Our interview with Cliff Harvey continues in this PART 3:
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Q: Having a holistic and mindful approach to performance is this something that you would encourage your athletes in and how do they perceive that?
A: 15 sec – It’s critically important not just for athletes but for anyone really. Mindfulness is a key aspect of every plan I have put together and you guys will probably know that there has been really interesting research done around that in terms of eating patterns; for example you can have two groups one of them you give a mindfulness plan and one of them you give a nutrition plan and the group with the mindfulness plan do better at eating than the people with the nutrition plan, because they are more aware of what’s going on. I think its critically important for health, it’s critically important for performance as soon as we develop a more mindfulness approach to life it’s almost as if it gives us a little junction; it’s like a little window of opportunity when we are about to react to a situation in the same way we always have; instead be that little bit more aware so we can respond to it more appropriately in terms of a way that’s going to be more conducive to where we really want to be heading. So I think its critically important and in my experience it’s been received really well and I think one of the reasons that it’s been received well with my clients is because depending on who they are they can relate to my position, my journey to this point and if I am working with an athlete they know that I am an athlete so they are probably going to take some aspect of that in terms of ‘well its probably worked well for him, so I should probably give this a crack’. And someone with a health condition they think it’s probably helped Cliff with his health conditions and so it’s possibly going to work well for me. The other side of that is because I typically temper the complementary side of what I do with an evidence basis people know it’s not without any sort of rational in terms of what we are doing, so typically received really well and I think mindfulness has gone past a point where it is considered weird and wonderful now it’s so foundational and so much of psychology and just general health practice that I think most people are very open to it. Let’s face it most people who come to see us as practitioners they really want to change anyway so they are quite often prepared, they have already lost a lot of their resistance by actually making the appointment. You will get some people who are still quite resistant but a lot of them have gone so far and it’s been such a hard challenge for them to actually get into your office in the first place by the time that they are here so much of the resistance has actually been broken down and they are prepared to give things a crack and I think because of that it makes us have to be very clear with what we are doing and very clear about our professional responsibility because it puts us in quite a position of power in some respects and we can potentially abuse that power if we are doing things that are not valid I think so we have to be very careful with that as far as what we are applying does that make sense.
Q: Your holistic approach that you have taken and obviously the adjustment in diet over a long period of time how has this helped with your depression, or is this something that you are still having to be aware of and do you identify your triggers
A: 3.56 min -It’s a good question because I am very resistant to the ideas of curing illness to some degree, you know I think we can certainly transcend a lot of our own health stuff our own health challenges I think we can transcend but I get very wary when people claim to have cured this or that and I quite often get approached by people saying you cured your crohn’s disease how did you do it? I don’t think about it in that respect I don’t think about it as having cured my Crohn’s, I live really well now without crohn’s symptoms which is not to say I might not relapse at some stage who could tell, at this point I feel pretty dam good and have done for many years but my experience of that may not be the same as someone else’s so simply applying what I have done may not work for somebody else and shit it could be coincidence as a researcher I can never say what I have done just isn’t coincidence because that’s what you see in the data as well sometimes.
But the mental health thing is interesting because that’s probably the bigger ongoing thing for me. I wouldn’t say that I have suffered from depression I still continue to suffer from depression. My particular depression is bipolar two depression so within that there are pro’s and con’s even. There are as many benefits as probably challenges within that because the hypomania that’s a characteristic of bipolar depression for me expresses that has hyper productivity hyper focus those types of things so I can be hyper productive and hyper focused and actually in some respects be very happy go out and give a big talk to a bunch of people and write a book and do all these sorts of things and also at the same time suffer from periods of very very serious depression. So it’s a very interesting place because like I say there are benefits to it there are challenges.
I think the fact that I have made physicality in terms of exercise and physical challenge and those types of things for a long period of time has been massively helpful for that and I may not have always recognised the value of that in the early days but I think just having that base in really important to encourage that general resilience that I think is so important when you have got mental health things going on. Recognising triggers the biggest one is stress, lack of sleep, those are critically important across the top of it the key thing that comes to mind again is mindfulness because you can recognise your triggers but you can also be mindful of your triggers and when you’re mindful it’s a deeper level of recognition. Your aware that maybe I’m starting to get to that point where I might fall over that cliff again so what’s going on? What can I do to change the situation in the next couple of days should I get to sleep just that little bit earlier should I be that little bit more mindful about what I am eating should I tighten things up just that little bit more that’s critically important so I think everything flows from a base of mindfulness. It’s a process, I think whenever we have any sort of health challenge whether it be physical, mental they are all the same anyway its all the same complex, I think we really need to be happy with where we are and that’s a strange thing to talk about in the context of depression, but be happy with where we are but not necessarily satisfied and that way it’s an ongoing process of continuing to grow and evolve and develop but it also doesn’t mean that there is an end point where everything’s going to be suddenly perfect and one thing I have worked a lot with particularly with other practitioners actually as a mentor is they will often come to this field because they have a healing journey and I always ask them well when are you going to be healed because it becomes this ever retreating mirage that they are chasing after at some point through all these things I’m doing and learning I’m going to be healthy, or I’m going to be happy or life’s going to be better but if we view it that way it’s never going to happen so I think we have to recognise that hey this is the way it is and we can continue to learn, grow and evolve but that’s the process of life and that’s ok we are constantly breaking down and building up the body it’s not like we are in the state of healing and then perfection it’s the same thing all at once I think we need to get to that point.
Q: If you are getting into a state of feeling really dark, it’s so hard to get people, I think its there own journey to get themselves out, or to get back to your equilibrium.
A: 9.05 min -One of the problems there is that we pathologize things to the point where we don’t do anything till we feel bad and so I think one of the most important things is that we are setting the base for better health all of the time and even if we occasionally do get depressed clinically depressed for those people who suffer from depression, hopefully we can be that much more resilient and we rebound more quickly maybe we don’t have the same duration, severity, frequency of relapse like with any health condition it’s about setting that base more constantly. One of the problems we have is for example I’m depressed, I’m going to go see a councillor, you start feeling better you stop seeing the councillor. You might be better off seeing the councillor more frequently but unfortunately there can be a whole bunch of other things come in terms of time poor, cash poor, all these things play into it so we tend to just look after ourselves when we are sick. You guys will get this question, if I have a cold people say you can’t have a cold you’re a naturopath. Why can’t I have a cold it’s an expression showing that I’ve got a functioning immune system, I’m actually ok with the fact that I’ve got a cold, and they say well what are you going to do about it. Nothing, I eat pretty well anyway, I exercise, I try to get enough sleep, I mediate I do all those things I’m not really going to do anything necessarily markedly different while I’ve got the cold because I am just going to be ok with the fact that I’ve got a little cold, that’s alright, I’m sure I’ll be ok in a couple of days it’s not a big deal. It’s just part of life but people see it as being anti life or anti health and it’s the same thing.
Q: Your either healthy or your sick
A: 10.46 min -Yes it’s like with nutrition there is good foods and bad foods, but in isolation there is no such thing as good or bad there are generally probably more health promoting diets if you look at them in totality or diets that we would consider to be generally less health promoting but that’s the only way we can really see it we can’t really necessarily say a chocolate bar is a bad food because if you have one chocolate bar a year and the rest of what you eat is all natural, whole and unprocessed stuff it’s not going to make a dent it might actually be good for you in the same way we see interesting doses around chemicals I couldn’t with conscious say that alcohol is bad for people because one drink a day appears to be health promoting in fact for all cause of mortality. It’s like coffee, three cups of coffee a day appears to be health promoting not health negative but dose and exposure you have more than that and it starts to go over the other side. And again it’s dependant on the person. That’s an area we are looking at a lot more in the research now, I mean really researching this which is really cool is that the N equals one experience is critically important. What we often do in the health arena is we look at what looks best for people most of the time and we create our best practice guidelines around that but we do our clients a disservice when we apply that in a complicated manner. So we say well this is what works best and it should work for you but it may not it’s a starting point because we are basically protecting ourselves and our client by starting from that point because in all probability it’s going to work the best for you but they might be one of those significant outliers so we need to be prepared to pivot and pivot quite quickly to change what we are doing to meet the needs of the individual.
Now the N =1 experience is critically important – why because it’s what works for them and on the individual level what works for you or you or me is going to be the most important thing to you or you or me and it may not be what works for everyone else which is why we can’t always use that to determine what’s going to work best for the other person as well. What works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else that’s why I’d always start from best practice basis but I temper that with my own experience and what I am seeing in their experience that’s when we get a really good outcome.
Q: Do you give them food diaries and monitor their sleep to give you that insight?
A: 13.22 min -Depending on the client, yes. It’s somewhat responsive to their goals and where they are at right now. If through our consultation processes through follow ups and things like they are sleeping really well that’s not something I monitor because that’s taken care of. What I might look at or think is maybe they are not actually been that clear with themselves with what they are eating so then I apply a food diary but if I think that that person is after seeing their food diary I think they are being honest with it and it seems like they are eating really well and doing everything right there then we look at something else. So maybe we will look at sleep or stress levels or blood markers to see is something else weird going on. So, it’s very much responsive to the individual.
Q: Do you look at their own self talk , their own attitude to life?
A: 14.25min -Big time, that’s probably the key area outside of nutrition that I work with. I did a lot of study years ago, I did a few interesting things studied PSYCH-K® and Ericksonian Hypnosis and Reiki and all sorts like other aspects of more traditional psychology as well in a lay setting reading text around that I haven’t studied psychology per say to get a better idea of human behaviour and human patterns and one of the most important things was our self imagery self talk all those types of things and how that affects or how we then behave, and I think that is a massively underappreciated aspect of what we do either in nutrition or naturopathy because those self limiting things that people subject themselves to are typically the reasons why they self sabotage and typically the reasons why they just stop they are typically the reasons why they are not able to put in place those patterns of behaviour that are really important. So we look at that from two angels one is to identify the limiting self imagery and self talk and try and shift that and also just instituting really positive patterns in terms of self talk self imagery, positive visualisation and all that kind of stuff and doing that in the most effective way because there are much more effective and less effective ways of doing that as well so that’s all stuff that I have gleamed from the things that I have studied but also the personal experience of having been an athlete was a big part of that and again that’s an interesting place we can take a cue from in terms of helping people perform.
Competing at the very highest level in sport is tuff and it takes a very interesting mindset and a mindset that needs to develop and grow just as much as your body is and so we can take some of those leads from very high performing athletes in terms of how to encourage people to be more highly performing just in life because that’s what performance is about. And that’s why holistic performance and nutrition is not about just sport it’s about performing optimally in life whatever that means for you it could be sport or it could be being a better wife, husband, sister, brother, son, friend whatever, business person you know it’s about having that basis of health that allows you to perform well in whatever you do.
Q: Do you encourage specific routines for people, like making the most of your morning, exercising, drinking lots of water, stuff like that, journaling?
A: 17.05min -Yes, and again it can be different for individuals but there are certain things that seem to be a theme one of which is exactly what you said getting up and having a couple of big glasses of water to make sure your rehydrated after that time when you are asleep and you are probably slightly dehydrated that’s number one. I think the morning period is a very powerful time because I think where people need to get something important done and this is not the urgent stuff this is the important stuff this is like if you want to write a book, I’ve written a few books and if I hadn’t set aside time every morning to write there no way I would have written those books, but none of those books were urgent it wasn’t like the taxes that I have to compile or the emails I have to reply to or whatever it was stuff that was discretionary but critically important so I think that’s the time in the morning where we want to do those things that are most important for our optimal life satisfaction but are not urgent. But you do it first thing, you do it every day you get it out of the way and you chip it away so you basically get there and you are done. But it’s also a very powerful time for setting an intention for the day. One of things I often work with, with clients is to encourage mindfulness and that basically means mediation in the morning but also setting an intention around how they want their day to be why because a day is a nice big bite size chunk of life they can begin to infuse through the rest of their process. So how do I want to be every day? I want to be this, or I am this or I am or have this. It might be simple things like I am happy or my life is a perfect example of synchronicity and flow something like that little positive things that help to set a great intention for that day and they also can become personal mantras that we go back to when we feel like things are getting out of control. One that I have used a lot is I have all the time in the world because that’s typically what we are starved for or we think we are. We feel like we have all these things we have got to do we don’t have enough time in fact if we stopped ourselves and say I have all the time in the world or realise that that’s actually true because what we have in terms of 24 hours in a day we then allocate to what we actually on some level want to do and it could be that we over commit we take on to much we get distracted by various things they are all things we have drawn into our life so if we are going to change them great change them but in the moment we can still bring ourselves back to a point of relative balance or ease by just applying those little suggestions.