Self love

Self Love and Self Care is in the air!

We are responsible for our own self-care! Maybe we feel that others should be looking after us but ultimately we are the ones best placed to give ourselves kindness, care and compassion. As we face upto the many challenges that we currently find ourselves now more than ever we need to find ways of being kind to ourselves.  It is not enough to just say in your mind “I need to be kind to myself” if you don’t take any action.

When I was an Occupational Therapist I supported and worked with people to promote their independence in all areas of their life.  This included work, relationships, interests and self-care. This may have been physically care but it was also care in a way that recognized strengths, appreciated abilities and fostered kindness to that person after a illness.

It can be easier to receive kindness, love and care from others than to do so for ourselves – maybe we feel we don’t deserve it or we’re not important enough to matter.  The deeper truth is that we are incredibly important to ourselves first and then to others.

How often do we make allowances for others but not ourselves? Do we forgive ourselves? The challenge is breaking out of an identity that can keep us stuck in an old story or beliefs that devalue us.

Self care comes at all different levels. How often have you made mistakes?  I certainly have! How we react and handle the mistakes we make tells us how kind we are to ourselves.  Everyone makes mistakes and if it didn’t happen then there would be no development, no growth no motivation to seek out alternative ways. Approach mistakes with curiosity and receptivity – ask:-

  • what led you to that behaviour?
  • what can you learn from it?
  • how much was under your control?
  • would you do it differently next time?

By turning to face yourself and your behaviour with compassion is an act of self-love and self-care.

The inner critic that takes up residence inside our minds is just part of an old and very well worn identity.  It’s an old yet familiar story that we keep repeating and so it becomes stronger. What if you could start making a new story about yourself? A new reality that celebrates your skill, desires, talents and strengths feeds into giving yourself kindness and self care.  See your world from a new perspective – a view of understanding, kindness and compassion – how different would that make you feel?

As Wayne Dyer says ”Remind yourself that you cannot fail at being yourself”.

When we know we cannot fail then let’s give ourselves permission to give massive self care and self love – we have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

If you feel in need of support to challenge and breakthrough some of the things that may be holding you back in this area of self love please feel free to book a complimentary Insight session or contact me on how we can work together.

Stirrings of Spring

I know it is still winter but towards the end of January there are stirrings of Spring.  In the Celtic wheel of life it is known as Imbolc, the time of awakening.  This is a time when we very gradually move into a slightly more active time of the year.  Traditionally it is about starting to manifest and to plan what has arisen from our winter reflections.

We can see this in nature around us, the days are lengthening, there are buds forming on the trees and birds have started seeking out possible nest sites.

Perhaps unconsciously we still follow and react to the cycle of the year although it may be overlaid by modern life and current challenges.  This is the time to start thinking ahead and to gradual breathe life into what we wish to happen in the year ahead.  It is not yet a full on, raring to go and jump into action energy but a gentle awakening to see what is possible.

The animals and plants around us don’t have to think, they instinctively know what comes next at this time of year.  The snow drops and primroses are just peeping up in the promising pastel light of the sun.  The birds are increasing their volume of song as they seek out territories.  I’ve also noticed the sparrows checking out the bird house as possible des res!

Stirrings of Spring

So what can we do at this time of year?

  • If you are a gardener you will be already planning this year’s crops or flowers and have started ordering seeds.  If you are not a garden why not consider a window box or plant some indoor herbs?
  • You may like to research places in the country where you haven’t been before with the hope of a staycation in the summer.
  • When you go out for a walk start to notice what is emerging – which flowers are coming up, which trees are showing buds? Appreciate what you can see and what you know will arrive.
  • Notice the different shades of light in the sky, it often has a softer pinky hue this time of the year.
  • Prepare for any birthdays coming up in the next few months – why not make birthday cards or presents?
  • In the longer evenings lit a fire and watch the sun go down.
  • Clear space in your home or garden to welcome in the new.  Give away unwanted possessions.
  • Review and renew any resolutions you made at the beginning of the year.

I’m sure there are lots of others things you can think of to welcome in the beginnings of Spring. Continue to be gentle with yourself but notice the stirrings of hope and the changes around you as we know the light is coming.

Writing down memories

Memory Jar!

I was handed a package of letters that I had written a long time ago, when I lived in New Zealand.  My mother had kept them and gave them back to me and reading through them I was amazed at how much I had forgotten.  I realise I was then in my 20s so was working and playing hard.  Memories were jolted of my time meeting up with the Japanese Under 22 rugby team, travelling over the Southern Alps to see U2 in concert, having numerous barbeques and late night “lock-ins” in the local pubs.  I headed up an Occupational Therapy department in a psychiatric hospital and dealt with presentations, avoiding staff redundancies, setting up new community projects, attending Special Olympics, doing a solo turn at the staff concert as Max Boyce and so much more.  I was able to travel up and down New Zealand not only for courses but for squash and badminton competitions and to see my boyfriend, at the time, on a sheep farm.

Why is this relevant now, many decades later?  It just shows the importance of creating memories.

If we just go through life on auto – pilot what have we got to look back on and savour? The reason these events came back to me was that I had written them down, in the form letters and sent back to the UK.  I’m sure if we had emails back then, I would not be able find them now in an ever full digital overload of information.

Start making your memories for this year

Memory Jar

This is partly why every year I do a memory jar.  An initial empty jar that sits in the kitchen and into it I write down any event/situation that has made me feel happy/pleased/proud/ excited.  A little post-it with the date and what happened – a Reiki teaching weekend that I loved, an amazing sunset, the sighting of a hedgehog, a compliment.  I’m not waiting for big amazing things to happen, almost every day there can be something to wonder at or feel good about.

The great thing about the memory jar is that on 31 December I tip out all the post-its and read what I had written, and quite possibly forgotten, and those memories for the year just gone make me smile and feel warm inside.  The overall view of the year just gone, 2020, may have felt all doom and gloom but there have been shafts of sunlight and pleasure throughout which I probably would have ignored or taken for granted had I not popped it in my memory jar.

So whilst we are in the first week of January and although we have gone back into lockdown why not dig out a jam jar or vase, place it somewhere accessible alongside a pen and post-it notes and start making your memories for this year.

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice – what can we learn?

We have all heard of the winter solstice which this year was on 21 December 2020 and represented the shortest day of the year.  A day where daylight is shorter than any other time, but also a time when the sun rises and sets in the same place over 3 days.

For us in the 21st century December is predominately aligned to the Christian calendar of the birth of Christ celebrated as Christmas – a busy month of planning, preparations and buying. It certainly has a very different feel to how our ancestors marked the Winter solstice and its 7-6 week cycle.

Even though Christmas was very different this year for most of us due to the co-vid restrictions I expect the lead up to Christmas day was probably still full on and possibly quite stressful.

So what is the true meaning of the Winter solstice and what can we learn from it in our modern lives?  For our ancestors the Winter solstice meant stillness, a time to slow down and rest.  The harvest had been gathered, food stored and planting of new crops wouldn’t be taking place until the Spring Equinox.  So for them this meant restoration, retreat and a time to conserve energy.

 Is this something that we could bring into our lives? I feel we can because in one way the weather encourages us to snuggle in at home and spend time with family (especially if we weren’t under co-vid measures!).  We may find ourselves resting and sleeping a bit more, making use of the darker evenings.  We can also consciously slow down, take time to listen to our bodies, accept that is OK to sit and read or watch a film in the afternoon.  Slowing down can be difficult for some people as it also creates a space to think, to allow thoughts and memories to come to mind and that may be painful.  However, accept them in, don’t judge or try to fix, just allow the thoughts to come in and know that they will pass.

As we move through the Winter solstice we recognise that this is also the time for the returning of the light, a time when the Sun very gradually returns in length within our days.  This year more than ever I feel the return of the light is not only physically manifested but also symbolically.  For as we go through the Winter solstice we are hoping for a very different succeeding year – a year of hope and light as we come to terms and accept what we have all been through.  Over the next few months we know that the Sun is coming back to us and sharing with us its beauty and power just as it did for our ancestors thousands of years ago.

Whether you are a winter lover or not take the opportunity to slow down or snatch bits of time to do absolutely nothing, you deserve it and your body needs it!

If you feel you need some extra help is slowing down I invite you to book a distance Reiki session. From the comfort of your own home, receive healing that invites deep relaxation, peace and balance of harmony within your body.

Smiling with Happiness

Why Smile?

Smiling, we haven’t always felt like it over the past months! It continues to be a tough year for all of us but hopefully now we can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe we have drawn on inner reserves of strength and put into place self-care and wellbeing ways that have promoted our resilience or “bounce back”.

One of the simplest ways to trigger a positive reaction within us is to smile.

There is a lot that goes on when we smile, our biochemistry changes and we generate positive emotions and trigger off a trio of happy hormones – dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

Even if you make a smile and hold it for long enough you will still trigger off the reward centre in your brain and it starts to feel more genuine.

When you smile at someone else, it too has an effect on their biochemistry and in turn they feel better.

It has been shown that on average you live 7 years longer than a person who rarely smiles!

In the video below, taken from my weekly wellbeing tips, I tell you how frequently we smile as an adult as opposed to a child!

Why make an effort to smile if we don’t feel like it?

Research behind smiling shows that there are many benefits to smiling:-

  • Lowers stress levels
  • Reduces pain
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Boost immune system
  • Increases longevity
  • Increases productivity
  • Look younger
  • Is a Universal language! 

So for today, even though you may not always feel like it, smile at yourself and then pass it on!

comforting touch

The Importance of Touch

Touch has never been so meaningful as when we are unable to give or receive it.  Due to the current pandemic the touch of hugging one another – family , friends – has been restricted.  Grandparents not able to cuddle their grandchildren, daughters/sons not being able to come face to face and give their parents a reassuring hug, friends no longer greet each other with a hug.

As human beings we are a tactile species and I feel that over the past decade we have become even more so.  From a British stiff upper lip to a more free society of not being afraid to give reassurance, support and acknowledge through touch.  We have full on heart to heart hugs, a gentle pat on the shoulder, a reassuring and comforting hand on an arm or a quick peck on the cheek.  Normally we have this daily connection with others through our most tactile of senses.  For those living alone this lack may be even more keenly felt.

A famous experiment back in the 1950s by Harlow demonstrated an overwhelming need for touch at the expense sometimes of food.  These were conducted with monkeys but showed the absolute need for comfort and protection through being in physical contact with another monkey, who in this case was represented by a terry toweling monkey.

When we are scared, feeling vulnerable, in need of reassurance or support we seek it through being held. No words are needed just an exchange of energy on a heartfelt basis.  Did you know that a hug needs to be about 7 seconds to truly transfer these feelings across to the other person?  However just a fleeting contact acknowledges your presence and there is connection, however brief.

child holding hands
importance of touch

How are you doing?

 Are you getting enough human contact?  Are you missing the tactile embrace from friends and family?  I must admit that recently when working with a client, we were walking outside for a “walk ‘n’ talk” session, they become upset and my immediate response was to lay a gentle arm on their shoulders.  It was spontaneous, automatic and reflexive – I was just being a human being in response to another fellow human being.  This action had an impact upon my client in that they thanked me for that touch on their shoulders.   At that time, in that moment, pandemic barriers were forgotten.

Some of the therapies I offer – Reiki and Shamanic healing within co-vid guidelines – involve hands on healing, a gentle, compassionate touch in which words are not needed.  It is through my hands that healing energy is transferred to my clients but underlying gratitude is the need to be in contact with another person. 

We are now learning to live in a world where human touch is limited so maybe we seek out touch within different therapies as part of an inner most need to receive comfort. 

I hope that you are in a position, safely, to receive hugs and human touch and if not know that people around you are energetically sending their touch and comfort to you.

Can I help?

If you would like further information on the above treatments I offer please feel free to contact me.

Grateful. thankful

Gratitude for our health

Life is tough and challenging at the moment so how easy is it to give gratitude? Often our default position can be to focus on the negative, to worry about things we have no control over, to criticise and blame.  When we do this nothing changes – our bodies keep plugged into stress, worry, frustration and anger.  We are promoting an imbalance of our physical and mental health and more than ever we need to create harmony within us.

Giving gratitude, being thankful for what we have, has a powerful but subtle effect on our mental and physical wellbeing.  Gratitude as an integral part of world religions has been around for thousands of years but to get the true impact of showing gratitude it needs to be done from a place of love, appreciation and honesty.  In his blog Dr David Hamilton cites several reasons why expressing gratitude is good for us.

Gratitude is easy it’s not hard to do; we just have to be aware of what we already have in our lives. How often do we take for granted our ability to be mobile, that we have a roof over our heads, that we are able to buy food?   When we forget about what we already have in our lives, and we grumble about what we haven’t got, then we stay in a state of lack, a sense of dissatisfaction.

The more we give thanks and show gratitude the stronger it becomes; just like a muscle that is worked.  It neutralises our negative emotions, decreases stress, promotes kindness and improves quality of sleep.

To paraphrase Andy Cope, the moment we’re content, we have enough – it is not when we have enough are we then content.

So how can we practice gratitude?

  • Start a gratitude diary – jot down each day in your diary what you are grateful for – a person, an event, a feeling.
  • Thank others often – this helps to increase connectivity with others and in turn lessens isolation.
  • Stop low level moaning – don’t get caught up with others’ criticism and moans.  Stop, take a breath and turn your thinking onto one good thing that is happening in your life.
  • Before you go to sleep at night go over in your mind three things that you are truly grateful for that day.  People often say I can’t think of anything.  The more you do this the more your mind opens up to what you truly have in your life for which you can give thanks.
  • Meditate using gratitude apps such as Insight Timer or Headspace
  • Go walking and thank everything that you see – trees, sky, rain, birds, grass, sea etc and do it from your heart.
  • Write letters of thanks – taking the time to put pen to paper is a much more purposeful and heartfelt way of giving gratitude than a quick text.

Dr Emoto in his book Hidden Messages in Water showed that water exposed through written words of love and gratitude formed beautiful, complex snowflake patterns. Water exposed to negative thoughts and words were unformed, misshapen and dull in colour!

Only you know what you have in your life to be grateful for, express it, mean it and allow gratitude to grow and flourish allowing harmony, contentment to flow back into your life.

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”Oprah Winfrey

Man portraying being humble

Humble –is this still relevant in today’s world?

“Just for today I will be humble” is one of the precepts or concepts behind Reiki practice.  When I discuss this during teaching Reiki it can often be a bit puzzling.  Humble is not a word we use very much in today’s language, it feels as if it belongs in an ancient religious way of life that has nothing to do with the way we live now.  What does it actually mean?  Are we ever humble?

I remember when I was volunteering on a game reserve in South Africa.  One of the workers from Zimbabwe gave up his time over a weekend to show me round more of the reserve and tell me his story from his country. Afterwards I thanked him for his time and he replied that he was humble to have met me.  I couldn’t quite work it out what he meant and how it applied to me.

There seems to be many contexts in which the word humble could be applied but the one that resonates with me is to have a “modest or low estimate of one’s importance” (Oxford English dictionary).  This is not about putting myself down or ignoring my worth and value but being willing to acknowledge that there are other things far more important than me in the world.  A much bigger viewpoint needs to come into play, I am not the centre of the Universe but an integral part of it and for that I am humble.

“A mistake that makes you humble is better than an achievement that makes you arrogant” Anon

The focus is on giving rather than receiving.  Recognising what we already have around us and giving gratitude for it.  Gratitude is a more familiar word nowadays and I think it dovetails beautifully into being humble.  When you are truly grateful for what you have then you are humble. If the world is without gratitude then it is built on false egos.  Humility recognises that we own nothing and are grateful for what we have.

What makes me feel humble? People choosing me to help them move on, being part of nature, not above it or controlling it, the life that I have lived.

“Stay true in the dark side and humble in the spotlight”  Harold B Lee

I would love to hear your thoughts and understanding about the word humble.

Self love

Altruism – is it still there?

The definition of altruism is the “willingness to do things that bring advantages to others, even if it results in disadvantage for yourself” (Cambridge dictionary).  Although not new to human behaviour I felt that there was an increasing number of altruistic responses from people during the lockdown period.  But is this now becoming less?

Altruism  can often be spontaneous and acted upon without much forethought or decision only to recognise the benefits for that other person.  It’s the act of someone unselfishly giving of their time/money/skill without expecting anything back in return.  The emphasis is on the person receiving rather than the giver.  Random acts of kindness are examples of altruism and is seen by social psychologists as prosocial behaviour.

In a blog written last year on Acts of Kindness I wrote that the acts can range from small and unassuming to grand gestures without the need for recognition or praise.  So anything goes that is spontaneous, unprepared and done to help someone else.  It can be giving someone the rest of your time on a parking ticket, leaving a book for someone else to read, let another person go ahead of you in a queue, hold a door open or pay someone a compliment.  It stops us being self-centred and inwardly focused and allows us to be more aware of the other person.

Back in lockdown April and May there was a lot of kindness and altruistic behaviour, people wanted to help and support others.  We shopped for our elderly neighbours, phoned those who were shielding and Captain Sir Tom was walking unselfishly to raise money for the NHS.

Do you feel that people are still being compassionate, considerate and altruistic?  Possibly as lockdown has eased, people are back at work, the pace of life picks up and the stresses of daily life start to take hold again, altruism is less seen.  Just on the contentious issue of wearing a face mask – the act of wearing one is predominately for others, an act of altruism!

So let’s not forget how communities came together, how we helped and supported each other, those unselfish acts are just as much needed today as there were months ago.  Maybe they are needed more so now, as we come to terms with a new way of living.  Looking out for others is not just a virus led requirement but hopefully an innate desire to help others feel better or to bring a bit of joy or comfort into someone’s life – a selfless act that can mean a lot to the receiver even you don’t know tht person!

Life maybe be busier and faster once again but we are still human beings requesting understanding, consideration and kindness so let’s not forget our ability and choice of being altruistic.

Taking action

Action!

Over the past few months we have been forced to take action in the way we live and to reconsider our priorities.  Our daily routines have been turned upside down.  Our social time has changed and what we have taken for granted is no longer guaranteed.

We haven’t had much of a choice in this action, we have been strongly advised, knowing that it ultimately for the safety of ourselves and others.  We’ve understood the reasoning, more or less, and have consciously agreed to take this different action.

This change we’ve adapted to in one sense has been unquestioned, we haven’t needed to find hidden depths of motivation to make change, we were unable to procrastinate – we just did it!

How different does it become when we want to make changes for ourselves even though we know that it would be good for us?  We know we can make changes, adapt and accept them, as proven over this period of pandemic, so why does it feel so hard when we try to do it on a personal level?

Then it can feel like it’s too much effort, our thoughts and beliefs kick in so we can easily justify why we won’t make changes just yet.  The human mind is incredible at finding justifications for not taking action, we can always find a counter-argument or reason to put things off.

Very often we can convince ourselves that we are making changes and we have made strides forward but somehow that is not reflected in our daily living.  It’s almost as if we are living our lives in our heads – our perception of our reality is not really what it actually is.  Many times I’ve worked with people who have told me what they are going to do, and however many times they say it and believe it they still don’t, in reality, make those steps forward.

The bottom line is that, by all means, make the plans, work out the steps but unless you take actual action nothing has changed.  We all took action whilst the virus was at its peak so we know we are capable of making changes.

 Now we are in a position to start making changes for ourselves – to continue with healthier ways of living, to drop and let go of unhelpful beliefs and thoughts, to reconsider relationships and build new ones.  If you have arrived at this mindset already that is brilliant, but you need to go beyond the mindset and start taking action.  However small or seemingly insignificant take some form of action everyday to bring the changes you choose into your life.

Action changes things
Action changes things