Here’s one we can take a few minutes to do, ‘together’. Ok, so obviously, this one will be mine to get us started, but perhaps you can take inspiration from this and keep it going and share with someone else in your life.
While 2020 has been at the very least a challenging year on the global scale, and possibly for many an utterly miserable and heart-breaking year for those who have lost loved ones, it is important to allow our minds space for the positives too.
I realise this may be very hard for some of you. For others it might come more easily depending on where you are in life, especially this year. In these dark days, we need to learn to look for and look to the Light.
One way of beginning to train our minds to do this is to practice gratitude. I’m going to give it a go right now, unrehearsed, in real time, by making a list of some of the positives I’ve gleaned from this year. I’ll try to keep it as inclusive as possible to where you hopefully will also be able to relate:
Positives from 2020:
You and I are still alive, still breathing, hopefully you are also healthy.
We hopefully have a deeper appreciation of the gift of life and both how fragile and how precious it is.
2020 has given us insights into the dedication of many people in society, especially ‘frontline’ workers from those in the medical professions, health and social care, public health, cleaners, bin removal people, shop staff and so many more. If you feel like I’ve missed anyone please comment below so we can share our gratitude for them.
We have had the perhaps unwanted or unrequested opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate certain things in our lives, something that we might otherwise not have been able to do.
Some of us have grown in resilience through solitude, others have grown closer to family members, and others still may have discovered which people are not good for us and made a change in our lives moving forwards.
We realise more that we are part of something bigger than any or each of us individually, and yet we also realise that small actions can have huge consequences. While the virus has been a negative in our year, perhaps we can all start believing that our small positive actions can have a far reaching effect too, and decide to live out our lives in Truth and Love.
We have seen courage and fortitude in people who go the ‘extra mile’ for others, from community efforts to individuals, even in their 80s raising money for charity.
We perhaps have become more aware of the needs of different people in our societies and been motivated to learn more and to do something to help where we can.
We may have gained new skills or rekindled an old hobby.
We have gained insight into the scientific communities of men and women working hard to develop vaccines and to keep us safe.
We have learned to adapt.
There have been some positive environmental changes.
We have perhaps had more time to read, to write, to pray, to think, to connect online, to do some soul searching, to get creative, to learn, to cook, to home school, to….
We value those around us more, and we try to use the time we have to make a difference….
Over to you….please feel free to comment below with the positives you personally have discovered this year….with so many difficult things in 2020, let’s keep each other going and keep building each other up…..
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><strong>An example of positivity:</strong>An example of positivity:
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">When lockdown initially started in the UK, one of my role models, Katie Piper (please, please look her up if you don't know about her already – she is a fantastic example of an overcomer if ever you needed one!) was asked on a breakfast TV interview how she and her family are coping with being 'stuck at home'. When lockdown initially started in the UK, one of my role models, Katie Piper (please, please look her up if you don’t know about her already – she is a fantastic example of an overcomer if ever you needed one!) was asked on a breakfast TV interview how she and her family are coping with being ‘stuck at home’.
Katie, a self-confessed survivor and thriver (despite being the physical victim of a brutal assault and acid attack in 2008, with the multiple traumas and stages of physical and psychological recovery that follow from that) was very quick to challenge the language of the question asked and turn it on its head. Instead of complaining about being ‘stuck at home’, she was quick to show her gratitude for being ‘safe at home’. Katie’s awareness of the power of language and thought is, I believe, a crucial aspect of her resilience and recovery. She is now an ambassador for burns survivors, has a charitable foundation to help others who experienced similar things to her, is a wife, a mother of two little girls, an author of various biographies of different stages of her recovery journey, and of self help and encouragement books. She has her own beauty product range, has hosted various television documentaries looking at the lives of people who suffer from being stigmatised by society for being ‘different’ in some way, and has also had a stint training with the Police for another television programme she was involved in. She has been on the television programme ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ in the UK, and has run marathons for charity, and continues to push through the negative attitudes of a society that still judges people based on appearance. Recently after an eye operation which was required because of ongoing injuries due to the acid attack, Katie was ‘trolled’ on social media by people abusing her verbally because of the damage done to her face. Personally I and many others think she is a beautiful and brave human being and she continues to speak out and raise awareness about social stigmas and the way we should treat each other. She has another speaking tour planned for 2021, obviously depending on how things are with the pandemic, but at the age of just 37 years old she is a formidable force of recovery and positivity.
I’m currently re-reading a book of hers that I read earlier this year. It’s called ‘Things get better’ and it starts out with Katie describing her ‘rock bottom’ after her attacks and awakening from a coma, so marred by the acid that she was barely recognisable to her own parents, and she longed for death. In severe psychological and physical trauma, the prognosis for her by most of the experts was extremely bleak. She was not expected to walk properly or be able to live independently and it was considered hugely likely that her mother would have to be her full time carer for life. Now just look at her go!
Katie, despite being desperately crushed and broken by her experiences, found a way to challenge her thinking patterns from victim to survivor (and in my opinion to an overcoming thriver, if not ‘superstar’ 🙂 ).
How can we look at things differently?
I wonder if you and I can take something from this incredible example? I think as a starting point it’s good to be honest with ourselves with where we are in how we are thinking and feeling about things in this pandemic. But let that be a starting point rather than an end result.
Maybe we’ll find we have some things in common with what we are being challenged to overcome.
I haven’t properly been outside the house for a long time. I’m missing nature, the fresh air, being in parks or by the beach, and I’m struggling with the low light levels of winter. Maybe you have similar feelings of being cooped up, restricted or ‘stuck’ or feeling ‘down’ in some ways.
How can we look at this differently? Well, for a start, I am thankful that I have windows from which I can look at the outside world from. I’m thankful that in this cold and somewhat bleak winter season in Scotland I am safe and cosy indoors, that I have a home, and I can enjoy fresh air if I want by opening the door and stepping outside, even if not to go ‘out out’. I am thankful that I have been gifted with an imagination and a memory, and that I also have photographs that can prompt me of reminders of enjoyable times. I can think of times spent at the coast, of sunsets at the beach, I can remember the glistening of sunlight on water, and I can remind myself of walks in the park, and of travel adventures that I was blessed to go on in times past. I can choose to enjoy the cosy things that being indoors can afford me such as daydreaming about such times, imagining a positive future, or watching something inspiring, reading, spending time with family (now that I am blessed to no longer be in complete isolation as I was for the first half of the year), writing my novel, writing my blog, emailing my friends, drawing, colouring, playing my violin, spending time with God, and so the list goes on….
(not to forget getting cosy and watching Christmas movies! 🙂 ).
From what appears at first to be a negative, we can draw out so many positives by looking at things differently, and choosing to keep doing so!
2. I’ve been struggling with my mental health a bit, and I’m sure you can probably relate to this somewhat.
What positives can I / we draw from this? I’m appreciative of the time to think things through, to process, to read inspirational books and to help other people through my blog as I seek answers myself. The extra time being at home gives me a chance to do some of that deeper psychological work to build mental resilience and mental fitness that will help me and other people going forwards from here.
What positives can you draw from your challenges? Have you found opportunities opening up with other people to talk about mental health issues, which are extremely common in society, but not talked about enough? Have you been able to challenge stigmas or assumptions in yourself or others regarding issues with mental health? Are you able to talk about things more freely or with as much openness as you would a physical condition such as a broken leg, something which society does not stigmatise, or are you able to see the need to move further towards such open and honest conversations for the good of everyone involved?
Have you been able to reach out and ask for help, or are you able to provide some support to someone else? Have you grown in awareness of something you might not have been so aware of before, because of some of the issues that have come to light through the course of the pandemic? These can all be positive stepping stones individually and societally.
3. Missing people:
For the first half of the year I was in almost total isolation, and I am proud of myself for managing as well as I did, and for writing to encourage other people through that season of aloneness. I built up my own resilience, and showed concern for others, and made it through the more difficult days positively and having achieved various goals. I’m with family now, but I am missing my friends.
I wonder if you can relate to any of this? Do you live alone? Are you with people but feeling stressed or lonely? Are you missing friends or family that you would have wanted to see this Christmas or holiday season?
Can you reframe your thinking about this?
Can you identify ways in which you have shown resilience, compassion or grown in character or understanding? Have you grown in awareness of the needs of those around you and of more vulnerable members of society? Could you grow in gratitude for the special times you have had with other people, or have you become wiser in the company you keep and where you spend your time in terms of relationships and friendships with other people so that they become more deep and meaningful and so that you make wise decisions about people who may be ‘toxic’ or draining influences?
If you are happy and flourishing at home with your family, could you spare a thought and commit to an action of kindness for someone who is not? There is so much suffering out there, maybe you could add one small act of kindness towards alleviating that for someone?
If you are struggling are there positives you can find, or are there people you can connect with remotely, or are there other things such as skills you can use your time alone to build?
Sometimes it can seem very hard to find a positive from a negative situation or feeling, yet if we learn to see things as challenges rather than obstacles, we can grow in resilience, in fortitude, in positivity, in character, and we can learn to lead the ways as encouragers for those around us.
And remember that it is perfectly ok for you and I to start small. We may be inspired by people but we shouldn’t feel overshadowed by them. Our lives and our choices matter, even the smallest of choices. Personally I know that it is only by God’s Grace and the Sustaining Power of The Risen Lord Jesus Christ that I can do anything, and I am grateful each day for His mercies new every morning and His renewing strength at work in my life. It is a Strength that allows me to be weak, to be honest, to be vulnerable and also that gives me the grace to persevere knowing that I am never alone, and it is not all up to me.
What are you struggling with today? Be honest with yourself. Is there a way that you can change your obstacle into a challenge to be overcome, triumphantly? A thought may seem like a little thing, the smallest of steps forward, but it is incredibly powerful, and it is well within your grasp to choose how you will think about your issue at hand.
Stay safe, be strong, live this day with renewed hope. xx
Within each of us, we hold precious dreams of the life we long to live. As we move through this world the reality of the darkness that surrounds us as well as the darkness that we find in our own minds and hearts can quench those dreams. We struggle just to make it through.
Last year I wrote a lot about overcoming those ‘roadblocks’ in our minds and lives. I wrote about overcoming past difficulties, traumas, mental health struggles, in the hope that this might encourage some of you as well as help me make sense of certain things and to gain in strength and mental resilience. Last year I wrote a lot about recovery, self care and resilience. If you are in a difficult place, please browse through my previous posts to help you find some strength in moving forwards.
I know that there is still a lot of work within me to get to where I am living fully. After all, when I first started this blog almost three years ago I called it ‘Life as it happens to be’ and the web page ‘livingfully2017’ to signify what I hoped it to reflect and the date that I started the blog.
This year I want to challenge myself to take things a bit further. There are so many articles and posts that I have written to inspire and encourage you and I in terms of recovery, getting stronger, finding worth, self care, mental wellbeing and so forth. They’re there if we need them, and no doubt we will find it beneficial to look over these again. I’ll probably write more on these topics as they are so close to my heart and life story that it wouldn’t make sense not to explore them further and more deeply as I continue to journey through life and making sense of things.
However, this year I am considering being more intentional in my focus. To create posts that help and encourage us to ‘live fully’ right where we are, and to explore what may be holding us back from stepping forwards with courage and confidence. I hope to be less focused on overcoming past struggles and have more of a vision to inspire, equip and encourage.
It can be difficult to dare to dream when we have so many insecurities buried deep within ourselves, or even bubbling at the surface. It can be hard to believe for better when we’ve been told so many negative things in this world. But it’s up to us to take this as a challenge, to choose differently, to overcome, to thrive and to soar. Now, I don’t know how to do this as I haven’t got that far along the path myself, but I have come a very long way in ‘recovery’ and if I can put the same efforts into building something new as I have done in surviving and overcoming the old, the past, the difficult things of life, then who knows just what might be possible.
When I talk about daring to dream, please don’t let that hinder you if you lack confidence (as I often do). Daring to dream doesn’t necessarily mean doing a lot of things or accomplishing a string of goals. Daring to dream is perhaps more of an internal journey to become the people we want to be. I will always point to my Beacon, The True Light, the only One Who can regenerate, bring new life, forgiveness, and a fresh, clean start, making us new from within – Jesus Christ. Without Him, there is no lasting or eternal hope and any changes are temporary if they are not built up on Him, the sure foundation.
My faith and relationship with God is integral to my identity and out of it will flow my thoughts and learning about life. However, I also believe that regardless of who you are or what you think at this moment in time, there are ways in which we can encourage and help each other to grow in knowledge and awareness of our worth, of discovering our gifts and talents, of growing in confidence and courage, and reaching out to others with kindness, respect and love. Daring to dream that we can live more fully the lives of possibility that are set before us rather than remaining chained by all that has hindered us so far.
It is ok to be uncertain, unsure of how we will grow in confidence and refuse to let the negative messages we’ve experienced in life hold us back. It’s ok, as quite often the greatest changes stem from tiny ‘baby steps’ taken consistently over time. We all can think of examples in our own lives where we have persevered and made progress.
So, let’s dare to dream this year, as we journey together into the New. x
In recovery of any sort, it is absolutely essential that we get a hold of and harness our thoughts if we want to have a successful outcome.
Please bear in mind that I don’t say this at all lightly. Having experienced the nightmare of complex PTSD and severe generalised anxiety disorder and clinical depression, believe me when I say I know how incredibly tough it is to calm those intensely distressing thoughts. Tough, but not impossible.
You need more than muscle or physical endurance to get through a trial or a challenge. You need to set your mind on higher things. Things that are above your pain, above your problems and your circumstances. You need to tell yourself the Truth, and not give in to the despair of lies.
Our thoughts can lead us to all kinds of places. Sometimes those can be incredibly dark places such as low self esteem, depression, fear, phobias, eating disorders, relationship breakdown, self-harm, addiction, obsessions, suicidal ideation and even death. Such negative and intrusive thoughts can affect any of us, and it can be hard to ‘fight them off’. Self pity can lead to anger, bitterness and poor choices. Our thoughts can affect the words we use and our behaviour towards other people. These are certainly not trains of thought that any of us want to get on, but I’m sure that quite a few of us have experience of what it is like to be on such a journey through dark tunnels in our lives.
However, we don’t have to stay on that train. You don’t have to. The longer you are on it, the longer you will hear those ‘announcements’ from inside the carriage, loudly reinforcing that you are headed towards ‘destination nowhere’. Your fellow travellers will be headed in the same direction even if they get off at different stops. And the longer you are on it the more deeply ingrained those messages will become, messages that you may not even realise you are internalising and letting become part of your psyche.
You need to be aware of how detrimental, how devastating and damaging staying with those thoughts can be. They drive deep tracks into your internal processing, how you think of your life, your circumstances and these will inevitably affect not only your mental and emotional health, but your physical health too, as well as the choices you make and how your relationships with other people turn out.
But don’t despair. You are not your thoughts, and you can come back from it. I’m proof, although I’m a work in progress. Many of the negative things, the abusive words that pierced me in childhood became part of my internal processing. I believed the lies, and they damaged me greatly. Childhood is a very vulnerable time when we don’t have much resources or resilience to deal with what comes our way.
As adults, however, we can choose to get off the train and choose a new destination. I’m not saying that positive thinking is the cure to all of our problems, certainly not (as you probably well know, I believe Jesus Christ Is The cure!). However, we need to train ourselves, our thought patterns and develop new ‘tracks’ in our mind.
Think of the physical process of laying down a railway track. It’s a piece by piece effort, and similarly you will need to redesign your thought processes one thought at a time, reinforcing these as you go.
In your recovery you will learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way. You will need to work through things at your own pace. However, it is always helpful if someone can save you some of the heartache by giving you advice and the benefit of experience and hindsight as early as they can for you.
It’s best to decide ahead of time what your ‘go to’ thoughts are going to be, especially in challenging the negative thoughts you have been allowing to become part of your mental make up. You might not even realise that you are doing so. For example, do you allow yourself to dwell on thoughts such as ‘it’s so unfair’ or do you let them drift by and replace them with more productive thoughts such as ‘this isn’t what I would have chosen to happen, but now I have the power to choose what I do with it, and I will choose something productive’.
Thought patterns are so called because of their similarity. It’s unusual to jump from negative thoughts to positive thoughts without intention. For example one negative thought will tend to lead to another, and then another, until ‘tracks’ and ‘grooves’ are formed in our thinking: patterns.
A thought such as ‘it’s so unfair’ could quite easily lead to a stream of other such thoughts, forming a not so beautiful pattern of negativity. ‘It’s so unfair’ can lead to ‘victim thinking’. Whereas as children we may be victims because of our relative powerlessness, as adults, even if our lives are broken, we do have more resources available to us to find a way out. Where we can’t advocate for ourselves, others can, and if we’ve made it into adulthood, we will by default have some ‘tools under our belt’ simply because we have survived this far. We may not feel particularly strong, but we don’t need to be bound by victimhood. We can, at the very least, change our thinking. Victim thinking, such as ‘why me?’, or ‘this always happens to me’ can lead to an apathetic stance, one of ‘giving up’ – ‘what’s the use of trying anyway, nothing ever works out’. I’m not belittling such thoughts because I personally know from experience that they often come from a place of deep hurt but however long the journey of recovery is, we need to begin by acknowledging them for what they are, and then challenging them, followed by replacing them.
Here are some more positive thoughts for you to build upon, and reinforce daily, as you progress and persevere in your recovery over whatever your personal challenge may happen to be:
This isn’t what I would have chosen, but I can choose to do something about it.
It feels ‘too much’ but the lives of other people who have overcome difficulties testify to the tenacity and strength of the human spirit. If they can do it, I can too.
The pain feels too much, but I won’t add to my suffering by thinking negatively about my pain. I will look for the lessons in this tough time and will use them to help other people afterwards, or even while I am in the midst of this.
I am grateful to be alive.
I appreciate that I can do these (you fill in the blanks) things.
I am an overcomer.
I am a survivor.
I am determined.
Nothing is impossible.
I will use this difficult experience for good in the world.
As with weight lifting, where muscle is built and defined and strengthened over time, it also takes time to grow mentally tough. No one said the process won’t hurt, be challenging, or even gruelling at times, but when you begin to see those mental ‘muscles’ gaining definition and strength, you won’t want to look back, and in time you will want to train other people to be strong and positively minded individuals also. Just imagine what good this can do in the world!
Do you ever ask yourself, “Why am I single?”. I’m sure it’s not an uncommon question for those of us who are, and I imagine for most single people, it is followed with thoughts such as “What’s wrong with me?” “Am I not good enough?”, and similar feelings of self doubt.
But what if we were to ask ourselves that question with a positive frame of mind? Ask “Why am I single?” not to explore your self doubt or worry over what you think are your flaws and shortcomings, but to identify and discover and live out your PURPOSE.
I know it’s not easy, because our thoughts directly impact our emotional wellbeing and can in turn lead to negative physical effects. A negative thought seldom appears alone, and after a string of negative thoughts about ourselves, we might end up feeling sad, lonely, dejected and even depressed. Which is why it is so important that we learn to reframe our thought processes, especially in a society that has limited views of success, that don’t always include celebrating the lives, kindness and accomplishments of single people.
So, think about it this way. Why are you single? Why are you set apart (not set aside) for this season of your life, and what positive difference does the world and do the people around you need you to make, that only you alone can make?
Sometimes mornings can be hard. We know what we want our ideal morning routine to be like, but maybe we’ve had a bad sleep, have chronic health problems, wake up in physical pain or simply just “get out on the wrong side of the bed” as the saying goes.
It can be too easy to let our not so great morning experience dictate the rest of the day for us. We might think the day is over before it’s started and already be wishing for another new day, or be thinking about getting everything over and done with and curling up in bed.
But with that outlook, have we given our day a chance? Think of your day as a story, a narrative, a novel in miniature even, and you as the protagonist – the hero or heroine of your story. So, the opening scene happens to be a bit gloomy, but that simply builds suspense and anticipation, for the hero / heroine to find that determination and courageously write a new story for themselves. Look up, have faith, and put your best foot forward, even if your first steps were a bit of a stumble into the day….the day isn’t over yet, give it a chance, who knows, the conclusion of the day’s story might be pretty wonderful indeed! 🙂