Archives For Health and wellbeing

This week

November 13, 2016
Autumnal walk

Autumnal walk

It’s been a challenging week for so many people in big and small ways. We’re all struggling to find our place in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. This is a good poem to return to again and again.

Desiderate

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
By Max Ehrmann

 Quiet spaces

It is important to have time to reflect on our life, the journey we are on and where we are heading.  It is about stopping and enjoying the moment.

Many people are embracing the idea of going slow, which is an antidote to all the rushing around and multitasking that many of us try to do.  Since starting a mindfulness course I am finding it more difficult to multitask and that feels like a good thing.

I do not believe that human beings are designed to go as fast as we are trying to.  We are presented with hundreds of choices every day from emails, posters, supermarkets, outfits and travel options to name but a few.  I am like every one else – trying to absorb everything so that I can make the best choice.  Sometimes it simply is not worth the effort and takes up valuable down time.

Another way of slowing down is to engage in the practice of meditation (or prayer).  Many great thinkers and spiritual people find this a rewarding experience.  Although we think of meditation in the context of Buddhism I believe Christians and other faiths also have a place for meditation in their belief systems.  It is also possible to meditate and not belong to any faith group.  There are lots of resources and centres that can tell you more about the practice and benefits of meditation.  ‘Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.’ Joseph CampbellI do know that it helps us to slow down and find peace within ourselves and we can then carry this into the world through our daily encounters.  I do not meditate as regularly as I would like but I am doing more of it and I do know that whenever I do I am never disappointed.

So we need to give ourselves time for being rather than only doing.  I think many of us can get caught up in the need to tell others what we did on the weekend, a bank holiday, for our birthday or an anniversary.  What will our friends say if we told them we spent the weekend listening to music, writing poetry or meditating?  Are we always busy so we don’t appear boring?    If we don’t give ourselves time to reflect how do we know why we are doing what we are doing?  I think that quiet times help us on our quest to a fulfilling life that connects to our values.

Throughout this I am also encouraging us to ask questions of ourselves, and those in our life.  It is not good to accept what others tell us we should be doing.  Socrates says that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. This whole book is dedicated to asking questions of ourselves and then honestly seeking out the answers.  This seeking is what makes our life uniquely ours and offers vitality, authenticity and genuine freedom.

What do you think?

 

Nature

Life is also about our connection to nature.  What does the word nature conjure up for you? For some it is a country walk and a picnic with beautiful scenery.  For others it might be about being cold, wet and exposed to the elements.

Having some sense of what is happening in our environment is healthy and nature is part of that environment.  Many studies show that we become a lot calmer when we have access to green spaces or the sound of flowing water.  This is an easy and often free way to recharge our batteries.  I am convinced that wherever we are we can find some connection to nature even if it is just going outside and looking up at the sky.

Like many of the other awakenings we have looked at you may decide that nature is quite important to you and this could affect your decision about where you live and the type of job that you do.  When I worked as a careers adviser I would discuss the impact of job environment – including indoor and outdoor work -with my clients.  If you enjoy nature you are more likely to become a farmer in a rural area than an office worker in a city.  An office worker in a city could still include nature by incorporating a short walk, going jogging etc. Looking after a pet, such as taking a dog for a walk, could also encourage engagement with the natural world.

I enjoy picnics and I have several friends who love camping.  I also like walking and for the past few years I have been getting into planting flowers.  There is something very affirming about planting something and seeing it grow.  Much of nature is free and available; we can enjoy it without owning it.

Are you someone who often pays attention to the changes in your natural environment or do you only notice the new buildings in your area?  Can you be still and feed your soul or do you feel uneasy when the birds sing and the rivers flow?

Here is a link to a current concern that you may find interesting and informative  The BBC on butterfly populations

 

love

The Bible says that God is love and sacrificed Jesus because he loved us so much.  William Shakespeare refers to music as the food of love in Twelfth Night.  Sigmund Freud identifies it in Eros as life’s energy force.  Others say love (and money) makes the world go around.  Hollywood tells us that we all want to fall in love, as many times as possible.  Some of us are in love with love.

There are probably as many views of love as there are people on the planet.  Great writing, music, art, film, dance and architecture have been inspired by love and serve as a monument to its expression.  Love is powerful.  Oprah Winfrey says that experiences presents us with an opportunity ‘to choose love over fear.’

Love is certainly part of human need, desire and longing.  Some of us are lucky enough to experience it at some point in our lives, and others are not.  Maybe loving others starts with loving ourselves.  In order to give and receive love we need to be able to trust ourselves and trust another.  Can we love if we know that our feelings will not be reciprocated?  Some people find it easy to love their children, family and friends; others do not.  I have heard parents say that they would be prepared to die for their children: real sacrificial love.

Love may be both about who and what we attach ourselves to. We may have been badly hurt by our earlier attempts to love and be loved.  Consequently we may find it easier to love power, status and material possessions.  We can find ourselves becoming addicted to that which we once loved, or we might assume we love something because we are unhealthily addicted to it.  Love is mysterious and can turn into hate.

Some powerful questions you might want to consider: Who or what do you love and how does that affect how you relate to them?  Does it feel like a healthy love or more of the obsessive kind?  Have you been hurt by loving and need to heal before you can love again?   Do you not love because you are afraid of exposing yourself to the pain of disappointment?  Are you missing out on beautiful emotional connections because you fear it will all go wrong?   Do your actions express what is in your heart?

There is no need to love everything or everyone but to be open to the possibility seems important to me. What do you think?

 

 

Appreciating who you are cannot be done in the time it takes you to read this post. I have included in these posts (and the book) some of the key things I have discovered in my life to date.  This is the result of my age, having lived in three different countries and my experience of three career paths including the study of psychology, sociology and counselling.  So it is an accumulation of my experience so far and undoubtedly part of my life’s journey.

Journey copy

What has your life journey been like so far and have you begun to make sense of it?  Is it all ahead of you or all behind you?  How does that affect your day-to-day choices?  For me I am grateful to my past and hopeful about my future whilst feeling that my current opportunities are good enough.  It is up to me to make the best of what is available to me rather than focusing on what is imperfect.  (Imperfection is part of the human condition and provides us all with opportunities to be vulnerable).  I certainly feel that I am now on my individual life journey even though I don’t know what happens next.  Do you have a sense of having a past, present and future?

The sense of life being a journey can help us gain perspective.  If we use the metaphor of travel then we can appreciate that sometimes we will like the scenery and other times we really want to get out of town.  Some paths are easy to walk through and others require us to accept assistance.  We may see others on our journey who appear to be having an easier or more difficult time.  Making comparisons can be a distraction to keeping on our own path.  We may feel we are running a marathon or a short sprint, doing hurdles or mountain climbing!   Henry David Thoreau says that ‘what lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.’

What opportunities do our journeys present for us and for those we meet?  How do we cope with the difficulties and the privileges?  What do we protect and what can we share with others we meet on the way?  Maybe we can only appreciate a journey when we’ve got to the end and reflected on where we have been.  It may be that we have time at the end to do this or it may be that others do that for us.  It does not matter; our journey is ours and no one else’s.

How do you feel about your journey so far – share your thoughts

healthHealth is something we all desire, and maybe something we do not spend enough time thinking about until we have suffered ill health.  I feel everyone should be informed and encouraged to look after their health from a young age.  There is a lot being done across the world but many people continue to ignore their health and pretend they do not know what to do.

I despair at the exporting of unhealthy foods from the developed world to the developing.  I am sad when I visit the Caribbean and see people replacing healthy local produce for mass-produced low-grade food imports.  This is particularly true of sweets where the homemade coconut fudge or nutmeg jam is thrown aside for a coloured chemical combination that contains no identifiable foods.

Like our health, we do not always value what we have until it disappears.  Because of the global economic climate many of us have rediscovered the joys of locally produced and home-cooked meals.  This is not only cheaper but often healthier as well.

Health is not only about the state of our bodies but also about our mental health, which covers our mind and emotions.  Our emotions show us how we are responding to things in our life. With good mental health we can make space for the range of our emotions, from despair to joy. No emotion is bad, it’s how we express it, or not, that is meaningful.

Be aware of what you pay attention to and what you ignore.  Some of us can be quite obsessive about one aspect of our health, such as our diet, whilst another area is completely ignored.  Take time to review how you take care of the health of your whole self.  It does not matter where you start but the message is to get started.  This is not about self-absorption but supports you to live a full and vibrant life. It is also generous as it  means you are more likely to be around for the loved ones in your life.

How are you looking after your physical, mental and emotional health?

IMG_3481

In June 2012 several members of parliament from all parties engaged in a discussion on mental health. Many were very open about their personal experiences living with  challenges around mental health.

Today members approved a referral service and treatment fund of £25,000 per annum, enough to cover the equivalent of 1 counsellor. Referrals will be made by the already existing Parliamentary Safety Health and Wellbeing Service.

Mental health affects us all and it is good to see politicians in the House of Commons recognising their vulnerabilities. It takes courage to ask for help.

What do you think about this? Is there support in your workplace and are you able to ask for help?

 

I stood with one hand under my chin, arms folded and looking at my feet.  If you saw

me at a distance you’d think I was feeling miserable.  The truth is I was enjoying the

sunshine and engrossed with the ladybird trying to climb up my shoes.  A grounded

moment in a busy day.

 

What we are thinking and feeling is not always obvious to those around us.  If our aim

is to deceive then that’s great but if we wish to deepen relationships and develop trust

then opening up is necessary.   We could be smiling or crying on the inside, who

knows?

 

What we see from the outside is

always a partial picture of the

truth, and even we may not fully

understand ourselves.

 

 

 

For myself I find it is very powerful to be really seen, even if feedback is sometimes

difficult to receive.  It is very exposing and moving to have someone give honest

feedback on how they experience us.   With my clients I offer my reflections gently.

 

If we are experienced differently from what we believe to be the truth then it is up to us

to explore this. How are we living or being that gives them that impression?  Is there a

conspiracy or is there some truth in how others experience you?

I would love to have your responses.

I’ve noticed impatience creeping in in several areas and I wonder what that says about us.  As a counsellor I need to be patient with my clients as developing trust or bringing about healing takes time – there is no cheat.

 

3 examples of our struggle with waiting:

 

  • I enjoy listening to review shows and am pleased that they do give notice if they are about to reveal too much by signalling “spoiler alert”.  Last week I was listening to a very reputable review show podcast where John Hamm of Mad Men was being interviewed.  The whole point seemed to be to guess as much of the future of the show as possible.  By the end of the interview I knew how many series might be ahead and what the ending screen shot might be.  Try as I might I can’t now get this image out of my head.  It was totally unnecessary.  The interviewer was obviously not a fan and someone who had researched the series and probably feels they could write something similar.

 

  • Sometimes even if we don’t seek the information before hand we might get it anyway.  I am tired of hearing on the news that someone important is going to give a speech tomorrow and this is what will be said. When I have a vote to impact the future then let me know otherwise I can wait until tomorrow to find out.  More recently we had that with the budget.  (As it happened being given so much information beforehand meant that people were more alert to what had not been leaked).  It does raise the question as to when we engage with what is going on: before it happens based on expectation or after it happens based on reality?

 

  • My third example is the publication of the report looking into the causes of last summer’s riots.  I was surprised to hear on BBC’s Newsnight that the report’s authors would not be joining the discussion because of their anger that it had been leaked.  The panel was good enough but that did not seem to be the point. Here is a report that has taken so many months and effort to explore all the possible causes of a very unusual and sad incident and it’s been snatched out of those who did the work.  It’s like designing, making and packaging a most original gift and having a stranger break open the wrapping and rummaging inside. It is such a difficult exercise anyway because many people do not wish to know what caused it they just don’t want it to happen again.  We all have our preferred perspectives that blame individuals, families or society for problems.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could demonstrate delaying gratification rather than a ‘must have it now’ approach? I hope the report is given the attention it deserves by all of us and look forward to hearing from the people who carried out the research.

 

A recent award nominee shared how angry she was when someone asked about her acceptance speech.  She wanted to enjoy the glow and excitement of being nominated. I hope that more of us can develop an ability to wait and hold uncertainty.  What do you think? Do you always want to know what is coming up or would you like to be surprised when things happen?


As I get older I really appreciate the opportunity of a new year.  It gives me a chance to reflect on how I spend my time, looking back, looking forward and in the present.We do not need to feel overwhelmed by setting unreachable goals.

 

It could simply be an opportunity to change our direction slightly.  This could be as simple as being more adventurous or having more fun or keeping in touch with more friends.

 

If we’ve had a difficult year, then maybe just keeping going is achievement enough.

 

 

A new year can be a chance to reconnect to our heart’s desire for our life.

 

If you have not read it yet, my book An A-Z for your life is a good way to start exploring different aspects of who you are and what you want from life.

 

For 2012, I would like to keep many things as they are but there are a few things I’d like to change.

For me:

  • More writing
  • Less over thinking
  • More exercising
  • Less rushing around
  • More meditation/quiet time

Is there anything you would like to change?

Please leave your comments below to share your hopes for 2012.  Thanks