The Wellness Revolution: 10 real life ways to find balance in the city
TAKE IT SLOWLY
ZIPPORAH GENE, 27, IS AN M.A STUDENT LIVING IN ISLINGTON
In Thailand there’s an approach to life called ‘Sabai Sabai’, which translates as ‘slowly, slowly’. I first encountered it when I moved there in 2014 to work as a freelance journalist. I was running around trying to achieve lots of things to feel validated as a human being and my Thai friends would say ‘Sabai Sabai’.
My mindset changed in Thailand. I did Soul Cycle classes and Muay Thai boxing four times a week and felt chilled for the first time. But when I returned to England, I soon fell into old habits.
I’m currently studying for a master’s degree in development at The School of Oriental and African Studies, while holding down three jobs – and two weeks ago I crashed with exhaustion. I’m anaemic, my blood count was very low and doctors told me I was malnourished.
Now I’m making small steps to a better, more relaxed me. I buy fresh ingredients and treat cooking like a spiritual experience – feeling and smelling the food, instead of wolfing it down. I also use a mindfulness and meditation app called Buddhify when I feel tension welling up inside.
There’s a saying ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’, so I’ve stopped measuring myself against others. If only my family would do the same – I come from a conservative culture and my parents think I should be married with a family by now. I’m the black sheep, so I tell them ‘this is my time – I need to just take it slowly’.
SCOTT ROBINSON, 39, IS A BANKER AND LIVES IN NOTTING HILL
I had a wellness epiphany about 10 years ago when my first serious relationship ended and I experienced anxiety and depression. I was lucky enough to try reiki and it was a spiritual awakening. Then I went on to try meditation, pilates and hatha yoga.
Over the years, I’ve met lots of people in the corporate world who find yoga beneficial, so I started my blog Yogibanker in 2014 to talk about spirituality in the real world. At an early stage of my career, I got into an email fight with a senior director. Back then, I was full of testosterone and the emails were soon out of control. That taught me a lesson – in times of conflict, you should sit back, let the moment pass and then respond.
I’m deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, which are linked to depression and anxiety, so I correct this with nutritional therapy. If you’re feeling anxious, choose foods high in vitamin B, potassium and magnesium – bananas, oats, ginger, avocado and dark chocolate. Plus, I write a gratitude journal – wellness is about being grateful for the simple things in life.
CARMELA PAPILIO, 39, IS AN HR MANAGER FROM PALMERS GREEN
When I was buying my house last year, I struggled to find time to relax and one evening I collapsed. I knew I needed to restore my inner balance. I now meditate using the Headspace app and receive daily motivational quotes from mentor Bev James. I also love the Ministries podcast by US pastor Joel Osteen. At work I compose myself before a tough discussion – recently a colleague said: ‘You seem very calm.’ That felt nice.
ACTOR JASON WONG, 31, LIVES IN QUEEN’S PARK
My top tip for finding balance in the craziness of London is to pick up the phone and speak to a loved one. We’re so obsessed with texting and messaging that we rarely use our voices to express ourselves and, as recent events in London prove, life’s too short to keep quiet.
When I was 16 my father passed away and it transformed my whole perspective of life. Health and wellbeing became hugely important.
Fear of failure keeps me up at night, but Brazilian jiu jitsu is my saviour. It’s a beautiful art because it addresses your body’s dynamics. With physical balance comes mental balance.
JENNIFER ROBINSON, 26, IS A MEDICAL PA FROM CLAPHAM
I work full time and I’m studying to be a child psychotherapist – it can be stressful. Volunteering at the Samaritans once a week, ironically, helps me switch off, – it is very humbling. My top tip for feeling happy? Sing in the shower – you’ll feel alive!
HAVE NO RULES
PSYCHOTHERAPIST JASON WOOLFE, 48, IS A DAD OF TWO LIVING IN WATERLOO
I found balance when I moved from Surrey to London at the age of 30, after quitting a stressful career in journalism to work as a Gestalt therapist. There’s no similarity between my life then and now. Then I was trying to be a good employee, a good husband, a dutiful son and financially successful, but those pressures were pulling me in different directions and the tension was awful.
I felt empty and unhappy.
At the beginning of my therapy training, I became ill. At times, I was so weak I couldn’t walk. I eventually recovered and, in retrospect, I learned to treat myself with compassion.
My rule for balance is not to have any rules. Often, I don’t take lunch breaks, I’m unreliable at meditation and I like coffee, chips and cake – but that’s all fine if you balance them with positives, such as a good hobby. Mine is slack lining, which is like tight-rope walking, only the line is slack – it’s great for dexterity and composure.
One day last year, I was walking in London and the humdrum of buses, traffic and people sounded beautiful to me. I thought ‘this is life and it’s wonderful’ because I’d rediscovered my capacity to be appreciative. That’s when I knew my life had changed.
MAX BLOOM, 42, IS AN A&R DIRECTOR AND LIVES IN HAMPSTEAD
Getting picked on at school for being Jewish and then being treated badly when I worked as a tea boy in my teens taught me to tolerate people who don’t respect me, which I consider a technique for maintaining calm. If I’m driving and someone cuts me up, I think ‘have the tarmac’ and breathe it out. There’s more to worry about in life.
Smiling is the key to balance because it’s impossible to feel sad or stressed when you’re doing it. On the train this morning, everyone looked gloomy, but as I listened to my music I remembered I have a job that allows me to travel and I’m my own boss. And so I smiled at total strangers!
VANESSA HARTLEY, 41, FROM CROUCH END IS A YOGA TEACHER
It’s OK to say ‘no’ if you’re not happy. You don’t lose anything by having an easier life! I found balance when I split up with my partner. For years I was unhappy, but now we’re good mates. My advice to anyone struggling is to stop taking selfies. You don’t need the approval of others.
SONIA PADAM, 38, A FASHION DESIGN ENTREPRENEUR, LIVES IN MAIDA VALE
Two years ago, I was working crazy hours as an accountant. I decided to change career to save my life, so I launched Eight Hour Studio, an ethical fashion line. It can be a struggle to switch off, but small things help – I finish work by 6pm and use a Lumie clock, which replicates sunset and sunrise. I do small acts of kindness when I can. Feeling like I’m making a difference makes me happy.
CARLY WILKINSON, 33, IS A FITNESS INSTRUCTOR AND LIVES IN BRISTOL
Other than running the London Marathon in 2007 with no training – I finished sixth from last and it took me six hours and 32 minutes – I’d never exercised. So, on my 29th birthday, I decided to make a change. I went to the gym and worked out for five weeks solid. It felt so empowering.
Moving is my top tip for happiness. When you’re running or dancing, endorphins fire and it’s an amazing cycle – you feel better, sleep better and want to exercise more. Within a year of walking into the gym, I was writing a fitness blog, ProjectHB. Two years later, I started hosting body confidence seminars and I’m now a qualified fitness instructor.
Your body is an incredible machine, but it needs maintenance. Replenish energy with eight hours’ sleep a couple of nights a week, drink plenty of water and breathe deeply.
I have an obsessive compulsive disorder called trichotillomania, which means I pull out my hair when I get stressed. It got pretty bad last summer, after I moved from Shoreditch to Bristol and every constant in my life changed – my friends, my job, my home. I’m now having hypnotherapy and this is the first time I’ve admitted it, which is scary, but being open and vulnerable is a privilege in a society where perfection seems to be the norm – at least, on social media.
I will be working to become a more balanced me until the end of my days, and that’s OK because wellness is a journey.