Inner strength

Maintaining Inner Strength

Inner strength, just like muscular strength, needs to be maintained otherwise it goes flabby!

Last month’s blog was about finding our inner strength, so once found, it is important that we keep it strong.  There is no special formula or unique regime to keep our strength strong but it does require awareness, motivation and persistence.

Just as our bodies need exercise so we can also use physical exercise to maintain inner wellbeing. If we are able to appreciate what our body does for us, give it good nourishing food and exercise in whatever form, then we are likely to feel stronger in ourselves. This in turn allows us to cope better with any stress that comes our way.  Get in touch with your body – how does it feel, what is it saying to you, what does it need?  Listen to your body, be aware of it and support the inner and outer strength.

Feeling connected within yourself also means being connected with what is around you, with your environment.  None of us are an island and although we may need or crave time on our own we also need people in our lives.  To boost our inner strength those people need to be supportive, encouraging, fun, motivating, non-judgemental, compassionate and forgiving.  When others feel good, we feel good and vice versa.  Surround yourself in the energy that gives you hope, understanding and contentment.

Our physical environments are also a crucial aspect of our inner health.  Do you live /work in places that make you feel good? Do you enjoy the atmosphere? Are you comfortable within your surroundings that you can relax and totally be yourself?  Could your home do with fresh energy coming in? You can find out more about enhancing environmental energy in this blog.

What else maintains your inner strength? How you fill in your time impacts upon health.  The spare time that you have, are you spending it in activities and with people that make you feel happy?  Hobbies and interests will add to your self-esteem and enhance your sense of identity.  Maybe it is time to bring in new interests and let go of others – choose ones that make you feel joyous.

Then in between work, people, hobbies and exercising find a place of calmness! Allow time just to be, no expectations, no worries, just you and your breath.  The stillness you gain reinforces the core strength within you, reminding you of the essence of who you are and what you are capable of.

Maintaining your inner strength is a lifelong process. First be aware of it, bring it to the fore and then nurture it so you can call upon it whenever you need to.

Inner strength of lioness

Inner Strength

When we are faced with external stress, pressure and demands this is the time when we need to tap into our inner strength.

Generally what we currently have to deal with, we have faced before, but maybe in a different guise.  The issue may be different but the emotions and feelings are what we are familiar with.

We have so much inner strength and resources but we can often forget or ignore them.  We can allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by emotions which can lead into a panic cycle and not know how to respond.

Over the years, however, we have experienced, and gathered, inner strengths such as reflection, determination, calmness, trust in self, belief and motivation.  We have accrued skills such as problem solving, listening, delegating, sharing (with the right people) and the ability to ask for help or to recognise when to let go and accept.

If we can bring our strengths and resources to the fore than our ability to cope, to bring down stress levels and to gain confidence will expand and grow.

To do this we need to be in a place of calm. The brain, as we know, registers uncomfortable/distressing situations as a danger and triggers off the fight/flight/freeze response.  When we are in this state our ability to think logically and rationally is impaired.  The body is focused on survival rather than cognitive problem solving.

The most important thing you can do is to get to a state of calm.  You can do this through relaxation, Reiki, meditation, walking – whatever helps to switch off that alarm system.  Once in this preferred state think back to another time when you had a similar emotional reaction or problem.  How did you react? What was most helpful at that time? What did you learn from that experience?  From this reflection pick out the most helpful action, strengths, skills and consider how you could apply them to your current situation.

Take control of the situation which may mean in essence choosing how you wish to respond.  What is best for you? Trust yourself to make the right decision at that time.  We can do no more than our best.  Use all your past experiences to tap into what is already there – your inner strength.  Move from an external need for support, approval and assurance to an inner belief of trust and strength.

If you struggle with this concept or have difficulty getting in touch with your inner strengths and abilities then you may wish to consider an EFT (Tapping ) session as  a gentle way to bring down intensity of emotion and reframe and strengthen your inner resources.

“Go within every day and find the inner strength so that the world will not blow your candle out.” ―Katherine Dunham

play as adults

The Importance of Play

I was watching a friend’s 3 year old grandson roll about on the floor in a public place.  Why was he doing it? Because he could!  He had no inhibitions, not doubting thoughts, just a desire to play and feel the experience or rolling around.

We all know the saying “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” by George Bernard Shaw.  When does that freedom of playing stop? I think it stops even when we are children or certainly teenagers and instead our rational, inhibiting mind kicks in and starts to restrict our inner child.

What favourite games or activities did you do as a child, how did it make you feel?  As I recall those memories even now a smile spreads across my face.  There is a sense of freedom, joyousness, being right in the moment – a chance to explore our bodies, our environment and our minds.  Play was about laughter, making friends, feeling good, feeling happy. And as adults we still need and deserve those things.

We know that play is essential to development and growth in all young mammals but play in adults is also incredibly beneficial.  Play in adults relieves stress, builds bonds within friendships, stimulates brain function and promotes connection and a sense of belong, all crucial for good mental health.

I know that there is a place and time for everything and that rolling on the floor in a restaurant although it might make you feel great, could have consequences!  However as adults we can still find time and ways of means to play.

As I’ve mentioned in several blogs it stars with attitude and choice, an intention and willingness to let go of possible embarrassment, of ignoring social norms and doing your own stuff regardless of what others may think.  In fact we don’t know what others are thinking and may even be envious of our expression of freedom and inhibition!

Play can be an individual activity such as splashing in puddles, skipping when out walking, blowing bubbles or playing with a pet.  Play with others can be spontaneous or planned, building sandcastles on the beach, arranging board game evenings, playing hide and seek, doing I-Spy on a car journey, the list is endless.  Whatever you do it should give you pleasure, fun, laughter and freedom of movement and thought.

What have you done recently that has been fun and playful? If you’re stuck with what to do go back to those memories of play as a child and if possible live them again.  Don’t get put off by others saying that it is “childish” or they haven’t got time, they are missing out big time!

Leave your adult self behind and once again find your inner child!

Hidden aspects of ourselves

Hidden Aspects of Ourselves

I doubt whether any of us are straight forward.  There are aspects of ourselves that perhaps we care to keep hidden or at least only show on rare occasions.  At times, others around us see things in us that perhaps we don’t see or recognise ourselves.

Back in 1955 psychologist Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham developed a model that enabled people to gain a better understanding of themselves in relation to others.  Combining their Christian names together they created Johari Window which continues to be used today especially within team development.  It is a feedback and self-awareness model that I have used myself when running workshops on team building and developing confidence.

I do think that it is worth, every now and then, to consider our own Johari window and to check out which areas can perhaps do with a bit more developing!

In its simplest form there are four quadrants or areas to the window, see diagram below.

Area One is known as the Open area and this represents our skills, behaviour, attitude, knowledge and experience that are known to us and to others.  It is open, nothing hidden, there is clear open communication.   When working as part of a team this area ideally should be developed in order to lessen conflict and avoid miscommunication.

Area Two is the Blind area which represents information that is known by others but not by the person themselves.  Maybe others are deliberately withholding information from you or you may be choosing to ignore issues about yourself.  Others interpret you differently from how you perceive yourself.  Not necessarily a good place to be in and often people who are known as “thick skinned” have an over developed blind spot.

Area Three or Hidden area  is what we know about ourselves but have chosen not to share it with others.  These can be our fears, past experiences, feelings, secrets, hidden agendas.  There may be many reasons why we choose not to make it open but we need to be aware that there may come a time when it is appropriate and healthier to move it into the Open area.  As the saying goes “what we resist, persists”.

Area Four known as the Unknown contains latent abilities and experiences that are unknown to both us and others.  It is the bit yet to be explored or discovered.  Maybe we have yet to have the opportunities to push out of our comfort zone, to realise that we are far more capable than we think we are.  Self-discovery and observation by others can help move from this area into area one.

By taking a quick check using this model are there aspects that you are ignoring about yourself? Maybe you hear others repeatedly tell you about certain skills/attributes that you are not accepting? Does it feel appropriate to be a little braver and move out of your comfort zone and stretch your potential?  For all us we rarely stand still in our personal development and growth so I hope that a reminder of this model will help you take another step forward.

Johari Model
Stress

Stress Awareness

Stress affects everyone and April is Stress Awareness month.  At times stress can be energising, positive and motivating but when demands upon ourselves exceed our perceived ability to cope then stress can become a problem.  The effects of stress are different for each person, for example it may affect our sleep, eating habits, relationships or concentration to do our job.

It is is rarely contributed to just one thing but to many factors over a period of time.

When stress becomes prolonged or excessive and we perceive that we cannot cope with demands then the impact upon our lives can be detrimental.

At times it is others that first recognise that we are stressed rather than ourselves.  It can be easy to keep our head down, keep going and ignore warning signs.  Sometimes we only recognise how stressed we are after the situation has gone!

The starting point is to increase our awareness of how we are feeling, what our body is telling us, notice changes in our behaviour and hear what others are saying. Only when we are aware can we do anything to help ourselves.

What are those warning signs?  This will obviously differ for each person but here are a few that may be familiar to you:

Physical – increased muscular tension, headaches, feeling nauseous, sweating

Emotional – feeling anxious, increased irritation, frustration

Behaviour – decreased or increased sleeping, lack or increase in appetite, withdrawing, increased alcohol/coffee/smoking, lack of tolerance

Cognitions (thoughts) – blaming others, everything appears negative, increased worry about everything, not being able to switch off thoughts

So what can we do?

Identify what is causing the stress and determine whether:-

a) it is under your control and you are able to do something to change it

b) it is something that you cannot change and therefore find a way to accept the situation

c) you can just let it go, as in the long run or in a few weeks time, it really won’t matter or it isn’t that important

Share your concerns and seek out the right people that will be able to support you or be able to make changes with you.

Look after yourself physically by having a healthy diet, get enough sleep, take exercise, engage socially with others and actively do relaxation eg have a bath, listen to a mediation tape, have ring-fenced quiet time.

Talk to yourself as if you are your best friend; be kind, compassionate and caring to yourself.  Praise and compliment yourself on how you are doing and how you are coping.

End the day by giving gratitude for what you have in your life – family, friends, home, health, faith, work etc.

Keep in mind that the stress will pass and spend each day focusing in the here and now.  Turn worries into problems and look at how to solve them.

So how can I help?

Book yourself a Reiki session which promotes relaxation, re-balancing and restoring of energy levels.

Book an appointment to learn Emotional Freedom Technique (or Tapping) as a self-help tool that decreases intensity of emotions and promotes a different way of looking at situations.

Book a day on a retreat especially designed for healthcare workers – 11 May 2019.

There is nothing to be ashamed of feeling stressed and the more we understand our early warning signs and do something to help ourselves the more in control we feel thus decreasing our levels of stress.

meditation

Meditation – the Benefits

Meditation can still conjure up images of sitting in the lotus position and chanting “omm”! Meditation in the Western world has moved on a lot from the original Eastern practice and it is more accessibly and “easier” to do now for many people.

There are many fantastic meditation groups that provide the space and stillness to meditate alongside others and if you are a beginner can learn the process and discipline of meditation.

For some people to sit still and to attempt to empty the mind can be extremely challenging.  Sitting still can evoke beliefs of “being lazy, not doing anything” and there can also be the fear of what can come into the mind if we are not controlling it.

However meditation can be done in many ways and they all have immense health benefits.  If you have time in the morning, especially at the weekend, why not sit quietly in bed and just focus on your breathing.  Notice when thoughts come into your mind and then just return to being aware of the rise and fall of your chest.  If you can do that for 5 minutes that’s brilliant, if you can do it for longer even better.

If you prefer to be led into a meditation there are lots of apps and CDs that are available such as Headspace , there are many more listed here.  To immerse yourself into meditation you can go on a retreat, silent or otherwise, which can help kick start your awareness of how to meditate.

For more informal ways of meditation just be in nature, walk quietly, preferably alone and use all your senses to tune in to what is around you.  You may have a favourite spot where you can just sit and be still and allow your thoughts to drift in and out without any focus upon them.  Or you may give yourself time to have a bath rather than a shower.  Set the intention to be still in mind and body, ensure that everyone else in the household knows not to disturb you and create a warming and relaxing environment.  If you still find your mind wandering always go back to noticing your breath.

So why should we meditate?  Research has shown that meditation will decrease blood pressure, decrease heart rate, decrease the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, it can re-alkalize your body, slow the ageing process down and promote deeper sleep.

Apparently our normal waking brain waves, Beta, are at 14-28 cycles per second.  In meditation they go to Alpha waves at 7-14 cycles per second and in deep meditation can drop into Theta waves at 4-7 waves per second.

We also know that through meditation we can clear and balance our chakras and in turn balance our energy field which can decrease the risk of illness and in time be more in tune with nature thus once again promoting good health.

If you are not sure how to start having a Reiki session is a good way of giving yourself permission to stop , be still and to receive.

So however you do your meditation, whether it be for 10 minutes a week or an hour a day it is part of valuing your own health and wellbeing which enhances health benefits to ourselves and others.

acts of kindness

Acts of Kindness

Kindness is about generosity, consideration and empathy. In my last blog I wrote about empathy and compassion and it is how we can demonstrate these qualities in acts. A lot has been said and written lately about doing random acts of kindness and I totally agree that it feels not only good to the receiver but also to the giver.  In fact kindness ripples out and if you have been on the receiver end of a kindness then you are more likely to go on and engage in your own kind acts.

The givers of kind acts feel a greater sense of satisfaction and happiness which in turn boost good mental health and wellbeing.  There is now a Random Act of Kindness day on 17 February 2019.

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-centered and inwardly focused and allows us to be more aware of the other person.

We are more likely to do a kind act if we have experienced it or have recently talked about it so it is in our subconcious.  A friend mentioned that she had given someone a lift as he had missed his bus and the next day I was approached by someone asking for bus fayre as his car had broken down.  Normally, as it was the evening, I wouldn’t have done so but it was in my subconscious what my friend had done.  So I gave the person some money only to find out later it was a scam!  So I must admit that maybe it wasn’t the wisest thing to do especially as it was the other person approaching me.

You are in control of the kind act, so you are choosing what to do of your own free will, even if it is spontaneous.  Keep an open mind, be aware of others needs and do something because it will benefit someone else and hopefully in turn they too will pass on a kind act.

compassion and empathy

Compassion and Empathy

Compassion and empathy are two words which have found their way more and more into our everyday language.  Do we really understand what they mean and are we practicing these values?

I am still learning and integrating these two words and certainly at times I have to work really hard to bring in these emotions.

Certainly there are specific therapies that now focus on compassion such as Compassion Focused Therapy but we don’t need to go to a workshop or class to achieve compassion.

If we want to bring these aspects into our lives we need understand what they are first.  Recently I read a description that highlights the subtle difference between empathy and compassion.  In his book  “Same Soul – Many Lives” Dr B Weiss states that empathy is an intellectual approach in trying to understand another person’s feelings.  Compassion is more instinctual and comes from the heart so you can be compassionate without being empathic.

Trying to understand another person’s feeling can increase our awareness of others situations which we may have no prior knowledge or understanding of.  It can often be suggested to “walk in another’s shoes” – to understand and appreciate how the other person is feeling.

Compassion is often a spontaneous feeling and comes from the heart with actions that are based in kindness.  Both empathy and compassion take us on the eventual path of unconditional love.

It can be incredibly hard to put these into practice at times especially when you have been hurt by others but we always have choices in how we react and we choose our attitude.  It can take a lot of mental strength, awareness and inner calm to show compassion but by doing so can drastically change the whole situation.  Often it is not about changing the other person but it is about changing ourselves.  If you come from a place of compassion then you are less likely to feel anger or frustration, stress will be reduced and you can let go of grudges and bring in forgiveness.   This in turn may have a positive effect on the other person and thus changing the energy between you both.

It may mean taking time out to think and reflect quietly about a situation and then going back with a compassionate and/or empathic response.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:-

  • How would I feel if I were in their shoes?
  • What is contributing to them acting/behaving as they do?
  • If I was at my most compassionate self how would I see the situation and how would I want to respond?

Compassion and empathy are not just for others but are equally important for ourselves.  The starting point is always with ourselves and by being compassionate i.e. being kind and understanding, these two emotions and values can greatly enhance our lives and lead to the ultimate goal of unconditional love.

goals

Goals – where next for 2019?

As we start the New Year does it leave you feeling energised and excited about the months ahead or flat and unmotivated?

The date of 1st January is irrelevant as it only represents the limitations of time that we have put in place.  However there is something to be said about having ideas of what you want to get out of life.  At times it may be okay to go with the flow and drift through life although there is a danger that others will then influence your choices.

When we set out our own aspirations, dreams and goals then we are more likely to achieve them.  It has been proven that if you write out or share your goals then success of reaching your goal is greatly increased.

Just keeping a thought in your mind is probably not going to be enough; action needs to happen along with support and encouragement from others.  It is easy to get side tracked by internal doubts and worries and these can be used as an excuse to either not get started or to give up on your dreams.  As explained in my video here – when we reach the end of our life it will be the things that we haven’t done that we will regret.

There are several ways to help support the first part your achievement.  Write them down and put them somewhere that you can see them every day.  Instead of writing, depict your aspirations visually in a vision board placing it as a screen saver or a poster.

If you are not sure what you want to do you may like to do this exercise of listing what you want/have/don’t want and don’t have by using this template.  Once you have completed the columns turn the “don’t want” into what do you want instead?  This will help you to start identifying your goals.

Create a Be/Do/Have list – without judgement or preconceptions keep adding to your list over a few weeks.  Are there any themes?  Is there something in there that you have always wanted to do?

Are you somebody that starts and then gets stuck?  Remind yourself why this goal is really important to you – what are you going to gain from it, how is it going to affect your life?  Remember 90% of achieving goals is knowing why it is important to you, 10% is how you will achieve it. If you are a champion procrastinator lean how to use EFT or Tapping to break down those blocks.

These are just a few suggestions that will help you get on your way of creating a year that you can look back on with pride, contentment, enjoyment and satisfaction.

Have an adventurous, exciting, fun-filled and challenging 2019!

Happiness

Happiness!

Happiness is now a measurement that can define a country.  The latest survey this year, came out with ratings for the “happiest” countries.  The Scandinavian countries once again coming out on top with Finland at number one.  Although Britain is in 19th place it is still not a good indictment of our country.
Happiness is subjective but the fact that Denmark has consistently been in the top 3 over the past 5 years suggests they are doing something right as a nation.   One explanation is “hygge” pronounced “hoo-ga” with the closest explanation as being one of coziness.

The sense of being together and belonging creates coziness.  It’s when we allow ourselves to relax in a state that feels warm and comforting that we can recognise a sense of happiness.  These moments and opportunities do not always need money to be achieved.  In fact it has been proven that over the decades although our income has increased our levels of happiness have not.
It is our responsibility to seek out our own happiness and when we are in this emotional state we can affect other peoples’ levels of wellbeing and happiness too.

So how can we experience hygge?  First of all we have to be mindful to it.  Appreciate the moment; savour the sense of whatever we are doing in order to absorb those warm feelings.  If our minds are closed or focused on what’s not right or what is wrong then we will miss those times of happiness.  I have mentioned before about “destination addiction” – Andy Cope, if we are constantly thinking that we will be happy, relaxed, chilled only when it is Friday or on holiday that we are missing out on the present.  Animals and young children are much more able to create their moments of happiness as they live in the present moment.
However, we can all make our own hygge.

Connect with people, whether that is family or friends, at home in the work place or out socially – talk to people.  It has been proven that being with people that are supportive, fun, encouraging greatly improves mental wellbeing. Take up hobbies and do things just for fun.  Be a child again and put on the wellies and splash through puddles!

There are a load more suggestion to create your hygge moments in my book ” A Guide to Commonsense WellBeing”

Here are a few of my hygge moments:-

Walking along the Pembrokeshire coastal path looking out over the Irish Sea.
Snuggling up to watch a good film on a dark and wet winter afternoon.
Being aware of the garden bursting into life in Spring.
Dancing.
Being part of a team, working together to achieve a goal.

The list can go on and on!  For the rest of the year seek out, be mindful and saviour your hygge moments.  Place them in your memory jar so you can recapture the feeling of happiness.
I would love to hear about your hygge moments.