They say you should…”. It came up in a conversation around how, if you were to take all the “expert advice” about how to attain a healthy and happy life, that you would likely have no time to sleep in a day and even if you did, your head would be so frazzled by the large portion of contradictory advice, that you likely couldn’t sleep anyway!!! And “they say you should” get 8 hours! 


Taking the area of health alone, “they say that you should” eat x, y & z, and not only that but you should eat the “right” combination of macro- & micro- nutrients, at specific times of the day and measured in relation to your current weight.  “They say you should” get x amount of exercise, and that you need to include weights, cardio, flexibility workouts and ensure that your heart rate stays within a specific range.  “They say you should” not drink coffee, while others say coffee has numerous health benefits for heart and brain.  Get vitamin D but what about over exposure to the sun! etc. etc. etc. And these examples only cover the “they say you should”’s from one, of typically eight, segments on the wheel of life!  Extend the same “expert” (and often differing) opinions to leisure, love, friends, personal growth, finance, career and home life and you have a real head melt of expectations for yourself!! And we wonder why we are stressed!!


A mindful approach – for me, I go back to the basics when faced with challenges like this.  The foundations of mindfulness are generosity, gratitude, patience, trust, non-judging, non-striving, curiosity, acceptance, and letting go.  And here’s how I might apply them to this scenario.


So first off to say, so much of this information is solid and as a society we are so fortunate to have it at our finger tips.  I am so grateful to be living in an age and society where I am not struggling for basic needs… and I am also grateful for those researchers who have applied their passion and time to discover how we can make our lives even healthier and happier.  Unlike our grandparents, or parents even, we live in abundance rather than scarcity and the struggle we face is really how to manage abundance in all aspects of our lives… from information overload to food.


I think acknowledging and accepting that we can’t take it all in is the first step – no one can!  There is a constant flow of new information being published and is quite simply impossible to incorporate the infinite stream of new knowledge.  I am also letting go of the habit of taking on other’s expectations & the broad-stroke societal advice.  Instead more intentionally creating my own customised manageable set of standards for my health and wellbeing to the best of my knowledge, which is based on an equal balance of some “expert” opinion and, more importantly, on my own expert opinion of my unique body, relationships and life!  I remind myself that I am the expert of my body & life and the more I take time to connect in with my body (e.g. yoga) and mind (e.g. meditation), the better my research analysis is, so to speak.  Knowing that my body and life are changing all of the time means what might work best now might be different in the future, so being open minded and curious to what is being called for from day to day.


Also remembering that these “experts” are human, and as such imperfect and prone to inaccuracy and flaws like the rest of us.  A minority of these “experts” may even be open to receiving the odd brown envelope from a big corporation to advocate for their product or service!  So I trust my gut more, what feels right & that I know best for my unique self!


Last but not least, checking in regularly to my intention.  If ticking the boxes to achieve countless personal health & lifestyle metrics is resulting in me feeling exhausted, unhealthy & unhappy, then it’s defeating the whole purpose …that of cultivating health & happiness.    Sometimes I can get so caught up in the box ticking buzz (an old habit from the corporate world) that I forget the “why” of the whole exercise.  Regularly stepping out, taking a wider view and connecting with my intention keeps me on track more effectively than any traffic light scorecard ever did!