Saturday, 10 November 2012

Ser y Estar

In Spanish there are two different verbs for 'to be'.

Which, when you first hear that, might seem a little odd.  Being is just being isn't it? Why on earth would you need two different ways to say it?

But I think the Spanish are really on to something here.

Consider the difference between:

She is cold


She is cold.

You're right, not much. On the face of it.

What about this:

She is cold

She is a cold person.

Or this:

I am happy

I am a happy person.

One is state, one is trait. There's a big difference.

What's this got to do with my Spanish lesson?

Ser means 'to be', always, as a character trait, as part of your make up. Estar means to be, right now, right here, in this moment, as a state.

So what?

What I love about this is that the Spanish are able to express the difference between being happy right now, and being happy as a way of life in a way that the English just can't.  I'm not even sure half of us have even considered there might be a difference in the first place.

But what the Spanish or indeed the rest of us might not know, is that the more I can say "estoy feliz", the more I am able to say "soy feliz".

Regularly feeling happy in the moment, breeds happiness for life.

So, 'salud' to that!

A happy hobby

Hobby: an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.

Which is why, when I heard happiness described as a 'hobby' on the happiness weekend I attended, it stuck with me.

I've often seen happiness referred to as a habit, which work as well, but, paradoxically, the word 'habit' seems to drain all the happy out. Habits are a bit grunty and run of the mill aren't they?  The point of a habit is that you do it so much it ends up being almost unconscious, involuntary.

But the science of happiness tells us that being present, conscious and mindful are all important ingredients in our happiness stew which, for me, leaves the habit pie feeling a bit tasteless.

Hobby, on the other hand has some lovely parallels with lessons from positive psychology. A hobby is something you actively choose to do; happiness is a state you can actively choose to be in.  A hobby is something that brings you explanation needed there.  A hobby normally involves mastering some skill or other; mastery is another happiness ingredient. Mastery involves an element of practice and we could all do with practising where happiness is concerned. Regular practice gives us some kind of structure to our time and structure, regular practice breeds happiness. I've talked about the concept of 'flow' on here before and if ever we're to get lost in flow, it's whilst we're busy with a hobby.  According to Csikszentmihalyi being in flow and happiness go hand in hand.  I could go on, but I think the point is made.

I just really love the idea of choosing happiness as a hobby, setting aside time to practice it regularly, recognising it as something you need to work at and keep up in order to get better at it. It's brilliant.

So, that's my new hobby. Being happy.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Chatting happy

It may be the name of my blog, but its also what I'll be doing for an entire weekend this weekend for right now I'm on the second ever 'Happiness Weekend' run by The Happiness Consultancy held at the beautiful Wellington College in Crowthorne.

I'd been faffing about trying to decide whether or not to come for ages until one day I mentioned it at work and within 30 seconds they had booked me on, with a request that I come back and tell them all about it. So that was that decision made.

Having had a busy rushy week I wasn't sure how much I was looking forward to it. I'd seen the schedule and its full, 8am til 9.30pm every day and then straight back to work. But this morning I just decided to flick on my happy switch early and get excited about what was to come. About meeting new people and learning new things. Not to mention being somewhere as beautiful as Wellington College.

And so far it hasn't disappointed. Everyone's lovely, it's all really relaxed. It's going to be energising, not tiring. And the best bit? I spotted some amazing toadstools in the grounds on the way in!

If I'm honest what they're saying so far is nothing I didn't know before. But it's good to be reminded of what you know, to hear how other people talk about it. To come up with new angles and ideas myself.

It struck me earlier that a few years ago the whole prospect of a weekend like this would have filled me with horror: going somewhere new, by myself, being faced with a bunch of strangers, who you're stuck with for 3 days. But I realised a few hours ago that none of that had even crossed my mind this time. I'd just done it. Something that would have been hard before I now thought nothing of. In fact part of my excitement earlier was at that very prospect of meeting new people, making new contacts, hearing new stories, going on an adventure by myself. How's that for a turn around?

Regardless of anything else I may or may not learn this weekend, I'm glad I've learnt that about myself. That new revelation in itself has made me very happy.

Friday, 5 October 2012

*contented sigh*


I just decided to come and say, today I feel 'happy'.

I've been bonkers busy at work, I've hurt my ankle, I've only just got in from London (it's 9pm) and I'm exhausted and I haven't had any dinner yet

But I'm happy.

Because being busy at work has given me an opportunity to get stuck in, get achieving and show what I'm made of.

Because my ankle only hurts after I put it through its paces at Bokwa and Tai Chi, and then ran for a train...which I made and got a seat on.

I may be only just back from London now, but because I've been at hypnotherapy which was enlightening.

I'm exhausted, but fulfilled and content and excited about what comes next.

And who cares if I haven't had any dinner, yet or at all. There'll be more food tomorrow.

And besides, Strictly in on, the PJs are on, and Alex is by my side.

I repeat. *contented sigh*.

Bring on tomorrow.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Bokwa & Tai Chi

No, I haven't just randomly typed letters into the heading, those are in fact the names of two new gym classes I tried this evening.

Firstly Bokwa. Bokwa is the latest dance craze since Zumba hit our shores. Which admittedly wasn't that long ago, but turns out we needed another craze. As it happens I never got round to trying Zumba although I wanted to. I thought about it. A lot. But it would seem thinking about something isn't quite the same as getting off your arse and actually doing it.

Anyway, back to Bokwa. Bokwa is Zumba for people who can't dance, have no rhythm, no coordination and can't be arsed with complicated routines. Basically you just make out different letters with your feet on the you sort of step round an O shape, or an Lshape etc with a few bounces in between. And that's it. So as long as you have feet and you can spell, you're in. Sounds pretty lame. Except because there are no cringey steps and compulsory dance moves, you can pretty much do what you like within those shapes. So if you want to go all JLo and shake your booty round the place, you can. Or if you want to just step politely round the edges you can do that too.

Why am I telling you any of this?  Because I loved it.

I love dancing and music and being an old married in the berbs I no longer get to do it that often. Other than by myself in a dark room with my headphones on. I also get quite frustrated by dance classes at the gym when they start yelling at you to do moves you don't want to do,(or can't do more to the point) or that involve back breaking feats even a non dodgy back would wince at. I haven't done a gym class for an age...too busy, wrong time, crap timetable, back hurts blah blah am lazy and can't be arsed but making up various stupid excuses, that kind of thing. So I miss a good bit of group sweating and floor pounding.

Hence I signed myself up and off I went.  It was great. The moves are challenging enough to not be boring so you feel a sense of achievement when you have mastered them. The music is upbeat and uplifting, everybody is essentially doing their own thing, in the same vague shape with some ideas chucked in by the instructor, it was fast and high impact enough to get a good sweat (and a nice rosy face) on without being so gruelling I might never walk again. Perfect. ok, not quite perfect, it starts at 7pm which might be too early for me to ever make it home from work in time again but where there's a will...

So I repeat, why I am telling you this? Because it made me happy.

Why did it make me happy?

Because it was exercise. Because it was stretching (actually, like most gym classes, there wasn't much of that) but achievable. Because I was able to achieve a 'sense of mastery'. Because I could let myself go with the 'flow'. Because there was uplifting music. Because I felt a part of something bigger than myself. Because it was new. Because there was a community of us doing it together.

And then I thought to myself, the tai chi class is starting now. I could stay for that. Shall I? Well I wont get home until later. So? Well I hadn't planned to do that. but I suppose I could. I was going to start that next week. And so my inner monologue continued until I remembered something I read on Fat Girl Ph.D's blog earlier today. Stop thinking about it, just bloody do it. Nobody ever regretted working out, thinking about exercising or not is more exhausting than just doing the class. So, I stopped thinking about it and just went for it. I turned around and walked straight back into the same studio I'd just come out of and signed up for tai chi as well.

I have always wanted to do tai chi. There is something very appealing to me about it. It seems to graceful and considered and flowing and peaceful. And after the frenetic leaping around-ness of Bokwa it seemed the perfect antidote. It was.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I loved it! and again, it made me happy.

This time it made me happy for slightly different reasons.

Tai chi made me happy because e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g w.a.s s.l.o.w.e.d r.i.g.h.t d.o.w.n. giving me some much needed space. Space to breathe, literally and metaphorically. Because tai chi has to be so effortless I had to stop the trying so hard I seem to do the rest of the time. Because it is all about mindfulness and meditation. All the movements are really hypnotic and relaxing and I found myself really switching off from the outside and totally focusing inwards. Because tai chi is more spiritual than physical. Because I was learning a new skill...and as in Bokwa, actually managing to do it. I met new people. I relaxed. And I finally found a way to do something I have wanted to do for ages.

I should probably mention that I am also signed up for Anti Gravity Yoga next week as well so watch this space for yet another 'my new thing I learnt today' post.

So, the upshot of all of this is that I'm feeling rather proud of myself today. I got through a lot of work, I ticked off a whole load of chores, I ate well and I've made all my food ready for tomorrow. Then I went out and tried not one but two new exercise classes and enjoyed them both.

I know not every day will pan out like this, but it's worth stopping and appreciating it, and myself, when it does.

So, for now, well done me!

Monday, 24 September 2012

My love affair with autumn

Kicking through crunchy  leaves. Watching conkers bulging on horse chestnut trees and willing them to drop. Their beautiful, shiny, swirly, deep brown-ness that you have to catch quick before it fades.  Breath on a chilly night.  Pumpkins, butternut squash, soups,stews. Russets and golden browns. Long walks. Crisp cool air with bright blue skies. Snuggly jumpers and scarves. Bedding down. Boots. The crackle and hiss, the nose tingling of bonfires in the air.

I absolutely love autumn. I love autumn with a real unbridled child like joy. I experience a real sense of excitement every year when I start to feel it coming in the air. When I realise that soon I can go in search of conkers. Or when I spot a big pile of nice autumn leaves to crunch and kick through to my heart's content.

Take this evening or example. After a long day in the office I really fancied a little walk before settling down for the evening, to get some fresh air and clear my head a bit. Alex came with me. It was just what I needed. The air was nice and cold, but not too cold. The moon was bright. There were some leaves on the ground and I kicked through them absent mindedly as we chatted. And then I spotted there were conker trees lining our route and I could on longer focus fully on the conversation. It no longer mattered that we were only out for a short stroll before needing to get back for dinner. Time ceased to exist. Conkers were afoot. And underfoot, and all I wanted to do was find them and pick them up. I set about filling my pockets and hands with the biggest, shiniest bestest specimens I could find. My favourites are the ones still in their spiky green cases, so you have to carefully prise them out yourself. Or the ones that, when you open them up, actually turn out to be two twins in one case. It doesn't matter how many conkers I have about my person already, or how many times I've been out collecting that day/week/year, or how many years I've been doing it for, it never stops being fun and exciting and satisfying. And Alex knows this and so he joined in. It's weird, because it's not actually about having them, or taking them home. They almost lose some of their magic and romance once you do get them home. The joy is in finding them in the first place and marvelling at their number, and their beautiful deep colour. I know I'm probably quite weird in this way but there we go. I've talked before on here of my love of all things nature, and conkers are really the absolute pinnacle of all of that.

It's not just conkers I love. I don't just love autumn because it happens to be the home of conkers. I love acorns too, for example. Because squirrels love to squirrel them away and I have a particular affinity with squirrels (also documented on here) and because Peter Pan thinks they are kisses and gives one to Wendy which is just too cute. To be honest, I pretty much love all that autumn has to offer. And photographing it, all but one of these pics were taken today which was kind of my inspiration for the post.

I know I'm supposed to love spring best, with its promise of new life and rebirth and jolly prancing lambs and pretty flowers. Or summer, with its clear blue skies and long evenings and floaty skirts and barbeques. And I do love all of those things. But best of all I love autumn. Others might not understand. For many I'm sure Autumn signifies death and decay and bleak long dark nights and rain. But I never tire of it. Autumn has a lot to thank spring and summer for I suppose. If it weren't for all the nice new green leaves that grow in spring or the humid hottness of summer, autumn wouldn't be half as fun. Yet all too soon the leaves will have turned to mush, the conkers have faded and shrivelled and the lovely crisp blue air replaced by wintery ice, and snow, and hats and gloves.

But then again, I love all of those too.

So if I were to spin this around and try to find a link worthy of a blog that purports to chat about happiness as opposed to just about conkers, I'd say there are a few happiness tips in action here:

1. getting out and about and into nature is proven to improve happiness
2. being mindful and in the moment and noticing what is going on around you as opposed to lost in your own head, snap
3. getting a change of scenery, stepping away from the desk and the daily humdrum to clear some metaphorical space
4. moving and exercise, another biggie in the increasing happiness stakes. Nobody ever got happy sat on the sofa all day
5. finding things to be grateful for, whatever they may be, even if on the face of it things seem bleak
6. togetherness and socialising are key. Whilst getting some alone time is also important, holding Alex's hand and mooching around together was lovely
7. Conkers are amazing and I defy anybody not to smile when they find one*

*NB point 7 not quite as scientifically robust as the other 6, but I stand by it.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


It can be golden, or it can be awkward. Whichever way you look at it, silence is definitely reigning strong over my blog at the moment. I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's because there is other stuff going on in my life at the moment that mean I don't feel as much need to write things down in here as I did before. Or it could be that my blog is just the latest casualty in a long line of things that I start and then drop by the wayside as I move on to the next shiny new thing. Or it could be that other things have just taken up more room so I haven't had as much time to research, read and reflect on happiness type stuff. Or is it that there are things going on that actually I'm not quite ready to write about for whatever reason?

I don't know the answer.  I still have ideas about what to write about in here, but lacking in the inspiration to actually make it happen.

So rather than sit and stare at a virtual blank piece of paper any longer, I would just write about not writing to see if that helped at all, or unblocked anything.

It was actually an idea that sprang from some writing training I did at work the other week (my new work being something else I haven't written about, but then I never wrote about my old work either I suppose). Anyway, we had writing training and I loved it. It reminded me how much I love writing. Proper writing, with a pen and paper, not typing. Although I enjoy that too, in the write circumstances. Like now for example. I digress. Most of the writing training was focussed on 'free writing'. I have come across this concept before, mostly in the form of 'brain writing' as a brainstorming type technique, but never tried it in the way we did in the training. Basically we were given a series of prompts and had a set time to just write whatever came into our heads. The only rule was that the pen had to keep moving across the paper. No stopping to think, no going back and editing, just writing and moving forward.  If you got stuck, you could either write 'blah blah blah' until something else came into your head and out of your hand, or you could write about being stuck.

And so I come full circle. It gave me the idea to write about being stuck, sort of, on here.

As it turns out, starting out to write about being stuck has now actually led to writing about something I have rediscovered that makes me happy. Writing. Creative writing. I'm now going to start free writing as a daily practice. This is something the 'teacher' also suggested. The reason being it gets your creative juices flowing, allows you to muck about with metaphor and ideas and practice daily so your real written work (which there is a lot of in my job) becomes more fluent, more elegant as a result. She also talked about 'writing as thinking' which also really struck a chord with me. I hate that blank page feeling, but often I wont let myself commit pen to paper until I have a fully formed idea and know what I'm going to write. Daft she says. Where is the fun in that? Then the writing just becomes a chore because all of the fun bit and the creating and the thinking has been done. Instead use free writing as a way to eek out and form your thoughts. Often we dont know why we're stuck but free writing helps us to uncover what's really going on

So, here I am free writing, well typing at least, on my blog. I'm going to stick to her other rule and not read this back at all. I'm going to press 'publish' and then close the page down and walk away.

I wonder when I'll be back?

Monday, 16 July 2012

Mind them

A while back, when I was working through working out my values (and writing several posts on the subject) I read one piece of advice that really resonated more than the rest. It was to pay attention to when something really upsets you. When something gets you really fired up and you just feel so wrong about it. Those moments when you get wound up about something are probably to do with your values. So whatever it is that's upset you and your sense of what's right, is probably the opposite to what you value. And today I experienced the perfect example of this in action. Several times in a row! And all at a service station in Stafford on the way up to Walney.
First of all, as we were coming out of the service station somebody barged through coming the other way ( ie coming in) so we had to step out of the way. I caught the door as it was closing behind her to walk through it myself, only to find three more people streaming through and I ended up holding the door for them before eventually getting out myself. There was then another door and again, the people coming in continued to do so forcing me and Alex to stand to one side and wait.
Not one of them said thank you. Which is one thing, but more to the point, am I missing something here? Are the unwritten rules on right of way in and out of doors different in Stafford? Doesn't everybody know that people coming out are invited to do so before people going in? Is that SO difficult a rule to follow?
I was still muttering about this when we got back to the car and probably still would be now, had I not then spotted something that horrified me even more. A bunch of blokes crammed themselves into some cruddy little car and looked about to set off. Then the front door opened again and to my utter disgust, horror and total disbelief, the ignorant, lazy nobhead in the front seat proceeded to empty a load of rubbish out of his footwell and onto the carpark. Crisp bag followed redbull can followed malt drink carton. It just kept coming and when they eventually drove off it just sat there, floating around the now empty space. There was a bin about 15 feet away.Ok it was raining, but surely those big blokes are hard enough to cope with a bit of rain for a few seconds? They had managed to get to and from the service station to stock up on lard after all.
Speechless. Insensed. Utterly flabbergasted. Shocked. Total disbelief.
I simply just cannot understand this behaviour. I am so far from understanding it that I find it hard to put into words why.
I mean, am I just an incredibly uptight poncey southerner with an outdated sense of loyalty to a bunch of arcane social rules and niceties? Or, do I just believe in common courtesy, decency, respect and manners?
Needless to say, whatever the answer, we struck gold with the whole value identification thing!
I don't think I'm alone. We were watching the Tour de France the other day which I have never done before and I was particularly drawn to how the whole thing pretty much seems to operate on a series of unwritten rules, gentlemanliness, manners and common courtesy. How very civilised. And on a day when the radio was full of chat about all the effing and blinding in football, how refreshing.
It really isn't difficult, if only society in general was as considerate and observing of the unwritten rules as the peloton.
I bet Bradley Wiggins doesn't barge threw doors the wrong way or throw rubbish out of his car. And I bet he always says thank you.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

3 stone

I was just reading an article about the link between obesity and the brain, and a particular study on mice. It showed that eating a high fat diet increased cells in the hypothalmus, the part of the brain responsible for metabolism. They then blasted those cells back off again in half the group and continued to feed them all the same high fat diet. The group with the new cells blasted off gained weight at a considerably slower rate than those who kept their new cell growth, plus they used more energy and were more active despite being fed exactly the same diet.

Whilst this is an early days study and hasn't been replicated in humans, it does go to add weight (pardon the pun) to the theory that being fat makes you, well, fat.

And as I was reading the article it struck me that I hadn't actually written a post about my own weight loss, or the 20 years of battling with my weight that preceded that.

So I thought I would.

What I am about to write is my own personal experience, and I am in no way trying to speak for anybody else. We all experience the world and ourselves in totally different ways, and this is how I experience me.

As well as making me fat, being fat made me miserable.

There it is. There is no dressing it up or getting around the issue.

Although you could argue that being miserable made me fat...that is also a possibility and it's hard to really tell which came first. I expect I started to feel better about myself enough to realise I didn't need to stay that way. Really I expect it's a vicious circle with one feeding (pardon the pun) the other until eventually something breaks the pattern.

Well after years off yo-yoing and trying every diet under the sun, I eventually succeeded and I cannot begin to put into words how much better I feel, both physically and emotionally, both about and within myself since I have lost weight.

Silly things like not needing to spend hours in front of the mirror every day trying to find something to wear that was acceptable (in my eyes). Or dreading standing up in front of people to present for fear they'd just be thinking I was fat instead of listening to what I had to say. Or continually looking at my reflection in shop
windows as I walk past to check what I'm looking like. Or being the only one sweating during a pilates class. Constantly arguing with myself over food choices, about going to the gym and constantly beating myself up when I made the 'wrong' choice.

Silly little things in the real world that made daily life in my world really quite painful.

I can hardly believe when I look back on those days that I actually managed to get through each day with all of those hang ups and worries going on, all the time. No wonder I was stressed and fed up and tired and emotional. It was a special day when I first realised that I couldn't remember the last time I'd looked in the mirror and hated what I saw. That I couldn't remember the last time I'd worried about how I looked when I got up to present. That I no longer fretted and faffed over what to wear every morning (extra time in bed, great!). It is very liberating.

I'm not perfect. I still have my moments, but they are only moments, they are no longer the constant soundtrack to my every day. I've killed my inner conflict over food with new found NLP processes, I'm making better choices and giving myself a break when I fancy a break. And I'm learning to love myself rather than stuff myself with food.

A very lovely lady from my NLP course said to me "you strike me as a really big person, who's been making herself quite small". She meant it metaphorically, but it made me think.  Would a 'big person who makes herself small', in some way try to compensate for this inner smallness by unconsciously making herself appear bigger on the outside? Interesting.

Anyway, I was a physically big person who has successfully made herself smaller and is now able to be much bigger as a person as a result. I am so proud of what I've achieved, and maintained subsequently and so happy that I now feel (and look!) much more like me.

Those 3 stone (and 3 dress sizes, actually 4 from my biggest moments) are a massive weight not just off my body, but more importantly a massive weight off my mind.


Now, as it happens, I actually drafted this post quite a while ago and haven't until now plucked up the courage to publish it. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because it's intensely personal. Maybe it's because it's a bit sort of self trumpet blowing. Maybe it's because actually, I don't totally believe it's true. Mostly it is, but not all of it, at least not all of the time. Yes, I have lost a lot of weight. Yes I look a lot better. Yes, I feel a lot better. But I don't think I have really resolved my relationship with food, and recently I seem to be rebelling somewhat. I've started finding it almost impossible to stick to a routine with food, I've started letting bad habits creep back in and the pounds have started piling back on. I do know that when other areas of my life go a bit squiffy, so does my diet and eating, so going through a load of interviews and soul searching questions about career paths, resigning from my current job etc etc would count in that arena I guess! We're not talking anything too major here, but today, for example (and ok, after a particularly cake heavy hen weekend!) I'm 9lbs above the lightest I got to before. And while people are still telling me how skinny I look and blah blah blah, I can tell the difference, and I simply can't let it go any further northwards. It strikes me that unless I want to spend my entire life on some ridiculous scale watching, weight yo-yoing, in and out of dieting scenario I need to be tackling the emotional side of eating head on now.  I know all about nutrition, I know all about portion control, I know about carbs and sugar being particularly attractive to my fat stores...but knowing doesn't actually always help. Something clicked in my brain when I started doing the Dukan diet back in Oct 2010 that switched off all the other emotional signals and I was able to follow it to the letter for 8 months, even over Christmas. Whatever that something was, it's clicked back off again and I seem to have misplaced the bastard switch! It's not even just eating, I realised the other day that my inability to stop biting my nails here and there, even at 35, is just another oral fixation. I have no off switch when it comes to drinking either.

So, what to do, other than continue to swing wildly from protein eating tea-totaller one minute to cake scoffing alcoholic the next? Well, I've decided, since counselling never really touched the sides with this one, and since these are all habits deeply routed in the unconscious that my conscious mind seems completely pathetic at controlling, I will bypass the conscious bit and try hypnosis.

I've wanted to try hypnotherapy for ages, for various reasons and afflictions (!) and have decided that eating/weight management is going to be the one to try it on. I have 2 sessions booked in from next week and a load of self hypnosis mp3s to listen to so fingers crossed.

I shall report back shortly!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Today I felt a bit sorry for myself.

The glorious long weekend was over.  The once jolly bunting was now hanging all limp and soggy. My beautiful sweet smelling peonies were browning and stinky. My head hurt, my tummy hurt, my back hurt. I had no energy whatsoever. The weird poorliness I'd noticed creeping in over the weekend was making a final bid to take over.

I hauled myself up and out and into London, only to realise it had been a mistake and carted myself back off home again.

Where I sat in the cold and dark and stared at the wall wondering what to do next.

My options were: feel sorry for myself. eat things. go back to bed.

I tried all of those and got bored of each in turn.

I stared at the wall a bit more, just in case the answer was written there and I just hadn't noticed it before.

Then I had an idea.

I used to read. A lot. I have a Kindle onto which I have downloaded a multitude of books, from frivolous fancy to downright dry. But over the last few months, since I've become more and more interested in all this happiness chat and have been buying more and more books on the subject, I've also, paradoxically, been reading less. I can't seem to make myself read all these books I've been buying. They just sit on the shelf staring at me, reproaching me for bothering to buy them in the first place. Do I think their wisdom will transfer by some kind of osmosis just by being in the same room as me?  Or am I just rebelling against things I think I should do rather than what I really want to do? I read so many blogs and articles and reports online that actually, what I really want to read in book form is pappy nonsense. The kind of pappy nonsense you fill your suitcase with for a beach holiday. The kind of pappy nonsense that concerns itself with cupcakes and cocktails, where cliches abound. But I've stopped reading that too recently. I think I feel guilty reading such vacuous rubbish when I have a shelf full of terribly interesting sciencey type stuff to read instead.

There's a certain irony in there, that a little treat I used to enjoy, that acted almost like my sanctuary, has been dropped in the muddle of this happiness journey of mine. Which just goes to prove the old adage that you cannot search for happiness, you just have to realise where you had it to begin with.

Well reading nonsense was certainly a happiness of mine and I'd let it slip. But now I'd realised it, it was time to put it right.

So today, I gave myself a break. I dug out and dusted down my kindle and downloaded a suitably dreadful sounding book called "Through with men". And then I sat there and read the whole thing in one day. It was rubbish. And I loved it.

And feeling buoyed by this I took myself off to the Chinese Doctor who told me my Qi was too low because my meridians are all bunged up and proceeded to stick all manner of needles and weird cups all over me and then left me to fall asleep under a nice hot lamp listening to whale music. He then prescribed me some funny herby things and gave me some herbal plaster things to slap on my achey bits.

And now I feel much better.

Better because I gave myself a break.
Better because I allowed myself what I wanted and needed rather than what I felt I ought to be doing.
Better because I've picked back up an old pastime I used to enjoy but had let slip.
Better because I forced myself to stop moping about and to focus on solutions instead.
and better because this weird herbal plaster thing is actually working.

So today turned out ok after all.

And tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Hip Hip, Hooray

I feel moved to try and capture some of the spirit of this fantastic Diamond Jubilee weekend with a post, but fear I shall fail miserably. It has been too lovely by far to put into words, although I shall still try.

There are so many reasons why I, for one, have had such a jolly lovely time, and as soon as I try to separate them from each other they all lose something...I think this weekend the whole really has been far greater than the sum of all its parts.

It has felt almost like Christmas, where the whole nation, and beyond, has been focused on the same thing, on the same joyful celebration. The atmosphere has been truly amazing, it has really taken my breath away and has been absolutely lovely to see and to be a part of.

There's been flag waving and bunting, pork pies and fireworks, good old British spirit in the face of driving rain, good cheer & merriment all round. We've always said us British know how to throw a good party and I think we've certainly proved it this weekend.

But I think what I have been most moved by is the outpouring of affection for the Queen herself. Including by me.

I don't really think I'd stopped to think about what the Jubilee was really all about in the run up to the weekend, or to contemplate what it involved. It wasn't until a few days beforehand that I really understood what the running order of the weekend was and what was going on. So I was totally taken aback by the sheer scale of the thing. By how many people came out in force both in London and further afield to celebrate. By how people really came together.

It really did feel like something from another age, with crowds of people lining the streets spontaneously breaking into chants of God Save the Queen. I have never seen anything like it and likely never will again.

I have also been absolutely mesmerised by the Queen herself. I have been glued to the television watching every moment, every wave, every smile. I have loved all the footage of her through the years and listening to all the stories of her times gone by. Even her standing up for so long at a time over the weekend was remarkable enough! There are so many things about her, her role, her family and her background I didn't know before and never really felt inclined to find out. Now I could sit and watch her all day, and have done!

We didn't travel into London, we didn't go and line the streets ourselves, we didn't arrange our own street party (does a small house party count?) or even really attend one (although we went and looked at several!), we didn't watch either of the two beacon lightings near us. But we joined in in our own little way and it felt very, very special indeed to be a part of something so huge and so wonderful.

It is lovely to see such spirit across the UK given the doom and gloom we've been surrounded by in recent times. Whether it be double dip recessions, financial collapse, political disillusionment, war, terrorism, fighting, rioting and so on. It feels as if the combination of last year's Royal Wedding, the Jubilee and next the Olympics are bringing a new dawn of hope, renewing our faith, lifting the mood and reminding us of all the good stuff again.

For me, this weekend has been very, very special. And I'm aware that I've now said that twice but I can't say it enough. It has been truly humbling and inspiring in many ways and it has made me very proud to be British, amongst many other things. It has been much too big a deal for me to even get anywhere near to capturing here.

Over the last 4 days we've had compassion, community, good cheer, faith, dedication, affection, optimism,celebration, pride, being a part of something, giving back, gratitude, resilience, emotion, direction and meaning.

In bucket loads.

And that sounds like a pretty good recipe for happiness to me.

Long may it continue, and long live the Queen.

Hip Hip, Hooray! Hip Hip, Hooray! Hip Hip, Hooray!

Monday, 28 May 2012


Why is the world so obsessed with averages? Averages are so, well, average. Yet they are all around us.  People seem to live their lives by them like some kind of mystical guide to all things...what's the average height, weight, IQ, age, chance of x or y. They've even got their own law!

The irony being that we're all holding ourselves up to these averages, which by their very nature don't actually exist as real examples.

If you take a load of pretty coloured paints, and mix them all up in a big bucket, you end up with some kind of nondescript munge coloured plop. A munge coloured plop that doesn't actually exist as a standalone paint colour. That's what averages are for me.

Except the nice pretty paints don't go around berating themselves because they're different to the munge coloured plop. They continue to celebrate their uniqueness. Well, I expect they would if they weren't inanimate paints. But you get the point.

It starts even before we're born. Our due date is based on the average pregnancy and on our mum's average cycle. As soon as we're born we're compared to the average weight and size and then our mums are harassed by health visitors if we happen to fall outside of the magic averages or if we end up on the wrong place on the magic averages chart. She must be feeding us too much/too little/wrong. Heaven forbid we're just following our own little growth plan and not the one on their stupid chart.

At school, all the hundreds of individual children who pass through and who sit tests and exams are boiled down into one big melting pot to give us an average grade, an average pass mark. Fall under the curve and you're a bit of a thicko, above it and you're a geek. Average is the place to be safe.

and boring.

Science is obsessed with averages too.  There are even at least three different sorts of average to play with. Everything has to be plotted on a graph so a nice neat curvy line can be drawn roughly through as many dots as possible.  Nevermind about all the dots the line doesn't pass through. They must be anomalies, little weirdinesses we don't need to worry about.

Don't we!?

Surely it's these weirdinesses that are the interesting bit?

Personally, I am not concerned with averages. Or being average. I don't understand the point. If we're going to strive to something or compare ourselves against something, why not choose excellence rather than average?

At work I have been given two different bits of advice by different people. The first was to try to care less about stuff. The second was not to live every day like it was a performance review.


Firstly, why would I want to care less about things? Ok, I get it, caring too much about stupid little things that you can't change isn't helpful and that's probably what the advice was really. But suggesting that somebody like me try to care less is like asking Monet to leave off the water lilies for a bit. Ain't gonna happen.

Secondly, why on earth wouldn't I want to give every day my utmost? Why are there a million and one quotes about dance like nobody's watching and all that jazz if the way to get the best out of life was to just sort of mosey on through giving an average performance every average day? Sorry, but if I get hit by a bus (or any number of other quite average ways to cark it), I want to pass on knowing I gave it my best shot. Every day.

I don't understand why striving for anything other than average is not only not commended, but in many situations is actually criticised.

So, I have a message for all the propagators of average:

My name is Emma While, and I am not average. I am a high achiever, get over it. What's more, I've decided I'm no longer going to apologise or be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed of my non-averageness. Instead I am proud.

And anybody who doesn't like it can just average off.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

strength training

I wrote a post for our blog at work the other week about playing to your strengths.  It's such an old, well established concept, but how many of us actually do it? In our work or in other areas of our life?

The thing is, as human beings we are, it's true, wired to focus on what we might see as negatives, or weaknesses rather than to focus on all the good stuff, which is a bit of a pain in the proverbials really. But we can rewire the way we think. Neuroplasticity says so and positive and organisational psychology show that if we do, our overall happiness, our productivity, efficiency etc increases. Thank goodness for that, because it really does get quite tiring and depressing going on about how rubbish we are at stuff all the time.

The other thing our funny little minds are quite good at is making stuff up. There will be things you think you're no good at just because that's what you've always told yourself (maybe because either you tried it once or somebody else told you you were no good at it and you just believed them). These are known as limiting beliefs and they hold you back. Since doing my NLP course I've become more finely tuned to the amount of times I notice people saying "I can't..." "I don't think I'll be able to..." and so on. LIMITING BELIEF alert. Oh, and obviously when I do it myself, but think that's a whole other post! Language and what we tell ourselves is SO important. Our silly subconscious doesn't know the difference between something that's true and something you've invented in your own mind so the more you go around talking about how rubbish you are at something, the more it will just become true.  Next time you catch yourself talking about something you can't do, just check if it really is true or just something you've always told yourself and then go back and correct what you said if needs be.

On the other hand, you might just be right, you might just be rubbish at it after all. And that's ok too.

I read a post on Moodscope the other day that said something along the lines of "do you think Usain Bolt lies awake at night worrying about not being any good at trampoline?" which I loved!

There really is nothing wrong with having weaknesses, in fact it's healthy to recognise what they are, admit we have them and ask for help and support in those areas. I'm not massively good with admin, for example. Of any description. But I know it needs doing and I hate for it not to be done. I used to get annoyed with myself over this and tie myself up in knots putting it off, doing it all slapdash just so it was done and so on. Then I just thought, hang on, this isn't a strength of mine, but it is a strength of other people's. Why waste time getting annoyed with myself and trying to force myself to get better at this when I could be doing things I am good at, and let somebody else who excels in this area help me and get it done quicker and better than I could. Phew.  I read an article about how Mark Zuckerberg, an introvert, made sure to partner up with an extrovert who could go off gallivanting around schmoozing and signing deals so he could stay safely holed up in his office focussing on what he did best. Perfect.

So it is fine to not be good at everything. Just accept it, get over it and get on with what you ARE good at. It is much more motivating. That's the point of teamwork...whether it be at work or in other relationships and situations...everybody brings different skills and strengths to the party so why not let everybody stick to those individual strengths. Much more efficient, effective, productive and fun.

Do you know what your strengths are? Really? I made a list of mine, it was quite interesting and took quite a while and lots of head scratching and crossing out. But it's brilliant now to be able to recognise what they are. The advice is that once you know your strengths, to make sure that you are then practising them all the time, honing them and putting them into good use for both yourself and everybody around you as much as possible. Which makes a lot of sense, it's not rocket science is it!? we just need to remember to do it!  If you're a manager of people, there's a big lesson in team management here too.

Which is obviously, to find people better at trampoline than you!

Saturday, 19 May 2012


It's not exactly a secret that being nice to other people makes us feel nicer about ourselves. We've all heard of karma and the idea that what you give comes back around and so on and so forth. But it would appear that it is now official that actually giving to others is linked to our own happiness.

I've read quite a lot on this from various different places, giving to others is one of the pillars in the science of happiness. So I thought I'd try it for myself. Thing is I've never been stingy with my money or my time in the first place. In fact I've been known to give so much of both to others that I haven't left enough for myself. Where money is concerned,  I've always been happy to buy more than my fair share of rounds on a night out, to subsidise people who might otherwise not be able to join in and so on. But if I analyse this giving, it's mostly because I wanted to do whatever it was and needed not to do it solo. Or I wanted to stay out drinking so kept on buying drinks so people would stay with me. Those things might count as being generous but I think smack more of desperation, of having a bit of an addictive personality more than about being nice. I also donate to loads of charities. Alex even commented on this in his wedding speech. I can't watch children in need or comic relief without finishing the evening a good £50 lighter. Which is all great but it's hardly taxing is it signing a direct debit and letting it quietly leave my account every month. My time is a different thing. I'm quite carefree with how I spend that too, lending it out to all and sundry. This is because I'm not very good at saying no and because I really do like to help people and end up feeling guilty if I don't for some reason or other.
So, I decided to start giving to others and doing things for other people for no other reason than that it would make both them and me feel nice. To do it having made a purposeful choice to do it for its sake, not just because I'm weak willed or profligate with my spending.

I started small. I bought a few people at work a coffee apropos of nothing in particular. It made them smile, and that made me smile.  I told random people I liked their cardigan, or whatever and bestowed smiles on strangers in the street...its amazing how people react to these things! Then one day I walked past the big issue lady outside M&S in Maidenhead and, out of habit, shook my head at her and walked past. Then I stopped and thought, why not? So I went back and for the first time ever I bought a Big Issue.  I have never seen somebody look so thankful as she did, and that made me smile too. I gave my tickets for the Thich Naht Hanh talk away, instead of selling them or letting them go to waste and it was lovely to hear how much the lady who took them enjoyed the evening. And then, having walked past the same guy asking for change near Paddington every single day for the last 6 years, I went into Costa Coffee and loaded £10 onto a gift card for him. Ok so £10 isn't very much, but it's more than he would have had otherwise and at least I know he'll get £10 worth of food and drink. I made out to him that I just had it and would he like it...he would, very much so, he was chuffed. He hasn't asked me to spare any change since, he just tells me to have a good day.

These things have all lifted my spirits and made me nice and smiley. I wouldn't have thought that one good deed would be enough to permanently raise my happiness scores for good, but over time these things must add up and I for one will be making sure I keep at it.

Interestingly though, there is a flip side to this.  In the last week I have read two different articles about the other side of helping others. One was about volunteering and said the best volunteer work actually involved the beneficiary of the work in the process in some them a role to play. Otherwise they can be left feeling more down and a bit redundant. So we need to be careful when offering to help that we're not making the person we're helping feel useless and helpless. I thought this was a good point. The second I read today on my daily MoodScope email and it said this. That, according to a clinical psychologist, the best way to help a friend who is feeling low, is not to help them at all, but to ask THEM to help YOU.  Now when you think about it, this makes total sense. Firstly because getting them to help you gives them purpose, gets them active, takes their mind off things, gets them involved...all things we know from psychology to have a positive impact. But also because we've just established that helping other people is one of the pillars of if we really want to help people feel happier, we just ask them to help us...and then everybody's happy. It's like some beautiful virtuous circle of help and happiness.

And this is a very important lesson for me, because whist I have always been willing to help everybody else, I am not at all good at asking for help myself. I think I know what my homework for this week is... 

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Just wanted to share this...Gandhi said it a lot better than me

Saturday, 12 May 2012


One of the findings of the science of happiness into the habits of happy people, is that caring or compassionate people tend to be happier.

Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism are all based on compassion.  In fact Buddhism teaches loving kindness to all living things.

The Dalai Lama said "if you want to be happy, practice compassion"

Which is why I am proud of a trait of mine that others may call soppy or daft.  It is a trait that had me in tears a few months ago when I accidentally hit a pigeon in the car, and which had me elated with happiness a few moments ago...which I will explain in a minute.

I just don't like hurting other living things. It makes me sad.

You can call me a hypocrite if you like, because I do actually eat meat. I can't rationalise that. Except if I'm forced to try and apply rational thought to something quite emotional I might come up with the fact that the animals I eat are (as far as I know) killed in a humane and pain free way and I generally don't enjoy eating things with more dubious journeys to my plate.

I have to say, I'm actually like it with flowers too.  If I hurt or break a flower or plant by accident that also makes me sad...yet I happily eat fruit and veg to my heart's content. I put that down more to a regretful sense of the transient nature of beauty and life, as opposed to any compassion for the 'feelings' of the flower itself.

Anyway, back to creatures. We have wasps nesting in our roof. They fall out into the house all angry and hungry and on a mission and Alex has a phobia of the things. So sharing a house with them isn't particularly practical. I have actually been stung in my attempts to banish them from the house and remove them from his presence. But sometimes there's just nothing for it but to get rid of them altogether. And by that I mean kill them.  Wasps don't have many redeeming features, but I'm not massively comfortable having to kill them. I'd really rather not.

Especially when they turn out not to be a wasp at all, but a little bee!

and that's what happened earlier today.

Alex was sitting nearest the open window and in flew a buzzy thing and up he leapt. I sprung into action and swiped at it with a magazine. A miraculous first hit, it fell out of the air and onto the sofa. And horror of all horrors it was a poor innocent little bee and not a wasp at all.  I was horrified! They're endangered enough as it is without me randomly killing them.

What followed was probably intensely puzzling for many other people, but deeply important for me.  I will try to cut it short.

I scooped up the patient...incapacitated but not dead...and took him outside, where he flopped about in the manner of something not doing particularly well or having full use of its limbs. I then sat and watched him for I don't know how long. I honestly don't know how long, I was totally absorbed in just wiling the bee to get better. It was panting and heaving and waving its antenna around frantically, but not going anywhere. Some time later a few ants launched an attack and the bee's furry little legs suddenly sprung back into action, kicking and flicking about all over the shop. I found a pine needle acted as a good ant prodder and joined the fight on the side of the bee. Clearly where I had deposited the patient was not at all safe. I offered him said pine needle and he grabbed on so I moved him over to some nice purple geraniums. Where he again did a particularly pathetic impression of a  bee and just sort of hung there limply.  I continued to sit and stare at him...he was probably just terrified of my giant face and wanted me to go away. So I did. Oh, after moving him to a different geranium and trying to shove him inside it, it just looked safer.
 I don't know if he was grateful. He just sat there. Again. Then I went away. I texted my step mum (bee keeper extraordinaire) for any bee resuscitation tips and she said to feed him some water with honey or sugar. So, I got him a little picnic ready and went back out to see how he was doing. He was moving! He had crawled out onto the top of the flower. hurray. I tried to shove the honey and water at him but he just kept lolloping away. Eventually he stuck one little leg on it, then tried to fly off. He landed again about 3cms away. He tried that about 8 times, with me trying to feed him honey in between. Eventually I think he got so fed up of being force fed he just upped and left. He flew off up, higher and higher into the air, without falling back down again, buzzing away merrily, and then he buzzed right off altogether.

HURRAY! the bee lives on. I hope he will be ok now.

I was so happy I ran round the house shouting to Alex about it and had to write a post straight away.

So there we go. My experience of compassion and loving kindness for all living creatures (even wasps) as ingredients in the big melting pot of happiness.

PS obvs I took a few photos of the bee while it was on the recovery ward, would have been (bee-n! ha ha) rude not to really :)

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Take back control

You're running late. It's chucking it down with rain and you have a really important meeting. The trains are all delayed by some kind of wrong leaf or snow variety on the line. You'll take the car. The car won't work. Bum.

How do you feel?

What about this one:

You've got to go visit your mother in law to help with some chores. It's a beautiful sunny day, you've got a new book you'd like to read and a nice bottle of wine in the fridge. You really can't be bothered to go. But off you go out the house to drive over there anyway. But the car won't start. Excellent, you'll have to cancel. Shame.

Now how do you feel? probably quite different to the first example!

I think this tells us three things.

1. Our external 'problems' are in fact not really the problem at all.  It's the unpleasant feelings we attach to the external event that is the real the 2nd example, no unpleasant feelings, car breaking is therefore not actually a problem. The real problem was in our head.

2. The context or the 'frame' is crucial

3. Put both together and we see that really we have the ability to choose how we react to the external situation. We can choose not to experience unpleasant feelings to the car breaking down, we can choose to reframe it, we can decide to not let it be a problem.

I know in the first example the car breaking seems like more of a problem than the second, but that's only because of how we've framed it in our heads. The mother in law might not agree. And anyway, is it really the end of the world if we're not at the meeting? Is there a bus?

Our brains are pre-programmed to hone in and magnify the negative, it's true, but we don't have to be a slave to that. Once we realise that our choices are much wider.

In fact, our brains are reframing all the time without us realising it.  For example, read the following:

Billy was on the way to school.


She was worried about the maths lesson


She wasn't sure she could control the class again today


It wasn't really the dinner lady's job!

What did you notice? Did you have to keep flipping the image or story you had conjured up in your head as you read on? Did a little boy trotting down the street flip to a girl? and then a maths teacher? before resting on the dinner lady?

We conjure stuff up in our heads all the time. Nothing is as it is, it is only as we see it. So choose to see problems differently and they can stop being problems at all.

In fact we can choose to see them as opportunities, to solve something or work on some part of ourself or discover something new...if we want to.

In the example earlier, maybe the car breaking on that morning was a sign for us to take our foot off a bit at work, to slow down a bit, to realise the world won't stop just because we're not at one meeting. Or to point out that walking to work wont do us any harm...or whatever.

The point is there are always other ways of looking at it, other perspectives.

I know this sounds trite, daft, bloody obvious and all sorts of other things, but when I started to get a grip on this one, it made a whole world of difference. A previous post about my laptop breaking is a good example...that wasn't really a problem at all. It got fixed, for free, I just had to use a different computer for a few weeks. Big deal. Another is the torrential rain this week. Pain in the proverbials. Or is it? Alex always says there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. So I bought some wellies and a hooded poncho. The rain has been reframed and is no longer a problem.  Actually it's quite fun now.

Clearly it's not always that easy, mind. But it's a start isn't it?

It's true it is very hard to change the way we feel, but it tends to be what we're thinking that leads to how we're feeling and with practice we can change that.  Just like we can train our muscles if we keep practising our exercises, we can do the same with our minds.

There are more types of 'unpleasant' feeling than I care to think about right now, sadness, fear, injustice etc. But if you boil them all right down, they probably all come back to anger in one form or another and anger is a particularly unpleasant, unhealthy place to be.

We can normally tell when anger is approaching. Maybe we start tensing up, our breathing quickens, we can feel our blood starting to boil.  At that point, rather than leap head first into that feeling and let all hell break loose, we can take a deep breath, take a step back, ask ourselves if there's another way of looking at this.  

It's a bit like the advice about never replying to an annoying email straight away, in the heat of the moment. You're always advised to go away from it and come back again when you've calmed down before you press send. So, next time you're about to react in a big fact angry old way to something, walk away and regroup a little before you press send on those messages from your brain to the rest of your body.

I remember when I first tried to do this.

There was a girl at work who always got my back up. I found her rude and unpleasant and she always made me feel totally idiotic and insignificant which in turn made me act totally idiotic in her presence. (Of course I now realise it was me making myself feel like that in her presence for some reason and nothing to do with her at all).
One day I did some work for her. I spent ages doing it, put a load of effort in, pulled out all the stops and made sure she had it ahead of schedule.  She didn't respond. Since it was for an important meeting I wanted to make sure she actually had it so I approached her to ask if she'd seen it.  Before I'd even finished asking the question she snapped at me that she'd decided not to use it and with an obnoxious flick of her hand dismissed me.
I trundled off.  I started to feel all sorts of different things. Indignant, embarrassed, pathetic, annoyed, upset....angry.  How dare she? Why had I bothered?  What's the point etc.

But then, remembering the lessons I'd been reading about, I forced myself to consider if there were any other ways of thinking about this. It then struck me that actually, she was probably just super super busy and stressed, about to go into this horrible meeting.  She was in the middle of rehearsing what she was going to say and the MD had probably just changed everything at the last minute, including whether or not to include the thing I'd written. The printer was probably broken for a change too.  Suddenly I just felt sorry for her and relieved I didn't have to go into the meeting myself.  I sent her a little good luck vibe instead of the daggers I'd be gearing up for.

Ten minutes later she came over, apologised for being such a grump, said thank you for my work which was just what she'd wanted and was so brilliant they were making it into a standalone thing to send along afterwards and was I around later to discuss.

Ha! I had read the original dismissal totally wrong but luckily had reigned myself in enough to be able to respond politely when she came back over.

I can remember feeling quite shocked that the whole reframing thing had actually worked and all that time I'd be going around in a mood with her when I could just have got over it instead. It was totally up to me.

My mum always says, if you have a problem with somebody, it's your problem, not theirs. It's up to you to do something about it, not them.  It's true.  We need to take responsibility not just for our problems, but for how we react to them. Change that, problem solved.

To be fair, there are times you might just really want to be in a mood at something, it's quite therapeutic sometimes isn't it? Well that's fine long as that's a choice you're making, as long as you're in control of that...just know you do have a choice, and you can take back control.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

values part II

I don't feel as if I've finished with the whole values piece yet so have decided to write another post. With two aims really. One, to actually consider what I mean by values and two to consider what mine are.

So, firstly, I think values are qualities or beliefs that we feel are worthwhile or meaningful...or an organisation feels are meaningful. Or a political party, charity etc. Kind of like a philosophy. They kind of set our priorities and act as our driving force, define how we behave and guide us.

This is what I was referring to in my last post.  If we know what ours are, we'll find it easier to navigate life's myriad of choices. We can work out what's meaningful to us and then work out how to go about putting it into practice, and in my very simplified version of what happens next...we end up happier than otherwise.

I can see why, I can see a number of sort of scenarios where this would certainly help me anyway.

For example...I am pretty crap at making decisions. Either I take ages to make a decision in the first place, or I make a quick one then wonder if I made the wrong one. There's a lot going on here around fear, lack of trust and blah, but if I had a set of motivating values or priorities by which to make my decisions it might make it a bit easier or at least appease that bloody George (see earlier post!) jabbering on at me afterwards that I'd got it wrong.  Same goes for inner conflict...essentially another form of decision making nonsense. Then there's a sense of fulfilment and achievement, a sense of direction, a sense of having 'come home' and so on.

So I decided to make a list of my values. And here they are:


There's a lot there! But they're all important. I'm going to spend some time thinking about which are at the top of the list.  If you fancy having a go yourself but get a bit stuck, just Google 'personal values'...there are lists of common ones online you can look at to see which resonate for you and go from there.

So, now I consciously know what's important to me, if I find myself with a decision to make I can sense check if it's in line with my values. Or if I start to feel a bit squiffy or out of sorts, I can have a think to see if something is out of line with what I believe in. And as soon as I spot something has gone awry I can make steps to make it right again.

Phew, that feels better :)

Monday, 30 April 2012

The value of values

My last post asked the question, who are you? as well as the question what do you do?

These are two questions I've been asked myself a lot recently as I've been meeting new people and I've experimented a bit with my answers ranging from the fairly boring name and job response to the more esoteric or existential (wanky) response.

And what I've noticed is that it doesn't really matter what you say. What matters is that it's authentic. And what lies behind authenticity is that who you are and what you do are in some way aligned. And for that to happen depends on your values.

I realised that knowing our values is really really crucial to both who we are and what we do.

If we don't really know who we are, we can't really be sure of our values in life. And if we don't know our values in life, how on earth can we decide what we're going to do? Or what we're supposed to be doing?

I would be willing to bet that if we rounded up all the people who feel in some way dissatisfied with life, or unhappy in their job, or in some way out of kilter with those around them it will be because they haven't consciously identified their values, and if they were to identify their values they would find them at odds with what it is they've ended up doing.

I'm also willing to bet that if we rounded up all the people who felt uncomfortable about their behaviour in some way or on some particular occasion and we examined what happened and why, we'd find the same thing. That they were behaving in a way out of line with their values.

I can say this quite confidently because I can recognise it in myself and have observed it in others. You'll  be able to too.  You know those times somebody does something really cringey or embarrassing, something that makes the room feel really awkward and uncomfortable? That's somebody not being authentic to themselves or their values. I bet.

I think that in order for us to feel really at peace and comfortable and energised by what we work, home or at has to be aligned with our values. Who we are, what we believe in, how we behave, what we do and even the language we use need to match up for us to feel as good as we can feel, and to come across as the best, authentic versions of ourselves. To truly be ourselves.

So what are your values? are you living and behaving in accordance with them? Do you really know? Have you ever even considered it before?

It sounds a bit lofty doesn't it? A bit too hard? But it's easy really. Ask yourself, what is it that's going well for you at the moment? What would you like to do more of?  Then think about why you gave the answers you gave, what's significant about them for'll find your values somewhere in there if you look properly.

I have a confession. I haven't entirely worked this out for myself yet. Specifically. (Thank goodness really, it'd be a pretty boring blog about self discovery and my quest for happiness if I already had all the answers wouldn't it!). But I know roughly where I'm headed and I know when I've gone wrong because it feels horrible. I'm going to have a good old think about this properly though and it'd be great if you'd join me and share your thoughts below.

and we'll know if you're not being authentic!

thanks x

Friday, 27 April 2012

Who are you?

How would you answer that question?

Imagine you're at a party or conference and somebody asks who you are, how do you answer?

What about "what do you do?"

What's the first thing that comes to mind to answer that one?

Hands up whose answer had something to do with their job? Or their relationship to somebody else entirely? (I'm so and so's friend, wife, colleague, mum?)

What if you had to answer both of those questions without mentioning your name, your job or other people.

Now how would you answer?

Could you answer?

How many of us stop to really think about who we are, in our own right or what we do that is more than earn money or serve other people in some way or other?

How many of us have really considered our values?

I'll come to those in a later post. But for now, just ask yourself "who am I?" and every answer you give, ask yourself again "who am I that's more than that?" and keep going until there really is no more. You might surprise yourself.

I'm pretty sure we'd all feel a lot better about ourselves and achieve a much greater sense of purpose and direction in life if we took some time to work out our answers to these questions. And I'm pretty sure we'd be much more interesting guests at that party or conference if we then actually gave those answers too!

And I bet that even if you don't specifically go through those questions above, your brain is mulling it all over right now, just by reading this your answers are already starting to form.

So, go on, have a think. I know I have.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Clearing out the clutter

Over the last month I have cleared out more crap than I care to mention.

I'm talking actual physical clutter from around the house (and garden), virtual email nonsense and spam and the biggie, emotional baggage.

And it feels good!

Clearing clutter is ridiculously good for the soul.

I was beginning to feel suffocated by the amount of 'stuff' around the house. I felt it closing in on me every time I tried to sit down to relax. I felt as if the whole energy of the house was all out of kilter, especially with two whole rooms being used as dirty dumping grounds. I felt uncomfortable with the room dubbed 'the nursery' feeling more like a morgue. And I just felt annoyed and frustrated every time I couldn't find something, tripped over something, or attempted to dust around something.

I was also getting more and more fed up with so many bits of nonsense landing in my inbox every single day. It was actually beginning to really make me stressed, I was losing important things or deleting them by accident and feeling overwhelmed by all the newsletters and hints and tips that were flooding in that I knew I was never going to have the time to read.

these things tend to get worse before they get better!
And then there's the emotional crap. The unresolved niggling feelings you carry around for years thinking you've dealt with them but haven't.

So, what did I do?

I spent 2 weeks systematically clearing up the house from top to bottom, making a giant mess in the process. I threw crap away, gave unwanted bits to charity and put nicer bits to one side to sell. I then cleaned and tidied and made the house look pretty and full of space. I made the 'nursery' into a little den just for me to go and sit in and just be and I made a concerted effort to unsubscribe from any pointless email I received and scheduled automatic clean ups of my in box.

And having done all that I felt lighter and freer and relieved and happy and proud.

And then I went on my NLP course safe in the knowledge that 'my house was in order'. And while there, during one of the processes I had a bit of an emotional breakthrough around something I'd been holding onto for years. I could feel it coming all week but it still took me by surprise. It was terrifying. But afterwards, apart from feeling exhausted, I felt an incredible sense of lightness. My sciatica stopped and the anxiety pain I carry around in my shoulder dissipated. I felt bubbly and frothy and again, an enormous sense of relief. There's still a lot of processing to do and I'm sure there's more to come but it's a great start.

So you see this really has been a month of clearing the clutter, and I really encourage you to do the same. On all levels. Holding onto emotions from the past blocks us from moving forward and puts us all out of balance, distorting how we see and react to things going on in the present and rendering us less capable of dealing with what else life throws at us. Imagine a glass of water, if it's too full up, any new water you try to pour in just overflows. And being surrounded by stuff, or bombarded with virtual stuff just gets in the way of what's really important.

Clearing the clutter gives us a calmer, clearer space, a calmer, clearer head and a calmer, clearer heart.

So give it a go and clear out some crap. It might not be easy, but I promise it'll be worth it.

A calmer clearer space, just for me...