Three Simple Yet Profound Signs That Got Me Back on the Path of Health and Happiness That I Hadn’t Been Fully Aware I’d Strayed From
Oftentimes the most simple of things are also the most beautiful of things, and it’s this combination that has the power to bring and maintain health and happiness to our everyday WorkLife.
I’d found the last, long, what seemed like a never-ending lockdown in the UK hard going. I coped by spending my days writing, learning and creating — easily whiling the hours away from early morning till late night. I love writing, learning and creating, and as a writer and WorkLife learning practitioner, that’s great — right?
Well, YES and NO.
YES — Because I’d been spending my days creating resources to help people manage their own WorkLife learning. Over the years, I’ve supported many people through times of change and uncertainty brought about by external influences — in the past, it was economic crashes; in the present, it’s the pandemic.
During these times, many people who find themselves losing their jobs, through no fault of their own, also find they have to diversify their skills and experience to get back into an ever-changing world of work.
And those who find themselves surviving the culling of jobs also find they too have to diversity their skills and experience to survive the demands of their role as they are expected to step up and step in to take on the responsibilities of their departed colleagues in an ever-changing work environment.
The people who lost their job also lost the learning and development programmes that were one of the benefits of their job.
The people who remained in their job (or a version of it) oftentimes also find that they too have lost the learning and development programmes that were one of the benefits of their job. This is because, often, one of the first things to be taken away, or frozen as companies struggle to survive economic downturns, are training budgets.
This throws a curveball for people, they’re trying to adapt to the situation they find themselves in, but their learning and development support that helped them in the past has been taken away.
But my work has taught me that the one thing in life that can never be taken away from us is our learning. Because WorkLife learning doesn’t need a training budget, because it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, there’s so much we can learn that costs little or no money. And as importantly, there’s also so much we already have within us — knowledge, attributes, skills and experience that we can utilise to navigate through times of change and uncertainty.
It was this learning that deepened my WorkLife purpose: “To help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, purpose, passion and pride, by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone.”
So, a lot to be said in favour of YES to whiling away my days writing and learning and creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes to help people manage their own WorkLife learning.
So that’s all OK then, right?
Well, NO, it’s not, because it’s not all good. Let’s hear why it’s also a NO.
NO — Because those days spent writing, learning and creating were spent sitting. From early morning till late night, while on the one hand, I was very productive; on the other hand, I was living a very sedentary lifestyle.
I had also stopped taking my daily walks, and I love walking. But somewhere along the way of this last, long, what seemed like never-ending lockdown, I’d stopped walking. Initially, I told myself it’s winter, it’s too cold, too wet, too windy, too icy, too dark, too this, too that, whatever the excuse of the day was. But these were just excuses. I love walking before sunrise and after sunset. I love the change of seasons, and walking in all weathers has never stopped me before.
As the days drifted into weeks, then months, before I knew it, March was upon us, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been for a walk. Add that to sitting for hours on end each day, and things began to take their toll because I hadn’t been spending time taking care of my health or my happiness.
It wasn’t big drastic warning signs, but the signs were there. I had no energy or motivation, not only for walking but for anything else other than writing, learning and creating. I’d tell myself I’m in the flow, and I don’t want to interrupt that because it’s important — writing, learning and creating is my work; my livelihood, I need to do this. That’s all true, of course, but my health and happiness are important too, and for some reason, I’d justified interrupting that as being OK.
I began to feel lethargic, but I just couldn’t seem to push through it. Going for a walk should be so simple; after all, it just takes putting one foot in front of the other. Also, I know the amazing mental and physical health benefits walking has always given me. But regardless of all of this, I was fighting pushing through to get back on a better path of health and happiness with every fibre of my being.
Then one day, a promotional image of a standing desk popped up on my Instagram page, out of seemingly nowhere. It wasn’t something I’d been googling or looking for, but it was something that had crossed my mind before. I remembered hearing or reading good things about them.
This was the first sign.
I was curious, and so, I had a look to see what the benefits are.
My research led me to juststand.org and to a shocking discovery. There’s such a thing as a ‘Sitting Disease’!, “a term coined by the scientific community, commonly used when referring to metabolic syndrome and the ill-effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle.” Yikes!
Thankfully having gotten that bad news out of the way, the site quickly got to the good news: “standing up, sitting less and moving more, are the simple lifestyle changes to get back on track to better wellbeing for our minds and bodies.” Phew!
I was sold. I ordered my standing desk.
On the first day I set out to use it, I set it up ready to go — complete with laptop, a cup of coffee, a colourful glass filled with water and a pot of flowers. I took a photo and posted it on Instagram. In the post, I mentioned how flowers make me happy.
The WorkLife posts I make on Instagram are set up to go to my Facebook business page directly, and I always check they’ve gone OK. When I did this, I saw the above photo memory had popped up on my personal page — My mum standing next to flowers. I re-shared the photo, and my niece Elaine commented that they had those flowers in their garden, that my dad, her grandad, had planted them. My dad passed away in 1992. I was touched that he lived on through the flowers he took great pride in growing and nurturing — hydrangeas. I shared this with my niece, telling her having planted them outside his and my mum’s bedroom window, how when he passed, they were the first thing my mum saw each morning as she pulled across the curtains. My dad’s hydrangeas were one of the ways he remained with her. These flowers made my mum happy.
The photograph of my mum standing next to the flowers was my second sign. — although I didn’t know it yet.
At this point, lunchtime was fast approaching. My lack of energy or motivation for doing anything other than writing, learning and creating included food shopping and cooking. Instead, I was nipping out to pick up some takeaway or other every day as soon as the hunger pangs began to kick in. My rumbling tummy was my cue to walk the five minutes to my nearest supermarket to pick up something to satisfy those pangs.
The walk was a familiar one, one I took most days. But that day, for the first time, I saw something unfamiliar. I saw this window box of flowers. Had they just appeared, or had they been there before? I actually didn’t know. All I knew was I had never seen them before. I took a photo.
The window box of flowers was to be my third sign.
They reminded me of an assignment I’d given myself when we entered the first lockdown in the UK, pretty much to the day, one year earlier. That assignment was to capture the beauty of everyday WorkLife on my daily walks — the days when I did walk every day.
As soon as I got home, I looked through my camera roll and discovered one of the first photos I took when I began capturing the beauty in everyday WorkLife on my daily walks was a window box of flowers. OK, it’s springtime, so that in itself is not so extraordinary, and that’s the whole point, window boxes filled with flowers are an ordinary, yet simple and beautiful thing.
And that simple thing opened my eyes to the beauty that surrounds us in our everyday WorkLife.
That beauty of the flowers I had placed on my standing desk, the photograph of my mum, that reminded me of the beauty of the flowers that my dad had grown, the beauty of the window boxes of flowers, they all had one thing in common, they all had the superpower to bring happiness into people’s lives.
In that moment, I knew I wanted to have that beauty as a constant in my WorkLife because it made me happy. I also knew in that moment that by making endless excuses to myself to justify the interruption to my daily walks, I had been depriving myself of something that had helped me maintain good health and happiness.
It was time to get back to my daily WorkLife walks and to recommence my assignment to capture the beauty in everyday WorkLife. My daily walks to health and happiness, capturing the beauty of flowers and so much more along the way.
As with so many areas of our WorkLife, health and happiness are so intrinsically linked, they cannot be separated, nor should they. I believe we need to take a holistic approach to our WorkLife because therein lies the secret to good health and happiness.
I’ve always believed health and happiness are superpowers, and I’ve also always believed it’s the simple yet beautiful things that help us maintain good health and make us happy. I just had to follow the signs to get back on track to my path of health and happiness.