About Changing Your Habits

If you are like me, you resist change.   

So do my ponies, Mo and Pip.  

Mo and Pip happy with their hay!

This is what happened to me over the weekend.

One morning I decided not to put the ponies’ breakfast hay near their gate, where I normally leave it.  Instead, I put it closer to the fence that runs between their paddock and my mare, Asherah.

Asherah has been feeling a little needy these cold winter days and I thought that she would appreciate the ponies’ company.

But I didn’t expect this.

When I went to bring the ponies in for the night, they were not standing near the gate where they normally wait when it is time to come in. They were standing where I had left their breakfast hay.

When I clipped on their lead ropes to take them toward the gate, they refused to budge and even tried to go straight through the fence.  It finally dawned on me that they were associating the location of their breakfast hay with the gate and the way out of the pasture.

What happened next floored me.

When I was finally able to lead them to the gate, Pip started bucking and ran through the open gate, dragging me behind him. Mo got in on the action and suddenly 500 pounds of angry miniature horses were dragging me up to the barn. They were furious that I had changed their routine.

This episode reminded me of Spencer Johnson’s book Who Moved My Cheese? but in this case, it was Who Moved My Hay?

It got me thinking about habit and change.

Why do we resist change so much?

Change is hard and it is scary.

When we change, we go from the known to the unknown.

We creatures, horses as well as humans, like to know where we are and what we are about.

We don’t like to swim in unchartered waters. It scares us. It unsettles us and it makes us feel not like ourselves.

This is where the power of habit comes in.

Your habits are who you are. I’m not only talking about habits such as brushing your teeth or nodding your head when you speak. I’m talking about a much broader interpretation of habit.

Habit covers a very wide range of behavior, including things like your tempo. For instance, do you rush or do you saunter when you move? Do you have the habit of taking a long stride when you walk or a shorter stride? Perhaps you have the habit of speaking very fast and loud?  Habit is pretty much everything about you, but it is often almost impossible to see how large a role it plays in your life.

The amazing thing is that once you recognize a habit with attention and thought, you can stop the old habit and decide to proceed in a different way.

This process of managing change is a cornerstone of the Alexander Technique.

Developed by FM Alexander, the Alexander Technique is a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move, think, and “be” better. You can learn more about the Alexander Technique here and here.

FM Alexander said, “ Change involves carrying out an activity against the habit of life.”

This little exercise illustrates a lot about habit and change.

Where you are now, lace your fingers like you would if you were going to pray or clasp your hands. Unlace them and then lace them again the exact same way.

Now re-lace them but move your fingers one finger over.

Your fingers are still laced but in a different way.

How does this feel?

For most, it will feel strange and different and maybe even wrong.

But look at your clasped hands or laced fingers.  They aren’t “wrong,” they are just different.

You would probably never lace your fingers the second way because the first way is your habit and we almost always default to our habit.

Your habit felt right.

Any other way felt wrong.

We like to feel right.

What this means is that we do the same thing over and over again because it feels “right” without ever stopping to ask ourselves if it is right.

So back to Mo and Pip and the Who Moved My Hay episode.

What felt right to them was to the habit of eating their hay by the gate. What was out of their habit and what felt wrong and what ultimately made them very angry and upset was to eat their hay away from the gate. They were so habituated that they got confused and they mistook the fence for the gate.

Their reaction to the moved hay reminded me of the old saying ( attributed to Alexander Graham Bell) “When one door closes another door opens.” 

But did you know that there is more to that quote? 

The whole quote says “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

Our habits keep us looking “long and regretfully” at the closed door. We are so habituated to our past experiences that we are blind to new opportunities.

One ubiquitous habit is clenching or holding ourselves when we sit, stand or move.

Most of us use way too much muscular tension to get through the day. We may clench our jaw, hold our stomach in, and/ or brace our knees. Holding and bracing ourselves only makes our movement more difficult and can lead to pain and stiffness.

To change a habit you must first notice the habit. You must make it a priority to be aware of what you are doing and how you are doing it.

So, what are the habits that are preventing you from embracing change? Can you identify them? What if you were to ask yourself to stop and let go of the tension or intention around that habit? What happens next? Do you want to do something else? Do you want to choose something new?  

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book  Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


You can purchase it here. 

Teaching people how to move well is my passion. Sign up for posts that teach you how to be more comfortable in your body! Click here to sign up or use the form to the right of this post!

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Techniquea mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

Creating A Mindful Day With a Peaceful Morning

Would you like to be more mindful during your day?

How you start your day has a lot to do with how well your day goes.

Do you get up late every morning, swill down a cup of coffee and dash out the door or are you the person who gets up early and spends some time reflecting before the day?

I’m a firm believer in the latter. I wake up at 5:30 or so meditate, write, read, and then go feed my ponies.

Try it! Wake up an hour earlier than usual. At first, it may seem hard but once you have reset your internal clock it will become easier and you will relish this time of contemplation.

During this time you could start a meditation practice, do an Alexander Technique Lie Down, read something inspirational, write in a journal or spend some quiet time with yourself.

Perhaps this is the time you would like to go for a walk or a peaceful stroll. I wrote about strolling earlier. You can check out that article here.

This time you dedicate to yourself is self-care and guess what? Self-care is health care.

Not one person on this planet can take care of you as well as you can take care of yourself.

Now is the time to take care of yourself by building in time during the day when you can recharge and rest.

Creating an early morning practice of meditation and journaling, reading and reflection is a great way to start off the day.

I’ve created a little video or VLOG to spur you along! (No pun intended!) Click on the ponies below to see the video.

 

How do you start your day? Let me know how it goes for you- I love hearing from you!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling bookAgility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


 You can purchase it here. 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

If you would like more information about the Alexander Technique then click here.

Walk? How To Turn That Power Walk Into A Mindful Stroll!

 


Do you walk or do you stroll?

One of the best ways to savor summer is to take a stroll.

Don't walk instead stroll and slow down to admire the beautiful hummingbird.
Slow down, take a stroll, and cultivate mindfulness.
Photo: Andrea Reiman

You may be wondering why I use the word stroll instead of walk.

Taking a stroll is much different than taking a walk. A walk implies purpose, a stroll implies less intent.

A stroll allows for wandering. Just the sound of the word “stroll” is easier on the ear.

Walking has a job to do. Strolling is like going on vacation.

The Merriam Webster dictionary lists stroll’s synonyms as to saunter, to amble, and to ramble.

Oh, I like the sound of those words!

To take a walk means something else. It has a goal.

One walks for fitness. One walks to lose weight. You take a walk to clear your head. Some people take walks to elevate their heart rate or to increase bone density. Others take their dogs out for a walk. And still, there are those who walk to “get their steps in!”

 

But what if you changed your mindset about walking and instead took a stroll?

Instead of walking briskly to lose weight and improve your cardiovascular system, what if you intentionally slowed down to a stroll and noticed the birds singing in the trees or your neighbor’s blooming sunflowers?

On your next stroll, you may notice that you are breathing more deeply, that you feel calmer or that perhaps those negative anxiety-creating thoughts have calmed down. Your stroll has turned into an expression of mindfulness.

Are we losing sight of the value of slowing down so that we can relish our world…stopping to smell the roses?

 

 

Don't walk instead take a stroll and smell the beautiful roses.
Stop and smell the roses! Photo: Unsplash, Osman Rana

 

According to the Positive Psychology Program, among other benefits, a mindful stroll can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase immune function
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower heart rate
  • Increase awareness
  • Increase attention and focus
  • Increase clarity in thinking and perception
  • Lower anxiety levels
  • Increase experience of being calm and internally still
  • Increase experience of feeling connected

Doesn’t that sound great! Who doesn’t want REDUCED STRESS!!!

I say let’s change the emphasis and take a stroll. Let me know how it goes. What do you notice about yourself and the world around you?

My next article will teach you how to stroll and walk better.

Here is another article on savoring summer!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling bookAgility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


 You can purchase it here. 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

 

Self-Care Is Health Care

The lion is roaring self- care is health care!
Photo: Unsplash, Lemuel Butler

Have you ever taken the time to consider that self-care is health care?

I think that this is a very important message so please read on.

I like to think that most times I am a pretty easygoing person.

Certainly, I am easy going with the exercise classes I teach.

I call them ExTension Classes! Get it?

I let people come and go as they please and only pay for the classes they attend. I never raise an eyebrow when someone hasn’t shown up in ages. I smile and nod and warmly great them.

Well, a few months ago that all changed! I was like the lion in the photo!

I went on a rant and I roared and I became very pointed and direct and said to the group “It is the New Year and it is time for you to resolve to yourself that you will attend class on a regular basis! This is your resolution. Exercise does not work unless you do it consistently! You need to make a commitment to yourself to attend class regularly. That means put it in your calendar so that when the Dr.’s office, or a friend, or anybody says “Can you make it at 9 Monday?” you say “No, I cannot make it at 9 I have my exercise class!”

Done! Easy! You put yourself first!

I think that my rant was well received and gave my class a bit more direction. My rant prompted a wonderful conversation that ensued the following week.

The topic was self-care.

We know to eat well. We know to catch 8 hours of shuteye. We know that we need to exercise.
But do you know this?

No one can take care of you as well as you can take care of yourself. Not one person.

You have to be your own caretaker.

Self -care is health care.

Taking care of yourself means moving more. Not just exercise. You need to move much of the day every day!

The human body was designed to move and our culture is way too sedentary. We are sitting ourselves to death.

We rely too much on doctors and medicine to do the things that consistent self-care can address. Moving well and moving more is one of the best things you can do to improve your quality of life.

So make a resolution to move more. Make a resolution to commit to self-care and see how your health improves. As I said before no one can take care of you as well as you can take care of yourself.

I will make a resolution to go on more rants and teach you more ways to improve your self- care. Deal?
Let me know how you are bringing more movement into your life!

You can purchase my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence here.

Or sign up for my course 5 Ways to Heal Back Pain here.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mary Derbyshire and I am a movement and fitness coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique and I am passionate about getting people moving and teaching people how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your life improves. You CAN learn how to move better and I can teach you!

 

What Is Stopping You?

“Certainty is a cruel mindset”

      Ellen Langer, Counterclockwise      

           

 

Want to know what really gets in the way of aging gracefully?

Preconceived ideas. 

Let me give you an example.

The other day a woman came to me for a session. She is in her 80’s and has been working with me for a while. She has some balance issues due to arthritis but all things considered she does incredibly well.

However this week she came in with a very painful hip and was having trouble sitting, standing and walking.

When she got to the chair and sat down she was feeling so defeated that she felt like she could not get up from the chair. In fact, she tried to stand but could not.

She believed that it was her age that was preventing her from getting out of the chair and that perhaps she would never be able to get up unassisted again.

I knew that it was her self-limiting belief that was preventing her from standing and not her ability nor her age.

I could feel the defeat and frustration build in her to the point of tears. She was so focused on her hip and her failure to stand up that indeed she could not get out of the chair.

So I changed her focus. I asked her to sing a song with me. We started singing “Hello Dolly.” And you know what? She got out of the chair like a 10-year-old. She popped in and out of the chair 3 or 4 more times.

Because she was moving better she no longer had the pain in her hip. We walked around the room. At this point, we had sung snippets of a half dozen songs and she was laughing.

We had interrupted her self-limiting preconceived idea that her hip was failing her and that she would never be able to sit and stand easily again.

Self-limiting preconceived ideas and beliefs– we all have them.

They influence our expectations of ourselves and of others but most often, these preconceptions are self-limiting beliefs.

More often than not, our expectations of ourselves are limiting, not encouraging.

They are based on old tapes that are going around and around in your head. Preconceived ideas are not based on what is actually taking place here and now.

They are based on the past and are not relevant for today.

These self-limiting beliefs become a mindset and this mindset eventually becomes a reality.

I call this place of limiting self-belief the Rat Hole.

The Rat Hole becomes a vicious circle.

Round and round you go focusing and obsessing about your limitations and what you can’t do.

You become disengaged from your active life and retreat to a place of discouragement and self -doubt.

And then you start to believe in the stereotypes about aging and what it means to get older. You invest yourself in these stereotypes and cannot imagine yourself any other way.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

You do not have to do a 180-degree turn to change. All you have to do is shift your position or attitude a few degrees to set off on a different course.

What are your preconceived ideas about aging that could be limiting you?

Here are some that I have heard:

  1. Pain and stiffness are an integral part of getting older.

This is false. Pain and stiffness are often the results of how you do what you do. Pain and stiffness are not an inevitable part of getting older. If sitting is painful for you then chances are it is the way that you are sitting that is causing the pain. You can learn how to sit differently. In my next video “Slouch No More” you will learn simple ways to improve your sitting.

  1. I am too old to change the way I do things.

This is false. Change occurs by bringing attention or mindfulness to your activities. We can learn at any age. You are never too old to change.

  1. My balance will inevitably become compromised.

Ok, so it is true that your balance decreases as you age but by challenging your sense of balance that decline can be reversed and drastically improved. There are some very simple ways that you can challenge and improve your balance. 

  1. I’m a failure. I try hard to do X but I can’t do it no matter how hard I try.

Guess what: it’s not you. It is the trying that is getting in your way. Don’t try. Stop trying. Think of allowing yourself to do the activity. To allow is a much more constructive way to approach a task.

  1. I’m in pain now and thus I will never be able to go back to doing the things I love the most. My pain has put me in a place of inevitable decline.

The truth is that many of the aches and pains that we experience are caused by how we do things. You can learn how to move with less pain and stiffness. Pain and stiffness do not have to be an inevitable downward spiral. You can regain those activities that you thought you would never be able to do again.

You can purchase my Amazon Bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence here. 

Plus I would LOVE to hear from you!

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter for more tips on how to get out of the rat hole of self- limiting preconceived ideas…

Book your session with me today and learn how to move with better balance, agility, and ease!

My name is Mary Derbyshire and I am a movement and fitness coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique a mindfulness practice that teaches you HOW to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves. I am passionate about teaching how to move and to keep them moving!