Tag Archives: Happiness

One sentence inspiration.

Today is filled with wonder, if you slow down long enough to notice it.

photo of smiling woman standing near tree leaning on stone railing looking out into the distance
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Finding balance

woman walking on fence
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woman in black dress holding balance scale
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What does ‘balance’ mean to you?

What does finding balance in life mean to you? And what imagery comes to mind? Do you picture a gymnast on a balance beam, scales of justice, or perhaps a busy working mum ‘juggling’ an armful of responsibilities? Do you imagine a calm, serene and peaceful individual with a balanced life? Do you think of pH levels, of acid and alkaline levels? Do you picture the natural physical balance often found in the animal kingdom, such as a flamingo standing on one leg? 🙂

What does finding balance mean to you?

A sliding scale.

Balance in life, if you’ll pardon the pun, might be seen as a sliding scale. Our ideas about living a balanced life can vary over time, they can fluctuate and move from one thing to the next and then back again. They can vary according to circumstances, insight from the people we meet, and from life experiences, for example.

Pleasing everyone or staying sane?

From observation, of myself and of others, I find that as social beings (and that applies to all of us as human beings, no matter how introverted, isolated or reclusive we think we are), balance in life is often a dance between managing the needs and expectations of others and our own.

We need to maintain our own inner equilibrium if we are to live life well and be the best we can in our relationships and in managing our commitments. And we need to be involved in a world full of connections and communication with other people for our own wellbeing, growth and happiness.

We all have a variety of mutual needs – for community, communication and contact that co-exist with more seemingly ‘individual’ needs of solitude, quiet, rest, repose, refreshment, healing and maintaining our own commitments and responsibilities.

Maintaining balance. 

An important part of maintaining a balanced, healthy and productive life involves growing in insight of what our needs are and how they interplay with the needs of others, especially those most close to us in our lives.

We need to also understand that maintaining this fine equilibrium may also sometimes mean saying ‘no’, taking a step back, and refocusing our time, energy and efforts, so that we can be replenished, we can keep up with our responsibilities and be our best selves for the people we love as well. If we aren’t sometimes ‘brave’ enough to say no from time to time then we may end up feeling stressed, becoming ‘frazzled’, burn out, and withdrawing from the people who mean so much to us because we just can’t cope.

We all need balance, and we all need to help each other find it, as well as to grow in understanding of ourselves and each other in our varied and unique ways of finding and maintaining such balance.

A fine art. 

Perhaps the art of living a balanced life is comparable to learning to ride a bicycle, learning to dance, to walk a tight rope or on a balance beam, or to becoming a person who is wise and discerning and capable of making just and noble decisions.

The common thread among these is that balance may be in a sense intuitive, but it is not complete at the outset – it takes time, practice, effort, perseverance, diligence, insight, and often help from other people.

So if you are feeling a bit ‘frazzled’ in life, maybe you feel run down, burnt out, over committed, with too much to do and too many people to please, not enough time, energy, ‘sanity’, or peace of mind, then perhaps it is time to take a step back, time to breathe, to think and figure out a healthier way forwards.

It is worth recognising that finding balance is a part of life, and it can be difficult and we may fall down a few too many times. We may feel like a toddler who is learning to walk, with legs like jelly, unstable in our ways. Yet, with practice, we will get stronger, more adept and before long we will be off and on our way, and able to walk, run and play, including with other people. We might be scarred from too many falls off our metaphorical bikes but we don’t allow those things to keep us from getting back up again, watching and learning from others, until it becomes ‘second nature’ to us and we look for new challenges and learning opportunities.

I do think finding balance is a fine art. One which isn’t always easy to communicate. But just as we can learn to dance, to ride a bike, to grow in wisdom, to walk a tightrope, to reach out to someone else as we are doing so, so too can we learn to hone our skills at finding balance in life.

It’s important to grow in being able to communicate this with others, because just as we are working through things to find balance in our lives, so too are they. We need each other, and we’re in it together, and although we may be making a lot of mistakes, with practice, patience and love we can create a ‘dance’ that is full of beauty, love, and passion.

Stumbling is a part of learning. And finding balance is a part of that process.

flamingo standing on brown soil
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two pink flamingos
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“These are a few of her favourite things…”

Life in the adult world can be stressful at times. Goodness, life as a teenager and even as a child can be filled with challenges, depending on one’s circumstances and disposition. Today, however, I had the good pleasure of spending the afternoon with my little God-daughter, and my friend who is her mum who I have known since university days before her two children were born. We were belatedly celebrating her  10th birthday at the same place I took her to the previous year. Her choice, so I know she liked it.

Last month she had her birthday celebrations with friends and family, and today I got to celebrate with her, and be reminded to smile at all of the things a happy child has going on in her little world.

As adults our problems come and go, we stress and worry, we make big decisions. But today, this little one’s decisions featured around whether to choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream (in the end, she went for a scoop of both, in a big wafer cone, and couldn’t finish it although it clearly tasted amazing!); how to wipe all of the ice cream off her face; which toy, toys or outfit to buy with her £20.00 that she brought with her; and best of all hoping for things to work out as she desired – think of what our hopes are as adults, what do we really want to happen, and then contrast it with this little girl’s hopes for the day  – she hoped and hoped that it would rain! Not because there is any shortage of rain here, it rains frequently…too frequently most would say – but because one of her birthday presents that she brought with her on today’s outing was an ‘umbrella hat’…basically this is the top of an umbrella (multicoloured of course! think rainbow, or ‘Skittles’, a different colour in each ‘segment’), with an elastic headband attached, and just the right size to fit over a child’s head! 🙂 It did rain, and it was splendid. She wore her little umbrella hat with pride, and when we were indoors again she didn’t take it off until absolutely necessary, and she didn’t have a care in the world about what anyone else might think, as she was oblivious to that notion – for her the hat was just what everyone needed, and she was the only little girl around, and the only person around who was wearing one!

Imagine for a moment living life that way. Enjoying the ice-cream, spending a long time playing with toys in a big toy shop, unable to decide what to buy, and in the end not buying anything from the shop at all, of hoping that it will rain so that you can wear your one of a kind rainbow umbrella hat! Yes, I know, life isn’t that simple for us adults, but don’t you think that sometimes we make it far too complicated for our own good?

Why don’t we think of our favourite things more often, things that don’t cost the earth, that don’t have to be worthy of taking pictures of, but just to enjoy those simple, fun and happy things that for a child make life worth living? Today might be a good day to try out that umbrella hat for yourself, or to enjoy the ice-cream and not worry about getting chocolate on your face! Keep smiling 🙂 x

close up photo of child eating ice cream
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Lunch bites – bite sized inspiration on your lunch break…

close up of tree against sky
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Go green

Working in an office, a factory, on site, or even potentially from a home office depending on how you have set things up, can leave you feeling a bit detached and disconnected from the beauty of life, if you’re not careful.

I think one of the most uplifting and refreshing things in life is to be in the midst of nature. There is something about the slow, steady, seasonal and gentle pace of watching life grow that helps take us out of the frenzied hurry we often let ourselves be drawn into.

This lunchtime, I walked 3 times around my building, as it is a lovely sunny day with blue skies which can be a rare occurrence here. I sometimes go to the park, but it is a longer walk, and I have to cross traffic, etc. to get there. However, even though I didn’t get to the park, there are trees nearby, and some greenery edging the circumference of our office building area. Maybe not a lot, but enough to contribute to the satisfaction and peace that feeling more connected with nature, even just a little more, can bring.

Maybe you are in a busy central location and don’t have much greenery nearby. Maybe you work in an industrial, built up area, where everything seems to be “bricks and windows, windows and bricks” in the words of Willy Lowman (‘Death of a Salesman’ – Arthur Miller). That doesn’t mean you can’t introduce some indoor plants to your work space, maybe some succulents that are low maintenance – I keep meaning to find a cactus and give it a little home on my desk at work. These small changes can be good for us over time, and bring little bursts of happiness into our day, leaving us feeling even just that little more connected with that beautiful, natural and peaceful way of life that being near nature, and greenery brings.

Retreat Reflections -Day 3 (Part 4) ~ From ‘FOMO’ to ‘JOMO’…

I’m sure most of you will have heard of the popular acronym ‘FOMO’; if you haven’t and you worry that you haven’t heard of it, then you probably have it! 😉 For those of you who are familiar with the term, you’ll know that I’m talking about the ‘Fear of Missing Out’.

calico cat on focus photo
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I’m sure we’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives, or perhaps we experience it as a long standing condition! Missing out on what, though? We are often more concerned with doing rather than experiencing. We think our lives would be better (and by better, deep down we probably mean more fulfilled, exciting, happier, having more meaning, value, significance and purpose, and perhaps being more admirable in the eyes of others) if we had what that person had, or we could do what they did, or we looked the way they looked or could travel where they travelled, or had their talents, or family or friends….and the list is endless.

FOMO steals from us the precious moment that we can enjoy and live in right now. We anxiously look around us at others, or we get lost inside our own heads thinking of what we ‘ought to’ do to make the most of our time, and generally losing focus on where we are and what we are doing right now, and the value of simply experiencing it deeply. 

I got to thinking about this while washing the dishes – I was enjoying the experience of slowing down, appreciating that I had dishes in the first place to wash when other people sadly go hungry, of feeling the warmth of the water through my washing up gloves and enjoying the bubbles. Experiencing the experience, finding the value in it, enjoying the little, simple things, right in front of us.

chipmunk holding teapot toy
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But then …then I considered the time, the fact that I am on retreat, taking a day’s unpaid leave from work, wondering whether I could get this done quicker and then go out for a walk or to a coffee shop or something more ‘retreat like’. I became more concerned with the doing rather than the experiencing and therefore allowed anxious thoughts to steal the joy of the moment from me. And maybe you sometimes think like that too. But we can come back from that…we can slow down, refocus, and be thankful…and find joy as we move slowly, quietly, peacefully and humbly through the day. 

Do you think that all of those people doing all of that amazing stuff really enjoy their lives more? (I’m not talking about in comparison with people who are in situations where their basic needs aren’t being met – that’s a different situation to what I mean, and a topic for another discussion). Maybe the people who seem to have it all ‘should’ enjoy life more…and maybe in some respects they do, and that’s a good thing for them, we should think kindly of them if their enjoyment isn’t harming anyone else- but chances are the reality is that like butterflies people who seem to have it all flit from one thing to another because they need the big experiences, they need to show off their relationships, or look a certain way and be admired for it, or go to so many places because they are not experiencing and enjoying the simple things deeply and so they don’t have contentment and never truly feel like their lives are ‘enough’. Perhaps we are all like this to some extent. All of these things are beautiful aspects of life – wellbeing, healthy relationships, opportunities to connect, to travel, to go on adventures, to experience and learn new things, to grow in ourselves, to develop our skills and our talents. However, if we focus solely on doing and ticking things off our list of ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ then these lovely things in life actually become hollow. We rob ourselves of the true value of experiencing our own lives if we are constantly worried or thinking of something else that we might be missing out on, and putting a ‘price tag’ or value on that experience by outward criteria alone. 

adorable autumn baby blur
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So, that’s ‘FOMO’ ~ a rather unpleasant state of being and comparison either with others or with our expectations for ourselves. So what on earth is ‘JOMO’? ….

Have you ever noticed a very young child whose parents may be trying to show them something that they hope will be exciting for the child, and that most other people would think would be of interest to them, but instead, they are utterly mesmerized and absorbed by a leaf or flower at their feet (and nearer their eye level anyway), or an ant or something we have learned to dismiss as not being of much interest in our experience. Children can sometimes express such joy and glee at the strangest of things. I once saw a video of a baby in joyful hysterics, laughing its little heart out, when its dad ripped up pieces of paper. It’s silly, but we can learn a lot from young children like that. They don’t care about what else they should be doing, they are just enjoying the little things fully in that moment of their life as it happens. And that in itself, especially to adults, is extraordinary. 

I read a quirky little article a while back that talked about replacing ‘FOMO’ and anxiety with ‘JOMO’ – the JOY of missing out. Of not feeling we have to do the ‘big things’, but to find joy in not doing them and enjoying the little things that we love. The joy of missing out can really be translated of the joy of being here, right now, and fully experiencing the good things in your own life however insignificant on the surface they may at first seem. 

EnJOY your day 🙂 

Celebrating two years…

 

five assorted balloons
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I received a lovely notification from WordPress today, wishing me a ‘Happy Anniversary’: it’s my 2 year WordPress blog-anniversary, and I’m delighted to be able to share it with you. I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all for being part of my journey over the past two years, or for however long you have been following along, even if you have only just joined me. I appreciate each and every one of you, for after all the art of blogging is as much in the reading as it is in the writing, and you all make it worthwhile.
It may be a modest achievement to have reached this stage, but I also want to encourage each and every one of you to recognise your own achievements without comparison to those seemingly ‘greater’ achievements of those around you.
For me blogging is not about numbers of ‘likes’ or followers, although it gives me a boost each time I see your lovely comments and contributions. It is about making a difference and putting something of worth back into the world so that I might help or encourage even one person, because each of you are so valuable in and of yourselves. For me, in a sense, my humble blog is quite an accomplishment, because I started it at a time when I was struggling massively with my health and in particular complex-PTSD, depression and anxiety…I wrote and threw myself into creative pursuits, partly because creativity is essential to who I am, but also as a way to help conquer my health battles.
Blogging has also given me a creative outlet and has provided me with insights into some of your wonderful worlds. Isn’t it amazing to be able to catch a glimpse of real lives unfolding in other parts of the world in a variety of cultures, and yet lives that share the same deep and common thread of humanity? Thank you.
As I have continued on this journey, I feel I have found not only an outlet for myself, but the gift of being able to form connections and deepen my understanding of myself in this world, to use my painful experiences hopefully to help someone else and in doing so to feel more purposeful through life, to share with you the joys, and simple wonders of life as it happens to be, and of course, to express my Gratitude and to share my faith.
So, ‘don’t despise the day of small beginnings’ if you are starting something new, or if something you are putting your heart into seems to be taking time. Things will blossom in their time.
For now, thank you dear readers / blogging friends, and thank you WordPress for the many doors you open to make life online a little more wonderful. xx

“Travelling Teaches You” (15).

Travelling teaches you to laugh. They say that laughter is the best medicine…while this may not necessarily be factually true in all cases, laughter, liveliness and joy certainly help to boost good health, wellbeing and happiness. We all need a good dose of fun and light-heartedness in our lives and travelling teaches us this whether it be through the people we meet, the jokes we hear, the mishaps and misunderstandings  we experience, the unusual signs we come across, or the observations of life around us. 

It is easier to laugh when you are happy, and for me, it is easier to be happy when I travel. What about you? 🙂 

black chimpanzee smiling
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What colour is your mood? Daily Prompt – ‘Sunny’

Daily prompt – ‘sunny’

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Holly Golightly (‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’) called them ‘the mean reds’, a state progressively worse than what some jazz musicians and common parlance have termed ‘the blues’. Winston Churchill branded ‘it’, that terrible and impenetrable fog of depression, ‘The Black Dog’. And perhaps we ourselves find ourselves oscillating between colours on the spectrum of wellbeing.

Sunny’ is not a term commonly associated with depression. For me, it evokes inspiring images of wide open fields, blue skies, sunshine, meadows of brightly arrayed flowers, children running, laughing and playing, and key to it all….happiness.

Having a ‘sunny disposition’ connotes cheerfulness, wellbeing, and happiness. It is not the face of depression. Or is it?

Depression is not merely feeling sad. It is not something you can simply ‘pull yourself out of’. It is a real illness, as real as having a broken leg, only not as visible, and it can cause persistent distress over long periods of time.

Although a caricature of depression may involve dark clouds, lightning bolts, lashing rain, sad faces and general miserableness, which can in many cases describe the low moods and despair that some sufferers of depression may feel, it is not an accurate picture of the ‘face’ of depression.

What do I mean? I have a medical condition, among others, known as clinical depression. I was diagnosed only within the last two years, but I knew or suspected for decades that I suffered from something like this, particularly since and perhaps mainly triggered by being badly bullied at a formative time in my childhood, when I ceased to want to exist. At times the pain has been unbearable and I have not been able to hide it. However, as something that is a persistent condition, it somehow becomes ‘normal’, and since as adults we have to keep going and keep doing and keep living our lives and going about our business, we can sometimes ‘forget’ the seriousness of such conditions in ourselves and others. You do often seek to ‘just get on with it’, sometimes at your own risk. And getting on with it can mean putting on a smile, having a cheerful face and a ‘sunny disposition’ such that the invisible illness that you carry around with you is unseen and undetected.

The ‘face of depression’ therefore, at times, could in fact be a big smile, sunshine and blue skies, quite unlike the dismal ‘gloom and doom’ picture painted above. However, that makes it no less serious. Statistics show that in the UK, 1 in 4 people experience mental illness such as depression at some point in their lives, and in the US, depression is said to affect more than 15 million American adults. That means that more than likely, either you or someone you know, or know of, carries this ‘Black Dog’, and suffers from the ‘Mean Reds’, perhaps while showing you only a bright sunny smile on the surface.

So, knowing this, what can you do?

If you have been suffering and struggling for a long time, and trying to just put on a brave face, yet suspect you may have depression, please reach out for help. There are many mental health charities, and obviously talking to your doctor is a good first step. Depression is a very treatable illness. It isn’t easy. I know, I have it. Yet, you don’t have to suffer alone, in silence, or hiding behind your sunny mask all the time. A friend once told me, very helpfully, that I wouldn’t feel ashamed to reach out for help if I had a broken leg, nor try to ‘fix’ it myself (which is what I had been doing with my emotional and psychological issues, to no avail), so why should anyone feel ashamed to seek help for an equally legitimate medical condition, where the suffering is often profound and long lasting, perhaps caused by brain activity, trauma or genetics among many other factors.

If you are concerned about a friend, but are not sure because they always ‘seem happy’, carefully ask them how they are.

And if you can’t keep your sunny disposition and happy face in place today, don’t worry, it’s ok. And you’re not alone. It may seem bleak just now, but there is hope, and like me, I trust you will have brighter days ahead. x