A large part of a positive relationship with anyone is down to our interactions with them. Positive interactions in higher numbers equal longer, healthier and flourishing relationships. Our emotions and the way we interact are contagious as we have mentioned before in previous blogs. If I am rude to someone the chances are they will respond rudely back and vice versa.
If I am highly stressed and anxious and bring this home with me from school the chances are my household will be feeling the negative interactions for the evening.
Please note that a positive interaction doesn’t mean we try to make everything we come across sparkly and fluffy. Remember, positive psychology is not happy clappy silver lining stuff. We accept the bad days too.
If someone says ‘I feel so stressed today’ in their interaction with us they probably are not looking for you to say, ‘cheer up, there’s a rainbow out there.’
A positive interaction does not mean you only talk about positive things.
Believe it or not you can have a positive interaction while being in disagreement over who walks the dog or does the washing up. It is absolutely possible for an argument to end as a positive interaction if both sides feel heard and the problem is resolved.
Positive interactions can involve many things…
- Have you given your full attention? (Put down the mobile or anything else and look at the person speaking to you). This can work wonders and often helps people feel so much better as they have been fully listened to.
- Have you responded mindfully being respectful of their feelings.? ‘You sound really sad. Is there anything I can do to help?’ We can often try to jump in and fix situations straight away. (Parents are classic at this and it takes away control and choice from the young person you are trying to save. It takes away any autonomy they had in the situation. Parents, take a step back sometimes and talk through it without offering solution) When we just offer a listening ear and support (‘I really am not sure what I can do to help right now but if you need me to just listen I will’) we give our relationship a boost and make the person feel supported to make their own decisions giving them the controls.
- Have you offloaded your stress onto someone unsuspecting? There are people we can offload onto and there are people we can’t. If you are not able to positively interact at that moment be honest. ‘I am in a really bad mood right now and I can’t think straight. Can you give me some time and we will talk soon?’ Shouting at your Dad because he asks what you want for dinner is not the way to offload your stress from the day.
- Are you focusing on the positive things you get to do in your relationships or are you focusing on the ‘what if’s’ and ‘I wish we could’ or the negative? Things will go wrong. We are all human. Holding a grudge will not build a positive relationship and comparing your relationship to others will not help either. What do you do already that you enjoy? That brings a smile or a laugh?
Remember as always these things take time and practice. We are always changing and growing and our relationships need to change and grow too. Keep moving forward positively together ️
Special Summer Guest Blogger
Please welcome the awesome Jane Jennison who has formed ‘adoptingpositivity’ and has very kindly written this months blog. This is all about our current theme Kindness.
Small acts of kindness
Why “Small Acts of Kindness”?
There’s a lot of research into how performing Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs) helps us feel better, and contributes to some-one else’s well-being too. ). RAKs are for strangers, with no recognition or reward (visit the RAK website here for more on this).
We have recently had children’s mental health week, RAK week, and Time to Talk, all focussing on improving mental health. Our mental health seems to be on the decline, so are there small things we can do at home, to help, as well as reaching out to strangers?
As I write, we are facing the global pandemic of Covid-19. This is impacting on our mental health, and lockdown restrictions mean that our social and work contacts are reduced. What can we do, to help our own mental health, and support the mental health of our nearest and dearest?
I invite you to take part in the ‘Small Acts of Kindness’ Challenge. It’s not on any calendar; I have just conjured it from the ether! Here’s how it works:
Small Acts of Kindness challenges us to be kinder to people in our circle; family, work, or friends. It’s our opportunity to practice thoughtfulness, consideration and generosity. These are not RAKs as they are planned actions for people we know.
Your challenge: your way. It’s up to you how to run this challenge. You could plan one small act of kindness a day, or perhaps set up a Small Act Circle with some people also participating, so you can support and encourage each other.
Be authentic to yourself. Set yourself challenges that are true to your values and strengths. (For more about strengths and how to identify your values, visit here.). This helps build your own well-being by choosing actions allied to your interests and expertise.
Build on micro-connections. Small Acts of Kindness can be done for people in your close circle, but you can also extend this. There may be people you see regularly who you can include. Is there a coffee shop you often visit, or some-one you are on ‘nodding’ acquaintances with? By expanding our interactions with these people, we can build new friendships and find shared values.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Send a copy of your favourite book to a friend.
• Write a note to a friend or colleague to say thank you for their support or help.
• Make a bookmark and send it to your favourite reader.
• Write a thank you card to your optician or dentist.
• Have ‘movie night’ at home with your family or friends (adhering to lockdown guidelines, of course!), snacks and a favourite film.
• Text a friend your favourite joke. Mine is ‘what’s orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot’.
• If there’s a page on Social Media that you find inspiring, share it and comment why you like it.
• Send a birthday card! Posts on Social Media pages *really* are not as satisfying as receiving a hand-written card.
• Write some-one a letter. If you are rusty of pen, or need ideas, look here
• Send some flower seeds to your gardening friends. If you are not sure what to send, try these
• Organise a litter-pick for your area. Your local council will have guidance. Here’s ours
• Make your partner a cup of tea or coffee when they are having a lie-in.
• Mind your Ps and Qs. Being polite costs nothing, but is often overlooked at home. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to your house-mates and work-colleagues.
• Send a postcard when you are on holiday. If there’s not one you like, you can use Touchnote.com to send them from photos on your phone.
• Give a little gift. You don’t need to buy a Faberge egg for someone to feel appreciated. Tokens of thanks just need to be thoughtful and personal.
• Help out with the chores before you are asked.
• Check in with a friend or family member you have not seen for a while. Many people who have poor mental health are reluctant to reach out, so reach out to them, instead.
• Shop locally. Support your local community and build new friendships!
• Organise a coffee morning. Lots of charities have themed events, check here for a full list of National Awareness Days. (Please wait until lockdown restrictions are lifted, or organise a virtual one.)
• Support your local Hospice. Most are only partly funded by the NHS and rely on charitable contributions for the rest.
• Support your local Library. Many have been privatised as a result of Austerity, and are run by a mix of volunteer and paid staff, and have to raise their own funds.
• Buy some-one a gift card.
• Prepare their favourite meal or snack for a loved-one.
Please adhere to the physical distancing guidelines that are in place where you are, and keep safe.
Finally plan ahead, and have fun!
Guest post by Jane Jennison
Jane Jennison is a positive psychology coach and author. She is founder of Adopting Positivity, Director of Autonomous Ideas Limited, and co-founder and co-organiser of the Positive Psychology Summit: UK. Her workshops help people identify their strengths, build positive relationships and find authentic happiness. She also works one-to-one with coaching clients. She writes for Goldie Media, which focussed on positive aging and Home for Good and Adoption:UK, who support families touched by adoption, fostering and special guardianship. She also publishes on Substack. Her grassroots-driven approach to practicing and sharing Positive Psychology is one that is much needed in communities today.
I have also seen this referred to as the emotional corona-coaster!
How have you all been coping with lockdown? Have your moods been better, worse, more consistent either way, or have been so up and down and round and round you feel numb?
Whichever way it’s been, I think it is fair to say that the pandemic has bought us all a chance to feel many emotions.
Try this: What are your emotions telling you? I am a big believer in our emotions being there for a reason. Fear lets you know that you should be aware of possible harm or injury. Belonging lets us know we have found our tribe. Disgust can stop you eating things that will make you very sick. Happiness can be a way of your body saying, ‘do that some more’. Take time to sit with how you are feeling; what are they saying to you?
We must also remember that our emotions are contagious. I have, plenty of times, blamed the kids for being moody, when it has in fact been me. My bad mood has spread through the house and I think everyone has a problem apart from me.
It is super important to remember that if we are stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or angry the tensions of everyone around us will rise too. When have you blamed others for being a pain when it’s actually been you? The good news is this can work with all those comfortable feelings too. Have you ever started laughing just because others are? You may not have even known what was funny!
Try this: Smile. That is all. As you walk past people smile. See how many people you can get to smile back.
If you need any help with your emotions, especially as we had back to more normal situations and school, then please get in touch. We will have a family wellbeing course taking place very soon and available on thinkific.
What does it mean to have values?
Schools have them. Companies have them. Brands have them. Families can have them and so can you personally.
You may see the use of words such as honesty, respect, community, compassion, plus many more.
What is most important to realise is that values should form our actions. It is all very well saying you have a value, but if you never take any action to live in accordance with your value is it really yours?
For example. If you say your value is honesty but you tell little white lies all the time, is it really your value?
Try this: have a think about what matters to you most. Then think about why. Do these things matter to you because they truly make you feel better, giving you meaning and purpose? Or do they only matter because someone else says they should?
When we have values that we action, we have more meaning and purpose and feel better. We achieve a heightened sense of wellbeing. And this is what we want more of, yes?
The good thing about values, meaning and purpose, is that they bring us longer lasting, deeper wellbeing. This is sometimes about doing the things that are harder in the short term but have much more positives in the long term.
Try this: think about something you have worked hard towards. That had challenges and difficulties in the short term but gave you positive long-lasting rewards for the future. What values were important and being put into action for this to happen?
If you need any help with this, coaching is a great way to open the mind to new ways of moving forward positively. Find out more here.
As always, personal growth and change takes time. Enjoy the journey discovering your values and how they change along the way.
Things are changing. That is what it feels like at the moment. We were all carrying on as ‘normal’, (well life as we knew it at that point) and then everything changed.
But, if we think carefully. Things are always changing. You have changed, probably lots of times.
One thing we have to accept in life is that things change.
Try this: Take a moment to think or write down all the moments so far in your life where things have changed. There can be huge big changes and small tiny changes. Some of these will be changes you wanted to take place and will have felt exciting or comfortable at the time. Other changes can be unexpected, feel out of our control and very much unwanted. Once you have some examples, take time to think about how you dealt with these changes.
When we move through change and come out of the other side, we are building our resilience and showing how resilient we already are. Go you, you absolute resilient machine!
Change can be difficult because it often brings with it the emotion of fear. Even if it is a welcome change there can be anxieties around it because it is leading us into unknown territory. Even if we have good expectations of what this new unknown will be like we can never be certain. So how do we cope with the fears and anxiety of change and become even more resilient than we already are?
Try this: Is the story you are telling yourself helpful? We often create stories around events and situations we face. If you are anything like me, these stories can often contain real catastrophe. I can go on forever in my head creating the worse case scenarios. How about creating the best-case scenarios of the change you are facing too? The chances are actual reality will be somewhere between these two stories. Take control of the stories you tell yourself.
As always, remember these things are all a practice. We all change as we grow as people and wellbeing is a continual journey. If you need any help with this or with anxieties around change, please join our private Facebook group where we run masterclasses and workshops for free. You can join here https://www.facebook.com/groups/chillyourbeanslivehappy/. You can also contact me for 1:1 coaching session. https://chill-your-beans.co.uk/coaching/
Acceptance and Non-Judgement
Part of mindfulness is the practice of acceptance and non-judgement. Quite often we think it is sitting cross legged on a scenic mountain meditating for hours on end!
Mindfulness is about being aware of yourself, others and the environment around you but crucially, without judgement of it. When we judge we are bringing meaning and ideas from the past and future and assuming or predicting how we, others or a situation should behave or turn out.
So, for example; have you ever started to feel emotional and labelled the emotion, told yourself you were wrong for feeling it before really actually feeling it and taking time to figure out exactly what it was and what it was trying to tell you? Remember as we have discussed in emotions topics before, they are all there for a reason.
Have you ever told yourself a situation was going to be completely awful and that you wouldn’t be able to handle the situation without having ever been in that situation before and knowing what will actually happen?
In both of the above we are being judgemental of ourselves or situations rather than practicing the art of non-judgement.
Try this: When an emotion arises, get comfortable and be aware of what it is. Where is it in the body, what is it trying to tell you? Accept that the feeling is there. Do you want more or less of this feeling? Decide whether to give anymore of your awareness to this feeling or to just let it pass. Remember emotions come and go.
Acceptance is also a tough skill to master. Often people think that acceptance means you become some sort of doormat for people to wipe their feet on and leave you feeling rubbish. This is not acceptance.
For example, just because you accept someone did something mean to you it doesn’t mean that it was acceptable behaviour and they shouldn’t be told that.
It means you accept that it is their behaviour and you are not in control of their behaviour, only your own. It was their choice to be mean and that has no reflection on you or your worth.
Try this: When you hit a tough situation. The behaviour of someone else or an event out of your control. Take a moment to accept that it has happened. Wishing it hadn’t or wondering why someone is not doing what you want them to do is not going to change what has happened. Once you accept what has happened, you take your power back and can decide what you want to do next. Remember you are in control of you.
Mindfulness can be added to daily life via taking time to think, reflect and question our initial thoughts and judgements. If you want more time to practice this join our 5 day wellbeing challenge here which is free and taking place on Facebook. After this there is a special online 28 day course where you can transform your wellbeing and use the power of positive psychology throughout your daily life. Head to the group coaching page for more information. If you join our 5 day wellbeing challenge you will get a super special lockdown price.
Stay safe and keep well xx
How is your self-care routine?
‘What routine?’, I hear you cry.
Everyone should indulge in self-care, daily. It is not a luxury bath or binge watching a whole Netflix series once you feel dreadful. Self-care is daily routines that keep us healthy. Physically and mentally.
How many of these do you take part in regularly.
Plenty of sleep, Good food, drinking lots of water, exercising, reading, being kind to yourself, staying connected with others, relaxation, being mindful, letting go of difficult emotion, being playful and meditation.
Try This: Try out the diagram in the picture. Add your self-care ideas to each section and then give them a number out of ten. A zero means this part of self-care is not happening at all and a ten means you have that one in a routine and all is well.
This way it is easy to see where you can boost your routine and keep up what you are already doing well. You can have as many or as few self-care ideas on your wheel as you want. If you know that you are never going to meditate then do not add it to your wheel. You do not have to do all the self-care ideas listed and you of course may have others that you want to add.
Often people will avoid a part of self-care as they have tried before and felt it had not gone well. Such as starting a new exercise routine or drinking more water instead of caffeine. Please remember, no matter who you are, what you have tried before or where in life you are, you are not condemned to unhealthy habits. People change and grow and can undertake this change at any point they choose.
With the country moving to more isolation measures we have more opportunity to look after ourselves within our homes. Take time to relax as this can decrease stress which is not great for our immune systems. Take time to eat plenty of vegetables (there are lots of these in the shops). Even if you are alone, get online and connect with others. Facetime those you can’t see in person. We will need to be more mindful of each other and kindness is key.
Don’t forget to practise gratitude. When we are surrounded by bad news it can become overwhelming, so remember what you are thankful for.
We are moving online. You can still take part in classes such as our relaxation, mindfulness and meditation drop in and a new monthly subscription service, so you have coaching when you need it as well as one to one coaching. We also have an awesome self-acceptance online course you can already have access too. Keep an eye out for all announcements online and social media. Thank you for reading and taking the time to support a small business at this diffcult time.
Why is it so amazingly difficult?!
I thought self-love was hard, and I was right. BUT, before you even go there you need to accept yourself. Many of the ‘self’s’ such as self-love, worth and esteem are related to each other but each a little different. Acceptance (and awareness) is really the start, the first brick giving you a base to build the rest.
Accepting the great parts of ourselves is easy.
Oh wow, you are so funny, healthy, intelligent, kind…..any of those things people have said to you that become a positive story in your mind. Easy to accept. Well most of the time.
Sometimes these things can be difficult to accept too and if you want help with that you can get in touch for a free call to see how coaching and positive psychology interventions may help. Send your availability through this contact form and I will get back to you.
What about these things… Oh wow, you are so stubborn, grumpy, jealous, naughty, emotional….
These things are harder to accept.
Now sometimes of course people may have said these things to you to be mean.
However, sometimes, if we are honest with ourselves, we have maybe been these things.
I am stubborn. There I admit it. Finally, after 37 years.
Once I accepted this trait, I found it much easier to recognise, cope with and change. I also found it easier to know when someone was being mean and saying something to me that was not part of my reality. I am more aware of this now as I am more accepting of who I am and more aware of who I am.
Why is it important we accept ourselves unconditionally?
We are a work in progress, all of us. Humans change and grow throughout life. Your sense of who you are is therefore always changing. As you age, face different life events, find new meaning, purpose and values, your ‘self’ will change. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY FINE.
The key thing to remember is: Unless you accept who you are it is very difficult to make the changes you may want to make to improve your life.
Try this: Have a go at writing down all the positive things that you can accept about yourself right now. Enjoy these things about yourself and celebrate them.
Then to start the journey of self-acceptance and self-love head over to our online workshop. Self-discovery is waiting for you.
Set Goals and Achieve
How great does it feel when you finally achieve a goal? Something you have wanted to achieve for ages. Have worked hard towards. I know I feel AMAZING.
Quite often though, I will admit, my goals have fallen by the wayside. Left in a pile of other uncompleted tasks and things that I just don’t feel motivated to complete. How many of you have a New years resolution in this pile? One of my resolutions was to eat less sugar. As I am currently eating chocolate while writing this, we can assume that is in the pile too!
Why do some goals never seem to get going? Well for me with the less sugar example… I didn’t really want to. I love chocolate. I want to eat it so therefore there is no motivation to not eat it. If you have made a goal because you think you should or because someone else tells you you should, it doesn’t always align with your values.
Try this: What do you really, really want? Really. Totally honest, up front without the little voices in your head telling you to stop being silly. That right there is a true goal, that means something to you. It matters. If it matters, you are going to stick to it for longer. Write down the things you truly want and turn these into goals.
Sometimes goals don’t fall by the wayside because we don’t really want them. Sometimes we get lost on the way to achieving them. Things get in the way. Life takes an unexpected turn and the goal takes a backseat and can get left there. There is nothing wrong with this. Life happens and we sometimes have to put other things ahead of what we truly want for short time periods. The problem is when they get left in the backseat and become and little nagging concern that we can’t shift. Its always good to revisit these lost goals. Re-evaluate them. Do you still want it? If not, then get rid. If you do still want it, then read on.
Try this: Break goals down into smaller more manageable steps. If I set a goal to be able to Olympic weightlift, I wouldn’t just turn up and expect to start chucking heavy weights above my head without issue. I would need to break the goal down into steps. Starting with smaller weights and moving up as I gained strength. All goals are the same. Break it down into steps that give you little moments of achievement along the way.
As always, remember that wellbeing takes practise. Take time to reflect on how far you have come and where you want to go at varying points throughout the year not just in January. If you want help with this we have an hour long workshop taking place in Biggleswade on Wednesday 29th January or you can seek help via 1:1 sessions in person or on skype.
Resilience is all about getting back up and carrying on even when life is hard. It is about being able to get through the tough times. When obstacles get in your way it can be about having the flexibility to work around them.
I thought the moment where Princess Anna in Frozen 2 gets up and moves forward to do the next right thing shows what we mean by resilience in the face of a setback. I won’t tell you what the setback was I don’t want to spoil the film if you haven’t seen it. You can check out the song I am on about here…
Sometimes we try to avoid change, but it is always there. Life is always changing even when we may not want it to. Resilience can help us cope with this. But how do we become more resilient?
Resilience is something we learn, and we can become more resilient. It is important to remember that being resilient does not mean you do not experience negative emotions or difficulties. Saying ‘I don’t care’ or ‘it’s fine, it doesn’t matter’ when something has caused us pain is not resilience but avoidance.
Try this: Accept that things change. We can’t stop things happening to us and we can’t control other people. Mindfulness is great for learning acceptance and you can try to become more mindful through daily practice. Keep scrolling down to the mindfulness posts from January 2019 if you want to learn more about it.
Many things can help us feel more resilient. One is other people, our positive relationships. We have spoken about the importance of social connection before as many aspects of wellbeing build up to help us feel more resilient. You can scroll down to find out more about positive relationships too. Who can you talk to? Who can you share your worries, problems and feelings with? Having a strong support network can help with resilience as we have people to turn to in times of need.
Try this: Write down all the people who you can talk to about your problems or the things that worry you. If there are not many people on this list look at how you can increase this. Try finding a social club to join, or a group of people with a shared hobby for example. There are also many helplines, charities and professionals out there who can be added to any list of people to talk to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from people when you need it.
Resilience as all parts of living a full and well life take practise. We need to build our mental health skills just like we build our physical fitness with exercise.
What we practise grows stronger as we grow and change as people.
The Season of Kindness:
Our theme for this month is Kindness and Gratitude. This is very fitting as it is nearly Xmas. I think Christmas is all about kindness particularly. Watching the new Netflix film ‘Klaus’, Santa really does represent ultimate kindness. Giving a present to every boy and girl just because, not expecting anything in return.
Kindness spreads kindness. If you do one kind act for someone it makes you feel amazing, it makes the person who receives your kindness feel amazing and anyone else who happens to see the kind act, they feel amazing too. No wonder Father Christmas is so jolly!
Complete an act of kindness. It can be anything. Bring your neighbours bin in. Pick up some litter that someone else has dropped. Hold a door open for someone or offer them help if they are struggling. It really can be anything no matter how small, an act of kindness is still kindness.
How does it feel when you are kind? How does it feel when someone is kind to you?
The great thing about kindness is that it brings us all together. I’m keeping this one short and sweet this month as I don’t think there is anything else that needs to be said.
‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’ The Dalai Lama
We can all have those moments where we feel our motivation has left us. We call this A-motivation. The feeling of ‘I can’t be bothered’. But why does this strike us? Sometimes even when the task is something we had been previously excited and motivated to do?
I have had this recently (the last few days). I had been excited but when it got to it, I felt nervous, couldn’t be bothered and like I just wanted to stay in bed forever. Why?
Well there are three main things that can affect our motivation whether you are child, student, parent or teacher. In fact, all humans 😊
Relatedness: This is about other people. As I have said a few times before, we need other people, they are important to our lives and wellbeing. Relatedness has been my motivational issue the last few days. I had been upset by someone and then everything seemed to snowball. If you are struggling with a relationship and it doesn’t feel very positive such as friendships at school, it can be hard to have the mental power to motivate yourself for anything else.
Try this: if something is bothering you, such as a friendship issue then sort this out first before you tackle motivating yourself. You will probably find that once the worry of the issue is resolved or accepted you will be free in your mind to do more for yourself.
Autonomy: Did you choose the activity you need motivation for yourself? This can be super hard at school where we must take part in certain lessons that may not be quite where our values lie. We looked at values back in the summer when we covered meaning and purpose.
Try this: If you are struggling, then find the value in the task you must complete. How and why will this task be helpful to you? What will it mean to you or others that are important to you if you complete the task?
Competence: Have you suddenly found yourself less motivated because your task has become way too easy? Or alternatively have you hit a block and it is way too difficult? Look at the challenge and skills you have.
Try this: If the challenge is too vast for the skills you currently have break the challenge into more manageable chunks so you can master new skills on the way to completion. If the task has become too easy is there a way you can challenge yourself? You need to revisit what you are doing and find a new challenge within the task.
Give it all a try and see how you get on. Like everything these things take practice. Keep going, you got this. xxx
I am sure you have all been told of the importance of growth mindset at school. This is where you believe that the effort you put in is what gives you greater knowledge and success rather than the ability or talent you have to start with. Our intelligence grows as we learn.
This research was completed many years ago now and has recently been looked at again (psychologists and scientists like to repeat stuff a lot, just to make sure). The results were different to a point. They concluded that it wasn’t a ‘growth mindset’ or a ‘fixed mindset’ that caused change in our achievements but hard work that created the best outcomes.
Now, in my opinion it is a mixture of lots of things. I am a big believer in mindset, a positive mindset. One that is on the sunnier side of optimism, hope and learning goals. We can all get stuck in a fixed mindset. I used to tell myself regularly (all the time) that Math wasn’t my thing, that I couldn’t do it and that I was stupid when it came to numbers. English was my thing. I can do words. Neither of these mindsets were good for me. In Math I just stopped trying and put in little effort believing that my mathematical brain was lost somewhere. In English, I just coasted along. My ego telling me I didn’t need to put in much work because I was already good at it. Now anyone who has had to correct my grammar and spelling at any point or stick commas into my very long-winded sentences, like this one, will know that I should have tried harder.
Look at your lessons at school. Are there any subjects where you have given up because you keep getting it wrong? Are there any lessons where you are not putting in the hard work because you think you have it sorted? What we can often do is start to think we have a ‘growth’ or ‘positive’ mindset around something because we are good at it or enjoy it. This doesn’t necessarily mean we are giving it our best effort each time. Hard work pays off.
Always remember to take a moment to check on how far you have come. We are not all going to be at the top of every class and that is ok. We must have compassion and kindness for ourselves. Look at your starting point and where you are now. How far have you come? Do not compare your progress to others.
Keep a check on your mindset and be kind.
Meaning and Purpose
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Aiming 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
Do you connect with others face to face in person, or do you prefer to do it from a distance such as through a smartphone and social media?
Many of us now connect via technology, and this is not just a dig at young people, adults are just as bad.
On average adults are spending up to one day a week on their smart phones. Hours change depending on what survey you look at with 11 hours per day being the highest I could find. Now we use our technology for all sorts of things, reading, watching, researching and being ‘social’. This way of being social is at a distance and not the sort of connection we are made for. We have survived as humans because we build strong relationships as groups.
Why do we do this? Well connection can be difficult. As humans our relationships with others can be messy, emotional and confusing. We will talk more about emotions next month, but we generally don’t enjoy these confusing and difficult sensations of connecting with others. Do they like me, don’t they? Did I say too many weird things or was I being cool enough? Did they notice that weird snort when they made me laugh or that huge spot I have on my chin?! Online or ‘social from a distance’ we can filter ourselves. Face to face we have just our full wonderful realistic selves to bring to the connection.
When we are younger, we develop skills in connection and learn to notice body language and facial expressions of the person we are looking at. This is taken away when all we have are words on a screen. Now connection can be with family, friends and loved ones but don’t forget we can connect with those people nearby in our towns and cities. We gain a sense of belonging when we connect with the people who work in our local shop or neighbours and teachers.
How many hours a week do you spend interacting with people face to face? Is there a way you could increase this? Technology is not bad; I love keeping in touch with friends who have moved far away but we always need to try and find a balance between all the ways there are to connect.
You know that little lovely luscious feeling you get when your phone pings with a text or notification? That is because we feel happy that someone has contacted us. The same happens when we have a positive face to face connection with another person.
Try this: Connect with someone else just by smiling. It doesn’t matter who they are just smile. Instead of looking at your phone to escape the awkwardness of walking past people, keep your head high and smile. See how many you can get to smile back. You could always start a competition with friends on how many people you can get to smile at you, extra points for a good morning or hello.
Try this: Feeling a little braver after smiling? Connect with others by using eye contact. We can often not quite look people in the eye, or just give a very quick glance for milliseconds. Try looking in a friend or family members eyes for 1 minute. Its not a staring competition so you can blink 😉
Remember to give things a try a few times and see how you get on. Always stay open to new ideas and think about how they make you feel. We are always growing and changing as people. xx
Show your Strength each day…
What are you naturally amazing at? I am not talking about things at school such as being good at Math or Sport, English or Languages. I am talking about the unique individual you.
When I run classes, I sadly often get the answer of ‘nothing’ or ‘I don’t know.’ The better news is that once they have left a class, they have an idea of what they are good at and what makes them uniquely them.
We can often focus on what we are not good at and where we struggle. The thing is if we focus on what we are good at and where we thrive, we can deal with where we struggle with greater ease. You must know yourself, its hard to stay motivated on something when we find it hard and we don’t feel good about ourselves.
What makes you, you is your personality and strengths of character. The strengths I am talking about are as follows….
Love, honesty, judgement (as in weighing up both sides before making a judgement), love of learning, humour, creativity, curiosity, fairness, humility (modesty), teamwork, leadership, appreciation of beauty and excellence (this is loving all things beautiful and recognising others talents), kindness, gratitude, spirituality (a belief in a higher meaning or purpose), prudence (being sensible or careful), perseverance, bravery, social intelligence, perspective, hope, forgiveness, zest (lots of energy for life), self-regulation (self-control).
We have all of these strengths, every single one. Some we may use more than others, and some may come more naturally to us, but they are all there. Sometimes we just need to activate them.
Choose one strength from the list that you think you use each day; it may even be something that you do very naturally without thinking.
Now write down how you use this strength. Once you have done that, write down how you could use it differently each day. Really think outside the box with this one. For example, if creativity is a top strength, you don’t have to start singing, dancing and drawing every day. You can be more creative with your thoughts and try thinking about things in a different way.
Now you have one of your top strengths sorted, keep practicing it. Also see if you can spot other people using the same strength as you. Compliment them on it.
Remember as always, what we practice grows stronger as we grow and change as people. So keep going and giving new things a try.
Self-care, the road to independence:
Welcome to the teenage years. The moment where you can start taking care of yourself rather than relying on parents or guardians to do it for you. Does that sound a little harsh or a little daunting?
Don’t worry, it isn’t either. I am sure you are crying out for more independence and self-care is one way you can achieve this.
Now physical self-care I am sure you already do. We wash, brush our teeth, keep our clothes clean and hair brushed. Is this all there is to self-care? Some say it is doing what feels good at the time. Maybe a relaxing bath, some time with friends or a day out shopping. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, self-care is actually doing all those little slightly boring things consistently, so we stay feeling well in ourselves. It is not necessarily always good for you to just do fun things.
I am talking exercise, nutrition, sleep and emotional hygiene. Self-care requires a lot of self-control and perseverance.
How can we have more self-control and keep going?
For self-control try to give yourself small daily goals that lead to a bigger overall goal. If it’s to get a better night sleep, start going to bed slightly earlier each night and removing distractions. Doing this in small steps will make the overall goal simpler. To boost your perseverance, think of something you once found really difficult but eventually achieved, how did you do it and how could this help you now? Treat the self-care task ahead of you in the same way. If it is to get more exercise don’t give up the minute you have a bad day. Keep going.
Now I am sure you all know how to exercise and eat well. There is a huge amount of info out there and some good habits now will definitely help you in the future. Take it from an older person who must kick her own butt up the gym all the time to try and stay fit because she didn’t do it in her younger years!
Now at the risk of sounding like a nag, sleep is so important to self-care. You are not functioning properly if you are sleep deprived (and lots of people are, around half of adults do not get enough sleep). You should be getting a good 8-10 hours a night. Sleep helps you regulate your emotions better during the day and emotional hygiene is also an important part of self-care and one we often forget about.
Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by your emotions and unsure of how to cope with them? You are not alone. Emotions come and go throughout the day. Lots of them, from happiness to sadness, anger to excitement, feeling anxious to feeling calm. We must learn to accept them and notice what they want from us. After all, they are usually there for a reason. They are letting us know we are enjoying something or that we need to stop doing something. They can be letting us know that we cared about something or that we didn’t.
How can you start to accept your emotions more?
Start to notice what happens in your body when your emotions are becoming uncomfortable. This awareness will help you realise when emotions are starting to arise before you are overwhelmed by them. 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.
Self-care is something that can feel tedious, but it is very worth it in the long term. It is keeping ourselves well overall, not just feeling good in the moment. Remember as always to keep practicing. It will get easier and grow stronger as we all grow as people. xxx
Do you love yourself?
Self-Love makes us feel good, but it also has other benefits. It has been shown to help us cope better with depression as well as bringing us higher motivation and optimism.
This is all great, I mean who doesn’t want to happier more motivated and optimistic about the future, right? But…. what is self-love and how do we achieve it?
Self- Love is a feeling of being worthy, valuable and loveable. We know deep within ourselves that we are important and worthy of love from our fellow humans. Self-love can also be called self-worth. It is not confidence although an increase in confidence can come from loving yourself more, confidence can also be present where self-love is not.
Ask yourself these questions and answer them as honestly as you can….
• ‘Do you feel you are a valuable member of your community?’ (this can be school, college, family, the wider community)
• ‘Do you feel like you deserve to be loved?’
• ‘Do you like yourself?’
If you have answered a very definite yes to these questions, then you likely love yourself and accept yourself the way you are. If you weren’t sure about your answers or answered no then it would be great to do a little work on your self-love. Even if you do love yourself already there is no harm in keeping the practice up. In fact, I would encourage anyone to practice, as with most things, if we practice them, they get stronger.
I think most people at different points in life need to take care of what they think and feel of themselves. Life can deal us hard moments along the way, and we need to keep up with the self-love before these happen, so we are on top of these moments.
Most importantly self-love is something we can work on and improve within ourselves and as always, I have some handy tips below. Give these a try and see how you get on.
Three parts to more self-love;
Self-Kindness – Talk to yourself with kindness. If you are struggling with something, maybe you made a mistake or maybe there is something about yourself you are not able to accept right now talk to yourself kindly about it. Imagine you are speaking to your best friend. What would you say to them? Do this for yourself.
For example: I always told myself ‘you are too weird to be likeable’. Not helpful. Now if that was a friend telling me this I would say. ‘You are amazing and think in unique ways and lots of people like you for that. Not everyone will like you. Focus on those that do.’ Now I practices saying this to myself.
Common Humanity – this is that feeling of ‘It’s not just me’. Knowing that when we are in pain, others have felt pain also. We are not alone in our experience because it is a shared human experience. Just like embarrassment, shame, sadness, guilt, regret. Share your worries with others who deserve to hear your story. Someone you trust that has your best interests at heart. Look for stories from others in the public eye who have experienced the same feelings as you.
For example: Done something silly? Made a mistake? Said something you shouldn’t? Got upset or angry at someone? We have all been there and done it. I once had a major rant about someone, and they were stood right behind me. I felt guilty, like the worst human in the world and regret my actions. Oh, and there is more, I mean the list could go on and it will most definitely get longer as I continue to age. Others have done it too and if I can say sorry, make up for it, not do it again and get help when I need it by sharing my story then that is a good thing.
Mindfulness – become more mindful and aware of how you are feeling and what you are experiencing. Mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment, but this doesn’t just have to be what is around you, it can be what is going on inside you too. Try writing down in any moment exactly how you feel, where in the body you are feeling this and what your reactions to this could be.
For example: I have felt all these emotions in just a day….happy, sad, fearful, confused, excited, hopeful, shy, tired, anxious, angry, annoyed, frustrated, loved, peace, bored….. I could go on. We all feel. What causes these feelings in each of us may be different, but others will be feeling the same and have felt the same, even your parents! Try writing down everything you have felt and ask others to do the same. How many feelings have you in common?
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
Flourishing Teens in 2019
We are going to take 12 steps to Happiness over the next 12 months following positive psychology interventions and ideas. These ideas are all backed by research and can help you flourish.
We are starting January with Mindfulness. Mindfulness is ‘non-judgemental awareness of the present moment’ (Kabat-Zinn, 2013), but what does this mean and how do we practice it?
- Step 1 – Become more aware and grounded in the present moment. What is real and happening right now? Often our minds can wander off into the future or can dwell in the past and in doing this we miss the present.
- Really focus on the breath as it flows in and out. Count these breaths from 1 to 10. If you lose your way at any point then just stop, bring the mind back and start from 1 again. Repeat this until you feel present and aware of the moment you are in.
Mindfulness has been shown to help relieve mind-wandering (Mrazek et al, 2017), Stress (Kabat-Zinn, 2013), anxiety and depression (Felver, Celis-de Hoyos, Tezanos & Singh, 2015) but, is not just about breathing deeply and being present.
- Step 2: Mindfulness is also about acceptance of the present moment and how we respond to those things we cannot control. Acceptance does not mean we let others treat us badly. It is about understanding that we cannot change another’s behaviour, we can only change our response to the behaviour.
Try this: Copy and fill out this graphic with things you can control and the things you can’t. Reflect on how much time you spend on things that are out of your control. Spend more time on the things you can control and be kind to yourself. We all struggle with our thoughts sometimes and we need to be non-judgemental of ourselves, not just others.
- Step 3: Add mindfulness to your daily life. Don’t wait for the stress to kick in and then think about being present. Don’t wait for the perfect quiet undisturbed moment in your day to sit quietly and meditate. Add it to your life bit by bit. It is a practice. Like a muscle it will strengthen if used.
Try these ideas in your daily life:
Next month we will be looking at self-love, this brings together mindfulness ideas of being non-judgemental as well as self-compassion. Keep up your mindfulness practice. If you miss a day, don’t worry, be kind and pick the practice back up again when you can.