Occupational Therapist Peter Connolly spoke with Tony Riddle the Natural Lifestylist at the recent Wellfest.
Tony’s natural lifestyle philosophy is a method for recharging, rebooting and re-aligning ourselves with nature for emotional, spiritual and physical health. To start with, re-wilding isn’t about being a modern-day hunter-gatherer so it’s still okay to buy your food and go to the gym.
Tony shared his understanding "re-wilding is a process of connecting to or recognizing natural ways of living that are more in sync with our human biology". It’s about learning from our ancestral superpowers.
When we begin to "pay attention to populations around the world that are more connected to their natural environment in how they move, eat, sleep, play and form communities", he says, we glimpse greater wellbeing. Tony reminds us that "we are decedents of these incredible beings, which makes us incredible beings". It’s an empowering message but how does it work in life in the city?
Move to connect
Tony recommends his clients begin with some simple steps. Firstly, "start with sitting less and move more, set timers and reminders as once we sit down for a period, we lose a sense that we have a physical body, and everything gets very cerebral".
Standing desks can be great. However, as posture can still be compromised, Tony highlights the need to move better, become more posture aware and learning to squat.
"Simple squat protocols would be to hold the desk and sit into a squat, I would recommend doing that every 25 minutes", or as often as you can as a movement break. We aren’t designed to be so sedentary: tightness, muscles not switching on properly, back pain occurs.
According to Tony, the "most injuries I see today are a result of that sedentary lifestyle".
Watch: Tony demonstrates some movement drills to try when using your laptop.
Tony’s second challenge is to "bring nature in, get a plant for your desk, have something green in front of you, a life form that you have to look after and take responsibility for".
As we all know air quality is hugely important for wellbeing. There are pollutants inside and outside a building. Tony invites us to ask Human Resources what’s going on in your building: "We have regulations to deal with omissions outside, however, we don’t have the same inside the building."
Fortunately, air quality can be cleaned up by introducing plants, air purifiers or humidifiers to the environment.
To improve sleep, one step is to "buy a pair of amber glasses, these help deal with blue and green spectrums of light that can be quite harmful, particularly if you’re working late in the evening". Try wearing them from 7pm if working or by 9pm at home, this will help with the production of melatonin levels, the sleep hormone.
Go outside and find your 10%
Also helpful for sleep is to increase the amount of time we spend outdoors. Tony’s gold standard is to "try to spend 10% of your day outside" - that’s 2 hours and 24 minutes.
During that time Tony also recommends finding "a green space". It doesn’t have to be in the wild, it could be as simple as sitting under a tree so as to "tune into nature, welcome it in, take time to breathe in that environment, switch your phone onto flight mode". It’s a mindful experience in a natural setting so remember to "take your shoes off and feel the grass with your feet".
To begin your day, get in the "early morning sun and light to boost serotonin, which is later synthesized into melatonin. What you do in the morning will have a huge effect on your evening".
Tony is a big advocate of using breath throughout the day to activate our parasympathetic nervous system - often called the rest and digest system, and which is responsible for conserving energy. "Try doubling your out breath, take a pause and do three minutes of this breathing during a stressful moment or preparing your system before lunchtime."
These practices are low cost, teach us to adapt but involve breaking our automatic pilot of daily habits.
Comfort does not always mean more happiness
Technology, gadgets and indoor living keep us comfortable. However, life is not supposed to be set on room temperature, free of physical challenge. We grow at the edge of what is comfortable.
Other pioneers like Wim Hof, an extreme athlete celebrated for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures, have championed embracing the cold to rewild. His students take daily cold showers and baths, and through breath work adapt their response to the cold.
There is forgotten wisdom in these natural practices that are now being rediscovered. After all, we are born to maintain some wildness in our lives and not merely sit inside and watch it on a screen.
Connect with tonyriddle.com for Natural Lifestyle Coaching, online resources or retreats.
To connect with Peter firstname.lastname@example.org