Tag Archives: wellbeing

Happiness isn’t complicated.

26 May

Gratitude

3 Dec

sunriseOver the past few months I have presented a number of talks to various groups either adults or students. Some of the talks are based around different topics positive mental health, happiness or inspiration. There is one thing that links all these together and that is something so simple and so uncomplicated that most of us never bother to practice it. It is a simple yet beautiful word and action… it is simply …Gratitude.

The world revolves at just the right speed the sun rises to greet us each day without us asking and the moon lights our way through night and provides the tidal cycles that are so important to the earth and its climate. Our environment is enriched with air which freely allows us to breath with most of us never understanding how this combination of  21% oxygen,  78% nitrogen and 1% other gasses formed to provide the most essential element that keeps us alive. The earth spins and night turns to day. While nature and the seasons work in harmony to provide us with food and water to keep us alive and colour to bring us joy. Our bodies work like a vast industrial complex pumping blood and fluid around our vessels , regulating temperature, blood pressure and our heart rate while manufacturing skin, hair and new cells whilst repairing what is out of balance…..it’s just amazing.

We turn on taps and clean water flows through them when others lie thirsty. We jump in the shower and we have instant hot water when so many in this world have never experienced the cleansing of a warm shower. We cool food in fridges and cook meals in ovens  from food on our tables as others go hungry. We have roofs over our heads and blankets on our bed when so many in this world are homeless. With health in our hearts we can run, jump feel the wind and sun on our faces when so many will never know what is to be able to walk or run. Swim in the sea and feel the waves wash over our faces when so many have never even had the ability to dip a toe or hand into or even stood and witnessed the might and beauty of the ocean. We are surrounded by radiant colours that change with seasons and beautifully dance with the rays from our Sun when so many have never been given the gift of sight.  We dance and hear music that lifts our moods and soundtracks our lives when so many have never experienced what it is to feel or hear that joy. We share touches with hugs and sneak kisses with lovers when so many would love to know what the warmth and love and caress from another human feels like…just once. We have friends that enjoy our company who revel in our smiles and share in our laughs when others have no one….not a single hand to hold. We can feel our heart sing as we express what we truly believe to be right when so many are too afraid or never allowed to speak out…………

We live on a dot spinning at 167o kms an hour surrounded by infinity and consisting of miracles. It is, a gift to be a part of this incredible world.

So what ever falls your way today… remember all the gifts that have been given to you, that so many others on this tiny dot we call “Earth” never get to experience… and simply or silently say

” Thank You “.

What can we learn from Donkeys

6 Nov

Donkey-Paintings-600x450

There is a fable about a farmer who had a donkey. The donkey was old and one day it had fallen down into a well on the farmers land. The farmer decided that the aged donkey was not worth saving, and since the well had no water in it and had been dry for some time, he would take the easy option and bury both. He began to shovel earth down the well and could hear the cries of the donkey as he did so. The farmer kept shovelling and soon the donkeys cries stopped. Presuming the donkey was now dead the farmer shovelled the last few spades of earth to finally cover the well and the dead donkey. Only to see the animal jump out of the well. The donkey had shaken off each shovelful of dirt and had stepped on the slowly rising mound of earth before finally jumping out and free.

The reality in a lot of our lives is that… relationships will end, Jobs will be lost, cars will be crashed and people we care about will pass away. As much as we might like to,we can’t escape the fact that sometimes life is tough.

What we have though is an ability to see these events in our lives as a chance for us to grieve, grow and have a greater ability to cope when something unexpected happens to us again… It’s called RESILIENCE. Resilience provides us with an ability to express what we feel,grieve and understand emotion when something difficult comes our way in life…But also to learn from what happened and understand that this will give you coping skills for when something similar happens again.

We are probably very guilty of producing a generation of children with less resilience. As we tell our children that they are  “Special”  and “Amazing” . The truth is that the word special itself explains that not everybody can be special or else the it would be redundant. Tell an interviewer that you think you are “Special” and balk at his next question when he asks why you think this is true? This excellent article by the Huffington post outlines the problems that generation Y are experiencing.

You mightn’t get your first your second or even your third job after interview. But you will be learning valuable life skills and you will be better prepared and more appreciative when the door finally opens for you.

Your first girlfriend might dump you because it’s not all about “You” and maybe caring and paying attention to the other person in the relationship is what you need to work on for your next relationship to work.

Life is a work in progress and the key word here is “progress” Try nothing new or never venture out of your bubble and you will rarely feel that you are learning and your life is moving forward.  Run away from difficult decisions or experiencing life’s emotional upsets will never build resilience.

Be that Donkey…or die.

Positive Mental health- Action matters

30 May

to-do-list-nothing[1]Life it seems is a series of choices that we make. These choices are generally made up of actions or behaviour. We either decide to do nothing… and nothing changes or we decide to put an action in place that will make a difference.

It is the action that makes the difference. Are all actions good? Not necessarily!. Some actions like overeating, hitting out at others, drinking excessively or spending money we don’t have are actions that will contribute to how we feel about ourselves or the world in a negative way.

We know that our thoughts can affect our feelings and our physical feelings. Our Behaviour(actions) can also contribute to negative responses in our thoughts and feelings.

Remember I said that if you do nothing, nothing changes. That’s a given. If there is something in your life that is impacting negatively on your life put an action in place that will help you.

Here is an example: If you wanted to lose 12lbs in weight what actions could you do.

  1. Order an Ice cream and tell yourself you didn’t want to change anyway.
  2. Talk lots about how you used to be a stick insect years ago.
  3. Buy lots of books on weightloss
  4. Watch Tv programmes on weightloss
  5. Talk a lot about wanting to lose weight- Tommorrow-Maybe!
  6. Go shopping on an empty stomach
  7. Get excited about special offers on Your favourite Ice cream tubs while shopping.
  8. Clear out your kitchen and fridge of foods that are not helping you lose weight.
  9. Eat everything that you were just about to clear out of your Kitchen and fridge and then revert to numbers 3, 4 and 5 above.
  10. Do nothing!
  11. Change your diet for the better
  12. Start to exercise 3 times a week.
  13. Find a form of exercise you like and start slowly at it.
  14. Cut down on portion size.
  15. Avoid High calorific foods.
  16. Set small goals of losing 2lb a week over a 6-8 week period.
  17. Put a plan in place to do this.
  18. Treat yourself a little on milestones or weekends.

So listed above are a series of actions that we could do if we thought about losing 12lbs of weight. I have made it quite obvious that Actions 1-10 might not get us very far or revert us back up the weight scale a little. Nevertheless they are still behaviour that might seem very familiar that we are quite capable of resorting to.

What I have listed on 11-18 are actions that are much closer in getting us to the goal we had in mind.

So now we are aware that Actions make the difference. It is important that we know which ones will help to change patterns in our lives that are impacting negatively.

Get out there and put more positive action into your life. As I have said before

Do nothing and nothing changes. Pick the right action and your life will never be the same again”

As Aesop once said. “After all that has been said and done there is a lot more said than done”

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.

Wake Up! to the sound of nothing

18 Feb

Doolin wavesLast week I was so lucky to have a couple of days to myself. I decided to drop in on one of my favourite places in the world Doolin, Co Clare. Specifically to the Rainbow hostel where Carmel and Mattie Shannon provided  warm and welcoming hospitality in their homely hostel.

The real reason I was down was to buy a Surfboard and catch some surfing in nearby Lahinch. I managed to get the surfing in which was a beautiful Wake Up! while enjoying thew February Atlantic. As the Danish say “There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes“.

I never purchased the Surfboard as the surf assistants unwillingness to haggle cost him a sale. Even a 5% token discount would have got him a happy customer and a sale at a time of the year when things are slow. Not great business sense …but there you go.

The two days down by the Atlantic where so therapeutic. Surfing by day and watching the waves crash against Doolin pier  and surrounding rocks at high tide each evening was a form of meditation. As I walked up the country road to the hostel at night the sky provided the clearest views of the stars that I had ever seen. Beautiful and silent with just the sounds of the crashing Atlantic in the distance as I walked. Inside Carmel’s hostel the log stove in the front room provided warmth in a room filled with nothing but the wind from outside as I sat reading and connecting with the wonderful stillness of the present moment.

The experience that you get in the Rainbow hostel is not found in any Hotels that I have visited. maybe it’s the warm welcome from Carmel the scones in the morning or just the simple solitude. Whatever it is it works.

Nature is beautiful yet we rarely make enough connections with it as we fleetingly move from distractions to distractions that never provide lasting imprints on our memories. As the world turned and the Pope abdicated while share prices rose and fell and rose again none of this seemed to matter as the silence and pleasure of the now in a small remote town on the western coast of Europe took over.

Happy Days.

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