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  • Naomi Blayney

12 Rocks of Well-Being

I attended a fascinating webinar about well-being the other day. It was run by Andrew Wright, a former headteacher who has spent 25 years teaching in secondary schools. He now works with schools and businesses teaching people how to become 'Neuro-Ninjas' - someone who understands how their own brain works and how to make changes that help us to become the best version of themselves.

The session gave a fascinating insight into the power of the brain - how it works, how certain things affect it and how to change habits. Several things resonated with me that I wanted to share with you.

Andrew described the resilience of the human brain and its great capacity to change. Our brain changes in response to what we use it for. Essentially we can change our brain by doing things differently. I was surprised to hear that studies show 50% of how we feel right now is down to what we have done in last 24hrs which shows what a huge impact our daily habits have on our well-being.

The concept that resonated most with me was the 12 Rocks of Well-being. This is a downloadable sheet that is available here on Andrew's website.

The 12 Rocks of Well-Being is basically a checklist of small habits we can incorporate into our daily to improve how we feel. There are lots of references to studies and research that underpin the concept. I can’t find these listed on the website so I'm going to do some more digging to learn more. Much of it is common sense but it was interesting to learn about how these things specifically affect the brain. I make lists for everything from shopping to my skincare routine - so this checklist appealed to me straight away. The 12 Rocks are:

  1. Sleep

  2. Exercise

  3. Eat Healthily

  4. Mindfulness

  5. Mind wandering

  6. Emotions

  7. Walking outside

  8. Music

  9. Connecting with people

  10. Gratitude and kindness

  11. Engaging in your life's purpose

  12. Learn, play, create, read

As a parent of two little ones that have rarely slept a whole night in their lives, sleep is the one that immediately jumped out at me. I know I don't get enough. I have become accustomed to the fog that comes with sleep depravation. Even when they do sleep, I am awake. I'm counting sheep, trying my hardest to get to sleep, all the while kept awake by the expectation that someone will wake me up any second. It's something I've had to get used to so I don't really think about it anymore. But when someone points it out like in this seminar, it really hits home that it really can affect my daily life. I've still managed to have a job and activities that I enjoy. Yet I know that I've often done things with less enthusiasm or less conviction than I might have done. Most days, I can honestly say that if I lay down on a sofa, I would be asleep in seconds at any time of the day.

All of my creative activities are done after my children have gone to sleep. The rest of the time I'm either at work (the dreaded day job that pays the bills until I'm a famous author and illustrator) or with my girls. Time with them has obviously changed from the very demanding feeding and changing when they were tiny, through weaning and wiping bottoms, to nursery, school uniforms and packed lunches and now monitoring iPad time. I thought I'd have to wait until the teenage years for slamming doors but hey ho we have it at 7. Why can't I have the kid that sleeps in I often think! I thought they would get easier, and in some ways they have (no more nappies…hooray!) but they take more of my attention because we talk and do things together (and argue about iPad time!). I must point out that wouldn't change any of this for the world. They are the most amazing creatures and I'm amazed every single day by their enthusiasm and tremendous kindness. And for their surprising ability to make me cry with happiness and frustration at the same time. It does mean that time for myself gets squeezed. Part of being a parent generally means putting yourself last and this does become part necessity and part habit. I don't get any real quiet time for myself to concentrate until they've gone to bed which, now that they are 5 and 8, is about 8:30 or 9pm. So find myself writing and illustrating stories late at night. I have to make it work, tired or not, or I'd never get to do it. But I do really notice that my attention is not what it might be. My attention to detail is not what it might be. I find myself making and correcting more mistakes. All because I'm tired. I probably wrote this late at night so I'm sorry if there are typos.

I've seen people writing affirmations on post its or reminders to do certain things each day. But not a list this comprehensive. I do a few of these but not all. I get the calm app on now and then for the music, mind wandering, mindfulness. The 'Daily Calm' by Tamara Levitt always helps me relax. Recently I've made a concerted effort to get outside for a walk most days and it really has helped me to clear my head and destress. I've been trying to exercise more lately and my daily walks count as a tick in that box too. I eat fairly healthily…well I'm working on it… and this blog and my goals in writing and illustration are definitely engaging in my life's purpose. So I tick a few off already with my existing habits and routines. The ones I am missing include emotions (which is all about understanding our emotions and how responding to them) and gratitude and definitely connecting people - but then I'd be surprised if anyone hasn't struggled with this one over the past year.

I encourage you to print it off and stick it on your fridge. Make a note of the activities you do. Maybe keep your first one and compare in a few weeks time. Have your activities increased? Has working through the list made a difference to your well-being? Let me know in the comments what you think. I'll check back in in a future blog with my own progress.

The session I attended was part of a series of well-being webinars organised by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators so no doubt I shall ramble about the next one here. See you next time!

If you want to read more about the 12 Rocks of Wellbeing, visit Andrew's website by clicking here.

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