Sunday, 31 January 2016

All the Feels.

Emotions can be appear to be straight up nuisance. They can be overwhelming, unwanted and just incredibly uncomfortable. 

When we're not feeling like ourselves, it can seem like we're shrouded exclusively in the negative ones. Almost automatically, the first reaction when these cascade upon us can be to try to switch them off - Disconnect, pull the plug, make them stop. 

We attempt to turn a deaf ear to them. To do this, we can turn to food, alcohol, drugs, exercise or whatever seemingly works to make them shut up; to stop them screaming in our ear, bubbling up beneath the surface - taking over. They don't feel right, we don't know what to do with them so we want to numb them out. 

But that simply doesn't work, because we can't do it selectively.

'We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions we also numb the positive emotions', Brené Brown.

See, they're not the problem. The problem is thinking that we know better than them, that we don't need or have time for them. The problem is that we don't know how to react to them or with them. We're shirking away from responding to them, engaging with and learning from them. That's where the problem kicks in. 

Emotions make us vulnerable and crucially, they make us human. They don't make us weak, out of control or pathetic. In fact they're essential for connection, for fulfilling our needs, for gaining guidance in our growth. They allow us to be empathetic and real.

When you think about it, it seems strange to want to numb something that comes so naturally. But we do it without even realising in so many other ways too. We suppress hunger, suppress our passions, suppress our voices, suppress our exhaustion, act like we're 'fine'. We are not perfect and we are not robots and we definitely don't know better than our body, so we need to stop acting as if we do.

On the back of a week of being a moody cow, I thought it fitting to explore this topic and what I've learnt. So here's what I've got: 

1. Visitation Rights

'Feelings are just visitors, let them come and let them go'. Emotions are signals, they're not permanent states of being or a reflection of who we are. They let us know that we need something and once we respond accordingly they'll likely change. When I'm being grumpy and lashing out, it's not something that's going to last forever (luckily for everyone around me!) But it's an indication that I might be tired or lonely or frustrated. 

We need to be patient with ourselves when emotions visit and realise that it's not a life sentence as a sad, angry grump but more just a little nudge to look after something within ourselves. This doesn't mean we have to let them take over, but we need to decide what we're going to do with them, how long do we want them to stay and how are we going to interact with what they're bringing us.

2. Communicate

Open up to conversing with what you're feeling. Instead of ignoring them and hoping they go away or letting them do all the talking, actually notice them and identify what it is they're trying to say. I've definitely had experiences of either attempting to numb the mood, letting the mood entirely consume me or feeling guilty because 'I shouldn't be feeling this way'. 

If there's one thing I've benefited from learning, it's that ignoring what my body is trying to tell me, is never helpful. We're not separate, we need to give ourselves the privilege of being fully connected - mind and body together. Trying to live as body vs 'intellect', is uncomfortable, unnatural and messy. The reality is that we're on the same team, communicating our needs and aiming to satiate them accordingly. So open up the conversation, what is this uncomfortable mood trying to tell you? What do you need?

3. Find your Solutions

In the same ways that emotions may have different triggers than they had in the past, the way we deal with them can undergo some fine-tuning too. I'd encourage trying to find the ways that best suit you in feeling better. Discover ways that effectively change your emotional state. Maybe it's a punching a punching bag, blaring music, going to the bottle bank, going for a walk, talking to someone, watching a movie, writing, singing at the top of your lungs, creating something, listening to something soothing, watching comedy. The list is endless and individual and it's up to us to find ways to navigate our own emotions. 

It's good to remember too that emotions can be a joy as well as a challenge, so enjoy the happiness, the excitement and all the others that bring a smile to your face. Getting to experience the ones we like means having to go through the ones we don't, it gives a whole experience, a human experience and allows us appreciate the smiles and laughter, without resenting the tears.

We might just have to accept that they won't always make perfect sense to us, they could be changeable and we may find it tough to keep up. But sometimes we need to stop asking why and just ask what can we do about it? Take the power back and just accept that this is how we feel and we're going to change that into a feeling that we actually want. 

Learn to work with, instead of against yourself :)

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Make Yourself Proud

As you might have noticed from our Facebook or Twitter, I'm a slight fan of the occasional positive or inspiring quote/picture (mild understatement). One such source of inspiration presented itself on my Instagram feed the other day quite simply saying 'Make Yourself Proud'. As these things often do, those three words have been resonating around my mind since. 

These days, I think it's pretty common to shy away from the idea of being proud of ourselves. The fear of arrogance takes over and it's nearly more natural to seek validation from others even before ourselves. We want to make people proud of us, we want to gain approval and we keep searching for it externally.

Shame seems to come fairly easily though. Quite often when we're not feeling good about ourselves, shame is right there on standby ready to pounce. For me, it'd appear as though this is the complete opposite feeling to taking pride in ourselves. Shame silences us, it criticizes us, it keeps us small and feeling insignificant regardless how worthy we actually are. 

From my own experience I was a bit allergic to the idea of being proud of myself, I was quite certain that it was synonymous with being big-headed. Having become so accustomed to wrapping myself in reasons to be ashamed, it was almost like a foreign concept. 

Now though, I love the idea, I love the feeling and it's something I want to continue to chase and achieve for myself because I realise its importance.

To make yourself proud is to do what you believe in, to do what you want to do and to feel accomplished. It's to be authentic and true to yourself and to be able to look at what you've done and give yourself genuine credit. It means walking tall and knowing that you're doing your best and that's good enough. 

How can you make yourself proud though?

Know Your Worth

First off, it's time to stop undervaluing the incredible person that you are. Putting yourself down and diminishing your self worth hasn't helped thus far and it's never going to. Making yourself proud means recognising the skills, talents, personality traits and all the beautiful imperfect, intriguing qualities that make you who you are, and using them to accomplish what you want. 

Overcome those niggling insecurities and put time into discovering how much you actually contribute, what you actually have to offer and how much more you can get out of life by valuing these things. Take the time to be truly proud of who you are, who you've become and what you want to achieve. When we don't care about someone we tend not to strive to make them proud, so in order to make ourselves proud we need to begin to give a sh*t about what we think, feel and are really made of. Make yourself proud by truly valuing yourself.

Remember Your Dreams

Do you ever think back to that little kid you were and all the hopes and dreams you had? The aspirations and goals that regardless how outlandish, would make you smile just thinking about them? 

Being a grown up doesn't mean giving up on dreams or needing to get really serious. Of course it has its areas where we need to be somewhat pragmatic but that doesn't mean we ditch our dreams. How proud would that little kid be if it saw you reaching for your dreams? How proud would you feel if you actively pursued what you want? I think huge pride comes in chasing our passions; it gives an energy that we can thrive on, that recharges us. If you haven't yet, begin allowing yourself to think about your dreams. Respect the dreamer within you that wants more out of life. Make yourself proud by daring to pursue those desires. 

Value Your Values

When you get to know who you are and what you're all about, your values start to come to the fore. These are the things that are important to you. They shape how you act and how you see the world and your potential impact within it. These are different for each of us and discovering our own allows us to live accordingly. 

For me, authenticity is one of mine, so it's important for me to live authentically, to be myself and to live by this value in all that I do. Denying yourself your values is quite simply suffocating. But when you respect what's important to you and to stand by it, you reap the rewards. For too long, I chased values that the real me would never want and this only ever created a cluster of confusion. It's uncomfortable and just purely doesn't feel right, your gut fights it and frankly that just makes you feel anxious. Make yourself proud by living by your values.

Learn To Nourish

In a world where there is such a value on health, you'd think people must really love their bodies. There's a cleanse, detox and diet for everyone so surely we're genuinely concerned about ensuring perfect health; I mean our bodies are temples, right? Oddly enough, those values just don't seem to be matching up. 

Nourishment is a wonderful nurturing of all our needs. For me nourishment isn't just about food, it's about how I treat and listen to my body, how I engage in my life, what activities I pursue. So whether it's through looking after our bodies, our intellect or our social needs, nourishing provides us with what we're looking for. 

Where there's a mismatch of values towards nourishing ourselves, shame sneaks right in. Nourishing our health from a place of fear or nourishing from a place of love will have vastly different outcomes. We need to take pride in looking after ourselves because we love ourselves. Instead of doing it because a magazine said so or because it's the latest nutrition trend. It's incredibly hard to find pride if we're forcing it. Make yourself proud by looking after your needs out of love.

Take Responsibility

It's easy to shirk away from responsibility, I know because I've done it. There's plenty of people who opt for being the victim, the helpless one, the one 'with the problem'. There's not much pride coming with that way of being though. If we're hiding away from responsibility and avoiding what needs to be done, what is there to be proud of? 

We've got to be honest with ourselves and stop placing blame, stop becoming the label we were given and take action towards what we want. Taking responsibility was something I ran away from for ages. I was 'unwell' and as such avoided plenty of things I could have been taking control of for myself. It never felt good, it didn't help me grow and now I'm so much more proud of myself for doing what I need to do in my life. I'm proud of making important decisions or taking care of things that I need to take care of. Make yourself proud by taking responsibility for yourself and your life, no one else is going to do it for you.

It feels nice to make others proud, yeah of course it does. It's lovely to get a pat on the back and be told you did a good job. But instead of waiting for it to come from others give it to yourself. Validate your actions and decisions and everything that you've accomplished. It's actually amazing how much you have to offer - make yourself proud by radiating that into your life.

Challenge fears, get out of your comfort zone and Make Yourself Proud.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Open Mind, Open Life

'The mind is like a parachute, it doesn't work unless it's open.'

The mind is an undeniably incredible thing. For something that I used to curse on a regular basis, as it seemingly worked against me, I've now learned that the mind is a powerful and un-frickin'-real tool. The strength it has can change our outlooks, our experiences and pretty much our lives for either the better, or the worse. It just comes down to how we use and train our own.

I never would have liked to consider myself as narrow-minded but from my own journey, I now realise that my thoughts came out in black and white. There was rules, conditions and a belief system that didn't really accommodate any outside thinking. It was unfortunately, entirely tunnel-visioned. There was repetitive self-deprecating talk, self-destructive behaviours and a variety of vicious circles that just went round and round.

Opening my mind has been crucial in me being able to change. It has been pivotal in creating a new way in life, away from the conditions to which I used to submit. It's essential for any of us to open up our view of our world and what it actually has to offer for us.

Here's why having an Open Mind, will Open Up Your Life:

1. Exploring New Ideas 

When shrouded in our own narrow 'this is how it is' ways of thinking, we tend to shut the door on new ideas. This is impeccably effective... at keeping us stuck. There are so many ideas that I would have dismissed previously as 'cringey hippy sh*t' that I now credit with helping me hugely. Positive thinking, affirmations, the Law of Attraction and gratitude to name but a few were things that I continually slammed the door on before I began to entertain a more open-minded approach. 

The negative, closed mind can be pretty stubborn so it's important to keep working at it to pry it open. But once it is, new ideas can flow right in - ok, of course, some may take a few ebbs before sticking around but they will keep coming. All of the ideas that I disregarded so easily before, are now things that I'd advocate without hesitation because having given them a chance, I know that they work. 

Though, I do understand that the narrow mind may accuse these of being unrealistic, naive or 'for the birds' that's fine because I know that kind of mind takes a little longer to understand. The open mind however seeks to understand, discover and engage with new ideas; it can speak fluently in variety, colour and authentic life experience. And that's the kind of language I want to be learning.

2. Questioning Old Beliefs

There's plenty of patterns that we just come to accept as normal. Maybe out of habit, maybe out of societal norm, maybe it's just what we're used to and we simply hadn't considered any alternative. But these beliefs could easily be self-limiting and even a little suffocating after a while. In some cases, they are stunting our growth and keeping us away from what we want, so opening our mind means questioning them. Put them on the stand and start an inquiry into how valid they really are.

We need to get curious about what we're actually subscribed to in our minds. Get curious about what you feel strongly about and whether it's something worth giving energy to, whether it's something that you truly value. Our attitude towards body image, nourishment, perspective, beliefs, life, other people and so on may all need adjusting even if we don't realise straightaway.

Questions are the beginnings of change. For me, opening my mind meant realising that it doesn't have to be my normal to hate my body, just because plenty of women do. It doesn't have to be my normal to watch what I eat just because the diet industry is so popular. It doesn't have to be my normal to put myself down, just because it might be seen as big-headed not to. My normal can be whatever I want it to be and yours can too. 

3. Change and Possibilities.

Dreams, possibilities and goals become exponentially more exciting with an open mind. It's easy to find ourselves stuck in the belief that life has a list of boxes we must tick. You know, we need to go to college, get a respectable 9-5 and find our way to retirement via each little tick-box. 

But what about opening up to other possibilities and different routes. What about learning about ourselves before we start making big life decisions and pay heed to what we genuinely desire out of life. This is one that opens up a world of potential. Narrow-mindedness only ever brought me shame when at various times, I wasn't on the same path as my peers, I was convinced I had failed in some way as I didn't 'fit' the usual route. But it turns out, that just wasn't the route for me. 

Funnily enough, since opening up to my own little wayward path paved with my personal dreams and possibilities, everything has changed. And it's going more in the direction I want it to than I could have imagined before. See, there isn't an instruction manual to life, no step-by-step guide that we can follow. We're all just trying to figure it out, so it might help if we started listening to ourselves now and then instead of trying to fit into a tunnel visioned view that we just can't see through. Maybe our eyes are bigger than that little eye-piece.

4. Trying New things

'Why not?' is a beautiful question that opens up our mind and our experience. Sometimes fear or habits stop us from trying out things that a little part of us has always wanted to try. We might be afraid of what others think or we might believe that we're incapable. Maybe it's even something we think will be seen as 'weird' or we fear that we'll be on our own in pursuing it. That's where we need to slide the doors of our mind right open and consider what we could get out of it. Of course it might not work out, but it equally could. It could open up new opportunities, help us meet new people or even just create a story to tell. Forget about judgement and just lean into more curiosity.

The world is a fairly vast place, we all know this. So it seems crazy to adapt certain ways and just stick to them forever, yet so many of us do just that. And we can get pretty defensive over our old ways too, convinced that they're perfectly fine as they are. Opening my mind, eyes and cheesy as it is, heart, to life and all its opportunity, ideas and potential has just led to me growing as a person. It's given me a whole new persepctive, it has helped me to build my self worth with those oh-so-cringey affirmations that I used to put down. It has allowed me to grow strong in new beliefs and to challenge all of the old ones that I clung onto before, all the ones that narrowed me, my life and my hopes.

Our minds are capable of taking in so much, why not remove the restrictions on them?

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Strength Against the Storm

'I'm not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship'. Louisa May Alcott

It's hard to ignore the wild weather recklessly whipping the country in recent weeks. Storm after storm, a different name would roll out from the news to identify the next bout of roaring weather gaining pace across the isle. When one of these was beginning to rear its angry head a few weeks ago - possibly Desmond - I had the pleasure of an evening stroll lead me right up to the turbulent sea. Waves relentlessly crashing, grey sky threatening; this was the setting where inspiration struck.

Storms can traditionally tend to have connotations of tough times. I'm sure I've definitely used them as a miserable metaphor in some poetry in the past. Trying to accurately describe emotions or tumultuous patches, I'd lean on some stormy imagery to help me explain myself. This time though, the storm provided a whole different meaning and energy.

This time, standing on the beach watching the waves crash in, strength is what captivated me most. Of the sea, it was a pure aggressive strength, the kind where I knew that if I stepped into that water, it could carry me away. The volume of water crashing against the rocks and the height of spray it created, just screamed power. 

It made me think of tough times looking at it, yep initially my mind went there. It was like the dark days where I could get pulled asunder and dragged away into it, losing my footing, losing my breath and scrabbling for something solid to cling onto. But this time, I immediately recognised my own strength too. My strength in being able to stand on the beach, comfortably untouched.

I just felt so at ease. I knew my own power, I knew the sea's limits. I knew that it could roll at me all it liked but at a certain point, every single time, it would recede back to where it came from simply unable to come into my space. 

Negativity and challenging times can work in a similar way. 

Challenges in life may seem to come out of nowhere; we don't exactly get a colour-coded warning when sh*t's about to hit the fan. So when the waves suddenly start ripping in, we mightn't be prepared and before we know it we're out of our depth. 

But at any time, we can learn to stand our ground and dig our feet firmly into the sand that keeps us safe. Learning to do this is where our own strength comes from.

Those thoughts, those feelings, the anxiety can seem to have such power. They can seem to be so much stronger than us, but they never actually are. We are just as strong, once we begin to put up a boundary from them. When we shield ourselves by changing how we think, we can observe the negativity from a distance and casually choose not to dive in.

We can notice the strength that our challenges have, yeah it can be hard to ignore them, but there is nothing to be gained from plunging headfirst into them. Instead we need to create our own secure beach of positivity that we can stand on as the waves lap in.

By working on fighting the negativity and replacing it with strong positive thoughts, the storm doesn't stand a chance against us.

Monday, 4 January 2016

5 Choices to Choose

Everyday, from the moment we force our groggy eyes open, we face an array of choices. In our day to day routines, life presents us with a catalogue of decisions to be made. It hastily reminds us that it's packed with possibilities and oozing with suggestions.   

I used to sort of hate choices, as I was fairly certain that decision making was by no means my forté and being confronted with an overkill of options left me pretty bewildered.  

I distinctly remember now though, sitting in a group session where the concept of enjoying my choices just clicked with me. It became a word I enjoyed pronouncing, because instead of pressure, I learned its actual definition of opportunity. 

Saying it out loud made me aware of how much I liked the word and the potential it carries. Choice is affirmative in its power, it puts us in the driving seat. We aren't victims of circumstance, we are in control of our next move. Having and owning our ability to choose is empowering.

Each and every one of us makes choices everyday whether we notice or not. When life isn't going the way we want it to, it can feel like we're helpless, we can't get a handle on it and everything is beyond our control. The world can seem big and scary and we mistake ourselves for small powerless beings. But our choices remain intact, regardless what's going on or happening to us, we can choose how we're going to react and what we're going to do about it. We don't choose adversity but we can choose to overcome it.

We can choose whether to act defeated or to get up and fight.

Here's some other choices I'd encourage making this year:

Choose The Positive:

Look for the positive in every situation, maybe with the help of this article. Negative events, situations and people exist, yes of course they do. But how happy does it make us to focus on those? We've got to train ourselves to see past them and just seek out the beauty, seek out the learning, seek out the joy. It takes practice but it's so worth it to find the good in each challenge we come up against. Our perspective is how we see the world, we might as well pick a positive one.

Choose to See Past Fear:

Sometimes we delude ourselves that we have no choice, because 'we can't'. That was probably my most used word in the past and definitely my least helpful one. Now I think that a choice + fear is what ends up equaling 'can't'. It's nothing to do with our abilities, it's more a case that we just 'won't'. Maybe we're afraid to let go, to rock the boat, to get out of our comfort zone - whatever our excuse- we're still making a choice. Saying that we can't, is choosing not to. It's giving in to fear. Of course choosing that we 'can' may bring a barrage of difficulty - sure, it won't exactly be a rosy path of ease but it'll likely be laced with learning that'll only serve to make us stronger.

Choose Yourself:

Avoiding choices can be the go-to response when we don't really know ourselves. When our opinions, values and beliefs haven't quite cemented in our minds, taking a selective stand would mean standing on shaky ground. As we get to know who we are, what we want and what we're all about, we can make choices that put ourselves in the picture. 

This is one of my favourites because choosing yourself means creating the life you want. One that inspires you, one that you can get excited about and one where you can live by your values. Choose what matters to you when you make your big choices, because you are the one that has to live with them. Making a choice that genuinely serves you and your dreams isn't selfish, it's self-care.

Choose to Let Go:

Now is a great time to choose to let go and embrace a fresh new start. Choose forgiveness over grudges and moving on instead of holding on. Life keeps moving and whatever we choose to hold on to will only continue to get heavier. Ever try physically holding on to something for too long? Your arm tires and starts shaking for a reason, it just wants to let go. Guilt, perfection, fear or your past; whatever it is that's weighing you down needs to be flung faraway from your fresh start. Let go of what you cannot change and work towards making the choices that allow for something new.

Choose Action:

We can read these things and we can think that we want change but choosing to follow through on the actions is where we can tend to find ourselves stuck. When you decide you want to change, you commit to yourself to make choices that improve your own experience and wellbeing. Choose actions that complement your desire to have a more enjoyable life. Think about what you're doing and how it serves your own goals. Maybe there's habits to break or create, there's tasks to be tried or just deeds to be done. Get active in choosing actions that will benefit you.

I know that making choices in life can be challenging. But I also know that they can make such distinctive differences in how our story plays out. They can take us out of a rut or they can keep us in one. Either way, it's up to us and that is an incredibly empowering fact.

It's up to us to embrace the choices we want to choose.