The greatest wealth is health

“To insure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.”  ~ William Londen

Today is International Self-Care Day. It is really important to look after yourself. If you don’t feel great, investigate (the cause). 

You owe it to yourself to live the best life feeling good, even great. You may need only tweak your self-care by eating more healthily, drinking more water, taking a multi-vitamin, getting 15 minutes of sunshine daily while adding exercise to your routine. Or, you may need to demand to see a specialist to confirm your hunch that there’s something amiss.

The best way to get your health issues heard is to track your symptoms so you can take something concrete to a GP and discuss the next step.

FoodDiaryI use Health Storylines Food Diary and Symptom Tracker tools for that. You don’t have to suffer from a chronic illness to take advantage of this easy-to-use tracking system. It you have any food intolerance, or just generally don’t feel up to par, tracking what you eat and when may be key to shaping a new way of living that can optimise your health.

Who wants to go through life feeling unwell. By tracking your reaction to foods you consume, you will discover which products trigger symptoms (bloating, gas, nausea even constipation or diarrhoea).

It takes about two weeks of monitoring what you eat and how you feel to see a pattern. It is easy to do, just take five minutes at the end of your day to write down what you ate (via the Food Diary) and how it made you feel (Symptom Tracker). 

There’s good reason for the saying food is medicine. If you need a kick along, follow The Australian Dietary Guidelines, which has information about the types and amounts of foods, food groups and dietary patterns that aim to: promote health and wellbeing; reduce the risk of diet-related conditions, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity.

Your GP can refer you to a dietician and exercise physiologist if you want to tackle two issues together.

For those suffering the same condition as me (NETs), this video provides a quick snapshot into avoiding food triggers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45uK0yWEbEQ

In no time you’ll be on your way to feeling great. Happy International Self-Care Day!

Hope you join me on the fitness journey to track food and symptoms. Just click on this link to get started.

The author has used the Health Storylines since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours of the small intestine in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health.

Why mind over health, matters

The human brain is ‘Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones’. —Psychologist Rick Hanson

Did you know humans have a natural negativity bias? Apparently we remember on average seven times as many negative things as positive ones.

With such odds stacked against us, how can we turn that around? Glad you asked. It’s as simple as paying attention to the present moment, or being “mindful”.

Monash University’s clinical psychologist Dr Richard Chambers says mindfulness techniques train our mind to unhook from unproductive thought patterns.

Is being mindful hard to do? No. It just takes practice using cognitive behavioural strategies (CBT) that teach us to be kind to ourselves, as opposed to being critical or judgmental.

Adopting a mindful life is about paying attention to “what is” and not “what if”.  It’s having the ability to distinguish between what our imagination is telling us and reality. That is, when we get caught up in “what-if” scenarios we allow ourselves to become stressed, angry or even sad. Our imagination takes over and instead of looking at hard cold facts, we fill in the gaps. It’s a recipe for disaster mentally, emotionally and physically.

So how does this negativity bias manifest?

Say you have a health goal, you’re trying to be healthy like eating well and exercising, or trying to lose weight or get a good night’s sleep … have you noticed when you focus on the negative what-ifs you fail?

For example, we tend to ask ourselves:

  • What if I can’t sleep tonight, and then we begin focusing on the fact we can’t get to sleep.
  • What if I don’t reach my goal weight, and then we decide we may as will give up and eat unhealthy food to comfort us.

The way out of it is to focus on the here and now. Paying attention to what is going on around us is a first step in cultivating mindfulness. The practice teaches us to live each moment as it unfolds and accept what’s happening.

As part of my journey with Health Storylines, I’ve noticed since adopting a mindful approach to life, I can reduce stressful thoughts. I find tracking my progress on things such as symptoms, weight, mood, documenting health concerns, or writing in a journal brings me back to “what is”.

After I was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours and had surgery, I used the Health Storylines app every day. It became my greatest support in helping achieve peace of mind and later providing encouragement to reach my health goals.

It helped me track symptoms so I could calm myself with “what is” instead of going into meltdown over “what if”.

Using the Health Routine Builder, I went from walking as little as 2000 steps a day to 10,000, and using Guided Meditation, I learnt how to master mindfulness in an instant.

As previous Self-Care Ambassadors have written before me, the purpose of Health Storylines is to help people improve their quality of life through their own data.

It’s a really powerful tool so I have accepted the challenge to encourage family and friends as well as readers of this blog to monitor their health through the app.

PAPER TRAIL

So if you’ve got a health challenge in mind and you want to come along with me on this Health Storylines ride and face “what is” and leave the “what ifs” behind, then my first challenge to you is not only to track your health via Storylines but also to track your stool health using the Stool Diary tool.

Yes, not the most glamorous of first challenges but an extremely important one as it is a window into understanding digestive health. It tells a story of an individual’s wellbeing.

My symptoms manifested this way but I didn’t realise the importance of how our digestive system regulates the body’s inflammatory and immune responses. So it is especially helpful to track your stool if you have experienced symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea, or irregular bowel movements.

Bistol Stool Chart
Here are more detailed steps to start tracking your stool:
1. Open the Health Storylines app on your phone, or click here to use the online version
2. Click on the ‘Tool Library’ in the menu (if using the app version, simply scroll left on the top of the screen and click “add tools”)
3. Click on ‘Stool Diary” and add it to your home screen
4. To document your stool, simply click on the picture which most resembles your stool, followed by the colour
5. Click done, and repeat regularly (you can also share your results with your doctor)

Once you start tracking your health you can compare your stool to the Bistol Stool Chart (pictured) and find out what’s your normal.

If you notice anything amiss, like blood in your stool, or very dark stools, experience diarrhoea or constipation over long periods of time, make sure you mention it to a health-care professional.

Of course, if you’ve switched to a healthier diet you’ll notice changes here (more frequent movements or more formed stools that are lighter in colour). Walking will also get you moving, in more ways than one, so let’s end this challenge with a poop poll! 

The author has used Health Storylines app since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours of the small intestine in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she was approached to become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health. She gleefully accepted the challenge. Show your support by tracking your health using this link: https://judyw.healthstorylines.com/app/#/register

Face up to concrete cold facts

Woke up this morning with an ache in my head
I splashed on my clothes as I spilled out of bed
I opened the window to listen to the news
But all I heard was … Rodriguez

No matter who you are, what you do, there comes a day of reckoning. After a year escaping the every day mundane, it’s time to face up to my own concrete cold fact: the vacation is over.

So what next? Work out the next steps.

Flying back from LA to Sydney watching the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” the list for working out the next step(s) loomed large and at times overwhelmed.

That promise to strive to create something new flew by too quickly. It came and went and the reality check left in its wake poses ever more questions: return to the tried and true or continue to try more things new?

Looking back on the previous path taken only strengthens my resolve it hasn’t been for nought. What made “Tom the curious” now turned “James the weak” produced some of the best work, freed my mind from limitations I’d allowed myself to be hemmed in by and given hope that what comes next will build on skills gained over the past year.

Not everyone gets a shot at doing something different. Having the financial freedom to explore your strengths was a gift. And I was grateful for the opportunity to jump out of an old comfort zone.

When you do something for yourself, it makes you appreciate your own worth in the workforce. The PumpkinFACE™ venture didn’t pull financial strings but as a social media experiment and educational venture it hit its mark, every day. AND next year there are plans to build on what has already begun and better still publish what’s already been written!

Yet those doubts are there about those next steps. Mashing lyrics from songs on the Rodriguez Cold Fact album best sums up some concerns:

Now you sit there thinking feeling insecure / ‘Cos you got no one to listen, you got no one to call / Drifting, drowning in a purple sea of doubt / I wonder how many dreams have gone bad / I wonder how much going have you got / I wonder and worry my friend / I wonder don’t you?

After every day being a holiday it makes you reflect on what’s transpired and wonder how best to tackle what to do next. Making good decisions now could be “the recipe for my happiness” and financial success.

Getting away from the everyday mundane was about finding happiness absent from my previous job … but can that sense of freedom and accomplishment be replicated back home, or will doubts resurface and limit future decisions?

I guess only time will tell, and like “Sugar Man” perhaps success from what’s previously transpired will surface some time down the track. Better later than not at all!

Judy Wilkinson is a blogger and journalist who spent nine months in the United States visiting New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California as well as travelling to Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, Chile and Argentina. Next post catches up on life in South America.

Create content that connects

No matter whether you have an established presence online or not, finding your place is a personal journey only you can take in your quest to create compelling content that connects.

It’s easy to be persuaded to join the league of marketers promising something for what seems like little effort or perhaps signing over your rights to collective social media sites that want to harness your content and contacts.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just depends where you’re at in your journey. And sure it is a harder road to navigate alone, but the payoff should things take off could prove to be the start of even greater things to come.

Too many brands treat social media as a one-way broadcast channel rather than a two-way dialogue through which emotional storytelling can be transferred. – Simon Mainwaring

My journey began with the idea of blogging my way through the United States and Central America to bring stories that count, unfettered by payment, not compromised by anyone’s opinion but my own. I also didn’t want to blur the line between my unpaid blog and my unpaid day job developing a website, app and e-book.

But it’s inevitable they’d collide. Two separate journeys unfolding simultaneously all with the end game of creating compelling content, one across multiple platforms. I would never have believed 12 months ago that within a couple of months I’d be researching the ins and outs of SEO, building a website while working on an app, writing an e-book while teaching English as a second language. Nor would I have entertained the idea of creating marketing content for Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest and Instagram and becoming addicted to the press express buttons they represent!

As a paid journalist I’ve edited content and designed pages in print and online but I’d never built a website from scratch or worked with an overseas company to develop an app. Opting out of the workforce to do something creative sounds so romantic. Friends believe what you’re doing is pure fun, and at times it is though working on a project which began in one country and led to another has been equally gruelling as juggling the ins and outs of my previous job.

FUMBLE OR FOLD

Nevertheless this project has been more rewarding simply because it involved so much sweat, funds and frustration, which is almost forgotten given the website is up, the e-book is written and ready to be released and the app is before iTunes for review.

Then just at the time the app was being submitted for approval, Apple’s developer site fell under “hacker” siege, delaying the project by weeks. The plan was to have the app out by August 1 to allow my co-founder and I to hit the ground running to get word out through all the mediums we’d painstakingly researched. We wanted a three-month lead time to really establish marketing for our product ahead of the annual event it targeted.

So what happened next? Nothing and everything. This forced break allowed us to regroup and rethink our strategy. It made us sit down and question what we wanted to happen. Instead of jumping head-first into our simultaneous assault on social media we were given a much-needed breather to tackle new ways to get our message out.

And that’s where the fun has begun: word of mouth. Being able to tell others what you’ve been working on. Building on the excitement to launch whether out at the bank, grocery store or when relatives drop by or kids come knocking at the door to elicit odd jobs around the house, one is ready to relay that “elevator conversation” with ease.

There’s merit in the one-man marketing band and so far the best response has been “who does that [create an app]?” … well, ordinary folk like you and me.

It started with an idea that didn’t get filed into the too hard basket. It took perseverance and a willingness never to give up. It required sheer hard work to overcome lack of technical expertise, build knowledge and skills and trust in one’s creativity to create compelling content for a website that others will want to read, follow, friend and share.

It's the treats in life that count!

It’s the treats in life that count!

Finally, it has taken unshakeable belief that your creation will be compelling enough for people to want to pay for it. Of course that will only be confirmed when it is out in the world-wide marketplace, stripped bare of the angst it has gone through to shape, its arrival celebrated by the consumption of the masses.

Judy Wilkinson is a freelance writer who is excited to be part of a simple idea that evolved to include an integrated social media approach aimed at keeping families connected at Halloween.

Don’t knock the nouveau e-nerds

If at first you don’t succeed, call it version 1.0  – T-Shirt

Standing on the inside looking out!

Standing on the inside looking out!

Yep, I’ve joined the board of e-wisdom.
I just can’t get enough of learning online.
Some are webinars, others are videos,
all allowing me to start-stop as I please.
And that is what’s great about it,
you can laptop, tablet and smart phone
it on the go. Once I’ve downloaded the
course, the webinar waits for me!

I first got hooked on e-learning after being introduced to http://www.Udemy.com by British-turned Aussie Twitter guru Steven Lewis.
And the reason I keep going back is every so often I’m offered major discounts [up to 75 per cent] off courses that help improve my skills, anywhere at any time.

So far I’m managed to snare two free courses, and reduce one course by more than $70! I’m hunkered down on all the latest social media courses including Social Media Marketing for Startups given I’m on the path to start-up glory. And then there’s the must-have FREE Learning SEO program but I thought I’d buy Design, Develop & Sell WordPress Themes because it’s another way for me to make money in one of my chosen fields. At only $24, discounted from $97, you’d have to say it’s a bargain.

I’m not anti-social, I’m just not user-friendly  – T-Shirt

Everywhere you look online there’s something out there to help you e-learn. Finding the time to do it all is key and you’d have to agree with a friend of mine that technology has encroached so much on our lives that there’s really no reason to walk out the door.
Don't hide indoors, there's too much e[learning to go around!

Don’t hide indoors, there’s too much e[learning to go around!

If I could I would become a professional student. Instead I’ve joined the nouveau e-nerds and wear the badge proudly. My aim is to be working and earning big bucks, online of course.
So back to Udemy and other providers like it. I’m lovin’ the brave new e-world of studying. At the touch of my tablet, I’m connected to a free language site run by the BBC. Each week languages@learning.external.bbc.co.uk sends me interactive videos and course notes I can watch and read at my leisure.

While I’m here in Costa Rica, volunteering to teach English, it is necesario para mí para mejorar mi español so thanks to e-learning sites like the BBC, I’m practicing in the privacy of mi casa before venturing out to talk up a storm with the locals.

And I get to help others. My nouveau e-nerd status means I’m now that go-to person, the one you ask when you don’t have time yourself to find that great website that’ll take your career to the next stellar level. Of course, I don’t have the time either, I’m too busy learning about the value of SEO right now.

Adios, hasta la próxima vez

Judy Wilkinson is a freelance writer who is currently in Central America teaching ESL, trawling websites for others, e-learning about social media while finalising an app and website. Watch this space for the launch date!