The true meaning of wellbeing – what my month in Bali taught me

Bali, the Island of the Gods. Having just spent a month out there I can now understand where the Island got its name from.

Set in lush greenery with palm trees as far as the eye can see, I have never felt so relaxed, nurtured or refreshed for as long as I can remember. I rediscovered the true meaning of wellbeing.

My first experience of Bali however was more like chaos. Stepping out of the airport and being hit by 28-degree heat despite it being 7.00 pm (a shock to the system when you live in Scotland), and being faced with over 100 taxi drivers all waving boards with various people’s names on. How was I ever going to find my driver? How did I get my phone to work internationally???

Having been traveling for 22 hours I felt exhausted with little to no sleep (I’m sure there is a market for adult only flights Sir Richard Branson) and the combination of heat and trying to find my own name scrawled on a board meant digging deep for the last scrapes of energy to get me to where I needed to be. Having walked up and down the line of drivers several times the relief I felt when I saw my name was palpable, finally I could begin to relax.

I had become acutely aware of how much I needed this vacation when I’d tried to put my kettle in the fridge one day. Although I do my best to practice what I teach people about wellbeing, 3 years had passed without me taking a proper holiday.

While owning your own company means you can create your own rules and have as much flexibility as you want, there also isn’t the benefit of holiday pay. But I knew that to continue to be a role model in the field of wellbeing, I needed, as they say when you board a flight, to fit my own airmask first. Plus where better to take time out than on the other side of the world in tropical paradise as the UK is plunged into darkness with howling gales and ‘last Christmas’ on repeat in every high street shop.

Apart from taking the usual time to read books (7 of them) and lay on my sun lounger I also wanted to use the time to completely disconnect and reconnect with myself.

I had wondered if I would be able to leave alone emails given the length of time I was away, but it was as if the moment I touched down in Bali my brain firmly locked the door to anything work-related. Even when I’d had moments of trying to think about my Company strategy for 2020, my mind firmly told me ‘not going there’ and I was simply able to surrender to the joy of being away from everything I knew to be familiar.

A trip like this can’t help but teach or remind us of valuable life lessons and among the many refections I had, this is what Bali taught me about wellbeing…

1. Be Present

There are over 20,000 temples in Bali. Impressive given the relatively small size of the Island. Thankfully I’d already done my research and narrowed down my visits to around 6 of them. My initial mistake when visiting some of the temples was to be there when half the visiting tourists to the Island were also there.

What struck me most was how few people were present at these sacred sites. Instead of simply being, absorbing the beauty, history and spirituality embedded into them, they were more concerned with getting the perfect picture or selfie.

By remaining present, I was able to capture in my heart the essence of the temples far greater than any picture would have achieved. I was able to get a real sense of the importance that many of the temples still hold for the Balinese and how they have played such a part in their culture for centuries.

2. Be grateful for what you have

The poverty in Bali is tangible and people go to such lengths to earn a living. While I practice gratitude daily, Bali was a reminder of just how blessed so many of us are in the West, including myself.

I spoke to many of the Balinese people who had never been on holiday let alone left the Island. I saw people bathing in the sea daily and it struck me how so many of us live in complete luxury.

Next time you catch yourself thinking about what you want, remind yourself of what you already have and how blessed you are. Many studies show that a daily practice of gratitude has a profound effect on our health and wellbeing and raises our emotional vibration.

3. Smile more

Never before have I met such beautiful happy smiling people. Everywhere I went people smiled at me. Genuine and authentic smiles filled my heart with joy. I got into a conversation one day with a spiritual healer from Java who lives in Bali. He told me how, when he had been fortunate enough to visit Europe, people had regarded him with deep suspicion because he smiled and said hello to everyone!

Smiling releases dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. Smiling is also contagious – so get smiling and feel happy!

4. Nourish your body

I was very fortunate to stay 2 weeks of my trip at the amazing Hotel Komune. During my time here I have never eaten such fantastic fresh clean food (and served by people who smiled!) every day. My body soaked up every mouthful like a sponge absorbs water. The combination of fresh juices, and wonderful vegan and vegetarian offerings nurtured my body, my energy levels and my wellbeing.

5. Rise early to seize the day

I was on holiday right, surely that meant a lie in? True, I could have chosen to lie in, but then I would have missed this incredible spectacle of light as the sun rose in the sky. Rising each day around 5.00 am (admittedly some days were easier to do than others!) I would walk along the beach for an hour and take in the wonder of nature. Walking along barefoot (ok a little more challenging to do in the middle of winter in Scotland) was so grounding and a beautiful reminder of what life is about – joy.

6. Move and stretch your body daily

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Although I exercise regularly I don’t mind admitting how tight my body gets. Mainly because I wasn’t stretching it enough. Sitting in front of a laptop several days a week is not how we were designed to live. The first few yoga classes I did I felt about as flexible as a plank of wood. But little by little each day my body became more open and flexible than it has for a long time. I’ve never considered myself a yogi, preferring instead more high-intensity work outs. However, the joy of opening and strengthening my body has given me a newfound sense of respect for yoga. So much so I have even signed up for a 14-week course now I’m back – and my body loves me for it!

7. Don’t take life so seriously

In the throws of everyday life, it can be easy to forget what life is all about. Our focus instead can be too consumed by the chores of cleaning, food shopping, doing the recycling, wondering what to cook for dinner, picking up the kids, commuting and so on. We can get caught up in work, drama, politics and the mountain of emails all clambering for our attention.

And for what? what are we here for? I can only speak for myself here, but I am here to experience life. Bali reminded me that there is a world outside of ourselves and one I fully intend to discover more of.

And although life will present us with challenges, for me Bali has been an amazing reminder, not to take life so seriously and have fun along the way!

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