Creature of Habit

Whether I like it or not, I am a creature of habit, especially in the morning. A habit is a little oasis of comfort in my day. I know exactly how to do something and there are never surprises with habits. I repeat the same mini routine the same way and I get the same outcome. It feels deliciously, smugly comfortable. Oh, and don’t let anyone mess with my little habit. I find myself getting defensive, even aggressive, as I try to protect my comfort zone.

There are two classes of habits, good habits and bad habits. Both are formed in the same way, through repetition. By repeating a sequence over and over again, it becomes programmed into our sub-conscious. If you have taught a child how to tie their shoelaces, you will know how complex the task is. Trying to co-ordinate all those fingers and the two laces takes huge concentration but when was the last time you had to put any energy into that task? Now it is quick and easy, a habit, a program run by the sub-conscious which leaves you free to chat or think about where you are going to find the car keys.

What we think, what we feel and what we do form our reality. This is a comforting thought when it comes to the good stuff in life. If the way we do things gives us positive results then we want to be able to repeat those good results. A habit does just that. It enables us to repeat a “dance” of specific thoughts, emotions and physical movements which result in a desired outcome, with very little energetic input on our part. When last did you have to think about which bunny ear goes where when tying your shoelaces?  You still think the same thoughts but your brain does it all automatically in the background. Habits, by nature, take very little conscious thought, very little energetic input, and so, are more easily done. Being “in the habit” of doing exercise every day makes it easy to get out of bed and out the door for your run. It’s after a holiday that you feel more effort; you have to fight a little harder with yourself to get out and do.

Many of our habits are so ingrained, there is little to no conscious awareness when we do them. Have you ever gone cold with the thought that you have no recollection of closing the door as you left for work. Your thoughts were elsewhere and your subconscious closed up for you, locked the door, got into the car and started driving down the road.

Habits give us a repeatable, dependable outcome. They are a wonderful strategy for change in your life. If we are in the habit of thinking the same thoughts, feeling the same emotions and doing the same things every day, then our life will be same every day. If we want a different outcome, we need to change our habits, make new ones. Sometimes it is easier to start a new habit of NOT doing something. If you don’t want to eat chocolate every day, make a habit of not buying chocolate. If you want to move more, than maybe you need to think of NOT MOVING less; less TV, less Facebook, less Instagram.

Habits are always hard to begin with but with repetition, practice, it gets easier with time. Motivate yourself by thinking of the outcome, how your life will change if you do this today. How will life be in a few years’ time if you DON’T do this now? The choice is yours to make. The habit is yours to begin.

Wishing you luck in your new endeavours, start today and Keep Moving.

The Shape of your Cup

Winter is on its way, the season of snugly, warm jerseys, thick socks and layers of loose clothes which allow me to let my tummy hang out without anyone being able to see it. It is a time to curl up on the sofa with a book, to be languid and lazy and self-indulgent. The importance of building our energy for the distant seasons of spring and summer cannot be denied, but there is a price to be paid if we are not careful. The curling up, the sitting, the bending of our elbows and knees to conserve heat, inevitably results in feelings of tightness which gets worse with age. So what exactly causes these rusted feelings?

In a word… fascia, also known as connective tissue. My favourite analogy is that of an orange. The orange has its skin on the outside and segments on the inside. Each segment is divided into tiny cells filled with the delicious nectar we call orange juice. In a way, we are not too different from an orange. We too have skin on the outside. Inside we have our fascia or connective tissue. Instead of thinking of your muscles and bones being connected by fascia, think of fascia as the pockets which contain every muscle, nerve, bone and organ, much like the cells of an orange. Fascia quite literally gives the cup that is us, shape. Over years we all take on a distinctive shape, depending on our perception of our environment, our habits and our lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle, involving long periods of sitting in front of a computer or behind the steering wheel of a car, will result in tightening and thickening of the fascia. This feels like you are wearing clothes which are a size or two too small. The clothing restricts your movement so that you can’t quite reach those shoe laces and your clothes cut into you and block you from reaching the top shelf. The more frequently you adopt a particular position, the more permanent that shape will become. Your muscles are encased in fascia so if the fascia is tight, the muscle cannot stretch to its full potential. The sensations you feel when stretching, the rusted feelings, come not from muscle, but from the fascia.

Unlike an inanimate cup, your fascia is very much alive and constantly remodels itself. It has far more proprioceptors than muscle and it can react to a threat five times faster than the nervous system. It is the fascia which causes us to pull away from the pain of a needle prick or to brace when we trip. We literally pull ourselves together under stress, tightening the fascia as we go into the fight or flight response to danger, real or perceived. Fascia is a continuous web, much like a spider web, which distorts when one part is pulled. Like a spider web, restriction in one part of the fascia affects the whole web and may result in pain or discomfort somewhere else in the body.

As you know, it is impossible to separate the mental, emotional and physical aspects of our being. Fascia is no different. I find Rebalancing Deep Tissue massage to help tremendously with physical discomfort. My clients all report feeling better, looser, more comfortable after a massage.  But the fascia also carries and stores emotion and it’s not unusual for the massage to trigger an emotional release which may or may not be the cause of physical discomfort in the body. The combined effect of pressure and touch, together with a safe, warm atmosphere, allows the neurology to relax into a parasympathetic state. Blood pressure will drop, heart rate and respiration slow down and cortisol levels may also drop. You feel relaxed and calm, anxiety levels lower and tension seems to melt away.

When it comes to lowering stress levels this winter, Rebalancing Deep Tissue Massage is a wonderful option, no matter what the shape of your cup or the weather outside.

Until next time, and for the sake of your fascia… Keep Moving.