25 July 2022

Prevention or Cure? Latest official figures point to a life-changing choice

Almost half of us have one or more chronic health conditions and these conditions make up our leading cause of death. 

Would you prefer to read about statistics – or become one? 

Challenging question maybe, but when it comes to our health, it is clear that collectively Australians are not doing too well. In this post, a summary of the bi-annual report on our national health issued by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW); and then the choice…

Become a statistic, or read about them, and if you prefer reading, details of the one thing most likely to assist you to avoid becoming that statistic, but first, one of my own quotes seems relevant for this topic:

    Thought for the day

        To change your habits - the way you function

        First change your beliefs - the way you think

                     Ian Gawler

Almost half of all Australians have one or more chronic health conditions and these conditions make up our leading cause of death. 

While the cause or causes of any one individual’s health condition is likely to be complex, and having had what is well described as a major chronic degenerative disease myself; this post is not about blaming or shaming those who do have such conditions, but is all about encouraging those who are basically well to truly appreciate their current good health and realise there is plenty you can do to maintain that good health.

Here are 2 simple facts:

1. The major identifiable causes of chronic degenerative disease are lifestyle related

2. Lifestyle changes are known to significantly aid in recovery from chronic degenerative disease.

Here is a simple choice:

1. Get in early, adopt a heathy lifestyle and do all possible to not only avoid developing a chronic degenerative disease, but to experience chronic good health

2. Ignore the connection between lifestyle and health, hope for the best, and if the worst does turn up and a chronic disease ensues, then take up a healthy lifestyle to compensate.

Why is this choice so important? 

A staggering number of people alive today are dealing with major physical and mental health issues.

Every 2 years, the AIHW publishes its analysis of our collective health

 It makes for tough reading – and drove the writing of this post… 

Key points:

Almost half of all Australians have one or more chronic health conditions

        •      Chronic conditions are the nation's leading cause of illness, disability and death

Coronary heart disease and dementia are the leading causes of death overall

For young Australians, accidents and suicide are the leading causes of death

        •      Over one third of Australia's "disease burden" is due to preventable risk factors, such as smoking, physical inactivity and poor nutrition

Two in three Australian adults are overweight or obese

Three in 10 adults do not get enough physical activity

Less than one in 10 adults consume the recommended amount of vegetables

        •      Some good news - smoking rates have fallen to a record low of just 11 per cent

        •      One in two Australian adults experience a mental health disorder during their lifetime

        •      Average levels of psychological distress were higher in 2020, 2021 and early 2022, especially in younger people, and there was also an increase in self-harm and suicidal ideation presentations to emergency departments

In 2020, an average of nine people died every day by suicide

        •      More than half of all deaths by suicide were among people aged 30-59, and males were three to four times as likely as females to take their own life

$202.5 billion was spent on health in 2019-20, about $7,900 per person

Children born in 2020 can expect to live to 83 

AIHW: Australia's Health 2022

About the only statistic listed I would be happy to be associated with is the one where so few people are smoking these days (not that I ever did fortunately).

The rest of these statistics do strike me as something of an inditement against our culture. Almost half of us have a chronic disease. Around half experience mental health disorders during their life! $202.5 billion spent on health on one year. Something is not working…

What to do?      While there is obviously no simple fix, consider this… 

1.     What decides what you eat, and how much of it?

Not who – we know who that is, at least primarily, that would be you. No not who, what decides? 

2.     What decides what you drink, and how much of it?

Is it “just” a
habit? Or a craving? If so, where does that habit or craving reside???

3.     What decides how much you exercise?

Clearly for all these crucial lifestyle factors, it is our mind that decides. And if our mind is confused, mis-informed, agitated, stressed, anxious, depressed, angry, jealous and so on; clearly that mind will not function at its best and is highly likely to make choices that will prove difficult either in the short term, or long term.

Is there a simple answer?

 No. But there is a guaranteed sensible starting point – work on your mind. The more we have inner peace, clarity and contentment, the more likely we are to notice what impact our lifestyle choices have on us and those around us, and the more we are likely to make good lifestyle choices.

Having worked in Lifestyle Medicine for nearly 50 years, I am convinced the best self- help technique, the best act of kindness we can offer to ourselves, is to learn to meditate and then maintain a regular (as in daily) practice.

Hence my commitment to teaching meditation. 

Hence my commitment to developing and making accessible the Allevi8 meditation App. 

Hence my tendency to get carried away as an advocate for meditation! 

But this bit is simple...

Regular meditation does bring mental clarity, inner peace and contentment, and while these 3 are worthwhile in their own right, the more you experience them in your own life, the better choices you are likely to make concerning that life. Good health, as well as healing, starts in the mind...

Happy Meditating!!! 



11 July 2022

The challenge of a daily meditation practice – and 7 top tips that make it happen

Pardon the big gap in blog posts – did the COVID dance (all OK now), then busy with a round of meditation teaching events. Will be in Adelaide Wednesday for an evening of meditation ...

From recent questions and discussion comes the reminder – the most important thing with mindfulness or meditation; more important than any aspect of the practice itself, is actually to develop and sustain a regular practice. Regular as in daily…

So this week, insights from the talks combined with years of feedback. 

Establishing and maintaining regular practice may not be easy, however, it is doable. 

Follow these 7 tips and enjoy your practice, but first

Thought for the day

Start by doing what is necessary;

Then do what is possible; 

And suddenly you are doing the impossible.

St Francis of Assisi


Seven top tips to help you establish a daily meditation practice 

1. Motivation

When your motivation is really strong, you just do it. 

If a meditation beginner, take time to consider – what is my motivation? Speaking personally, I had planned to take up meditation for many years, however, it was not until I developed cancer that I began; and with the sense my life was on the line, regular practice became easy. 

Hopefully your situation is not so dire, but you get the message…

If you are one of the many long-term meditators who bounce in and out of regular practice, this is where to start – reflect deeply on the why; gain clarity around your motivation and then the how becomes much easier.

2. Intention

Intention is all about making a clear plan. Experience tells us beginning with a modest plan seems to work better for most people. Rather than set high expectations for yourself and falling short, better to start slowly and build – build your practice time, your confidence and your meditation habit.

The key thing is to aim for a little each day. 

So what feels doable? 

Listen to one recording on an app each day? 

Do 10 minutes a day? 

Twenty minutes? 

Some can go straight into longer sessions twice daily, even 3 times if the need is strong. 

Reflect on your motivation, your need. 

Start conservatively and aim to build to what you imagine as ideal for you.

3. Commitment

Yep, just do it! What else is there to say? Except it is not always that easy. 

When I first started teaching meditation, many of the people I was helping had major health or other personal issues with which to contend. They understood the theoretical benefits of meditation and were keen to practice, yet it amazed me how many found it difficult to establish a regular practice. 

By contrast, I remember many who became what is best described as uncompromising. One long-term meditator described his daily practice as “non-negotiable”! He said there were things he would do often, things he would do when he could or when the mood moved him, but he was so clear how important his meditation practice was to his good health and his wellbeing, it was a non-negotiable – both for him and for others. Nothing came in the way of this daily practice. It was an absolute commitment to himself.

So if the commitment is strong – easy. But if the commitment waivers, there is still hope! 

To strengthen your commitment, maybe share it with those close to you. 

One good way to lapse is to avoid accountability. Tell no one and it is easy to slide. Tell the world and it feels awkward to slip. 

Some find going public like in social media, announcing your intention, seeking support, providing progress reports and so on; some find this very helpful, others not. It is a personal choice, but many do find seeking help with accountability very useful.  

And four more tips to come :)

4. Establish a routine

Lock your meditation practice into the normal rhythm of your day.

Some accomplish this by making a regular time commitment – 7am or 6pm or whatever time reliably you can make to practice.

Many others find it better still to estabish their practice between pre-existing habits. 

So if in the habit of shower and breakfast in the morning, make it shower, meditation, breakfast. 

Then on weekends or when other events affect your timing, you still have a reliable routine to support your practice.

Your adopted routine is another aspect of your practice that will be beneficial to share with the people close to you, especially if you live together. 

That way they can support you, both with gentle – or firm reminders (as you request and agree), and give you the space when you need it.

5. Be prepared

Aim to do most of your meditation practice in the same place and leave it ready to go again next time. 

What works best for you? A cushion or chair? A shawl or blanket? A shrine? Incense? Need matches? Maybe a notebook and pen in case the need to record an insight arises?
Also, be clear about what practice you intend to do. Make sure you have access to whatever app or recording you may use to support your practice.

Be prepared so when you go to your place of meditation, you can relax into it and simply begin… 

6. Reward Yourself

Of course the practice is its own reward. Of course. 

But we are talking here of getting something done reliably! So the next tip, especially for beginners, is to consider treats that reward a block of practice.

Is it as simple as regarding a post-practice cuppa a reward?

Is it going to a movie or a special night out after a month of daily practice?

What about committing to a retreat after 3 or 6 months of regular practice?

Consider what might work for you – how much practice results in what reward?

7. Track your progress

For many, this can be a big one. Keeping a record of what practice you have done increases your sense of accountability. There is something very appealing, and very effective about this.

You could use a calendar or go high tech and use one of the many new tracking apps that are available. Our Allevi8 app has this function built in.

Do aim to focus upon what you have achieved and celebrate that; and do aim to avoid beating yourself up when you miss a session. Use the gap to strengthen your resolve.

Establishing a new daily habit is a process

May these tips help you accomplish just that, and may you find joy in the practice itself…

MEDITATION EVENING IN ADELAIDE - Wednesday 13th July 7 - 9pm