Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

How Mindfulness Can Help Your Clients Kick a Habit



We are aware that most of our work as coaches, focuses on helping adopt new habits and get rid of a few old ones.  Of course there is a bigger conversation that precedes this but eventually, we have to face the fact that certain behaviours have to go!

And it’s not easy.  

But here’s a new approach.  We have always said that we need to replace an old habit with a new one. But what if we could simply “turn the switch off” and knock that old habit on the head.  We can. By revisiting Mindfulness.

Let’s think about those habits.  Most of the time we are indulging the behavior because we’re not feeling so good. We could be tired, stressed, bored, frustrated, anxious or sad.  We reach for the food, the wine, Facebook, the cigarettes…We use the habit as a way of coping.  And this is where mindfulness begins its work.  By noticing what is going on for us, and paying attention to the cycle we have got into, we can start to change things.  But the important point is that we need to pay attention but not judge. 

So here is a step by step approach to using mindfulness as a way of breaking the cycle.

RECOGNISE
Note the craving, recognize the feeling and avoid rationalizing it

ACCEPT
Accept that the craving is there. Don’t do anything about it, just accept it.  Don’t try to ignore it or distract yourself, just accept it.

INVESTIGATE
Get curious and notice how you feel.  Identify your thinking and remember, your thoughts are not you!  

NAME IT
Make a mental note of how you feel – or even better write it down! Use a word or phrase and put a label on it.  When you give a feeling a name, it calms your brain.  

You are now in a better place to “surf the craving” and you may well find you can ride it out and it passes on its own. The trick is to become more aware, mindful about what is going on at the time the behavior is about to kick in. The more we become interested in what is happening in our minds and bodies, turn towards our experience rather than away from it, the sooner we can take control back of our actions, and our life.

REFERENCE:  The Craving Mind, Judson Brewer
Highly recommended:  
Barking up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker.

A New Slant on Goal Setting


We always encourage coaches to work with clients to create positive goals that take them in the direction of what they want!  This fits with the idea of running towards, rather than away from things in life.  

I recently had an interesting conversation with someone who had been at a conference on death and dying, with one of the speakers raising the idea of having a “Reverse Bucket List”. A very strange notion I thought - where does that go?  

The “Reverse Bucket List” consists of things that a person no longer wants to do!! Now that might mean saying “no” to a number of onerous tasks that drain energy and take precious time away from doing what we do want to do.  

It also might encourage our clients to take a good hard look at what they spend their time on - believing that they enjoy it and yet we come to the realisation that we don’t enjoy it any more!  

This type of “bucket list” can actually be very empowering!  Yes, it might be more meaningful to us as we get older and realise the value of the years left to us, but I think it's worth considering and playing around with. It’s really no different from asking, “What do we want more of?”, and “What do we want less of?” Try asking it of yourself and see what comes up! 

Happy culling of unwanted and unrewarding activities!


Two Words


The new year is well and truly on us and before we know it, we are into the swing of things and are now wondering where the holiday went. But most of us take some time, if only a moment or two, to ponder what lies ahead. What do we want for 2017?  Do we have new directions to travel in? New challenges to enjoy?  Notice I have not once said the word “goal”... Not that there is anything wrong with having goals, as long as we don’t get caught up in a mad rush to achieve them.  

What I prefer to do each year is to find two words that I can focus on that mean something significant to me at this point in time.  And I let those words “colour” my  plans and way of living.  So, for example, my two words for this year are, “Balance” and “Freedom”.  I won’t indulge myself by explaining what they mean to me, but I think you’ll get the general idea. 

So why am I sharing this?  Because I think it is just another creative way of working with clients at a time when most of them are busy, they've set new years’ resolutions (that often are broken by now) and planning to make major changes in their lives, which suggests that things are really not going well.  The reality is, we have all spent the last year growing, learning and experiencing a variety of things.  Hopefully, we have ended up with more information about what we want, what we don’t want and are feeling fairly clear after a nice rest and reset that Xmas and New Year can often give us.  Choosing two words keeps it nice and simple, creates a feeling of control and gives us clarity around what we need most. 

What are your two words?  How do they apply to your life?  How can you bring more of those two elements into your world?  Share this with your clients.  Have fun with them as you invite them to do the same. Spend time talking about what those words mean for your clients.  Coaching does not always have to be delving into the dark stuff.  There is always room for laughter and lightness; for fun and anticipation; for a sense of the unknown whilst feeling grounded in who we are and what we stand for. 

Go lightly into the rest of 2017 and make it a wonderful year. 

Looking back, Looking Forward and being in the here and now




The end of the year approaches and as we look forward to a break of some kind, (usually well-deserved), and wonder where that year went, it’s a great time to look back and take stock of what we actually did in those last 12 months. What did we achieve? What memories did we make? This brings to mind Dr. Martin Seligman’s description of how to have a healthy relationship with the three time dimensions – the past, the present and the future.  

It’s easy to get stuck in the past, ruminating over what went wrong or what we didn’t do, yet we can create some wonderful positivity in our lives if we observe two things – making sure we have let go of any grudges or resentments over things people have done – perceived injustices or hurts, in other words practice forgiveness, and the second thing is to be aware of all the good things that have happened to us – in other words, to express gratitude. We often dwell on the negative things that happen but if we take time to review  the last year, we can usually find some good stuff that happened. Make a list of all those things that went well, or that we achieved and give thanks for our good fortune and our accomplishments.

Then we have next year just around the corner. Already we are thinking of what has to be done, what we might do differently; will it be a good year or a bad year? At times it’s easy to get anxious about all we have to do and we can experience some concern about not knowing what the year might hold; yet if we follow Seligman’s advice we will make sure we have some pleasant plans to look forward.  Because our relationship with the future should include anticipation of what’s lies ahead.  So when we’re planning our work commitments, make sure to slot in those little breaks or special holidays or treats that you can feel warm and excited about!  We’re also frequently encouraged to set new goals for the coming year.   This can be a great motivator and help reset out direction and compass, if you like, but once again, an important point to remember - when we set goals we often focus on the outcomes.  How it will feel when we get whatever it is we’re aiming for.  But there’s something called the “progress principle” that we need to remember.  It has been shown that although achieving a goal can be satisfying, we get more pleasure and satisfaction from achieving the steps along the way - ie the journey, not the destination.  So make sure that the actions you need to take, are structured, maybe challenging, but certainly have some degree of pleasure inherent in them. 

And finally, let’s not forget that dimension that is of utmost importance. And that’s right now.  With the holiday season upon us, we often have many things to do.  And we get caught up in the preparations and task list that we have to accomplish by various deadlines.  How many people feel exhausted by the sheer complexity of the holiday?  Above all else, we need to remember to enjoy the moment - to practice mindfulness and to savour that time that may be take many forms – enjoying the company of friends and family, having a change in routine and time off work – whatever it is, be sure to focus on right now!  Remember the most valuable present we will get, and that we can give to ourselves,  is the present!  

So on that note, I would like to say a huge Thank You from the team at WCA for all your support over the last year.  I would like to share with you the satisfaction of all we have accomplished together in 2016 and wish you all a wonderful holiday time.  Finally, to express our excitement over what lies ahead in 2017 and which we hope to share with our students and readers.

Merry Xmas to you all.

What do you want 2016 to look like?



I was struck this morning by an article put out by Harvard Health that was aimed at helping us choose changes that would be the easiest to implement and give the biggest rewards. That’s what everyone wants don’t they?

The start of a new year is a great time to take stock of what’s going well in our lives and what could be working better and very often, the changes we want begin with habits that we have integrated into our regular routines – sometimes without apparently choosing them!  And I’m reminded how health and wellness coaching is such a wonderful area to work in as most of the changes we want relate to our lifestyle habits.  In other words, we are most unhappy about the outcomes that are the result of poor choices around nutrition, exercise and life balance.  So the Harvard Health Report highlights the following seven areas as being the best places to start:

  1. Eat healthier 
  2. Stick to exercise 
  3. Diet effectively 
  4. Nip an unhealthy habit 
  5. Harness positive psychology 
  6. Control spending 
  7. Ease stress
I was quite impressed by this list as it pretty much covers all the major areas of our wellness that can undermine the quality of our lives but I might add a qualifier to each if I were asked to do so:

  1. Eat healthier – to do this we must first work out how we are eating currently. Key points here would be – timing of meals, composition of meals as in food groups – portion sizes  and possibly whether we eat mindfully or not.
  2. Stick to exercise – this is very broad.  Perhaps “move more” would be a better aim.  Many of us spend long times sitting at a desk even though we exercise regular and perhaps intensely at certain times. I think that a variety of exercise (to prevent injury), a variety of intensities, (so we can use it to unwind at times), and more incidental activity, say every hour, is a great goal to work towards.
  3. Diet effectively  - the very word “diet” makes me cringe.  I would suggest that,  “make changes that reduce empty calorie intake” might be preferable here.
  4. Nip an unhealthy habit – we all have them.  I like the idea of choosing one thing to change and working on that.  It could have may follow on effects.
  5. Harness positive psychology – love it.  Despite what the critics say, experiencing positive emotions, changing our thinking to look for what’s working instead of what’s not working, spending time with people who nurture us and taking part in activities that engage us, are just a few of the ways to ensure our life is being lived fully.
  6. Control spending – the main message here is to have control of our lives and not feel that sudden urges for instant gratification take over and place stress on us unnecessarily.  The pleasure of working for something instead of having it and then paying for it later is worth remembering.
  7. Ease stress – to me this is the biggest problem of the modern world.  We are living in a way that exposes us to continual stress.  Slow down, be in the moment, work out what we want from life and why we want it. Then decide whether we are on track to get it or whether we are so stressed that even if we did get whatever the elusive thing is, we wouldn’t enjoy it!
Lists are great as they help us quantify and focus on a few things.  Do any of these seven points really speak to you?  Perhaps a good place to start when writing your vision for 2016.

Reference: Harvard Medical School – Healthbeat news, December 2015.

Rituals or Rewards?


People often mistakenly think that we work in the space of transformational change. They believe that to create an improved sense of well being, surely major life changing events must occur? Yet it is far from the reality. Health and Wellness coaches are the in the business of helping people create new habits, step by (often mundane) step and this is where rituals become important and incredibly helpful.

What is a ritual?  What does it do?  Now, we’re not talking about having turkey on Christmas Day here. We’re thinking more of the small “ceremonies” like clinking your glasses before having a celebratory drink with friends.  Somehow it adds to the pleasure. If we translate this into other areas, we are looking for anything that creates a significance around what might be a simple daily habit, that adds to the pleasure and the likelihood of it eventuating  Rituals are very powerful motivational tools!  

So what do rituals do?  
They increase the pleasure of the moment or activity.  The can steel your resolve, focus your attention and help you savour the moment.

We know that “savouring” is a good thing.  It is one of the components of this shift towards mindfulness that is so very current (and so very helpful in increasing well being).  

So how can we use the concept of Rituals in creating new habits?
First we identify what new behaviours we wish to adopt, or do more of, and whether they are pleasurable or not so pleasurable, think of ways of increasing the pleasure of beginning.  So instead of rewarding ourselves for finishing the “task” we start by doing something we look forward to. For example, it may be sharing a juice or coffee with friends before a yoga class.  It may be having a c up of tea in the morning before heading out for that early morning ride.   It doesn’t all have to be about caffeine.. It could be any activity you really enjoy but you need to set a time on it and be ready to move into the “real” task after a set time.  

The technique can really help combat procrastination. Charles Duhigg refers to it as a “personal starting ritual”. Don’t get rid of pleasurable activities upon finishing – rewards are great!  But don't underestimate the power of  rituals that get  you going.

What else can rituals do?
Rituals are useful in so many ways.  To name a few:
  • Improving your relationship
  • Improving your sports performance
  • Making you better at work
  • Overcoming grief
  • Increasing happiness!
What are your personal rituals?  Do you have enough of them in  your life?  If not, create a few!

Pleasure and Purpose


Well another year gone and where did it go? This is the time of year when stop to catch our breath and often look back to see what we did with our time, what major events occurred, what challenges we met and how we met them, plus do a quick glimpse at what the next year might hold. 

For my final comment for 2014 I feel compelled to revisit the concept of pleasure versus purpose orientations that Chris Skellett so cleverly defines.

In this last week, I have had the personal task of moving to a new house. (I still believe that moving is like childbirth and we only go back again as our minds have cleverly wiped the painful memories, thus allowing the human race to continue and the Government to collect revenue from stamp duty!) But back to the point. I woke to my new home and reveled in the amount of positive emotions I was experiencing in its comfort, location, outlook, size etc. and started to feel worried that this feeling might be temporary and quickly fade into complacency.

I recognised that this was the “pleasure” aspect of Skellett’s theory and how some people seek it out more than others. I then shifted my thinking to how much work there was still to do on the house and how much I was looking forward to the planning, designing and even the labour involved, and recognised that this was of course the balancing side of “purpose” that made “pleasure” easier to accept!

It really struck me then asked myself whether it was wrong to have to always balance out the two drives and realised that for me personally, the answer was probably yes, and that if I had a tendency to lean towards one more than the other, it would be towards purpose. Of course this can have a dark side when we forget how to unwind and forge on, intent on accomplishment  without taking the time to stop and savour the moment. 

I believe that moving to our new home has given me the gift of more opportunities to experience pleasure in terms of connection with nature, beautiful places to sit, and a relaxing environment and my aim will be to take full advantage of this privilege in coming months.  

At the end of the day, the equation is easy to see:

Pleasure + Purpose = Life Satisfaction (wellbeing)

And that’s what Wellness Coaching is all about. How balanced is your equation?  

The Path from “Aha!” to Integration




In my coaching, I often find that people (including myself) place a great importance on the “Aha” moments, where we gain awareness and insight around behaviours or patterns in our lives.  These moments of clarity are wonderful and they are essential.Without a clear map of the terrain, it is easy to wander off course. However, having a map is not the same as walking the terrain, and walking the path is the only way to reach our destination.  

Our “destination” in this case, would be a new behaviour, which becomes a new habit and ultimately, a new way of being. This is sustained transformation, not simply modifying outcomes, but integrating desired behaviours or thoughts until the point that they become the default operating system.  And walking the path from “Aha” to Integration is made up of daily practices, tools, in short applied insight.  As obvious as that may sound, many of us, (I’m first to admit it!) often confuse the “Aha” with the transformation.  It is walking the path, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time that gets us where we want to be, so we might as well enjoy the journey.

Be your own coach, not your biggest critic


Losing weight and getting fitter is not easy. There is a massive amount of information out there on what to do, what to buy, what to eat, yet many of us still struggle with living a lifestyle that keeps us in the best shape we can be! And looking good in our clothes (and out of them) and having energy to take part in all we want to do is incredibly important to most of us. 


So why is behaviour change around health and fitness so difficult?  Four main reasons exist:

  • Too much information is available on what to do.  It is easy to become overwhelmed.
  • The demands of a busy lifestyle make planning for change seem impossible.
  • There are a multitude of obstacles that can get in the way of following our plan, once we find time to make one!
  • Many of us have a history of past failed attempts which destroys confidence and motivation to start again.

We know what to do, we don’t know how to do it. There is an answer – use a coaching model

The latest buzzword is “coach”. Life coaches are becoming the new psychologists and wellness coaches work with people who are keen to develop new lifestyle habits. However, if you don’t have the budget for a professional there are some simple steps you can follow which come from coaching psychology.  Become your own coach, not your biggest critic!  We’ll explore what that involves in coming articles but it is a new and more effective way of creating change in your life that will stick. Put down the big stick and pick up the pom poms. You are about to become a cheerleader in your own life!

The Different Hats We Wear


Do you ever get up in the morning and wonder what to put on? Usually our dress is determined by what’s happened outside – is it hot, cold, wet dry? Easy decision. But when we walk out of the door, or even when we stay inside, we have many occasions to decide what hat to put on! Of course I mean that metaphorically but most of us have areas of responsibility that vary greatly and we need to choose our hat carefully and appropriately or our efforts just might not produce anything useful!

Of course I am referring to communicating with people in our lives. As parents, we fall into a pattern of behavior and style of communication that is almost bred into us. Not to say that it always is effective but we do realise that we are there as guides as well as carers, sometimes as friends and often as supporters for our children. But what about the people at work, our clients or co-workers, our team? When do we know what hat to wear to best suit their needs?

Some of the common head gear in our working lives when we have influence over others includes that of teacher or trainer (let’s call it educator), the expert, the mentor and the coach. At times all of these roles are going to be relevant. But where do we get the most value? I read recently a great description of what we call the “coach” role as being a “Potentialiser”! By asking the right questions, we can unlock people’s ability to be grow, to learn, to create – or just to be amazing! Many of the other roles involve us taking on the responsibility and the other party  being somewhat disempowered. So they may be necessary but are they desirable? I think we can be “potentialisers” in anyone’s live – even our childrens. Why don’t we look for more opportunities to ask those crucial questions that help people think, gain insights, gain control, grow and become energised?  

Acknowledgement – Tighe & Gray, 2013.


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