Tag Archives: mood

Parking It

It’s a sunny day in beautiful Barcelona and I am alone. My friend had an earlier flight to catch but instead of travelling with her to the airport and hanging around there for a few hours, I find my way to a park and sit facing the sun.

I watch the other park dwellers. There are groups of friends chatting, drinking and dancing. Couples sleep side by side, holding hands. A few solitary figures read or play with their phones. Others jog, cycle and saunter by.

I have no book, no notepad, no music. Usually, I have all three. Today, I am forced to sit and do nothing.

Earlier on, I noticed my mood drop. I went into fear around business and money. I spoke harshly to myself for not being successful enough. Where’s your get-up-and-go, I asked myself. You need more drive.

I compared myself to other women, judging myself for not being as slim, toned, pretty or stylish. No wonder those girls are in relationships, I thought. They’re cool and confident. You’re not.

I also criticised myself for not undertaking enough big challenges with regard to the Rejection Therapy I’m currently doing.

Suddenly, sitting here on Spanish soil, I have an awareness. I realise that, despite not actively seeking rejection, I am still being rejected. By myself. And that makes me feel sad.

Asian men with plastic bags walk by, repeating the mantra: “Agua! Cerveza!” I purchase a one euro can of beer and sip it as I sit and watch and think and feel the sunlight on my skin. A welcome feeling of calm settles upon me.

I understand that, when I project into what may or may not happen in the future, I feel overwhelmed. I’ll just take it one step at a time, I decide. I can manage that.

I also have a knowing that comparing myself to others just doesn’t feel good. I am what I am. All I have to do is be present. And enjoy the moment.

And for one whole hour, I do.

Me. In Barcelona.

Me. In Barcelona.

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Help Me!

I’m really enjoying a blog called Help Me! by Marianne Power. This brave, honest, insightful and laugh-out-loud-funny blog deals with Marianne’s gutsy challenge of reading (and really following) one self-help book per month for a year.

So far, I’ve read all of her posts on Get the Guy by Matthew HusseyFeel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, and Money, A Love Story by Kate Northrup.

I’ve lapped up Marianne’s hilarious and sometimes emotional tales of chatting up strangers, jumping out of a plane, doing stand-up comedy (that’s about the WORST thing I could think of having to do), posing naked, attending a naked yoga class, tackling her finances, walking on fire, and surrounding herself with plenty of positive post-it affirmations.

I can really relate to Marianne as she courageously reveals her secrets, fears and insecurities. And for each book Marianne has explored, I’ve learned something that I’m going to incorporate into my own life.

In Get the GuyMatthew Hussey recommends seeing yourself as a “High-Value Woman”. This means knowing that you deserve to be treated with respect and only accepting good behaviour from men.

The last guy I had a thing with was tall, attractive and young. He hated his job, drank a lot, and had very little interest in getting to know me. And still I continued to text him. Until I saw him with another woman.

I felt yucky for a few moments until I remembered that I too was open to meeting somebody else. I wasn’t kidding myself. This relationship was going nowhere fast.

Though this scene wasn’t what I would have wished for, I was grateful to have witnessed it because it gave me the kick up the arse that I needed. To move on. To really be open to something better. And to finally understand that I am a High-Value Woman. Another, more suitable man will be lucky to get to know me.

I used to worry that asking for what I wanted and believing that I deserved to be treated well would come across as needy, high-maintenance or even crazy. Now, I don’t care if that’s how some men might perceive me. The right ones will know different.

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In Feel the Fear And Do It AnywaySusan Jeffers insists that we do one thing each day that scares us because then we’ll know that we’re growing and moving forward in life. She explains that the more we feel the fear and do it anyway, the easier it becomes and the more empowered we feel. She suggests repeating the affirmation: “I can handle it.” 

Marianne found this month exhausting but also exhilarating. She reports feeling more alive. Although she felt terrified, she did it anyway, and her life became infinitely more interesting and exciting.

The next book Marianne took on was Money, A Love StoryI thought: “Boring!” However, after perusing her posts, I see how telling my initial response was. One of my beliefs around all things finance is that it’s boring and I’d rather put my attention on something, anything, else. That is why, according to Kate Northrup, my finances are not something I can boast about. Yet…

This book also makes a connection between how you value yourself and how much abundance you have in your life. Turns out valuing yourself is essential in this self-help business. It sounds obvious but it’s amazing how little we show ourselves this value.

One exercise Kate suggests is to list three things you value about yourself each day. Most days, I focus on what I’m grateful for, which really lifts my mood. From now on, I’m going to include self-value in my practise. Today, I value my talent for writing, my discipline in exercising, and my ability to make new friends.

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Last night, I read Marianne’s first post on Rejection TherapyThis isn’t a book but a self-help game devised by Jason Comely. There is one rule to this game and that is to get rejected once a day by another human being.

One of my biggest fears is of rejection. Because getting rejected confirms that I’m not good enough to be accepted, wanted or loved. As Marianne explains, we’re hardwired to fear rejection because, “historically, our chances of survival were dramatically increased if we stayed with the group, which is why being shunned in any way – even snubbed at a party – can feel fatal.”

At a concert a few weeks back, one of my good friends asked me if I still found it hard to chat up men. “Yes,” I gulped as I took a quick swig of cider.

“Well then,” she announced with a glint in her eye. “Your challenge is to chat up one guy before we leave.” 

In shocking news, I readily accepted my friend’s challenge. I wanted to get over this limiting fear. And I had just spent an evening seeing how effortless it was for my friend to strike up conversations with men.

So I marched over to stand beside a man who was watching the band alone. And so I stood. I too looked at the band. Every so often, I glanced sideways at him. I was thinking too much.

What will I say? I could ask him if he’s enjoying the music. But that’s a stupid question. Of course he’s enjoying the music! He’s here alone, enjoying the music. If I were my friend, I’d have chatted him up already. 

Then, a girl to his right started chatting to him. Look how easy it is! When they stopped speaking, I glanced sideways at him again. He was wearing a coat. At an indoor concert!

“Are you not roasting?” I blurted out.

“Not tonight,” he answered.

Em…

“Where’s your coat?” he wondered.

“In the cloakroom. It’s free and it’s just down the stairs.”

Yes, a fascinating conversation. And I decided I didn’t fancy him after all. But I did it. And I was proud of myself. I knew that it could only get easier.

Last night, after reading about Rejection Therapy, I decided to take on this horrifying challenge for the rest of the month. I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered my promise to myself. My heart thumped faster inside my chest. But I also felt excited.

Like Marianne Power, I’m really living. And in Susan Jeffers words, no matter what, “I’ll handle it.” 

I’ll let you know how I get on…

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The Christmas Present

It was the end of September and I was practising mindfulness. I had just had the best holiday ever. I’d also experienced a summer of fun, friendship and adventure. I remember telling a couple of friends that I was in a “really great place”.

And then things changed. The following few months were turbulent. I felt stressed and under pressure. My feelings swung from anger and resentment to guilt and fear.

Ten days ago, I was asked to make a difficult decision. And one week before Christmas, I found myself moving out of one house and into another. I was shocked and exhausted, upset and excited, free and frightened.

My friends rallied around and took me on a couple of big nights out where I drank a lot of alcohol. The days afterwards were strangled with panic and depression.

I certainly wasn’t feeling very Christmassy. I didn’t decorate. I stopped meditating and exercising. I was just too tired to take out my tools for well-being.

I convinced myself that people wouldn’t like me very much if I wallowed and complained but I couldn’t pretend either. I wanted to be left alone but I felt needy for company and love.

I beat myself up for not snapping out of it, for attracting in this turmoil with my thoughts and beliefs. It’s all my fault, I decided. But I didn’t know how to transform it. It isn’t fair, I wailed.

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And today it’s Christmas. I meditate. I exchange gifts and well-wishes with family and friends. I gorge on chocolate and a variety of meats and vegetables. I take the dog for a walk. I watch movies. I give myself acupuncture. I rest. I write in my journal. I do everything I can to lift my spirits but I’m still lacking in enthusiasm and hope.

Suddenly, it strikes me that my suffering does not exist in this present moment. It has arisen out of my thinking. It lurks in my expectations about how I should be. It grows in my resistance to how things are. It expands with my longing for something more, something different. It strengthens with my doubt and self-flagellation.

I realise that this moment holds no pain. So I bring my full attention to right now. I become present to the dog as it snuggles up beside me. To the trees that line the quiet country road. To my laughter at The Big LebowskiTo my loved ones. To the clear night sky and the shooting star that dives before me.

This moment is perfect. My suffering is simply an illusion created by my thoughts, attachments and misguided beliefs.

Today, my brother gives me a gift of a beautiful necklace. I decide to use this chain as a reminder to be present.

Today, I give myself the gift of my presence. I shall stop telling myself that this moment is not enough, that I’m not enough.

Because when I’m truly present, this moment is complete. I am complete.

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madripoor.tumblr.com

Happy

Yesterday evening, I watched a documentary called Happy. This film explores what makes people happy. It was a welcome reminder of what happiness really is and all the ways we can work on and maintain happiness in our lives.

Interestingly, our genetic makeup determines 50 per cent of our happiness. Some of us are just born happier! Circumstance (where we live, our job, life events) only contributes 10 per cent towards our happiness. So we have a whole 40 per cent to work with. We have the power to boost our own happiness. It’s a personal choice. And one well worth making.

So because it’s always good to be reminded of how to be happy, and especially coming up to Christmas, I’m going to share a few of the best ways to promote happiness.

1. Gratitude: Recalling all the things you’re grateful for really makes you appreciate all you have. I’m currently keeping a 30-day gratitude journal where I write 10 things each day that I’m grateful for and the reasons why. Afterwards, I read them aloud. So by day 30, I’ll have 300 wonderful things to read. I’m only on Day 6 but already I’m feeling the change in my mood and my energy. And it’s making me more aware of the abundance of things I have to be grateful for as I go about my days.

2. Compassion: Caring for others is guaranteed to make you feel good too. Try completing a random act of kindness. Give a stranger a free parking ticket, donate clothes to the homeless or volunteer to work with the ill or the elderly. Helping others unites you with your fellow man. Doing meaningful things with your time fills you with a sense of purpose and pride. Another way of bringing compassion into your life is to do a Loving-Kindness meditation where you focus on sending love and kindness to yourself and to others. This form of meditation has even been known to help with depression.

3. Flow: Do things that bring you into a state of flow. When you’re in flow, you’re totally in tune with what you’re doing. You’re present. Time stands still. For some people, this could be painting or playing piano. It could be scuba diving or upcycling, surfing or sewing. Uncover your passion, get your creative juices bubbling and enter the flow.

4. Dopamine: Dopamine is a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In simple terms, it’s a feel-good chemical. We release this chemical when we perform rewarding activities like eating and having sex. However as we age, this hormone is produced less and less. The good news is that the more we show our bodies that we need this chemical, the more our bodies will continue to make it. It’s like a muscle that gets bigger the more we exercise it. Aerobic activity is great for stimulating dopamine release. Interestingly, if we work out in novel ways, even more dopamine is released. So instead of your usual jog, sign up for The Color Run. Rather than hitting the gym, go rock climbing or white water rafting. Replace walking around the estates with a hike to a spectacular location.

5. Mix it Up: Following on from the previous tip, another way to prevent yourself from sliding into monotony is to change things around. Take an alternate route when you’re walking your dog. Try out a different café. Attempt a fresh recipe from that book that’s been collecting dust ever since you received it three Christmasses ago. Join an adventure club. Attend a Meetup outing and make new friends. Travel to a destination on the opposite side of the map. After watching Happy, Bhutan is now on my bucket-list. Bhutan is a place located on the slopes of the Himalayas that officially uses Gross National Happiness as an indicator to measure quality of life in holistic and psychological terms. Now that’s my kinda country!

As you can see from the list above, the road to happiness is simple. And it’s free. In fact, once our basic needs are met, money does very little to increase happiness.

Happiness is sharing a meal with your loved ones. Happiness is laughing over a latte with friends. Happiness is being present with your children. Happiness is being astonished by the beauty of nature and the miracle of life. Happiness is when you realise  just how rich you really are.

Attitude of Gratitude

The other day, I was complaining about how long it takes to blow-dry my hair. My mother informed me that, when she was a child, she had to towel-dry hers. I felt grateful for the invention of hair dryers. A couple of my friends then told me that they wish they had thick hair like mine. Again, I had to be grateful for what I was lucky enough to have.

This quote comes to mind: “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

Gratitude is something I practice every single day. It instantly lifts my mood and brings enjoyment to all the little (and the big) things that I have in my wonderful life.

I would like to own my own house some day but, right now, I give gratitude for the lovely little flat I’m living in. It’s cosy and central and I have it all to myself.

Yesterday, I met a woman who has been through cancer twice. She lifted her shirt to show us the scars from her double mastectomy. A wave of gratitude and admiration for this brave woman enveloped me.

She spoke of the fun she used to have with the fellow patients in the hospital. She remembered how the nurses would bring her tea and toast at 2am if she couldn’t sleep. “They didn’t have to do that,” she added. In the face of such a huge challenge, this lady was still able to express gratitude. She is an inspiration.

If you’re experiencing dissatisfaction, envy, frustration or a feeling of lack, try replacing it with gratitude. Think of a few things that are grateful for today. What you focus upon multiplies. And soon, you’ll marvel at the sheer abundance in your life.

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Are You a Pessimist?

Over the years I’ve noticed that any time I get into really bad form, it’s because I’ve started believing the thoughts that are telling me that everything has gone to shit.

I’m lazy and useless. I’ve gained weight. I’m ugly. I’m alone. I’ll never amount to anything.

Recently, I observed that I was slipping into one of those moods. Rather than dwell on it, I switched on an interview with Dr. Joan Borysenko, psychologist and mind-body medicine expert.

I was half-listening as I got ready for bed when I heard Joan speaking about pessimistic thinking. Joan says that you can inherit a pessimistic world view. This type of thinking happens when you lose hope and can’t see a way out of things.

When something bad happens, Joan suggests looking at your explanatory style. How do you explain this negative occurrence to yourself? Martin Seligman put forward the Three Ps of Pessimism. They are as follows:

1. You take things Personally. You blame and even hate yourself. You can see from above how I was telling myself that I was lazy and useless.

2. Your thinking is Pervasive. Nothing in your life is good. Relationships, family, work, body-image: all crap.

3. Permanence. You’re in a mental rut and you can’t imagine that your life could be any different. You feel stuck. I was telling myself that I’d never amount to anything and that I’d always be alone.

This was a revelation to me. I was relieved to realise that I am not alone in this type of thinking. And once I become aware of it, and own it, it immediately loses its grip on me. I can choose the way I think.

Joan suggests disputing what you say to yourself. When you watch your mind and witness your thoughts, you can see that you’re telling yourself a story, one that isn’t true. This creates distance from the thoughts so you can observe and even learn from them.

Joan explains the science behind all of this, which I won’t go into in detail now. Basically, she states that you can change your brain circuitry. Brain plasticity allows for the rewiring of your nervous system. So you don’t have to be stuck with pessimism for the rest of your life.

Joan doesn’t suggest shifting from pessimism to optimism. Rather, she speaks about the benefits of stress-hardy or I-can-do-it thinking, which is more realistic.

Suzanne Kobasa introduced the Three Cs of Stress-Hardy Thinking. They are as follows:

1. The stress-hardy thinker will want to rise to the Challenge.

2. Commitment. The person will stick with the challenge and see it through.

3. Control. The stress-hardy thinker doesn’t try to control the uncontrollable. Instead, they focus on what they can control.

And if you can’t see yourself making the leap into stress-hardy thinking just yet, Joan suggests a few quick and simple tips to calm down your fear responses. Deep breathing, exercise and just a five-minute meditation can be enough to bring you back from your pessimistic thinking.

Do you recognise yourself in any of this? If you get caught in a spiral of pessimism every now and again, don’t beat yourself up. You’re human. But you do have choices. Change your thinking, change your life. Are you up for the challenge?

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Broken Windows

Since injuring my back at the gym on Sunday, I’ve had to take it easy. This means not doing my usual workout routine. And it’s been hard. I joined the gym in January and, while I signed up because I enjoy exercising and sweating and being healthy, I’ve also delighted in toning up, wearing tighter outfits and having people tell me that I look amazing. Who wouldn’t, right?

Part of me knew that I shouldn’t put too much value on my physical appearance. It’s dangerous attaching how good you’re feeling to something so transient. And another part of me told myself to relish it while it lasted. Which may also be saying something about an unconscious belief that good things don’t last very long. But that’s another day’s work (or blog post).

So, I haven’t been able to hit the gym this week and I noticed my mood dipping a little. I started wearing looser clothing as though I’d gained weight in just a few days. Another reason for feeling out of sorts was that I’d been, quite literally, stopped in my tracks. I had to accept the situation and understand that these things happen for a reason. There was a learning here somewhere (lots of lessons, in fact) if I were to cease feeling sorry for myself long enough to go looking.

Gretchen Rubin writes about the “broken windows theory” of policing, which holds that when a society tolerates minor crimes such as broken windows, graffiti and drinking in public, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes. Rubin suggests that this can also be true on a personal level. These are the signs of disorder that make you feel out of control and overwhelmed. For me, they are not leaving the house all day, not getting my class preparation done and not exercising. Rubin says that enforcing small signs of order makes us feel more in control and happier.

The theory makes sense and it’s great to get things done and to look after yourself. However, this does not mean being rigid. Sometimes, we have to let go of control or we’ll end up miserable. Life happens. We cannot base our happiness on how we think we should look or on how much exercise we feel we should be getting. If we have too many “broken windows” and those shattered panes are destroying our inner peace, we need to look at building the inner peace and self-love and to hell with the windows for a while.

This week, I’ve been watching TV series GirlsThe main character is a 24-year-old writer who’s carrying a bit of extra weight. She gets lots of men and struts around naked. The more I’m watching, the more I’m used to seeing a fleshier actress. This goes to show that the more exposed we are to skinny celebrities, the more we believe that this is the way we all should look. It’s refreshing to watch a show where the characters’ appearances are a little more normal. Even the sexiest female character has a bit of belly and often doesn’t wear a scrap of makeup. And she’s still a beauty. A natural one.

In one of the episodes, leading lady Hannah admits that she’s just like everyone else, that she wants to be happy. That she feels alone. And that she’d been trying to control the way things happened and how she was feeling. Isn’t that why we do what we do in life? To feel happier, less alone and more in control? Why we diet and exercise? Why we purchase new clothes and cut our hair? Why we study for exams and work? Why we save money and buy houses? Why we search for partners and start families?

But beneath the need for happiness, connection and control is a longing for love. And where better to begin than with yourself? Just because. No only-whens and only-ifs. Unconditional love. If you had that, you wouldn’t need to do anything, have anything or control anything. It wouldn’t disappear as soon as your job or relationship ended. It wouldn’t crumble when you gained weight or grew older. It wouldn’t elude you until you had a house and a successful career. It would be a part of you always. It is you. You’ve just forgotten. It’s already there. And it strengthens with use. Today, instead of going to the gym, I choose to exercise my unconditional love. It’s tougher than any workout but the reward makes it so worthwhile.

im not beautiful like you