6 Tips On Dispelling a Negative Mind

Kim-Kardashian-Happy-Positive-Thinking-Day-Quotes-010-491x491We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves” – The Buddha

When I was a teenager, I was a real worrier. I’d often spend my Sunday evenings, working myself up into a complete frenzy about how certain situations at school would work out. My little brain would go into over drive, imagining things that hadn’t even happened. I’d convince myself I would fail the math exam coming up, or my drama presentation would be a complete flop and everyone would laugh at me. I look back now and realise that I was in fact a prisoner of my own negative thoughts. Many a Sunday evening would be clouded by my worries, and in turn cause me a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. A little cloud of anxiousness, created by a fear within my own head.

As I grew older and under went my own spiritual training, I began to accept, that if I wanted to live a positive, happy and fulfilled life, I needed to learn to control my own negative thought patterns. For I believe, like the Buddha once taught, the energetic vibrations of our thoughts, attract experiences to us and therefore we become what we think.

Become truly aware of your thought patterns – There is nothing wrong with having negative thoughts, we are human, lets face it, it’s going to happen. But when it does, try to really acknowledge that thought and take time to explore it, replacing it with a positive action. For example, you are due to give a presentation at work, and you realise you are thinking that it is all going to go wrong. You are going to slip up, forget the words, not get your point across and the boss is going to hate it! As soon as you truly acknowledge that thought. Stop. Breathe and explore the that it is in fact totally pointless convincing yourself this is going to happen, as in truth, when you really look at the situation, you actually have no clue how it is going to turn out! You are simply falling into the pattern of your own negative thought process.  Explore the possibility that it could in fact go marvelously well, you may deliver a presentation that everyone finds interesting and enjoyable. Your points are seen as strong and encouraging, and your boss in fact loves it!  Don’t allow your negative thoughts to own you, acknowledge them, but don’t attach yourself to them. When you refuse to give them power, they will dispel on their own accord.

Every time a negative thought arises write down 3 things that are positive in your life – My own spiritual tutor gave me this task when I first started teachings with her. It was a gracious way of teaching me the art of being thankful. When completed properly, every day, it really is helpful in keeping your mind focused on all that is good in your life. The trick is to think of 3 different things every time.  It can be as simple as being grateful that your train was on time, you wake up and the sun is shining, you are able to enjoy a fresh sandwich and a cup of coffee at lunch time. Or you can explore more meaningful reasons why you are happy. You are grateful for your loving partner, your clean bill of health, your beautiful kids or the roof over your head.

The Power of Positive Mantras – During times of challenge or turmoil, I love to write mantra’s on little post it notes and I stick them around my house and office. A will say them in my mind every time I see one. For me, they act as a gentle reminder that I am in fact completely in charge of my thought process.  I use sayings such as “Everything is always as it should be, I grow with every challenging experience”, “Positive thought is positive action”,  “Challenges are what make life interesting, and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful”  You can obviously make up your own.

Be mindful of playing the victim – For some, life is a complicated journey of stresses, strains and constant challenges. For others, life is a wonderful adventure, full of exciting opportunities to grow, experience and develop. When we truly start to accept that our thoughts have a direct and powerful effect on the world around us and the experiences we face, challenges suddenly become a learning tool, rather than an opportunity to dwell in self-pity, sadness or worry.  When something challenging happens, truly step back and take the opportunity to explore that experience in a completely different light. Acknowledge how the situation is making you feel, and explore how those feelings are showing you or teaching you something. I truly believe, every experience is sent to teach us something, that in itself, helps me embrace both the good and the moments that take a little more insight to accept.

Create a positive vision board or personal journal – Positive thought needs to be backed up with positive action. During quiet times I like to write down in a journal what I want to achieve in my life or where I see myself in the next 12 months. This applies to personal goals, emotional well-being, career path and family life. For me, writing it down actually reinforces it my mind. I am putting out to the universe through my thoughts and actions, of where I want my life to be heading. In my office I have a vision board, on it I have pinned various photographs, magazine cuttings and sentences or words. Each give me inspiration every time I look at them, reminding me of the things that make me happy and keep me motivated. I change it every 6-12 months.

Embrace the silence – In the west in general, we find it exceptionally difficult to embrace silence. To simply be present in pure wholeness, with no noise, no distractions and no interruptions that are constantly demanding our attention. To just simply sit, and be comfortable with the healing light of ‘nothingness’, is actually one of the most positive actions you can honour yourself with, every day. Stillness forces us to be comfortable with ourselves in our truest form. It enables us to be present in the moment, with everything else stripped away, things that usually pull us in every direction. Stillness, invites you to truly discover yourself, including your thought patterns and subsequent emotions. If you find silence too overwhelming to begin with, you may find your mind chattering away too much (which is fine by the way), then try listening to a short 10 minute meditation for positive thought. There are many on Youtube, or various mindfulness websites. Try and do this at least twice a day, preferably in the morning and in the evening. Learning techniques that will help you to tap into your deeper nature and explore the reasons behind your thoughts, will help you to gradually view them in a more productive light.                     

If you have enjoyed this post you may also enjoy ’11 things to give up to step closer to happiness’. 

10 Tips on Healing – A Holistic Healers Approach

healing 1“The pain you feel today, is the strength you feel tomorrow” – unknown 

Healing is a very personal process,  acknowledging that we are wholeheartedly in control of our own individual healing journey can be a frightening and difficult concept to grasp, especially if we have undergone something quite traumatic and sad. In time however, If we are able to do this, we are often in a better position to regain a little control and understanding of this deep process.   Healing starts from our thoughts, actions and how we honour our own needs during times of pain.

As a qualified healer and spa owner, I welcome people onto my treatment couch daily, many of whom are amidst their own personal turmoil and walking tenderly on their own healing journey.  Every time, without fail, I want to make things better for them. But one of the most important lesson I learned early on in my career, is that, as a healer you have to accept and honour the fact that you cannot control someone’s own healing process, you cannot heal them, they have to walk the healing path themselves. Each individual will heal when they are good and ready to, and when they have learned what ever it is they needed to through the whole experience they have faced. All you can do is support them during the time they are in your treatment room. Providing them with a safe and secure space to relax, breathe and maybe let go a little.

I like any other person, I have undergone periods of deep healing. I have been the victim of  domestic violence in a dark controlled relationship, lost loved ones to terminal illnesses and had moments in my life, where I have truly struggled to regain just some element of normality.  When I look back I realise I needed to experience such deep, uncontrollable pain, to enable me to empathise with others, in my new healing role. I believe a healer that has walked a deeply healing path themselves, is one that can share elements of wisdom that they have gained from their own healing process.

Do not force the healing process, healing takes time – Healing is a deeply personal experience, every person and every event is different. Do not rush your healing journey, it doesn’t matter if it takes weeks, months or years. Only you will know when you have truly healed, and only you can decide when this happens.   When we are consumed with fear and worry, we tend to run scenarios in our heads of how life is going to turn out. This actually just increases our fear and worry. Try and take each hour and day as it comes, live fully in the present moment, not the past or the future. When we successfully manage to get through that hour, and then that day, slowly little by little, we can start to release some of the pressure and control that we are unwillingly placing on ourselves. Healing takes time, honour that process wholeheartedly by taking baby steps every day.

Embrace the pain, do not fight it – to really work through something we need to feel it fully. Breaking down into a sobbing bundle of tears, is sometimes what we need to do to work through our feelings of sadness and grief. I remember when I lost a dear loved one three years ago, I literally walked around in a blur of sadness and tears for weeks afterwards. I honestly felt completely numb, like a part of me had actually died with that person. I couldn’t function properly at’ll, it was as if I was on auto pilot, and I didn’t care about anything in this world apart from this huge hole that was suddenly in my heart. People told me that in time it would get better, but I didn’t want to hear that, I didn’t think they could possibly know how I was feeling. Of course in time it did get better, but I needed to fully feel the pain I was experiencing for myself, I needed to allow every inch of my mind and body to wallow deep within it’s sadness, to finally enable me to work through it, slowly one day at a time.

Bathe in or diffuse essential oils in your home – as a holistic healer, I have had the pleasure of witnessing over the past 15 years, the incredible power that essential oils can play during someone’s healing process. Many scientific studies have now proven that essential oils can actually make both emotional and biological changes to the human body.  Essential oils can effect brain chemicals, which in turn can promote feelings of peace and relaxation.    I have actually recently devised a skincare range (which is launching later this year), that has been 100% inspired by my clients, people I have had the pleasure of supporting through their own healing process.  My favourite oils to use to enhance relaxation and promote feelings of calm are Vetiver, lavender, geranium, jasmine, orange, benzoin and bergamot. (Please always check you are able to use any of these oils topically prior to use).  You can purchase many pre blended bath oils too, I love Aromatherapy Associates range.

Quieten the mind to allow the body to start to heal – Meditation is a hugely powerful tool when it comes to supporting your own healing process. When our mind is a whirlwind of turmoil and sadness, we are constantly preventing our physical body from slipping into repair and renewal mode. Try and allow yourself just 10 mins of ‘quite time’ every morning and evening. Many studies have shown that meditation actually helps treat depression and anxiety, as well as boosting your immune system.

Get out amongst nature, particularly trees! – Nature cleanses our aura and helps to balance our own harmonic energy field . Taking ourselves outside amongst trees, grass, foliage and nature provides us with a sense of oneness and can instantly promote feelings of calm and healing.  I live right near Greenwich Park, and despite my busy schedule I always try to make sure I have periods of time in the park throughout my week. I personally find it refreshing, calming and it really does give me a sense of reconnection during times of uncertainty.

Affirmations and positive thought – Some of my clients have found the use of affirmations particularly helpful during times of stress.  When I first bought my spa, and we thought we were about to lose everything due to the economic turn-down, including the business and our home,I had a little sign that I put in my office that read “My income is constantly increasing”. Despite how bad it got (sleepless nights on a friends floor as I couldn’t afford the petrol costs to get me home), every time I read that sign it gave me a point of focus and hope.  It drew my sometimes negative mind, back to something positive and gave me a sense of direction.  I also found this scroll written by the Dalai Lama in a shop during the same period it my life (see picture below), it still hangs in my office to this day. A constant reminder that life can be a struggle, but we should never give up.   Occasionally turning our mind to a positive thought, even for just a moment, can help give us a little hope and clarity on our onward journey.

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Tap into the healing power of music – This is something that purely works for me, so I wished to share it in case it works for someone else.  I find music deeply healing.  Sometimes, when I am overcome with grief, doubt or sadness I will listen to some classical, or deeply moving music. I become completely engulfed in everything about it, every note and every chord.  I am still, I am quiet and I just simply listen, allowing the thoughts to come and go in perfect synergy with the piece I am at one with.  It maybe that upbeat music works for you in this way, give it a go and see if you experience any emotional connection or benefit.

Go and book a massage – Massage is clinically proven to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and increase the mood enhancing hormone serotonin, it also lowers blood pressure and induces a deep sense of relaxation. Many massage therapists are also natural healers, much like some nurses. In my experience, the aura’s of massage therapists are often various shades of blue and turquoise, a healing shade. If you have never had a massage before, ask around for a good, reputable therapist and go and get a treatment booked. Massage is a fantastic way to treat depression and anxiety, and many of my clients over the years have found it exceptionally beneficial to experience a treatment during times of stress.   When cortisol levels are lowered in our bodies, we are able to repair and renew more effectively.

Tap into the healing energy of crystals – As a holistic healer, I am open to the healing benefits of many things, yoga, therapies, food, meditation and also crystals, to name just a few.  It is my belief that everything is energy, and therefore crystals have their own harmonic frequency, just as we do. Many crystals vibrate with a healing energy. There are some fantastic online crystal stores out there, or you can go and visit a qualified crystal healer.  It’s believed when certain crystals are placed on various corresponding points of the body or Chakras, (the energy centres of the body), they in turn can promote a deep sense of healing and overall balance.  This is now a widely accepted therapy found in many high street and larger corporate spas around the world.

Be safe in the knowledge you grow from every negative experience – In my twenties I used to often take the ‘why me’ approach to the challenges of life. Further along my own spiritual journey, now in my late thirties, I no longer have that out look on life. Life is simply that, life. From the day we are born, we aren’t given any guarantees that we won’t ever experience pain, loss or unhappiness. In fact, lets be honest,  it is more of a guarantee that you will experience all of these things at some point on this earth. We all do, every single one of us.  Now instead, with every challenge or period of sadness sent my way, I have been taught by my own spiritual tutor, to go inward, to explore those feelings deeply and thoroughly, and live in the knowledge that in time, through the tears, frustration and unhappiness, I will gain a new wisdom and an inner strength, that maybe in time, will possibly help someone else along their own healing path.

The Noble Art of Wise Selfishness

RelaxBeside the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone” –  Lin Yutang

I have always been a bit of a grafter. I grew up in a typical working class family in the 70’s and 80’s. My father worked long hours, travelling around the country whilst my mother stayed at home and looked after myself and my sister. From a very young age it was installed in me, that if I wanted to achieve in life, then I had to be prepared to work hard and keep focussed.

At fifteen I had not one, but two jobs. On Saturdays I would work at my local hair and beauty salon, washing clients hair and keeping the salon tidy. On Sundays I got up even earlier and worked at a cafe at my local airport, flipping burgers and making salads. Every Sunday evening I would come home reeking of chip pan fat, and my mum would literally dunk me in the bath as soon as I stepped through the front door.  Some of my friends thought I was crazy, they were always out having fun, shopping, partying and enjoying themselves. But many of them were very fortunate in the fact their parents could afford to buy them the latest trainers or mobile phone.  They didn’t need to ask if they could be treated to a ticket for the latest party or to get ‘that’ dress.  My parents were in a very different position, money was frugal and It was apparent from my early teens,  if I really wanted something, then ‘I’ needed to work for it myself.

This work ethic has stayed with me ever since, and I believe it gave me great grounding in appreciating the value of money from a fairly young age.

In 2008 I left my very secure and well paid job in London to embark on a new business venture. I had trained as a therapist many years before and my dream had always been to have my own spa.  I had found a wonderful little beauty business in Kent, it was a little run down, and I could see it needed a lot of love and attention to bring it back to life, but I knew the potential was there, and I was prepared to work hard to achieve what was effectively my dream job.

Unfortunately soon after acquisition of the business, partly due to my naivety of the legalities and risks of buying an ongoing concern, but also partly due to my trust in others,  a series of events propelled me into two years of what I can only describe as hell on earth.

Shortly after we opened the business we discovered the previous owner had been less than honest about the accounts, the business wasn’t turning over anywhere near what she had declared and the first six months saw the bailiffs knocking on our door almost every week looking to take our equipment in lieu of the money she owed.  To add to that, the staff we had inherited were somewhat problematic, to say the least.  One was exceptionally volatile and another turned out to be a thief.  A third stayed with us for a few months, listened intently to the vision we had for our spa, only to leave to open up a new salon down the road trying to emulate everything we had planned for our own spa, from its theme, to its decor and treatments. To add insult to injury, she also helped herself to our ‘confidential’ client details before she left, and then promptly starting calling our clients offering to do our treatments at half price from her new premises.  The whole event left me feeling very hurt, angry and in truth, a little in despair. I honestly felt I had treated all my staff with fairness, kindness and compassion, and I was finding it so difficult not to take the whole experience personally.  Three months later, to add an extra element of challenge to an already very challenging situation, the worst recession the world has ever seen hit the UK.

I was suddenly working an average 80-90 hour’s per week, and I wasn’t taking a penny from the business. I suddenly had a mound of bills to pay, the salaries of my staff, plus my bills at home and I wasn’t earning a penny. I felt I had been cheated by certain people and was angry at my own naivety of giving up a well paid job, only to find myself struggling day-to-day, with the awful possibility that I could ultimately lose my house and everything else I had worked so hard for.

I honestly couldn’t see a way out. I was seeing clients every waking hour, because I felt I had no other choice and most mornings I was in the office at 5am and wasn’t leaving until gone 10pm, to ensure all the admin and behind the scenes work was being done on time.  On top of this I had a long commute from my spa back to London, plus I still had a house to keep clean and a family to care for. I was too tired to do anything, and I mean anything. Sometimes I was honestly to tired to even eat.  I couldn’t afford to go out, and even if I could I was too tired to string a sentence together. My husband lost count of the amount of times he found me asleep in my coat in various positions around the house, where I had literally walked in and collapsed in a heap of exhaustion. The sleepless nights were plenty, I was beyond stressed, and I wasn’t doing anything but spa work, house work, and sleeping. Life had suddenly become truly miserable and I felt as if I was putting everything and everyone before my own needs. In short my business was controlling my life. I felt guilty that I wasn’t seeing my friends or family and guilty if I wanted to go home early from work, as I felt my staff really needed my support and encouragement.

This continued for 2 years, the struggling economy wasn’t making things easy and finally my body started to show signs of fatigue. My back ached constantly, my asthma was more irritable than ever and I suddenly developed facial eczema like never before.  I was so exhausted, I was literally running on air. The balance of a working life and home life that I had once found so easy to maintain, had suddenly vanished into a blur of non-existence.

The fact is you don’t need to own your own business to find yourself in a similar position. We live in a society that places so much emphasis on material gain, and a successful career and family life.  So many of us often feel ‘inadequate’ if we can’t juggle our family relationships and our working life in perfect synergy. We are constantly on the go, constantly striving to achieve the next best thing, wondering if the grass is really greener on the other side. We pack out diaries full of social events, working events, our children’s events, family events…. the list is endless.  Many of us feel guilty if we don’t place the need of those around us, before the needs of ourselves.

Obviously, I couldn’t continue the way I was, and eventually, following a rather ordinary  sneeze, I found myself flat on my back with two bulging discs sticking out of my vertebrae. I literally couldn’t move an inch without an excruciating amount of pain and discomfort. My body had literally forced me to stop.

I stayed like that for 3 weeks solid, feeling immensely sorry for myself and beyond frustrated.  I felt as if I wasn’t in ‘control’ of anything. By the third week of activity ‘lock down’ something began to change.   Despite me not being at my spa, it was becoming apparent that my staff weren’t going into melt down as I had feared, and despite me not being able to do treatments, our clients did not stop coming to spend money with us.  At home, although I wasn’t physically able to whiz the Hoover frantically around the house every two minutes, or do the washing up or feed the husband (or the cat for that matter), I wasn’t finding myself living in a complete and utter mess and the RSPCA weren’t repeatedly knocking on my door asking questions about a rather skinny looking cat.  Despite me being completely bed bound and unable to control anything, the world as I knew it, still happily continued to tick along nicely around me.

What my temporary condition did, was pull my ego into check by showing me that every time I insisted I needed to be ‘doing’ something or controlling something, that this was in fact a state of mind.  I was utterly convincing myself that I needed to do everything when I wanted to or felt obliged to, because if I didn’t, in my little head life would never get better.  I felt the need to control, in order to control everything in the here and now, believing that in turn, I could in fact control the outcome.  It was ‘me’ that was in fact putting everyone’s needs before my own, not the other way round.

A few weeks later, I was fortunate enough to go and see his Holiness the Dalia Lama speak in London. The whole experience was inspiring, enlightening and even quite emotional. During his presentation he spoke of the noble art of what he called ‘wise selfishness’. The art of taking care of oneself on a physical, emotional and spiritual level as primary importance.  He advised when doing this and doing it well, you are then in a much better position to take care of others.  He spoke of many rich and powerful friends of his, that had on many occasions actually confessed to him that they were very unhappy and incredibly stressed. They had placed so much attention on material gain and financial success, that they now found themselves in a bubble of unhappiness and worry.   As I sat there and listened I honestly felt as if he was talking to me in person. With every softly spoken word, I felt a lump of emotion start to well up in my throat. I was kicking myself that I had been so stupid to have lost sight of what was really important in life. The penny had finally dropped, and it had fallen from an almighty height.

Dalai Lama quote

What it taught me was, that I needed to have structured time throughout my week, year and life for me. I needed to stop feeling guilty about wanting to have time to indulge in things that had once made me happy. I needed to stop focussing so much time on worrying about the financial success of my business, and learn to let go of the control a little.  I needed to start treating myself as I would my own best friend and honour myself with the love and compassion I actually deserved.

Three years on my life has more balance, my business is thriving and most of all I am much happier. All thanks to a set of rules I slowly implemented to help me maintain that balance in life I so desperately needed.

Don’t be available 24/7 – I now have a rule, after a certain time in the evening I don’t answer my phone, unless I am expecting a call. All my friends and family know the best times to call me, and it gives me some much-needed time to wind down after a long day at work. My staff knows not to texted or call me on my day off, unless it is really urgent. They respect I need time away from work just as they do.

Switch the Computer off by 7pm – Back then I would often find myself bleary-eyed, tapping away on my laptop until gone midnight. Now I have a rule that the laptop is switched off at 7pm. That way I’m not tempted to work for just another few minutes, which would often end up as hours. With the computer off I often find I will end up listening to music or reading a book instead. The things I used to love doing until the new age world of computers took over life.

Meditate – I now meditate every single day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes in the morning and evening. It helps me focus in the morning with a calm mind, and sets me up well for the day and in the evening it helps me let go of all the hustle and bustle or stress of the previous few hours. This alone has made a huge difference in my life and my stress levels. Meditation helps put life back into perspective.

Exercise – I try to exercise three times a week, even if it’s just for 30 mins.  I do some yoga, or take the bike out or I go for a walk. You don’t need to be a member of a gym to do this, be creative and try to get your family or partner to join you. It can be a fantastic way of relaxing together and will help you sleep better at night.

Indulge in the pleasures in life and savour the moment – I used to feel so guilty about spending money when I didn’t have any. But small pleasures in life really don’t have to cost a lot and when you are working really hard, every day, you do need to reward yourself occasionally and not feel guilty about it.  I love going to the super market and purchasing a lovely treat for dinner, or taking the train up to London and walking along the Thames in the sunshine.  Buy yourself a magazine and savour some time in the garden reading in the quiet or go to the local park and lay on the grass in bare feet and breathe in the fresh air.

Have structured time with family & friends – Life can so often get in the way of life, and many of my friends and family often say they wished had more quality time with the ones they love. Make structured time to see your friends and family, but don’t book so many social events in one week that you then feel overwhelmed. Remember, this time should be time for you, as well as those you are with to relax and rejuvenate. I have a large wall calendar in my offices at the spa and at home. This enables me to see my month ahead laid out as a whole, with all my commitments written in large red pen. This may seem a little controlled for some, but it helps me ensure I have quality time with everyone, plus my me time, rather than cramming my weeks with lots of events, to only feels exhausted by the end of it with no rejuvenation time before the next month starts all over again.

Be silent – Our life is crammed packed with noise, televisions, radios, social media, phones…. the list is endless. With these constant distractions forever interrupting our daily living, sometimes just enjoying the peace of stillness is incredibly soothing and calming to the soul.

Remember what you loved doing as a child and re-embrace it with adult eyes – As a kid I loved to draw and write, I could literally lock myself away in my bedroom and sketch for hours or write a twenty page story about something that was incredibly exciting for an 11-year-old.   As I got older, adult life and it’s responsibilities took over and sadly I lost those passions. Last year I decided to try to reignite the flame, so I started this blog and purchased a new sketch pad.  I can now again write for hours, and I find it truly relaxing and enjoyable.  My husband loved swimming as a child, and recently he joined our local pool, he readily admits he wished he had done it sooner.  So often we lose sight of the joy we found in simple things in our childhood, and making the effort to reconnect with those activities can highlight those pleasures again.

Honour your body – I learned very early on that as amazing as the human body is, it needs to be looked after.  We will often offer the advice to others that they need to ‘slow down’ or ‘take better care of themselves’ but how often do we follow that same advice ourselves?  Eat well, take some vitamins and ensure you get plenty of uninterrupted rest.  Go to bed when you are tired, don’t force yourself to stay up to watch television. When you experience tiredness your body is letting you know it needs sleep to help restore energy and renew essential cells.

Be honest with yourself or your boss – If like me you find your work is taking over your life, you really need to regain some balance and remind yourself  that no job is worth being ill over.  I of all people understand that sometimes you need to work harder than the regular 9-5pm, but you can’t sustain this for long periods of time.  Stress causes high blood pressure and places a huge amount of pressure on the bodies systems, it can even lead to strokes or heart attacks. When work starts effecting your physical or mental health, it’s time to evaluate what is more important to you, keeping your boss happy or potentially ending up in hospital very sick?  Be honest with your boss if you start to find things too over whelming, take the courage to admit you need some help. Struggling along in silence will just cause you even more stress, angst and unhappiness.

Remind yourself money isn’t the key to happiness – A recent scientific study has shown that 3-5 months after lottery winners have collected their winnings, they are on average only 5% happier than they were prior to receiving the money, despite whatever their previous circumstances were.  I find this truly fascinating, because although I don’t believe material gain is the key to happiness,  I am sure the majority of my friends and family would all agree they would envisage themselves being happier with a little more money, as this would surely take some of financial pressure of everyday ‘living’?  Which reminds me of the Dalia Lama’s tale of his financially successful friends being some of his unhappiest friends. I now invite you to re-read the previous chapter on being honest with your boss.

Don’t feel guilty about saying no – This was a biggie for me. I like to help people in any way I can, I don’t do it because I think it makes me a better person, I do it because it makes me happy. What I learned when I opened my business, is that I didn’t have the same amount of free time that I did prior to having it.  So although in the beginning I still did all the little errands and favours I had always done, those, on top of the increased hours at the spa started to take a toll on my body.   I had to learn to have the courage to be honest and admit I just couldn’t do everything any more.  I had to acknowledge, times had changed and I simply didn’t have as much time.  In short, I had to learn to say no and without feeling guilty about it. Which of course is exactly how I felt after the first ‘no’.  In time I started to realise that those that mattered understood, and those that didn’t, well they probably didn’t matter as much as I thought they had.

So the next time you are feeling unhappy, stressed, under extreme pressure or just simply exhausted, ask yourself, like I did three years ago,  is it time to evaluate where your life is at? Is it telling you, that you too need to start studying the art of wise selfishness?

11 things to give up to step closer to happiness

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”  Dalai Lama

For me happiness is a state of mind, reflected by our actions and how we interact with the ones we love and the world around us. Happiness isn’t something that is given to us, it’s a state of being that comes deep from within. If we took more time to be mindful of our daily thoughts and actions, happiness naturally follows.

Give up the need to control other people’s thoughts and actions – This is probably the hardest, yet most valuable lesson I have learnt in my 38 years.  Often we get angry or upset by the way others may act or behave. The fact is, as much as we may disagree or frown upon these thoughts or actions, we have to come to realise and accept they aren’t our own thoughts or actions, and therefore we cannot control them.  The more you try to control a situation by thinking people should behave as you do, the more frustration you will experience when this doesn’t actually happen. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with every given situation, it just means you should just endeavour to accept that the situation is out of your control and learn to be comfortable with the fact that not everyone is currently in the same ‘space’ as you are.

Give up the need to always be right – What is wrong or what is right? In truth nothing is wrong or right, it just is.  Of course you are entitled to your opinions, but they are simply that, opinions.

Give up blaming others – Stop pointing blame at others for what you do or don’t have, or for how you may or may not feel. You are the one that’s in control of your feelings and how you react to others opinions or behaviour. The moment you start pointing blame at someone else, you are giving away your power.

Give up complaining – I love this one, because it really does work. The moment you make a conscious effort to stop complaining about everything in life that you are unhappy with, people, situations, your job, your family, your finances and instead make a conscious effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you give power to the positivity in your life.  Remember where intention goes, energy flows.

Stop hanging around with people who do not serve you well – We have all had partners, friends or colleagues that have zapped our energy, or have not treated us in a way we would treat them, and this is fine, remember it’s all part of the journey of life. If everyone was kind to us all of the time, what would we learn about the true value of friendship or happiness? Just be mindful of the fact that it is our own choice to decide who we should interact with for any length of time or on a regular basis.  Our own energetic field is directly effected by the energy patterns of the five people we spend the most time with, so look at your colleagues and your friends. Do they always complain, are they constantly sick or unhappy, expressing negative view points or always in conflict with someone?  Make a conscious effort where ever possible to surround yourself with open-hearted, generous, positive and loving people who genuinely have your best interests at heart. It is very difficult to remain positive and happy yourself if you are constantly surrounded by people that do not have these traits.

Give up any feelings of anger when someone is unkind to you –  Instead open your heart and show them more love. When someone is unkind to you, or tries to control a given situation, that person is actually hurting themselves, that is the message they are sending you. So instead of retaliating back with harsh words or negative emotions, show them love and compassion. Remember, harsh words will only return to you at some point, so if you are finding it challenging to project love directly towards them, silence is sometimes the best answer.

Whenever someone is unkind or unpleasant to me, I will make a conscious effort to meditate on those feelings at the end of the day.  I try to imagine the person involved standing in front of me, and whilst I explore my feelings of hurt or anger, I consciously surround them with bright pink loving light, and project genuine feelings of warmth and love towards them.  We have to remember, at some point in our lives we have been that person being unkind to someone else. We have all been in an insecure space, and felt the need to control.  Steer clear of knee jerk reactions, as these just tend to scream negativity and anger, no matter how you word them and they do not serve you well.   Remembering this, rather than allowing someone’s negativity to hurt you, take time to digest and process, and then reflect it back with love.

Give up making excuses – Excuses do not serve you, they only limit what you could possibly achieve.  I truly believe that we are what we think, and if we constantly place barriers in our mind of why something cannot happen, then it won’t. The moment we free ourselves of excuses and limitations, magical things can happen.

Give up judging others – When you have judgements about someone, you are saying more about yourself than about the person you are judging. When you place labels on another person, or have a negative opinion of someone when you do not really know them deeply, or the situation they may be in at that time, then you yourself are not acting in a compassionate way.

Give up on thinking everyone should like you – This beautiful planet is full of billions of people, all of whom come from different cultures, stretching to different corners of the globe. We have different belief systems, different likes and dislikes. We are all on our own personal journey of life, fulfilling what ever it is that we need to be experiencing this time around. Once we learn to accept that out of all those billions of people, some will resonate with us, and some won’t, it’s easier to make friends and not take things so personally when a relationship doesn’t end or pan out as we had hoped.

Most people would agree that during you’re lifetime you will have a handful of true friends, some people will come and go, some will be around for a short space of time, and then there are others that will be around forever.

True friends are the kind of people who are with you through thick and thin, ones that have seen you at your best and at your worst. They don’t mind when you make mistakes, because they love you for who you are, including all your good points and all your challenging ones.  True friends talk things through, respect you have differences and love you wholeheartedly, as you are, no matter what.  They don’t get defensive or point the finger, they simply flow as you flow on the wave of life.  You share a mutual trust, a respect and a complete understanding of one another. When you have this kind of friendship, I believe it is because energetically and spiritually you complement one another, two souls on a similar spiritual journey. In 38 years I can count these type of friends on just one hand, all have been in my life for 15 years or more and I feel truly blessed to know every single one of them.

For all the others that come and go, be thankful for the teaching they have brought you,  remember at the point in your lives that you knew one another, you served each other well. Do not hold on to feelings of sadness or regret if a relationship didn’t turn out as you had hoped, or you drifted apart, every relationship we experience starts and ends at it should, in order for our soul to learn and evolve. All relationships are a blessing of some sort.

Give up the need to impress others – When you feel the need to impress others, you are in fact doing nothing more than feeding your own ego. Of course it is lovely to receive positive comments or complements, and there is nothing wrong with this, but the moment you start doing things purely to ‘impress’ someone else rather than to solely make yourself happy, you are losing sight of an important lesson.

Give up the ‘I’ and replace with ‘we’ – Almost twelve years ago I began one on one spiritual studies with Buddhist tutor and Shamanic Healer, the most important lesson she has taught me in all those years is to replace thoughts of ‘Me’ and ‘I’ with ‘We’ and ‘Us’.  I can wholeheartedly say, making a daily conscious effort to remind myself that life isn’t all about me, my wants and my needs, but in fact about living in unison with everyone else on this planet and wanting the best for everyone I come into contact with, has truly changed my life.

So often in life our own insecurities and expectations of what we should own and have, prevents us from living in compassion and walking with a truly open heart.  We feel threatened or jealous of others, we may envy what they have, or long for their success. We may not want to share something that we feel is important to us, because we feel it may take away an element of our ‘success’, or de-value our own achievements.  We constantly compare, analyse and strive to do better than our counterparts in order for us to feel ‘successful’ or ‘happy’. But when we actually adapt our focus and our efforts away from ourselves, and away from what we have achieved or done, replacing our needs with others needs, happiness naturally follows.

When we help someone else feel happiness, it in turn reflects an element of happiness back at us. This can often take time and effort, and for some people it doesn’t come naturally, but it isn’t impossible to achieve, and when you finally get into the habit of doing it regularly and with an open heart, it becomes more and more your natural state of being. The gentle flow of happiness it ultimately brings, will only then truly enhance your life experience and how you value who your are and your role within your world.

Stop Worrying About What People Think Of You

“What other people think of me is none of my business.” ~Wayne Dyer

2012 started with a great deal of reflection for me. This is the year I have decided I am going to find more of a work and life balance, as well as concentrate wholeheartedly on the people who love me for me.  Even with all my quirkiness, faults and flaws.

I have contemplated writing this post for some time, mainly because it’s content is drawn from the experience of someone not liking a piece that I previously wrote on another blog. On reflection, I have decided the whole experience taught me much, and in sharing what I have learned from the experience, may help someone else deal with negativity shown from others and understand how peoples insecurities can in fact effect their actions.

Some years ago I opened a salon in North Kent, and before I launched the new business I imparted much time and effort into researching what all the other beauty businesses around me already offered.  During this same period I was under taking sessions with a salon business coach.  She was just fabulous. Janice had over 25 years experience in the industry, she was knowledgable, confident and knew a great deal about promoting and growing new businesses within my sector.  During my spare time I was writing a blog, a blog which was connected to my mobile beauty business.  It was just made up of mindless chit chat, my thoughts and details of the services I offered.  Without my knowledge, my business coach had read my blog and during my next session with her, she had mentioned how she thought I had a talent for writing and that she felt I should utilise this talent to support and help expand the new business.

So over the next few weeks I started to write more regular posts, and to my surprise more and more people started reading my blog.  About two months before my new salon was due to open, Janice told me to write a blog post focusing on what the new salon would be offering.  Most importantly she wanted me to focus on what made my new salon different to all the others that were already established businesses. She advised me to be honest, not airy fairy and to say exactly why I had chosen the theme I had and why I had selected certain the products over others. In short she was telling me to shout about my USP, making it clear what made us different.

I thought long and hard about this, and decided what made my salon unique, was it’s very holistic approach, coupled with the fact I had tried to source products and services that no other salons in the area offered.  Over ten beauty establishment within a 5 mile radius of our new salon, offered the exact same product line.  Purposely selecting a different product brand from everyone else, in fact made our services very different from the offset.

A few days later I wrote my post.  I did exactly what Janice had told me to do, and asked her to read it before it was published. I purposely hadn’t mentioned any other businesses (there were many beauty establishments close by), but had basically highlighted what was already on offer on the High Street in the UK and what made us so different.  Janice was delighted with the post.  She told me it was informative, professional and did in fact reflect exactly what most salons already offered in the UK and what made us unique.

About three months later, I logged onto my computer to be met with an email from an anonymous person who had quite clearly read the post in question. I can only describe the email as a total angry rant.  I was astounded. From what I could establish the lady concerned owned a beauty business nearby and for whatever reason, she had read my post and decided, I had nothing better to do with my time, then write the entire piece with the intention of taking a personal swipe against her.  In truth, I was completely amazed.

I forwarded the rather unpleasant email to Janice, as I was truly confused how this lady could have come to the exact conclusion that she had. Janice’s reply read simply this…

“As and when you become more successful in life, certain people will start to pay more attention to what you do and say. Unfortunately some of those will spend more of their energy dissecting your thoughts and actions, than they will their own” 

It all became clear.  The poor woman in question, had such insecurities of her own, that she had read the post and truly believed the entire piece was directed at her.  In turn this had made her angry as she was of the opinion that the thoughts, actions or decisions of others, could directly or indirectly effect her business. Let’s be honest, some time in our lives, we have all been there.  We have found ourselves feeling insecure enough to be subject to that very uncomfortable, is he or she talking about me moment?  We may have overheard a conversation, or read something on a social networking site and for a split second wondered, is that directed at me?

At this point, I actually felt a little sorry for her.  She obviously didn’t know anything about me, and to actually think someone would go out of their way to publicly try and bad mouth one of their competitors, on the internet, for all and sundry to read, (which is basically what she was accusing me of), is a sure stark way for your business to fail from the offset. It isn’t rocket science after all.

This event propelled me into reflecting on the subject of peoples insecurities, and how in turn insecurities can effect the judgement’s that we make about others.   I have previously written posts on how judging another, is actually more of a reflection of ones self, than it is of the person you are judging. There is that old saying, when you point your finger at someone, there are always three fingers pointing back at you.

The fact is, most people that aren’t within our own social circles, aren’t paying us that much attention. They have enough going on within their own lives to be worrying about what we are doing.  And secondly, those who are paying us attention, and are then subsequently judging or speaking badly about us, aren’t the kind of people you want to be around you anyway.  It’s usually their own insecurities or feelings of jealously that causes them to monitor, dissect and judge your actions in the first place.  The issue is in their head or heart, not yours.

We are social creatures, and our need to socialise and be popular with others is deeply rooted within our make up.  We constantly seek love and approval, even if we don’t realise we are doing it. It’s simply a natural human trait.

In my twenties, I was the kind of person who wanted to be liked.  I absolutely hated it if someone didn’t ‘understand me’ or thought I was something I wasn’t. Spending this amount of energy worrying about their opinions of me was in fact a total waste of time. In my thirties, I learned the only opinions that really count, are those of the people that love and care about me for who I really am.

I am not perfect by any means, but I do always try and walk with an open and compassionate heart, however when I find myself on the receiving end of someones unfair judgements, I will endeavour to bless that person on their journey and continue on with mine. There is never any point dwelling on those judgements, those judgements are there in the first place because the other person involved isn’t able to open their heart a little further, and show a little compassion or a better understanding of the given situation.   I will  no longer allow someones misguided thoughts and opinions to effect me in a negative way. In short,  I no longer possess the need to be liked by someone who clearly judges or doesn’t like me.

As we walk through this journey of life, not everyone is always going to like you, and that’s O.K.  In truth, if you look at the bigger picture, does it really matter?  Stop paying attention to the thoughts in your head that people may be talking about you, or judging you, they probably aren’t, and if they are, simply try your hardest to make it your intention not to judge them back.

People will be brought to us during this life time to teach us lessons, the negative or judgmental people can in fact be our greatest teachers.

Mindful Tips On Complaining Compassionately.

“Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.” ~ Proverb

For literally all of my working life I have been in a public service job of some description or another. As a teen I sold shoes in a shoe shop, then in my early twenties I joined the police force. After that, a rather dramatic career change saw me train as a professional healer and therapist, eventually going on to purchase my own spa . In every single one of those jobs, I have had experience of people complaining.  It is a natural thing that every human being does, even if we are super happy and very positive people, we still find ourselves complaining about something now and again.

We generally complain because our expectations of something haven’t been met (either a services hasn’t been provided how we would have liked) or some form of interaction with another human being has caused us to be irritated or unhappy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people should never complain, sometimes complaints are very valid, and a necessary means of getting a certain view-point across. If you are on the receiving end of a complaint, it can also be an opportunity to acknowledge how you could have done things better or handled things differently. Sometimes negative feedback can actually make you more mindful or even aware of how your actions have effected others.  None of us are perfect, and sometimes we do make mistakes and fall short of what is expected of us. Just remember to try to always use the experience as an opportunity to grow or reflect positively on the situation.

In my experience in life, I have found many people either complain too much (almost like it is a habit) and many people don’t know how to complain in a way that is assertive yet polite and compassionate.

Many years ago when I owned a tiny little salon in North Kent, a customer had come in to have her nails done by one of my young, but very talented nail technicians.  She had been to me previously for a massage treatment, suffering with a painfully constricted shoulder. During this treatment it was evident that she had compacted muscles tissue, from a long-standing injury. A much deeper massage was required to help release this and for her to feel some benefits.  It was explained to her prior to a deeper pressure being applied that she would possibly suffer with tenderness of the effected area and that it may feel as if it was slightly bruised after the treatment (this is very common following deep tissue and sports massage techniques).  She said she completed understood this and was happy to go ahead with the treatment.

When she sat down to have her nails done a week or so later, she announced to my therapist that she had just been ‘up the road’ to another salon to have her toes painted and that she hadn’t been happy with the service.  She then asked my nail technician to match the shade of pink that they had applied to her toes to her fingers.  Michelle, my therapist explained that she wouldn’t be able to provide an exact match of colour, as the products that the salon up the road used, were different to the polishes that we used in our salon. She did however assure her that she would do her best to get a similar colour, so she would hopefully be happy.

Despite my therapist’s efforts to continue to be bright, cheery and professional, this lady then spent a very long 40 mins complaining about everything.  She went on and on about how staff up the road were rude, uninterested and unprofessional. She also made a point of mentioning how she had experienced a feeling of being bruised, following her massage with me, and how her chiropractor had informed her this wasn’t the norm (clearly a chiropractor that has no knowledge in the physical effects of sports massage). She grumbled, she whinged and she moaned wholeheartedly throughout her treatment. It was becoming increasingly obvious that she was having problems with focusing on any of the positive things she had experienced in her day or week, and simply felt more at ease about telling Michelle of all the things that were wrong in her life. Michelle, tried to reassure her that it was very common to feel tenderness following a deep tissue massage, but she wasn’t having any of it. She refused to listen to the professional advice she was being given, convincing herself, only she knew best.

After Michelle was finished, she asked her client happily if she liked her nails. This lady, lets call her Brenda, looked down at her fingers and pulled a rather dissatisfied face, saying nothing. In order to try to reassure Brenda that although her nails may not have been the exact match to her toes that she had wanted, Michelle still thought ‘they looked pretty’. It was at this moment we saw dear Brenda in her full crescendo of unhappiness. She literally took the roof off with her rants of how she didn’t expect to be told when her nails looked nice, how unhappy she was with the colour and how they clearly weren’t an exact match to the colour of her toe nails.

She was rude, aggressive, sarcastic and quite frankly, highly unpleasant to poor Michelle.  Technically, the nails were polished to perfection, she just simply didn’t like the colour (a colour which she had selected herself).  Poor Michelle was devastated.  She immediately said she was sorry that she didn’t like them, and offered to re-paint them there and then. No Brenda wasn’t happy with this.  So she then told Brenda the treatment would be free, as she was unhappy, it was salon policy she didn’t have to pay. No Brenda wasn’t happy with this either.  The more Michelle tried to do something to make the customer happy, the more she continued to become further more irritated, and finally, after insisting she was paying in a dramatic domineering manner, she strutted out the door with a self-empowering announcement of “you have lost a good client here darling!’ slamming the door firmly behind her.

Her whole manner reminded me of a spoilt child fighting for control of a situation.  At no point had Michelle said anything to warrant such an outburst of unpleasantness, in fact she had desperately tried to do everything she could to turn the situation around into something more positive.   She spent the next twenty minutes in tears in the staff room apologising for losing me a ‘good client’.  In my eyes, this lady was far from a ‘good client’.  She was in fact someone who was seeking attention, by finding fault in everything she experienced and then appeared to gain an element of empowerment and satisfaction out of being aggressive and rude to her young therapist, who was clearly upset.  For a woman who was in her forties, it was in fact quite shocking behavior.

That day Michelle learnt a very valuable lesson.  Sometimes despite our best efforts we can’t always do everything right. She also discovered, some people can be very negative with almost everything in life and will prefer to focus on all that is bad, rather the aspects that are good and no matter what we try to do to rectify the situation, some people are never satisfied. Generally I have found, often these people can also find it very difficult to complain in a compassionate way.

Have I complained in life? Of course I have, but I would hope I have never done it in a manner that would make the other person involved feel so awful and upset that it would reduce them to tears.  I certainly would never raise my voice or be sarcastic when complaining, that’s not empowering, it is in fact the complete opposite.

Looking at the bigger picture, is your complaint really necessary?

This is a tricky one I admit, because when you are unhappy with something we naturally feel as if we have lost out, or have been denied something we had expected to receive or experience. It’s even trickier if money is involved and as we can feel as if we haven’t received the correct monetary value for something.  However, take time to strip the situation right back. Before launching into a barrage of why you are unhappy, take a moment to assess the bigger picture of life.  Does whatever you are unhappy about really warrant a complaint, is it just something very minor or something quite big that you are unhappy with? Are you going to make a situation more positive or happier for you from complaining about it, or can you simply put it down to experience and a chance to learn from the situation.

Try and view the situation from a less judgemental stand point.

Always remain calm and mindful of how your actions affect others. Could you possibly be being quite judgemental in the situation as a whole, and this is in fact something that is adding to your unhappiness?  Were your preconceived expectations of the whole situation or the other person involved too high in the first place? Take time to assess the situation a little before you take action.

Remain calm and compassionate when getting your viewpoint across

When a complaint is warranted, it is never helpful or acceptable to be rude, aggressive or sarcastic.  End of.   This may seem like stating the obvious, but I have been witness to people complaining in such unnecessary manners over the years (particularly when I was in the police), in truth it seems many people simply don’t know how to approach the whole task of complaining. Many seem to think they are going to have a fight on their hands, before they have even mentioned their complaint. Getting yourself wound up before you  have even approached the subject, won’t actually help you. Even if you are feeling irritated, upset or angry by your experience, keep calm and polite.  Put your complaint in to perspective, and get your point across in a compassionate manner. This doesn’t mean you can’t be assertive by any means, remember being assertive doesn’t mean being rude. Never try to be-little someone in order to dominate the situation, going in all guns blazing, isn’t going to help the situation.

Be grateful if and when a solution is offered, because it means you have been heard. 

In the Brenda and Michelle situation, despite Michelle feeling she had done nothing wrong in the first place, she clearly acknowledged and accepted that her client was unhappy. Immediately she offered solutions to try to resolve the situation in a positive way. She wasn’t defensive, she wasn’t rude, she simply made the client know she understood she wasn’t happy, apologised and immediately offered something else as compensation in order to try to make the situation better.  At this point, despite Brenda’s unhappiness, I feel the compassionate thing to do, would have been to accept that her complaint had been ‘heard’ and that despite being irritated, she needed to try to acknowledge the other person involved was in fact trying to do something to help her.  There is no point dwelling on the fact the situation has happened in the first place, you cannot change that, but what you can do is to try and turn your attention into focusing on something more positive from the whole situation.

Focus on what’s positive in your life or the situation itself.

In the West I feel many of us are too quick to focus on the negatives of life. We work too hard, we don’t have enough time to ourselves, things cost too much, the weather is too cold etc, etc.  It’s a tricky thing to do, but we really do need to try to focus more on the positives not the negatives. When you start training your mindset to pick out the positive things from your day or a situation, rather than constantly focusing on the negatives, your perspective on life experiences will change, for the better. When ever I am irritated by something, I take a moment to centre myself, breathe deeply and try to remember I am actually very fortunate for all the things I do already have in my life. So what if the train is late, I am grateful I have a job. So what if the lady at Starbucks forgot to add sugar to my latte, I am in a fortunate position to be able to walk to the shop and buy a latte in the first place. Does it really matter that I am stuck in traffic for an hour, yes it’s slightly inconvenient, but is it actually going to effect my life as a whole that much?

I am pleased to say, that complaints are rare in my spa, but of course they still occasionally happen. Myself and my staff aren’t perfect robots and sometimes we may fall short of what is expected. I always tell my girls that these situations are in fact opportunities for everyone involved (including the complainant) to grow and learn from the situation. The trick is, not to dwell on the matter as a negative, but to in fact turn it into something positive.  If we all took a little more time to view the whole subject of complaining as a learning process, maybe we would all be a little happier.

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” – Buddha

Mindful tips on dealing with bullying at work.


“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”
— 
Thich Nhat Hanh

As a child I grew up witnessing an older friend of mine being bullied. She had the biggest heart and lowest self esteem.  Her peers clearly saw this as a weakness, for them it was an empowering opportunity to make her suffer.  Slowly watching the light of her spirit become dimmer and dimmer, was excruciatingly painful. I felt helpless for her, the bullies were much older than me and quite frankly I found them too terrifying to have the courage to confront them on her behalf.  At the time I had no idea of the valuable lesson that I was being taught.

Many years later when I was in my early twenties and working as a civil servant, I was transferred to a new office. I worked within a small group of about 5 or 6 people, and the job roll we had meant we really needed to work as a close-knit team.  Initially everyone seemed really lovely and friendly, but it wasn’t too long before it became apparent that one of the girls on the team was actually being bullied by two female colleagues, both were in their late twenties.

Every day I would come into work and the poor girl who was being bullied (lets call her Sarah) would be tucked in a corner somewhere, desperately looking as if she didn’t want to be asked to do anything in case she ‘got it wrong’.  Every opportunity her two bully’s got to undermine her, belittle her, or cause her embarrassment, they would. It was as if they relished in the fact that they could make her feel worthless and gained empowerment from being able to dominate her.  It was horrifying.  I had no idea why they were doing what they were doing, but it was obvious they were making Sarah’s life miserable and she didn’t have the confidence to deal with the situation on her own.

I had only been on the team a week or so, so effectively I was the new girl.  My own selfish side was apprehensive about causing problems for myself, but at the same time I just couldn’t stand it any longer, watching Sarah suffer was just too painful.  One day I went into work, only to find her in the toilets sobbing into a hankie.  Initially she was mortified that I had found her crying, but after a few words of encouragement she slowly opened up to me. Apparently she had been on the team a few short months, and initially everything was fine. Whilst she was still at the stage of having to ask for help, looking up to her bully’s for guidance, they were helpful and encouraging towards her.  But after a few weeks, she started to gain a bit of confidence in her new role, and slowly began to gain acknowledgement for some of her work from her manager and other colleagues.  She said it was at this point her bully’s attitudes suddenly changed.

Now she felt as if she couldn’t do anything right, they criticised her work constantly, picked at every fault and called her incompetent and lazy.   She said the more she tried to please them, the more they attacked her on every level. What made it worse for her, was whenever someone else came into the office outside of the team, including the manager, they would suddenly become falsely nice to her, acting as if they were her best friend.  Her manager was either oblivious to the situation, or was choosing to completely ignore it.  Not only were they bully’s, but they were also very sly.

It was very simple, Sarah’s bully’s actually saw her as a threat. They were more than happy when Sarah was new and feeling vulnerable, whilst she was in that position, they felt that they could dominate her.  They themselves felt as if they were in a place of control, and whilst they were in that position of control, they actually felt secure within themselves.

From that very day onwards, Sarah and I would meet in the office early, although I was new to the team I had more experience than everyone else put together, so I felt the least I could do was to take her under my wing and give her the support and encouragement she deserved.  We would meet an hour or so before everyone else arrived each morning, and during this time I would teach Sarah how to complete certain tasks and answer any questions she had. The next time something derogatory was said to Sarah, I challenged it.

Initially I wasn’t very popular.  Who was I to come in and start challenging someone else’s behavior?  But I didn’t care, and I remember thinking at the time, if I was ever made a manager within my working career, I would strive to be the kind of manager that my staff would have confidence in.  One that could challenge the type of behavior Sarah had been subject to, and deal with the problem effectively. I didn’t want to be someone who just brushed problems under the carpet in the hope they would go away.  Less than 10 months later that opportunity arose, I was promoted and in fact managed the very same team that Sarah and I had been on.  I spent the next eight years building a reputation of being a manager that wasn’t afraid to deal with challenging staff, hopefully proving I had the ability to deal with volatile situations within the workplace calmly and effectively. I’m not a perfect manager by any means, and of course I have made mistakes along the way,  but I still to this day try to learn from those mistakes and continue to acknowledge that I am always constantly learning.

Dealing with bullies in the workplace can be challenging and may seem incredibly daunting if you’ve had no previous experience of this type of thing before.  But if you take the mindful approach of tackling the situation within the bigger picture, it can have a very rewarding out come and help you grow as a manager or person.

What motivates a bully?     Always be mindful of why someone is behaving like a bully in the first place.  People who feel the need to dominate, control, or constantly point out the faults of others is usually someone who is actually very insecure and unhappy within themselves.  If they gain satisfaction out of being unkind and constantly unproductively critical towards a colleague, nine times out of ten they are usually feeling insecure with their own abilities or within their life as a whole. Bully’s are often dissatisfied with certain aspects of their own life, maybe it isn’t going how they planned, or they feel as if they have no direction.  Once you understand that behind the aggressive, short-tempered or unkind person you see bullying someone else, is actually someone who is behaving that way because they are feeling vulnerable, scared or lonely themselves, it enables you to tackle the situation from a different perspective.

Acknowledging a bully and their tactics   Bully’s rarely pick on someone they see as confident, self-assured or more experienced.  They will tend to target someone they see as weak, vulnerable, keen to please, or the kind of person that won’t challenge their behavior. Bully’s love to dominate and make people feel embarrassed and incompetent.  In my experience the type of people who bully tend to be short-tempered, impatient, have a great difficulty in acknowledging their own faults or weaknesses, and will in fact often have a very high opinion of themselves.   They can be very unwilling to pass on their skills to others (usually through fear of that person actually becoming more competent than them within the working environment).  They will be seen to gain pleasure out of pointing out others faults and using this as an excuse for things not going how they want within their working environment, rather than taking the approach of helping someone overcome their weaknesses.   Very often they are impatient too, unwilling to spend time encouraging others to learn and grown, expecting people to immediately come on board with all the skills and knowledge they possess themselves.

Firm approach with an open heart   I have always found that if you show kindness, compassion and understanding, supported with a very firm but fair approach, usually bullying within the workplace can be tackled reasonably quickly and effectively. There is no point going in with all guns blazing, either as a manager or as a victim of a bully. Remaining calm and level-headed about the situation helps everyone involved.  However, don’t beat around the bush either.

  • As a manager you should challenge inappropriate behavior head on, in a calm, clear but firm manner.   Bully’s need to understand when their behavior isn’t acceptable and why.
  • Take time to listen to your staff. Make sure the whole team are clear on what your policies are regarding bullying too.  My staff know I won’t tolerate it on any level, and if they want to work in my company then they must continue to express kindness, respect and show support to everyone that works alongside them.
  • Be mindful of the reasoning behind their behavior, their own insecurities and frustrations. I’m not saying you have to turn into a counselor, but if they are insecure due to something relating to their work say, then you may be in a position to help them on that level.
  • Let them know they are supported within their role, but make it clear you expect them to show continued support to others too.
  • I have often challenged bully’s by asking them how they feel about the direct consequence of their actions. For example “Do you know every time you say that to Sally, she has told me it makes her feel really embarrassed, incompetent and she is too scared to complete her task in fear of what you will say to her. How does that make you feel?” . Hopefully confronting their behavior on an emotionally level will make them more aware of what they are doing, and will give them food for thought.
  • Don’t let bully’s try to justify their bullying. Many times I have heard bully’s say something like “well if she did her job properly I wouldn’t have to keep asking her to do it!”.  There is never an excuse for someone trying to belittle another member of staff, end of.
  • Make it very clear of what will happen if they continue to ignore your warnings. I have no hesitation of telling staff about our disciplinary procedure. When they understand you are taking the matter very seriously, hopefully they will too.
  • Bully’s will often portray themselves as being the best at what they do, but will be very unwilling to pass on their skills, or will attempt to keep the lime light to themselves.  I once worked in a salon where the owner had built a really good reputation for herself, but although she had exceptionally talented staff she restricted any of us from connecting ourselves to the salon outside of work. Effectively, she was happy for us to say how good we were when actually working in her salon, but we weren’t allowed to express any connection to her outside of that, her reasoning being that she had worked really hard to build up her reputation and business, clearly painting the picture to us, that she wasn’t willing to ‘share’ that success. She would often point out our faults too, ensuring we understood she was top of her game and far more experienced than any of us.    Although none of us were employed by her, we merely rented rooms, It was very clear to me that she was in fact incredibly insecure and was frightened that we may become equally as good as her in the business, and then we may potentially ‘steal her customers’.  If she had spent more time, encouraging, supporting and nurturing her team, helping them develop within their ‘own right’ instead of placing various restrictions on us, her business would have blossomed into something very special.  Instead the turnover of her therapists was frequent and she ultimately built the reputation of being a poor manager and very insecure business woman.

If you’re a victim of bullying, you may feel the situation is completely out of your control, but there are certain measures you can take to try to defuse the situation and how the person is making you feel.

  • You may not feel confident enough to challenge someone head on, if you do that’s fine, just remember to be calm and collected. Don’t rise to the bait, even if you are challenged yourself.
  • If you feel confrontation isn’t appropriate, then try not to engage with the bully, silence is often far more powerful than words. When a bully isn’t getting the reaction they want they may get bored.
  • Confined in a co-worker you can trust. Confidence can often grown when you have someone else to sound off to and bully’s rarely target people in numbers.
  • Bully’s will often make threats, in an attempt to try to dominate a situation. Try not to panic if this happens, remember it’s usually their own insecurities fueling their desire to try to gain control of a situation.  For them attack is the best form of defense.
  • Be aware that you are a much wiser and kinder person for not treating anyone the way the bully treats you. It may not be much comfort when someone is constantly being unkind to you, but feel proud of the fact that you know better.
  • Get yourself a coach! Coaches are fantastic at helping you see your strengths and motivating you in areas of your life that you may lack confidence. They can give you an outsiders perspective on things, and can often help you understand and cope with challenging situations in life.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your manager know what is happening and how you feel. Bully’s tend to have recurring patterns of behavior and you may not be the only one in the office that has been subject to his/her actions.
  • Remember, you are in control of your life. If a bully makes you feel worthless and unhappy, you are actually allowing them to have that affect on your feelings.  Easier said then done at times I know, but it’s always helpful to remind yourself you feel the way you do because you are allowing yourself to do so.

Ultimately I believe if you are happy, secure, open-hearted person you will always find the time and effort to offer your support and encouragement to colleagues.  Even if someone is frustrating you because they aren’t working to a standard you expect, or they are taking much longer to do something than you would hope, offering a helping hand or words of encouragement is far more productive and helpful than complaining.  In years to come I hope I can look back at the staff I have now and see them at the top of their game in what ever they go on to do, all successful and truly happy.  It would bring me much pleasure to know that somewhere along the line I was able to provide them with the tools, training and support to be a small part of helping them get there, that’s when I will know I have done my job well.

The fool thinks he has won a battle when he bullies with harsh speech,
But knowing how to be forbearing- that makes one victorious.
The worse of the two is he who, when abused, retaliates.
One who does not retaliate wins a battle hard to win.

Knowing that the other person is angry, one who remains mindful and calm
Acts for his own best interest and for the other’s interest, too.
He is a healer of both himself and the other person also.
He is thought a fool only by those who do not understand the Dhamma.
Dhammapada