As we edge towards yet another year’s closing, it is time to take up the challenge of Soft Cell’s 1981 song, ‘Say hello, Wave goodbye’ although not in the same old way. Out with the old – New Year’s Resolutions, Plans and monthly success journals and in with – well, read on and nurture your soul….
However you celebrate the New Year, this festive period invites us to reflect back over the journey we’ve navigated for the past twelve months and look forward to the year ahead. It can be such a powerful process as long as we do it with renewed spirit. So caste a brief glance behind and:
* Count our blessings
* Grieve over the sadness and sorrow that has visited our hearts
* Recount the lessons and growth we’ve experienced
* Acknowledge the ups and downs
* Honour those who have left and those who have joined us
* Celebrate the events that have brought us to this point.
All too often our first few days of a new year are geared towards recovering from the revelry, fretting about the results of our over-indulgence and what resolutions we must set to feel better, look better or be better. This year, I invite you to throw off the old traditional shackles and pull back the curtains to a new way of welcoming in 2018.
Sparkle a little fairy dust this year and embrace the hope, anticipation, potential and, let’s face it, a little of the unknown that lays just around the corner. Here are some ideas for making this your best year yet:
* Find a jar and write little gratitude notes of things that bring a smile to your face, that you open in one year’s time. This will help you appreciate all the small things that so often go unnoticed.
* Instead of setting New Year’s Resolutions, which we know rarely reach beyond the 31 January, do something more creative with your hopes and intentions. Picture yourself writing Christmas cards next December that tell your friends about the year you’ve had and all the amazing things that you’ve experienced. As you begin to imagine this future, you can then focus on the commitments that will help you travel towards that vision, making it a reality.
* From these commitments you can then set a small handful of intentions (not goals, which are too restrictive and set us up for failure not success).
* Why not decorate an old shoe box, turning it into a secret store for a Bucket List of things you would like to achieve this year.
* To help you along with this, why not answer questions around what would you like to DO, BE or HAVE over the coming year. This honours the physical, practical and spiritual parts of us, ensuring a balance for all things.
* Wake up each day and feel grateful for all that is and all that will be. This will ensure that each day becomes a new opportunity for happiness, not just a new year.
* Start the year focusing on what happiness means to you instead of what success looks like. Happiness is the new success and when we acknowledge that happiness is the source of all good things that come to us, our lives will become more joyful.
* Rather than focusing on putting rigid plans together for the year ahead, learn to let go and trust what emerges, knowing intuitively that what arrives is what you are meant to experience. Notice how much freer your life is when you relinquish the tight hold that traditional New Year practices encourage.
* Talk with your family and friends about how you can bring nature and simplicity into your life more every day, how you can play more, laugh more – these things are all free and priceless.
So forget the old ways – welcome in the new year with a heart-centred and fun approach and start your year as you would any other day – because each day presents us with a miracle of newness, opportunity and hope. May your year be blessed with happiness and each day with peace, health and joy.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and harmonious 2018.
A creative blog I wrote over on our Motoroaming website has caused a real challenge for me this weekend. The Confessions of a Travelling Introvert was a heart-felt reflection of our travels and its impact on my introvert personality. Little did I know that it was a huge trigger for one of my readers, who we had met six months previously.
A cryptic comment on my post had me spiralling into uncertainty, doubt and anxiety, as it became clear that, reading between the lines, the commenter had been affected by my introversion in a meeting back in March. Her comment drove me into action; I emailed her directly so I could explore exactly what her comment meant and discover the nature of her discontent.
Her response floored me; my self-esteem took a tumble and my head took charge from my heart as I tried to piece together the nature of our meeting. As tears flowed and anxiety grew, Myles tried to comfort me as I recoiled into my old people-pleasing behaviour patterns, where guilt, shame and self-deprecating thoughts rule. Up until now those devils had been well and truly locked up in their cage.
Isn’t it interesting how quickly those old demons can resurface if we don’t keep them in check?
Night called me to rest and see things in a different light come morning. And indeed after a good sleep and a meditative morning walk where I rehearsed my response I felt resilient and calm. So I drafted a note and talked it through with Myles to ensure I wasn’t over dramatising the situation and after a couple of emails between us the situation has been put to bed. Within the space of 12 hours I have navigated the situation assertively, quickly and appropriately, unlike my former-self, who would have dwelt on it for days and allowed it to seriously penetrate my self-worth.
The reason for writing this blog is so I could share the approach I took to recover from this situation and the accusations that certainly stung. Here is what I did and didn’t do to move from crisis to calm in twelve hours – baring in mind that I’m still a recovering people-pleaser. Whether you have a difficult relationship to mend, a challenging interaction to manoeuvre around or some feedback that you need to deal with, these strategies could help you find happiness in between the suffering patterns that we allow to exist.
- When a tricky situation arises, take time to absorb what has happened and, where appropriate try to explore the complete nature of the situation and how the other person feels/felt. Cryptic words do nothing for a harmonious relationship, so trying to get to the bottom of what someone is trying to say is really important, even if the response hurts.
- If you can leave your response until the next day, so that you have time to process what has happened and sleep on it. This way you will have a much more dispassionate response. Often when something upsets us, we move immediately into defence mode and this threatens the harmony of our relationship or the interaction. So allowing yourself to ‘cool off’ is vital. We always see things very differently in the cold light of day.
- Be present with how you feel – however raw it feels. Listen to your heart and what it is feeling. Notice what your stomach is doing. What is coursing through your veins? What thoughts do you have? Just observe and allow thoughts and feelings to come up. Suppressed emotion will come back to bite you, if you don’t take heed. This is why we need time before we respond.
- In any relationship or interaction there are always two stories playing out; yours and the other person’s. This means that you each bring a different shade and texture to the interaction. Nothing is ever just your fault or responsibility. The other person’s personality, needs and insecurities will interplay with you and this acceptance will help you shoulder your 50% responsibility for the problem or issue.
- Decide what outcome you are looking or need from your response. Is it closure or recovery so that the relationship can be maintained?
- When responding, either in writing or in person, rehearse. Now I don’t mean doing anything formal, although certainly drafting out what you want to say and reviewing it, will be essential.
- Answer from your heart and not your head. Be humble whilst assertive. Be heart-centred whilst resilient. Be clear without being too direct. These factors will give you confidence and ensure that the message comes across appropriately to heal or recover the relationship. You can then either draw a line and bring closure to the matter or move on together.
- Avoid letting the ego and the drama queen get in the way. This will only inflame your tone, your words and alter how your message is received. So write mindfully.
- Wish the other person well in what ever way is appropriate to your relationship and if it’s right to do so, then apologise for your part in the breakdown.
- When the response has been delivered, reaffirm your strengths and identify what you have learnt from the situation. This is such an important element as people come into your life for a reason, season or a lifetime. You must be clear what the reason is so you can grow and adapt if necessary.
- Now let it all go. Go about your day, your business as you would normally and feel proud about the way you handled the situation and how much more effectively and calmly you navigated it.
Relationships are tricky little beasts. We so often become so attached and dependent on them to make us feel whole, healed or loved that it creates too much intensity. It is that strain which causes them to fray at the edges. Taking a more mindful approach to the situation gives you a chance to step back and deal with what has happened by seeing it for what it is rather than the soap opera that you’re about to create on your movie screen.
Happiness is waiting for you just around the corner. Don’t leave it waiting too long.
Be well and happy. Karen x
Do we need to teach our children happiness?
What a great question posed by one of my Happiness Heroes from my Facebook Group – Wake up to Happiness last week, after her two year old daughter asked her, ‘Are you happy mummy?’ And this got me reflecting on whether we need to teach how to be happy or is it something that is known deep within each soul?
My instincts tell me that for us today, as adults, happiness is a state that the commercial world has cornered as a marketing tool, a bit like success was packaged back in the 1980/90s. It became a resource to sell, promote and make money from. I have a feeling that happiness is the latest craze to hit that commercial train and I think we need to get back to basics before we get lured into the happiness growth sector. Perhaps an interesting comment as I am in that very same market as a happiness coach.
The natural art of happiness has been, I think lost in translation somewhere along the line. We’re so stressed in today’s crazy, modern world that we see happiness as something that has to be obtained as a result of doing something else – i.e happiness is a destination and not the journey. And with this culture, I think for many of us the true nature of happiness must be retaught. We need to wake up to what happiness really is; not the car, the house, the job or the holiday. Re-learning how we find authentic happiness within us, as a state of mind, a set of values and a set of choices, is most certainly necessary these days. We have become too distracted by the materialist vulgarity of life, comforted by the motivation that ‘When X has happened or I have Y, then I’ll be happy.’
So that’s the adult population – most definitely a need to relearn and become more aware. Although let’s come back to children and the prompt for this blog. Do they need to be taught or is there something instinctive within them that gets lost as they grow up? This brings us to such an interesting question around nature or nurture.
When I search my soul for the answer, it says that we are born with the knowledge of how to be happy, because the rules are very simple. It’s only life and ego that complicates our happiness choices. The rules are about loving yourself, being kind, grateful, enjoying the simple pleasures of life and being in the moment. This is something as babies and young children that we instinctively know how to do. We are born with an instinct for smiling, for laughing at the smallest of things and gaining pleasure from the simplicity of life. Do you remember trying to make perfume from the blossom or building a den in the woods with twigs and ferns? That simplicity; that unquestioned natural instinct is within us – it’s not taught. It is not until the ego develops and the brain’s sophistication evolves that happiness is questioned, challenged and our conditioned patterns get in the way of what was natural for us as infants.
Let’s face it, as youngsters with our sponge-like brains, we soak up what surrounds us. We watch and learn from the people and events around us and we start to get a new set of rules about how to BE and what to DO based on those experiences. So life teaches us a new dimension that can be so often a world apart from the rules we came into this life with. And at that age we don’t have the ability to challenge and question intellectually, we just take on those new rules trustingly.
So what’s the answer? Is happiness something we need to teach our children? I think the answer is, on reflection both yes and no. I think our responsibility as parents, role-models and teachers is to encourage the natural happiness resource that children are born with, to nurture those simple happiness rules that they live by in their early years. Embrace and encourage their imagination, their creativity and their playfulness. An approach that the Education System needs to seriously take heed of – although that’s a whole different discussion for another day.
I think we also then need to show and honour the fundamental rules of happiness about loving yourself, being in the moment, being grateful, respectful, kind and compassionate. Without these cornerstones of happiness then we run the risk that children will also get distracted by life’s measurement and judgemental rules and get sucked into the commercial beast that promotes the happiness and success brand. So we must set good examples within the heart and home about how happiness really is and encourage their innate ability to find happiness in life’s simplicity, before the survival instinct of the ego takes hold. Give them the authentic cornerstones that make for a happy and simple life and create a space where their natural happiness genes can thrive.
Therefore happiness is both known instinctively and must be nurtured for us to truly tread the authentic path. These will then help create a happiness legacy that must win the battle over our modern world of chaos. We have a social responsibility for ourselves and to our future generations to create a world where happiness is the rule and not the exception. We must nurture what is natural by what we do, what we say and how we feel in our hearts. It’s up to us to help shape a life where happiness is chosen over hatred and anger.
May we all be well and happy. Karen x
I read a post from a group last week that asked for input on how to best use the last few days of December to maximise our goals, to ramp up our achievement and gear ourselves up for success in 2017. The poster was looking for the tips we would give to support this frenzied last burst of activity.
Well I couldn’t help myself; it was a post just waiting for some Happiness Prescription input. And it wasn’t quite what she was expecting. I thought I’d share my sentiments with you.
December, especially for those of us in the northern hemisphere, takes us in winter, the father of all seasons. The season that calls for us to hibernate, rest and rejuvenate.
December is fraught with festive season mayhem, as presents are selected, menus created, visitors invited and houses festooned with tinsel. Christmas parties appear around every corner, school nativity plays magnetise us as we watch our little cherubs huddle on the stage and social calendars burst at the seam as the season of merriment drags us out into the cold.
December – where viruses and bacteria set out on their mission to attack; noses running, heads aching and throats croaking and all of this just before the Christmas madness. On top of this, we’re being encouraged to gear up for greater achievement as we see the last few days of the month float by us like a Poo Stick.
I don’t think so! Let’s turn this on it’s head and see December with different eyes.
My top tips for December is not to DO more, to ACHIEVE more and add even more stress to our already overwhelmed souls. My top tips are to STOP, BE and REST. The very opposite of what we are conditioned to do.
This is the month to be truly kind to ourselves. To slow our pace down, to reflect. Winter for us northerners, calls us to respect ourselves and allow us to flow gently like the river. There is nothing more that our tired, rung out bodies can achieve in these final few days. We are never at our optimum at this time of year. So stop pushing. Let’s give permission to rest, to let go of our insatiable need to control and tick off the To Do list.
Have you ever spent time looking for the answer to something and eventually found it right underneath your nose? That is the beautiful simplicity of life – everything we need, everything we need to know is already there, we just need to open our eyes and our heart to the possibility.
This is increasingly clear to me, having found my simplicity through practising the art of meditation.
All too often our lives are filled with complexity, chaos and suffering – and much of it we create through our attitudes, beliefs and actions. That’s not said with any blame or judgement, just an awareness and acceptance that this is the way we create our experiences. As technology becomes more clever, day to day living becomes more materialistic and global affairs more intense as we have seen of late; and it is so easy to get sucked into the Matrix of life. Our bodies become tuned into a subconscious state of alert that prepares us for flight or fight, resulting in cortisol coursing through our bodies, draining our energy.
Now this isn’t to say that there isn’t some joy in our experiences and that life as we know it is all doom and gloom. Although it does serve to remind us how out of balance our lives are becoming. This is why, I believe, so many of us are turning to masters of well-being, ‘alternative’ therapies and Eastern philosophy – to find answers to our lack of contentment and malaise. There is a definite turning tide that acknowledges that this state of being is unhealthy and can not be sustained.
What I continually learn through my meditation and, in fact from life itself, is to appreciate the simplicity that exists in the rising of the sun, in the bird song, in growing your own food. Although more than that, I am beginning to wake up to my natural state, living beyond the anxiety, fears, judgements and stress that too much of life induces. So what is this natural state I talk of?
I have learnt the simplicity of the breath, of being mindful, of living from a place of loving kindness. These are all lovely states to be in and already exist within us – we just need to awaken into that awareness. The Mindfulness of Breath, shows us how this innate function called breathing, can actually nourish our bodies when we focus on its true essence. A breath from the depths of our bellies can fill every part of our body and bring more oxygen to each of our cells. A bodily function that we take for granted and yet has so much more quality to it, if we put our attention to it. And what does this give us? Stillness, peace, a quiet mind and a mindfulness that creates a ‘freeze-frame’ on our life movie.
The simplicity of mindfulness itself is bringing me ever-increasing stillness, that goes beyond just the breath. Noticing my anxiety, emotions, negative thoughts. Being aware of the food on my plate and eating with more consciousness. Stopping to listen to and watch nature’s busy-ness. Seeing all this with new, freshly awakened eyes brings a new quality to my life. We just need to remind ourselves to do it.
Loving kindness – another type of meditation that cultivates a state of compassion within us. Although in many ways this is so much more than a meditation, it’s a way of being, a way of thinking and a way of feeling. Have you ever stopped to notice how people respond to a smile? A smile can change how someone feels in an instant and how they live out their day. Learning to adopt a mind-set of loving kindness where we wish ourselves and all beings to be well, happy and free is a beautiful practice. It builds self-respect, dissolves conflict and creates an energy where all good things are possible.
Simple things create a more peaceful life and whilst the chaos might still rain around us, simplicity becomes like an umbrella that protects us from the madness around us that we have little or no control over. I am not naïve enough to assume that everything in my life will be rosy just because I have found joy in these simple things, although I know that they will go a long way to giving me the inner peace I have been searching for and coping mechanisms that enhance my experience on this mortal coil.
- Practice breathing. Sounds crazy right? We’re breathing all the time – although not consciously. Anxiety, stress or induced excitement creates a breath that is not always helpful to us and is so very different to a conscious breath. Focus in on your breath right now as you read this blog. Take a deep breath in, from the depths of your belly and feel it rising up to your chest and then slowly release that breath out. You can use counting to help this process if you wish; counting on the in-breath for 7 and then breathing out for 5. You only need do this for a couple of times to instantly change how you feel. The breath has the magic to interrupt our state and reset us.
- Practice loving kindness. Starting with you, think about yourself in a kind and compassionate way, focusing on all that is good and beautiful about yourself. Send yourself good wishes. Then think about someone in your family or circle of friends and think about them in a kind and compassionate way. Focus on all that is good and beautiful about them. And then do the same exercise for someone who challenges you, perhaps at work. Think of them kindly and look past what annoys you. See the good in them and send them good wishes. It’s a beautiful way to see yourself and others around you and creates a priceless simplicity.
- Practice mindfulness. Next time you take a sip of coffee or go for a walk with the dog, really begin to tune into what is around you. Notice the heat from your drink and what that coffee tastes like on your tongue. Take note of the noises and sights around you whilst on your walk. Focus on the steps that you are taking, the air on your face and what the ground beneath you feels like. Really begin to experience these tasks in a more simple and yet wholesome way.
These practices don’t solve all the problems of the world or even of our lives. Although it does empower us to create simplicity in our lives and stop the ever-increasing complexity that we continue to engage in, that does not lead to happiness. Happiness is a simple gear-changing exercise that we can own, that has an immediate and high impact affect on our lives. Choose happiness, choose simplicity.
I hope these three practices might help you take one step further on your Pathway to Happiness.
With love and blessings
I love it when stuff happens that makes you go ‘Ah ha!’ Those moments where the light goes on, something so simple dawns on you or you get a little prod from the Universe that brings you right back to where you need to be. And this week, I have had many of these reminders about coming back to my inner happy and not allowing a negative train of thought or a fear steal away my happiness.
Finding happiness is one thing; keeping hold of it is another. And in this blog, I wanted to share how easy it is to be distracted away from the happiness centre within us and how to come back to it.
I have been doing a lot of business development work in the last month; getting my website built and starting to learn about this new digital marketing malarky. And I’ll be honest with you – I have struggled. Coming from a corporate world, where I was able to win customers through my reputation, build strong relationships face to face and connect with people in person – moving into a virtual world has been challenging. It’s not beyond me, although it’s a steep learning curve and a big shift for me. And so I have immersed myself in learning how to operate in this new space and earlier this week, I experienced a trigger that sent me reeling into a familiar, dark place.
A bit of constructive feedback from someone about a product I had been nurturing for weeks, had me crumbled. Boom! The old fears and pre-texts suddenly arose from the shadowy depths of somewhere I’d rather not go again and my old friend Doubt came a-knocking and before you could say, ‘how’s your father?’ I felt overwhelmed, saturated and confused. I’ve been in this place before, although now with a stronger self-awareness, I was able to recognise the signs – me being grumpy, heart racing and agitated – and I took charge immediately. I stepped back from all my activity and grounded myself in nature. I took time away from the learning, put down my devises and allowed myself some ‘me’ time. I came back to my heart and stopped the insatiable ego running a-muck in my head and within a day I was back to it. I allowed myself to surrender and take care of my needs and soon I was back to my inner happy state. So what is the lesson?
Noticing when you’re not feeling happy is key to being happier. Whilst it might sound flippin obvious, learning to spot your signs and triggers for suffering is one sure step towards reconnecting with your happiness.
The second awakening I had this week, came on a walk with my hubby, Myles. We’re currently in Italy – Tuscany to be precise and we found a great place to stay, right by the beach, in a bay protected by islands. There was a stunning village called Talamone about 3km away which we took a walk to during Italy’s All Saint’s Bank Holiday. Armed with my partner in crime – my trusted camera, I soon started clicking away, always looking for that perfect shot. Although having exhausted my pixels, on the way back, with said camera safely packed away in its bag, I started to really notice what was around me. I was shocked to see the most amazing display of orange berries on a palm tree by the marina – and they were profuse, dripping berries from every branch. It was stunning. Yet what struck me was how I had missed this sight on the way into town. I was so focused on finding the perfect shot that I missed the perfection right in front of me. And my lesson?
Instead of looking, see. Instead of listening, hear and instead of thinking, be. So often the very thing we seek is already there, we just need to stop being distracted to see the real beauty. Our egos block so much of our happiness. My ego was looking for the perfect shot and I missed the very thing I sought. Sometimes we just need to put down our tools and experience the present moment, as it has all the joy and peace that we long for.
My third lesson of the week actually leads on from the first. In my stepping back and self-care moment, I got an amazing piece of clarity. I know it came from my heart and not my head because it went – Bosh! There was no thought process, no analysis, no problem-solving, no judgement. Just a pure piece of Boom – a knowingness that something is right. My confusion was how best to get my message across – is it social media, is it my website, is it advertising? And then there it was. What is it that I love to do most in my ‘new, non-corporate’ place? I love to write. I love how words can influence someone, entertain or inform. I love how they flow through my heart to the keyboard to the blog page. It just flows. So why not get my message across in blogs and articles, like this? And there it was, my ‘Ah ha’ moment. Of course! So with renewed vigour, I have begun writing again and finalising my latest book ‘Happiness in Your Hands’ so I can present it to a publisher early in the new year. And how would I summarise this third lesson of the week?
Do what you love, or love what you do. It is that simple. It is only our minds that thinks it should be more complicated. When we take time to step back from the mayhem in our minds, the voice of our intuition or heart becomes so much clearer. Take space to be still and in the silence the answer comes.
So I hope that my insights and happiness lessons may give you some inspiration to find your inner happy and keep connecting to it on a daily basis. Our happiness is in our control – every minute of every day and noticing when our happiness has been stolen by our ego is so important if we want to feel more peace, more often.
With happiness blessings.