Six Simple Habits of Happiness

happiness1-300x284All of us who walk this earth, share one deep-rooted desire, the desire to be truly happy. Cultivating certain habits and patterns within our day-to-day lives, can help us experience a happier and more fulfilling life.

Be Kind. Scientific studies have shown that when we focus our thoughts and actions on showing kindness to others, this actually promotes our own personal feelings of happiness. Expressing love, compassion and a genuine care for those outside of ourselves, influences the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is important in social bonding. Small acts of kindness are really easy to include into your day-to-day life. Why not pop a card in the post to a friend to simply make them smile, buy a colleague a coffee on route to work, or knock on an elderly neighbours door and offer to pop to the shops for them. Little acts of kindness really do go a long way, whilst helping to boost our happy hormones.

Build good relationships, and then nurture them. It is so easy to take friendships and relationships for granted, but when we remind ourselves to focus on who is important in our lives, and then make a conscious effort to make time and effort for those people, this builds solid foundations for long-lasting, fulfilling and happy connections.

Balance and Rest. Take time to honour your physical and emotional self.  We lead busy lives, keeping a job, running a household, looking after the family, these are just a few of the things that occupy our time and our energies.  Take time out to rest and recharge. When we are tired, stressed and choose to forget that our body and mind needs good quality sleep and rest to function properly, feelings of frustration and unhappiness can arise.

Be grateful. Gratitude is associated with optimism and it has been determined that grateful people are happier, receive more social support, are less stressed, and are less depressed. Recent research indicates that optimists and pessimists approach problems differently, and their ability to cope successfully with adversity differs as a result. Gratitude can be found in the smallest things, all it takes is for the mind to be trained to acknowledge the little things we are grateful for, even during times of frustration or discontent.

Forgive. Harbouring feelings of bitterness, resentment, jealousy or betrayal only inhibits our own happiness, and does not serve us well. Learning to let go and move on from such emotions can increase our sense of personal worth and happiness considerably. At some point in our lives we have all felt we have been wronged by another, but acknowledging that these are simply feelings we need to process, experience and then grow from, can help us put perspective on such situations and move on more quickly from.

Acknowledging you are in control of your own happiness.  This is one of the most profound lessons I learned from my own spiritual tutor. Learning to acknowledge that I was in fact the one and only, soul person in control of my own inner happiness, was one of the most empowering lessons of my life. When we learn to accept, that no matter what life throws at us, we have the option of choosing to be happy or choosing to be unhappy. We can choose to let the actions of others or challenges control our own personal happiness, or we can choose to view those situations and people as moments of great teachings and wisdom, and subsequently learn and grown from them. Of course, sometimes this can seem to be easier said then done. And remember, everyone is on a different and very personal journey. What may be easy for one person to do, can seem almost impossible for another. But if we at least try to remind ourselves in times of frustration or sadness, that we have a choice to be bitter for having a particular experience, or we can be grateful for the life lesson gained. Just simply knowing we have that choice, may in fact help us to choose to grow from that experience, and in time, who knows, it could even provide us with a life lesson that will enable to help someone else in the future.

 

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7 Tips On Making The Life Changes You Desire

dalai-lama-quotes-on-meditation-change-and-action1

“Change only takes place through action, not through meditation and prayer alone” – The Dalai Lama

A new year always brings hope of making small or even bigger changes in our lives, maybe changes we have been thinking about for some time, but haven’t had the energy or courage to really focus on during the months that have passed.  We may be longing for a new job, or a new relationship, maybe we truly wish to have more quality time with our partners or family. It could be we want to get fitter, lose weight, or just simply take a little more care of ourselves.

For many, change can be scary or unsettling, dipping ones toes into the unknown can throw us out of our comfort zone and even fill us with fear. For others change is seen as an exciting adventure, something to embrace and actually trust in. Many of us are in fact creatures of habit, and although we long for areas of change in our lives, we stick with something we may not necessarily be happy with, simply because it has become our routine, an existence that we have actually accepted as being part of our life, it’s just the way it is.

Write a positive change list – At the beginning of each year, I actually like to take a moment to reflect on the year just gone, as well as creating a moment of positive focus on the year ahead. During a period of ‘quiet time’, I’ll put on some beautiful music, light some candles and simply meditate. This helps me become grounded, calm and peaceful, a beautiful and perfect state to be in, when you wish to make positive change within your life. After which, I will sit down and write a list of all the life changes I wish to make during the next 12 months ahead. Writing them down, for me, re-enforces not only my desire to make those things happen, but also helps me truly focus on the things that really matter.

Take positive action, small steps at a time – Two years ago I saw the Dalai Lama speak in London, it was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life. During his talk he spoke of how change can only come through positive action. Manifesting the changes we wish to see within ourselves, our lives or the world in which we live, can only come through each and everyone of us taking sole responsibility for those changes to occur. We cannot rely on areas of our lives to alter, if we simply think our desire, or our deep longing for something to happen, will in fact, make it happen. If you truly wish for change to occur in some area of your life, then you alone, need to find the courage to start acting upon that wish and take full responsibility for that change.

Face your fears and let go – Sometimes, inviting change into our life, actually means facing our fears. We may be too scared to leave a job we really hate, because we are fearful of not being able to find another one or pay our bills. We may be frightened to leave a unhealthy relationship behind us, as we are deeply fearful of being alone. So instead we choose to live in a bubble of happiness, because it’s easier to give in to our fears, fears that we have in fact created for ourselves inside our own little heads.  What we have to acknowledge is, that in certain situations, the life we are actually hoping for, actually exists outside the edge of our comfort zone, and unless we have the courage to leap into the unknown, we become a victim of our own fears and subsequent unhappiness.

Imagine the happiness you wish to experience and feel it deep within your soul –  I strongly believe that our own thoughts and actions have a huge affect on life that we experience.  The sacred law of karmic return, or the law of cause and effect.  If one is mindful of every thought and action one has, as well as keeping a positive mindset surrounding the type of life one wishes to experience, then one is actually inviting this type of experience into their own reality. This doesn’t mean to say, you won’t experience challenges, disappointment or sadness in your life, these things are always present to teach us, but keeping your mind focused on love, positivity and kindness, actually re-enforces the love, positivity and kindness that you will in turn experience within your own world. Positive thought creates positive action.

Share the changes you wish to create – Sitting down with friends or family and sharing details of the changes we wish to create  in our lives can actually help us keep focused on the task ahead. It can also provide an unexpected support network of people, all of whom wish to encourage you to reach your goals. A few years ago I was really unhappy in my job, and I was desperate for a change. I was so unhappy, that every morning was literally filled with dread about the day ahead.  It was a well paid and very secure job, one that I had been in for 13 years, and the thought of leaving actually filled me with fear and anxiety, but I was knew it was beginning to impact other areas of my life. Once I had told my friends how unhappy I was, I was overwhelmed by the support and encouragement I received. It felt as though I was no longer facing the dilemma alone, and I eventually found the courage to leave and search for a much happier existence.

Don’t Give Up – Change generally doesn’t happen over night, often it’s something that we have to continue to strive for. Even when the light may seem a very distant glimmer at the end of a long tunnel, don’t lose focus of that feeling of happiness you know you deserve. Re-visit the list of positive change you wrote. Go into meditation and ask yourself for guidance of how to can implement these changes. Spend some quality time with a positive person that you may know, someone who will inspire you to reconnect with your own desire to make the change at hand.  Trust in yourself that you can succeed and remind yourself that it will happen when you have learned everything you need to from the experience.

Don’t hide behind excuses you create within your own mind, take complete responsibility – When we are anxious of making a change in our life, it’s very easy to hide behind excuses of why we believe we cannot change that situation. Instead of creating excuses of why you can’t do something, start to focus your attention of creating solutions to those challenges.  An excuse, is often manifested in our heads as a direct result of an emotion, an emotion which is usually fear.

Trust in the fact that sometimes the journey is the lesson, not the change itself – Looking back at my own career change, it was, without a doubt, a very long, difficult and exceptionally challenging path (I wrote a post about it last year, as it had such an impact in my life). But on reflection, even though it was really hard at times, I can see that journey itself actually taught me a great deal about myself and my ability to let go and trust. The life lessons I learned from having the courage to truly acknowledge, that I was the only person in charge of my own happiness is a teaching I will always be grateful for.

5 ways to remain truly present

be now“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” – Author Unknown 

To remain present is to remain at one with yourself, with your thoughts and your surroundings at an exact given time. Not to think about the past, or the future, but to just simply remain focused on what is here at this given moment.

Very recently I was sent a challenge, a challenge which truly tested my ability to remain wholeheartedly in the present moment.  Not to fret about my past, or worry about my future, but just to simply be, as I was in the here and now.

During a quick morning shower, just before I headed off to work, my attention was suddenly grasped by a small, but very tender lump situated in my left breast.  Initially my mind played games with me, as the mind so often does. It couldn’t be so, I was obviously mistaken.  But on closer inspection, there was no getting away from it, a small pea sized lump that was as hard as a marble, was most definitely there, accommodating a small space of my anatomy.

The next three weeks can only be described as a constant inner battle to keep my mind from straying, and going on to create all kinds of scenarios and outcomes in my own little head. My mother had battled breast cancer, and although I hadn’t been diagnosed with the condition, during the 3 weeks between the initial appointment with my doctor, to undergoing tests at the hospital and then awaiting the results, it was very difficult not to wonder ‘what if’.

I am pleased to say, everything was fine, just a small but very stubborn collection of cysts that were soon treated by an amazingly compassionate team of medical staff. The whole experience was a little stressful I admit, but it also taught me much about how certain situations can actually teach us the benefits of being mindful of what is, rather than, what may be.

When your mind starts to wander, focus on your breath – Bringing your focus back to your breath, reconnects you to the life force energy within you. Focus on inhaling and exhaling 10 or 20 breaths, do not force them, just focus on your natural breathing rhythm and watch how you mind starts to calm and how it gradually brings you back to the present.

Focus on current action – whatever it is you are doing, truly focus on every detail of it. If you are eating, eat slowly. Turn off anything that may distract you, like the television or your computer. Savour the flavours, the colours and the textures of your food.  If you are driving, truly focus your mind to the road ahead, notice your surroundings, the car in front of you, the pedestrians that you pass. Do not become frustrated at a red light, or the slower driver in front of you, because in that moment you are irritated, for you are trying to live in the future, hurrying to your destination ahead. So often we try to undertake so many different tasks at once, that our full attention is rarely truly focused on the present one.

Close your eyes and listen deeply – During my spiritual training, my tutor would often take me to the woods to meditate. I was told to sit, close my eyes and simply listen.  I was amazed, that when I truly focused my attention on the present task, I would suddenly be gifted with sounds I would ordinarily miss or just simply ignore.

Think of one thing you are grateful for now, in this current moment – You may be warm, you may be happy, you may feel loved, you may have just eaten and have a stomach full of delicious food, you may be wearing a new top you love, or a pair of your favourite shoes.  Embrace whatever physical or emotional feeling you have, that you are grateful for, and explore it. How do your favourite shoes feel on your feet? Are they sung, or so comfortable that you sometimes forget you have them on?  What do they look like? Touch them, feel them, truly experience them.

Be aware – The best way to remind yourself to be present is to be aware of when your mind begins to recall the past, or starts to over analyze a situation, or starts to wonder how a situation may turn out. The more mindful you become of staying the present, the more aware you are of when you are not.

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’. 

8 Holistic Mood Boosting Tips

happiness-quotes“Happiness is not something ready made, it comes from your own actions” – Dalai Lama 

Happiness is something we all seek, an inner warmth that ignites from deep within our soul and radiates out around us.   When we are happy, we see the world as a loving and vibrant place, but when we find ourselves in a space or cycle that brings feelings of discontent, the world suddenly becomes cold and cruel. The fact is we are soley in control of our own happiness, much of how we view our own inner peace and our role within this world is created within our own minds. I wrote a blog post last year ’11 Things To Give Up To Step Closer To Happiness’ which tackles this issue.  But there are also many physical things we can do, which will help boost our mental happy juices.

Start your day with positive thought –  It’s very easy to lay there in bed, mentally grumbling away at the alarm, wishing you could just smuggle a few more moments under a warm cosy duvet.  But occasionally, it’s really helpful to set the alarm just 10 minutes earlier than normal and take this time to really be present.  Spend a few moments  feeling your body waking up, take several deep cleansing breaths, stretch out your arms and legs, and listen to the sounds around you with deep concentration.  Really see the daylight in all it’s beauty and mentally tell yourself, that you that you are going to have a really productive, meaningful and enjoyable day, making sure you radiate kindness and compassion to everyone you meet.  Some times we have to physically take the time out to remind ourselves that our life is very precious, and no matter what is going on around us, we should be thankful that we have it.

Pack your day with serotonin boosting foods –  Without a shadow of a doubt our body can only function properly when we treat it with kindness. I see many clients in my spa who seek various healing treatments due to suffering conditions like depression and anxiety. One of the first questions I always ask them is about their diet. The foods we eat have a direct impact on how much energy and vitality we have. 90% of the happy hormone serotonin, is actually produced in the gut, not the brain as many people think. It is then chiefly metabolised by the liver. So in short, if we aren’t feeding our body with the kind of foods that support the production of this hugely important hormone, how can we expect to always feel balanced and content?  Some of the best serotonin boosting foods are nuts and seeds, Omega 3 fatty acids, avocados, eggs, chickpeas, leafy green vegetables, bananas, apples, butternut squash, spelt, barley, brown rice and dark chocolate.            

 Infuse mood boosting Essential Oils in your house or work place – I’m always burning essential oils in my home, office and treatment room. Smell is the strongest of the senses and is best able to influence brain activity. Olfactory bulbs are part of the limbic system and directly connect to the areas of the brain that process emotion and learning. Inhaling essential oils activates the hypothalamus, the area of the brain which sends messages to other parts of the body. The simple inhalation of certain oils can actually make changes in the body, including activating the immune system, affecting blood pressure and stimulating digestion.  Some of the most effective mood boosting essential oils are lemon, lavender, jasmine, rosemary, cinnamon, grapefruit, ginger, bergamot and peppermint.  Just place a few drops of your chosen oils in a oil burner and mix with some warm water, or if you don’t have one, just fill a bowl with some hot water and add the oils to that.

Keep hydrated – I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep yourself hydrated.  Our bodies are made up of anything from 60%-75% water, every muscle and cell needs fluids to function properly. Even the mildest of dehydration can make you feel lethargic and tired.  A doctor once told me, if you feel thirsty your body is in fact already dehydrated.  Try and sip filtered or fresh spring water throughout your day to help support your body’s need for it.

Try drinking green tea – Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine that may affect secretion of serotonin and other neurotransmitters, including the calming neurotransmitter GABA and the activating neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. It also packed full of antioxidants, so is good for the skin too.

Try adding some mood enhancing crystals to your home – Obviously as an energy worker I am open to the positive effects that crystals can have in our homes and offices. Crystals have an energetic vibration, just as we do, and incorporating that vibration into our living or work space, can often bring us benefits.  I always have points of Rose Quartz ( Rose Quartz has high energy, but its vibration is also calming and soothing. It opens the heart to compassion for self and for others. Rose Quartz also helps balance the emotions, lowering stress and bringing peace), Moonstone (soothes, relieve stress and banishes negativity), Amethyst (heals negativity in the home) and Green Adventurine (a stone of luck, abundance, and positive energy) in various rooms in my house.  I am also a huge lover of Clear Quartz, which is deemed as the master healer of crystals.

Try listening to some music to help balance the Chakra’s – According to ancient Tantric and yogic tradtions, Chakra’s (Sanskrit) are seven energy centres that serve as junction points between the physical body and consciousness. These energy centres help receive, process and express our vital Chi/Ki/life force energy and enable it to flow freely through the physical and spiritual body.  When any one of these Chakras become blocked due to stress, emotions or our life experiences, we may develop physical complaints or illnesses, or we may find ourselves feeling emotionally unbalanced and out of sorts. In certain traditions each Chakra also has a corresponding mantra and sound vibration. There are many different ways to help support these vital energy centres, but one simple way is to listen to some music which resonates with the sound vibration of each centre. One of my favourite pieces of music to do this is by the renowned international spiritual tutor Deepak Chopra.  This CD is uber relaxing, easy to listen to and at the end of the CD Deepak explains a little bit about each Chakra and how they correspond with how we interact with the world around us, both on a physical and emotional level.

Walk in bare feet or lay on the grass – recently I have been reading about the scientific studies around ‘Earthing’.  Earthing is the practice of connecting the body with earth by touching skin to a conductive material such as grass (preferably wet), wet sand, a river, lake or sea.  Apparently when we haven’t directly connected to the earths natural electrical vibration for a period of time, our bodies carry a positive voltage in relation to the earth, which makes it harder for our bodies to tackle free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules within the body, which lack electrons (energy sparks), although our bodies do need free radicals, too many of them can cause disease and are also known to accelerate the ageing process.  So if the human body has a positive charge on it, reconnecting to the earth allows the earths electrons to flow into our system, and in theory, they can neutralise overblown free radical and inflammatory damage. So not only is connecting with nature exceptionally relaxing, which in turn boosts the feelings of well being, there are now scientific studies to support the fact that connecting with our planet, also helps fight disease.  An English medical Doctor by the name of Dr Biffa has written a very honest piece about Earthing and the studies surrounding it.

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?