Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Habits are more effective than goals

Hands up who’s decided they wanted to make a positive change in their life but didn’t manage it? Exercise more, eat more healthily, save money or cut back on booze?

One thing the above examples have in common is that they’re not specific goals - they’re just aspirations. We need measurable targets and timeframes for them to become goals. ‘Lose weight' is vague but ‘lose half a stone in 2 months' is achievable.

But even if we do achieve success it can be fleeting. Once the goal has been met there’s a tendency to slip back into our old ways.

That’s where habits come in. We need to make changes to what we do on a daily basis for the benefits to be sustainable.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Overthinking - I’d worry less if I had more sympathetic imaginary friends

Overthinking is a common affliction characterised by going over and over a scenario in our heads in an unproductive way.

It is often mistaken as problem-solving but as we replay imagined scenarios and their outcomes, more hypothetical “what if?” problems arise which require solutions, thus compounding and enforcing the pattern. This can lead to Analysis Paralysis, an extreme form of indecision whereby actions are never taken due to endless options being considered.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Sleep Learning - my plan to read the entire works of Shakespeare via overnight audiobooks

I've recently made my peace with sleep. I used to resent it, and tried hard to avoid it. It seemed like a waste of time when I could be awake doing stuff. I couldn't fathom why anyone would go to bed at 11pm unless they had an early flight to catch.

Through reading neurology research papers I began to understand why we sleep, and what goes on in the brain. It turns out sleep is very productive thing to be doing.

With our eyes shut in the peace and quiet, our offline brain doesn't have to deal with distracting input and gets to work sifting through the previous days' events, consolidating them into memories.

Our brains busy themselves making connections between these new chunks of information, forming and strengthening neural networks as they create a cross-referenced library of knowledge.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

News induced angst

I used to feel anxious in the mornings - a mild existential dread that got steadily worse for the first hour of the day. Upon reflection of the possible causes I narrowed it down to too much morning news.

I woke to news bulletins from my radio alarm. I checked news apps on my phone in bed. I had toast whilst listening to more radio news and reading news websites on my laptop, and become infuriated by readers' comments. I was accompanied on my drive to work by ill-informed radio phone-in contributors and reports about car crashes and traffic jams.

By the time I got to Lerwick I’d be feeling pretty crabbit with a head full of worrying and often irrelevant information that I didn’t have time to process. It was just gloomy mind spam.

So I decided to cut news out from my mornings and the results were immensely positive. The house was filled with serene silence that gave me time to get my head together and look forward to the day ahead. The commute was rich with orchestral music, and externally induced angst was replaced by contemplative contentment.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Pomodoro concentration technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a simple and effective way to help concentrate on tasks for intense bursts of time. It's named after the tomato (‘pomodoro' in Italian) shaped kitchen timer the technique’s inventor used.

The average concentration span has seen a steep decrease in recent years with many studies citing the constant distraction of mobile phones, skim reading social media, mindlessly browsing the web and flicking through TV channels. Our brains are evolutionarily programmed to seek stimulus but our ability to filter out irrelevant stimuli and engage with, process and absorb information is on a downward trajectory due to the high volume of low-value input.

Thursday, 1 February 2018


Published in Shetland Life magazine in February 2018 entitled "Count your blessings"

Editorial: Bryan Peterson is perhaps better known as a party animal than a self-help guru. In recent years, however, he has developed a more reflective approach to life which he will be sharing with our readers over the coming months.  In the first of a series of occasional columns, Bryan shares some of the tips which have been beneficial for his own well-being.

I’ve always been quite happy and healthy, but nowadays I’m even more so due to some practical peerie adjustments to my habits that I’ll be detailing in this and future articles. I don’t proclaim to be an authority on health and wellbeing and I don’t expect you’ll reach nirvana through my ramblings, but I hope you find something useful.

I led a fairly carefree life up to my mid 30s and from what I can remember, I had a great time. I got a good education, enjoyed my work, toured with bands, pubbed, clubbed and partied, ate rubbish, smoked, and generally farted around and laughed a lot. I wasn’t irresponsible, I just didn’t have many responsibilities.

Throughout these decades of genial hedonism, I never worried about the long-term consequences to my mental or physical health: I was too busy pushing my constitution as far as it would let me. But I knew I’d have to calm it down at some point.