Five reasons to be happy on International Happiness Day

I didn’t know it was international happiness day today? Did you? I found out when someone in our mindful practice group bought in lovely stickers to give us all. That got us thinking, what makes us happy? We came up with a long list (which you’ll see featured on The Mindful Hub soon) of nourishing activities but for now to get your happiness juices flowing here’s five reasons to be happy on International Happiness Day…

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The Anti-Resolutions

I used to set a lot of new years resolutions. A lot. Then I realised that I didn’t keep to them and that made me feel shitty. I asked myself, why don’t I keep to my new years resolutions? The answer was usually because I was looking for the moon on a stick and actually I could be a bit more realistic.

So now I still set myself something to achieve, but I call them goals. I set them small. The idea being that;

They’re achievable

They’re realistic for what I can achieve

I can see my progress

I can set a time for them

They’re clear and I know what they mean. in the business world this would be SMART. See…?

They’re clear and I know what they mean (S)

I can see my progress (M)

They’re achievable (A)

They’re realistic for what I can achieve (R)

I can set a time for them (T)

Anyone can do this. You can too. If you’re feeling down in the dumps about winter, or about not sticking to any one of a million things you haven’t done that your peers and the media tell you that you should be achieving e.g. making a high salary, driving a big car, losing five stone in a month, annihilating all cellulite. STOP! Take a deep breath and set yourself some realistic goals. When we achieve something, we get a shot of feel good stuff, which makes us feel better. So why don’t we set things we can achieve? Well these days we’re often told to achieve the unachievable, to reach for the stars. To believe. I’m all for believing, but sometimes it’s about the little things. The small , achievable stuff that helps you get to those constellations.

Here’s my goals for 2017…

Catch up with the people I haven’t seen for ages (I took the word all out of this – not achievable). I’m really looking forward to seeing people I haven’t literally seen for years.

To eat better (So here’s the thing. I’m overweight. Very. But I refuse to set myself a goal to diet. Everything about dieting is negative. It’s reductive. It says there’s something wrong in the first place. It makes you think about food just about 24/7. I want to love my body, to treasure it, and to want to look after it. How can I do that if I hate it? So I want to eat better food, more grains, more pulses, more fruit and veg. Less processed stuff. I want to feed myself well. Try catching up with minimal wellness if you’re interested in this.

Which brings me onto my next goal

To give myself more self compassion. I’m doing a mindfulness course at the moment, and when I started I naively thought, oh this will be easy I’ve been practicing mindfulness for a while. It’s just a process. Until I got to self compassion. Whoa that hit me like a train. I don’t actually have any for myself. When asked to give myself some, I broke down. I had literal pain in my chest. So I need to work on that. Being kinder to ourselves is something most of us needs to do. This year I’ll be reading the book The Mindful Path to Self Compassion.

And you know what? That’s it. There’s loads of other things I want to do. I want to get a camper van and travel off round Britain rather than work. I want to be debt free. I want the perfect clematis cover on my trellis this summer. I want to work in a job that doesn’t involve 9 to 5. Actually that’s all pretty overwhelming isn’t it? If I tried to do all those things at once I’d blow a brain gasket. So instead I will set my intentions to achieve these things, and let them organically develop (I hope) in the background while I get on with my goals. If you’d like to try some goals, remember

  1. be SMART. There’s a reason all the business gurus focus on SMART. Because it works.
  2. Start small and achievable. If you’ve got loads of debt and want to eradicate it, start with a credit card, or a catalogue debt with the highest interest and set clearing that as your goal
  3. Have fun. Life isn’t meant to be boring, so have fun with your goals. If you want to see more of the world, create a pinterest board and pin your favourite locations. Set up a travel fund and siphon a bit of your income away each month to achieve your travels. If it goes out directly from your salary you’ll notice it less.
  4. Don’t quit if it doesn’t go to plan. If you find yourself not able to achieve your goals, or you feel you might have set the wrong goals, change it up. They’re your goals. Own them, know them and then kick their ass!

Let me know what goals your setting this year, and good luck with them

How to have a mindful Christmas

So the tinsel is up, the turkey is thawing out and the sherry is being poured, but how do you manage not to throttle Aunty Bertha when she tells you that you’ve put on weight for the tenth Christmas in a row, or avoid the tense atmosphere between your divorced Mum and Dad who only come together once a year ‘for the kids’?

Christmas is a funny time of year, all the advertising and a lot of the social media content we see point to a great family Christmas, all around the table, laughing and joking and having a whale of a time but for a lot of people Christmas can be a minefield of interpreting social nuances and avoiding the family member who weeps uncontrollably when you ask them how they are (that has been me on occasion at Christmas I have to say…or how about the time I ate so many biscuits I got awful indigestion and had to lie down and miss Christmas dinner? I fully admit I am one of the relatives you need to plan for!)

On a serious note, if you are worrying about how to cope this Christmas, use some of these mindful tips to help you through the next few days

1. Get on YouTube and find a three minute breathing space meditation. If you search ‘three minute breathing space meditation’ lots will come up and that’s a real quick space to take some time out when you think you’ll explode if anyone asks you where your boyfriend (that you split up with three months ago) is

2. Get some fresh air- taking  a walk either on your own or with others who can bare a bit of silence will give you a chance to get mindful; feel the cold air on your skin, hear the birds singing, look round and see the sights in your neighbourhood, or the place you’re visiting, hear the noise of cars in the distance and just experience being in the moment.

3. Give yourself and others compassion – it can be hard when we’re with our nearest and dearest because often they’ve known us the longest of anyone and know our weak spots, and the things that can send us from 0-60 on the rage-ometer, but actually being kind to yourself,  nourishing yourself with something other than Yule log, or roast potatoes, taking time out to do something you love such as reading or knitting, will help bring a sense of calm of peace to the festivities. Add in some compassion for those around you and things will start to feel a whole lot better

4. Rather than being desperate to get home, or get through the boredom of the Queen’s speech that Dad loves to watch, revel in the moment, the glorious being together as a family, or with your partner, or even the delicious alone time with the cat, away from the pressures of work. Stop worrying about how you’re going to tidy everything up, or what’s waiting for you on your return to the office and find pleasure on the small things; the worst Christmas cracker joke  or that Fools and Horses episode you love the most that’s on EVERY year.

5. Break out of old habits and encourage others to do the same – if you’ve always had Christmas dinner on the dot of two, what about having it in the evening, or changing it up for a buffet? How about going to a different sisters for lunch this year? Instead 0f a tree, what about decorated branches in a  big vase. Changing it up helps to break habits which changes neural pathways and is good for getting you out of a rut. Things will feel newer and exciting and might change people’s old patterns of behaviours as well, and get them out of their comfort zones

if you give any of these a try, or have your own mindful tips to add let me know, and above all have a peaceful, and mindful festive season 💜💝

Why I haven’t posted for a while…

When I started this draft, according to WordPress it was exactly 25 days since I’d posted. Apart from my few months of hibernation last year, that’s the longest time I think I’ve gone without posting. I love writing my blog so what could possibly have got me silenced? Well the last few weeks since I started with my 25 day gap, it’s just been pressures of working two jobs, trying to keep up with  family and friends, and generally keeping the hamster wheel going whilst trying to give myself all the things I love. However before that time it was the black snow.

I call it the black snow because it slowly falls onto the landscape of my life until I notice it. Some of you might call it a dark cloud, a black dog, being in a tunnel without any light. The number of metaphors for depression is endless, because we all experience it differently. I’m lucky now, for me because I use a number of different methods, I have very low level depression which occurs on a slightly more regular basis that I’d like, maybe 3 or 4 times a year for a few weeks, but sometimes I can keep that black snow from falling too.

The problem with black snow is it falls slowly and stealthily, covering everything in its wake until there’s a layer over everything. The things I love to do such as reading, practicing mindfulness, getting out and about start to get covered up.  I find them hard going, it’s like winter in my brain and my soul on a daily basis. Just carrying on with daily living is a constant I wouldn’t say struggle because it’s low level stuff, but a constant task or chore, rather than the fact that normally there are many pleasures and laughter.

The black snow obliterates life as I usually know it. I’m thankful because now even if I don’t know the black snow is coming, I know what to do to bring the sun out and thaw it; meditate, get out and go for a walk, eat well, sleep, talk to my wife, stroke the dogs, or the cats, take some time out to do nice things. The problem I have is sometimes it takes 2 or 3 weeks to notice it’s arrived again and a further 2 or 3 weeks of getting myself into gear to do the nice things. Once it’s over, it’s like a spring day has come, the sun is shining and all that’s left is the drip drip sound of what once was.

I share this for all of you that have black snow in your life too. Whether it’s so deep you can’t open the door at the moment, or it’s a foot high which makes it hard to trudge through but you can see how you could move above and you’re working on that. Keep working on the big thaw, it’s always worth it.


Be More Holiday

There’s advert you may have seen on TV called ‘Be more dog’. It’s around the concept that dogs re pretty cool, laidback animals that have a far better adn fun life than a cat. (I actually disagree, our cats would probably also disagree as they get to roam off and explore while the dogs have to stay at home or go on enforced walks in silly jumpers). However the concept is actually a brilliant one and one I want to use in my life after my recent holiday to Madeira. To ‘Be more holiday’.

Where am I going with this? Well on holiday I felt calm, more relaxed, time slowed. I enjoyed the sunshine, the food, I took my time to relax. It got me to thinking that when you’re on holiday, you’re in a different mindset, one where enjoyment is the main objective. You set out to have as much relaxation and fun as is possible. Yet once we get back on the plane or train, or back into the car and go back home, we go back to our responsibilities, the immersion heater on the blink so lack of hot water, the long hours of work and the daily grind that means we need a holiday from it in the first place.

So what if we could be more holiday all the time? Bring that sense of enjoyment and relaxation to every day life? Sure long lie ins and drinking sangria in a can aren’t necessarily something that can be done every day, but actually making time to take a half day off work to have a relaxing lie in or making cocktails just because you can aren’t bad ideas. Appreciating nature, even when it’s raining, and the possibilities of your day are things you do on holiday. Can we do them at home? If you get caught in a downpour on holiday, it’s the perfect excuse for a hot shower, and the colder the rain the more delightful a hot fire, or toasty heating and a hot chocolate with marshmallows seems. There’s plenty of opportunities to get rained on in daily life, but we don’t often see them as an opportunity to get cosied up. Getting up and having your whole day before you and planning to go and do something fun isn’t something most of us do often on weekends or our day off. Instead we fit in all the things we have to do (or think we have to do) and all that cleaning we didn’t get done in the week, and the weekend passes by in a minute of chores and bother.

So I am planning to be more ‘holiday’ and if you fancy joining me here are five ways to get started:

  1. This weekend, instead of worrying about hoovering or tidying up, do an extra 10 minutes of housework each day and then plan a day out       as you would on holiday. Is there anything you fancy doing? Going an visiting a castle, a theme park, a day out in a new city or town for a potter round? Imagine you’re on holiday and look at what’s available in the local area. I can guarantee you’ll find loads you’ve never done
  2. If you’re lucky enough to have a flexible working policy, book yourself a lie in. Rather than jumping out of bed straight away, luxuriate in the warmth, bring yourself a coffee back to bed, buy a paper, watch some awful daytime TV, go for a lovely walk. If you can’t flexibly work, book yourself half a days holiday. If you’ve got kids at school, this is the prime time to go back for an after breakfast nap!
  3. Try a new recipe- often when we’re on holiday we want to try the local food, or something new. Then back at home we’re eating the same food we always do because it’s easy. Pick something a bit more exciting, try a new food, add some side dishes, make the meal a real occasion. Get yourself a bottle of wine. Even if it’s a Wednesday and you really shouldn’t.
  4. Start trying to think and act differently – when on holiday I feel almost like I have a directive to relax and enjoy my time– does it have to be different at home? OK so the pots won’t wash themselves and most of us do have to go to work but can we do that with the mindset of life is for living? Can we do the pots to our favourite music? Can we work in something we truly love so it doesn’t feel like work? Can we use the boring bus journey to dive into a good book? Making the more mundane parts of life more fun can bring out that holiday spirit
  5. Wearing brighter and more fun clothing- So how many of us are guilty of buying new clothes, or wearing brighter clothes or something a bit more daring or unusual on holiday. OK so the chances are you might have been somewhere at least 15 degrees hotter than where you live, however we’re back to this mentality of saving the good bits of life for our holiday. Whilst you might not want to wear your favourite bikini to Tesco’s, try getting your bright maxi dress out or in my case I’m keeping my jungle print trousers out to get me through winter. They probably are as bad as they sound…

The next step on my mindful path- beginning to teach mindfulness

I came to mindfulness in its current form two years ago after many years of trying different forms of self improvement, spiritual development and forms of healing. From Reiki to psychic development, aura drawing to coaching. I’ve tried them all. I have a Reiki Level One certificate and I am a trained coach, having done a recognised coaching diploma. Yet I had never felt motivated enough to practice either. They didn’t feel right for me, although I knew at the heart of it I wanted to find a sense of peace and help others to find that to.

Two years on since I did a 10 week mindfulness course and I have never had that problem with mindfulness. Partly because perhaps I was very aware that if I didn’t practice I was going to go back to the person I was before,  and completing the mindfulness course I did was like opening a very wonderful gift. I didn’t want to put it down once I’d started. I started a practice group after the course for people like me who had completed the courses so we could learn together, share and develop. At the time I had no further intentions than to get my bum into gear to meditate regularly and keep up with all I’d learnt. However mindfulness has taken hold of my heart and soul and become part of me in ways I never thought possible. I will share more of this in other posts, but for now I will say I could never unlearn it thank goodness, and I will practice it always because it has given me more joy and peace in my life in the last two years than in all the previous 36 put together.

Mindfulness helps me to be calmer, it keeps me grounded, it makes me appreciate the little things in life like the morning sun. I can differentiate now between thoughts and just let them be. There’s no longer a daily ongoing dialogue in my brain affecting my feelings and emotions and causing me to be stressed, depressed and anxious. You could say I’ve zenned out! There’s lots of things I’ve done to get here, and again part of changing the direction of my blog is to be able to share these with you, but right now what I can say is I am starting the next step of my mindful journey and it feels very exciting. That is, I have begun a course so that ultimately I will have trained to teach it to others.

I never had any intention of doing this until around 6 months ago when I realised I wanted my life to be even more about mindfulness and I wanted to share it with others. The people in my practice group, like me, say that their lives have changed thanks to being more mindful. Being more aware of harmful emotions and letting them go, being able to just rest in the moment and appreciate it, that meditation is making them calmer, happier and more at peace with the world. How could I not want to help to get others feeling that way?

There is no formal qualification in the UK to teach mindfulness, rather a best practice UK National Listing of teachers that you can go on once you have completed a set of steps from completing an in-depth mindfulness course yourself to ultimately completing a 5 day teaching retreat. I’ve just take my first step on that journey with the Foundation in Mindfulness Course with the Mindfulness Association.  The first weekend we learnt the very basic steps of mindfulness again; to breathe, to set intention and motivation, to settle, and to rest in the moment. To let thoughts be, not control us or manifest into overwhelming feelings or emotions. To complete body scans, move mindfully and incorporate mindfulness into daily life. It was good to go back to basics, and the beginning again. The Mindfulness Association is a not for profit organisation, with a spiritual but still non secular programme. They have retreats and courses in some amazing locations. I am doing my initial mindfulness certificate weekends in York and Scarborough. Not as glamorous as Barcelona or Mexico but hey it’s about the content right?

I am so excited to be on this journey. It feels very right, and I think I will learn a lot alongside becoming able to teach others how to become mindful. I want to share my journey with you in the hope you might just Google mindfulness some day and give it a try, plus I think there will be many others of you on similar journeys and I think it would be great to hear from you and how your training is going.