Before we start, this episode contains some chat that might be triggering for some listeners, if that sounds like it might apply to you. Check the show notes for more details.
Hello and welcome to A Happy Place with me from Cotton. This is the show that asks what little things we can all be doing to make sure we're kind to ourselves as we are to the people that we love today. A doctor with a wealth of ideas to keep your mental health in check. It's Dr. Wrong'un Chatterji. How do we become more in tune? I think we need to guard solitude, even if it's just five minutes or ten minutes a day where there's no incoming noise, because then you can start to tap in.
I don't feel good today like I feel for the stress today or I wonder if that was something that I had late last night.
You know, I think I can eat or 10:00 p.m. It's that why I feel a bit groggy today.
I feel that's one of the most important things I've been sliding on into wrong and DM's for quite some time now.
So I'm very excited that I finally got the chance to sit down for a proper chat with him. Before we get into that, I want to take a moment to say thank you to we do the sponsors of this series of happy place we do are a professional natural hair care brand with a conscience.
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Hey, Wrong'un, I was so glad the last we're getting to chat, this has been a long time coming. I know that we've been we've been sort of Demming on Instagram going, when can we make this happen? And here we are at last. Yeah.
And I'm really excited about being on your podcast. And yes, we've been trying to make this happen for a long time.
And but we've had quite a few fun Dems voice messages back and forth. So I feel like I feel we've got to know each other quite well, even though we've never met yet.
I know I'm a big fan of The Voice now. I'm I can't be bothered to text. It just feels all so laborious. And I can never quite get the tone of what I want to say. So my mates are driven, marred by me leaving. It could be like a five minute voicemail about what episode of the Crown. So I'm glad that you're not used to the way that I like to work.
Do you do that on WhatsApp or on Instagram? Both. Anyway, anyway, so.
So one of my top discoveries of lockdown, it's my friend Jodi. He told me, he says when you leave a voice message, you don't have to press the button all the way down on WhatsApp.
You can just slip it up and go left. I was like, oh, man, this is amazing. I can talk and I can speak for ten minutes now.
But I guess there's a surprise. You can have a whole one hour voice message if you want now.
Oh, I know. It's outrageous. Well, this is the next level of getting to actually chat on Zoome and I have a really nice lengthy discussion.
And like I was saying to you, Unvoice know, this weekend it was really easy in a sort of fluid way to to sort of structure what I want to ask you today, but also really difficult, because this could end up being like a five hour podcast, because there's so many things that I'm naturally so interested in.
And I think so many of the listeners will be as well. So we're just going to be under and see where we end up.
But first of all, I wanted to ask you, because, you know, you and I are from very different backgrounds, yet we both get sort of plopped into that well being category.
And I wonder how you feel about that word that more recently is perhaps sometimes misused or or used in a confusing way. How do you feel about the word well being?
Yeah, I think it's a really good point that I feel very comfortable with it, if I'm honest, because I think I understand what I mean when I say well being. But I do think the word and the concepts has perhaps been hijacked.
And, you know, it's potentially become something where people feel, oh, this is just for the middle classes or people with money. You know, this is not relevant to everybody in society. That's certainly through my lens as a GP and as a as a doctor who's been, you know, seeing patients for nearly 20 years now.
I'm very passionate that actually health and wellbeing can be and should be available to everyone, the richest in society and the poorest in society. And always at the front of my mind when I'm trying to talk about these things on Instagram or in my books or on my podcast, I'm always thinking, is this accessible? Is this accessible to everyone? I think that comes from me just the way I've been brought up by my family. But, you know, I've worked in lots of different kinds of practices.
I've worked in affluent middle class suburban practices, but I've also works in inner city ones. And there was one in particular for seven years, I worked in an Oldham in North Manchester, inner city proccess, very low, what's called socio economic status. Tough life for a lot of people, benefits a lot of single parents, a lot of people working two or three jobs to make ends meet.
And I learned that actually that wellness is just as applicable to them.
If you take time to communicate in a way that feels relevant to them, you know, for example, five minutes of journaling a day, you know, take that as an example.
If your life is really stressful, if you're struggling to make ends meet, but you take five minutes for yourself to actually write down how you're feeling, you're going to be better able to deal with whatever life throws at you. Doesn't mean I can, you know, make your financial problems go away. But how you interact with that problem, the space between kind of stressor and response becomes bigger for people.
And so I'm passionate, firm that this stuff is relevant to everyone.
And I'm so want to I always lead with compassion, with kindness. And is this relevant for everyone? Now, that doesn't mean I do not accept that where you grow up strongly influences your health status.
You know, if you grow up in a deprived and poor area compared to an affluent area, you have a worse life outcomes, right?
Sometimes ten years of difference in life expectancy. So it's not as if I'm blind to that.
But in my Worldfund, there's this debate over the term lifestyle medicine. Right? So I, I use the term I don't love the term, but I use it. And like everything in the world, it becomes polarised, people say, oh, that's ridiculous, we should just be focused on changing society. If we make society fairer, if we reduce inequality, reduce poverty, we're going to improve health outcomes.
And I don't disagree with that. But it doesn't mean that empowering individuals with a few little bits and bobs that they can apply to their own life doesn't have value as well. I think it's become very black and whites where it's like it's either or you can't advocate for helping people because that means you're not taking it seriously, that it's a societal issue. And I think. Well, that's kind of both.
Of course it's both. I mean, you could so heavily influence one person in a very positive way that then has a huge ripple effect, not only through the generations, but also, you know, within people, circles and communities that they make small changes that can have a huge impact. And I do think it does have to be both for sure. You know, like you were saying that, you know, talking around this lifestyle, wellness or giving people the tools which are accessible, free things that you can do every day to improve wellness and health.
It seems from the work you've done from the TV shows that you've done, obviously you come from this sort of 20 years of medical background, but you seem to approach things in what seems to me to be a sort of non-traditional way coming from that world. Would you say?
That's correct? You know, I think you're spot on often, and I don't think that that was always obvious to me. You know, I'm what I call a real world doctor. So what do I mean by that? I mean, science research very much interests me, but what interests me more is getting the patient in front of me better.
And that may seem like a contradiction, but it isn't right that the research doesn't always help you help that individual in front of you.
That's why I believe medicine as an art. There's a bit of science as well, but it's more art than science. I feel that it's about understanding what's going on in that person's life. How does their stress levels, how does how does their upbringing, how does their social status, how do all these things influence the way that that person feels?
And I don't feel I feel medicine are very proud to be a doctor, but I think that's a problem in medicine at the moment. We are taught a very reductionist model in medical school. You know, we're taught to diagnose and treat. Everything is reduced down to what's the problem? How can we fix this? And you know what, 40, 50 years ago, Thurn, that probably worked really well.
Most of what we saw were problems. So, you know, you turn up with a pneumonia and the doctor says, hey, you've got pneumonia. I've heard that on the stethoscope. The blood test has confirmed that's that's the problem. Here's a pill. If you take that three times a day for a week, your pneumonia is going to go away. And for most people, it would be.
The problem now is, is that the health landscape of the UK, but frankly, most countries around the world has changed. So most of what we see now is driven by chronic disease that in many ways is influenced by our collective modern lifestyles. Honestly, 80 percent of what I see is typically influenced by our collective modern lifestyles.
Nothing I'm not putting blame on. People want to say that, right? I'm not saying people are doing it to themselves. I'm saying modern life is tough. Right. The norm in society is to be stressed out, sleep deprived, not move your body and have access to cheap, crappy, really tasty foods that actually spikes dopamine in your brain, which means you're more likely to have it over and over again. So almost trying to be healthy is is kind of like a revolutionary act and.
Yes, going against the grain. Yes. So I kind of feel, you know, I've had so many turning points in my career, but one of them often was when I as a GP, I was just looking at my list.
At the end of one day, I'd see nearly 50 patients.
This is maybe seven, eight years ago. I looked at the whole list and I thought, how many people wrong and have you really helped?
And honestly, I thought 20 percent of really helped the other 80 percent.
I've done something I've maybe sent there for a test.
I've probably given them a prescription, but I really felt I just got a sticking plaster.
I felt they'll be back.
And it was it was unsatisfying for the patient and it's very unsatisfying for me. So I've gone on this journey. I've got to say, people who want doctor in the house was life changing for me because although I had this Inclan with that show, I got to spend four to six weeks living alongside families.
I, I got to see what is really going on, not what they tell me is going on.
What's actually really going on, what's the relationship like, what is the stress levels like, what is actually in their cupboards.
What are they doing before bed. Not what they tell me they're doing before bed.
And it's changed me as a person. It's changed me as a doctor. And I fundamentally believe that every single one of us, a few small things that we can do every day will have a profound impact on the way that we feel on our health. And so. But to your question, am I nontraditional? Well, I come from a traditional family of doctors. My dad was a doctor. Lots of people in my family are.
But I guess I've also had that Asian that Indian upbringing where we learn about the concepts of food being medicine. You know, when we're not well, we have, you know, hot water and turmeric or extra turmeric in our curry.
And, you know, for me, I think I don't want to find myself in a camp. You either traditional or alternative. Well, I'm like, well, I'm sort of both. I'm whatever that patient needs.
Basically, I find it really interesting when looking at, you know, what is traditional or historically has been seen as science because, you know, what is the definition of science?
How much data do you have to collate to then say there's a scientific outcome? Because surely there are just some routes that you're now exploring and methods that you are creating, like your four pillars, which will come onto in a minute. But if there's just less research done in perhaps a more holistic approach or just something that's seen out of the box, couldn't that become a scientific outcome if there was enough research and data to explore that method?
Yeah, I think we've become enslaved by what the scientific publication says, and I understand where that has come from. But a lot of these things just haven't been studied.
But you know what's really exciting and I think in pretty much all my books, I reference this at some point. It's like a lot of this isn't new, right?
Like we're now finding out that actually different organs are more active at different times of the day.
Your liver, your kidneys.
What traditional Chinese medicine is saying this for thousands of years, whites, but they've been pooh poohed by modern medicine for, oh, where's the evidence?
Well, tell you what, the evidence is kind of showing up now and now drug companies are thinking, should we give this drug at a particular time of day to try to better take advantage of that? You know, the stuff on turmeric now is an anti inflammatory compound and how it changes your genetic expression.
What kind of Ivy League medicine has been saying that for a number of years? And so if I'm honest, then I kind of feel it's sort of reflective of everything in society.
Now you have to choose your camp.
You know, you're either low carb or you're vegan, you're either pro science or you anti science.
It's kind of like, well, we've got you like human being. Yeah. Yeah. And the other piece of this is we can't just enforce what we think are certainly as adults. So. Right. My job isn't to be in a camp.
My job is to help the person in front of me in the context of their life. Right.
So if someone comes to see me and they have a problem with eating animal products, for example, and they feel very strongly, ethically and morally, that that is not for them.
Well, if my camp in my head is a meat eating Kito sort of diet, then I've got a bias.
How can I help that person? And vice versa. If someone loves eating meat and they want to come and see me and they're not interested in a plant based or vegan lie, so I've got to help them.
So I feel as a doctor, I've got to be open minded. I can't take sides because my job is to help the person in front of me, whoever that is, and whatever their beliefs are.
I think that's such a brilliant point to bring up because I think people feel pressured to be either I'm completely holistic or I always follow what, you know, scientifically, medically is put in front of me. You know, we're seeing at the moment with a pandemic, it's so divisive because people think they have to be on one side or the other.
But it's like it with everything, with food. And it's generally because there's so much judgment around people not aligning 100 percent to one way of life.
And I think, like you've said, it's absolutely fine and completely normal to take things from all different aspects of what's going on in the world to to work for you, for the individual is so interesting what you just said there about looking at the origins of some of these ideas that we've morphed into modern day concepts, whether it be, you know, using wonderful spices and and different ways of cooking or looking at Chinese medicine. And I've been massively interested in five Elaman acupuncture and Chinese medicine for a long time now.
I've I've had the treatment myself for about fifteen years, and I've learned what I can from the people that I've met who practice it. And it's it's not that commonly practised these days, but it's so interesting looking at the elements. And obviously, like you said, it talks very much about the organs and at what point of the day they're most active and reactive to what's going on.
And the thing that I've loved to learn is that each of us has one element that we have a weakness in.
And my weakness is the wood element.
So from that, the practitioner is able to to treat the wood and to help create equilibrium in my body. But so much of it definitely aligns to how I am as a person.
So if you're if you're weak in wood, you're you're kind of like a flower trying to burst through the snow to help spring. Kind of move on, and I often so feel like that I'm, you know, really fighting and pushing to try and get somewhere. And it feels like a bit of a struggle. And it's you know, I'm always kind of trying to get somewhere and on the move. And that definitely seems to be, you know, accurate with that sort of diagnosis.
And I want to sort of be looking at whether you call it a more holistic approach or if you're looking at different types of world medicine, how do we stay true to our to our nature? Like, you know, what we know to be true? Like, for me, I am always going to be a bit of a pusher, a bit of a fighter. I'm not very good at resting when looking at your four pillar theory. That is the one for me that is very weak.
I'm awful at resting now.
How do we stay true to our nature? But really, you know, look to cultivate some equilibrium and balance within our bodies.
But I think what you're talking about in many ways is awareness why we I think we outsource our wellbeing too much to other people. We go and see a doctor and we want the doctor to tell us what is wrong with me, what do I need to do? I think that can have some value, but I sort of feel that that medicine is changing or it needs to change and it needs to evolve. So I very much see my patients as my partners, like they're my equal.
And so it's interesting as you talk about what your practitioner has been teaching you about you, you very much to me sort of lights up that.
So, yeah, that that sounds right. That yeah, absolutely. That that backs up what I've sort of found myself right.
That's a really interesting part of any treatment modality is how well do you get on with the practitioner, how much do you trust them, how much do you feel that they've listened to you?
And I feel instead of trying to put everyone in the same box as kind of trying to give people options. And one thing I will say to people, listen to this is kind of trust your intuition.
Right. Really have a lot of think about, you know, when were you flying in life? What were you doing then? You know, what was going on with seeing your friends regularly, where you're going to bed at a particular time? What's been going on with you eating? Well, like when do you not do so well? And if I'm honest, furn, what? I think one of the best things people can do is, is having a daily practice of reflection, because I think it's very hard to tap into who you are if the first thing you do every day when you get up.
And I'm not criticizing because I will do this sometimes and I try not to.
The first thing you do is pick up your phone. Yeah. And you look at instr or email and you've never had any space to just think and you start to react.
And that's going on all day. You never have any solitude. So how do we become more in tune? I think we need to guard solitude, even if it's just five minutes or ten minutes a day where there's no incoming noise, because then you can start to tap in. I don't feel good today.
I kafeel feel a bit stressed today or I wonder if that was something I had late last night. You know, I didn't eat till 10:00 PM.
It's not why I feel a bit groggy today. I feel that's one of the most important things. And this kind of new book that I try and help people if they want to deal with weights, I have a daily reflection is one of those practices, which is just ask yourself two questions every night.
You know what went well today and then what didn't go so well that I can change tomorrow.
It's just very, you know, full of self-love, full of compassion.
But just it's that awareness piece that we all have within us. But I think many of us, we just don't have the time or we have a perception that we don't have the time to look inwards.
And, you know, I've seen some of the guest you had on in the last season of Happy Place. And there's a lot of gas there about inward reflection, about self inquiry, about understanding yourself.
And I honestly feel like what I'm proudest about if I if I look back to my patients or even doctor in the house, you know, which many people may have seen, you know what I felt I gave those patients not only did I help each and every family either be completely symptom free after six weeks or significantly better, I feel I helped them gain an understanding of what was driving the way that they were feeling, so that when I'm gone, they now understand how they can start to manipulate that themselves because life never stays the same.
Right? We don't get to that perfect state where I'm on.
I've got this now work life balance, solitude, because it's always changing to dance.
Your question first, I sort of feel I want it when people a very informative indeed. And it leads me on to want to pick your brains about a few more subjects. And I do want to talk about whether we label it weight, body issues, etc. in a moment. But before that, I think it's really important that we look at the overarching theme, which is mental health, and we find ourselves in what I think is a mental health crisis at the moment.
Looking at statistics that are floating around, obviously we've got a pandemic we're living through, which is exacerbated. Everything but even outside of the pandemic, we know that over the last 30 to 40 years, we've seen these huge increases in anxiety, depression, and then looking at body issues, whether it be anorexia, bulimia, obesity, all of them have absolutely skyrocketed.
Rates of suicide. All of these have had huge increases over the last 30 to 40 years.
Is there one main cause or concern that we should be looking at? Or is it just a huge amalgamation of of how we're living in the modern world?
Yeah, and I think is a very good point that you raise. These have been going up for years and it sort of alludes to what I said earlier on in this conversation. About 80 percent of what we're now seeing is related to our collective modern lifestyles. I don't think it's one thing. I think it's would be nice. It would be sort of it would fit in a neat box for us. Oh, it's this one thing that we can then go and address.
But I don't think it is. I think it's a combination of factors. You can even look at those four pillars, food, movement, sleep and relaxation on each of those four things, which I think are for the most important components of health, that we also have a high degree of control over, which is why I focus on them in my first book is that those things have all been suboptimal for many of us.
In fact, the norm is that they're suboptimal.
So, you know, we could we could go into that.
But but what is going on here? Look, we are living in times that are very different from how we've ever lived.
If you look at the blue zones, these five pockets around the world, right.
That Dan Buettner has written about these areas with high rates of longevity compared to their surrounding areas, not only are a lot of them living to a ripe old age and past 100, they're also not being, you know, ridden with these chronic diseases.
And, you know, they're enjoying life at 100, not actually in a nursing home unable to move.
Right. And what's interesting is that it's not one thing. Yes.
They're mostly eating minimally processed local food because that's all they have available. They have to be active each day to get their food and to meet other people. So they are they're generally sleeping seven to nine hours a night. They have low levels of stress.
This is this is what the society around them is results. And they're not trying to they're not they're not more motivated than me or youth. And they're not like they would do just the same as we did. They lived in this environment because humans are wired to do things that are easy. You know, if we can get if we can sell on our phone and order a takeaway and we know we don't have Kirchen in ten minutes is going to rock up and it's going to have all these beautiful flavors.
We're not lazy. That's just the way we've always done it. We just never have that option. But what do they have?
More than anything? They've got a strong sense of community, like I think it's Enochian I think on Friday evenings, I think you don't have an option to be lonely or isolated.
If you haven't shown up for a while, people will be knocking on your door. Go, where are you? Everything OK? Right.
This elderly, the young, they all mingle together. They have these connected communities.
Actually, if you push me and say what is the most important factor that we have lost in society that is behind so many of these conditions, whether it's depression, anxiety or even obesity, I will put a connection and a lack of connection right at the heart of it, because humans are wired for connection.
We are social beings. We always have been. That is not change. We've got this ancient hard wiring in this modern environment. Many of us have.
We've moved away from where we grew up for work, for opportunity, you know.
Yeah. At what cost have we done that? You know how many of us live near our families, near our grandparents, you know, and I feel we've lost something huge. And then certainly you look at the science, why the feeling of being lonely is thought to be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. People, if you're lonely, are 50 percent more likely to die earlier or have a heart attack earlier. You know, it's it's incredible that there is science there behind this.
And I feel that a lot of our lifestyle behaviors, ferne, whether it's phone use or alcohol in the evening or a packet of quality street in front of a Netflix in the evening, I feel for a lot of people, myself included, we have a hole in our hearts.
Yeah. From this lack of connection. Ah, we will fill that hole in our heart with whatever we can.
This is so interesting because I was talking to somebody about this very subject the other day because I will often have this feeling and I've had it for a long time. And this goes again back to awareness and looking at your own life story, what you've experienced, where you feel love has been present and why you feel love has been lacking, etc.. But I often get this sort of, oh, like fidgety irritation where I need to like I need a snack because I need to fill exactly that that gap you're talking about that like void where you want something like Quality Street or whatever you want to fill it or I'll reach my phone because I might get some.
Dopamine hit from and it's a real like strong because I'm quite an energetic, fidgety person. It's a real physical, visceral sensation. And there's one amazing healer that I'm friends with said right in those moments, stop, have to think about this whole subject.
We've been talking about, you know, where you might have had that lacking or what experiences you've been through in your life and put your hands above your head and literally just shake your hands like this for about a minute and like shake out that that crazy energy that I need or whatever it is and just have that pause and I think is so often the case that we are trying to fill that void of, you know, we are we're all lacking in community, unless you're lucky enough to to live in a sort of a very special area where there is, you know, perhaps a village where everybody works together because there are still some beautiful pockets globally, of course, but around the UK that have that sense of community.
But it's it's diminished at such a speed over again the last 30 to 40 years, which I think is causing so many of these problems. And, you know, from my very nervous point of view, because I have no clue, this is just from me enjoying observing what's going on culturally and socially. It seems like everything has just zoomed in.
We've just got this, like, crazy tunnel vision where it is looking at screens, looking at my new shy of all these little things going on in life rather than like opening our eyes and going, right, look at all these people.
Look at the stars in the sky. Like if we're going to really get out there, look at the moon, let's not forget that the moon is circling the earth of the earth, turning the earth, circling the sun like all these huge thoughts and and feelings.
And we're just so tunnel vision. And that is then creating this disconnect between us and other humans, us and nature being a bloody massive one, quite frankly, for all of us. We're not getting our hands dirty and touching earth and getting out there and we don't have to anymore. Like you said, we can order food on our phone. So we think, you know, we can't reverse that. We know we can't. So what are the small things we can do to help create that connection to the simplest stuff, the bigger thoughts that are out there, community nature, how do we start to do that in small, incremental ways?
Yeah, I think it's a great point. And it's just before I just answer that, can I just mention something that I was thinking, as you were talking about before, which is this idea that how do we define success in society?
What do we grow up with? And it's I spoke about this with Vivek Murthy on my podcast, who was the former surgeon general of America under President Obama. And it was really interesting.
We were just saying, like, if you get offered a really good job, you leave your community and your family and your friends, but you move to the city because you don't want me to pay more. It's a great opportunity. You know, we look up to you in society. Oh, wow. Yeah. They did what they had to do to go and take that job.
But what if you were one of those people who said, yeah, you know, what's going to be more money, it's going to be more prestige. But no, I want to stay with my family. I want to stay near my parents want to stay near my friends.
We almost look down on that go. Oh, yeah, they're not that ambitious. You know, they it's really I think that's what we're fighting. We're fighting what the definition of success is.
And until we change of that definition, I don't think things change as a society because we're craving the fame, the money, the good job.
Right. Until we start craving what you know, what happens if we crave and we look up to people to go, how do they turn it down?
They want it to be, you know what? If we value how many breakfasts and dinner times you have with your partner and your kids, what if that's a barometer of success? Like, I guess this is why I'm sitting with a lot, is how do I define success in my life? And I'm trying to reframe it so I can make better decisions in alignment with my values. So I just want to share that. I think it's an interesting thing for people to think about.
It's so important because we sweet we actually it's even more than that. We celebrate busyness. Yeah. Like, you know how often and I do this, you know, some mutex. Hey, how are you. Oh God I'm so tired. I got like four Zoom's today, a couple of vodkas. I'm so busy and it's like, why am I boasting about that.
Complaining about it. Like we celebrate this weird sense of busyness, like it has value. And like you say, if we can make that shift that we celebrate, I chose to take time out for myself today. Good on me. Lucky me. Let's celebrate that.
Yeah. Know for sure. Absolutely. Say one thing I did an hour and a half ago is I in a frenzy this morning I ordered a dumb phone phone. I ordered an old school dumb phone and it will arrive in a few days. And I'm not saying everyone should do this for me. It's an experiment.
I just want a game changing. I want to know I feel it might be a one time decision that by default makes me eliminate ten other behaviours and things that I'm trying to produce. Now, let's see what happens. I'm not saying. Is the solution, but in terms of practical solutions for people, because I am a solution focused, got to have a solution focused author, I'm always trying to think about solutions for people. Right.
So what are some of those things we can do? I think, first of all, it does not have to be huge or even five minutes can make a big, big difference. I promise. It's not just what I say, it's what all the behavioral science says as well. And if you really think about these sort of five minute pockets that you can utilize in your day. So I feel not charging your phone in your bedroom is such an impactful thing to do.
Why? I'm not perfect. I will do it sometimes. But generally when I don't, I sleep better and I'm less reactive in the morning.
Now, I think morning routines are huge for people.
I really think if you can give yourself even five or ten minutes each morning as a little dose of calm, a little bit of self-love before you have to deal with all the problems of the rest of your family and the rest of the world, it can be game changers.
Why size people? If you want to have a morning routine, think about the three M's mindfulness movement and mindsets. OK, so mindfulness, that can be anything you want. That could be a meditation on an app like Headspace or calm. It could be some breath work. You know, I love the three, four, five breath way. You breathe in for three, you hold four four and breathe out for five. You can do that a few times.
Whatever it is that counts as your mindfulness, that's the first and the second arm is movement. So move your body in some way.
If you love yoga, maybe do a few sun salutations. I do a bit of hip mobility each morning and a few sort of things I'm working on.
And then the third arm is mindset's just do something small to get your mind in the right frame of mind. So I've got a few books kicking around that uplift me and I just pick one of them and I'll sit with a coffee and I'll read a bit, I promise, because I've done this with patients, even the busiest person who said me wrong, you know, that's great.
I have time for morning routines, right? There was one mother who said that to me. She goes, I don't have time. The kids are trying to get ready for school. And I said, what about the sort of five minutes she's all right, you know, I've got five minutes. So. Okay, right. We're going to do the three M's. So for her mindfulness, she does one minute of three, four, five breathing for her movement.
I think she just one sun salutation because she quite lights yoga and the for a mindset. She has a book that she just reads for two minutes. That is it. Within weeks, her skin problems, which I always felt were driven by stress, got significantly better. Wow.
And I've got a million other case studies like that, but I just want to practical take over people listening, like even if it's not first thing in the morning, maybe it's after you've dropped your kids at school.
Or maybe it's, you know, once everyone's on their and their Google classroom or whatever it is, just five or ten minutes, I apply that in my own life every morning.
I'm lucky that I've created something where I can now do that for, you know, about twenty minutes, half an hour each morning. I'm a better dad, a better husband. I'm a better doctor when I do that. And the days Vern and I still have these days where I'm like I'm when I'm too busy today, I don't have time for that. I just need to crack on and get ready for the podcast or my patients or my emails.
I'm just a different person.
I'm less productive.
Yeah, I totally hear you. I'm I'm exactly the same. And I'll have days where I don't do it. I'll have a whole week where I don't do that, you know, that have that time out for myself.
But I've recently really got into tapping, which I'm finding really interesting and I'm really enjoying and I can do maybe under ten minutes.
It could be five minutes of tapping at some point. Maybe it's just after I've got back from the school run or sometimes I'll wake up before the kids, which is quite a tree, and I'll try and do it then.
And and it is it is game changing. Does it have to be like two hours of meditation? It can be this small amount of time because we're all guilty of being time poor or thinking we're time poor. But then I was thinking the other night, well, if I can do it in the morning, I could choose to not watch the crown at night for an hour and do it then.
I mean, I could choose to do that. I think, again, we just our priorities are slightly skewed at the moment at this point in the modern world.
But actually, if you just change even one day a week a thing and try something different rather than watching TV is a wonderful experiment. You see it as an experiment. And then to look at what the outcome might be is is absolutely brilliant. And I'm I'm so on board with the phone thing because, you know, I've I've had bad patches of insomnia. I still get nighttime panics here and there. And I, I turn my phone off, I'd know eight half a every night and I don't turn it back on until the morning because otherwise I won't sleep like you.
And I did an event on ah on Zoome the other day, eight o'clock at night.
I'm normally in my pyjamas by then so we came off the laptop at nine. Neither you or I slept a wink. I text you the next day you were like nope, didn't sleep. I've had three coffees and I was like oh my God, I feel like I'm hung over.
The knock on effect is it is is a huge, you know, at this time of year for so many people are thinking about getting their life on track. And do you mind if I just share two top tips on how to make these behavior change?
Because a lot of people make it too difficult.
Right. We think in January, for example, we think, OK, that's it.
Twenty twenty one is going to be my year. I'm going to I'm nailing it this year. I'm going to go spinning three times a week for an hour each time. And you know what, for the first two weeks and Jan, people do it.
But then when when the real world gets in the way and you're tired and you're stressed out and work meetings have gone on too long or the kids need help with their homework and whatever, you stop doing it.
And it's very clear why that is. We overly rely on motivation. So in the research of something called a motivation wave, motivation goes up and motivation comes down.
Now we make our health goals or our mental well-being goals at the peak of the motivation. Why we think. Right, that's where I'm going to go for an hour's walk every day. I'm going to do a 20 minute yoga flow.
I'm going and that's fine while it lasts. But when you have a busy day and you can't do it, you sort of go, Oh, Bugarach, screw it, I can't do this.
Why? It's not for me. And one day becomes two days becomes three days. And before, you know, it's something you used to do. I have done this so many times. Now, what you have to do is you make your plan for the bottom of the motivation wave. And basically that's why you have to make a behavior easy.
So if you make it easy, even when the behavior is low, even when your motivation is low, you'll still do the behavior.
I give people an example that they'll get Amazon when Amazon meets a One-Click ordering. About five or six years ago, their profits went up by about 300 million dollars a year.
Right from one change is that they understand behavior change. They apply it to get you to buy more instead of four or five steps before and different screens.
Now, before you blinked, you've got the postman ringing the bell saying it's arrived.
Right. So they've made it easy. So you do it. Netflix, YouTube, they all do the same thing. They roll one video into the next before you've had a chance to think it's midnight, I better go to bed. I've got to be up at six. You're into the next episode of the crowd. Yeah.
Wait, so I'm saying business applies that rule to get us to stay on their platforms longer or to do more. We don't. We throw it out when it comes down to our health.
We think it's got to be really big. Five minutes makes a huge, huge difference.
That's a first step I want people to think about.
Second one is where do you put this behavior into your life? Every behavior we differ needs a trigger. Why it's a trigger could be a memory. Oh, you know, I said on the first day that I was going to meditate this year. Oh, man, I forgot to do it. I'll do it. Okay, that works.
It's just the worst kind of trigger that exists. The very best trigger is when you stick on that new behavior onto a habit you already have. We know from the science that's the best trigger. So, for example, I do a five minute workout every morning.
You know, just as of my morning routine, I do my breathing, my meditation and I make coffee. Right. I don't need a reminder for my coffee. Well, I don't need my family say wrong. And you must remember to make your coffee at six thirty. No, that happens automatically. So I put it I put it in the French press.
I put a timer on for five minutes and whilst it brews, I don't go on Instagram, I don't call my email. I do a workout in my kitchen in my pajamas. Right. So I don't need to get changed. I don't to go and find any equipment. I've made no excuses. No excuses. That's why for three years I'm not Mr. Day. I'm not more motivated than anyone else. I've just studied human behavior and go, oh, well, that's how you create a behavior that sticks.
So why don't I do that? And if someone I know you've spoken about gratitude before, like people want to do a gratitude journal, make it easy. Right. Let's say you want to do it last thing at night to put in a positive frame of mind to help you sleep.
Right. Make sure the journal is on your bedside table. Yeah. With a pen. Right. It's like what we would do with kids, but we are no different if the pen's not there. You know, forget the pens downstairs in the kitchen. I'll leave it. So I'll do it tomorrow before you know it is something you used to do. So a few basics. If we apply, it really changes our life.
And I turn one of the nicest messages I got this year was and I posted on Instagram a few weeks ago, my third book, which is about five minute changes.
This lady texted me and I had a few ideas, but this is really, really, really made me tear up.
And she said, listen, I just want to share something with you. My friend's daughter has tried to take her life twice during lockdown and I decided to lend her my copy a feel better and five.
And she said her mom said to me she never reads anything, but for some reason she's been reading your book, she's been applying it into her life. She works out every day. Now she's back at school. She's got friends. She's feeling much better about herself. I just want to say thank you because you just saved the teenager's life. Wow.
And the reason I share that concern is because I think about that so often when people think five minutes is not enough, absolutely is enough.
And whoever is listening to this right now, however bad your life may be right now, however disconnected or scared or anxious, choose one thing, one thing that you want to do, journaling, a workout, meditation a walk, find where you can put it in your day and just commit to that one thing every day at the same time.
And I guarantee you will start to feel a difference.
Yeah, because it's not that overwhelming thing of you've set yourself this challenge that you've got to, you know, be running 10K four times a week by the end of the year. It's just tiny little changes. I think it's so interesting when you bring it down to basic human behavior and we're all quite childlike in that way. We really need that sort of prompt, a physical prompt or or for it to slot in a regular time for it to be not such as a one.
A couple of wonderful tips, their legs, because I said that we would talk about this and I get nervous talking about this, but it's probably because it's very important. And there are so many people out there who are having a tough time because of body issues, food problems, eating disorders, etc.. And like we touched on earlier, we've seen a massive influx of anorexia, bulimia and obesity within the last 30 to 40 years.
I shared with you earlier in the year that, you know, I had a whole decade where bulimia was was very present. It was very extreme in my early 20s and then kind of more sporadic later down the line in that decade, but still used as a sort of coping mechanism for stress.
And I think in hindsight, looking back now, I'm going to turn 40 next year. I can see that I just wasn't coping very well with this ridiculous industry that I found myself in a very, very young age.
And I just felt utterly out of control.
And I know that one of my things is I want to feel in control.
When I don't feel in control, I'll have a panic attack or, you know, I just feel off center. So I now have that awareness to know. And there's a few things that that I can do to help that.
But, you know, there are so many people out there that are really struggling with this one and feel very stuck. And I think I probably would have said the same in my 20s.
I don't see a way out there, so I don't know how else I could possibly live, you know, without having this in my life. I need that release. I need that coping mechanism. Is there one coping mechanism?
Is there one way to help us on a societal level to to deal with this?
Because it seems like even if you don't have an extreme or chronic disorder with food or body issues, it does seem that we've sort of lost the plot with food somewhat generally.
I think it comes down to awareness. Again, Furn, it's a it's a common theme in this conversation. But I feel like 20, 20. Right. There's this whole thing about what are the media call it? Is it the Corona Stone or the.
Oh, yeah. Putting on weight at home the whole time. Right in. You know, you're not. Yeah. Yeah.
Putting on weight. Right. But let's look at this rationally. Okay. So there's good data that suggests that 80 percent of us change our eating behavior in response to stress. 45 percent of us eat more, 35 percent of us eat less. Well, let's look at it rationally. Twenty twenty was probably the most anxiety inducing and stressful. Yes, yes. In living memory. Well, the 45 percent of us use food as a way of dealing with that stress.
Of course, you know, almost half the population will put on weights. We don't need to be ourselves up about that. We need to understand to go. Oh, I get it. There was something in The Guardian, I think, a few weeks ago saying chocolate sales have gone up 50 percent in 2020.
So let's not base our sales off. Let's understand and how I've you know, I spent most of this year in the pandemic writing this book about how to how to improve your self-esteem, how to feel better about yourself and how to lose access weights if you want to. And man, I was nervous getting into this area because it's so remote and it's you're just opening yourself up for criticism. But I feel very committed to trying to help people. And and I feel there's a lot of people in society who have been conditioned to only pick up a book if it promises them weight loss weights.
And I think that's problematic in itself. But what are we looking at here? But basically, how do I summarize what you've asked me?
We used to use food to fill a hole in our stomachs. Now we use food. To fill a hole in our hearts, and I think that literally can help so many of us understand our own relationship with food, what are we using it for? Is it control? Is it stress?
So in the new book, this exercise that I love and it actually goes beyond food riots and it's called the Freedom Exercise, and it's got three apps I feel, feed and finds.
And I've been using this with patients for years for all kinds of behaviors, and they really love it. So if someone's listening to this right now and they are so they have a craving and the evening say, you know, they're trying not to snack in front of the telly in the evening, but it's 8pm, you know, really fancy something sweet. OK, to take a pause. Right. So the first half is feel either think about or write down.
What exactly are you feeling?
It's a hunger, which it may be or has the kids bedtime just gone on a bit too long and you're feeling a bit stressed, or have you been on Zoom's all day and not been outside and that your little treats yourself?
Or have you just had a row with your partner and you're a bit stressed, you know, what are you really feeling?
Is it hunger or is it something else? Now, the first half, you do it. If you still want to eat it, that is fine.
It's about being kind of to start to bring that awareness into your life.
Okay, the second half is feed. Okay. How does the snack you've chosen feed that emotion? Ah, I just had a row with my husband and having these biscuits actually just makes me feel a bit better. Helps deal with that stress. Yeah. Okay. Cool release.
You've understood that you're like okay you still go and have it if you want, but you're just starting to gently give yourself an awareness. And the third half is find now that you know what you're feeling now that you know how that food feeds that emotion now, can you find an alternative behavior to feed that emotion?
Why it's so you just mentioned that someone taught you that if when you're feeling like that, you kind of shake it out. So you're using physical movement to literally shake out that stress for someone else.
It could be another. I know that I might go to run a bath for myself or maybe I'll have a cuddle with my pets or my partner who I've just had a with. Maybe we just need a cuddle.
Maybe I'll do some reading, maybe I'll put on YouTube and do a ten minute yoga flow.
It's and in the book I have about 20 options for people. I say, look, it doesn't matter what you choose, but once you start gaining that awareness, you're empowered to start making different decisions. I use that.
I don't people wouldn't say I need to lose weight in inverted commas often, but writing that book and writing the exercise out for people in the new one has helped me change my relationship with social media.
It's kind of like, oh, I see.
So maybe you're scrolling for two hours because, you know, you've not really spent quality time with your wife and you've been on these Zoome meetings all day, so you've not connected.
And therefore I'm looking for that connection.
Yeah, through my phone. I've done that. Yeah, but but it's not about beating people up. It's about saying, hey, look, it's OK. And if all anyone takes on this entire conversation, Thurn, if they take that 3F freedom exercise and they apply it, I would just love to know because I've seen it.
I honestly believe that it can be game changing for people if they never scientists think about this before.
It's such a wonderful step because I can apply that to myself now. Absolutely. And I think it's really wonderful to look for what that missing thing is that you're trying to fail.
The one question I guess I want to ask is if I look at myself back in the day where I was the other end of the extreme, where I was sort of using food elimination as punishment or, you know, bingeing and purging, how do you start to cultivate a more healthy relationship where you're not necessarily using food for comfort?
You're using it, you're using the elimination of it to punish you.
How do you start, I guess, look at that awareness and and get some normalcy around it?
Because I had a transitional phase where I was like, right, I'm allowed to eat this meal.
I don't have to feel guilty after eating it. I can eat it. It's going to create energy. But that just took time for me.
I used professional help a little bit. I wish I'd used it more in hindsight, but this is way before I was comfortable talking about any of this stuff and I'm very comfortable talking about it now.
How do you start if you're not using food to just sort of excessively bend you over but you are just eliminating it? How do you start to get that normalcy and and love for food and respect for food without guilt, shame and all those things? Yeah.
So a couple of things that you mentioned, professional help. And again, I'm going to reiterate that it is and can be very, very important to get people who specialize in this to look, assess you personally and give you individual tools.
But if we just broaden our concern, although the exercise I mentioned. Was about using food to fill a hole. That exercise actually also can work if we're using it for control or we're using it because it's about awareness.
We're trying to get become aware of why are we using that food? And you mentioned guilt's you mentioned shame.
And these are really important emotions that influence all kinds of our behavior, whether it's eating behavior or, you know, trying to please everyone else, like whatever is how often it comes down to our self-esteem, how we feel about ourselves.
Often these things can be related to our childhood experiences and how we how we gained a sense of control when we were kids, you know, and it's it's very hard to sort of just briefly touch on this without triggering things in people, potentially. But awareness always is the key to this for me. Like, it's very hard to make changes if you're blind to what's going on. You need time. You need a bit of solitude to really go in.
Well, why why do I buy when did this start in me?
Like, there's a case I write about, which is and this is not quite on an eating disorder firm, but I wonder, as someone who's shared your own journey, whether there's anything in this that you can sort of relate. I don't mean Pursley, but just in terms of the concept, so there's something called ASES Acey, a small adverse childhood experiences. And there's was a really phenomenal study led by Dr. Vincent Felitti.
And he showed that a huge amount of people, a significant amount of people who struggle with their weight when they're older have had adverse childhood experiences like physical abuse or emotional abuse.
And I remember one of my patients in particular who was never had an issue with her weight, and then she got to about 17 or 18 and the weight started to pile on and she didn't know what was going on.
She was really unhappy anyway, what it turned out to be. So when I really started to help understand what was going on and look into her life at 16, she was in an abusive relationship. She had an older boyfriend and there was some trauma in that relationship and what transpired because I did send her for for psychotherapy, but I started to unpick it with her and then get some professional help.
What it turned out was that actually she felt that I never want to be in that position again.
So the way I'm going to deal with that is I'm going to put on weight, because if I put on weight, no man is going to find me attractive incorrectly. She felt that. So I'm never going to be in an abusive relationship.
And what was really interesting, and I know it's not directly answering your question, but I really want to just what I'm trying to get out is she wasn't consciously doing that. That was her subconscious driving her behavior to protect her. So obesity and her situation was a symptom. It wasn't the problem. It was a protective mechanism.
And so these things can be quite she had a lot of guilt. She had a lot of shame. And the way that she needed help was not to buy a new two week diet plan. Right. And to go you need to try harder. You're not trying hard enough. You're lazy. You're you know, you just feel guilty because you can't keep this off, though.
She had to start loving her. So she'd have to start understanding herself and unpicking that.
And I feel although that's not an eating disorder, there are similar themes I feel with many people who struggle. You know, I've had issues with guilt and shame and I've only really unpicks in the last few years that has driven a lot of my behaviors and quite unhealthy behaviors that that didn't really make me truly happy. That really meant I would seek external validation of people say you're doing that.
Well, OK, that's good. It's like what? What about what I feel? Yes. So I mean, that's pretty deep. But I kind of feel I think that's a really, really great example.
I think it's really because I know at this point in my life that, you know, it was all a reaction to just my life changing very quickly into this strange industry. I was working it and it was very much a sort of a coping mechanism and and just a sort of a release from from that tension and stress.
So I think, you know, the the amazing takeaway point there is to always sort of have a moment where you pause and you do look, you know, historically what you've experienced and how you might be reacting to that, whether it be relating to food or not. You know, anything else that we sort of cognitively mentally dealing with? I think it's a wonderful method. And I can't thank you enough for the amazing practical tips that you've offered up during this last hour, which is absolutely flown by, because I think they're small and accessible.
They're free. They're easy for us all to apply, but they work and they're impactful.
So I can't thank you enough. I'm so excited that we got to finally have this conversation and we're going to have to do a part two because I've still got like kind of a page of stuff I need to ask about another time. We've got to connect again at some point. Wrong. And thank you so much for for chatting today. It's been an absolute bloody pleasure, Fern.
It's been a great pleasure for me. I just want to acknowledge you on your podcast that you're doing incredible work with what you're putting out in books, what you're putting out on the podcast. I think you're helping so many people understand themselves better and improve their lives. So I just want to say a big thank you.
Oh, that's so kind of you. Thank you. Bronwyn, thank you so much for your time and do let us know how you get on with our phone experiment. I might have to text him a minute to see if he's sticking to the old school phone or if he's gone back to the evil ways of the smartphone. There are still plenty of thoughtful people I want to introduce you to in this series of happy place. So make sure you subscribe to the podcast wherever it is that you like to listen.
And you can join us on Instagram to a happy place official. You'll find out not just about the podcast, but all other happy place projects that we're working on to come and have a chat with us over there.
Thanks again to wrong'un to we do natural haircare for sponsoring this series to the producers of this episode, Matel Uninitiated to rethink audio and of course, the biggest. Thank you to you lot.
So thank you know you're the best. We'll see you next week.