[VIDEO] Jean Vanier speaks on the Big Questions

When someone is loved, they are transformed, reveal to them they are beautiful. This does not happen if you’ve been humiliated and devalued. A really interesting talk ranging across many topics including the Holocaust, and everyday life: discover what it means to be a full human coming from vulnerable/fragile relationships.

[VIDEO] Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

Part of today’s Lent reading with Brian Draper “First, whenever we achieve success, we change the goalposts. (You hit your sales target, so you increase your sales target…) So it seems always out of reach. And when happiness lies on the far side of success, your brain never gets there.

But the main issue (as neuroscience now suggests) is that our brain works best the other way around: when we experience positivity in the present, we perform significantly better than if we’re “negative, neutral or stressed”. Intelligence rises, creativity rises, energy levels rise, when we’re assured and content to start with.”

drawing from Shawn Anchor, as summarised in this TED talk:

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Completed ‘The Psychology of Weight Loss’ with @beyondchoc

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You’ll see from previous blog posts that I’ve been interested in Beyond Chocolate since around 2009. I can’t remember how I first came across the books, but after reading, ended up going on a day course where I remember Audrey’s face as she described a ‘fun-size Malteser’ packet, learnt to reconnect with our bodies as we drew around ourselves/described ourselves, and experimented with new recipes and the thought of having food as something to enjoy, rather than something to be limited/restrained or feared. Prior to the course, post-chest-infection, I’d been putting on roughly half-stone every 6 months – 6 months after this one day, I’d stabilised and food had regained some of it’s fun and adventure (scales have since gone, so judging by clothes)!

I ticked along with this, read Beyond Temptation, then in 2013, decided to go to another day in Leeds, where the outstanding exercises in my mind were eating foods veeeery slowly to reacquaint with the taste (rather than shovelling it down), and encouraging people to say out loud to the person next to them the things that they say to themselves (e.g. you fat, lazy cow) – demonstrating how you wouldn’t to others but you would to yourselves!

In 2014, I went on a whole weekend, which was a great opportunity to take time out from everyday life, and undertake a series of exercises – including eating food in silence, and comparing to the next meal with conversation, having meals with lots of choices/limited choices, having ‘unlimited’ quantities of food that one is not ‘relaxed’ about, looking at one’s journey with food, and lots of fun and conversation! By this point, I’d already started sharing a range of stories on the Beyond Chocolate Facebook page (over the last 8 months we’ve increased from around 900 page members to over 1500, with a regular flow of stories ‘of interest’ to the group), and started road-testing a new online course known as “The Psychology of Weight Loss” (and yes, lots of discussion about using weight loss as part of the title when it’s about having a good relationship with your body – whether you are small or large – but it’s something people are looking for, so then encourage people to say this is not where your emphasis should lie!).

Anyway, I have just FINISHED part-1 of the course, and it’s been really helpful (especially the 1-2-1 inputs from BC), as there’s been time to do the material, then think about it, before diving in to the next session: aside from anything else, I’ve realised how much my relationship with food and my body has changed over the past few years, even if, in the world’s eyes, I am “overweight”.

Doing this online course has encouraged me to try a few more things, in tune with my ‘give me new stuff’ way of thinking, and against that thinking of “I need to do this, and I need to do this for ever” mentality of many a diet. I give something a go, reflect on it, then decide if I want to do it again. It may become a habit, or I may decide it’s not for me…

The intention is to do it within 3 months, but there are extension packages available if you want longer-term e-mail support. See an overview of the course here, and you can try the first lesson for free! Only £67 if you just want to undertake the course, or £350 with 1-2-1 support! 

#Decluttering Near Completion

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This, 10 more of the paper archive files to scan in, 6 more photo albums to create on Bonusprint, and 2 ‘childhood/schooldays’ boxes in the attic are all that I have left to declutter! After I properly started about 15 years ago (that’s frightening in itself), and recently went at the digital spaces, this feels so close…

Over time, I have learnt to mend lots of things, the bins have taken a hammering, charity shops have (hopefully) enjoyed what has been donated, and Freecycle has been used – there’s an opportunity for you guys – there’s a few more items on Amazon and Ebay - please do have a look, and see if you know anyone who’d like them!

The Bank Cook by @HJulienne

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Thank you so much to Hortense, as this special parcel arrived in the post last week. I enjoyed watching Hortense’s experiments with food over Lent last year, and it’s wonderful to see the care and attention that she has poured into this book – as her ‘about’ page indicates “I hope that the quality of the work done within the pages will make the user feel valued and loved”. There are lots of great hints and tips as to how to make the budget stretch (on as little as £5 week), with lots of little tips regarding nutrition (although p17, I’m still not taking up celery!!). Thankfully, I am fed my main meal most days during term-time, but there’s some ideas here I want to try – particularly nice looking Vegan Chilli Con Carne on p26, though I’m not sure I need a Scotch Bonnet pepper! Well done Hortense, don’t stop inventing!

Download a PDF copy of the book, and consider giving food alongside your weekly shop, or if, like I do, you don’t do big shops often, consider donating to The Trussell Trust, and they can buy what they need!

Enjoyed Reading ‘Year of Biblical Womanhood’ by @RachelHeldEvans

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I have really enjoyed reading this book over the past week (thanks Bryony for lending it to me) – had me chuckling and thinking at alternate moments, and occasionally reaching for the iPad to take note of a particular paragraph, as outlined here:

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Early morning prayer? How can I expect to have a civil conversation with God?

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Be yourself. Take risks. Work Hard. Make mistakes. Keep Going. Surround with cheerleaders.

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Faith is believing in the midst of uncertainty. Don’t wait for certainty.

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Women should not have to pry equality…

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Thinking about what we buy… and how it affects others… (one of the most impactful Lent things I did was give up purchasing in supermarkets & seeking to ‘shop local’ more – changes eating habits a lot!)

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Remember the historical context in which the Bible was written.

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Church – an off-putting place for women?

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The Bible isn’t an answer book, set of rules of a self-help manual, but a sacred collection telling God’s story

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Do we find what we’re looking for?

Thanks Rachel – lots to chew on (as someone who came from a Brethren background!)!

Work less, do more, live better (@timeshighered)

botanical-garden-gazebo-1430498-mI am SO EXCITED to be reading this piece in Times Higher Education – over the last year I’ve been seeking to work in a healthier pattern (although ironically this week has been a 6 day-week & I need to do some more over the weekend so that I can take a week off… to write a book proposal … carefully planned this is though!)

Great Intro:

Some years ago, I heard that a colleague characterised me as “someone who didn’t work weekends”. This description was not meant as a compliment. It’s true that I make a concerted effort to keep something approximating normal working hours of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. But I haven’t always worked like this. As a postgrad, I anxiously counted my hours and consulted with fellow students, worried that I wasn’t spending enough time at my desk. Eventually, I allowed myself one full day off weekly. When I became a lecturer, I stayed in the office until seven or eight in the evening, in part imitating the working patterns of my new colleagues, and continued to work weekends. Yet when I reduced my hours at the desk some years ago, my productivity did not decline. Instead, my mindfulness to follow regular hours means that my productivity is the same as or even greater than it was before, when I worked 50, 60 or whatever hours it was per week.

Further down, there’s a series of historical figures, and their living styles (most were writers)

The common feature in these workday schedules is walking, bipedalism, that form of locomotion that distinguishes us from the other primates. Walking and thinking seem to go together so naturally that perhaps it’s walking that made us thinkers. Aristotle famously taught while walking along the colonnade connecting the temple of Apollo and the shrine of the Muses. That link between philosophy and walking has stuck and was memorably parodied in Monty Python’s sketch about the Philosophers’ Football Match. Rebecca Solnit, author of Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000), concurs that walking is good for thinking: she concludes “a desk is no place to think on a large scale”.

Exercise and sleep are highlighted as of key importance to being creative (and I’ve certainly been working on my sleep), and then  How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (2007) is quoted: 

His suggestions are simple: write and do your research daily in small blocks of time (schedule it in and don’t cheat on that schedule); keep track of what you do in that time; stay attentive to your writing goals and, ideally, get yourself a group that will help you keep to these goals. You might protest, what good are small blocks of time? But small, regular amounts of work build up to significant productivity. A few pages often make a big difference. If you were learning how to tap dance or play the French horn, you wouldn’t set aside one full day a week for practice or cram it into your Saturday afternoons; instead you’d practise for short periods, daily. Why should research and writing be any different?

As academics, we are used to research, so we should research our own habits (oh yes – and being ‘completely detached’ from the good and the bad of a job – is key) –

It is in our best interest to not only be productive but satisfied with our work, because work is vital to our identity and self-definition. We need work not just to put bread on the table but to feel of use, to serve, to contribute, to make and to connect. But the long-hours culture and the cult of busyness saps meaning away, as we tick through never-ending “to do” lists, becoming chronically tired and working less efficiently with each overtime hour.

There’s mention that even in the factory shorter hours have demonstrated increased productivity .. and I remember this from my research in the Second World War – it was SO essential to get arms out, that an extra day was added to the ‘week-cycle’ … productivity went down! And, even in times of crisis, this is key:

Before, Red Cross workers put in as many hours as necessary until the job was finished. Now the Red Cross recognises that workers need breaks in order to be able to respond effectively to the humanitarian crises they face.

Yes, yes, yes… (read full article – and also the opinion piece Know Your Worth).