“Most people exist in a state of human suffering” – Tony Riddle
I pricked up my ears when I heard Tony Riddle (The Natural Lifestylist) talking on the “Feel Better, Live More” podcast. He was speaking about how the way modern humans live, is not optimised for the way we are evolved to move through life. Our eating, sleeping, working and movement patterns are all compromised, leading us to suffer; both mentally and physically.
In order to thrive, he suggests learning to ‘rewild’ our habits so our bodies can operate optimally to support our health and wellbeing. It all sounds very sensible, but when many of us spend long days working in offices, sedentary in chairs, how can we reclaim this human wildness he talks of?
It’s likely that office design in the future, will help make this easier, but there are ways in which we can move our existing working life more towards this optimal human state he describes. Some of his thoughts, and mine are outlined below.
Sitting sedentary in a chair is incredibly problematic for the body. Just a few of the issues it creates are poor posture (which often leads to injury when we do move), lowered mood and impeding the circulation of blood and lymph around the body.
Action: Set a timer for 30-minute intervals. When the timer goes, get up and walk around your office space (refill your water or go to the toilet if you feel self-conscious) for a minute or so. Do 3-5 squats at your desk before sitting down. Tony is a big fan of squats and sees them as one of the foundations of good physical posture and movement.
If you can work standing up, switch between postures or hold a walking meeting, even better.
Our digestion is designed to operate best when we are calm and relaxed, because the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for both digestion and the relaxation response.
If we eat when we are stressed, the symptoms of food intolerance and IBS are likely to worsen. At best, we simply won’t receive the full nutrition of our food.
Action: activating the parasympathetic nervous system before you eat your lunch at work can improve your digestion and gut health. You can do this by going for a relaxing walk outside or trying a breath work exercise designed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system for 3-5 minutes before eating. Try the box breath exercise on ‘Your Daily Breath‘
“Our shelter that was once a temporary structure and built from of all-natural materials that worked with the elements and the natural landscape has now become void of nature, a toxic playground where the concentrations of air pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. We have created perpetual daytimes of artificial light leading to light pollution, and indoor air pollutants that are being linked to neurological disease, cancer, hormonal and metabolic dysfunction.” – Tony Riddle
If nothing else, the blue light we work under and with in office spaces plays havoc with our melatonin production and sleep.
Action: do what you can to cleanse the air where you work. Buy a potted plant to filter toxins from the air and open windows to let fresh air in. You can also adjust the blue light settings on your PC and your phone to offset the effects of screen glare.
Talking to your employer about air quality and lighting may also offer some further solutions for the whole office space such as air filters or improved lighting solutions.
Poor foot health and function can contribute to problems throughout the body such as chronic hip and back pain or injuries through sport. At work, we’re often not moving our feet enough (or in the right way) and we’re wearing constrictive footwear that affects their function.
Action: Tony recommends barefoot footwear such as Vivobarefoot, that enable the feet to work optimally and receive feedback from the ground, so your body can respond more dynamically to the terrain. Chances are that your feet are already in need of some support to help them regain their natural function, so you could try some of these foot exercises under your desk as well.
In the times of our ancestors, work was intrinsically linked to our survival or sense of meaning in life. We worked in the fields or hunted for our food; we built shelters or made baskets for ourselves; we created beautiful works of art or temples to respect our deities. Work nowadays can sometimes feel very disconnected from our actual lives. We trade our time for money and our money for goods. The PowerPoint presentation we spend 3 days working on doesn’t necessarily have any direct purpose in our lives. It can leave us wondering what it’s all for.
Action: spend some time connecting with the purpose and meaning in your work. It can help to reflect on the people your work affects (who eats the cereal you create), the people your work supports (the farmers you buy grain from) and the way in which you personally benefit from your work (through security or status). Another way to connect with work is to do as much as possible with your hands. Even if it’s just written notes or changing the paper tray; taking the time to do something mindfully with your hands can create a sense of connection and flow.
If you’d like to delve further into reclaiming your humanity and sense of wellbeing, you can register for the 8 week ‘Mindfulness for Stress’ Course now.
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