This year I did more of some things and less of others… and it has made all the difference. This has been a year of letting go of control. A year of learning to deeply trust in the wisdom of what is unfolding for me, what is unfolding for all of us. Here’s a list of what’s been working well for me – a highly personal sharing – but maybe some of this will resonate for you too?
1.Wim Hof Breathing Technique
It’s simply extraordinary what breath alone can do! Here I’d like to share with you about a breathing technique developed and promoted by the “Ice man” a Dutch gentleman of the name of Wim Hof known for his world records in cold water swims. His wellness regimen involves the breathing method outlined below, cold water showers and meditation. I’m going to outline just the breathing bit for now:
Watch for instructions from Wim Hof himself
Written instructions below👇🏼This is how I learned to Wim Hof breathe:
step 1. lie down in savasana (corpse pose), head on pillow so it’s slightly raised. very relaxed. I like to cover myself with blanket to stay warm.
step 2. deep breathe (as Wim Hof shows in video) very deep into belly in and out of the mouth about 40 times. Important to keep inbreath and outbreath cyclical, without pauses between
step 3. after the 40 breaths release air from lungs and hold your breath. It’s like when you were a kid under water and having a competition to see who can hold their breath the longest. you can observe your heartbeat or other parts of the body to have something to focus on; the idea is to keep thoughts steady and calm. it’s normal to feel tingling in hands and fingers etc. hold your breath for as long as you can.. (most of us start with 1 minute or 1minute30seconds retention, after a few months of practice I’m at about 2min or 2min30sec.) and then
step 4. take a deep breath in and hold it. puff out your belly and with one hand tap around your belly and intenstines gently, tap the back of your neck (lift up your head a little bit from pillow) and tap a few times the top of your head also (do all of the tapping while holding that deep breath you just took.. about 15sec.)
step 5. let go and breathe normally again
step 6: repeat steps 2-5
One of the cycles (steps 2-5) is one round. To be able to settle into a deeper state of relaxation and meditation you need about 2-3 rounds. With each round you’ll likely find that your capacity to retain your breath (at step 3) lengthens. After you complete 2 or 3 rounds (which takes about 10-15 minutes) it’s really nice to lie down and completely relax and let the body be heavy, breath normally… I love this time of sinking into a deep state of peace and gentleness.
A few other pointers:
- best time to breathe is on an empty stomach (my favourite time to practice is in the morning before breakfast) – doesn’t mean you can’t do Wim Hof breathing at any time of the day, simply put, probably right after a meal is not a great idea…
- the more rounds you do the longer you’ll be able to hold your breath in step 3 and the easier it is to go into deeper meditation
It’s the best method I have learned so far for relaxing and settling into deep meditation and peace. I’d probably need to sit and meditate for an hour or more on a good day (on a day when mind is less busy) to get the same depth of connection. Other people I have spoken to who practice this also feel that Wim Hof methods help not only with meditation but also with lowering feelings of depression and anxiety and increasing feelings of content and inner peace. On a physical level I often feel that my body is thanking me for finally breathing deeply and providing enough oxygen!
Am I seriously this excited about breathing?
- this kind of breathing feels really good in the body, much more so than regular breathing or even the kind of deeper breathing we have during cardio and fitness workouts
- it’s also different than other Pranayama such as breath of fire in Kundalini yoga (which I also enjoy, but it is a breath that stimulates rather than relaxes the body)
- I love meditation and this type of breathing is really the fastest way I have discovered (so far) of getting myself and my mind into a deep state of meditation!
2.Art with kids
Vague practice isn’t it? So many things are art! I’ll give you my own examples, but what I’ve been deepening during the past year is the extraordinary power of creativity and engaging with who and what we have in the here and now.
During the first lockdown this year I was staying with a host family in the French Alps. The kids were not going to school of course and we were busy preparing for spring on the homestead and learning (I ended up teaching the girls languages, music and computer skills too). We also wrote and acted in our own play! This was a lot of fun, and it was a big, long project too. We wrote it, edited the play together and then rehearsed and acted it out. All together it took about 2 months of work (we got together to work on our “pièce de thèâtre” about once a week). We draped old sheets across the bushes to create our space behind the stage. We performed on the grass for the neighbours. It was very fun!
My first big art project this year: theatre with kids👇🏼
3.Painting, drawing and origami
Then comes painting… fun, abstract painting, drawing and colouring. I also enjoyed hand-making Christmas decorations using my own imagination and how-to-origami videos on YouTube. Very enjoyable!
4.Dance and yoga! (joyful movement)
I adore social dancing and dancing in general, and I also enjoy practicing and teaching yoga. Keeping the body moving and the energy flowing is key to my wellness.
Lessons learned during confinement and covid times:
- Motivation can sometimes be low to begin (the yoga practice, dance session etc.) but I always, always feel good during and after. I try to remind myself of that if I need the extra push to actually start.
- www.gaia.com served me so well this year with great quality yoga classes of all sorts (vinyasa, kundalini, hatha and more)
5.Love letters to myself
Yup, it’s exactly as it sounds – I write love letters to myself. More specifically, when I am in a good, hopeful, optimistic mood I write a love letter to myself to be read in the future when a depressing, grey mood hits. The letter doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be sincere and uplifting. It is meant to remind me that good moods have happened in the past and that they can happen again in the future. I then keep the letter somewhere handy…or I hide it somewhere where I’ll come up against it randomly in the future, like in a corner of my purse or somewhere in my wardrobe or drawers. There is something so incredibly comforting about reading a loving message from myself to myself. This very simple and powerful practice has been one of my favourites this year.
I love this practice and I’ve been doing this for about 5 years already. Simply – I have a jar where I put in sticky notes filled with things that I’m grateful for every day – and I fill up the jar during the whole year. At the end of the year I look through all of these gratitude notes. In this way I get a really lovely reminder of all of the happiness and joy that transpired and of the events themselves that took place that year!
7.My top 3 M.I.T.s.
A big part of wellness and happiness is a feeling of purpose. My work motivation definitely took a hit in the midst of the confinements and uncertainties of 2020. But 1 habit that I did keep is that of my top 3 “most important tasks” (MITs) each day. I create them either the night before or the morning of each day. I list 3 things that I want to get done and that I commit to myself that I will do. For some reason – it works. I check them off the list during the day and feel really glad that I kept my promise to myself. I don’t try to do everything at once and sometimes I go above and beyond my list (bonus!!) but when my motivation is low (and it was low many times this year) at least I know I can stick to my top 3 MITs.
I’ve also experimented with top 3 weekly and top 3 monthly MITs. The weekly ones for some reason have not been working all that well for me while the monthly ones seem to work better. I think each of us needs to experiment with our own minds and attitudes to see what works best for you.
Also, there’s something magical about the number 3. It’s enough to be productive and yet not so big a number (like 5 or 7) to feel out of control. Three is also an amount that pushes you to prioritize when you have 4 or 5 big things on the go and only one day to do it all.
8.Cooking and baking
Cooking! I also look at cooking as art – and this year brought me and a whole lot of folks closer to our kitchens and ovens. I’ve enjoyed making yummy soups and cakes and cookies. Few activities marry the creative with the practical as well as cooking can. Plus, in the end I have something yummy (and often healthy) to eat! Double yay.
Other tricks and quirky things I did this year which contributed to my wellness and happiness:
- I deleted the weather app from my phone
I used to live in warm, sunny countries where the weather is perfect almost every day, and this year I’ve been in Europe where weather is very changeable. I started feeling really depressed in the autumn when the forecast in Poland would predict a whole week of grey and cold weather. In reality we do actually get bits of sun here and there and sometimes a whole sunny day – sunny time which is rarely or inaccurately predicted by the forecast. So I stopped checking the weather. I deleted the app from my phone and I’ve practiced accepting whatever weather mood the world is in when I wake up in the morning. For some reason this has been a lifesaver for me! If I was to extract the lesson from this, it’s this: get rid of the useless information that makes you sad/unhappy in any way. Use the old adage “ignorance is bliss” to your advantage if you can!
- I stopped doing quite a few things that no longer work for me. (a continuation of #9)
Example: I stopped tracking my money (at least for a while) Sounds irresponsible, doesn’t it? Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. But I’ve been a meticulous financial tracker for many years and this year, although financially I’m doing OK, and grateful for this, it triggered a lot of stress and unhappiness to track all of my income and expenses as I usually do. So I stopped. My old system was no longer working for me and clearly not adding to my happiness or peace of mind, so I stopped it. I’ll definitely look at how to bring this practice or a form of this practice back into my life later on, but the time is not ripe for it yet.
Example #2: I stopped setting goals (at least for a while) – Sounds revolutionary, doesn’t it? Well, it just wasn’t working for me. For some reason there is so much change and transformation inside of me (inside all of us?) that every time I set goals this year I ended up changing them, half-completing them or leaving them untouched all together. I got an accountability buddy and that didn’t help. I got my coach involved to help me get the goals done and that didn’t help either! I thought I was going mad. Until I realized that maybe this is how it’s meant to be for now! So I’m letting myself not have any long-term goals at the moment. Ironically, I’m finding it takes more courage to say “I don’t know what the future holds” then it does to set goals and go about making them happen. For a goal-setting and ambitious person such as myself.. it’s been a real challenge to slow down. Do you know what? I actually think it’s doing me a lot of good.
🙉🙈I also stopped asking “why” so much! Sometimes we just don’t know why something happens the way that it happens and that’s OK too…
…and you? What are the practices that are working best for you? Please share in the comments below!
Sending best wishes and…Happy Christmas!