What Should We Do Instead of Grimly Trying to Be Happy?

Dr Susan David, Harvard Medical School psychologist, author and consultant, says we need to apply “emotional agility”: a process of “holding difficult emotions and thoughts loosely, facing them courageously and compassionately, and then moving past them to ignite change in your life.”

In her TED talk, The gift and power of emotional courage, David says the worst thing you can do is try to push down your annoying feelings.

“When we push our difficult emotions aside, we fail to learn from them and recognise those difficult emotions contain signposts to things that we value, and if we can pay attention to the data we can adapt.”

David says the first step is to label our emotion, so we can separate from it. She advises using the phrase, “I’m noticing that I’m feeling…”, such as “I’m noticing that I’m feeling sad.”

“Research now shows that the radical acceptance of all of our emotions – even the mess, difficult ones – is the cornerstone to resilience, thriving, and true, authentic happiness.”

When feeling difficult emotions, follow this four-step process from Dr Susan David:

1. Show Up: Face your thoughts or feelings with curiosity and acceptance.

2. Step Out: Label your emotions so you can detach from them. See them for what they are, simply emotions, not who you are.

3. Walk Your Why: Use your core values to decide what to do about the emotion. For example, if you value fairness, you may choose to have a difficult conversation, rather than avoiding it because doing so reflects fairness to the individual, yourself and those around you.

4. Move On: In moving forward, make small, purposeful adjustments to align your mindset, motivation and habits with your core values. Make sure that these tweaks are connected to who you want to be in your life.

1 Thing You Can Do Today

Take a break from your phone

Life without a screen is close to impossible. We use devices to work, connect, and to play.

According to a recent report from Datareportal, worldwide, the average person spends a total of 6 hours and 57 minutes looking at a screen each day – with almost four hours of that on a mobile phone. The younger you are, the longer your daily average screen time.

Research is mounting that “excessive media and phone use is not good for us physically, mentally or emotionally,” says professor of psychology, Mary Gomes PhD.

“It is no surprise that incoming texts, emails and notifications are a near-constant presence for many people. Our moment-to-moment experience is being fragmented on an unprecedented scale,” she says.

Gomes regularly assigns a media fast in her classes, with her students reporting the following benefits:

  • More ‘present-moment awareness’. Students described more presence, sensory awareness, mindfulness and flow.
  • Deepened connections. The full richness of human relationships is best found face-to-face, says Gomes. The students reported improved connections with family, friends and classmates, finding a difference in conversations when phones were out of the way.
  • Productivity and learning. Any work that requires a focused mind will benefit from a media break, and studies have found the more distant the phone, the better the performance: when phones were placed in another room, learning improved notably, more than when they were tucked away in nearby backpacks. In the UK, secondary schools that banned phones on campus saw significant increases in student test scores.

Gomes believes we can all benefit from a fast from our phones, whether it’s a temporary breather, or an opportunity to create enduring change.

Fatigue At Work

In an ideal world, we’d never be tired at work. We’d be alert, energised and operating at our optimal level. We don’t live in an ideal world, and sometimes you might face fatigue at work.

Fatigue is more than tiredness. It is a state of mental and/or physical exhaustion which reduces a person’s ability to perform work safely and effectively.

It’s a real problem for two reasons.

Firstly, fatigue leads to more errors and higher risk of injury at work. This has implications for both you and your team-mates.

Secondly, long-term fatigue isn’t just hard to cope with, it also leads to long-term health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.

Do not ignore fatigue

If you’re feeling fatigued, you must speak up. Don’t try to brush it off, or try to hide it.

In the workplace, you have a responsibility to take reasonable care for your own health and safety and a responsibility to not adversely affect the health and safety of others.


Just as important for office workers

While terminology such as “effective control measures” may sound more suited to blue-collar worksites or shift workers, it’s just as important for those who work in the office.

Factors which may exacerbate fatigue for office workers include:

  • workloads and work schedules
  • work-related travel and work outside of normal hours (for example work a person has taken home to complete)
  • work practices, for example the degree of choice and control workers have over work hours, the pace of work and rest breaks, and the type of work culture.

Talk to your manager about the causes of your fatigue, to identify whether any workplace issues may be adding to the problem, and then work out a plan to reduce these factors.

Remember, fatigue is not weakness. It’s a natural biological reaction to experiencing too much or too little, such as too much exertion, or too little sleep.

Things People Say About Fitness That May Not Be True

Are you guilty of spreading misinformation about exercise and fitness? Here are 5 of the most common things we hear – just how true are they?

1. Sitting is the new smoking

We probably do sit too much, and physical inactivity isn’t good for us, but “let’s not demonise a behaviour as normal as sitting,” says Harvard professor of evolutionary biology Daniel E Lieberman.

“People in every culture sit a lot. Even hunter-gatherers who lack furniture sit about 10 hours a day.”

That said, there are healthier ways to sit. ‘Active sitting’ means getting up every 15 minutes or so to wake up your metabolism, and research shows this leads to better long-term health, Dr Lieberman also suggests that if you sit all day for work, pick a leisure activity that doesn’t involve lots of sitting.

2. Running will damage your knees

We tend to think of our joints a little like a car’s tyres or shock absorbers – that they will eventually wear out with overuse. Even though knees are a common site of running injuries, studies have shown that running, walking and other activities help keep knees healthy, says Dr Lieberman, and runners are, if anything, less likely to develop problems such as knee osteoarthritis.

He recommends learning how to run properly and train sensibly, which means not increasing your distance by too much, too quickly.

3. You can’t be fat and fit

Several studies have found that the association between early death and being overweight or obese disappears when fitness is taken into account. When you are not active, you have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, some cancers, depression and anxiety.

Even though someone who is a healthy weight but inactive may look OK, you can’t assume they are healthy.

“People who are fit and of normal weight have the best health outcomes, so there are still plenty of reasons to try to shed some weight,” says Professor Vandelanotte.

4. If you don’t sweat, you’re not losing weight

Not so. Sweat is how your body cools itself. It’s a biological response that cools your skin and regulates internal body temperature, and people vary considerably in how much they sweat. You can burn a significant amount of energy without ever breaking into a sweat.

5. If you have a chronic disease, you should avoid exercise
“This is not the case,” says Julie Broderick, Assistant Professor of Physiotherapy at Trinity College Dublin.

“Being more active will benefit a range of chronic conditions, including cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Be as active as your condition allows, aiming for 150 minutes a week of moderate activity if possible.”

If you have complex health needs, make sure you consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regime and get exercise advice from a physiotherapist or other exercise professional.

Get Sugar Wise to Protect Your Teeth

“Don’t eat sugar – it’s bad for your teeth.” We heard this as children, and we tell our own children too. Why is sugar so damaging? And how do we avoid it, when it seems to be added to everything?

Sugar is one of the biggest factors that can contribute to the development of tooth decay. Tooth decay is more than a nuisance. It can cause pain and infection, and in children can affect nutrition, speech and jaw development. If left untreated, tooth decay can go deeper into the tooth, which may start to look yellow, brown or black.

How does sugar damage teeth?

Have you ever noticed that sticky film on your teeth? That’s plague, and its stickiness means bacteria can cling to it. When plaque isn’t regularly removed by brushing and flossing, it can accumulate minerals from your saliva and harden into a substance called tartar that can only be removed by your dentist.

When you eat sugary foods and drinks, the bacteria in plaque feed on the sugars, producing acids in the process. It’s these acids that cause problems like cavities (decay) along with gingivitis and other forms of tooth decay.


Where is the sugar?

We know sugar is added to sweet food – confectionary, cakes, biscuits. You’ll also find it in many savoury foods including sauces, marinades, salad dressings, in breakfast cereals, and added to granola and protein bars.

Sugar is particularly easy to overconsume in soft drinks, with one 600ml bottles of soft drink containing 16 teaspoons of sugar. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults consume no more than six teaspoons of free sugar (sugar added to food and drink) a day to decrease the risk of tooth decay and unhealthy weight gain.

How to protect your teeth

  • Read labels. There are over 50 names for added sugar, including syrup, molasses, glucose, fruit juice concentrate, honey, coconut sugar and rice malt syrup. When you are shopping, look out for these on the list of ingredients.
  • Swap out sugary snacks for a piece of fresh fruit, or some plain, unsalted nuts and soft drinks for a glass of water.
  • Brush and floss. Brush your teeth twice a day, and floss daily to remove the plaque between your teeth.
  • Visit your dentist. It is recommended to see your dentist every six to 12 months so any tooth decay or gum disease can be spotted early and treated.