Healthy Abbotsford Blog

If You Don’t Design Your Life Someone Else Will For You

A while ago I watched a fantastic video on TED. Nigel Marsh, who has written extensively over the past seven years about work-life balance shares four observations from his work and experience. Here are some of the highlights of his talk:

1. Certain job and career choices are fundamentally incompatible with being meaningfully engaged in a day to day basis with a young family – he talks about how there are so many people out there who are working long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.

Is this you? Are you currently in a job that just simply isn’t compatible with having balance in your personal life? If you are, chances are that you have tried time and time again to create more time with your family only to fall short. Take an honest look at your job – is it really possible to have balance with it and  your life?

2. Governments and corporations aren’t going to solve this issue for us – Nigel says, “if you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you and you may just not like their idea of balance.”

Who is designing your life, you, or the people around you? You have the ability to design your life the way you want it. It will likely mean making difficult choices but at the end of the day if you get to live the life that you want isn’t that worth it?

3. We need to be realistic about the time frame we use when judging the balance in our life, we can’t do it all in one day – it is about finding a realistic time frame without putting your life on hold.

What time frame would be realistic for you? For me, I look at balance on a weekly time frame. During that week did I connect with friends, was I physically active, did I take time for personal reflection and growth? For me a week is long enough to judge the overall balance in my life. Some days are completely out of balance but when I look at the week as a whole that is how I judge my level of balance.

4. We need to approach balance in a balanced way. The small things matter, balance doesn’t have to be a drastic upheaval of your life.

I think that this is a point that is so easy to miss. We live in a society where everything has to be big, be dramatic. Because if it’s not big and dramatic how could it possibly have a major impact on my life? The jokes on us folks, it’s the small things that truly make the largest difference.

Take a moment to think about Nigel’s closing statement - we need to change society’s definition of success from the idea that a person who dies with the most money wins to a more balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like.

My challenge to you – find a quiet place, grab a pen and piece of paper and write down what your life, well lived, looks like. Then do one small thing this week that will move you closer to that vision of success.

To watch the full 10 minute video click here.


Got a meeting? Take a walk

This post comes from Obesity Panecea.

I came across the below video this past week, and thought it would be worth sharing here on the blog.  In it, Nilofer Merchant explains how she has converted all of her meetings to walking meetings, as one way to reduce her sedentary behaviour and increase her level of physical activity…walking meetings can be a very easy way to improve the healthiness of a sedentary work environment.


On this note, I’d like to give a shout out to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa, which actually includes a number of walking routes in its Outlook meeting calendar.  This allows staff to “book” outdoor walking routes for meetings, rather than using a conference room.  If you’re into something a bit more vigorous, physical activity researcher Angelo Tremblay is well known for having running meetings with his students.  The point is that active meetings are much easier than you’d think, and as Nilofer explains in a recent Six Pixels of Separation podcast, there are other benefits to such meetings than just increased physical activity (they are more informal, they can help people think a bit by getting them out of their stuffy cubical, etc).

I’ve done a number of waking meetings in the past few years, and they work exceptionally well for small groups of 2-4 people.  Beyond that it gets hard for everyone to hear each other (during one large group meeting, a colleague actually got her hair caught on a tree while distracted by the conversation… that sort of thing is easier to avoid with a smaller group). You might also be surprised at how easy it is to get by without typing notes as you go, as Nilofer explains in the above podcast.

I know that walking meetings aren’t ideal for all workplaces.  But if you spend a lot of time sitting at work, this is one simple way to increase your activity and reduce your sedentary time.


How do Breathing Exercises Work to Relieve Stress?

We often hear that breathing can help reduce stress. But how exactly do you do that type of breathing? Obviously it is different from our everyday breathing, so how do you do it? This is a great article from Dr. K (Dr. Anthony Komaroff is a practicing physician, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Editor in Chief of Harvard Health Publications) where he teaches you why this breathing works and then a really simply way of doing it.

Stress reduction techniques definitely can reduce your level of stress. The best-known technique is the “relaxation response” first popularized by my colleague here at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Herbert Benson. These techniques have given all of us a weapon against stress.

That’s valuable because stress can take a toll on body and mind. Over time, stress can contribute to high blood pressure, depression, diabetes and other health concerns. The good news is that by regularly practicing relaxation techniques such as breath focus, you can reduce the negative effects of stress.

Breath focus is a simple yet powerful technique that can elicit the relaxation response, a state of profound peace and rest. Breath focus depends on learning to breathe deeply and properly.

picture of the lungs inhaling and exhaling

To read the rest of the article click here.