A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. - Einstein
We had the third session of this twelve evening course yesterday. I blogged a week ago about the second session. The twelve Powerpoint slides for this third meeting give an overview of what we covered (slides 1-6 and slides 7-12). As usual we began the evening with an Autogenic relaxation session - this time using the "Neck & shoulder" focus we had been working on last week. I then asked the group members to pair up again with the person they had set up last week's personal intentions with. Pretty much at every session I intend to ask course participants to pair up to review how they've done with their previous week's intentions (currently this involves Autogenics, exercise & diet intentions). Later in the evening I get them to pair up again (with a new partner) to review what has been covered that evening and to make personal intentions for the following week. In this way I hope to build group support, encourage personal reflection, and help people "take ownership" of the life style changes they are choosing to make. This also gave me time to pair up with someone who had missed last week's session and check in with them on how they had been managing. We then reconvened as the full group. I collected their practice records from last week and we went round individually troubleshooting and discussing how last week's Autogenics, diet and exercise intentions had gone.
I then introduced the three continuing themes for this week. We extended work on exercise for stamina and added the US exercise guidelines' recommendation to do strengthening exercises for all major muscle groups at least a couple of times a week. We continued with the intention to eat 5-9 portions of fruit & veg each day, and extended dietary intentions into new areas too. And we moved to the Autogenic "Warmth" exercise, began practising an additional very brief couple of short relaxation/mindfulness exercises during the day (as well as the longer practices in the morning and evening), and started learning about implementation intentions.
The 2008 US exercise guidelines state that, in addition to stamina-focused aerobic exercise, "People are encouraged - on at least two days per week - to strengthen the major muscle groups involving legs, hips, back, chest, stomach and shoulders. Exercises for each muscle group should be repeated for 8 to 12 repetitions per session." I have blogged in more detail about the good sense behind this recommendation, and the course participants were given a handout of these comments about strengthening exercises. I also demonstrated examples of exercises for the shoulders & chest (press-up variants), stomach (half sit-up variants), back (prone extensions), hips (extensions prone or on all fours), legs (using a chair, stairs, and jumps). The strengthening exercise blog post and handout also give links to helpful books.
We then went on to a simple Scottish NHS quiz about our diets. This quiz has some gaps, but it is good for getting us to take a broader look at what we eat. Participants were also given the British Dietetic Association's simple general handout on "Healthy eating - getting the balance right". I then got the group to reflect individually on the course so far and particularly this new information on exercise and diet. They filled in a "Reflections & intentions" sheet (after I had explained briefly about the new Autogenic application and visualisation exercises they would also be asked to try). They then paired up to discuss what they had written and share their specific exercise & diet intentions for this next week.
I now moved back to the Autogenic exercises again. I said that I would like them to explore three areas - application during daily life, implementation intentions, and the new "Warmth" exercise. Slide 7 from their Powerpoint handout illustrates the way I gradually introduce application of relaxation/mindfulness into daily life during the course. They were asked - in addition to probably trying to practise a fuller 10-15 minute sessioin twice daily - to take a minute or two a couple of times a day to do a brief relaxation/mindfulness exercise. I also talked to them about implementation intentions. I have blogged about this important area in the past and the blog posts also contain links to the two handouts I gave them - see "Implementation intentions & reaching our goals more successfully (first post)" and "Implementation intentions & reaching our goals more successfully (second post)". We then ended the evening with the Autogenic "Warmth" exercise they would be due to practise for the first three or four days of this coming week. For the second half of the week the aim is to move onto the second "Warmth" exercise.
... and see "Life skills ... session 4" for next week's focus.