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.

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