How to conquer the new year

The new year can be overwhelming. On one hand, we suddenly have a lot of time to reflect, renew, and recover from the year just passed. On the other hand, it is also a time of debauchery and excess. Sometimes we can get caught up in this and miss out on the incredible opportunity that is presented to us. It’s the opportunity to look at the next 12 months and decide what we want to achieve.

The good news is that we can have both self-reflection and celebration. It is all a matter of approaching things in a new and curious way. Holidays can be an intense time, but they can also provide space for figuring out what comes next.

We want change to happen quickly, but the reality is that lasting change is an ongoing process. Change mostly involves just showing up every day and taking committed action. Even for a lot of high achievers, ongoing success involves self-reflection, routine and a community of supportive and like-minded people around you.

Here are some ideas for starting the new year in the best possible state of mind. Be clear about your intentions and realistic about what’s achievable.

We recommend you find a pen and paper and sit somewhere peaceful to answer the questions below.


Conquer the new year!
  1. Consider where you might want to be in a year’s time. How would you like to have changed? What things would you like to have learned? What things would you like to have removed or reduced in your life?

  2. Reflect on what is going really well in your life. Achievements that don’t usually feature in your self-appraisal are really important!

  3. When you have made changes in your life previously, what has supported you in this? Perhaps you are the kind of person who benefits from having like-minded others around you (eg. a fitness buddy). Or, perhaps a very structured approach is best for you, with time set aside each day for each goal.

  4. Consider the very best times in your life. What was happening during those times that contributed to your happiness or success? Was it to do with the people you were spending time with? Or was it more to do with your sense of purpose or personal growth? It is likely that there were several things that were contributing to you feeling contented and optimistic.

  5. How do you want to be of service? Many find the pinnacle of personal growth is when they realise that their needs are sufficiently met to then look at meeting others’ needs. For some people, this involves caring for children or family members. For others, it means being of service to the community or spending time thinking about how to solve problems in the world. When we look at grandparents (who are the best examples of this idea), we see that not only are they often incredibly contented, they are also an invaluable source of support and guidance for those who need it. Bringing the values of compassion and empathy into our daily lives can be beneficial both for us and for those around us.

  6. Have a conversation with your future self. What kinds of things do you think they might say to you? What questions might you ask them? This can be a profound exercise in perspective-taking. What might be on your mind as a 50-year-old self, or a 70-year-old self? What might be important to that version of you, and what might they tell you to focus on and appreciate now, in the present?

Take it with you into the new year

When you are considering the new year, it’s a good idea to give yourself some space to think about these ideas. See if you can reflect on them with those around you. Perhaps others have been thinking similar things or have found that they were able to make changes in their own lives.

Remember, a big part of this is showing up every day, keeping an eye on the big picture. There will be times during the year when none of this makes sense; all that is visible is the short term, and that is fine. Often, the goals we make in the new year will shift or change. What is important is that we have taken the time to think about what it is that we truly want and the things that really matter. Here’s to an excellent 2018!

To find out more and to download Daybreak, a program by Hello Sunday Morning, visit hellosundaymorning.org/daybreak.

How to survive the holidays

For someone trying to change the way they drink, how to survive the holidays can be a challenging question. Most events like Christmas parties and family get-togethers come part and parcel with drinking. We take leave from work and connect with others; it feels natural to relax and have a few extra drinks. For many Daybreak members, this can result in slipping back into a lifestyle they are wanting to move away from.

Reflecting on past holidays can be a valuable tool

Some good questions to ask yourself might be:
“When my holidays are over, what would I have liked to have done?,” or, “In previous years, what did I wish I had spent more/less time doing?”

Now, looking towards the near future, take a moment to ask, “What would I like to spend my time on?” The holidays are a precious, limited time to be close to the people we love the best. It’s worth taking a few minutes to think about how you want to spend it.

Have a plan to survive the holidays

Having a plan in place before you get to these situations is much easier than trying to make something up on the spot. When speaking to people at Christmas parties and end of year celebrations, you can say something like, “I’m focusing on my health at the moment and have noticed that alcohol is really setting me back in terms of fitness,” or, “I’m not drinking this year, as I want to feel refreshed after the holidays, but please don’t let that stop you.”

Another good strategy to survive the holidays is to have a plan in place for triggers or situations that might compromise your goals. Ask yourself, “What am I going to do if I have an argument with my siblings and feel overwhelmed?” or, “What am I going to tell my parents when they offer me a drink at lunch?”

Sometimes our loved ones are worried that if we aren’t drinking, we might judge them or behave differently. It will be good to emphasise that you don’t expect them not to drink. You are just not drinking at the moment. Not drinking doesn’t have to be a big deal.

Ideas to make the transition easier:

  • Have a non-alcoholic drink in hand. The varieties of non-alcoholic beers are increasing and the potential for mocktails is limitless.

  • Not drinking doesn’t have to be a subtraction. Explore all the amazing things you can do when you’re not sprawled on the couch. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, start a game of backyard cricket, head down to the beach or pool for a swim or kick around a footy. If you’re in a cold place, organise a day on the slopes or a family talent show inside.

  • Or, you could be everyone’s new favourite person by offering to be the designated driver.

Be kind to yourself

Understand that holidays and family get-togethers can be very challenging, particularly if there has been a conflict in the family. Sometimes we can feel anxious or exhausted by being back in the family dynamic, and also without the numbing effects of alcohol. The good news is that often it is alcohol that triggers arguments and disagreements within families, and not drinking will allow you to step away from that and look at things differently. Sometimes alcohol can feel like it is necessary to deal with family, but when we take it away or reduce it, often we find family gatherings are less tedious.

A good way to survive the holidays is to acknowledge that they are a bit of a mixed bag. There will be stressful situations and perhaps a tense conversation or two, but the holidays also come with these bright moments, those moments of connection and celebration that make all the stress worth it. Sticking to your goals on changing your relationship with alcohol drinking might not stop your mum from asking you pointed questions about your love life, or your crazy uncle from airing his political views over dinner, but you may find that you come away with more of those brights moments, because you made choices about how you wanted to spend your time.

To find out more and to download Daybreak, a program by Hello Sunday Morning, visit hellosundaymorning.org/daybreak.

Surprising results from three months without alcohol

Brad Hopkins KPMG on three months without alcohol

Brad Hopkins, Director at KPMG’s Infrastructure & Projects Group, reflects on the corporate culture of drinking and his three months without alcohol.


Personal drinking habits are an unusual topic to kick around with colleagues. The magic little liquid holds a cherished position in corporate Australia – its ubiquity and impact on our work environment is rarely spoken of.

I have never been regarded as a big drinker and I never thought of myself as having a ‘drinking problem’. Despite this, I was challenged by a friend to tackle three months without alcohol and I finished this stint in May 2017. Now I’ve decided to do another three months, and I’d like to encourage others to have a go. My motivation is old fashioned curiosity – the original stint was so surprising that I’d like to see what might happen next.

So, what can you expect if you join the experiment? I am sure it will vary dramatically by person but I have described a few of my own surprises below.

One month is a good start, but longer is better

I had quit alcohol for a month once before but was persuaded to try a longer three-month stint this time around. The longer break was recommended by a friend, Chris Raine, of Hello Sunday Morning. Hello Sunday Morning’s mission is to provide tools and support to help people assess their relationship with alcohol. The thing I like about this organisation is that they don’t tell you how much you should drink. Instead, they help you learn something about yourself and your habits.

For me the first month was largely occupied with self-congratulations and predictable outcomes. I lost some weight and saved some money. Far more interesting things happened in months two and three. With time my concentration began to improve, my stress levels declined and my sleep improved.

Why did these changes take so long to materialise? Research on the impact of long-term, low-level drinking is patchy at best. Some theorise that alcohol, even a small amount of alcohol, has a neurological impact which alters our brain long after any hangover abates. Recent studies show that drinking small amounts of alcohol (e.g. 14 units per week) over extended periods is linked to changes in the brain and poorer long-term cognitive function.

Although the research is scant, I find it hard to imagine something that has such a significant impact on our brain in the short term (drunkenness) not having some cumulative impact (concentration, sleep, mood) in the longer term. These longer-term impacts could take time to abate once we stop drinking.

Successful people drink less than you think

For the first two weeks of my sobriety it felt like corporate Australia was awash with booze. I counted no less than twelve work-related drinking opportunities across fourteen days. Friday afternoon drinks, lunches celebrating arrivals, departures and successes, boozy nights out with clients or colleagues. In the corporate world, all of these events provide shared experiences that strengthen our relationships. Alcohol helps people bond at a fairly low cost compared to more thoughtful alternatives.

As I talked more about my sobriety, people shared stories about their own drinking habits and I discovered a lot of non-drinkers and highly disciplined drinkers lurking in the shadows of corporate Australia. Many of these “well considered” drinkers were highly successful business leaders and entrepreneurs who had turned away from alcohol for a variety of reasons.

Some of these people had well-evolved strategies for avoiding alcohol without being conspicuous about their abstinence. They would accept a drink and hold it as a prop, do the rounds at functions and exit early or restrict themselves to half a glass of wine nursed through an evening. These are the tips they do not teach you at graduate training.

Concentration is king

In the second month my concentration began to improve dramatically and the modern curse called “distraction” finally departed. Despite digging through the research, I haven’t been able to uncover why my concentration levels jumped. The cause is probably multi-faceted and I suspect that sleep is a big part of it. Alcohol is a notorious disrupter of sleep – although it helps us drift into sleep, the sleep is less restorative and more prone to interruption. My sleep gradually improved until I was getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night in the second month.

Frankly, the reasons didn’t concern me as much as the outcome – I was delighted with my new cognitive superpowers. I had one of the most productive and successful periods of my career.

Moods matter

The modern workplace revolves around our ability to think and interact with other human beings. Our reality as modern workers is that our mood directs much of our approach to people and problems. Mood can skew how you approach somebody, or indeed whether you bother approaching them at all. Whether you are calling on your emotional intelligence or solving a problem, having some control over your mood seems important today.

Any level of hangover, even from one or two drinks, makes me a little bit grumpy. For me, alcohol was a handbrake and encouraged a mindset that was muted and homogenous. As the experiment continued my moods shifted to a place which allowed me to engage more fully with the people and circumstances around me.

Stress less

Like many of us, my job is stressful and it probably always will be. As my dry spell wore on I realised that the glass or two of wine shared with my wife over dinner was actually a way of dealing with a stressful day.

It turns out that alcohol is a terrible antidote for stress and anxiety. Recent research shows that, for some people, being stressed reduces the impact of alcohol resulting in more drinking to achieve the desired result. Drinking causes short-term relaxation but reduces our ability to manage stress. For me, abstinence made me better at dealing with and responding to stress at work and at home. I was harder to rattle and recovered more quickly.

What comes after three months without alcohol?

I am going to dive into a further dry spell for another few months without alcohol. It is not easy, particularly when habits have been entrenched over many years. Whether your own challenge is work stress or Friday night socialising, there are good strategies for dealing with this.


Check out our blog on the link between stress and anxiety or chat to a Health Coach on Hello Sunday Morning’s Daybreak program to help you find the best strategies for you.

How to feel content

Daybreak’s health coach talks us through the 10 core needs that we need to meet to feel content.

Can you remember a time in your life when things felt ‘just right’? Perhaps it was a time when you felt you were really getting to where you wanted to be; you felt unstoppable. Or, it was a time when there were a lot of new things happening, and you felt like the world was opening up to you.

It could be that, at that time, you were meeting most of your core needs.

A lot of research into wellbeing and life satisfaction indicates that ‘happiness’ – or, at the very least, to feel content, depends on us having most of our needs met in the different areas of our lives.

What are the 10 core needs to feel content?*

  • Health
  • Home
  • Money
  • Social
  • Partner
  • Close friends
  • Group belonging
  • Self-care
  • Personal growth
  • Meaning and purpose

If we invest too much in one area, we risk falling short in others. Spending too much time earning money and working means our social and relational needs are unmet. On the other hand, spending too much time socialising might mean that we fall behind in our personal growth or looking after our health. It is a delicate balance. Importantly, you don’t need all 10 needs met to feel content. We generally aim to meet six or seven of the needs, fully or partially.

When people present to me with symptoms of depression, I often run through an inventory of their unmet needs. Chronically unmet needs can often result in feeling discontent. This, in turn, can cause us to feel empty, lonely, frustrated, anxious, and generally out of sorts. When we feel discontented, we are much more likely to drink more, eat more, and do more ‘self-soothing’ pursuits. These can include online shopping, social media trawling, gambling, or other things which may temporarily lift our moods.

Ironically, these are things that generally cause us to have even less of a chance to meet our needs. They are avoidance behaviours and keep us stuck in the same place.

In my experience, it is often the relational needs that are important. We can sometimes feel lonely if we are not part of something bigger than ourselves, like a social circle. Similarly, if we feel we are not learning and growing, or have a purpose in our lives, we can be left with an unsettling sense of frustration and anxiety. Different needs are also more important at different times in our lives.

Finding ways to resolve your unmet needs is likely to result in a big shift in your mood and outlook. It could be that your alcohol use is a way of managing feelings of discontentment stemming from these unmet needs. In the other direction, your alcohol use might be contributing to unmet needs, since our drinking might be impacting our relationships, energy levels, health, and finances.

How do you start to feel content?

Look back at that time in your life when things felt really good. If you can’t think of a time when that was happening, then think of the closest time to that; a time that you remember as a pretty good period of your life. Then go through the core needs (health, home, money, social, partner, close friends, group belonging, self-care, personal growth, and meaning and purpose).

What were you doing then that was different to what you are doing now?

Often we find that in those really good times, we were either investing our time differently (eg. in our friendships and relationship, rather than work or video games), doing things for our health (eg. involved in regular exercise or sports), or in a period of growth or personal development (eg. studying or learning a new skill or hobby).

The next step is to take an inventory of where you are now and which of these core needs is unmet. How might you be able to bump up that need from unmet to at least partially met?

Examples to feel content

If your health needs are currently unmet, you could take a couple of hours to research some exercise plans, look up healthy recipes online, or go for a long walk to start the process of getting back into shape.

When social needs are unmet, you could send off some texts to old friends, or perhaps search on meetup.com for groups of people who you might have something in common with.

Finally, if your personal growth needs are unmet, you could search online for a short course you can do in your spare time, or look at taking up some hobbies or setting goals for yourself. Do anything that might challenge you or provide you with intellectual stimulation.

Addressing our unmet needs is something that we know works. Remember that time in your life when things felt really good? Often it is a constant work in progress and our circumstances can change, friends can move, life can get on top of us and we can find that our previously met needs are now unmet. All that we need to do is to be aware of this, and notice when that familiar feeling of discontentment comes up. When we can recognise it, then we can start to take action towards addressing those unmet needs and moving back towards contentment.

*10 Core needs based on workshop materials presented by Matthew Berry, a Melbourne psychologist

How to replace habits with healthier choices

For someone wanting to cut back on their drinking, getting into healthier lifestyle habits can be an effective way to replace habits and change their relationship with alcohol.

People often have the tendency to replace one bad habit with another, like giving up smoking and binge eating sugary food. Whether it be exercise, art and creative therapies, picking up a new hobby or practising meditation, the replacement suggestions below are an important step in changing old habits and replacing your drink with something better for your mental and physical state.

When you start to develop new habits, passions and hobbies, you start to create new goals for yourself and the determination to improve in these areas can be a great distraction from drinking. You won’t want to drink on a Saturday night if you have an art course with a highly regarded teacher, or the waves are forecast to be clean and offshore the next day!

Replace habits by getting active

Get active to replace habits

Alcohol releases a chemical in our brains called dopamine, the reason why you feel pretty good when you first start drinking. The great news is that exercise also releases these feel-good chemicals and endorphins into your body, so you don’t have to drink to get this effect! Plus, you can’t get a hangover from a jog or boot camp. As well as helping to replace habits, exercise works as a great stress relief, boosts your mood and helps you sleep better.

Getting active does not have to be all about spending a day in a stuffy, sweaty and uninspiring gym. There are so many activities you can try to see what you enjoy the most, whether that be:

  • Cycling
  • Personal training
  • Group fitness classes
  • Outdoor meetups, like sailing or kayaking
  • Running/ running groups
  • F45, aerobics, spin classes, or cross fit
  • Boxing or martial arts
  • Triathlons or marathons
  • Ocean swimming

As long as your chosen activity gets the blood pumping and the mind present, you’re on the right track!

Try meditation

While sitting in on an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting recently, I heard people talk about their progress or their relapses and what really struck me was that over 50% of the people in the meeting spoke about how they deal with their anxiety or frustration by meditating.

 

Meditation does not have to be bound by any ‘right’ way or technique. Sometimes just sitting still and breathing can actually increase the feeling of heaviness and depression, or sitting still is not physically possible because of anxiety. Luckily, there are different techniques of moving meditation that helps move these negative energies around the body instead of sitting still. If you’re in this frame of mind, moving that energy around and out of the body can be the most effective. Some of these techniques include ancient mindfulness practices like Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga Asana, Kundalini, and Aikido. There are also group meditations, guided meditations, apps, books, workshops and endless resources to help get you started and replace habits.

“It’s helped me find my centre, helped me tone down and control my reactiveness, rebuilt the part of my brain that was affected by alcohol and pot and food addiction, given me control over my negative mind, pulled me out of depression again and again, allowed me to connect to that greater thing outside of me (or inside of me — however you want to look at it), and more than anything, become the number one coping mechanism in my life — for stress, anxiety, anger, blues, bitchiness — it fixes everything.”— Hip Sobriety

Be creative

Be creative to replace habits

Art therapy is a type of treatment that guides people to use the creative part of their brain and express their emotions through creation to replace habits. Art therapy has been proven to boost self-esteem and confidence, reduce stress and anxiety, and stimulate different experiences and feelings by encouraging people to use their hands, paint and other mediums.

The Professional Association for Arts Therapy Australia says art can be an outlet for some and can encourage people to:

  • Express feelings that may be difficult to verbalise
  • Explore their imagination and creativity
  • Develop healthy coping skills and focus
  • Improve self-esteem and confidence
  • Identify and clarify issues and concerns
  • Increase communication skills
  • Share in a safe, nurturing environment
  • Improve motor skills and physical coordination
  • Identify blocks to emotional expression and personal growth.


Gardening and horticulture therapy

Gardening and horticulture therapy are often promoted as a tool to help people get outside and boost general wellbeing. Horticulture therapy is now practised in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, mental health programs and addiction rehab to replace habits. As it is also a caregiving type of role, gardening can often provide a sense of purpose and structure.

Research has shown that gardening can reduce aggression, anxiety, depression and improve concentration and even self-esteem. Getting into projects like creating a vegetable garden can be a great way to feel motivated to work outside, and often you will find that time just flows by when you stop to smell (and plant), the flowers.

Hobbies

Despite what people may think, you’re never too old to take up a new hobby. The best part about taking up a hobby is that it is something you are choosing to do because you enjoy doing it, and you don’t need anyone else to be involved, or even like it! To list all potential hobbies that you can explore would take up pages and pages of this blog, so here are just a few hobbies the team at Hello Sunday Morning are into:

 
  • Surfing
  • Hiking
  • Dragon boating
  • Collecting art
  • Dancing- salsa, ballroom, No Lights No Lycra
  • Computer games
  • Drawing
  • Cooking

For a heavy drinker to replace habits, these alternative therapies should be used in conjunction with talking to your GP, psychologist, and a consistent support platform such as the Daybreak program and community.

How stress and anxiety link to drinking

As a health coach for Hello Sunday Morning’s app, Daybreak, I have noticed that anxiety is a really common issue for our members. For some people, it is a chicken or egg scenario – is my drinking a way that I am managing my anxiety, or is my anxiety partly a result of my drinking and all the things that come with it? And, where does stress fit into all of this? Is it the same, or separate to anxiety?

One thing I have noticed is that stress in our lives greatly increases our vulnerability to high-risk drinking, as well as being overwhelmed with strong emotions.

I wondered why that was, and what kind of relationship there was between these three factors. My sense was that if I, as a health coach, had these questions, our members might as well – so I have put together some pointers that my coaching clients have found helpful in exploring the relationship between anxiety, drinking, and stress.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a tricky thing to define but is generally our brain’s way of responding to some kind of threat – whether that is a threat to our safety, our reputation, our relationships or our sense of self. It can be affected by our genetics, our environment, and our personality. Stress is often a precursor to anxiety – stressful situations put us into ‘fight or flight’ mode that helps us to protect ourselves from various types of threat.

Can you be predisposed to anxiety?

There is a lot of evidence that links stressful life events (SLEs) in our early life with issues later in life, including anxiety, depression and, sometimes, substance use. SLEs don’t have to be life or death situations – they can be things like witnessing parental divorce, economic adversity or mental illness. The evidence indicates that experiencing two or more SLEs in early life significantly increased a person’s chances of developing an issue with their mood, such as anxiety or depression.

Of course, if you are a child who is vulnerable to stress, you are probably going to be affected more by something like a divorce or economic hardship– which is where individual factors come in. An anxious or sensitive temperament and stress early on in life can create a ‘perfect storm’ for some issues later on down the track. Not everyone who feels anxious as an adult has been exposed to SLEs, but there is a really strong relationship between SLEs and anxiety or depression. It is good to remember that the active component here is the ‘stress’ – when kids are exposed to ongoing stress in their lives, it impacts how their brains develop and respond to threats in their environment. But more on that later on.

A good thing to remember is that SLEs in adulthood can also create issues with our moods – if we have a number of stressful events with little opportunity for respite, we can find that it is much harder to keep positive. Perhaps we start to feel really anxious after a bad breakup that just keeps going on, or very down and helpless after some chronic stress at work. Our brains don’t deal with ongoing stress well, particularly the kind of stress that we feel we can’t do much about.

Remember – stress often comes first, and if it keeps going, that is when problems can develop. Often when we look back to difficult times in our lives, we can see that a number of different stressors led up to it. What is the science behind this? It sounds too ‘tell me about your childhood’!

Emotions and stress levels

There is a lot of research into SLEs, as well as the actual mechanism that creates this relationship between our exposure to stress, our moods, and our relationships with alcohol. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of heavy duty neuroscience, but essentially:

We know that SLEs can change how our brains develop and even which genes are expressed; in particular, in the dopamine reward pathway which is a major player in high-risk drinking.

Research has found major disruptions in our dopamine signalling (for motivated behaviour and reward seeking) associated with SLEs. The part of our brain that controls this system also affects our stress and anxiety levels. Throughout our lifetime, stress causes us to produce cortisol which helps us to survive and stay alert. However, when these stress responses are activated over and over again, a person can become vulnerable to later problems with anxiety and depression.

One way to think about it is like a button that gets pressed over and over again. At first, it works well, but over time it wears out. Sometimes it will get stuck in the ‘on’ position, and other times it won’t work at all and we’ll need to keep pressing it until it does.

People who have some problems with regulating their emotions as adults will often have had lots of stressful experiences as children, which have caused them to become ‘dysregulated’. The button in their brain that controls anxiety, mood, and even motivation, has been pressed too much and is now worn out. They might need to drink lots of coffee to get going, or they might need to drink a lot of alcohol to calm themselves down.

If there have been many disruptive, challenging or stressful events in your childhood, this may have contributed to you experiencing some issues with anxiety as an adult. If you were an anxious child who experienced a lot of things as stressful, that may also be impacting you now. If you’ve just come through a number of stressors and are finding that your emotions are all over the place, this may also be something to consider.

How does this button fit in with my drinking?

It becomes even trickier as the way that alcohol works is by taking advantage of this ‘worn out’ stress button. People who fit this description may be more susceptible to the ‘pleasure’ pathway that occurs with alcohol.

Exposure to ongoing stress means that our brains produce less dopamine over time, and so we can feel flat and empty – which can cause us to seek out the ‘high’ of alcohol or drugs. Having a sip of alcohol sends excitatory projections to our nucleus accumbens, part of our reward pathway. A complex set of interactions occur which result in that ‘good’ feeling we can get from drinking, and in people who are vulnerable, it can be a really intense and rewarding experience.

In particular, if you are an anxious person who is under stress, you may be existing in a state of mild discomfort. It is not a comfortable feeling to be on edge or tense, and alcohol is something that significantly shifts that, really quickly. We become conditioned to believe that this is perhaps the only way to take away the discomfort, or relive the stress we are feeling – and so drinking becomes more and more of a coping strategy, particularly when we are having a difficult time in our lives and are stressed, burnt out or unhappy.

Perhaps at the beginning it is about having pleasure and getting enjoyment, and later on it may become about taking away unpleasant emotions and discomfort from not having the alcohol – which is a good indicator that a problem is starting to develop, and some support is needed.

But where does this leave me?

This may sound really bleak, but don’t worry! The good news is that being aware of this relationship is a big part of the solution. Daybreak members who have identified this link between stress, anxiety, and drinking, have found some of the following strategies really helpful:

• Talk to a counsellor or coach about what kinds of things are generally stressful for you like relationship problems, criticism, failure or rejection. Understanding your triggers means that they are no longer triggers, but rather situations which can be handled with care and understanding.

• Finding other ways to ‘self-soothe’. Things like relaxation and exercise are effective ways of lowering physiological arousal and increasing your production of dopamine. Importantly, they also give us a sense of control over our mood state, which is really important for our wellbeing.

• Find ways to reduce stress in your life. If your stress button has been ‘worn out’ by life events, it may be necessary to find ways to deal with stress differently, whether that involves a change in your self-care, seeking support from friends and family to help lighten the load, or problem solving ways to address sources of ongoing stress.

• Make a list of trigger situations and a plan to deal with each of these. For example, if you know that you are likely to feel depleted and exhausted after work, make a plan to go for a walk with a friend, or schedule some other self-soothing activity that will be effective in lowering your arousal.

During these times that we are under stress in our adult lives, we need to be even more careful with things like alcohol and ensure that we are looking after ourselves and keeping stress to a minimum. This might involve getting some counselling to help deal with the source of strong emotions, or even to help to resolve current stresses in our relationships, work life or friendships.

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Why I chose to go dry in the music industry – Nathan Cavaleri



Jeff Beck – “Playing in front of an audience is total lunacy. Walking out in front of everyone is just terrifying, yet I have to do it. There’s a frozen moment when you set foot on the stage, when you don’t know if you’re going to fall over, or if someone’s going to give you a hard time in the front row. It feels like I’m facing death every single day I go on.”

Whether you’re in Red Hot Chili Peppers or a local cover band, you are the crowd’s reason to let go and get off.

Work environments for the nine-to-fiver range from mud and bricks to LCD screens; but as a musician, yours will be security guards, bar tenders and punters intoxicated on liquid amber, mary-jane and – if you’re doing your job correctly – great music.

As a musician, you will always be around alcohol and drugs, and for me celebratory vibes are contagious. I always want in. When I first cut out alcohol (after smashing apart yet another stage) I could only enviously watch my friends and fans laugh and drink the rest of the night away. Unfulfilled and feeling left out, I’d have to remind myself of why I chose to go dry.

My relationship with alcohol wasn’t an emotional one. I didn’t drink to numb anxiety or boost confidence. I didn’t even drink to relax. Alcohol was my ticket to the loosest circus in town.

Throughout my 20s, I’d poke bears and prod lions until the birds would sing the sun up, and laugh my fatigued body through the following day in the studio. But when hangovers became a mental and emotional rollercoaster, I thought twice before pouring my third rum. Soon, anxiety claimed alcohol altogether. I couldn’t touch a drop without feeling the fingers of fear slither up the back of my neck. It was no fun anymore, so I went dry for three years. Unlike many, this was a decision I was happy to make, but challenges surfaced – or, should I say, indicators began flashing. The void that alcohol abstinence left showed me things about myself I never knew existed.

The night I decided to quit drinking. I can laugh at it now, but my reaction to alcohol was an indicator of physical and emotional debts that needed to be paid.


Fortunately, booze made me play like shit, so it was never a problem around show time. But many musicians drink and use to dampen nerves or general emotional heat, others to keep the dying flames of passion alight. Networking, industry and crowd perception can also anchor many to the bottle. Being a substance of surrender, it can be a solution to dissolving stresses that block the creative highways when trying to write. Naturally, going dry will effect what alcohol depends on. For me, socialising became boring, and relationships shifted. It was as if the contrast on my social life had been turned down. I knew that as long as there were parts of my personality left unexpressed, I’d continue mourning the “fun times” and thus alcohol (now I understand yoyo sobriety). Thanks to the knowledge I had acquired dealing with anxiety, I was able to fully shift my relationship with alcohol.

I’m lying on my back in a sweaty state of blissful exhaustion and completely comfortable with mortality after one of the most amazing sex sessions I’ve ever had. As I’m enjoying the mental replays, I start laughing. I can’t believe I said that. I can’t believe she did that. It seemed natural at the time but from the ground up, it was almost embarrassing. With no substances in our systems, we rose above the day’s fatiguing stressors beyond boundaries and judgement. It was a ride of unfiltered connections much like the ones I chased socially with a bottle. Then it hits me. Alcohol is not the state itself, but a catalyst for bringing out something in me that already exists. I begin questioning every belief between alcohol and social fun.

Mood state change, night life stamina, psychological guard dropping, confidence, boldness, unfiltered connections, creativity, light-hearted shit talking, deep and meaningful conversations, laughing, dancing, climbing street poles, straddling street poles, networking, industry perception, crowd perception, relaxation, fear, presence and letting go of stressors were all qualities I learnt how to trigger substance-free through challenging the beliefs that inhibited them, and applying different internal strategies. Not only was the void filled, but a mental discipline was created in me that I apply to other areas in life. It took time, but some of the biggest, cosmic fearless nights I’ve had have been dry. And I remember them! Now I enjoy a glass of red for different reasons. There’s no void. I’m not chasing or dampening anything. There’s no clinging. It’s a take it or leave it situation.

An afterthought for the artist that is worried about perception – I reflect on my hangs with Slash, the guys from Deep Purple, B.B. King, Jimmy Barnes, whoever. Artists whose images are stained with drugs and alcohol, are loved because of what they do and who they are when they’re on it, not because they’re on it in the first place. When Courtney Love urinated on stage at The Big Day Out, nobody asked, “What was she drinking?”



Read more about Nathan and his incredible story here

One year on – reflections from a Daybreak member

I am a married mother of two children. I live in a beautiful house in a nice neighbourhood. To anyone outside, I seemed to have it all.

Nine years ago, I held my father’s hand while he took his last breaths as he passed away from alcoholic cirrhosis. I never thought it was possible for people to die from alcohol abuse and, honestly, I was angry that he let it get to that point. I never thought I would be headed down the same road.

Of course, it didn’t happen overnight. I started drinking on weekends, progressed to weekdays and then it became a regular daily occurrence. Some days were worse than others, where I drank so much I would completely black out and not remember what I had said or done the day before. Some mornings after I had too much to drink the night before, I’d vow to myself I’d never drink again. That lasted for a day or two and then I would promise myself that the next time I would just have a few glasses instead of a few bottles of wine. I kept this going for a few years. If I didn’t drink the night before, I’d make up for lost time the day after.

I got to a point where one bottle of wine per day was normal and I would have two other bottles on standby. Then two bottles became my new normal and I started drinking earlier in the day, hiding my bottles so that my husband couldn’t see that I had started drinking before noon. I used any and every excuse to drink. Good day, bad day, weekend, celebrations, you name it, I’d have come up with a reason why drinking was acceptable on any given day.

My entire life was starting to crumble. My relationships with friends and family were suffering. I wasn’t truly present for my two children, and my marriage was on the verge of divorce. I said and did hurtful things, some of which I didn’t even remember doing. I was ashamed of myself but the more I tried to control myself and try to moderate my drinking, the more I failed and eventually got to a point where I considered ending my life. I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I had a drinking problem. I knew I had a problem because drinking at 8:30 am is not normal, but I couldn’t say it out loud and the thought of never drinking again scared the hell out of me.

My choice

I went online and found Hello Sunday Morning and an online app called Daybreak. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t want to go to AA meetings or any other type of support group because it terrified me. As clichéd as it sounds, admitting you have a problem is the first step. I logged onto Daybreak and for a while just lurked on the app, reading posts from other people who were having the same problems that I was having. I tried and failed a few more times but on 25 September 2016 I finally decided to get onto the app and stick to my commitment to stop.

Judz share in Daybreak

What I found on this app was support and understanding like I didn’t know existed, from strangers all over the world. Strangers who encouraged and held each other up and who were all suffering in the same battle. Some had been there longer than I was and it gave me hope to stick to it. People on Daybreak gave me tricks and tips on how to get through the toughest battle I had ever had to fight in my life. It was absolutely mind-blowing to witness the pure honesty and goodness of these people. It is truly like a gathering of the best humans in the world all in the same place, and support was there any time of day or night.

I chose not to go to AA and similar meetings because they did not resonate with me at all. I personally find AA to be outdated and somewhat religious, so it just wasn’t for me. Daybreak and the people who supported me have saved my life. I don’t know where I would be had I not had their support.

Sobriety has changed my entire life. My relationships with family and friends, my marriage, all of it changed for the better. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight, but incrementally every aspect of my life got better and old wounds started to heal.

I am and will forever be grateful for Daybreak and all the wonderful people that are on the app for their support. If anyone is questioning themselves about their drinking or realises that they have a problem, Daybreak is such a great place to start. Support, understanding and compassion and most of all, no judgement. People that are going through the same journey understand how difficult this can be.

From the bottom of my heart to all of you at Daybreak and Hello Sunday Morning, thank you for saving my life.

Love and strength,

Judz01

To find out more and to download Daybreak, an app by Hello Sunday Morning, visit hellosundaymorning.org/daybreak

How to surround yourself with positive people

The best advice I have heard about living the most fulfilling and optimistic life was given to me by a man I hold in the highest regard. A man who is a father to eight kids, plus half the neighbourhood. A man who makes the most of every situation and even if something really shitty happens, like bankruptcy or a terminal illness, focuses on the good stuff and making the most of the present moment, constantly asking, “don’t you love it?” A man who opens his door (literally) to anyone of any status or background. A man with the biggest smile and an even bigger heart.

Surround yourself with positive people,” were his words of advice when I graduated high school with one of his step daughters, and it has stuck with me to this day.

Spring is upon us here in the southern hemisphere, bringing with it a season of transformation. Trees that shed their leaves and flowers in winter are now starting to bud and the weather is warming up, bringing clearer days with it. We feel rejuvenated from hibernating through winter and there is a sense of growth and new beginnings in the air.

Spring tends to be the season during which we feel inspired to make some changes to our lives.

We often say that a person is exhausting or drains our energy. They may be someone who takes from you in ways that you understand, or in a subtle way that you can’t put your finger on. This could be your partner, a friend, a colleague or anyone that you interact with often.

I’m not encouraging you to ditch a friend who is going through a hard time and seems to be in a negative place. That friend needs your support now more than ever. But you have to think of yourself first because if you feel drained and uninspired, you won’t be able to support anybody. Just be aware of these people and the place where they find themselves. To keep your spirits high, you may want to think about saying ‘no’ when you just don’t feel strong enough to take them on that day, or if you’re no energised enough to meet up with them. You can always reschedule for a time when you are feeling better and not so vulnerable.

On the other hand, there are some people who leave you feeling lighter and good about yourself. They lift your mood with a simple laugh or joke, or some great advice. These people are easy to be around and they make you love yourself more, too.

Surround yourself with people who make you feel awesome and you may be able to be that person to someone who needs it. It will make you happier, more inspired and optimistic. So, how do you do this?

Be thankful

Finding contentment is a real challenge for people in the western world. We are constantly searching for something more, whether that be through material possessions like houses, cars and tech, or shifting environments in our travels, careers and relationships. But when we focus on the good in our lives, we are likely to attract more of it.

Be passionate

We become passionate when we really love what we are doing or feel strongly about something. Being passionate means you are inspired, motivated and full of purpose. We enjoy being around people who are enthusiastic about what they are doing and their passion can sometimes even ignite our own.

Visualise it

Visualisation can be a powerful tool. Have you ever seen yourself in a situation, like receiving an award or getting a promotion, and felt it is so real that you just knew it would happen? To practice visualisation, it’s important not only to see and watch the event unfold but to also feel it in your body and notice what you can smell and see around you. For example, if you’re visualising a holiday, try to feel the breeze on your skin, the smile on your face and the joy as you splash around in the water. Realise how good it makes you feel.

Meditate, or try yoga and Tai Chi

These mindful practices allow us to tune into a state of peace and calm, decreasing the stress levels in our bodies. Yoga and Tai Chi are great practices that enable moving meditation. They can help you slow down and reset.

Strive for a nutritious diet

Food plays a huge role in how we feel. If our bowels aren’t working properly and we are not digesting our food, we can feel bloated, tired and drained of energy. It is hard to feel optimistic when you just feel like slouching on the couch.

Adopting some of the tools above in your day-to-day life, as well as limiting your time with people who aren’t bringing out the best in you and surrounding yourself with passionate, inspired and optimistic people, can really start to change the way you think and feel, for the better.

How to drink mindfully

Mindfulness is a trend that has really taken off recently. This may be because everyone is just so busy, stressed and anxious that we have forgotten what it means to savour something or how to actually be present in a moment. Every second article you read on a Facebook feed or popular blog is about being more mindful in your day to day life; eating more mindfully, socialising mindfully or practising mindfulness, yoga or meditation. But how to drink mindfully is fast becoming an important part of the conscious movement and we are all aboard that train!

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is when the mind is fully tuned into what’s happening, the space you occupy, and the activity you’re engaged in. Living mindfully means that you are completely present in that moment, aware of everything that is going on around you, and not tempting yourself into reacting or being overwhelmed by these things. When we’re mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind, and increase our attention to others’ well-being.

What does it mean to drink mindfully?

Can you recall a time when you arrived at a party or an event and went straight to the bar?

This may be because you were nervous, excited, or socially anxious, or you just bee-lined to the bar out of habit. Another thing to consider is that we constantly want to do something with our hands, so holding a glass and drinking is a way to keep our hands occupied while we are in a conversation and socialising. The result is that we find ourselves drinking and not even thinking about it, not to mention whether we really wanted that drink in the first place. Or the second drink. And especially not the seventh drink; by that point, the ability to drink mindfully is very hard to get a grip on, as may be the rest of your evening.

If we drink mindfully, it means we are experiencing the drink and deciding whether we like it, considering whether we would like another one, and maybe even tossing up whether it would be worth the headache tomorrow if we had too many. When we drink mindfully we are able to decide whether or not we will be drinking that night and it will be our decision. Not our friends’ decision. Not a cultural decision. Our decision.

It is common to turn to alcohol as a way to cope or deal with certain situations, whether that be stress at work, anxiety, relationship issues or a range of different emotional strains that we think drinking will help with. Sometimes it may relieve these difficult emotions in the short term. But if these issues are not resolved, a dependence on drinking may be added the list. So if we are mindful of how we are feeling or why we drink, we can understand that no matter what Homer Simpson says, drinking will not solve any problems. In turn, learning to drink mindfully helps us develop a healthier relationship with alcohol.

Homer Simpson doesn't drink mindfully

How can I drink mindfully?

Mindfulness is a practice and it requires you to be fully present. For example, if you want to drink mindfully, you need to first pause and ask yourself whether you want the alcohol or not. You may be going out to dinner with some friends and they are all planning on having a ‘big night’. But you have an early morning activity lined up the next day. So, you would check in with yourself to see if you feel like a drink that may lead to more drinks. Alternatively, you may just feel like a delicious meal and treating yourself with dessert instead.

Maybe you’re invited out to drinks with friends. In this case, to drink mindfully you wouldn’t order four of the cheapest house wines. Rather, you could order one delicious and expensive cocktail to enjoy for the duration of the night.

A third way to drink mindfully at parties and events is to just be present when you arrive for the first ten minutes, without heading to the bar. Suss out the crowd and the vibe of the place, greet your friends and then decide whether you feel like a drink. You may surprise yourself by realising you actually don’t need to drink to enjoy yourself. Remember that this takes time, so allow yourself the time and maybe a few practice attempts!

How can you incorporate mindfulness into other areas of your life?

Try this mindfulness technique from our ‘experiments’ list on Hello Sunday Morning’s app, Daybreak.

When experiencing an urge, it may be easy to feel overwhelmed by the internal experience. Mindfulness reduces the likelihood of getting caught up in the urge. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment and aware of our surroundings; noticing our thoughts and emotions as elements of our present experience and not the entire experience itself.

Five steps to live mindfully:

1. Practice

Set aside time each day to practice mindfulness. Practicing daily means that you will be in a better position to practice mindfulness when you need it. For example, when experiencing an urge or distressing thoughts and feelings.

2. Observe

Sit or stand still and observe your surroundings. Where are you? What can you see, hear and feel? Also, notice your thoughts and feelings in the present moment.

3. Let go

You will experience distracting thoughts and feelings. For example, you may notice yourself making a judgement or you may remember something you need to do. Do not engage the thoughts or feelings, but simply notice them and let them roll by.

4. Re-focus

Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and then return to what you were doing, which is noticing the present moment.

5. Show compassion

Don’t judge yourself or your thoughts and feelings as good or bad; just gently bring your mind back to the present. This skill takes practice, so go easy on yourself.

It is natural to have many thoughts going through our minds at any time. Remember, thoughts come and go and you are not your thoughts; you are much more than your thoughts.

Mr. Perfect on booze

Terry Cornick, a.k.a. ‘Mr. Perfect‘, talks about his dad, being a dad and how drinking and mental health tie into the whole story.

That sweet amber nectar. It can taste like “liquid gold,” I tell my wife after my first sip of a cold ale. I chime in with trademark sarcasm, such as, “I don’t normally drink, but go on, then.” The perfect accompaniment to a celebration, a new birth, birthday, marriage, religious celebration (some), promotion, divorce (?!) and sporting victory.

On the flip side, it is also seen as the perfect tonic for tragic news and disappointments, deaths and funerals, divorces (again), losing your job and many more hard knocks that somehow send us directly to its clasp. I can remember my first sip. It was on one rare weekend visit to my dad’s house for his “access,” which went from weekly to yearly to twice in one decade very quickly. But that’s another story.

We usually went to the pub, but on this occasion he must have been struggling for cash (as it was conveniently located 50 metres from his house), so we headed to the Off-Licence (Bottle Shop, for my Australian brethren). Trudging back with a case of Fosters–a terrible drop, by the way–I sat in his lounge on the floor watching television. While laughing he passed me a can and encouraged me to sip it. I winced as I gulped. How could adults ever enjoy this stuff? I would rather drink soap.

Alcohol was present in the early years of my life. At one stage my mum worked in the pub and my dad drank there. I can even remember as a toddler (pre-divorce) wandering around the pub with a pint glass as all my dad’s friends put their change coins in. I had this rotund belly on a skinny frame so they would call me “PB” (pot-belly), poke my tummy then chuck their money in. As strange as that sounds the glass filled up quickly, not a bad racket for a four-year-old.

These fun times were tempered by memories of dad coming home hammered from work and the carnage that followed. Another, far deeper story for my book.

But the reminders of the damage were never far from the surface. At around six years old he came to watch a football tournament I was playing in. He was pushing my baby brother in a pushchair and I never forget seeing half his face covered with a bandage. It turned out he was glassed in a pub after picking a fight with someone. As always, and as an almost silent child, I never questioned it. There were other frightening, dangerous alcohol-fuelled post-divorce events that I experienced watching on as a child. Their impact on my mental health at the time and now, are still deep and processing that can be difficult. I leave that for my Doctor visits.

Back at my mum’s house post-divorce we rarely had alcohol in the house. My mum barely drank anyway and after my sister’s birth in 1995, I would go as far as to say she was allergic. One bottle of Bacardi Breezer and migraines followed for days. So when I finally got to experience alcohol “properly” I was around 13 years old. A few of my friends’ parents were out for New Year’s Eve nearby. None of my close friends were huge tearaways, by the way, but some could be described as troublemakers.

After watching a film and playing PlayStation, one friend suggested we have some alcohol. Eventually I relented and we searched out every kitchen cupboard. We found a bottle of vodka. It’s clear in colour, we thought, like water; what damage could this possibly do? In the lounge ten minutes later we devised a simple game. The loser had to drink “some” of the vodka. Having no knowledge of measures we used a pint glass and poured two-thirds of a glass and downed it when we lost. The burn was deep. Fifteen minutes later the world turned into a wonderful fluffy marshmallow and we all danced around the room, wrestled, laughed and eventually passed out asleep with no real damage.

A couple of years later I witnessed my brother going “out on the town” dressed up and somehow getting into pubs and clubs at sixteen. It must have been the pin-striped pants, shiny black shoes, Ben Sherman shirt and black mafia-style overcoat that did the trick. The look of the day. When it was my turn to try my luck it came about by accident. My friends on the estate we lived suggested we go to a house party near our town centre. On route we realised it had been cancelled and before I knew it, fuelled by two sickly orange vodka alcopops, I was paired with a mate and his two girlfriends that looked far older and confident than we.

Five hours later my mum picks me up from the town centre clearly angry as I try and feign sobriety. My shin the next morning bearing testament to falling up the nightclub stairs and smashing it on the metal step. But a hangover? Anxiety? Depression? None of that. Come midday we all met up to play football for hours.

The university days of life saw darkness creep in concurrently with alcohol. Fresher’s Week, student nights and boredom meant substantial, encouraged drinking. But I never drank for taste. As a shy, introverted guy it was just an attempt to fit in. I figured I would be less visible that way. £3 three-litre bottles of cider before we went out were our poison.

Hangovers at this stage meant anxiety-filled days of barely leaving my bed: heart pounding, heavy chest, curtains were drawn and pleading, hopefully, that I would not have to face anyone that day. The escape of intoxication provided 12 hours previously had long gone. I was quiet and moody by nature, or so I thought at the time, so no correlation with mental health was considered. I did, however, crave Cherry Coca-Cola, a regular saviour post-booze. Post-university, friends and I discovered “Snakebite” (a horrific concoction of beer, cider and blackcurrant juice). Ironically we went to an Australian-themed bar called Walkabout on Friday and Saturday nights and post-football on Sunday. Severe dehydration meant waking up in the middle of the night after a session, usually panicking.

Curiously, I never drank during the week at home. Ever. I always wanted to function well at work, probably more than most. It was rarely in my own culture or those around me to drink at home. You went to the pub for that, the heart of the community. And on an English street, there are more hearts than Hallmark on Valentine’s Day.

Then Australia came calling. “The Great Escape,” as I call it. Unable to come to terms with, or get help for my mental health and sheer pain I was feeling, I somehow ended up on the other side of the world. A shift in my drinking culture followed.

At work I could not believe that we actually got to have a beer at 4 pm on a Friday, while still working! Mind Blowing! That gradually became a Friday lunch, then as I started to do particularly well I realised that in the sector I was working in, it was commonplace to go out on a Thursday night or meet a client for a beer mid-week. We worked alongside Sydney Harbour, after all, everyone reasoned.

As my income increased and my tastes in parallel, I developed a love for red wine or pale ale and cases of $70 craft beers. Spirits or shorts have never been appealing. But with this love has come an increased casual approach to drinking, on the whole a better approach, I think. But that shift has its own challenges.

To add to this, my mother-in-law works for a wine company. Their Hungarian background revolves around family dinners and a glass of wine or schnapps. A responsible yet enjoyable approach to drinking. Temptation is increased further as my wife, Carolina, works for an events and marketing company. Her biggest clients and accounts? Alcohol brands. That means events and freebies.

Some weeks I can drink one or two beers with dinner most nights, then have a few on a Friday or Saturday watching a movie at home. Taste is now more important than quantity. Once a month on average I let my hair down at a wedding or birthday, but by midnight I am in bed.

When stressful times appear and my cloudy spells increase, there is no denying I am thinking, “When I get home I am going to have a beer.” Thankfully, I do not have the urge to go on an all-night bender. Occasionally when this casual intake creeps up I have ways of dampening it for the good of my head. I managed to do a dry January, a huge feat for me. But some other useful strategies have emerged, some by accident.

Carolina barely drinks anymore. Motherhood has certainly affected that. And with this has become a tradition of hers. At 8:45 pm every night I make her a camomile tea. It has become so ingrained in our routine, and on most nights this influences me to not have a beer. With a few Best Man appearances and bucks parties on the horizon to organise this year, these will test my currently strong resolve.

By far the biggest influencer has been fatherhood. The seismic shift I have previously spoke of means I consider my 14-month-old boy first. They need to be fed, looked after, changed, dressed and played with. You are at their mercy. There are no chances to feel sorry for yourself with a hangover. It is non-stop all day until bed, and by getting outside when feeling a little dusty, it helps no end for my head. By no means am I suggesting having a child to regress drinking, but man, it helps.

My work with Mr. Perfect has increased my determination to develop an even healthier relationship with alcohol. I play sport and exercise regularly, so the balance is there but I have also met some incredible guys at our Monthly Meetups that on the face of it are ‘Mr. Perfects’. They have jobs, family and may be in great physical shape. But you never know from a surface understanding of a person what they may be going through. Some have confided they have been trying to change their relationship with alcohol for years. It fascinates me.

Ultimately I want to understand what my dad went through with his drinking. I used to just hate him for it and his lack of care or presence for his sons. But as I came to terms with my own mental health struggles I conceded he himself had something going on inside. A silent sufferer, as I used to be. He was killing himself slowly with the booze. It pains me to think I will never truly know why. Some family comments have suggested his long hours in his (for some time successful) London job from the age of 16 and the pub lunches that came with it, slowly turned into his addiction. He worked with his dad and he was known to “love a beer” (insert emoji for understatement).

What truly keeps me responsible is the final sight of my dad, just two days before he passed away. He sat silent and trembling, somehow making it out of bed to his couch to sit in the lounge as his wife and I chatted around him. The conversation was interrupted when my dad grunted. I had no idea what it meant but his wife did. She jumped up and returned seconds later with a tumbler of what I assumed was Coca-Cola. The pungent smell of rum soon told me otherwise.

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Starting out as a hobby, Terry created a grassroots men’s mental health support network named Mr. Perfect that is growing by the minute. Although it does not pay a cent, it pays handsomely in purpose. You can check it out at www.mrperfect.org.au

Terry from Mr Perfect with his son

Want to help support our charity and spread our message further? You can represent us in your very own Hello Sunday Morning shirt, singlet or hoodie! Purchase our apparel from hellosundaymorning.org/store

How to get out of your head

At times we can become overwhelmed by an incredible number of thoughts, ideas and conflicts going on in our minds.

Should I do this? Should I do that? How will I do this if this person hasn’t done that? I don’t have time, I’m not good enough, I’m so stressed!!!

How do you take a step back and make it all stop?

Our minds are amazing things. Studies have shown that we have between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day, or between 35 and 48 thoughts per minute. When a majority of these thoughts are negative, many of us can find ourselves feeling trapped in an unhealthy frame of mind.

Here are some ways to help you get out of your head

Activities and exercise

You may recall a time when you were swimming laps, gliding through the water, gasping for your next breath and feeling your leg muscles working to kick you forward. When you next checked the clock you noticed that way more time had passed than what you thought. This is because you were lost in the moment and completely present in what you were doing. You don’t have to be into swimming for this to happen; other forms of exercise and activity like dancing, surfing, or playing team sports can all distract you from overthinking and worrying and help you to see the world with a clearer head.

Surround yourself with grounded, relaxed and positive people

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You may have some people in your life who make you feel calm and collected when you’re around them. Spend more time with these people! If you hang around with people who are also in an unclear mental space, you will find that you’re both adding to a big pile of complicated and negative thoughts. Hang out with someone who is in a great place in their lives and instead of getting jealous, try to soak up some their positivity!

Have a morning routine

Try and roll out on the right side of the bed. If you wake up and notice negative thoughts or you haven’t slept well due to a busy mind, try these techniques to let them go before you begin the day ahead:

Get outside

If you start feeling a little bit of cabin fever, have a shower, get dressed and just get outdoors. Breathe in the fresh air, go for a walk, or read the paper at a cafe; sometimes just leaving the house can do you good. If you are up for it, spend a day or a weekend in nature. The Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 2007 found that “students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who spent that time in the city.”

Create something

Get stuck into a task that you love, whether that be drawing, painting or creating something with your hands like woodwork, pottery or shaping a surf board. Put on some of your favourite music to suit your mood and work through a bit of art therapy. Gardening and tending to plants can be a lovely tool to take your mind off things too, or simply tidying up and having a good old sort out.

Mindfulness and meditation

We hear about mindfulness time and time again, but what does it really mean and how do we best incorporate it into our lives? There are alternatives to meditation that help us relax and slow our constant thoughts and worries. THese include doing something repetitive with our hands, adult colouring in books, and gentle moving mediations like Yoga or Tai Chi. Or, just take a slow walk where you take in everything around you and literally stop to smell the flowers.

Want to help support our charity and spread our message further? You can represent us in your very own Hello Sunday Morning shirt, singlet or hoodie! Purchase our apparel from hellosundaymorning.org/store

My first AA meeting – the value of sharing

 

I sat in on an open AA meeting one Wednesday afternoon.

I work in health promotion and wanted to experience for myself what an AA meeting is really like. I wanted to question my assumptions from popular culture and stigma.

It was one of those beautiful blue days where you cannot spot a cloud in the sky. A day where the last place you want to be is in the middle of a big city. The air was filled with humidity and my clothes were sticking to me, almost in an irritating way.

The sliding doors to the community meeting room were open. The fans were on, gently blowing the posters scattered about the walls. Posters for the 12 Steps, yoga and meditation retreats, domestic violence support services and homeless shelters. These were pinned up like offerings of hope to those who previously saw themselves as hopeless. A large notice board in the middle of the sliding doors offered privacy from the street.

There were about twenty people at the meeting. Everyone seated facing the front where the person who ran the meeting and a few sponsors sat. What struck me at first was the diversity of the group. A young woman with her toddler sat opposite me. The child spluttered throughout the meeting with a chesty cough and wriggled around on her big plastic chair.

An elderly lady sat next to me and smiled warmly when we caught a glance. There was a mix of male and female, young and old. Some had been coming to AA meetings for years, others just a few months. The people in the room where just like you and I. Some with great families and careers, others with no family left and a life that has not been so kind to them.

AA meetings are not just about remaining anonymous

They are also about being present for those in the group and the community around you.

aa meeting

The first man to share was sitting across from me. He was wearing a colourful Hawaiian shirt. But the expression on his face did not suggest that his life had been a holiday. The man opened his reflections by introducing himself. “Hi, my name is Dave* and I am an alcoholic”. The first step of the 12 Steps at an AA meeting involves admitting to yourself that you have no power over your ‘disease’. You hand over your vulnerability to a higher power and admit defeat.

The meeting was on a chapter in the book that everyone was to discuss, around the theme of not being too hard on yourself. Dave began by explaining his daily struggle with crippling anxiety. He shared with us how he hates himself for getting into this state of mind. How he panics when he cannot see a solution or an out to how he is feeling. This destructive cycle means Dave cannot hold down a stable job and ends up screwing up every job interview he has had, as he talks himself down and focuses on everything that is wrong with him and the company and the people holding the job interview.


“A community that cares”

Rachel

Austin, Texas

“I suffered from feelings of guilt and loneliness as a result of my alcoholism. Drinking was causing a serious problem when my children came home to find me unconscious. I joined Alcoholics Anonymous to learn how to control my drinking and restore balance to my life. Whilst the program was enlightening, it wasn’t as effective as I had hoped for.

Diego

Sydney, Australia

“I was stuck in a vicious cycle of binge drinking, blacking out, and losing my memory. One of my biggest fears was that I would fail, but it’s not a test. It’s just about getting you to think about drinking. Meeting other members and getting support has been invaluable.

FIND OUT MORE



Sharing is caring

When Dave started to choke up while telling his story with tears running down his cheeks. I looked around the room. The compassion on the face of each and every person in that room was obvious. It was as if invisible hands was reaching out to hold onto Dave. To squeeze his hand and tell him that that they are there for him. When others began to share their reflections on the reading listeners would often nod their head to themselves or clap in a gesture of agreement and understanding. The speaker could take as long as they wanted and there was no judgment from anywhere in this space. This unfortunately is a special treat for many people going through recovery from an alcohol or drug dependency.

Every person who shared their triumphs and their rock bottoms on that day were open and vulnerable. But I didn’t leave the meeting feeling hopeless for the members. Everyone finished their ‘sharing’ on a positive thought. Such as:

 
“But I know I’ll be okay, because I didn’t reach for the bottle this time.”
Or, “I’m slowly seeing that I need to deal with this struggle with meditation and these meetings and staying away from those who are making this hard for me.”
 

You are probably wondering what I shared at my first AA meeting

When it came time for my turn to speak I simply said that I wouldn’t be sharing today and that was more than okay. There was no pressure to tell your story. There was no discrimination from the group because you weren’t comfortable opening up. For this I felt truly honored to be able to listen to these incredible stories of strength.

It’s so easy to brush off a comment about how people who are alcohol dependant should just “stop” drinking or using drugs, and their lives will turn around. The men and women in this meeting drank as a therapy and an escape from other underlying issues. Many stories were complex and emotionally scarring that we can only begin to comprehend. They turned to alcohol because for some reason they were not able to get the help they needed early enough. That is what saddened me the most as I stepped out of the room that afternoon.

Support is imperative for recovery, and support comes from community. Unfortunately with the stigma present in our society and our current healthcare system around people who abuse these substances, we do not provide the people who need it most with a community that they deserve.

What other support is available for people?

For those who feel that something like an AA meeting is too confronting to share their deepest fears and darkest experiences with complete strangers, or people who live in remote areas, or have kids and responsibilities that keep them from finding the time to attending these meetings as often as they need, a physical meeting may not be suitable.

Daybreak is an alcohol support group app created from years of experience by the Hello Sunday Morning team. It is a great alternative that provides an anonymous space, with a supportive community of people going through different stages of their own journey to recovery.

Download Daybreak
– Sober support group

Daybreak by Hello Sunday Morning

I saw more of Sydney in the last few months than I did in my first year living here

I told myself to visit somewhere I’d never been before, once every week.

It was pretty clichéd of me: the twenty-something-year-old Kiwi girl who spontaneously moved to Australia for six months to gain work experience and explore a new city, only to end up discovering how great the pay was, finding a full-time job, meeting an Aussie boy to settle down with, and, boom! A year and a half goes by.

It’s funny, when you’re halfway between a tourist and a resident in a new country, it becomes very easy to postpone adventuring and getting out to explore new places. “Ooh, I HAVE to visit that place! Maybe next weekend after I hand out all these resumes…,” or, “Wow, that place looks stunning! I’d love to go when I make a couple of new friends here to go with.”

After my first year in Sydney, it would seem I had it all figured out. I had a car, a handful of new friends, a boyfriend, a full time job in the industry I had actually studied for, and a nice place to live. What more could you want?! It wasn’t until my friends from back home started to visit and ask me where to go that I realised I really hadn’t seen all that much of Sydney. I could show you the Opera House or my local cafe? Where did the time go? I thought I came here for an adventure! I found that my local friends weren’t as interested in adventures, since they grew up here, and when I did manage to tie down some plan, people had to cancel for one reason or another.

That’s when I decided to make a deal with myself to visit somewhere I’d never seen before, once every week. I continued to invite friends but, ultimately, it became important for me to learn to love my own company, and make sure I had no excuse to get me out of it. 

Before I knew it, I could draw a map of interesting places and walks around Sydney’s hidden gems of nature. Every week I felt excited for what my next adventure might be, and I eliminated any stress or worries around organising friends because I knew I’d be doing it, no matter what.

The great thing about this goal was that it didn’t matter if I had a whole day to spare for a trip to the Blue Mountains, or if I was so busy that I only had time to sit under a tree and do some work at a park I had never been to before by the harbour. To me, everything counted – as long as I hadn’t seen it before. Instead of going to places I felt comfortable in, I enjoyed the aspect of consciously choosing somewhere new.

I have had so many people comment on how great this idea sounds, and even claim to ‘want to be more like me’ with my approach to seeing new things. So, why do people find it so hard to commit to such a goal? From my personal experience, getting into the routine of a new goal or habit is 80% making the first move, and 20% continuing it. Once you get over that first hump, the rest of the ride is easy. You can start by skipping your usual coffee stop and going around the corner to a new place, plan your weekends ahead by looking up some local walks, or ask friends for recommendations.

If you’re suddenly feeling like you’re stuck in a bit of a week-to-week routine I can wholeheartedly suggest you give this a go, even if it’s just simple at first. Because, for me, I gained so much more than I thought I would. This experiment slowly became less about making sure I finally saw Sydney for what it was, and more about learning to appreciate the simple things, enjoy time by myself, and see the beauty in what was surrounding me the entire time.

Have you got a list of things you’d like to try? If you want to share an experience with us that inspires others to start doing the things they have always wanted to do, we would love to hear about it! Email your story with photos (if you have them) to info@hellosundaymorning.org

She Recovers – we are all recovering from something

“We are strong and courageous women, and we do recover.”

These are the first words you read on the She Recovers website, an online community for women going through all sorts of recovery; from alcohol dependence to codependency, eating disorders, workaholism, depression and other mental health challenges. It is a place where women recovering from grief, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, self-harm, cancer and chronic illness, broken hearts, or the loss of marriages, homes and jobs, can join and share a safe space.

She Recovers was born out of a mother-daughter collaboration between Dawn Nickel and Taryn Strong, both women in recovery from substance use disorders and other life issues. The organisation started from humble beginnings and, similar to Hello Sunday Morning, She Recovers started as a blog and a Facebook page six years ago, providing a safe space for women to share their experiences and lead authentic lives through recovery. It is also a way that Dawn and Taryn can share events, retreats, workshops and tools for women to help them on their own journey to recovery.

The day I spoke with Dawn, she had reached her 30th year of not drinking.

“It’s pretty special to me. I was thinking about it today, it’s incredible to go thirty years without a drink. From somebody who used to drink the way I did, is really quite amazing. I was 27 when I stopped drinking so it is kind of a big deal.”

From the early days of publishing a few blog posts, She Recovers, just like the women coming through its community, has grown profoundly. Their event in New York City earlier this year was an inspirational women’s movement and attracted 500 women, mainly from the United States and Canada but also a few from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Egypt. Keynote speakers like Marianne Williamson, Elizabeth Vargas, Gabrielle Bernstein and Glennon Doyle graced the main stage.

“As a woman in long-term recovery, I often thought I wanted to do work with women in a similar situation so I went back to school and came out with a PHD in health care policy, with my thesis focusing on women and caregiving.

Dawn had gone through recovery not only for her alcohol, cannabis and cocaine reliance. Having been in school for thirteen years, Dawn lost her mother and was then treated for colon cancer when she graduated. She felt as if she was very behind in her life and needed to make up that lost time financially and career-wise, so she worked herself to the bone.

 About six years ago, I hit a wall with workaholism. So I went on a stress leave for four months and really began to contemplate why I had gotten so messed up and off track in my life. I was so out of balance and started to reflect on the fact that there are so many parallels on people addicted to work or even addicted to being busy, which is something that so many of us suffer from. So I began writing a blog called Recovering Dawn and reflecting on my recovery from long-term substance abuse. I gathered a following quite quickly with women going “yeah me too, I’ve been sober or clean for this long but I do still find myself burnt out or still trying to prove myself.” So, there was a definite theme there.

Dawn has just returned from their  15th recovery retreat (most in Mexico). She Recovers hosts retreats locally in North America as well as in Bali and California, with exciting plans to extend these retreats to other countries. The emphasis on all of the retreats is radical self-care, with Taryn facilitating mind, body and spirit connection for all retreat guests through her signature Yoga for Recovery program.

Karen, from Sydney, shares her experience on a She Recovers retreat. We loved her story as it illustrates so beautifully the intersections between She Recovers, Hello Sunday Morning, and similar sites such as The Bubbly Hour, and shows that not one mould fits all.

“In January 2015 I signed up for a 12-month challenge with Hello Sunday Morning, posted this status on my Facebook feed and a few months into it I stumbled across The Bubble Hour podcast. Both of these provided me with the support and motivation to start the journey of life without alcohol. One of the interviews I listened to on The Bubble Hour was with Dawn Nickel from She Recovers – I always loved listening to people’s stories, however, Dawn also talked about the special retreats she organised for women who are in recovery from something, whether it’s addiction, grief, stress, abuse – anything. Connecting with others is a key component of recovery and I wanted to feel this. I decided that I would like to reward myself for the work I had done on my own recovery and signed up for the 2016 She Recovers Retreat in Mexico. How exciting! A week on my own with no kids, no cooking, no chores – just chillin’ in the sun with a group of women from a different part of the world. This time that I took out for myself was pivotal in my recovery. These women all made a choice to set aside time from their day to day work and families and come together with a bunch of strangers to share their stories and gain strength from each other. I came away from the retreat feeling like my mind, body and soul had been nourished and I felt completely at peace with myself. I also felt inspired by the women I met – it’s funny, an outsider would never think any of these women were recovering from anything because they all seem to have their shit together! Being self-aware and open to connection is a wonderful strength we all had. 

“A typical day at the retreat involved sleeping, chatting, resting, and reading, either by the pool or on the beach; our bodies had time to rest and were nourished with beautiful fresh food at every meal; we completed 12 yoga sessions over the week with each one focussing on a chakra – this was something new to me and I found it transformational. I’ve now adopted yoga and meditation into my normal daily life. I took a run along the beach every day and spent time reflecting on the conversations I had with my new friends and the words of wisdom Taryn gave us during our Yoga sessions. I no longer felt alone, I felt like I had met my tribe and together we are a powerful energy. I was reading a post I wrote to my new friends just a month after the retreat and it still rings true one year later: ‘Choosing a life without alcohol is the smartest thing I’ve ever done. What’s surprising is I’m not the social outcast I thought I would be; if anything, I’m more social because I’m not sitting at home drinking. I’m now playing sport, doing yoga and being mindful of my family and friends. I’m present in my relationships and investing time in nurturing them. I’ve chosen not to work long hours anymore and to keep an eye on how much mental energy I give work when it’s family time. I finally feel like I am living a balanced, healthy and mindful Life – my dream is coming true.'” 

The She Recovers philosophy is a co-creation and is built from mine and Taryn’s experience, and what we’ve learned from the women who follow us, from the women who we’ve met on the retreats or have written to us. We believe in early intervention and we know it is not about being a ‘sick’ or ‘diseased’ person; we take a strength based approached.

“We are stronger together.”


If you need support to change your relationship with alcohol, download Daybreak, for iOS or Android to change your drinking habits today.

Reverse your thinking – focus on what you want​

 

An excerpt from A Happier Hour, written by Sexy Sobriety‘s Rebecca Weller. Sexy Sobriety is an online life-coaching program designed for women who are ready to take control of their lives and unleash their authentic selves onto the world.

Back when I was in my corporate ​job, we were encouraged to take a ‘Defensive Driving’ course that involved performing a variety of manoeuvres on a race track. In one of the exercises, we were instructed to speed up and then slam on the brakes and avoid hitting a particular safety cone. Despite our best efforts, we all hit that cone.

We tried the activity again, but this time, rather than focusing on the cone, we were instructed to look for a safe place to steer the car. Same distance, same speed, same brakes; just a different intention and focus.

​We were stunned. Every single one of us avoided the cone.

Our instructor explained that if something or someone jumps out in front of you, the worst thing you can do is look straight at it as you’re trying to avoid it. You need to focus on where you want to go, rather than where you don’t want to go.The lesson was powerful and I often found myself telling clients about it. Time and again, I noticed that when we focus on our fears, we often smash into them. And if we’re not focusing on where we really want to go, how can we expect to get there?

When it came to drinking, how many times had I given myself a lecture about not making a fool of myself, or letting the night get too messy, only to find that’s exactly where I’d ended up? Too many to count.

I thought about the next three months and everything I wanted to do, see, hear, taste, and experience in that time. Above all, I thought about how I wanted to feel. I wanted to feel playful, with confidence that was authentically me, not poured from a bottle. I wanted deeper connections, less anxiety, more space, more love, more potential. I wanted transformation, dammit!

I didn’t want to undertake a challenge that would make me miserable, and I was determined to make this experience a positive one. Sensing that overwhelm was not my friend, I decided to start with just two words of intention that inspired me most. I opened my journal to a fresh page, and wrote, My Sobriety Experiment.

My biggest fear around sobriety was that I’d never have fun again, so I decided to start with the big one. On the next line, I wrote, Playful. I thought about what playful meant to me. Creativity, fun, spontaneity, mischief, joy. I tapped my pen against the page, thinking about what I could do to feel that way without booze. I brainstormed on the page:

Choose love over fear. Trust. Believe. Tell jokes. Send funny messages to friends. Create fun, easy recipes. Schedule time off-line. Watch comedies. View each day as an adventure. Try new things. Take beautiful photos. Invite friends to lunch. Paint my toe nails. Create. Share. Skip. Giggle. Dance.

I took a deep breath as I reviewed my list. See? I told my inner critic. That doesn’t sound so bad. I turned the page and chose my next word, Radiant. I thought about what that word meant to me. Sparkly, healthy, glowing, connected, blissful. Obviously, just skipping the alcohol would guarantee that I felt infinitely more radiant, but what else could I do? I jotted down everything that came to mind:

Go to bed earlier. Stretch at sunrise. Juice. Run. Go to yoga class. Offer help. Eat fresh, whole foods. Feel sunshine on my skin. Splash around at the beach. Picnic in the park. Keep a gratitude journal. Meditate. Write. Create. Eat dinner by candlelight. Choose quality over quantity. Phone friends and family. Listen. Practice random acts of kindness.

I reviewed my lists, and started to feel tingles of excitement about this little adventure. Inspired, I switched on my laptop and created a secret Mood Board on Pinterest. I wanted something pretty I could look at on my phone whenever I felt wobbly; images to remind me how I wanted to feel, and why I was doing this. Why I wanted to change; what life might be like without this unhealthy habit; the kind of person I could become if I were free of its clutches.

Like a woman possessed, I spent hours clicking around the internet. Nutritious food, women doing yoga, women running on the beach, women splashing around in the ocean, click click click. Job done, and feeling marginally better about the whole endeavour, I decided to go one step further. I had a feeling this challenge would be one of the biggest of my life and I’d need all the safety nets I could possibly create.

For my birthday the previous year, Dom bought me the large vision board I’d been swooning over for months. It was gorgeous, with a huge expanse of white space to pin pictures, and a beautiful wooden frame, painted white. He’d kept it a surprise, filling the board with photos from our travels and other meaningful souvenirs. He snuck it into our study before coming in to meet me and a huge group of friends at a bar in the city. Naturally, because it was my birthday, I got rather silly indeed, downing cocktail after cocktail like it was the eve of Prohibition.

Dom had planned to surprise me with his thoughtful gift when we got home that night, but my actions robbed him, and myself, of the chance. I was a drunken mess and didn’t even remember the cab ride home. The next morning, when he took me into our study and showed it to me, I felt wretched with guilt and stupidity.

Now, I took a deep breath and lifted the board off the wall. It was time for an update: to the board, and to my life.

I took salsa lessons and realised it was a better way to meet people than nightclubs

We have turned July into our dancing month, where we will explore different forms of creative expression to music and encourage you to do the same. Salsa and other forms of dance can provide an outlet for a lot of baggage. Hello Sunday Morning is inviting you to come along on our journey to experiment with the boogie and increase your groove.


If I were to think of an environment that was purpose-built to be the most difficult to build new relationships, a nightclub be close to perfect.

When you are single, developing a relationship with alcohol that you are happy with is arguably the hardest of all the stages of life. So much of dating life involves drinking. It takes a lot of courage to ask someone out on a date, moreover to go on said date without getting hammered to cope with the first date jitters.

Whenever someone asks me, ‘how the hell do you meet new people if you don’t drink?’, my answer is one word: Salsaaaaa!



I use the word ‘Salsa’ as a synecdoche to represent a much larger group of activities outside the usual nightclub dance floor. Activities that provide a safe space for play and connection within new people, without expectation. This could be joining a sporting team or Meetup, or any number of activities that encourage people to introduce themselves to one another and build new relationships with people. Romantic or otherwise.

The business models of nightclubs are incentivised directly towards the overconsumption of alcohol. Going to one to build good new relationships is like going to a casino to make money. The house is stacked against you.

The best thing about these alternate ways to meet people is that the rules of engagement are quite clear and for someone who doesn’t want to pursue anything, it is fine to say no, and arguably much easier than saying no to a drunk person in a nightclub. In a nightclub, the loud music, the dim lights and the abject lack of rules of engagement or protocol make it hard to ask someone out without taking a complete chance on their personality and in many ways treating them as a two-dimensional character. Alcohol makes it easier to overcome these reservations – but doing this sober is really hard.

So, my friends, if you find yourself sober and single and keen to mingle – get yourself some salsa lessons or join a Meetup you are passionate about. Don’t bother trying to pick up at a nightclub – go out to enjoy the music, dance, and laugh with friends, but don’t waste your time otherwise.

If you are unconvinced, put the few hundred dollars you would spend going out in a month into dancing lessons and attend a dancing social. Try it for one month and just see what happens. If it doesn’t work – you will always have the casino.


“Have you got a list of things you’d like to try? If you want to share an experience with us that inspires others to start doing the things they have always wanted to do, we would love to hear about it! Email your story (with photos if you have them) to info@hellosundaymorning.org”  

I danced sober in the dark on a Monday night with 100 other people

We have turned July into our dancing month, where we will explore different forms of creative expression to music and encourage you to do the same, as dancing can provide an outlet for a lot of built up baggage. Hello Sunday Morning is inviting you to come along on our journey to experiment with the boogie and increase your groove. 

It was sweaty, it was loud, it was electric, and the best part of all? It was Monday night.

We walked into a completely pitch-black room; the walls and floor were vibrating with beats from the speakers and DJ in the corner. When our eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, dimly lit by a few community hall EXIT signs, we were just able to make out the silhouettes of the dancers all around us.

For the next hour, we found ourselves slowly losing all inhibitions and moving parts of our bodies that have not moved for a long time. Hips were swinging, butts were bouncing and clapping, laughter and yahoos were made out over the blasting of music from old school swing music to classic ’90s hits from Destiny’s Child.

What is this magical dance universe, you may ask?

No Lights No Lycra started in Australia and has grown to provide this community experience in countries all over the world. Check out your area to find your nearest NLNL:

“The dance night grew through word of mouth and within a few months the hall was full of people who shared the same yearning for a dimly lit space to dance as freely as they do in their living rooms.” 

nlnl-e1342748898543.jpg

Who says you need alcohol to dance? 

The darkness at No Lights No Lycra helps you forget about that self-consciousness that stops most of us from expressing ourselves fully. Naturally, you may feel a little tense at the start as we are so used to worrying what other people might think of us. But give it 10 minutes and you’ll notice the endorphins crawling over your skin and words belting out of your mouth as you sing along and crawl out of your protective social shell to move in ways you never knew you could.

There’s no other feeling like it, a smile was glued on my face, a stitch prevalent in my rib cage and my legs ached until the next day.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Would I recommend to a friend? Absolutely.

Do I think dancing will cure the world? One Monday night at a time.

Have you got a list of things you’d like to try? If you want to share an experience with us that inspires others to start doing the things they have always wanted to do, we would love to hear about it! Email your story with photos (if you have them) to info@hellosundaymorning.org

I stood at the front of a room and danced the Brazilian Samba

 
Hello Sunday Morning’s Experiments Challenge is all about trying something different, something you have never done or have always wanted to do. For July, our month of dancing, we sent our marketing intern Cara to take on the Brazilian Samba … 
I haven’t taken a dance class since I was about seven years old, aside from one failed attempt to learn Salsa last year. Maybe the Samba will be easier, I thought, after watching a two-minute video clip on YouTube. My roommates and I showed up to the dance studio in tee shirts and athletic leggings with water bottles in hand. We were prepared to sweat. The studio was on the upper level of a brick building decorated with an abstract mural of bright yellow, blue, and pink. The inside was just as eye-catching: banners of multicoloured flags hung from the ceiling, posters covered the walls, and hula hoops and baskets of feathers lined the hallways. Before our Brazilian Samba class started, we had a look around the studio. In one of the rooms, women wearing beaded scarves around their waists were practising belly dancing. I wondered if anyone in our class would be wearing pieces of the extravagant feathered Samba costumes I had seen in the YouTube clip. When we entered the wood-floored dance studio where our lesson was to be held, everyone else was wearing workout clothes sans carnivalesque embellishments. Phew. People started stretching, so I put my leg on a nearby ballet barre (with some difficulty) in an attempt to appear as though I knew what I was doing. Our dance teacher, an energetic Brazilian woman, burst into the room and immediately turned on the stereo. She instructed us to walk around and “feel the music.” So fifteen of us gathered in a circle and sashayed around the room. We were told to move our arms in small circles at first, then back and forth across our bodies. When our warm-up was over, we spread out across the room, facing the mirrored wall at the front. The first move we learned was a basic footwork pattern that involved three steps. This won’t be so hard, I thought. From my spot in the back corner of the room, I tried to follow the instructor’s movements by staring at her feet, then at mine. I was comfortable at my spot in the back of the room, where I could watch everyone’s feet in front of me. The instructor wasn’t satisfied with our feelings of ease in our places. She called out one woman from the back and requested that she move to the front of the room. Then, she had me move to the front row as well. To be perfectly honest, I panicked a bit. I was able to use the mirror to follow along with the rest of the class, and I finally got the hang of it after everyone else had already seemed to master the steps. Then, we were instructed to combine arm motions and hip movements with the footwork. I started looking around the room to see if I could learn the moves by watching my classmates. By the end of the class, I still couldn’t figure out how to control my arms while paying attention to the fast-paced footwork, given my lack of coordination. I’ll definitely need to return to the studio to give the Brazilian Samba another try, but this time I’ll be finding a spot right in the middle.   
Have you got a list of things you’d like to try? If you want to share an experience with us that inspires others to start doing the things they have always wanted to do, we would love to hear about it! Email your story with photos (if you have them) to info@hellosundaymorning.org
 

Independence Day is all about community

At Hello Sunday Morning, the community is vitally important to us. Our community members inspire us with their personal stories and the unconditional support they provide for others.  We know from our six years of experience running Hello Sunday Morning that community is one of the most impactful aspects of a society. Thus, we thought it was important to acknowledge today, as people across America are coming together in their local communities and celebrating their national holiday with friends and neighbours.

The Fourth of July

Today marks the most significant holiday for the United States. It was the day the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, formally declaring America’s independence from Britain. Some people refer to the holiday as ‘America’s birthday,’ and it’s celebrated like an enormous birthday bash every year. The Fourth of July is unlike other holidays where families gather and celebrate at home – it’s a day where entire towns and communities come together to take part in the festivities.   Independence Day falls at the warmest time of year in the U.S. It’s summer, school is out, banks and government offices are closed for the day, and most businesses shut down. The day begins, for many, with preparations for afternoon barbecues or picnics. Some people bake festive cookies and cakes decorated with white icing and topped with candy or berries arranged into an American flag. Families take their kids to the centre of town for local parades, where everyone is dressed in red, white, and blue, from their hair accessories all the way down to their shoes. You’ll most likely run into a few of your neighbours at the parade, and if not, you’ll certainly see them later at the fireworks display. For kids especially, the rest of the day is spent anxiously waiting for fireworks. Fireworks displays are put on by all major cities and most small towns, and the community gathers in a park or other public spaces to watch. Anyone who wants to stake out a good spot will get there hours before the sun sets. They’ll bring lawn chairs, picnic blankets, tons of food, and even portable barbecue grills. Parents can enjoy themselves for a few hours while their kids go and play with their classmates, who they’re bound to run into. The evening ends with everyone twirling sparklers in the air before settling onto blankets on the grass to watch together. We’re inspired by the way local communities come together on the Fourth of July to spend time with family, friends, and those living around them. On a day like today, there’s nothing more important to independence than a community.