding mistakes.

Having said all that I love chocolate and roast dinners and Christmas excess and real ale and red wine and ice cream so the last 2 weeks have left me slightly not so lean. But I’m fine with that, you’ve gotta live right?

So I’m refocusing on the basics, and by basics I mean the things I know work for me and that are sustainable and that I enjoy. here’s a quick and dirty outline of what I’m going to be doing for the foreseeable future to make sure I’m totally beach ready.

Here’s my goal: I’m 41 this year and I want to be as hot as any 21 year old gym git on the beach this summer. BUT, I don’t want to sacrifice beer, wine, ice cream, chocolate (or anything else I like) and I don’t want to pay David LLoyd anymore and I don’t want an exercise plan that I don’t have time for or a ‘diet’ I can’t stick to. I want it all easy and I want it NOW!

Ok, calm down, I can’t have it now, I know that. But I reckon the average Alan (or Alice) is never more than 6 weeks from SIGNIFICANT improvements. I’m not a personal trainer or qualified nutritionist but I self experiment and learn a lot. It’s a hobby. Here’s the in depth view:

Here’s the simple plan (it’s not Atkins so don’t compare it or think that it is. Atkins isn’t sustainable or healthy, you can live like this and be healthy. Remember a diet isn’t some kind of temporary plan to lose weight, a diet is whatever you habitually eat. So if you eat pizza and drink coke all week, you’re on the pizza and coke diet:

Nutrition:

Avoid:

  • Simple, processed carbs. Anything that is or can be white (bread, spuds, pasta)

  • Anything processed (ready meals etc) with added sugar/salt

  • Processed meats (sorry, this is the ham, bacon, sausage, cured meats etc) – this is hard I know but so very bad for you in all sorts of bad ways. I’ll do a post and explore this in the future. I find this one tough myself

  • The obvious (crisps, biscuits, cakes, chocolate, sweets etc)

  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt) – except cottage cheese – that’s OK.

  • Fruit & fruit juice (basically it’s sugar water) – you don’t need fruit. It’s a treat.

  • Any sort of sugary drink (even the aspartame laden diet sodas) or beer (carbs).

Eat as much as you like (don’t count calories, just fill up):

  • Veg – Just squillions of it

  • Lean white meat (chicken and turkey)

  • Occasional red meat but go for quality if you can (preferably grass fed – saturated fats in grass fed animals are actually good for you unlike the typical saturated fats you hear so much about) but keep it to once a week if poss

  • Legumes (lentils and beans) – beluga lentils and black beans are my favourite. Think Aubergine curry with lentils and naga roasted cauliflower or turkey bolognese with butter beans or pulled piri piri chicken with refried beans – droooooool. I’ll post some recipes soon

  • Eggs – go for your life with omelettes galore (no, they aren’t fattening, no the yolks don’t raise your bad cholesterol and yes they are packed with healthy stuffs)

  • Cottage cheese is OK

  • A glass of red in the evening is A-OK! Yes.

CHEAT DAY – Sunday works for me. One day of the week just go crazy. If you want 4000 calories worth of Snickers ice cream then you go for it. Make yourself sick. Beer, fruit, cheese, chips, cheesy chips, deep fried cheesecake, whatever.

There’s a bit of science behind cheat day (spiking your insulin once a week stops your metabolism from down regulating thus increasing weight loss) but mostly it means you stay on point because you know it’s there. Makes that way of eating sustainable permanently. I find that after a while I don’t go crazy on cheat days, just have a few things I know I’ve craved in the week. Each to their own and all that but just knowing it’s there helps. Especially where bacon is concerned.

Exercise:

80% of weight loss is what you DON’T EAT. That’s it, no messing, no excuses. And you can’t ‘run off’ the damage that a Marrs Bar does. But I’m not here to pontificate on all of that today, just spout some guidelines that I’ll be sticking to that I know do the job.

To gym or not to gym? That’s the question.

For me it’s a no. I was seduced by the outdoor pool at David Lloyd last summer, a missed relic of my days living in Oz where outdoor pools were ten a penny (or cent) and the weather supported it. But the cost and the benefits are not there for me. Swimming is a big part of my life but it’s not critical right now so I’ll be getting back into that next month. For now my home gym is perfectly adequate. You guessed it, there’s a post coming on that!

I only use the most basic equipment, super affordable, not requiring much space and no effort to ‘prepare’ workouts. This was half the problem with the gym. I’d have to pack a bag, DRIVE to the gym, get changed, mince around a vast gym environment, then reverse the entire process with a shower too! How much time???

Whereas at home, I can work out in my jeans and shirt, not shower if I don’t feel like it (don’t worry, I barely break a sweat and I’m not a stinker in general, one of my special moves is naturally not being smelly – although I do occasionally ‘glisten’) and not pay £LOTS for the privilege of doing so.

I use 3 or 4 bits of equipments at home and I could actually afford to rebuy it all each month for the price of a gym membership. No contest. Like I said, I’ll post on this soon.

home gym

Something is better than nothing and if I do nothing else then I’ll do:

  • 75 deep push-ups,

  • 75 kettlebell swings,

  • 40 kettlebell curls (per arm)

  • and some myotatic crunches (maybe 15),

  • and I’ll do this routine 3 times a week.

That’s pretty much it, maybe 15 minutes a day? And if I eat right and do nothing else it’s genuinely enough. Not because I’m me or because of dark magic, but because those movements, performed with good form, are enough to achieve results with minimum effort for anyone. We’ll look at it in more depth in the upcoming post but honestly, if I’ve learned anything about exercise, it’s that you don’t need much (quite often you can do more harm that good – looking at you joint shredding running) to get good results. Ultimately it’s about enjoying yourself and having a body that’s healthy and will keep you active deep into your later years without injury. It’s also about clearing your head, being strong and fit for purpose.

So that’s what I’m focusing on for 2015! Going back to basics, keeping it simple, keeping it positive and productive. Get all these ducks in a row and I know I’ll be stressed less often, my relationships will be better and I’ll be chuffed with the dude in the mirror, clothed or otherwise – Oh yes I do.

There’s a lot that didn’t make the cut for this post that are fair-dinkum 2015 goals and that I want to talk about and experiment with so expect some posts on the following in the very near future:

  • My Super Sexy & Cheap as Chips Home Gym

  • Why Meditation Is Better Than [insert popular activity here] And Not The Wishy Washy, Namby Pamby Tosh You Always Suspected

  • Stacks of Recipes

  • How Failure Can Make Everything Better

Working titles of course…..

Later dudes, please share with your friends (if you think they’d get anything out of it) and feel free to give me some stick below…