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.

Filters through which we live

Celebrating Filters!

A new month, a new year and a new decade it sounds exciting but we seem to be surrounded by distressing and worrying news.  Society seems designed to make us worry and be anxious – adverts get us to worry about how we look so we buy their products, newspaper headlines are there to shock us and thus buy, social media thrives on the sometimes anonymity to  put others down.  How easy it is to get on a roll about complaining and what is wrong.  In amongst all this doom, gloom, depression there are people, places, situations that should be celebrated and honoured.

Our mind is a filter and like putting sunglasses on to filter our harmful rays, we place filters in our mind that only allow in what we focus on.  Have you had the experience of thinking about buying a car and suddenly you see that type of car everywhere!  You have placed a “car filter” in your mind and you will notice everything pertaining to that filter.  Media and political campaigns give us dire warnings and so we notice these things that back up this belief (and thus only a particular party can help us).  This happens mainly subconsciously and often we are not aware of our thought patterns and subsequent actions.  Only 5% of thought is conscious, most of our decisions, actions, emotions behaviours depend upon our subconscious.  The filters we put into our minds go into the subconscious, the subliminal messages from advertisement slip into there, the constant drip drip of distressing news feeds our emotions.  The more that we notice aspects/situations that support our subconscious beliefs or emotions the stronger they become.

The good news though is that we have control over our thoughts and are actions.  We can determine our filters; we can seek out what is good in the world and bring our attention to it.  If you find yourself getting caught up in a ritual of complaining with others – walk away, change the subject, put an alternative view across.

We need to be aware of what is going on in the world but we don’t need to be totally submerged and overwhelmed with it.  Earth Day (22 April 2020) which celebrates and promotes action is but one day of the year.  In our own lives we will feel better in ourselves if we recognise what is good/enjoyable/pleasant.  Let go of the low level moaning and bring in compliments and praise, acknowledgment and gratitude.

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.

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!

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.

Smiling with 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.
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.