I get it dads. We all are hooked to believe that fitness and health is all about shredded abs and big round booties.
But is that really what we are trying to achieve?
Back in the day, when I was highly impressionable and easily influenced, I attended a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) seminar.
It had its good and bad points.
One of the good points I took away was something called ‘chunking down’ or ‘chunking up’.
This was a process whereby you would be asked to articulate questions to find the bigger picture for what you were are trying to achieve – the overall ‘why?’.
When I work with people, more often than not there is a bigger picture to ‘why’ they want to lose weight or build muscle (although these are usually the things they mention first of all).
Their reasons for wanting to work with me are usually coming from a deeper place, and I find that the physical goals are something that gets the real conversation started.
Once we have scratched the surface, we start to get to the real reasons they have come for help with their lifestyle.
The phrase I hear the most is ‘I feel a little unbalanced’.
To me, this means they are there to see me for a lot more than getting fitter and losing weight.
Programmed to connect
Connection is something that we are programmed to seek.
Although in some ways we are in the most connected time in human history (with social media, Google etc.), the general increase in some mental health conditions and in loneliness and isolation says we are not as connected to others as we like to think.
Loneliness and disconnection can drive some people to life-threatening extremes.
Although we have (right in the palms of our hands) online groups that we can join, we seem to be missing the point of what human connection is all about.
Real, physical human contact and spending time enjoying the great outdoors with others creates the best type of ‘mental fitness’ that anyone can ask for, as it releases a chemical in our systems called ‘oxytocin’.
This is what we know as a neurotransmitter, and it influences our social behaviour.
Although we are only in the early stages of understanding these chemicals, it is safe to say they have a huge impact on our emotions and how we live our lives.
Connection is an important part of the equation when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle and being in balance – some would even say the most important.
What is balance, anyway?
Working out what people mean when they say they want ‘balance’ in their lives is certainly something that I struggle with – as do most people, judging by some of the conversations I have.
I’ve chosen to try to define it by looking at health, fitness and wellbeing from seven different perspectives:
1). Breathing – Taking charge of your breathing has scientifically been proven to increase your productivityand attentiveness. This will help to create a balanced life during both work and play.
2). Movement – Moving well is essential to improving and maintaining yourquality of life and balancing the mental with the physical.
3). Munch – Managing your choices, understanding portion size and mastering your cravings will assist in achieving balanced munch.
4). Sleep – Sleeping peacefully, with a balanced daily and nightly routine, creates good sleep hygiene, which is vital for health. Although this can be a touchy subject in a household with kids involved, we still need to create a routine close to what is desirable.
5). Connection – Making time to connect with your loved ones and be completely present in their company will create balanced relationships.
6). Play and adventure – Having fun and de-loading by taking time out to let loose and relax will create balance between work and the rest of your life.
7). A wider perspective – Thinking more about how we can help others and our communities to feel enriched and fulfilled creates balance between looking inwards and looking outwards.
It’s unrealistic to expect to always be 100% in each of these seven areas.
But we can aim to have an understanding of each, and to assess our situation against these things if we are feeling like life is a little too chaotic and this is affecting our general health. If you review these seven aspects of balance, I expect you might find something to work on to improve your situation.
Are you forgetting to have fun?
To encourage this balancing process, one of the first places I start with my clients is by asking:
How often are they spending time with their loved ones?
How much time do they spend having adventures? Playing music? Going to visit the great outdoors?
Can they remember having fun? When was this – what did they do?
Life can’t be all go, all the time.
We may be smashing the deadlines at work, beating our 10k times, lifting heavy weights and looking super-ripped – but even the strongest of us will eventually burn out.
If we are distant from the rest of the world and have no social life, these goals we are achieving will come and go, and when we turn around to see who is with us (friends, family etc.) and nobody is there, are those goals going to be worth it?
Balance in life is sometimes hard to define.
Once you can identify what the things are that you actually need to balance, then you will become empowered to take charge of the aspects that may be out of sync.
Making connections and having fun are, I think, things that a lot of us dads postpone.
But we forget that bittersweet truth – that we are all going to die someday.
So, bring some balance into your perspective, and make the most of every precious day.