Caring for someone requires more than good intentions. Founding editor Barry Boyce shares what he learned about being present and truly listening from the time he spent with his aging mother.
My mother lived to 97, the last survivor of her generation within her family, her extended family, and her circles of friends. In her last years, her body was wracked with pain. As her pain and loss mounted, I saw how small my pains were by comparison and yet I complained as much or more. I better toughen up if I live that long, I thought.
Caring for her fell mostly to my brother and his wife, who lived nearby. I may have done as much harm as good trying to relieve their burden during my visits. Taking my mom out to lunch, I absentmindedly put her purse on the car roof before pulling off. Its contents, strewn along a highway, were fortunately recovered by a good Samaritan, but it took him a long time to figure out how to get in touch.
When it comes to extending care to others, good intentions may indeed pave the road to hell.
I learned that day just how anxious a person in advanced age can become when routine is thrown all to hell. Another time, I thought I’d do my mother a favor by buying her a toaster oven, while in fact I created another fire hazard in her apartment for my brother to be concerned about. When it comes to extending care to others, good intentions may indeed pave the road to hell. While I screwed up a lot, giving care to my mother did teach me a few things, and I’ve had to keep learning more, because it turns out that as you get older, you’re likely to be called upon to offer care for more and more people (not to mention learning to accept some care yourself). Duh.
What I’ve Learned About Giving Care
With age comes infirmity, and lots of other complications that spring from that, many of which are limitations on long-accustomed freedoms (e.g., driving, hearing conversation, a healthy appetite, a good night’s sleep, meaningful livelihood, and so on). My learning has been helped along by a number of people who know mindful caregiving, such as Frank Ostaseski, Susan Bauer-Wu, Toni Bernhard, Judy Lief, and Dr. Christiane Wolf.
When I slowed down, listened with my whole body, and attended to her fully, I noticed how much my heart was breaking and how I’d been trying to run from that.
Among the first lessons I learned was that presence takes precedent over words. I would arrive at my mother’s nursing home wrapped up in my thoughts, distracted by my important little entrepreneurial pursuits, and end up talking at my mother rather than with her. When I slowed down, listened with my whole body, and attended to her fully, I noticed how much my heart was breaking and how I’d been trying to run from that. If you’re truly present, there will be pain, and your heart will break lots.
How to Stay Present
I keep learning, though, how resilient the heart is. It can break limitlessly. I’ve learned that continually asking “How’re you doing?” or even “What can I do?” doesn’t necessarily offer real caring. It can force someone into an evaluating mindset. When you do that to yourself a lot, you become more anxious or claustrophobic, assessing rather than living. Now I rarely ask. I try finding ways to convey caring and let the other volunteer whatever it is they wish to offer or ask, to let them have more agency, rather than being the object of my caring. It’s possible to offer the gift of warm or cool space, what Frank Ostaseski calls “bringing your whole self to the experience” and finding “a place of rest in the middle of things.”
You may even be able to anticipate someone’s wants or needs by observing or gently probing, trusting in the intuitive bond that can develop. Continually touching in with your body rather than your chattering, narrative-making thought process can foster a non-verbal link that announces how much you care. Thank heaven for the many caregivers who have given so much of themselves during the pandemic. In their embodiment of genuine caring they speak loudly and poignantly by repeatedly showing up. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.
Loving-kindness meditation can help us to awaken to how connected we all are. You don’t have to like everybody, or agree with everything they do—but you can open up to the possibility of caring for them.
When experiencing grief or hardship, how can we move forward? This hour, writer Nora McInerny shares ideas on navigating the most difficult parts of life … and living life fully in the face of loss.
When the US Census Bureau surveyed people in December 2020, more than 42% reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, an increase from 11% the previous year. Survey data from other countries suggest that this trend is similar worldwide.
Rising rates of mental distress are probably related to life in a pandemic—the endless news cycle, financial insecurity, and social isolation. Yet North America’s mental health crisis is nothing new. In recent decades, a significant decline in well-being means that people are more anxious and depressed than ever before.
The Four Keys to Well-Being
A body of research from the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is addressing this well-being deficit by proposing a training-based framework for “the cultivation of human flourishing.” The authors of the paper propose that anyone can improve their own well-being using practical training tools from contemplative traditions and contemporary psychological interventions. Geared to both the public and scientific researchers working in the field of mental health, the framework identifies four core areas that make up our well-being:
- Awareness of our environment and our internal emotions or sensations
- Connection with people and compassion for others
- Insight into one’s sense of self
- Purpose, which is our understanding of our values and meaning in life
Underpinning these four dimensions is the foundation of mindfulness. “If you want to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion, examine experience and insight, or align [yourself] towards values and a deeper sense of purpose—all of that really presupposes that you have that sense of awareness and present-moment mindfulness,” says research scientist and lead author Cortland Dahl.
Dahl and his coauthors (Christine Wilson-Mendenhall and Richard Davidson) have experience in a range of disciplines, from contemplative traditions to neuroscience and various areas of psychology. Pooling this broad range of expertise, Dahl says the group identified points of convergence, where evidence of trainability from the world’s contemplative traditions pointed to similar patterns in our quest for well-being.
If you want to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion, examine experience and insight, or align yourself towards values and a deeper sense of purpose—all of that really presupposes that you have that sense of awareness and present-moment mindfulness.
Take the dimension of connection, for example, which refers to our ability to build supportive relationships and care for others. Cultivating kindness and compassion are key parts of the training strategies that would help people build meaningful social connection. While loving-kindness meditation is common in both secular and Buddhist practice, intercessory prayer in the Christian tradition employs a similar approach. In addition to meditation or prayer, you might start a daily gratitude journal or participate in Compassion Training, which focuses on self-care practices and generosity towards self and others.
The Plasticity of Well-Being
Researchers are also using the framework to develop interventions that target skill-building in each of the four dimensions. Dahl points to a yet unpublished study that found that a brief loving-kindness meditation reduced participants’ bias towards out-groups (people who are not part of an individual’s cultural, racial, or social group.) Even with a short-term intervention, positive social emotions towards other groups increased. “But it also decreased automatic processing; basically, they were more in the driver’s seat of their response, versus it just being unconscious habitual conditioning,” says Dahl.
One of the main principles of trainability from a biological perspective is neuroplasticity. “Plasticity simply means that something can change, versus it’s fixed and rigid,” says Dahl. He outlines how the brain is constantly changing based on lived experience, as we move from brushing our teeth, to getting our kids off to school in the morning, to having a conversation with a colleague. “Different networks of [the] brain are being activated and deactivated as you shift between those activities.”
Over time, neural networks can be strengthened or weakened depending on what our brain is focusing on. If we undertake a conscious training strategy, such as the examples set out in the framework, we’ll help activate specific brain regions and develop those areas of insight, purpose, awareness, and connection.
Redefining the Future of Mental Healthcare
Although the framework was recently published, its evidence base has already been informing important research in the area of mental health and well-being. The Healthy Minds Program app (developed by Healthy Minds Innovations, the non-profit affiliated with the Center), is based on the framework and the data gathered from users has been used by research groups across the United States.
The app targets each of the four dimensions separately, moving from purpose to awareness, and is designed to have the user participate in activities that build skills to improve well-being. Strategies offered are both active and passive, and users can track their own progress. There are podcast-style lessons about the science behind why these dimensions matter for daily living, and 200 different guided meditations and lessons of varying lengths. The app is publicly available and free through app stores.
“We’re really interested in studying…what happens when you learn these skills through a sitting meditation practice versus doing something while you’re exercising or taking a walk or doing a chore,” says Dahl. The data gathered through the app is helping the team to answer important research questions about how well-being is cultivated.
The app is a prime example of what mental health care might look like in the future and is part of a wider movement towards precision medicine. Dahl says that with machine learning and digital therapeutics, researchers and practitioners can learn what strategies work best for specific individuals. “You can really help people find a path that’s going to work best for them, versus a one size fits all approach,” says Dahl.
Happiness doesn’t always make us feel happy, says New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin. That’s because it’s a complex state of well-being that requires awareness of both positive and negative emotions, personal values, temperaments, and habits.
It’s been an emotional time—or, as we often hear, an “emotional roller coaster.” And whether you’ve shifted to remote work or not, the truth is that the line between our work lives and our home lives has blurred more than ever. The result? Learning how to navigate managing our emotions at work is more of an imperative than ever.
It starts with debunking the myth that emotions don’t belong in the workplace. Unfortunately that mindset is still far too prevalent. If we’ve learned anything from last year, it’s that this is a time when we’re most in need of our humanity. And one of the traits that most defines us as human is that we feel and have emotions. As the U.S.C. neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has said, humans aren’t thinking machines, “but rather feeling machines that think.”
If we’ve learned anything from last year, it’s that this is a time when we’re most in need of our humanity. And one of the traits that most defines us as human is that we feel and have emotions.
Emotions give us a window into our deepest values, what we really care about and what moves us. As Susan David, psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of Emotional Agility, put it, “Our raw feelings can be the messengers we need to teach us things about ourselves and can prompt insights into important life directions.” But emotions aren’t just about our relationship to ourselves. As a friend, as a colleague, and as a leader, being able to understand and recognize the emotions of those around you is incredibly valuable in any organization.
We hear a lot about psychological safety these days—so much so that it’s become a buzzword. Well, true psychological safety is born out of allowing for emotions. The best leaders recognize this, and want their people to be human and bring their humanity and their whole selves to work. And being human means being… emotional.
So what does that mean in the workplace? How do we bring our whole selves to work in the healthiest and most productive way possible? Here are some lessons I’ve learned about managing emotions at work.
How to Bring Your Whole Self to Work
1. Accept your emotions
The truth is, whether at home or work, it’s impossible to avoid emotions—they’ll always find a way of expressing themselves. And if we try to suppress them, that’s often when they show up in their most extreme forms, which can lead to toxic or self-sabotaging behaviors. In fact, studies show that when we ignore our emotions and don’t try to understand them, we can damage our well-being. So we first have to start with accepting that our emotions are natural, they’re part of who we are, and we can’t control them by denying them.
2. Recognize instead of react
We might have positive emotions or negative emotions, but that doesn’t mean they’re good or bad. Emotions are simply signals that something is going on. So what are your emotions telling you? How would you describe the emotions you’re feeling? Give them a label. When we recognize our emotions, we can do more than simply react to them.
One of my favorite exercises comes from Brené Brown, best-selling author and professor at the University of Houston. She suggests starting virtual meetings or calls by having all the participants name two emotions they’re feeling, either that day or in the moment. What’s great about this is that it both allows employees to think about what they’re feeling, and it gives leaders and colleagues a way to understand where everybody is, emotionally speaking, without asking anybody to divulge personal details. If a team leader sees that people are down, they can pivot and have a different kind of meeting. If a leader sees one particular person is having a hard day, he or she can circle back and see if the person needs support in some way.
Labeling our emotions also teaches us that it’s possible to feel positive and negative emotions at the same time. We can feel happy and sad, frustrated and hopeful. Studies have even shown that accepting mixed emotions can help us improve our well-being.
3. You are not your emotions
Labeling our emotions also allows us to realize that we’re not defined by any one emotion we happen to be feeling. For instance, saying “I feel sad” is different than saying, “I am sad.”
I’ve seen the cost of not realizing this in my own life. One of the things that led me to my current role at Deloitte, and my passion for well-being, was that in a previous role, I completely burned out. I was basically riding an emotional rollercoaster, being dragged down the river by whatever was happening that day. If it was good, I was happy. If it was a bad day, it would affect my entire life. My husband would say, “Yesterday, you were over the moon, and today you’re six feet under.”
Simply put, I was equating myself with my emotions, feeling completely at the mercy of what was going on externally, and forgetting that I did have control over my own internal environment. When we allow ourselves to be defined by our emotions, we’re letting go of our ability to choose how to respond to those emotions. And even on our worst days, we can still make that choice. As one of my favorite authors, Viktor Frankl, wrote, our most enduring human freedom is “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
4. Look after your physical body
Our physical well-being is deeply connected to our emotional well-being. When we’re tired, sleep-deprived, and depleted we’re less able to recognize our emotions and more likely to find ourselves as passengers on that roller coaster. As I learned in my own life, one of the main signs of impending burnout is the inability to manage emotions. So making sure you’re getting enough sleep and unplugging from work will help you handle whatever emotions the next day’s work throws at you. Another great thing to do when experiencing heightened emotions? Get active. Not only does movement create all those feel-good chemicals in our brain, it also helps shift our focus away from what’s draining us or bringing us down.
5. Practice compassion—for yourself and others
We can be very hard on ourselves, and much of the time that negative self-criticism is based on our emotions. We can’t always control how we feel, but we can control any judgment we feel toward ourselves for having those feelings. When we’re angry, or frustrated, or sad, the first choice we have available to us is to simply say, “I feel frustrated and that’s… OK.”
When we accept our own emotions, it’s easier to help others do the same. A few months ago, I happened to be struggling. I got a call from a colleague who asked how I was doing. “Great,” I replied in a knee-jerk way. But my colleague heard something. “Really?” she asked. And that pierced the bubble. “Actually, to be honest, I’m doing just OK,” I said. And then we had a much more productive conversation, because she had forced me to take my own emotional temperature.
Given the realities of our world these days, it’s getting harder and harder to hide our emotional selves. We’re all in a “How are you, really?” world now. And that’s a good thing. We’ll all be better for it, and our workplaces will be, too.
Inevitably, there will be moments when you find yourself spending time alone, even if you’re part of an extensive social circle.
There are many different types of loneliness, but when it emerges from solitude, the experience can feel incredibly isolating; the line between being alone and being lonely can become blurred surprisingly quickly.
After all, no one wants to be alone 100% of the time.
Studies have shown that humans are inherently social beings. We need to interact with other people in order to thrive.
That said, studies have also found that there are benefits to spending time by yourself, even if you’re the world’s biggest extrovert.
Spending some alone time doesn’t have to be miserable, and it can actually lead to much-needed growth and reflection.
If you’re not sure how to make the most of your alone time, however, you’re not the only one.
We’ll explain the ways you can benefit from solitude and share the warning signs associated with spending too much time alone.
The Pros of Solitude
No matter who you are or what you do, solitude can be beneficial!
You can make the most of your solitude and stave off loneliness by appreciating the advantages of alone time, which include:
1. Time to Self-Reflect
It seems like there’s always something that needs to get done.
Between your career, personal life, and mundane activities that are just a part of daily living, finding time to take a step back and think about the things that really matter can feel impossible.
Self-reflection isn’t something that everyone necessarily enjoys or looks forward to.
Still, thinking about your life – without being influenced by anyone else’s thoughts or opinions – is important, especially if you want to implement changes or reach new goals.
Thinking critically about your own life will help you to determine what is and isn’t working for you.
It’s hard to make a change when you’re constantly moving. When you take a breath and realize that you’ve been feeling tired lately or you haven’t been able to pursue the things you love, you may be spurred to act.
Whether you’re someone who enjoys the process or not, there’s immense value to be found through self-reflection, and there’s no better time to do this than when you’re alone.
2. Opportunities to Explore Hobbies
Let’s be real – all work and no play makes you tired, cranky, and leads to burnout.
We all wish we had more time for our personal hobbies, but scheduling alone time is one of the best ways to ensure you actually get to participate in those pursuits – whatever they may be.
While there are some activities that are best done in the company of others, there are many hobbies that you’ll enjoy most when you’re by yourself.
For example, if you love watching certain movies that others don’t enjoy, you probably won’t want them sitting beside you – or constantly telling you how boring they find the film.
And if you want to try out a new hobby, you might prefer to do this alone, without the judgment of others.
Whether you love to read, go to the gym, or kick back and watch TV, doing what you love is fulfilling, and it’s important to participate in hobbies you genuinely care about – even if you’re by yourself.
3. Potential Health Benefits
Regardless of how you spend your alone time, solitude has the potential to affect your health in a positive way.
According to a 2006 study, adolescents who voluntarily spent time in solitude experienced a boost in their emotional state.
For adolescents, this can be particularly important since emotional regulation can be difficult at times due to puberty and the daily chaos of teenage life.
No matter your age, however, you could also benefit from some time spent alone, too.
By taking a break from outside stimulation, you’re able to press the “reset” button in your mind and calm your senses.
Taking just a little time for yourself every day is worth it for your emotional well-being!
The Cons of Solitude
Just as there are advantages of solitude, there are also some disadvantages. The cons of solitude can include:
1. Feelings of Isolation
One of the most obvious and common disadvantages of solitude is that being alone too often – or for long periods of time – can make you feel disconnected from others and the world around you.
As someone who has a tendency to isolate myself from others, especially when I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I’ve realized that being by myself all the time isn’t helpful.
Sometimes I think I shouldn’t burden others with my “issues,” but logically, I know that there is give and take in every relationship.
My close friends and family are usually happy to talk with me and if they can’t do so right in that moment, they’ll likely be able to connect with me sometime later.
Instead of spending too much time in solitude, I’ve realized that there are instances when I need to turn to my friends and family instead of sitting alone by myself.
I’ve often found that spending time with my loved ones boosts my mood, particularly if I was feeling down to begin with.
Even if I didn’t necessarily want to be with anyone beforehand, I’ve never regretted my decision to reach out and connect with others.
2. Too Much Solitude Can Lead to Overthinking
Although there’s definitely a difference between solitude and loneliness, too much solitude can lead to over-thinking.
Self-reflection isn’t inherently a bad thing, as we’ve discussed, but when the majority of your time is being spent alone, it’s not uncommon for your thoughts to wander.
For those who are prone to anxiety, overthinking can lead to a spiral of stress-inducing thoughts. This can result in individuals avoiding alone time altogether.
Even people who aren’t frequently anxious may overanalyze the smallest facets of their lives if they’re spending time by themselves too often.
Picking apart every aspect of your life isn’t beneficial, but it can be hard to stop once you start, especially when you’re alone.
Figuring out how to enjoy solitude isn’t always easy, but it is possible!
With time, you can learn to enjoy being alone every now and again, and you can take advantage of all the good things a bit of quiet time has to offer.
About the Author
Alison Huff is the Editor-In-Chief of The Roots of Loneliness Project, whose mission is to openly and honestly tackle the sometimes difficult and complex topic of loneliness in order to further and deepen understanding, growth, and empathy. The Roots of Loneliness Project is dedicated to cataloging and exploring the topic of loneliness in every form and providing a thoughtful resource for those who are struggling with it themselves or trying to help others who are fighting their own battles with loneliness.
Fashion is a pervasive market worth billions that affects every person who wears clothes, works in the industry, or works in relation to the industry. This means that if we can understand the relationship between humans and the clothes we wear, we gain insight into the behavior of everyone who wears them, including ourselves.
“[Clothing] is so close to us it becomes part of our identity,” says behavioral psychologist Dr. Carolyn Mair, author of The Psychology of Fashion and founder of psychology.fashion. Mair pioneered the world’s first master’s degrees in psychology for fashion and is part of a relatively small group of people who have carved out careers at the intersection of fashion, design, economics, and psychology.
“What we wear is a reflection of how we want to be seen,” she says, although, “that isn’t the same as how we are seen, because that depends on the viewer.”
Why First Impressions Matter
Picture yourself on a first date at a relatively fancy restaurant, the kind with candle light and wine service. You’re sitting at a table waiting for your date to arrive and when they walk in the door, they’re wearing plain white, tie-up Balenciaga sneakers. What does that tell you about this person?
If you’re a follower of high-end streetwear, you’re likely familiar with the fact that these shoes cost over $1,000 USD and that the word “Balenciaga” printed in clear black lettering on the sides of the shoes means that they’re designer. Overall, you’ll likely assume that this person is from a higher economic status, or at least that they try to communicate wealth.
But If you’re not immersed in the world of designer streetwear, perhaps you would personally opt for dress shoes on this occasion and you might be surprised if someone showed up in plain white sneakers. You may even be unimpressed.
When we meet someone new, we construct our first impression of them in under one second based on how they look, Mair explains in a 2020 blog post. If we like the way someone looks, we imbue them with characteristics like “successful,” “pleasant” and “intelligent,” without knowing anything about them other than what they look like. From there, we tend to seek traits that back up our initial judgment. In psychology, this is called the Halo Effect, “and once generated, it is hard to change,” Mair says.
It gets even more complicated when you consider that our behavior is influenced by the way someone else acts in response to us, and vice versa. Our interactions are cyclical, so our first impression and how we act based on that impression can really make a difference in our ability to connect with someone.
“It can make communication difficult, particularly if the person who is wearing the clothes has this sense of them making an obvious statement. But, in fact, clothing isn’t really obvious unless it has a slogan on it,” says Mair. “It can be like speaking a different language.”
Clothing and Cognitive Function
We develop these associations between clothing and certain human traits, professions, or ideas over the course of our lives as certain associations are reinforced by our interactions, what we’re taught and what we observe.
In 2012, psychologists at Northwestern University ran a study where they predetermined that lab coats are associated with attention and care. They had some participants wear lab coats while others didn’t and when they all did attention tests, those wearing the lab coats out-performed those who were not.
In another experiment, the psychologists gave every participant an identical lab coat but told some that their coats were doctors’ coats and told others that they were wearing painters’ coats. This time, the people who wore the supposed doctors’ coats performed better on attention tests than the others. The researchers concluded that both the experience of wearing certain clothes and the symbolic meaning that we assign to clothes affects our psychological processes. This concept is called enclothed cognition.
Another example of enclothed cognition is when we repeatedly receive compliments on a certain item of clothing. Our association with this piece of clothing is that other people like how we look and “that item of clothing becomes something that gives us some power,” says Mair Although, she’s quick to clarify that clothing does not have inherent power to change the way we feel. After all, clothes are simply pieces of cloth of various shapes, colors, and textures. It’s the associations that make the difference and while this can be helpful when we get dressed for a job interview, it’s important not to put too much stock in the power of the clothing.
Clothing and Self-Esteem
We can be particularly mindful of this when it comes to social media, Mair says. If you’re currently in a good place with your mental health, there’s likely not much harm in associating a certain item with a feeling like happiness and posting on social media about your “happy dress,” for example. But messaging that equates objects like clothes with mental health can be harmful when people are dealing with deeper mental health issues. Clothing can help us feel empowered, authentic, and send a message, but it can’t inherently provide mental wellness.
“Your self-esteem is a measure against the norms of society,” Mair says, which means that the messaging we receive about the norms is important.
In the fashion industry, the messaging has been skewed to cater to a mainly young, white, eurocentric, and thin audience in its imagery and products. People who don’t fit that image are marginalized with less opportunity to communicate identity and feel empowered with the help of clothing. This can make people who aren’t represented feel like the product and high-end fashion culture of luxury, money, and parties aren’t for them, adding barriers for those who already face marginalization on a systemic level outside of the fashion industry. The industry is making strides in the right direction, but there’s still work to be done in offering diverse and realistic representation.
Try a Mindful Mirror-Gazing Practice
“Our desire to be seen and reflected is basic and innate,” says motivational psychologist Tara Well. “As children, we learn to understand ourselves through the reflections of those around us.”
The mirror can be a valuable tool for maintaining that connection with yourself regardless of the clothes you wear. Tuning into your image can help you stay present to your emotions. In our reflection, we can see and hear our self-criticism with exquisite accuracy and then mirror meditation provides a choice, and a practice, to treat ourselves with kindness.
A 5-Step Mirror Meditation from Tara Well
- Set the space and intention. Choose a well-lit distraction-free space where you can position a mirror so that it’s freestanding and you can see into your eyes without straining or leaning forward. Sit on a meditation cushion or on a chair with both feet on the ground. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Have no goals other than to sit with yourself for the allotted time.
- Tune into your breathing. Begin with your eyes closed. Tune into your breath. Are you holding your breath or breathing rapidly? Take a few slow, deep belly breaths. Then breathe regularly and naturally, just observing the movement of your belly, ribcage, and collarbones as you inhale and then gently contracting your collarbones, ribcage, and belly as you exhale. Notice any areas of tension in your body, especially your face and shoulders, then imagine sending your breath to relax those areas and letting tension melt away.
- Begin to gaze into your eyes. Notice if your breathing changes when you first look at yourself. Come back to full steady breathing. Notice the quality of your gaze: Is it harsh or soft? Try to soften your gaze as much as you can. If you notice yourself hardening by focusing on a detail or a flaw in your appearance—breathe until you feel yourself softening again.
- Observe your critic. If your initial reaction to looking at yourself is critical, notice your eyes as you look at yourself in this exacting, maybe even harsh or cold way—see if you can flip your attention from the person (or image in the mirror) that you are scrutinizing to seeing the person who is underneath receiving that scrutiny—that’s who you really are. How does that part of you feel about receiving those critiques?
- Notice where your attention goes and associated feelings. Gaze at your reflection, staying open to whatever arises. Notice any sensations or emotions that come up and allow them to simply be there without judgment or interpretation. Let your feelings and thoughts simply pass by as you breathe, relax your body, and gaze at yourself with no goal other than to be present with yourself. Notice if your attention becomes very narrow and exacting, and if so, see if you can expand it back to seeing your whole body, your whole self, and notice any emotions on your face. Observe this expansion and contraction of your attention and the thoughts and images that come to mind. Just noticing where your attention goes and any feelings that are associated with it without judgment. Hold a kind intention toward yourself as you do the practice. You may be surprised how much your view of yourself can change.
21 Apr The Importance of Finding the Right Shoe
While running shoes have immersed into the fashion world over recent years, the numerous choices can be overwhelming for some.
Most look beyond what a running shoe is meant for and chose style over comfort. Running is already a difficult form of exercise for some, so finding the right shoe is one of the more important things to consider throughout your training progression.
Whatever your level of ability, the importance of finding the right shoe to run has been found to be crucial. Proper footwear will not only improve your performance but reduce the risk of injury. Research suggest that comfortable running shoes are associated with lower frequency of injuries than uncomfortable shoes.
The relationship between running performance and the right shoe for you is unparalleled. Understanding your foot and what type of foot you have when you run is the first step to improve your performance.
PRONATE, SUPINATE AND NEAUTRAL:
The foot is made up of many bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons. As you run or walk, forces are applied from the ground. In most cases your foot is caused to roll in (pronate) to absorb the shock. Others will supinate (foot rolls outward), while some are neutral.
Understanding how your foot reacts to the force applied when you run, helps determine the right shoe for you.
Pronated foot – Means that when you walk, your weight tends to be more on the inside of your foot.
Neutral foot – The most common type of foot. A runner with a neutral type of foot lands on the heel and rolls forward during the gait cycle until the impact is distributed evenly across the forefoot.
Supinated foot – Means when you walk, your weight tends to be more on the outside of your foot.
Hear from an expert:
Exercise Right had the chance to speak with Principal Podiatrist, High Performance Coach and Founder of Proactive Performance, Patrick Doan.
Patrick is the first podiatrist in Australia to be a registered with Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), Exercise Scientist and Level 2 Sports Scientist. And the only podiatrist in Australia with Australian Strength & Conditioning Association (ASCA), Professional Coaching Accreditation Scheme (PCAS), Professional and Level 2 Strength & Conditioning Accreditation.
We asked Patrick a few questions on the importance of finding the right shoe for running.
The importance of finding the right shoe:
How important is it to find the right shoe for runners?
The right shoes is vital for tasks such as walking and running. Everyone has a different walking/running pattern as well as strength, flexibility, mobility, stride length and functional capacity.
A look at a runners biomechanical and musculoskeletal movement plays a large part in finding the right shoe as your body’s mechanics can influence your strike pattern, shock absorption and propulsion capabilities. This can greatly affect the best suited shoe for you. Certain shoe types can cause pain or discomfort if not suited to your movement style.
What are the main considerations a runner should make when it comes to finding the shoe?
A shoe can be broken down to its individual components anatomically such as outsole, midsole, upper, fixation and heel counter. It is also important to tailor the shoes to the surface that you are running in mind which could be concrete/road, trails/rocks, grass, even gravel. Considerations around having shoes that can do multiple surfaces can be possible but tricky to find especially for runners with feet that are either really narrow or really wide.
If you have any running related pain (strains/tightness, foot, knee, ankle hip etc) it is important to have your gait and functional movement analysed by the right experts such as a accredited sports & exercise scientists, podiatrists, physiotherapists or biomechanists prior to purchasing your next shoe. This will save you money in the long term as the shoe you buy now may be completely different to what is prescribed for you.
What are your top 3-5 tips for finding the right shoe?
Shoe fit – make sure there is enough room at the toe box for depth, length and width. Always try on shoes with the socks you intend on wearing them with. A perfect example would be hiking shoes as you can have many choices with thick wool socks, thin liner socks or a combination of synthetic and natural fibers. With so many sock choices it is important to have the optimal fit from the start.
Time of day – when trying on shoes consider that in the morning or if you have not done much walking/physical activity then the foot will not be as swollen or enlarged as if you would try on the shoes at the end of the day or after exercise.
Shoe outsole and upper – it is important ensure your shoes are fit for purpose and for the right environment. Upper considerations can include different materials such as leather, mesh, knit or even waterproof materials like goretex. Outsole options such as carbon blown rubber for road grip, sole patterns, different lugs for going on the trail are important considerations for shoe choice.
If in doubt always go to a specialty shoe store like the Athlete’s Foot where they can provide a fitting service and tailor the shoe to your foot shape, size, width and activity.
If you have an injury history or and aches and pains it is best to seek expert advice from a foot, ankle or lower limb specialist such as Sports Podiatrist to have a thorough musculoskeletal assessment and you can have a professional footwear prescription done through them.
Need a hand finding the right shoe?
An Accredited Exercise Physiologist can assist you by guiding you through an individualised, safe and evidence-based advice to help find the right shoe for you. Get in touch with your local exercise expert today by clicking here.
Written by Exercise Right staff.
We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series.
The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.
Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.
21 Apr Alternative Training Methods for Swimmers
It’s no secret swimming is one of the most beneficial exercises we can put our bodies through. It’s a great way to work your entire body (literally) and cardiovascular system.
With so many health benefits attached to the sport, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular activities around.
For many swimmers, exercise outside the pool such is not the most desirable. Due to COVID-19, the closure of most pools and sports facilities forced swimmers out of the water and to seek out different forms of cardiovascular exercises.
Cross-training is a widely used approach for structuring a training program to improve competitive performance in specific sports – by training in a variety of sports.
With swimming off the cards for most, have swimmers found a new love of other exercises that aren’t in the water?
Cross-training is designed to improve your cardio, strengthen muscles or help with your speed and recovery. For swimmers, cross-training is any type of training outside the pool that compliments a swimmers training program.
What are the benefits?
A major benefit of cross-training is the ability to develop a swimmer’s strength (stronger the swimmer is greater propulsion for long via arms and legs which generates more speed in the water & injury prevention).
Cross-training will help develop a swimmer’s explosive power (kick off the wall, jump off the blocks & speed).
Often overlooked but a key attribute in swimming, cross-training helps with flexibility (greater range of movement, rotation, and stroke rate).
Types of cross-training exercises:
There are many forms of cross-training which will benefit a swimmer’s performance. Cross-training can be pretty much anything you enjoy, as long as its relatable and strengthens similar muscle groups and improved your cardiovascular abilities.
Used to increase strength and power, a swimmer’s program should focus on the five main muscle groups used during swimming:
1. Latissimus dorsi (lats) – Pull-ups, rowing and lat pull-downs.
2. Arms – Tricep pulldowns, bench dips, tricep extensions, and overhead presses.
3. Chest – Dips, bench press and push-ups.
4. Core muscles (abs) – Sit-ups, cycle sit-ups, jackknives, leg raises, plank and Russian twists.
5. Legs – Squats, lunges, box jumps, calve raises and split squats.
Not a popular pick of the town in the swimming world but running has benefits to improve endurance.
Running is a good method of cross-training for endurance or distance swimmers and helps increase their aerobic capacity. It’s a challenging alternative for swimmers to exercise their cardiovascular system.
Flexibility is key when it comes to swimming and yoga is an excellent tool for mobility. Research has proven significant improvements in a swimmer’s performance when yoga and swimming are partnered together.
Regular practice of yoga can increase the range of motion throughout the body and help swimmers boost their performance in the pool while decreasing their risk of injury.
Advice from the expert:
Exercise Right had the opportunity to speak with Accredited Exercise Physiologist and High Performance Coach, Elliot Richardson and Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Director, Benjamin Garth of Exercise Healthcare Australia.
Elliot works with high performance swimmers, and, with the help of Ben, has answered some misconceptions around swim training and how athletes have begun to look at more training strategies outside of the pool.
It’s fair to say that most swimmers/coach’s outlook on training would be the more hours spent inside a pool the better – is this the right approach nowadays?
A very common approach used by swimmers and coaches was that more time in the pool equated better performance. This approach isn’t always the answer. It may be acceptable when learning and perfecting the fundamental movements and techniques. However, it’s often accompanied by a training schedule that does not support the long-term performance outcomes of the swimmer. Often other important aspects of a training program are neglected just to push-out another water-based session.
Recently more coaches and swimmers have utilised a variety of different training methods, also known as cross training, to supplement water-based training in order to improve performance. It’s imperative to incorporate a balanced training schedule to maximise training longevity and to remain injury free. Good coaches that understand the importance of a balanced training schedule have incorporated more land-based warm-ups and cross-training to support performance when in the pool. These sessions include strength and conditioning, mobility and recovery sessions.
What other training methods should a swimmer incorporate?
The estimated injury prevalence in swimmers is currently 60%, with such a high prevalence of injury an important aspect to remain injury free is to participate in a ‘pre-habilitation’ routine (2). Prehabilitation is performing strengthening and mobility exercises to reduce likelihood of injury. Often this prehabilitation routine is performed prior to the training session to prime the body for the upcoming session and focuses on deficits in the individual’s mobility or strength.
My preference is for my athletes to perform an activation and mobilisation routine prior to each gym or water-based session as well as incorporating strengthening of the muscles often neglected in training such as the external rotators of the shoulder (3).
For the younger swimmers, I often encourage them to participate in different sports/extra-curricular activities to provide balance and to ensure they don’t burnout.
What should a sample program look like for someone who wants to take their swimming to the next level?
This is a sample week of an advanced swimmer who is in pre-season:
Follow the RAMP protocol:
Raise heart rate – 5-10mins warm-up on treadmill or bike.
Activate important muscle groups – Mid back, lats, external rotators of the shoulder, glutes and abdominals.
Mobilise joints – Thoracic spine, hips and shoulders.
Potentiate important movement patterns – Squat, push, pull and/or hinge.
The recovery session can be based on the athlete’s preference and typically could be a rest, active recovery or a cross-training session. If using an active recovery or cross-training session, they should be tailored to improving an athletes deficit or weak-point in cardiorespiratory fitness, strength or flexibility/mobility i.e. performing a yoga session as the athlete has reduced flexibility and mobility.
Are there benefits for swimmers to look beyond the pool and spend more time cross-training?
Yes, there are! Swimming is one of those sports that require various elements that determine that successfulness of the athlete, these include:
1. Muscular Power and Endurance
2. Cardiorespiratory Fitness
Participating in a variety of training types outside of the pool allows for the improvement of each of these physiological elements that you simply can’t achieve when only performing water-based sessions.
The research is in! Swim performance increases when resistance, mobility and cardiovascular training is utilised in conjunction with water-based training. Such improvements include stroke velocity, length & rate, improved time off the block & turns, improved cardiorespiratory fitness, as well as maintaining structural balance for injury prevention (1).
Want to take your training to the next level?
When it comes to training, an Accredited Exercise Professional can tailor a program to help and maximise your results.
We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series.
The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.
Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.
- Crowley, E., Harrison, A.J. & Lyons, M. (2017) The Impact of Resistance Training on Swimming Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports Med, 47, 2285–2307. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0730-2
- De Almeida, M. O., Hespanhol, L. C., & Lopes, A. D. (2015). PREVALENCE OF MUSCULOSKELETAL PAIN AMONG SWIMMERS IN AN ELITE NATIONAL TOURNAMENT. International journal of sports physical therapy, 10(7), 1026–1034.
- Batalha, N., Paixão, C., Silva, A. J., Costa, M. J., Mullen, J., & Barbosa, T. M. (2020). The Effectiveness of a Dry-Land Shoulder Rotators Strength Training Program in Injury Prevention in Competitive Swimmers. Journal of human kinetics, 71, 11–20. https://doi.org/10.2478/hukin-2019-0093
The Unabomber /// 482 /// 483 2 Parts www.TrueCrimeGarage.com In the 1990’s the F.B.I. was hunting a serial killer they called the Unabomber. At the time he was the most wanted man in America. He some how managed to avoid detection and capture for over a decade. This week in the Garage Nic and the Captain explore and examine the case and the man who committed these terrible crimes. Beer of the Week – Birthday Bomb by Praire Artisan Ales Garage Grade – 5 out of 5 bottle caps Our show – True Crime Garage “Off the Record” is available only on Stitcher Premium. For a FREE month of listening go to http://stitcherpremium.com/truecrimegarage and use promo code GARAGE