Churchill’s recharges, hidden marshmallows, and big strides toward wellness

It’s the place where you can find two elderly white women walking and chatting on adjacent treadmills beside a young guy in a hoodie with red Beats headphones who’s running next to a woman jogging on an incline in a hijab. Can the YMCA save the world? We think it can.

Welcome to The 5-Minute Recharge, with 1 quote, 3 ideas, and a 5-minute challenge to charge up your wellness.


Keep It Moving 

“After we terrorize ourselves with self-doubt, our only relief is to get moving again.”
― Choreographer Twyla Tharp wants us to keep it moving



  • WHEN BEING ALONE ISN’T LONELINESS. The negative health effects of loneliness have been compared to smoking fifteen cigarettes per day, but loneliness isn’t the same thing as choosing to be alone to relax and recharge. And even more important than recharging, it’s been said that all of humanity’s problems are rooted in an inability to sit quietly in a room alone. Fortunately for humanity, Winston Churchill mastered the art of spending time alone: he used solitude to pursue his painting and bricklaying hobbies, pastimes that helped him deal with the stress of being a wartime leader and keep depression at bay. Spending time alone can help you uncover who you are and where your true interests lie, yet in a University of Virginia study, a quarter of the women and two-thirds of the men chose electric shocks over being alone with their thoughts. If you recoil at the thought of being alone, it could be signal that you may need professional support to get you past your fear of haunted thoughts. As with all things wellness, when spending quality time alone is the goal, it’s a good idea to start slowly. Thirty minutes with a book at a coffee shop can ease you into aloneness in the comfort of a crowd. What’s the key to being alone in a restorative way according to experts? Treat yourself as you would treat others: make plans, show up for yourself, and spend time exploring new interests…without blocking your thoughts with a screen containing other people’s thoughts.

“When you get home at night and no one is there, sit alone on the couch and let your body tell you what it wants. It doesn’t want words scrolling on a screen. It doesn’t want somebody else’s story, someone else’s world, blasted into its synapses…Your body wants a peaceful time to reflect without fear…”
― “Dear Polly” (aka Heather Havrilesky) gives some wonderful advice on how to be happy alone


  • HIDE THE MARSHMALLOW What percentage of your daily activities do you think consist of habitual behaviours? The answer according to research is 43% which is why diet is so difficult to change, and exercise programs are so hard to stick to. New habits have to elbow out entrenched existing habits. One habit that many of us would like to break, or at least tame, is our attachment to our smartphones. That’s where hiding the marshmallow may be useful. In the famous 1960s Stanford marshmallow experiment, children were told they would get two marshmallows later if they resisted the temptation to eat one now (an experiment that apparently was an excellent predictor of success later in life). On average, children could resist temptation for six minutes, but self-control jumped to ten minutes when the marshmallow was out of sight. So to manage smartphone addiction, use the foyer trick: leave your phone in the foyer when you walk through the door so that it’s out of sight and mostly out of mind unless you really really need to use it. The key to habit management is to add friction to bad habits and remove friction from good habits

“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits,–practical, emotional, intellectual…bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny.”
—William James


  • WHAT IF THE WAY WE’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT KINDNESS IS WRONG? From the time our mothers told us to write a thank-you notes, we have been conditioned to think of kindness as important, yet boring, sentimental, and inconvenient. What if instead we thought about kindness as a powerful existential salve?

“We become properly invested in being kind when we realize the power we possess in most situations to rescue another human from self-contempt.”
Alain de Botton, from the least treacly essay you will ever read about kindness 



“Age is not the enemy. Stagnation is the enemy.”
― Twyla Tharp, from Keep It Moving: Lessons for the rest of your life

As we age and our bodies experience less freedom of movement, we have a tendency to take up less space. The mind follows the body’s contraction, its thoughts becoming more repetitive and its concerns more narrow. According to Twyla Tharp, who is still active as a choreographer at age 78, this contraction is not inevitable. What we need to do is keep moving, and as we move, take action to consciously make our lives bigger.

In this week’s 5-minute recharge challenge–the Occupy More Space Protest–the goal is to walk for five minutes, taking up as much space as possible. Stride rather than shuffle. With your back straight and your chest out, swing your arms, extending them as far as they will reach. How does it feel to amplify your body? If you enjoyed this invigorating exercise (and we’re sure you did) try amplifying as many gestures as you can. Greet a friend with wide-open arms. Spread your work out at a meeting rather than keeping it in a tidy pile in front of you. Take up more physical space and your mind will become similarly expansive.

“I say this with love: shut up and dance.”
Twyla Tharp