I have made some pretty big changes in my life recently and, as a result, I like myself a heck of a lot more. I don't take things so seriously all the time and there is a lot more fun and laughter in my life. I wanted to share with you some ways I achieved this and here they are, my Top 7 Tips.
1. Go to the bookshop and spend some time in the Kids' section. As a child I loved to read the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. When I'd finished that night's chapter I would switch off the light, snuggle under my blanket and drop off to sleep as I imagined myself off on some wondrous adventure. As you stand in the bookshop, pick a book which catches your eye and buy it. Then rush home, pour yourself a glass of ginger beer and immerse yourself in some faraway fantasy land. Be a kid all over again.
2.Pat yourself on the back. And I mean literally. When I've just finished a tough run, or swum a whole heap of lengths, I physically pat myself on the back and say, 'Well done Mark, good job!' I do it every time without fail and it puts a smile on my face and makes me feel rather proud of myself for my achievement.
3.Climb a tree (and even fall out of one if you want). I grew up on a farm and spent most of my non-school time climbing things, anything really, but my favourite thing to scale up was a tree. Preferably really tall ones with lots of branches. From up high I could keep a look out for bandits coming to steal our sheep. So go out into the local woods, the park, on to the village green, anywhere with some decent sized trees. Then take off your coat and drop your adult-inhibitions and start climbing. Don't look down. Just climb. Then when you want to come down, why not swing from a branch and drop, dramatically, to the ground (to a rapturous and bemused round of applause from your kids).
4.Speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a friend. How often do we berate ourselves for not doing something quite as we had it planned out in our minds? Maybe you got a bit tongue-tied giving a presentation at work that day. Or you had to stop 2km short on your morning run because you were wiped out. We can be incredibly harsh and cruel to ourselves. Imagine your friend (let's call her Linda) came to you and said, 'Can you believe I could only swim 20 lengths today, I told myself I had to swim for 50. I am such a loser!' You wouldn't say to Linda that yes she was a loser. You'd tell her she did well to swim at all (you hadn't!) and that 20 lengths was a great amount of exercise. You'd be kind to her. Well do the same and be kind to yourself.
5.Go camping. Maybe in the woods (see point three!) or out in the back garden. Tell the kids you're all going off on a mini-adventure, or go it alone (Bear Grylls eat your heart out). Dust off your rucksack, grab the sleeping bag, pack some food, buy a map and a torch, and go off and spend a night under canvas. Gather some kindling and light a fire, tell some ghost stories, have fun away from the 'real world'. I did this the other night, I went to some local woods, pitched my tent and woke up as the sun was rising through the trees. I felt very blessed and truly alive.
6.Write. Write. Write. Every morning as soon as I wake up (and then whenever I feel like it throughout the day) I write at least three pages in my notebook. I write whatever comes into my head. It is for your eyes only, so just go ahead and write. If it doesn't make sense or sounds daft, it doesn't matter. Those are the words you have written, so just go with the flow. I sometimes find I write about the dreams I had that night. Often I will start writing about something I hadn't realised had been on my mind, but that has made itself known. I can then act on and resolve issues I didn't even know had been bothering me. I find this is a very effective way for your sub-conscious to make contact with your conscious mind. (I always carry a notebook and pen with me, so I can do some writing whenever I feel I want to).
7. My final tip (and a personal favourite) is to take off your shoes and socks and go for a barefoot walk (or run). Nothing makes you feel more connected to the planet than this. It is especially nice doing this on a warm Summer's day in a field of soft, welcoming grass. Just let your feet do their thing, feel like part of nature and do a bit of re-connecting.