My six-year old son, Henry, started year 1 this week. This got me thinking about school and about learning in general – how kids lap it up and how our education shapes our whole lives. And I thought it was time, like Henry, to learn a few new skills.
So this year, I’m going to focus on two things: how to be still and how to move more.
About being still
Sound paradoxical? Let me explain. The ‘being still’ part is meditation, and the prompt came from Henry, my six-year old son. While I was sorting out his school stuff (he started ‘proper school’ this week) I came across his 2016 self-assessment form. In it he had to name what he considered the year’s highlight and success. He chose meditation! You can see his innovative spelling below.
I was touched and delighted. Research shows that meditation focuses, clarifies and improves thinking. It also has a host of other physical and psychological benefits. To Henry, it comes as easily as brushing his teeth and he’ll have it all his life because he learned it when he was young.
For ages, I’ve been promising to make meditation a daily practice and this year I’m going to learn how, and I’m going to do it. I’ll start small – a few minutes only – and go from there.
About moving more
By moving more, I don’t mean formal exercise, scheduled around work or on weekends. I mean during working hours, as part of how we do our jobs.
You see, Henry’s new venture got me thinking about schools have changed since my day (sorry, didn’t mean to sound like a granny). It wasn’t just what we were taught, but how. Remember the rote learning, the long lines of desks? Most of all, remember how we were made to sit still for hours until we did it so well we kept doing it through high school and university and into our adult TV-watching lives? I mentioned this to Brad Leeon, my Pilates instructor. He pointed out that having mastered the art of sitting, we now need to un-master it because prolonged sitting is one of the unhealthiest and most ageing things you can do to your body.
Today, learning styles have changed. Rote learning has been replaced by investigation, long lines of desks by collaboration spaces. Teaching has become more flexible and dynamic and this means kids are being encouraged to move about during class time.
Similar changes are playing out in the workforce. Springday Project Manager Anna Maria Rose has just returned from Amsterdam and Stockholm where she met Colliers International, who are rolling out workplace solutions, including a technological strategy, to maximise wellbeing – like, for example, integrating walking routes into work spaces, so staff can have walking meetings.
We’re passing this learning on to other clients, including discussing possibilities with Telstra NBN on sponsoring an activity challenge with an in-building route marked out with masking tape. Each week, winners will have a shoe imprinted on the route, like a star on the walk of fame.
A second idea is to limit meetings to sessions of 25 or 50 minutes max, allowing people to walk and stretch between meetings rather than rushing from one chair to another.
Also, Springday’s working with device partners Garmin on better Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This means we can get time-stamped data and so from mid-year we’ll be running activity-based challenges on activities done , for example a goal of 3000 steps between 9am and 3pm.
At home, too, people are taking on the challenge of un-mastering sitting still. In a recent article, titled How To Trick Your Body Into Being Younger, author Sarah Berry quotes research which shows that today even older people are more aware of physical activity.
In active cultures, such as hunter-gatherer cultures, people that survive live longer and healthier lives. Scientists have long advocated movement, both scheduled exercise and incidental movement, as good for your health. Now they’re finding out how beneficial simply standing up can be. ‘Standing more activates the postural muscles’, says exercise physiologist Dr Bill Sukala. ‘Simply being upright and gravity-bearing activates those muscles and helps to activate those fat and sugar sponges…that reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.’
The body, says Sukala, doesn’t always know age, but it definitely knows neglect. So, he says, use it or lose it with mobility and movement.
So this year, my back to school project is to learn to meditate and do it daily, and to work out how to keep moving while I work. Why don’t you join me? Let’s do it together. Email if you’re interested and I’ll add progress reports, tips and advice to the newsletter.
We did it!
For those of you who’ve been following, my 2017 started with a big bang. Our yacht, Springday Pazazz, made it to Hobart in stunning fashion. We came first in our division, beating the second-place getter by 80 seconds. Yes, after 3 days and 53 minutes at sea, we won by 80 seconds!! Here is the Springday Pazazz boat opening the highlight video and my Dad’s shiny smiley face basking in his achievement at the 1.55 mark.
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