A life of meaning…

Having meaning in life, and living a purposeful life seem very adult topics to discuss. They seem to be something we look to in the future, when we are ‘proper’ grown-ups.

grown ups

However, meaning in life is something we are always making each day in every new moment and experience we gain. Purpose is something that we can have now, it is active. We can find purpose in lots of things and not just one.

‘Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of

meaning and purpose.’ Viktor Frankl

 

Meaning and purpose come from being authentic and honest with ourselves and what we desire without fear. So, in order to have meaning and purpose at any age we need to be true to ourselves and build a positive picture of our lives.

be yourself
How can we do this with our children and students? Or how can you do this for yourself at any age?

 

Try this: We are constantly meaning making. Each experience we have helps us create more meaning. You can use strengths of character to build a confident and positive meaning of who they or you are. We covered strengths back in April. Or try this. Get your children or students to complete this sentence. ‘I matter because…’

 

When we have a reason to matter this gives us our meaning. It can be, I matter because I am reliable to my friends. I matter because I am determined to complete my schoolwork. There can also be reasons we matter outside of our relationships and school life. Having a strong and positive meaning can help us also realise our purpose.

 

Try this: Complete this sentence… ‘My purpose is to…’ And remember you do not have to just have one purpose. It is not based in the future it is now and it is active. For example, my purpose is to help others, or my purpose is to stand up for animals or the environment. Our purpose can grow and change with us as we change as people. Any positive purpose is great for our wellbeing.

 

Our values as a person play a great part in our meaning and purpose as they do in our goals from last month. If you want to know more about values look through our social media posts on the topic. Goals set that align with our values and lead us to greater meaning in life and toward our purpose are goals which will bring great joy indeed, and not just in the outcome but in the journey too.

purpose

As always give this a try and be patient. Wellbeing is a lifestyle not just an hour of thought once a month or sporadically when things feel wrong. What we practise grows stronger as we grow and change as people.

 

 

Get curious and keep setting those goals…

Do you like learning new things? Quite often when I ask children and teenagers (sometimes the adults too) they say NO. In fact, the majority of the time, the answer is no.

giphy no

I think this is because we often think of learning as school. We start to believe we can only learn via classrooms and teachers.
There are however lots of ways to learn and places in which to gather knowledge. From parents, friends, visiting new places for example. Humans are naturally curious and will often investigate new things. This is a way of learning.
Another way of gaining knowledge is through the goals we set ourselves. We can have goals that tick over each day. Daily goals such as leaving the house on time, eating well or getting a certain amount of exercise. We can also have big top-level goals that need lots of grit and determination. These can be things like wanting to tackle a certain career path or linked to your passions and values.

Try this:
Write down as many of your goals as you can think of… Use your character strengths to help you. Stay Curious and Open-Minded.

Have a look at your goals and think about where learning comes in…

Sometimes we can pick goals and just look for the end result but, there is often a long journey to reaching goals. Take a look at the stories of many well-known people, J.K Rowling, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney. All these people faced setbacks on the way to their top-level goals. These setbacks are common for all goals, sometimes even the little daily ones. They are also opportunities to learn. When you look at your goals are you looking to succeed every time or are you looking to master a skill or be better than you were before?

goalsAiming to learn and be better than we were before can help with our motivation and determination to keep going with the goal. This is needed even more when the goal is a career or life goal that will take time to get to. Ask parents, teachers, grandparents how long it took to reach their goals. You may be surprised that many may still not have reached them.

 

 

Try this:
Take another look at your goals. Think about the skills you can master on the way to them. For example; if you want to be an amazing pianist break the main goal down into smaller goals, mastering different skills along the way. Always aiming to be better than you were before.

Having goals and continuing to learn are very important parts of our wellbeing and happiness. Learning increases our confidence and gives a warm feeling as we accomplish something. Having goals can increase our sense of meaning and purpose and this all works to build resilience.

giphy happy

As always remember that any part of our wellbeing is a daily practice. What we practise grows stronger as we grow and change as people.

It is always OK to feel….

Emotions can be uncomfortable. There are many more of them that are uncomfortable than comfortable. For every emotion that we love to feel, such as joy there are around five emotions that we don’t usually like such as shame, fear, anxious, jealous and anger.

 

Often people like to tell me that feelings that make them uncomfortable are negative. The ones that make us feel good are positive. There are no good or bad feelings, we feel for a reason. If you are frustrated there is usually a reason why. If we can sort this out, then the frustration will pass. The same goes for feeling guilt. Imagine if no-one ever felt guilty. We would probably all do some horrible things if there were no feelings in place to stop us.

 

Other ways of getting over feelings that make us feel uncomfortable is to bottle them up and try not to feel them. Have you ever done this? Maybe you try to distract yourself with something else or bury your head in schoolwork or a TV series. This means that we can keep bottling things up inside until we get overwhelmed or explode.

 

Try This:
When you start to feel something name it. What emotion are you feeling? Here is a list of emotion words to help you…
Joy, Sad, Guilt, Regret, Shame, Humiliation, Fear, Frustration, Excitement, Belonging, Blame, Jealous, Anger, Anxious, Vulnerability, Love, Curious, Disgust, Embarrassment, Empathy, Gratitude, Grief, Hurt, Judgement, Lonely, Overwhelmed, Surprised, Worried.

 

Try This:
Once you have named what you are feeling, get curious about it. Even the feelings that feel good. Why are you feeling it? Where in the body do you feel it? What has caused the feeling? What is this feeling telling me right now?

 

Remember to do the above with your comfortable feelings too!

The above is not easy to do, especially if you have become good at practicing ‘not’ feeling things. It can feel dark and scary. It can feel like you may get stuck feeling it forever. Emotions pass. They come and go. How many different things can you feel in one day? Try writing them down some time. So far today I have felt…. Happy, tired, bored, excited, nervous, confused, loved, worried, anxious, frustrated, angry, sad…. And that’s just in a few hours.
Now you know all the things you have felt in one day, LET IT GO!

giphy
Remember as always, these exercises are a practice. What we practice grows stronger as we grow and change as people. Becoming more emotionally aware is a constant practice throughout life. Give it all a try and keep going. xxx

Other People Matter

How can we create a cultural legacy of happiness?

Let other people matter.

(Christopher Peterson)

 

Ever wondered why the ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’ rhyme was so catchy but actually didn’t feel right. Even though you felt good saying it to someone at the time you still felt awful after.
Well it’s because physical and emotional pain are treated the same way by our brains. Rejection hurts. Plain and simple. Therefore, name calling hurts as the bully is essentially rejecting us.

 

‘Our sensitivity to social rejection is so central to our well-being
that our brains treat it like a painful event, whether the instance
of social rejection matters or not.’ (Matthew D Lieberman, Social, 2013).

 

We humans are made to connect with each other. Connection with others, good strong relationships, are part of our basic human needs. This makes sense if you think about the fact that we are born needing our parents or a carer in order for us to survive, we can’t get food by ourselves when we are born.

 

So, if we are made to connect why is there a loneliness epidemic? This is difficult to answer as feeling lonely is subjective. Studies have pointed towards technology; it is easier than ever to communicate and yet we do not seem satisfied with these communications. Other studies have pointed to social media use, the higher the usage the more feelings of loneliness, however as with most studies it is not always clear cut and we do not know if it is more about how you use social media than the length of time using it. Even though people have lots of relationships they can still feel lonely and this could point to quality, the meaning we have in our relationships can make a lot of difference to how we view them. So, what is the answer to this and how can we have more meaningful and quality connections and reduce our feelings of loneliness?

 

As always, as a practitioner I like to look at what we can do to help move us towards better relationships and social connection with practical things to try and add to your daily life. In the awesomeness of this month of social connection I have teamed up with instantprint (www.instantprint.co.uk) on this blog post. Just because we are all online we can still create meaningful and worthwhile connections with our virtual friends. Now instantprint are a friendly online printer. They are also accessible and caring and rather than just giving you an online service, they are always on hand to help you out. I have used them numerous times on many of my projects below for Chill your Beans.

 

Here is why instantprint think connecting with others is so important.
“We’ve seen a great shift from physical to digital communication over the past few decades. We launched 10 years ago when sceptics claimed that ‘print is dead’. If anything, physical, tangible communication is more important than ever. In a world where we’re bombarded with social media, emails and phone notifications, people are screaming out for something offline – something they can touch, feel and keep. From business cards to postcards, booklets to leaflets – these simple tools are increasingly helping people turn an interaction into a long-standing relationship. Just think of the postcards you’ve treasured, leaflets you’ve tucked away and business cards that stay in your wallet or purse.” Becky, Community Manager at instantprint

Now let’s

Try This:

Technology has made it easier for us to communicate. We can text, email, use messaging apps and social media. We even wish our nearest and dearest Happy Birthday on these apps. So, in order to create a strong connection with others, on their birthday or at other important events create some cards to send out. You can make some birthday or Christmas cards or how about your own postcards as little thank you notes. Send these out every so often to let someone know you are thinking of them. We used to get so much mail through the door, leaflets and random offers from businesses. Now this has mostly stopped. It is novel to get things through the door. This also takes more effort on our part and shows more meaning than a social media message. Give it a try. Create your own cards on instantprint and send them out.

 

Try this:

Gratitude and Random acts of Kindness are very prosocial behaviours. They help us connect with others. You can, like suggested above create some postcards to send out every so often showing you are grateful to someone. Or how about we start a new Random act of kindness. I am sure you may have seen the ‘Love on the Rocks’ painted stones lying around for you to find. You can pick them up and take them home and they look lovely. These are randomly painted by strangers and left for others to find and keep. Why don’t you try creating a bunch of bookmarks or business cards with little messages on? Such as the ones below I have created. These can be left anywhere for the finder to keep. It helps us connect with others by spreading a little joy and smiles.

bookmark

The front and back of a bookmark I created on instantprint to leave for strangers. It is so easy to make your own or use a design ready on the website. Think about how you would feel if you found one, or how you would feel if you left one for someone else. It brings us closer together. Give it a try yourself.

 

Going back to the quote at the start of this blog social connection is hugely important to our wellbeing and it is important from the day we are born. We need other people. We live very independent lives and we can of course spend time alone and work by ourselves, but we also must remember that we need our fellow humans too. We are all in this together. What we do and say and how we make each other feel is important. Loneliness is bad for your health, physically and mentally. Find ways to connect with others and keep the practice up. What we practice grows stronger as we grow and change as people.

A huge thank you to the contribution from Becky and the instantprint team. Head over to their page and check them out.
Have a Happy May, Cat xx

We all have super powers

Character strengths are things we all have. Yes, even you. I am not talking talents or abilities. I am talking pure strength of character, your own set of super powers. There is something in us, our personalities if you will, that makes us who we are. We use them, often unknowingly to our advantage throughout our life which makes us feel good.

 
Sometimes we do over or under use them and more often than not we focus on what we struggle with and this can all make us feel low. First off let’s find out what they are.

 
The 24 VIA character strengths (www.viacharacter.org) were researched by psychologists and found to be relatively universal. This means most humans across the globe value these character strengths in others. They are….

 

Love, honesty, judgement, love of learning, humour, creativity, curiosity, fairness, humility, teamwork, leadership, appreciation of beauty and excellence, kindness, gratitude, spirituality, prudence, perseverance, bravery, social intelligence, perspective, hope, forgiveness, zest, self-regulation.

 

If you have been following me on Instagram and Facebook, you will have seen me post about one of these strengths each day over the month and their corresponding virtue. (follow here FB- @chillyourbeans2016 or Insta @chillyourbeansinfo )

Try this…
Take a look at the list above and choose five. These will be things that people may have mentioned to you. ‘Oh, you are so kind’ (kindness), ‘You never give up’ (perseverance), ‘you have so much self-control, id have eaten the whole box of chocolates.’ (self-regulation)!
Got five? Brilliant.

 

Having character strengths is an active and practical thing. We need to use them daily in order to boost our wellbeing. It makes sense when you think about it. If you can do something that you are naturally good at it makes you feel better and when we feel better, we are able to deal with our uncomfortable moments with greater ease. We are not ignoring the things we find difficult when focussing on strengths but giving ourselves a greater base of wellbeing to deal with everything. Focusing on the strengths of others helps us improve our relationships and remember what it is about the person we love.

 

Try this….
Write down the strengths you love in others. What are your children’s top strengths? Your work colleagues? Your partner? Tell them what you notice in them. Give them a boost of wellbeing and pride by telling them how amazing they are.

 

Now you know what your strengths are and what those of your significant others are go out and try to use them each and every day and notice them in everyone else around you too. If you need any more help, please get in touch. If you want your children to start discovering their strengths the wellbeing homework diaries for use at school explore the character strengths within them. These are now available to pre-order.

To self-care or to not self-care, that is never a question! Always self-care.

Shakespeare said….

‘Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners:’

 

The monologue by the superbly villainous Iago in Othello has more to it than this one line but means that, your body is a garden and depending on what you plant, using your willpower will depend what grows. It can be barren, or it can be rich and productive. You need to be of rational mind, to balance your emotions or your bodily desires may take over. Even over 400 years ago mind and body care were important.
Self-care is defined as the act of taking care of our own wellbeing. This is physically and mentally. It includes sleep, nutrition, exercise and looking after our minds. Self-care is not just doing what feels good in the moment. It is doing those things that create an overall wellbeing consistently but don’t always feel fantastic in the moment. Self-care requires self-control and perseverance.
So, sleeping, eating and exercising well consistently is going to have a much better outcome for your wellbeing than having the one-off great night sleep or having a ‘good day’ on the food and exercise front. How do we do this with our mental wellbeing? Well all the above things help. Getting good sleep, eating well and exercising all play a part in regulating our hormones. One other way of self-care with regards to mental wellbeing is making sure you are consistent with your emotional hygiene.
Emotions are all part and parcel of human life. We all feel multiple things throughout the day, but we do not very often think about it unless they are more intense feelings. Often when these intense feelings are uncomfortable, we look to numb them rather than feel them. Numbing pain can be in the form of eating or drug taking. It can also be in the form of keeping extremely busy or drinking alcohol. Part of a good self-care routine should include emotional awareness and acceptance rather than numbing.
We numb emotional pain because we don’t want to feel bad or because something is too traumatic for us in that instant. The problem is that often the emotions that make us feel uncomfortable are there for a reason and numbing them stops us accepting them and dealing with the cause. We all do it or have done it in the past and we do it because we want the pain to stop, we like to feel comfortable. We need to care enough about our emotional selves just like we do our physical selves. Essentially, they are connected, and positive psychophysiology has research showing that our thoughts and moods can and are reflected in biological processes (Hefferon, 2013 pg 21). Consistently numbing your emotions is not going to be good for you, physically or mentally.

Here are a couple of ideas to self-care with your emotions:

Start to notice what happens in your body when your emotions are becoming uncomfortable. This awareness will help you realise when its starting before you are overwhelmed and then trying to numb. Where is it in your body and what is it called? For example, for me I can feel the heat rising to my face, slowly creeping there and know it is embarrassment. I can feel my jaw starting to tense, feel like my teeth are starting to become painful, and I know it is stress caused by frustration. Give this a go yourself and start to become more aware of your emotions.
Protect your self-worth! When we start to feel uncomfortable it can often be because something has happened, or we are ruminating over something that has happened. At this point beating yourself up further with some inner hatred will not help. Your self-worth is already taking a beating don’t make it worse. Speak to yourself kindly and with compassion, just like we practiced with self-love last month. We may have done something embarrassing, but this is behaviour and we can change it, you are not an embarrassment. We may be feeling stressed and like we are struggling to cope but this does not make you a failure. This needs rest, you do not have to quit, you are capable. These slight changes in how we speak to ourselves can make the world of difference.
Remember as always to keep practicing. It will get easier and grow stronger as we all grow as people. xxx

Self – Love – A work in progress

Firstly, apologies for the gap in blogs. This one has taken me ages to write. Mainly because I feel self-love for me is still very much a work in progress. Something that doesn’t come easy to me and therefore I have been questioning whether I should be writing about it at all!
Then I thought,
‘Hey, I don’t have to be perfect at self-love to write about it.’
So here goes….

I recently started listening to the amazing audio book ‘Power of Vulnerability’ by Brenè Brown. I wasn’t really expecting to find much in there about self-love with the title including ‘vulnerability’ but I was very wrong. I would recommend you take a listen to the audiobook if you get the chance.

‘We can only love others as much as we love ourselves’ (Brenè Brown)

This statement is something I only really started to understand a few years back. Disconnected and lonely from ‘never fitting in’, ‘being unlikeable’ and ‘a failure at social life’ (this was what I told myself), I didn’t realise or even understand how I would receive more love if I just loved myself. I say ‘just’ but I know it’s not as easy as that, I needed to find even a mild like of myself to start with!

However, I will now state that I am happy to say, with hand on heart,
‘I am amazing as a person and I am fully and deeply loveable just as I am’. Phew…. (that still feels cheesy and awkward to say, but you should give it a try. Put your hand on your heart and mean what you say. Tell yourself how amazing you are.)

I spent many years always thinking things such as,
• Once I lose weight, I will be loveable!
• Once I get that task done, I will be valuable!
• Once I have more money, I will be worthy!
And various other statements to this effect. The list became a never-ending horror story in my head. My worth and love-ability was always in something else rather than in myself. Like I said, it’s still a work in progress and these thoughts can still creep in and you will see me having ‘a word with myself’ as I like to call it. I am sure it always will be a work in progress, but I now do love myself, as I am.
What was my turning point? Why did I did decide to do something about this? As I am sure you are aware, if you have ever made any changes in your life, it usually comes after an emotional experience of some kind. These huge emotions can often make us decide to change what is causing a problem. Most who know me would probably think it was after a break-up. I do remember saying to a friend after the dust had started to settle that ‘I just want to meet someone who makes me feel like am not the most awful person in the world’. As some will probably see reading that, even then, I was looking to outside influences to ‘fix me’, make me feel better. The penny still hadn’t dropped. It finally dropped when I learnt mindfulness on a weekend away and pulled a card out of a pack of 50 contemplation cards, and this one read ‘Self-Respect’. I burst into tears and didn’t stop for hours. That was my moment.

You don’t have to wait for a moment, you can always change whenever you want to. Remember that.

So why can we only love others as much as we love ourselves? Brenè Brown explains this much better than me and is the one that made me finally fully understand the saying, but I will explain a little here.

We need to be vulnerable in loving others and be vulnerable in accepting our true authentic selves and this is tough to do. It means when a loved one is going through something, we feel empathy with them rather than feeling shame, disgust or rage and various other emotions because it triggers something in us. Love is two people meeting together with vulnerability and empathy and that is so hard when you don’t want to be vulnerable because that involves showing everything you think is wrong with yourself.

Now as I hope people are starting to realise, I like to be practical with things and use the research in various fields to come up with actions I can add to my daily lifestyle. It’s about consistency with activities that fit into a busy modern life. Not something I do once on a workshop and never try out again. We must practice things to get better at them. Self-Love, as I said at the start is a work in progress and I think it always will be for most people. So, I practice self-love regularly.

Here is an idea for you to try and add into your busy life…

To gain a little more self-love, try this:
Talk to yourself in a kind way. We can all have a horror story going on in our heads where we are always the stupid one who makes the mistake and goes upstairs instead of out the front door for help. We make a mistake and we are a complete loser, stupid, idiot (and probably other harsher words you can think up for yourself). Our best mate makes a mistake and we are calm, understanding, patient and kind to them. DO THIS FOR YOURSELF!!

Practice these sayings every time you notice your inner thoughts speaking unkindly.

• I made a mistake, but I can try again / I can fix it / I can apologise and make it up to them.

• I failed, but I am not a failure. I can try again / I know how I can make it work next time / I have a new idea.

• I am really proud of my achievement / the way I have coped with today / the way I handled that situation. It may not have been perfect, but life isn’t perfect.

Remember this is a work in progress, we won’t get it right all the time, but we can learn to accept, understand and love ourselves bit by bit if we keep going xxx

self-love pic