Category Archives: Mental Health

Happiness and how to get it…

I have been thinking a lot about happiness recently.  It has been on my mind for a while and combined with the wedding of a friend of mine on Friday, Valentine’s Day on Saturday and an excellent weekend all round, I want to be able to recreate this recipe whenever I want it.  So, what are it’s ingredients?  How can I give all of my readers, friends and family the prescription?

happiness 2

Considering that happiness is one of those things that a lot of people quest after for most of their lives, there is surprisingly small amounts of scientific data about what happiness actually is.  Generally it is considered a warm fuzzy sort of feeling and when you experience it, then you know it. That is not very helpful if we want to repeat the feeling.   From my research though the area of psychology and philosophy are fruitful sources of definitions.  I could go through each and every one I have ever read about, but to be honest, I am just going to take you through the theory of happiness that I like best.  Hey, it’s my blog.  I can do what I want!

positivity

Attitude of mind is essential when it comes to being happy.  If you are in a negative thought pattern, or indeed have a negative outlook on life, you are not going to be happy.  Take it from me.  I used to be that negative person.  Life is tough when you are convinced that the light at the end of the tunnel is the train that will eventually squish you on the tracks.  Or worse, you are sure that at any moment the light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off!

But being positive, changing the way you think about things can revolutionise how you feel.  When I began to change my thought patterns I began to notice the little things.  The flowers springing from the dormant winter ground, the blackbirds chattering in the trees, a bullfinch coming to roost on the hedge in the back garden and using a roosting pocket I had put out there last year,  a robin sitting on the holly tree and telling me off for being in his territory, the dog and the cat getting on famously together, the recipe that I tried which came together with absolute ease and tasted fabulous.  These things made me smile.  Smiling can actually have  huge impact on your own physical and mental health.  It boosts your mood, it boosts your immune system, the act of smiling actually relieves stress, smiles are contagious and they need to be passed on to people, and smiling is actually an instinct we are born with.  So smile, dammit.  Smile!!

smile

Psychologist Martin Seligman thinks that happiness is not just about momentary external pleasures.  He uses the acronym PERMA to provide a list of things which he thinks creates happiness.

P stands for Pleasure.  Things that give you pleasure will make you happy.  Makes sense.  I like to throw the ball for my dog and she loves to chase it.  Watching her frolic in the garden and act like a puppy makes me happy.  E stands for Engagement.  Seligman thinks that you need to be engaged with someone or something else to be truly happy.  I can see his point; with the above example, I would be engaging with the dog… but what about those of us who are true introverts?  Sometimes the total lack of engagement with anyone else is what is the best thing!  R is for relationships.  Seligman reckons you need them, and okay, yes, I can see his point.  I like being married and I like having friends and being adored by the dog and tolerated by the cats, but I am still in the corner rooting for introverts though.  M stands for meaning.  If you are doing something and that something has a reason for being done, that can be very satisfying.  I can testify to the satisfaction of reconciling a financial account right to the penny.  (I am a recovering accountant… sometimes it still sneaks out there occasionally!)  And then the A in PERMA is for Accomplishment.  I can completely testify to that… and it is more than half of the reason I am a listaholic!!

gardening fun

So, looking back on my weekend, did it stack up to the PERMA test?  Yes, it did actually.  My husband and I tackled a few jobs in the garden together.  We really made a start in changing things around and making the space work for us.  We spent 3 or 4 hours together in the garden, helping each other weed, dig things up, replant stuff.  We are putting the hard and heavy work in at this end of the year so that we can appreciate it during the summer.  We managed to achieve all of the jobs we set out to complete as well.  Yup.  All the areas of PERMA ticked off.

I am still going to keep to my positive mental attitude and smiling often as well though.  Happiness is as contagious as smiles are.

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Time to start spring cleaning your brain…

It might seem a little early to think about spring cleaning at all, what with snow on the ground and those frosty temperatures every morning.  But when the calendar hits February, I always start to seek the signs of Spring, and as soon as I can see the bulbs poking out of the ground, snow drops in flower, leaf buds emerging, I get a need to clean.

cleaning frenzy

However, it is still early in the month… and I am not totally sold on the whole cleaning thing yet, but I am keen on getting rid of some of the mental clutter that is lying around making things feel a little awkward.  We all know that if you don’t sometimes have a clear out of your stuff that seems to accumulate with startling ease, that you end up feeling choked and cramped in your own home.  Well, I believe the same is the case for the mental clutter that builds up.  The more clutter the psyche has, the greater the toll on your mental well being.

I was inspired by an article I read in this month’s Slimming World Magazine.  A new book has been published called “This Book Will Make You Feel Beautiful” by Dr Jessamy Hibberd and it is basically suggesting that doing a spring clean of the brain is a great way to kick start creative and bodily energy, and to keep you on track when you are dieting.  It has been a difficult week for me in terms of head stuff generally, so I am totally up for this, and thought I could share the tips from the article with you too.

rut

The first piece of advice is to get out of the rut that you are in.  As we are all creatures of habit, we sometimes slavishly follow routines.  That can be everything from getting the same coffee at the same time every day, to exercising on the same machines at the gym, to wearing the same clothes in rotation.  Sometime routines really work.  Like if you need to take regular medication.  Routines is what is going to make it work.  But routines can also be bad.  That cookie you have at 3pm, or the dessert you have after supper.  So, ringing the changes in some ways has got to be a good thing.  Maybe have fruit instead of the cookie, or have a hot cup of tea instead of the dessert.  One thing I like to do is just to sit down and think about what are my routines and then if there are some unhealthy or bad ones… then I will try and change things up a bit to be more positive.

packed calendar

Advice point two is to declutter the calendar.  Who hasn’t had that moment when you look at the month on the 1st and think “Oh my Goodness, how am I going to get through all of THAT!”.  The whole thought of it is energy sapping in the extreme, and that is before you even attempt to do any of it.  A few years ago, I learnt two really powerful tricks.  One, was to keep at least 2 weekends completely free of anything per month.  The second, was to say no.  That last one is soooo hard, because over most of our lives we are conditioned to say yes, yes, yes all the time. At some point though we have to say enough is enough and then say no.  It is simple, but boy does it work!

sweeping attics

Third piece of advice is something I have got sloppy over.  You need to clear out your worries.  Now, I am the first to admit that I am a worry wart.  I always have been.  I am better now than I used to be, but occasionally some niggles will nibble at the sides of my brain and keep me awake in the middle of the night.  I deal with them in two ways.  First, I imagine a box in an attic and then I put the worry in the box, move the box to a corner and then leave the attic.  All done in the imagination.  It works for me.  Second, if it is still causing sleeplessness, then I will think about what it is that is causing me to worry.  Now, I know from long personal experience that the things which stress me out are the things that are outside of my control.  If I can control it, then I don’t need to worry.  So, I tend to repeat to myself “I can’t do anything about it, so why worry?”.  For me it works a bit like counting sheep.  After the first 100 times or so, I go back to sleep!  Generally, the following morning, I am not worried about it any more.

toxic people

Now… the next piece of advice is a tricky one.  You might want to do a friendship audit.  There is nothing quite so energy sapping as a negative Nelly, or an energy Vampire as some people call them.  You know the type.  It doesn’t matter what you say, they always turn it to a negative.  “Oh it is a lovely sunny day” will be met with “And the sun is in my eyes”.  You know the type.  I was one of those for years and years and years.  Thankfully I am not a reformed negative person and instead I try and concentrate on the positive.  It is hard.  It is exceptionally hard sometimes, but I have noticed that it is indeed worth the effort.  If you can’t kick them out of your life entirely, then reduce the time you spend with them.  It will free up a lot of room in your brain when you haven’t got the negative commentary from them running around your head.  Or if they are a close family member, try and introduce them to the gifts of positivity.  You may convert them!

update

Finally, in order to spring clean your mind, you might want to think about the outside package.  Update your “look”.  For me, with Operation Chrysalis under way, I am doing my own updating as I go.  I will, at some point soon, go into the local charity shops and see if I can buy a couple of amazing outfits that will update my image a little and put a spring in my step.  A new outfit on the outside can bring huge benefits on the inside.  If I look confident, I feel confident.  If I look beautiful, then I feel beautiful.

What is there not to love about that?  And spring added into the bargain!  What a great deal!

The keys to successfully kicking addictions…

If you have been on social media in the last couple of days you will probably have come across a very good article published by the Huffington post, regarding addiction.  I discovered it this morning after a friend of mine shared it on Facebook, and after reading it… well, I really wanted to talk about it here.

Here is the link for you to have a read yourself.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html

addiction

I know several people who are or were addicts of various kinds.  My own personal experience definitely supports the conclusions in the article.  That being said, I also know that if the new happy world you have constructed starts to slip, and you begin to feel stressed and unable to cope, then it is very simple to slip back into the bad habits of the past.  Building resilience to ” the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” is the real key to successfully beating any problem – addiction, low self esteem, stress, anger issues, all of it.

Resilience, persistence, tenacity, call it what you will; It is one of the least lauded personality traits that people can aspire to.  In this modern world, ambition, self assurance, even arrogance are rated above sheer dogged determination.  Yet, it is the stubbornness which ensures any success at all.  It is rare that those who are responsible for the great technological breakthroughs we benefit from made all their discoveries on the first time they tried something.  But their determination to crack the problem, meant they kept going until they got the answer.  And it is the same for evolution.  That first fish to crawl from the primordial ooze was particularly determined to do so.  My hypothesis is, therefore, that people who want to move away from addiction and the potential to backslide require this resilience and determination to be successful.

support networks

The article talks about how having a good environment and lots of friends helped the rats to stop the addiction to cocaine dosed water.  I suppose this is the basis of the 12-step programmes which are out there to assist in breaking addictions – surround yourself with supportive people and keep on the straight and narrow.  But one thing the article didn’t touch on was what to do when life throws you an inevitable curve ball.  If you are not determined and stubborn, then one dicey letter from a person in authority and you are back on the path to addiction and issues.  You seek comfort from the place that has often given you comfort before, be that alcohol, drugs, food.

tigger

So, how do you build resilience?  If you put in a Google search, you will find there are sundry companies willing to part you and your cash to teach you.  It is definitely a skill, and if it is a skill, then you can learn how to do it…. and you can do it yourself.

positivity

First, you MUST be positive.  The most resilient people are those sorts of people who can see the silver lining in the darkest of clouds.  Yes, those really irritating, relentlessly cheerful types.  It is worth copying them.  I have only been a positivity advocate for the last 4 years, but I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, it has transformed my life.  I can cope with life’s ups and downs much, much better than I could before, when I was a negative Nelly.   There are days when I just want to put my head back under the duvet and not come out.  That is normal.  But when I force myself to look around, and see the good in something, it really helps me to get back up on my feet.  Take this week for example… I had a job interview this time last week.  It was for an excellent job, and I really enjoyed the interview process.  I didn’t get offered the job.  Was I bummed out?  Yes.  Of course I was.  But… it was the right thing to happen.  There was a HUGE amount of travelling involved in the job, plus I would have been working in some pretty dangerous surroundings and there was a lot of stress involved generally.  So, from the negative, springs a positive.

live to learn

The second key to being resilient – live to learn.  If you think you have all the answers, yet still see yourself on a path to destruction, then of course you are going to feel really bad, like you have failed.  I definitely do not have all the answers, but I am prepared to go and look for them.  And I will look in all kinds of places to find them.  I am addicted to learning new skills, I love learning new ideas and I adore helping other people do the same.  And Google is totally awesome as a resource!

open heart

Third thing to do is to open your heart.  Now this is a hard one.  If you have been hurt before, then this is the MOST difficult part to do, but the theory goes, if you don’t open your heart, then you can’t fill it.  So, assuming you have built some walls around your heart for protection, how do you break them down?  It is not easy, but a good starting point is just to be kind to people.  Smile at strangers on your walk into work or when you are moving around the supermarket.  Be aware of smiling all the time (most of us have something of a trout pout when our face is in repose – it is not a good look.  Cultivate a smile.) Part of this is also be grateful for the things you do have.  This is nicely linked to the first key of being positivity.  I am grateful that my house is big enough that I can store food.  I have a pantry and I have excess tins and packets.  So, once a month at least, I choose some of those stocks and I donate them to a food bank.  I am opening my heart to the people who need assistance.

self care

The fourth key to resilience is taking care of yourself.  You are your greatest asset.  Now, if you are in the pits of despair and suffering with low self esteem issues and all sorts, this is the hardest thing to do, because it is no I am not necessarily talking about bathing in asses milk every day, or using gold plated moisture cream here.  I am talking about making sure you are well nourished, getting enough sleep, and knowing when to say enough is enough and getting yourself out of a stressful situation.  I am also talking about taking a vitamin supplement and if you are sick, stay at home and get yourself better.  To be the best you can be, you need to be on top of your game.  The only person who can make yourself healthy and glowing is you.  So do it.

laugh at yourself

And finally, the fifth thing to help you become more resilient, is being able to hold onto some humour.  Laugh at yourself.  You know those days when everything is going wrong?  Giggle at how you juggled with two coffee mugs and a bottle of soy sauce which then hit the floor and splashed your white trousers.  Come on… it would have looked humorous.  And it is just a stain… it can come out.  And if it doesn’t?  Well, cut them down to shorts or capri pants or something.  There.  Positivity, gratefulness, AND humour all in one.  When I was working in an office and was struggling with the pressure of work and trying to get things to reconcile and they weren’t, I often used to be heard saying “I really need a pint.  Of Gin”.  This was my way of laughing about the state of the work day.  It used to help be get through it.

On that note, I am off to get a pint.  Of tea.  Have a great weekend everyone.

It is all about Attitude…

I was going to write today about the foods which stress the nervous system, as a bit of a follow on from Wednesday’s post.  As I drove home through the Nottinghamshire countryside following a job interview though, I was musing about how negative that was for a blog post.  I do not like being negative.  I want to be more positive.

positivity

I was also musing about how my studies are going at the moment, and whether, if I do get a full time role, I would be able to continue with them, as well as keeping the house and garden up to snuff.  As I mused about exactly how organised I am going to have to be… I also recalled one of the things mentioned in my Advanced Life Coaching lesson which I completed on Sunday (and got 100% for as well!).

They used a mnemonic in relation to the ideal mindset for a successful coach, but the more I looked at it, the more I liked it as a slogan for living.  Using the letters of the word ATTITUDE, gives you all you need to know and work on.

attitude

A stands for Action Oriented.  Clearly, sitting on your backside and complaining about stuff is not going to get your very far at all.  You need to be prepared to get up and do something.

T stands for Taking Responsibility.  There is little benefit in pretending that everything is going to be done by someone else, or someone else is to blame for your current predicament, whatever that is.  In some cases, it might be a combination of events, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but whatever it is, you are a part of it.  So you can take responsibility and try and change it.  You might only have influence over one part, or one small area, but sorting that small corner out will make you feel better, and it might set the wheels in motion to sort out the whole.

fear

T also stands for Turn Fear into Focus.  I don’t know about you, but there are some things that terrify the daylights out of me.  Not just heights and spiders.  Big things.  Like War, Global conflict, what would happen if the whatsit really hit the windmill and life as we know it just stopped, going to the Doctor and them finding something is actually wrong with me.  That sort of thing.  So instead of dwelling on the fears, I turn it into a focus.  One of the reasons I am studying and working hard in the garden and house is because I am teaching myself skills which would be useful in an apocalypse scenario.  I can grow plants to feed my family, I can make clothes to keep us warm, I can knit jumpers, I can make curtains, I can make soap, I can make quilts.  With Herbalism knowledge I could keep my nearest and dearest healthy without the need for doctors, if they were wiped out and no one could find the stash of antibiotics.  I know it might sound like the plot of a Hollywood Blockbuster, or the rantings of a nutter, but whether I could cope in such an emergency made me scared.  So I confronted it and have changed my life.

imitation

The I in Attitude stands for Imitate Excellence, or “the fake it till you make it” model.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and in this case, if you want to BE a confident extrovert, then look at one and copy what they do.  That is what I did.  By nature I am not a confident extrovert, but I knew that being a timorous introvert wasn’t going to get my very far.  So, I copied someone.  I faked it.  Now, when I tell people that I am actually very shy and rather nervous, most people howl with laughter.  But it is true.

T stands for Transforming negatives into positives.  It is only in the last 4 or 5 years that I have been able to do this.  My default setting is to see the negative of everything first and have to dig to see the positive.  However, a good friend of mine, over on the website http://www.mortgagefreeinthree.com, put me onto a couple of books which transformed the way I look at things.  There are ALWAYS positives, in every situation.  Yes, some of them need digging up and a whole heap of polishing, but they are always there.  Finding them is one of the most freeing things I have ever managed to do!  But it is not easy.  None of this stuff is.  But it is worth it in the end.

hidden talents

U stands for uncovering hidden talents.  This is what I enjoy doing most.  When I find something I want to learn how to do, I am often nervous the first time I do it.  It might go wrong, I might look like twit attempting something.  But then, I think “Hang on… if everyone else manages to do this… then so can I”.  My nerves go and then I am off to have a go.  I have learnt so much from doing this.  I am becoming something of a polymath with all the new skills I have, and I am having so much fun doing it!

D stands for Develop yourself.  A lot of people say, after their college or high school finals, ” right, that is the last exam I am ever taking”.  I never did.  I sort of collect qualifications.  I do it because I am interested in the skills, or I need the qualification for my career progression, but I am always, always developing myself.  I have discovered the Mindstore visualisation techniques, I am studying naturopathy.  All because I want to develop myself.

expect

The final letter, E, is for Expect the Unexpected.  Really, I think it is being open to the opportunities that might land on your lap from unexpected directions.  It could be a job opportunity, it could be the chance to go sky diving, it could be absolutely anything.  If you are not open to new experiences, then you might not find the best thing that has ever happened to you.

So, on that note, it is all about the Attitude.  My weekend is going to be about finishing off painting the hallway, cleaning my house up and getting the washing and ironing sorted.  All important things to be done, and I can’t wait to get stuck into them!  Have a good weekend!

How is 2015 treating you so far?

Most people I know went back to work on Monday.  Most people I know felt like they hadn’t been away by the back end of Tuesday.  For myself, because I don’t work in an office environment, I have spent the first week of 2015 attempting to get myself organised.  I am not sure if it has worked, but I do feel as if I have been chasing my tail all week.  In fact, I have that feeling that I might meet myself on the way back, if you know what I mean?

chasing tail

Don’t get me wrong, everything I have been doing has been important and necessary work.  But goodness me, there is so much of it.  As soon as I organise one bit… I need to rush off and organise another bit.  If this is the way the year is going to go… I can imagine myself being something of a stress bunny by the end of March, let alone December!

And add into the mix the chance that I might actually be heading back to the world of work (I have an interview next Friday!).  Hello stratospheric work stress levels.  I am going to need some herbal assistance methinks.  So, I headed off to my new herbal bible to see what Rosemary Gladstar has to say on the matter.

stress management

Ms Gladstar is very sensible actually.  She points out that a lot of people get depressed after going through long periods of stress, and that if you treat the symptoms of the depression, rather than the root cause of the stress, then you are not going to get to the bottom of the problem.  She points out that relaxation is the best way of getting rid of stress, so whatever your favourite method is, use it.  It could be hot soaky baths.  It could be praying to your deity of choice, or for us Catholics, spending time at Adoration.  It could be drinking a cup of herbal tea.  It could be knitting, sewing or crocheting something.  It could be reading a book.  It could be digging a border or bed in the garden.  It could be planting seeds.  Whatever that makes your shoulders come down from around your ears, do it.

There are some herbs which can help though, some of which are known as nerve tonics.  Really what they do is to help rebalance the nervous system, and of course stress is one of those things which makes the nervous system get all whacked out of line anyway.  That “fight or flight response” doncha know.   One of the recipes in this section is a Valerian tea blend.  I am all for a tea blend without chamomile in it.  Chamomile and I do not really mix – the last time I had it in a tea form I was ill for HOURS afterwards.  I would rather my relaxation herbal tea didn’t have that kind of violent emetic effect.

licquorice roots

So the recipe here contains a half part liquorice root, 2 parts lemon balm and 1 part valerian root.  All these things can be sourced online or at a good Herbal supplier.  Now, the liquorice root is kind of hard, so you first need to make a decoction of it.  So, place the root in a small saucepan and cover it with cold water.  Heat it slowly and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat, add the lemon balm and valerian root and infuse for 45 minutes.  Strain and then you can drink as much of it as you want, as often as you want.  I would be cautious though, the liquorice root can have a laxative effect.  You have been warned.

Have a relaxing weekend!  I am starting on the next house renovation project – painting the hallway.  Hopefully I will find that a relaxing activity!

A nice morning out and about…

We woke up to one of the first frosts of the autumn this morning… and autumn is very nearly over!  However, with such a lovely festive nip in the air, it was a delightful day for a trip out to a nearby town.

DH Lawrence

Eastwood is laden with local history, not least because it was the birthplace of DH Lawrence, of literary fame.  My Mother in Law took myself and my Mother to see a little sewing shop there, and frankly, it was a find.  A lovely find indeed actually.  I walked out with more crafty things to do and get on with (I really don’t need any more… but there you go… these things defy the laws of physics to come into my life… no, really they do!).  But the best thing was that feeling of having rosy red cheeks and really needing to have a warm pair of gloves and a scarf on.  Blissful!  🙂

We came home via a garden centre, which is always a good way of making me smile, and their Christmas section was a very tasteful display, and the best thing of all?  It started with all the nativity sets.  So nice to see them coming to the fore.  Anyway, we all purchased some bits and pieces and I am getting downright festive now.  So, I want to share with you some ideas for making the festive season a little less stressed and a lot more fun.

stockings

The first thing I did was have a look at what parts of Christmas I loved and what I didn’t.  I love the traditions.  I love Carol Singing and going to Church either at Midnight or on Christmas morning.  I love wrapping presents and giving people things they actually want and will use.  I adore baking Christmas foodie treats.  I love indulging in Christmas movies.  I love the smells I associate with the festive season (Apple, Cinnamon, Berries and Nutmeg mostly).  I LOVE turkey!!  And Cranberries.  So these are the things I want to have more of.

The things I don’t like include that rushed feeling of doing things all in the last week before Christmas like I did when I was working full time.  I don’t like feeling forced to buy lots of people lots of things, most of which they don’t really want and won’t use in any case.  I don’t like forgetting about advent and starting Christmas in September.  I don’t like houses lit up with lights that you just know are costing an absolute fortune (and lets not talk about the waste of electricity).  So, those are the things we don’t do much of.

Santa

And there… you have my secret of the holiday season.  Do what you like to do and don’t do what you don’t like to do.  This year I am going to make up some blessing bags for some homeless gentlemen who sit outside of the Cathedral where I attend Mass every week.  They are going to contain something to eat, some small change, a tooth brush, some toothpaste, a bottle of water and some wet wipes.  It isn’t much.  But it will be a blessing for them.  And it is a very good Advent thing for us to get involved in.

Eeeep! I nearly forgot!!

So after posting cute cats for yesterday, I totally forgot about the need to come and post a blog today.  It is still Sunday, so technically I haven’t ruined my so far perfect record.

Actually, I have spent my afternoon rolled up in a quilt on the sofa with a good book.  It wasn’t a work of great literature exactly, but it was easy to read and entertaining.  Plus lots of things got blown up and that suits my mood right now.

I have to tell you that at the moment, I am feeling more than a little overwhelmed.  There is so much going on and so much that has to be done, and there are only 24 hours in the day.  I just don’t know how to carve out any more time in that 24 hours for getting everything done, and to do everything that I need to do.

I have had a look on Youtube, because I hear it is a source of all kinds of things.  The best advice on Youtube?  Use it for finding videos of cute cats and tutorials on how to do crafts.  But the advice on what to do if you are overwhelmed?  No.  Not so much help.  Lots of stuff about delegating to your staff members, or turning off your emails, or not being available 24/7 if you are at work or starting your own business, but not so much about what if you are a homemaker and trying to study, adopt a child, keep a house, keep a garden, make sure you are eating right, keeping three animals alive and well, making sure that Christmas is organised and is not a last minute rush, and somehow keeping three parents all happy and functioning –  all at the same time.  And that is a slow week.

I really do not have any answers at the moment.  If I get any, then I will let you know.  But right now?  I am off to whimper in the corner.  I seem to have tried all the tricks in my arsenal and I am coming up empty right now.

Normal blogging service will resume tomorrow, but a bit later than normal (hopefully earlier than tonight!) as I am out in the morning with two of the three parents.