Saturday, 30 July 2016

Hello August: Month of Gratitude

“Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished. To be grateful is to find blessings in everything. This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there are blessings in everything.” Alan Cohen

Regardless our backstory, if we find ourselves on any sort of pursuit towards happiness or a more positive life, we're likely to have stumbled upon the concept of gratitude.

Research after research, article after article have reinforced the power of gratitude in cultivating a happier life experience. It's known to be a fundamental practice in creating a more positive, more satisfied mindset.

But do we do it?

I know from my own experience that irrespective of how beneficial I knew it was going to be, it was genuinely challenging to actually implement it in my daily life. I’d have a week of it maybe here and there but if I missed a day, it’d be gone from mind until the next article I read or my next reminder, where of course I’d vow again to give it my utmost dedication. 

It still didn’t initially come naturally, particularly when I was throwing away energy to negative spirals and complaints - and so the lesson learnt was that it needs to be an active, consistent practice. It needs to respond to our negative soundtrack and answer our loudest laments. It simply needs to become a vehemently vocal influence in our lives.

Of course, sometimes this concept almost seems too simplified; like the idea isn't enough, it's not complex enough for the intellect and thus is lacking a real, tangible point. Surely the simple act of being thankful is useless in the face of our deepest, darkest struggles? 

Having been there and thought that, I can absolutely vouch for the fact that more often than not, these very simple acts when done consistently, do actually become the foundations of our own real, rudimentary change. So much so that now, having installed gratitude as a constant feature in my mind, I can repeatedly see its relentless reward. 

Throughout the day, my thoughts will naturally wander to what I’m grateful for, what are the ‘at leasts?’ and where can I replace negatives with positive appreciation. And to my previous doubts, I can now entirely impart reassurance that it works. It’s a powerful process in changing not only mind-set but perspective and even our experience too.

Like any practice though, if we’re not already doing it - it can take a fair while to get the habit going, even when we’ve been bombarded with the benefits or have been (repeatedly) advised to give it a shot.

So as such, having understood the challenge in creating the habit and eventually feeling the benefits in overcoming that challenge - I thought it’d be helpful to get the ball rolling for others and have a month all of its own purely for gratitude. I figure if we have time for social media at all, we have time for active gratitude, so over on our blog’s Instagram @daretolivesos we're going to have 31 days of gratitude for the month of August, with the hashtag #daretobegrateful

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit so if you get involved in this too, it could be a significantly positive start in cultivating a grateful outlook.

I’d love to see what others are grateful for and see the gratitude spreading, so if you want to follow and be part of it, just use the hashtag when you post daily and we’ll be able to see a beautiful collection of gratitude building day by day 😊
'When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears' Tony Robbins



Monday, 25 July 2016

5 Learnings in Language

'Be careful how you are talking to yourself, because you are listening' Lisa M Hayes

Though we may not even realise it, the way we speak to and about ourselves has huge impact on our feelings and experience. The never-ending narrative written within our minds is not mere words, it’s the translation of how we perceive our worlds, ourselves and the stories we’re composing about both. Our language has the power to be constructive or destructive, to enhance or limit ourselves; to build us up or put us down. 

Put simply, what you say to yourself matters. And if what we’re saying isn’t giving us a positive view of life, then it seriously matters that we take notice and make the necessary changes. 

The language we use on a daily basis becomes ingrained; it’s habitual and automatic and we may have no idea of its potential negative impact.  There are various phrases and words that we don’t even realise diminish our self-worth and re-enforce self-limiting beliefs.
These could be different for each of us, so it’s important to consciously pay attention to what our thoughts are telling us.

Here are some common ones to delete from our dictionaries:

1. I CAN’T

I can unfortunately vouch for the power of ‘I can’t’ in keeping us feeling small, worthless and incapable. This one, from my own experience, can significantly increase anxiety, cement negative beliefs and make life feel a lot more intimidating, scary and impossible than it ever needs to be. Telling ourselves we can’t causes Constant And Neverending Torture.

We are capable of so much more than we realise. But in order to grant access to what we want out of life, we need to unlock the language of belief and trust. Whether or not it feels true, tell yourself you can. Repeat as necessary and eradicate any internal conversation of ‘can’ts’.  If you do find yourself resorting to it, and a ‘can’ still isn’t sitting right, simply add in a ‘yet’. Permit the power of possibility in your life and you’ll find yourself eventually replacing the ‘can’t ‘and embracing the ‘can’. As the quote goes, ‘Turn your can’ts into can’s and your dreams into plans’.

2. I AM + NEGATIVE WORD

‘I am’ is one of the most powerful phrases in our vocabulary to create our own reality and how do we use this? We call ourselves names and we insist on highlighting our ‘faults’.  Quite often the ‘I am’ statements we’re making in our minds are affirmations of our low opinion of ourselves - we’re useless, stupid, fat, annoying, the worst, losers etc.  I’m sure we all have a few favourites as go-to’s.

We consistently reaffirm the parts of ourselves we don’t like, where we fall short or the negative beliefs we have about who we are. Instead of fuelling our fluency in negative self-talk, catch these statements and translate them in to words that you’d actually like to be. What you speak about, you bring about. But don’t judge how often you use negative words or take on any guilt, instead commit to creating a constructive catalogue of phrases and language that make you genuinely feel good about yourself.

3. I SHOULD

If you’re looking for a great way to feel pressure and stress, bombard yourself with things you ‘should’ do. Words like this can carry an emotional attachment to them. There’s an added weight of incompetence, not good enough, and failing to measure up when we smother ourselves in ‘should’s. Instead, consider what you would like to do, explore helpful things you could do, speak to yourself about goals and dreams instead of pressures and worries.

4. WHY CAN’T I / WHY AMN’T I?

There’s a litany of lingo that’s sole purpose seems to be to make us feel bad about ourselves and how we live our lives. Questions asking why we’re not the way we should be or comparing ourselves to others - why can’t I be like them, why amn’t I as good etc - are entirely pointless. It’s not as if they even motivate us for change, nah they just keep us stuck in victim mode, measuring ourselves up against the pedestals of the rest of the population. There’s a reason that it’s said that, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’.

Instead of constantly asking why, ask what you can do about it. Ask what you do have that you appreciate, look for positives within and make it your business to give them your energy.  If you do want self-improvement - grand, go after it, but make sure it’s coming from a place of kindness. Turn your desperation into inspiration and ensure to support rather than undermine yourself in the way you speak.

5. I KNOW BUT / I WANT TO BUT..

The word ‘but’ allows our fears to speak for us. It negates the first part of the sentence by representing our reservations, lack of confidence and worries about what we actually want to accomplish. It gives us excuses and makes us believe in its validity. ‘I know what I need to do, but I don’t have the time’ ‘I want to do this, but I can’t’ ‘I would like to try it, but I wouldn’t be good enough’, you know these sort of phrases, but do we realise how often we let them dictate what we do?

When we notice these come up, we need to chop off the part of the sentence that follows ‘but’ and consider what we’re left with. If we truly want these things, what strengths can we focus on to overcome the ‘buts’? Where’s the potential? What are the options? How could we do these things? What is actually stopping us?

***

The way we speak communicates our experiences; it tells our story and introduces who we are. Positive language makes a major difference to how we feel, progress and achieve our own personal success.

Begin to listen to the language you use in the telling of your own story and harness your power as narrator, author and editor to make it one that brings you a more positive creation.



Saturday, 16 July 2016

Living - VS - Existing - What makes you feel alive?

 'To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.' Oscar Wilde

Having already seen it plenty of times before, I recently stumbled across this quote again on my daily positivity scroll but this time, it resonated with me significantly more than it ever has.

Maybe it's timing, maybe it's mindset or maybe it's simply something worth addressing and now is its time to shine. 

See, the fact is, every single one of us is alive every second of our lives, but when is the last time we really felt alive? When did we last feel enthusiastic about living, about being alive, about our own day-to-day? Are we actually so used to just reluctantly existing - clocking in and out of our days, going through the motions yet feeling as though we're staying static. 


Are we active participants of our lives or mere bystanders watching with disinterest as it passes us by? 

As frequently happens for me, this quote planted its seed within my mind and of course I couldn't help but continuously water it. This little seed is definitely something worth growing. 

From the beginning this blog has been about daring; it's about real, exciting, scary, and whole experiences of life and showing up to these with relentless courage and will. It began as a place of hope, light and survival from those of us, who at some point or other, no longer wanted to live. 

But when we dare to live now, we get the fulfilling joy of truly living. A messy, haphazard, delightful and colourful joy of feeling, experiencing and overcoming. A culmination of our lessons learnt and our mistakes mended. Living is what we're about, but settling on 'existing' just won't cut it.

We can read as many quotes as we like, we can read articles left, right and centre but if we don't understand what it means for us to be fully alive, I think we miss the whole point.

So what does being alive really mean? When we dare to live, what are we doing?

This is a personal topic; by no means is it a 'one-size fits all', so it demands a daring dive into our own experiences and learnings. Really, this topic is about discovering and taking note of what it is for you.

Here's what my exploration has come up with:


1. New Things

Learning new things is a wonderful concept, but when push comes to shove, sometimes we shy away from the struggle of being a beginner. I've found though, that trying new things never fails to wake me up. Regardless what it is - trying out a new language, taking up a new hobby, or even meeting new people - all of these mean coming out of our comfort zone and embracing change. When we welcome new things into our life, we extend our arms to a wonderful energy of renewed life and vibrancy. It allows us come alive by seeing new sights , feeling new feelings and taking on new challenges.


2. Being Vulnerable

Vulnerability incessantly perseveres in teaching me new lessons. Though seemingly knowing the theory inside out, I'm still  consistently surprised when its active power impacts me. Vulnerability makes us feel, it awakens our conscious experience and connects us. Whether it's allowing ourselves our tears, opening up to another or pushing outside of our comforts - vulnerability ignites our humanity. Though I fought it for years, being human and legalising vulnerability in life allows an authentic feeling of being alive. Unfortunately (for some of us), we're not robots and the gift of being alive means that more often than not, we would definitely benefit from embracing that fact.


3. Exploration

Having just spent an incredible two weeks away travelling nine cities, I couldn't compile this list without including some form of exploration. The world is a huge and thoroughly unbelievable place and whether we want to be or not, we are an important part of it. 

Getting involved and getting excited about what's out there is an amazing feeling. There is so much to take in, so much to see, feel and experience. Even if we merely take on our hometowns with the eyes of a tourist, we can still get to see it in a different light. Travelling entirely made me feel alive, grateful and so extremely lucky and at peace. When we look at the world with fresh eyes, we can begin to see it clearly - we see the awe-inspiring architecture, we appreciate the nature, we enjoy the bustling activity of everyday life. Everywhere we go could be an adventure if we choose to see it that way, it's a mere matter of mindset. 


4. Nature

Not a chance would 'old me' have had this as a heading but more and more I'm finding myself appreciating the colourful, diverse and intriguing intricacies that nature exudes. Seeing it and paying attention to my surroundings makes me feel alive. I genuinely couldn't have given less f*cks about birds or flowers or even the sky before but now I am in awe on a regular basis; gawking at the vivid spectrum of the day's sunset and how it has interwoven with the whisps of cloud or watching a squirrel scurry up a tree metres away from me. We're a pertinent part of this beautiful world, we might as well notice and embrace it.


5. Movement

I like to move it move it.,Genuinely though, I do. Whether it's busting some moves in the privacy of my bedroom or eagerly climbing hundreds of steps to get a good view - moving gives a wonderful sense of liveliness within. It creates energy and gently reconnects us to our bodies. It allows us to reach new places, to flow and regenerate with the resources that we actually always have inside. Dance, play, run around, walk in new places, juggle, whatever it is that makes you feel alive, just do it. 


6. Connection

As a former phobic of being dependent on anyone ever, I've come to the conclusion that other people are actually pretty alright. Connection and experiencing something real with our fellow Darers is an undeniably special way to expand our enthusiasm towards life. Feeling connected to other people, in friendship, in our families or in romantic relationships is an incomparable feeling. Yeah sometimes it's scary or unsure or confusing and we need to force ourselves to tap into #2's Vulnerability, but it's so worth it that we do it without question. Maybe it can even be headwrecking occasionally to care so much about another person, but of course it's also worth it for all those warm fuzzies, those belly laughs and those content moments where all we need to do is smile. We're all in this together, it;s high time we embraced that.


7. Emotion

I'd be the first to admit that emotions are not easy. They're not particularly comfortable, they don't always make us feel good and for some reason there's a concept of 'weakness' attached to them. Oddly enough though, for me, they're a very strong indicator of being alive. Committing to life and living means committing to the feelings that come with it - the disappointments, the nerves, the sadness, the joy, the anger and the entire mishmash of feeling that comes hand in hand with being a human. Some of the most 'alive' moments come when we're balling our eyes out or blindly cursing in our fury, some of them are when we're completely at peace or others when our tummies are fiercely fluttering and our lips quivering. Emotions are a necessity if we want a full, real experience. I still don't think I could honestly say I'm mad about all of them, but I absolutely see and respect their worth in helping me feel alive. 


8. Passion

Passion for me is an overwhelmingly strong attachment and commitment to a certain idea or cause, it's a fiery driving force towards what intrinsically matters most to us, a catalyst towards our creations, a veritable vigour of feeling. Without giving passion a place in my life, I think I'd unquestionably feel a lot less lively. Not only does it drive us towards what we want, it rigorously reminds us of what we care about. It relentlessly nags at us to pursue that which wakes us up to the world we're in. Passion is an energetic enigma with a mission for us, a mission which, when acknowledged, becomes our driving force of being alive. 


9. Creativity

When I initially thought of what makes me feel alive - one of the first to spring to mind was 'doing things I love'. Clearly creativity is one such thing without which, I'd retreat into Robot mode. Creativity helps shape our thoughts into articles, our challenges into poetry, our experiences into music. It gives colour to our lives through art, magnifies our strengths through expression and allows us the freedom to create something new with all our raw material of life's little learnings. Creativity conducts a unique energy of living our talents and dreams.

10. Me Time


Spending time to soothe ourselves with self care is always time well spent. For me, taking and enjoying this time never fails to recharge me. We all have needs, we have stuff that makes us feel better, practices that reconnect us - me time is exactly that for some of us. It's when we dedicate our time to ourselves, do things we want to do and revel in this time as a sacred thing. This evening, I feel alive because I get to write, in my room with my music blaring and incense burning. Contentment cultivates our sense of 'alive', it drives our desire to continue seeking fulfillment and it gives us reason to keep on keeping on. 

This list is of course, nowhere near exhaustive, there's so much more in life that gives us that sense of really being a part of our own lives, an alive active human taking on our alive and active experiences. For each of us, something different will ignite that fire of life in our bellies and that's a fantastic fact. Having spent time on this subject myself, I can only encourage that you do the same. Explore what life gives to you that you like, discover what wakes you up, contemplate what makes you feel connected.

What makes us feel most alive, I think, is noticing. It's noticing what's around us, what's in front of us and what's within us. It's about realising what we have, what we want and what we're working towards. It's choosing not to be a passive participant and to embrace the discomfort, the disappointments and the disasters as much as we welcome the wonder.

This is living.

This is entirely all over the place, somewhat disconcerting, distinctly colourful and repeatedly remarkable living. 

Being alive is everything at once but in every single minuscule moment, it is complete and utter magic.




Monday, 11 July 2016

Carer Tips: Never Give Up

As the usual blogger is off enjoying herself touring around Europe, I thought I would try and fill her shoes and write a piece, hopefully her shoes aren't too big for me to fill!!:)

This young lady has been through the mill, but she fought hard for her freedom, and without this freedom, she wouldn’t be where she is right now.

As her mother and probably her primary carer during her illness, I also learnt a lot as I walked with her through her journey of recovery.  When she gained her freedom, I also gained mine.  I gained a freedom from constant worry, a freedom in knowing that she now valued her life, a freedom to be able to live my life independent of her illness once again.  I gained a confidence that my child, my daughter, could once again face the world and stand on her own two feet, and be confident enough in herself and believe in herself.

There were a few concepts that helped me along the way and it is these that I would like to share with you.

  1. NEVER GIVE UP

Once your loved one enters into the journey of recovery, it becomes a journey of ups and downs.  I always loved to acknowledge the ups and applaud them even, but only as she continued her journey, did I realise that the downs were not set backs but instead learning curves.  These learning curves then became the corner stones of the next steps in recovery.

  1. LISTEN TO YOUR LOVED ONE

Don’t always think that you know better, but don’t always take what they say as being gospel either. When your loved one is in recovery, there will be times when the behaviours or condition of their illness is talking rather than them.  So be ready to listen, be ready to really hear what is being said to you. If you are not sure what they are saying is pro recovery then ask them. Don’t be afraid to challenge your loved one, but also don’t expect to be thanked for it.  The illness does not like to be challenged, but in the end your loved one will be grateful for it.

  1. LET THEM RECOVER IN THEIR OWN TIME

When our loved ones start the journey of recovery we all too often expect results in a matter of weeks. Full recovery does not come in weeks. Give your loved one the freedom to recover in their own time.  Do not pressure them with your expectations. In my experience, continuity, regularity of care, and taking it at her own pace, were key components of a good and solid recovery.

  1. LEARN THE ART OF COMMUNICATION

Communication is two way. Both people have to be able to listen and to be heard. Face to face communication is often best, but sometimes this is not always possible. Again in my experience there were definitely times when a text message was the best form of communication, even when we were in separate rooms in the house.  While it’s not ideal, it is still communication and sometimes it helped to bridge a gap.

Avoid getting into confrontational communication.  If you find either one of you getting argumentative, then agree to take a time out and come back to the conversation when you have both calmed down.  Don’t be afraid to set boundaries around times of communication, like the time out, or like even the time of night or day when communication is happening.  

Learn the language of communication by educating yourself about your loved ones' illness so that you are both using the best pro recovery language.

  1. DON'T PLACE BLAME

Never engage in “why me”, or “why my child”, or “what did I do wrong” or “what did he/she do wrong”.  Our mental health, just the same as our physical health can become ill.  But just like our physical health, our mental health can also recover – so give it the time, space and energy to do it.  Guilt, shame and blame, have no place in our loved ones' recovery.  They didn’t ask for this illness, they didn’t bring it on themselves - it is what it is!  Now you just need to help them through it and be there to support them.

  1. BELIEVE IN THEM

Always, always, believe in the fact that your loved one can recover.  It will take time, it will take patience, it will take love and it will take support.  But above all that it will take belief that recovery is real, it is there and it can be attained.  Let them know that you believe that they will recover, and that you believe in them.  

There are many other strategies that helped me in my daughter’s recovery but maybe they are for another day.

One last thing I always did was to let her know her how proud I am of her.  I am proud not just because she is recovered, but because she engaged, she never gave up, she believed. So always give your loved one the time they need to recover, it might be here and now or it might be some time later, but always be proud when they say “I want better for myself, I want help”!  

NEVER GIVE UP!!