Over the last couple of years of intentionally trying to improve my diet, one simple habit stands out as the easiest and possibly the most effective change I made. A daily dose of banana.
A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber.
There is no question that bananas give us a great energy boost, that’s why they are popular with athletes.
But bananas also help protect us from several illnesses. Blood pressure, anemia, constipation, nerves, and ulcers are all often eased by eating a banana.
According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND, those suffering from depression felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.
The old saying, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ should be updated to a banana a day.
I prefer mine when they are nice and ripe, with a few brown dots on the skin. I have one chopped into my porridge every morning for breakfast, with a spoonful of honey.
I also use them in my fruit smoothie recipe.
Go on. Have a banana!
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We all want to be a ‘valid person’. But most of us have some little (or large) secret insecurities. These can make us nervous about being ourselves. So there is a human tendency to seek validation from others. Comedians seek laughter. Actors seek applause. Craftsmen seek appreciation. And so on.
I think for most of us this seeking of validation starts when we are small. Do we fit in? Are we popular? Or are we on the edge of the crowd? Are we sometimes shunned?
I remember when I was at primary school and we’d have a medical check. When they did the hearing test I tried really hard to hear the quietest sounds. I was always hoping the nurse would say, ‘You have incredible hearing. I think you’re unique.’ I hope she’d tell others and officials would come and visit me at school and say, ‘Your hearing ability is so amazing, the Prime Minister wants to meet you.’
Needless to say that never happened.
But seeking validation can be very dangerous. Sometimes we give the power of validation to the wrong person – the overbearing parent, the judgemental friend, the unsupportive spouse.
And that’s what we need to understand – we hold the power of our own validation and we choose who to give it to. Be careful.
Many men suffer because they gave the power of validation to their father but he never validated them, never said well done.
In Paul Merton’s autobiography he tells how he sought his Father’s approval but it never came… until his Father was dying. At the last moment in the hospital he tells him how proud he has been of him. After his death, when the family are clearing his Father’s house, they find a scrapbook with every newspaper article about Paul Merton. His Father had been a secret admirer all along.
Many men and women give the power of validation to one parent or other and sometimes the approval never comes.
In some ways we are all seeking a mini-validation by getting the thumbs up ‘like’ on Facebook, or the favourite star – or even better a RT – on Twitter. I’m hoping for a few on this article! But if not, I’m not bothered.
I sometimes get people giving me the benefit of their opinion on my life or work. Here’s a news flash for them all – I haven’t given you the power to validate or invalidate me.
I choose to let history / God / the Universe validate me or not.
The group of people that irritates me the most is those who think they are something special when they’re just like the rest of us. They assume that their opinion is of more value than mine. They spout their opinion as though it was an inarguable fact, when it is just an opinion.
People told me I couldn’t go to the Third-World to help the poor. People told me I couldn’t write a book. They told me I couldn’t start a Charity, or buy my own house.
So I did.
Be careful of those who try to hold you back. They may be trying to keep you down in order to lift themselves up.
You have the power to validate yourself.
While it is always helpful to have a few wise counsellors around you, you need to be true to yourself.
We are all looking for someone to believe in us but be very careful about letting others validate you, because one day they may decide to invalidate you.
You are unique.
Go and be amazing today!
A quick glance at nature now and then will tell us that living things are always growing and changing. The world changes. Society changes. Our lives change from one season to the next.
When I left school (years ago!) someone advised me to get a job with a big successful company and work for them for life. That was the route to security apparently. But since that conversation those jobs have all evaporated. Big companies have downsized and reduced employees to a bare minimum.
Wiser advice today would be to work out what your gifts and skills are, develop them, and then see who is willing to pay you to do those things. And it may be several people or jobs rather than just one these days.
One danger with success is that it feels so good we don’t want that season to change. But it will, so get ready.
Kodak dominated the photographic world for over one hundred years. It had a 90% market share of photographic film sales in America. Almost everyone used the brand.
What followed was a colossal story of failure and missed opportunities. Kodak was a gigantic casualty in the wake of digital photography – a technology that Kodak invented!
Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the first digital camera in 1975. But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘That’s cute, but don’t tell anyone about it.’
As a result the company entered into decades of decline, unable to perceive and respond to the advancing digital revolution.
In 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy.
Simple steps to avoiding your Kodak moment:
Understand your passion
Kodak’s leaders thought they were in the film business – instead of the image business. They misunderstood the essence of who they were. When you boil it right down, what is your passion in life? Write it down. Stick it on your fridge.
Kodak thought their success was fixed. Life and technology are changing all the time. They made a lot of money from selling film so it was hard for them to think of a world where no one used film.
How is your world changing? What trends are happening in society? True, we don’t always want to be following the crowd but, if a sea-change is going on that affects you, shouldn’t you try and understand it?
Don’t be paralysed by fear
Kodak was so afraid of losing their lucrative film sales they buried their head in the sand. Don’t cling to the past when the past way of doing things is already passing away. Find someone who knows about the new way and learn from them.
Take some risks and experiment
In 1994, in my spare time, I set up a charity to develop my work in Africa and the UK. I wanted to see lives transformed and people rescued from poverty. Four years later, in 1998, my job contract came to an end. I was about to lose my home, which went with the job, and my monthly income.
I decided to try and go full time with the charity I had founded. I’m glad I experimented and set up the charity four years previously. I didn’t have to start from scratch. Although it was a big risk and a scary time, it worked. We now employ three people and are not only still viable but also still growing, these seventeen years later.
As we start 2015, is it time to do an audit of where you are going in life?
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Well limbo is coming to an end – those few days between Christmas and New Year. As Ian McMillan put it:
‘At the tail end of December, the days huddle together for warmth.’
– Ian McMillan
I don’t know how you feel about 2014 but I have mixed feelings about it.
Several friends were diagnosed with life threatening cancer in 2014. So there has been lots of prayers and visits to different parts of the country. So far so good.
This in turn made me get myself checked out. I’m not very good at going to the doctor – I average one visit every decade. But this time my visit turned into blood tests, scans and having a camera shoved up my rear end!
Fortunately, it turned out I only have a slight problem with my prostate but nothing serious. Old age apparently.
But remembering that gratitude increases happiness, what am I thankful for in 2014?
At the beginning of May I finally gave up alcohol. And in September I gave up caffeine. These were two things I’d been trying to do for years, so well done me! (Pats self on back).
(By the way – if you want to quit alcohol all together but you are finding it hard or impossible, I can recommend Jason Vale’s book Kick the Drink Easily! Lots of people think they could just stop if they wanted to, but find it’s a lot harder than they think!)
In November I began keeping a food diary again, which is the only way I’ve found to lose a bit of weight.
I took more exercise this year specially cycling to work more.
All that has given me an increased feeling of health and wellbeing, so I plan to stick with all of those things.
These are things I sometimes have as New Year resolutions and then fail to achieve.
Resolutions never work unless we are prepared for a change of lifestyle.
Dieting for a coupe of months achieves nothing, if we just go back to unhealthy eating at the end of it.
As ever, I am very grateful for a loving family and the friends I have, and all the great supporters for the work we do in Africa and the UK.
I want to continue to take more simple steps to improve my life every month, so that the accumulated effect of these simple steps becomes transformational.
I’ll be putting together a FREE e-book and also publishing a more substantial book on Simple Steps to Improve Your Life in 2015.
If you want the link to the FREE e-book, it will only be available to members of my email list. They also get a FREE extra thought on life improvement each month. One email a month. No SPAM. I NEVER pass on your info to anyone else. Period.
One click unsubscribe option in every email.
You can sign up for FREE here.
Happy New Year! All the best for 2015!
Every morning just before you wake, the energy fairy visits you and gives you a portion of emotional energy for the day. Each one of us is allotted a similar amount of emotional energy every morning. When you have spent that emotional energy it’s more or less gone until the next day.
When that emotional energy is gone, everything you try to do seems harder. There are a few things you can do to recharge your emotional batteries and there are a few things you can do that will drain your emotional batteries.
This energy is limited so we need to be wise in how we spend each day’s allotted energy.
It is the source and power of all your creativity. So we need to understand that our best work will normally be achieved within three to four hours of waking.
This means that, where possible, we should do the most important things for the day in the morning, when our emotional energy is fully charged. Get up earlier if you have to.
Professional negotiators often plan important negotiations for late afternoon when the people they are trying to negotiate with will have fewer resources to argue with them. It’s easier for them to sell their ideas to people running on low emotional energy. So beware of agreeing in the afternoon to doing something you may later regret.
Depending on where you fit on the introvert/extrovert scale of things, you will likely gain energy in different ways. By the way, no one is either extrovert or introvert, but these are opposite ends of a scale, and all of us fit somewhere between to two. And please don’t confuse introversion with being shy or quiet either. Basically, the nearer to the extrovert end of the scale you are, the more likely that you gain energy through outside stimulus and being with a crowd. By contrast, the nearer you are to the introvert end of the scale, the more you are likely to gain energy from solitude and time to think.
For example, I’m nearer the introvert end of the scale. This surprises some people because I do a lot of public speaking, so I don’t appear shy. But that’s a misconception about introverts anyway. But I do need a daily dose of solitude and quietness to survive emotionally. I need to think and process the day.
By contrast, a friend of mine is more extrovert. He gains energy from outside stimulus. When he feels low, he’ll invite a load of people round for a barbeque. This recharges his emotional energy, whereas for me it would be quite draining after a while.
Once we identify what energises us and what drains us, we need to have sufficient periods of the thing that energises us. If we let several days go past without those energising activities we will start to feel stressed.
One more thing, avoid angry, negative or toxic people. Anger, negativity, and toxic behaviour will always drain everyone. Anger drains the angry person as well as those to whom the anger is directed. Everyone loses.
So take a step back. Observe when in the day you feel most alive and energised. When in the day do you feel most drained? Can you plan your day to use your higher energy times for your more creative activities?
I try to write first thing in the morning for an at least an hour. It’s my most creative time and I want to use it well. Things like admin, meetings and other stuff can wait till later in the day.
Social media can drain us too. Taking in lots of unimportant information, amusing cat videos, and similar stuff can use up our precious emotional energy. Chose a less important time in the day for that stuff if you want to maximise your creativity.
What about you? What gives you emotional energy? What drains your emotional energy?
The UK government has woken up to our problem with gaining too much weight. In the end it will cause health problems and more so in later life. The last few times I went to the doctor for a health check he told me I’m obese. The comedy moment is that the doctors and nurses who broke the unsurprising news… were all about my size or larger!
Many if not most seem to struggle with weight. Last year, over Christmas, I realised I had become overweight, was eating an unhealthy diet, and was taking very little regular exercise. When we did go walking in the countryside – one of our hobbies – I was getting breathless much earlier.
As we approach this Christmas, I feel a lot healthier. So what did I do?
I first lost over a stone in weight over a two to three month period in January to March.
At the beginning of May, I began to tackle my three ‘addictions’ – caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
While I was tackling my three addictions, I took my eye off the ball on the weight front and put the weight I lost back on. That’s OK because I really wanted to kill some of these ‘addictions’ first.
Now that they are overcome (though I’m still working on the refined sugar thing!) I went back to reducing my weight, and it’s working just as before.
I can eat anything I want but there is a limit if I want to lose weight.
It’s not rocket science. If you eat more than you use for energy, your body will store the surplus as fat.
My magic helper to lose weight – don’t worry, I’m not selling anything! It’s a FREE app available to anyone with a smart phone or computer. You tell it your current weight, your target weight (start by just aiming to lose a stone. You can adjust it later.) And then log your food and exercise each day and slowly and safely, the weight begins to drop after a few days.
Going for a ten-minute walk? Log that in and it will up your daily allowance of calories. I recommend walking for 10,000 steps a day or as near to that as you can get.
When you start, you may go over the target quite a bit like you can see I did! But this is the point. You can then see which items are the problem and eat differently.
The week I started, I was on a road trip up North. When I stopped at the services, I saw they had my favourite junk food shop. A bought a steak pastie. Actually, I bought two! I had left it late to have lunch and felt hungrier than I really was. One would have done. Then I made it worse by eating a large chocolate bar as I drove.
You can see which day it was as I went into the red on the graph.
BUT over that week it was easy to pull it back so the weekly average was in target.
This week has been more stable.
Logging what you eat is the key to losing weight. I can easily eat two thirds of a packet of biscuits if I am not thinking about what I am doing. But when I have to log them, and see the empty calories, I manage to have one or two rather than ten!
As you can see from this screen shot – we’re not having a lettuce leaf for dinner!
Some of my family lost weight on organised programs. They were effective but costly.
By contrast, MyFitnessPal is FREE.
I have no connection to the app or its owners. I am just a guy who was looking for a food-logging app and found a really great one. I highly recommend it.
At the moment the weight loss is going as predicted – a couple of pounds or more a week.
Another great feature is that you can link with a couple of friends and lose weight together, which is even more effective.
Try it. Let me know how you get on!
There is a lot wrong with the world – that’s true. There have been a lot of wrong things in my life, things that really hurt me, not least the loss of three family members back in the 1980s. That is also true.
For the last twenty years, a big part of my work has been helping adults and children in Rwanda recover from the horrors of genocide. I’ve seen some horrors in that country in the aftermath of the killing.
BUT… and it is a big BUT!
There is a lot we can be grateful for in the world. It doesn’t deny the injustice or the suffering in the world, but it does help.
Here’s the thing:
One of the steps of my own personal healing has been to learn to be intentionally grateful and thankful. I’ve spent years being depressed by what I lost. But I can’t change the past. By focussing on what we no longer have, we often miss the many things we do have.
Something happens when we give thanks for good stuff – it enriches our lives and releases joy in our spirit.
Over the next seven days, I am going to write down something I am thankful for each day.
We may have moments when something good happens that we are grateful for. But I am talking about being intentionally grateful, everyday.
If you woke up in a bad mood today – give thanks that you woke up today. Not everyone did…
If we want to build our gratitude muscle we have to nurture an attitude of gratitude by listing the things we are thankful for each day. As it gets stronger, it will bring us joy and happiness.
I once heard about a man called Tom who was always thankful. When he had an accident and broke his arm, his friend commiserated with him about his broken limb. But Tom said it was the best broken arm he had ever had!
Perhaps that is a little extreme but here is a short video to get you started.
What are you thankful for today?
Do you ever feel guilty just by being you? Do others express impatience with you when you are just trying to be you?
Let me explain. I’ve loved writing since I was fourteen years old and my Dad brought home an old fashioned black typewriter. I loved the clackety-clack sound of the keys as I typed. I loved the black and red inked ribbon. I wrote bad poetry and poorly written stories. But I wrote because I like to write.
When I grew up I had to go out to work. I had to do things that earned money to pay the bills. I worked in a factory, in a shop, in a community center, in a church and finally I started a charity to help some of the poorest people in the world. All those things earned me just enough money to keep my head above water. But no one paid me to write. I had to fit my writing in around other things. I wrote some booklets and finally published my first book.
All my life, other things have pushed my writing onto the sidelines. Sometimes I was busy trying to save the whole of Africa but really was just building an orphanage or a school or starting a feeding program for street kids. All those things take time and, once you start them, you have to see them through.
From time to time we all have to face the difficulties life throws at us – relationships, the end of an era, moving house, losing a job, trying to start something from scratch and so on.
It must have been during one of those times when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and a little low. Walking and chatting with a friend of mine, the situation looked impossible. Then he said something that changed my life.
‘Keep being you and keep doing what you love.’
I found that a very profound statement because the more I thought about it the more it made sense. When we are just being ourselves and doing what we love, it brings energy to our whole being. A photographer spending a day taking photos will find energy and joy in what they are doing. A painter likewise will come alive if they can spend a few days painting.
My best days are days like today, when I have marked a day in my diary to just be alone and write. It refreshes me. I used to have to take a day off to do this. But now I manage my own time, it’s not a day off, it’s a day ‘on’. It has taken me years to reach this point.
I’m not sure I have ever made any money from writing but writing leads to other things. Money is not the whole point. If we only focus on money, it will crush our creativity. But if we keep being who we are and keep doing what we love, we’ll get better at it and one day, maybe, we’ll become someone who makes money from what we do. But either way, we will be more alive, happier in ourselves, and more at peace with the world.
Having written a dozen or more books and having a few more in the pipeline, I am happy in my little writing corner. Some people ask ‘How are you able to write a whole book?’ Simple tip: write one page a day – between 500 and 1,000 words. Do that for 30 or 40 days and you have a book. (More writing tips on my other blog How to Publish Your Book.)
So who are you? What do you like to do?
Let me say to you what my friend said to me:
‘Keep being you. Keep doing what you love.’
At the start of 2014 I wanted to confront four addictions in my life.
Why these four things? I observed that many, if not most, of us in the UK live as though these are daily essentials. They are also four things where the negative effects outweigh the perceived benefits.
Maybe you think that ‘addiction’ is too strong a word for our relationship to these things, and maybe it is. But the vast majority of people seem to struggle to get through the day without all four.
We are surrounded by plastic. It is a useful material and is used to great benefit in many areas of life. I’ve not got a problem with that.
However, we are generating millions of tons of waste from single use plastic items like water bottles and milk containers and carrier bags and… And most of it ends up in the ocean.
There is so much plastic waste in the ocean that destroys life. Fish are eating it and when we eat the fish we are eating our own plastic waste.
That’s why I’m trying Plastic Free Tuesdays. It’s quite hard and requires a lifestyle change. We consume a lot of sparkling water, which previously came in single-use plastic bottles. So we switched to making our own sparkling water with a Soda Stream gizmo – one small example of how we have reduced our plastic waste. We are still working on this addiction.
Like most people, I really thought I needed that hit of caffeine first thing to crank up my body to face the day. But caffeine is a strong addictive drug. It is the fact that we are addicted to it that makes us think we ‘have to have it.’
Caffeine is in coffee but it’s also in tea – lots of teas not just ‘normal’ tea. It’s also in cola drinks and most energy drinks.
It might come as a surprise that caffeine is not just an addictive drug, it’s also a model drug of dependence
Caffeine is produced by more than seventy-five plants, which use it as a pesticide. That’s right – a pesticide! When we consume caffeine, our body thinks that some kind of emergency is happening. It floods itself with dopamine, epinephrine, cortisol, and acetylcholine. That’s what gives us that feeling of stimulation and being wide-awake and alert.
It takes about 24 – 36 hours to come off this drug so, if you are a daily consumer, prepare for a serious pounding headache for a whole day. Once you are off the drug, you’ll feel calmer, happier and less irritable. I quit thirty-six days ago and I’m not planning to go back. I no longer wake up with caffeine cravings and I can even have a cup of decaf right before bedtime and it doesn’t keep me awake.
I know I’ll have very few takers on this one! But… the whole nation has been brainwashed about this drug. A few facts:
- Each year more than £800 million is spent on advertising alcoholic drinks in the UK, with the global estimate approximating $1 trillion.
- In 2013 the UK government made £10.5 billion in tax on alcohol.
- Average alcohol consumption has gradually fallen in many OECD countries between 1980 and 2009 with an average overall decrease of 9%. The United Kingdom however, has seen an increase of over 9% in these three decades.
For me, the thing was that alcohol is a big fat liar!
It’s a lie that it helps us relax – if alcohol caused us to relax then, when two drunks get into a fight on a Friday night, we would give them some more alcohol to calm them down… We associate it with relaxation because we often consume it in relaxing situations, and in moments when we are in relaxation mode.
It’s a lie that it ‘takes the edge off.’ If there is an edge, it was probably caused by the effects of alcohol the previous day. A healthier diet can produce a steady feeling of calm.
As I said, I’m not expecting a queue to sign up to this one(!), but having eliminated it from my life 198 days ago, I have to say that life is better. So many are cranking themselves up with caffeine in the morning and then calming the feelings of irritablilty that causes in the evening, by using alcohol numb their feelings. This pendulous swing in our metabolism places stress on the heart and other organs.
If, like some people I know, you have a small glass of something once a year if you remember to, then it isn’t an issue you need to think about.
Here is the one I thought would be easiest and has proved to be the most addictive and difficult drug to kick. Our body needs some sugar and we can get the healthy version of this from things like fruit and honey. It’s the refined sugar that we get addicted to, and some have suggested it’s as dangerous as heroine.
Now the point of this blog is to suggest simple steps to improve your life. Tackling these three big beasties all in one year is a huge challenge. Also it may be possible to restrict or reduce them rather than giving up all together. So maybe pick the one that you think will be the easiest for you and see if you can go a week, a month, or a whole year without it.
I’ll let you know when I manage to kick the sugar (and the plastic!).
How many of these would you struggle to let go of?