Tag Archives: Happiness

The Wonder of Pooh

27 Jun
Pooh Bear

Pooh Bear

Sometimes inspiration comes from the unlikeliest of places. In my last post I talked about negative thinking and tools to help combat it. My favourite tool is when I am confronted with an experience that may be causing me stress is this, I think of a role model or a person living or dead in history that I looked up to and I think what would  they do or think if they were confronted with the same situation. I find this an extremely powerful tool. It is allows me to look at the problem with the eyes of someone who’s beliefs and values I might aspire to. Standing outside the thinking or problem and challenging it with a pair of fresh eyes.

So when the chips are down there is always one role model I turn to. Someone who manages to stay happy and calm under all circumstances. He doesn’t expend energy on worrying, he just let’s life Be!. He sees chaos all around him with the friends that he keeps but he manages to somehow to turn sunny side up every time. Who is this person?. Why it’s Pooh bear of One hundred Acre wood.

Author Benjamin Hoff   in his book The Tao of Pooh has taken AA Milne’s Pooh and has shown us how this young bear and his actions are connected very closely to the eastern philosophy of Taoism.

While Eeyore frets… and Piglet hesitates ….and Owl pontificates

….Pooh just is.

The teachings of Taoism are based in a harmony that naturally exists between heaven and earth. To Lao-tse in his book “Tao Te Ching” everything has a natural balance it is only when man interferes with this balance do we begin to encounter struggle. It is important that we travel with the flow of nature rather than trying to fight against it. basic Taoism allows us to appreciate and learn from whatever happens in everyday life. Living a harmonious existence with what is going on around us rather than fighting it is the key to happiness. Taoism allows us and Pooh to work in harmony with what life throws us, allowing us to turn what others see as negative into a positive.

The more we force something we expect or want to happen, the more we are fighting against the flow of nature and less likely it will come about. Pooh is great example of Taoism in flow,not letting worry or stress impact on his existence like Eeyore, Rabbit and those around him.

” Not like Pooh, the most effortless Bear we’ve ever seen.”
“Just How do you do it, Pooh?”
“Do What?” asked Pooh.
“Become so Effortless.”
“I don’t do much of anything,” he said.
“But all those things of yours get done.”
“They just sort of happen,” he said

The idea that Pooh is seen as what Taoism calls P’u which is the Uncarved Block. P’u is the ability to enjoy the simplicity of life and disregard complexity as something that gets in the way of life. Pooh the bear of little brain managed to find joy in the simplicity if life in contrast to Owl who carried an air of intelligence by the use of big words but providing more confusion than sense. Rabbit describes Owl perfectly here

“….you can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right; but spelling isn’t everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count.”

So Pooh our Uncarved block looks at life and finds the excitement in life’s simplicities as outlined here.

…When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last,” what’s the first thing you say to yourself ?”

“What’s for breakfast ?” said Pooh. “What do you say,Piglet ?”

“I say ,I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today ?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.

Taoism also refers to the Wu Wei which literally means without doing. Letting nature take it’s course without trying to meddle. We as humans are like corks bobbing on the ocean screaming “I must have control, I need control” when we would be better served as Pooh by allowing life to happen. As Benjamin Hoff points out. It is Eeyore’s birthday and pooh has decided to give him a jar of honey for his present. Piglet decided to get him a balloon. As Piglet runs off to get the balloon. Pooh begins to get hungry and realises that he has a jar of honey.

“Lucky I brought this with me.” he thought. “Many a bear going out on a warm day like this would have never thought of bringing a little something with him.” And he began to eat.

as he licks the last of the honey he begins to wonder where was he going.

Ah, yes, Eeyore.” He got up slowly.

And then suddenly, he remembered. He had eaten Eeyore’s birthday present!

He still had the jar so he simply called into Owl and had him write “Happy Birthday” on it. Owl being the intelligent member of the troupe managed to write

HIPY PAPY BTHUTHDTH THUTHDA

BTHUTHDY.

Pooh looked on admiringly.

“I’m just saying ‘A Happy Birthday’,” said Owl carelessly.

“It’s a nice long one,” said Pooh, very much impressed by it.

“Well, actually, of course, I’m saying ‘A Very Happy Birthday with love from Pooh.’ Naturally it takes a good deal of pencil to say a long thing like that.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

Meanwhile Piglet had gone to get Eeyore’s balloon. He held it tightly against himself so it wouldn’t blow away and he ran as fast as he could so he could be the first to give  a present to Eeyore.

And running along thinking how pleased Eeyore would be…..suddenly he put his foot in a rabbit hole and fell flat on his face.

BANG!!!???.

Piglet arrived first alright with his little damp rag and handed the balloon to a surprised Eeyore. All apologetic and misty eyed as he describes the colour and size that the balloon would have been if it hadn’t burst. Eeyores favourite size and colour by the way. And just then Pooh arrives with his present.

It’s a Useful Pot,” said Pooh….and it got ‘ A Very happy Birthday with Love from Pooh written on it. …it’s for putting things in.

Between them we see Wu Wei in action in its purest form allowing what happens to just be the way it is and seeing the positives in what could be at first seen as terrible series of calamities.

“I’m very glad,” said Pooh happily, “that I thought of giving you a Useful Pot to put things in.”

“I’m very glad,” said Piglet happily, “that thought of giving you something to put in a Useful Pot.”

But Eeyore wasn’t listening. He was taking the balloon out, and putting it back again, as happy as could be….

A sweet reminder of making do and being grateful with what we have rather than mourning what we don’t.

Go with natures flow, do not spend time worrying about what we cannot change, enjoy the simplicity of life and appreciate what we have. Sometimes it’s difficult to just let life happen. But when we do, we realize that life works better when we give attention to what is happening and working with it, rather than fighting against what we can’t change.

Just think next time life seems out of sorts “What would Pooh do”

Positive Mental health- Exercising your Endorphins

4 Apr

endorphinsAs I said in my last blog I am going to share what contributes to great mental health. We talked about actions making the difference. Well here is an action that makes a real difference and contributes greatly to our mental health. as far as I am concerned this is probably the greatest game changer with concern to positive mental health….. It’s exercise.

We live in quite a sedentary world. It has been engineered so that we no longer have to move to be entertained. We can happily sit in front of our game consoles, laptops and ipads and engage with YouTube, Facebook and video games which will all entertain us without ever having to leave the comfort of our couches. We use technology to babysit our children without looking at the consequences of what they are processing subconsciously. How difficult as a parent must it be to compete with the excitement of technology especially video games were they are designed to set of neural firecrackers of pleasure and reward in your child’s brain at just the right intervals. Beat that Pops.

We travel on lifts without ever thinking of taking the stairs and we love travellators in airports we can access our smartphones and still make it to our destination while still discovering who has liked our last photo on Facebook, it beats walking between terminals. We sit in cars or trains for long periods and pacify our children with consoles and DVD films on the back of headrests.

We purchase products in supermarkets that confuse us about their health benefits. we secretly pile on the pounds when we think that we are improving our health because of this purpose led confusion. In one class I asked a participant to tell me the calorific value of the soft drink he had in his hand. He read the label and said just 105 kcal per bottle. The bottle was a 500ml bottle of Coke as we looked closer at the nutritional(really!) facts we discovered that it was 105cal per 250ml of the bottle but who only drinks only half a bottle of lemonade.It’s 210 cal per bottle of soft drink which will take roughly a 3km run to burn off. Confusion reigns. But enough about the troubles with food confusion. Lets look at the actions we can do to benefit our mood and mental state.

I can not emphasize the importance of exercise to our wellbeing. I am presently looking our my office window at a sports field where my office is it’s a sunny spring morning and I would be first out the door and changed ready to play if I had a group of friends and a ball free for the next hour for a kick about. I understand the importance of exercise. Firstly I feel great when I play in team games.I enjoy meeting other people(social connections) and I enjoy working with others to a common purpose(try to win). I also love to get out and have a run around because I know what exercise is doing for me. When I am involved in regular  vigorous physical activity not only am I maintaining some level of fitness, flexibility and building resilience in times when it is needed, I am also contributing to my mental wellbeing.

My body is also reacting positively to this physical activity and is providing a chemical response in the form of Endorphins which are produced when I do anaerobic exercise which may involve sprinting or heavy weight lifting.This will cause the production of neurotransmitters called endorphins that lock into special receptor cells that block the transmission of pain signals and also produce a euphoric feeling just like opiates.

I have tested this regularly. I will gauge my mood on a scale of 1-10 before starting exercise. I might find for whatever reason my mood score might be a 4 out of 10. After 25-30 minutes of vigorous exercise running or cycling I will gauge my mood gain and discover I am a 7 or 8 out of 10 what a difference a half hour of exercise has done for my wellbeing.

Exercise also reduces stress. People who exercise more produce lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol(which produces extra sugars into our system in times of stress) and ultimately have lower levels of anxiety.

So get out there get moving. Get out of the house and pick something that you love to do. This is the key to enjoying exercise. I enjoy team games so I play team games. I only run short distances because the will to stop and boredom are increased for me without a team around me. That is just me. If you don’t like cycling don’t cycle. Find out what you enjoy and follow it. It reminds me of the time the comedian Eddie Izzard ran 43 marathons in 51 days for comic relief in the UK. In an interview afterwards British chat show host Jonathan Ross asked him ” Running 43 marathons over 51 days is some achievement what was your favourite bit” Eddie without pausing says “Stopping… stopping was my favourite bit”.

Here is another interesting fact when it comes to those mood changing endorphins.Endorphins are also released when we eat chillies. Not as a reward because the body loves chillies but your body releases endorphins to help ease the pain. Funny that.

Next time your mood is low remember that vigorous exercise will up your mood levels add a chilli half way through and you just might have discovered why Usain bolt is always smiling

Actions make the difference.

3 Apr

IMG_7116I like it when people come up with their own solutions. We nearly always have the answer but it is the failure to act on that realisation that prevents change. Actions always make the difference If you want something in your life to improve for the better a positive action is required from you. As Aesop once wrote “After all that has been said and done, there is a lot more said than done”. So true.

Over the next series of articles I am going to talk about what can we do that will help when we are feeling down for a period of time and need our mood lifted. Life can throw up some difficulties, that is simply life, we do not get to escape this. Nobody gets to sail through life without feeling the strains of a difficult period in a relationship,the loss of someone we care about or the stress of accidents and injuries that our Children or us encounter. It is the actions that follow that matter.

If you do nothing, nothing changes

So I have put together some examples of solutions that my course participants have provided that when put into action will help move you on to a brighter place. I will talk about them over the next series of blogs.

Some of them will seem very obvious but as obvious as they seem,you need to ask yourself when was the last time you did this and what are the benefits this action will bring to your life.

Years ago I had a huge fear of heights. I decided I could live with this fear of heights simply through avoidance of situations that caused this panic…. or I could do an action that might change this. I decided to jump out of a plane…. by myself.

I always remember that morning when I turned up for training at the airfield. The camaraderie and laughs with the other potential jumpers that morning was a great distraction from what really was ahead. We laughed as we changed into our silly orange jump suits and jumped off  7ft platforms learning how to roll as we hit the ground and “kick out” if our parachute became tangled mid-air. We happily rolled up parachutes that morning, cracked nervous jokes and chatted over lunch.

It was after lunch that the mood began to change. It was explained that the jumps would be taking place in groups of threes as the plane was a small Cessna. “Who wants to go first?” said the instructor I thought that sight of someone else heading towards the earth without their chute opening might put me off. So I volunteered for the first group.

With my parachute on my back and the plane bobbing towards us on the grass airfield all the fun and games of the morning seemed a distant thought as the colour drained from my face and the nearest toilet seemed like a good option. The pilot asked me my name and details… I could not even speak… complete fear had taken over I had never felt as scared in my life as I did at that point… and we where still on the ground! As we climbed into the plane and knelt facing forward I thought I was going to get  ill as the plane began to taxi down the grass runway and hover into the air. All the jokes in the world from the Instructor  and Pilot could not alleviate the fear that I was feeling right then.

As we approached 2000ft and the door off the plane opened I was never more awake or aware than at that moment. The instructor indicated to me to move slowly towards the door… place one foot on the wing strut and one foot at the door…. I could see all the fields and cows below me. Just like Father Ted explaining to Father Dougal the difference between “Near and far away” these definitely where far away.  My heart was ready to explode…. I could hear the instructors voice behind me shouting three words Go! Go! Go!. …..What did I do?

I looked down at the fields below me and felt the wind gush against me as I stood at the plane exit and I thought this is it, pause and I will never do it. I jumped…. one thousand, two thousand, three thousand…. aaaaaaaaaaaahhhh( I am being kind with my phrasing here).

I looked up at my parachute to check It had opened properly. It had not … it was slightly tangled…this would cause it to drop like a burst balloon… if I did not kick out as I did…. and suddenly begin to float slowly towards those beautiful green fields. What a feeling, oh what a feeling. The adrenaline and excitement were pumping through my veins as I celebrated with some of the coarsest words in the English language as I floated downwards. Thinking there are world leaders,politicians and some of the greatest minds  of our time who would never attempt to do what I have just done!!

Had I changed my fear off heights? It certainly helped. My next jump at 12000ft feet felt less nerve-wracking . My next one in a few weeks time will be just as much fun.

Actions always make the difference. Do nothing and nothing changes. Just be mindful of what ones you choose.

Gratitude HD – Moving Art Movie

27 Feb

Gratitude is something I have talked about many times before.

From the moment that I Wake up to the moment that I fall asleep I am constantly being grateful for what I have in my world.

This little film is wonderful.

via Gratitude HD – Moving Art Movie.

Happiness Is Contagious

18 Oct

Happiness feedback

Some days are better than others and some weeks follow the same vein. The past few weeks have ben filled with wonderful positivity and happiness from the Happiness Workshop at Mental health week to the inspiring programmes with Teens from Carlow Vocational school and Colaiste Eoin Hackettstown.

There was something Magical about the three weeks just spent with 5th and 6th class kids that was so heartwarming.We talked about all the things we loved about life and what and who we were grateful for. We also looked at how wonderful we unique every single one of us is. The response from the kids was filled with enough sunshine to warm a Spanish Summers day . The goodbye that I was given from the St Patricks 5th class through an archway of joined hands and cheers like a newly married couple experience leaving a wedding will stay with me forever.

All that I can say is it is so true….Happiness is contagious. The wonderful feedback from all the kids involved was a testament to the awesomeness of our existence. Pictured above is proof that yes….Happiness is spreading.

3 is a Magic number

5 Oct

This week was a busy week spent visiting and talking with school students . This week I facilitated workshops for over 400 students excluding the 60 students that came along to watch the Happy Movie on Tuesday.

A wide range of students from primary school students ( age 10-11) all the way up to degree students. How lucky was I this week to meet such a diverse range of students. Every group had their own dynamic and I thoroughly enjoyed every single one. How lucky am I, that I can spend my days talking to people about what is great about this world and what life has to offer.

One exercise that I use with students and practice myself each day is 3 great things. We talk about the importance of remembering by writing down or thinking of 3 things that went well in our day.

It does not have to be events like winning a trip to Disneyland. It can be the simple things in life that make us reframe the way we look at the world.

I put a 21 day gratitude diary for the 10 and 11 year old kids to focus on over the next 3 weeks I am with them. So the students could get an understanding of how this works. I said I would write on the board the 3 things that I would be putting on my list tonight.

I began to write on the board

  1. Run( I explained that I was going to go for a run tonight because that makes me healthy and it also puts me in a good mood. I am also so thankful for my health)
  2. Hot Chocolate ( I explained to the students that sometimes I like to treat myself, Today that treat is going to be a hot chocolate because I have not had one in such along time- Yum)

I started to write my 3rd nice thing and heard a gasp from behind me in the class…. followed by a chorus of “ooh that is so nice”…

My  number 3 was simply….. How lucky I was to meet every single one of you today.

What a beautiful experience…. I shared my gratitude with the kids for being a wonderful part of my day and they in turn shared their appreciation for feeling that they really matter…. and they do.

Happiness is not complicated it is not somewhere else , it might be hard to find sometimes but… when it is shared…. it is wonderful.

Happy

21 Sep

The word “Happy” in itself creates a warm feeling some words just sound like they look or provide the feeling that we get from experiencing it. “Balloon” is another example of that “Jelly” is cool and “Bubble” too,We could go on.

Well to stick with the word “Happy” something we all love as you know. I came across a documentary about happiness in our world that asks the questions.

Does money make you HAPPY? Kids and family? Your work? Do you live in a world that values and promotes happiness and well-being? Are we in the midst of a happiness revolution?

Roko Belic, director of the Academy Award® nominated “Genghis Blues” now brings us HAPPY, a film that sets out to answer these questions and more. Taking us from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts of Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.

I thought it would be nice to watch it at our local theatre  at the Art Centre here in Carlow.

So I contacted the producers and with the support of Michelle de Forge from Visual Carlow I am bringing Happy to Carlow.

In conjunction with My company Wake Up! and Carlow Mental health We are bringing some sunshine to Carlow on Sunday the 30th Of Sept at 8 pm.

It is a chance to forget the worries and stresses of this recession hit world and join some upbeat like-minded people for an evening of happiness.

Look forward to seeing some smiling faces there.

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