Tag Archives: happiness

13Sep/16

5 Habits for a Clear Mind – Step 3: Nourish Your Soul

 

To be happy you need to tune into your inner wisdom and nourish your Soul.

This is the most crucial Habit, because without this step you remain unconnected to your true self, and therefore lose your capacity for that strong, unmoveable inner joy, fulfilment and alignment.   Let me say this again: connecting, nurturing and strengthening your Soul Voice is your key to happiness. So when I said in part 1 of this series that ‘happiness is all in the mind’ I was only half right. It is in your mind and body and soul, interlinked in an unperceivable and magical way. Your Soul is the essence of life, the energy that makes you you. It is what makes you the unique and amazing individual that you are.

So how do you nourish your Soul Voice?   This is the million-dollar question and the answer isn’t the same for everyone. The lucky ones among us have a natural connection to their Soul Voice that has kept them on a congruent path for most of their life, or has led them to make changes throughout the course of their life that have brought them back to what their true inner selves’ needs and desires. But because this is not what our society teaches our children, most of us don’t learn how to do it. Our education system is focused on solid measurable matters, information and statistics. It deals with concrete facts not fuzzy concepts. It doesn’t concern itself with happiness or self-actualisation because it wasn’t designed for that. State education was only established to teach our children to become workers and economic contributors to society, not to become fully expressed – and happy – human beings.

Over the last few years the tide has been slowing turning, as research is increasingly showing that happiness and self expression actually creates better workers and higher productivity. As a result there is more motivation from government and businesses to investigate the ‘softer’ side of education and self-development.

But as parents we want to be able to provide our children with all the knowledge, experience, and skills to be happy. We don’t want them just to get a secure job and have enough social skills to get through life, keep healthy and provide us with grandchildren. We want them to be happy. Deeply, joyfully happy and in love with their life. We long for them to be happier than us. We know – now we are over 30 and have experienced the (sometimes bitter) teachings of life – that meaning is important. We may not know what the meaning of life is (except after that 3rd glass of wine…) but we know that our journey towards it, attaining it, losing it again, living it is the most important journey of life.   We know that the mind-numbing mundane, following the herd, doing what everyone else is doing is the death of our Soul, and therefore the death of us.   So we long for our children to have that joy and happiness that we know is possible, but that we weren’t taught how to value or create. We know we can give them a better start than we had, simply because we’ve been lucky enough to live in an era in which learning and self-development, and self-expression is possible, and even starting to flourish.

But how do we teach them if we are still learning ourselves?   By being ourselves in all our flaws, but daring greatly and falling and getting up again and trying again. We learn what works for us, and we teach our children what we know by modelling and talking and teaching when and how we can. In our own unique way.

So back to my original question, before I got sidetracked by the meaning of life! How do you connect and nourish your inner Soul Voice?

You experiment.   You become a scientist, an artist, a child playing and measuring and experimenting with different activities and habits to work out which ones nourish your particular individually amazing soul.

Most importantly, the activities should light you up, recharge you, bring you joy or a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. They are usually pleasurable, but not purely in a hedonistically way (i.e. all day, every day, lacking meaning and leaving you empty). They can be difficult and not enjoyable at the time – think struggling with the structure of a novel for days, weeks or months, and then it all coming together and working like a dream. It wasn’t all fun and happiness, but the daily pursuit of a meaningful goal can be extremely nourishing.

How do you know you are nourishing your soul? You notice when you feel peace, joy, expansiveness, connection to self & others, connection to things or causes bigger than yourself, excitement, a deep inner knowing, contentment, lightness, fulfilment.

Does nature nourish your soul?

Does nature nourish your soul?

While we are all so very different, there are still some commonalities that can help us identify activities that might nourish our Soul. Look for activities that get you into flow, into creativity, into your body, and into nature. When I first started trying to connect with and nourish my Soul I realised that many of the things that worked could be described as ‘primal’. For example: music, singing and dancing, walking, being in nature, hugging my child, quiet, stillness and meditation, connecting with others.

Personally, I’m still learning how to nourish my soul and find my inner joy. I know that writing, walking, being in nature, seeing the sea all nourish me. I know the right kind of music (I’m listening to it now, as I write) raises me up and makes my soul soar high full of love and joy and possibilities.   I know that happy, light-hearted family moments fill me with love and recharge my soul. I know when I act with integrity – especially with regard to parenting my children –  it has a strong drip, drip effect of nourishing my soul. Concentration and challenge – what is often called flow – is nourishing for our heart, mind and soul. But what creates challenge, focus and concentration for one person does not for another. Be it equations, silverwork, writing, painting, working with a patient in clinic, gardening, problem solving ….something will work for you. For me, I love writing. Sometimes it’s hard for me, and I don’t want to sit at my computer when there are so many books tempting me with their words and secrets, but when I start and I am challenged by what to write next and have to concentrate on developing a structure that will work, deciding what to include, delete and how to address my audience, I am in flow and I feel connected to myself and to the readers that may read my work. I am nourished. My soul has been at work, it has been nurtured and spoken to, and listened to. It brings a certain kind of peace.

This peace and fulfilment can last for quite a while, or it can be punctured in a second when the kids start arguing. So don’t think I float around in a cloud all day, instead understand that that deep nourishing of my Soul recharges my physical, emotional and spiritual batteries and strengthens my resilience. By nourishing my Soul I have what I call a clearer and stronger Inner Guidance System which helps me navigate through my life. Whether that is simply guiding me with wisdom on what path to take professionally or listening to my intuition when comforting an angry or sad child, I think and act more in line with my values and who I am when my Soul is nourished. I can hear it more clearly over the shouts of my Ego Voice and know that it has the answers I need.

My challenge to you is to start experimenting with nourishing your own Soul.  Do the things that bring your joy, peace and fulfilment. Prioritise them, create habits around them.  Recharge your batteries, strengthen the connections you have with your Soul, with your inner being. Listen to the inner wisdom that this deeper connection allows you to access it and follow it’s advice and guidance rather than the fearful voice of your Ego.

Please let me know in the comments what activities nourish your Soul. What lights you up and brings you joy?  Until next time,

Thea

xxxxxxx

 

There is Nothing Wrong with You!

What’s Being Said in Your Head?

5 Steps to Inner Joy

04Mar/16

The Secret to Inner Happiness that We Keep Ignoring

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The secret to inner happiness is very simple.  It’s such a simple concept but it’s really hard to grasp and understand with our heads and our hearts. We need to know this secret in our bones for it to work. That’s the difficult part, but the idea is simple.  Here it is:

There is Nothing Wrong with You!

Yes You!   You, the one who keeps trying to improve herself, thinking ‘If only I learnt how to do this, think this, lose this weight, earn more money, then I’ll be OK. Then I’ll be happy. Then I’ll be worthy.  Then people will approve of me. Then everything will be ok. Then I can be me.’

Please, for the love of God, let all that go!  It’s a load of shit!   None of that stuff will make any difference because the voice in your head that is telling you you are not good enough now, will still be there telling you you aren’t good enough when you’ve published your book, found your dream partner, been promoted or made a million pounds.

That voice is trying to keep you safe.  It’s not evil, but it is manipulative, cunning, sneaky and bloody determined to keep you small.  Every day you go about your day with good, kind, worthy intentions but get  bombarded with feedback which paints a picture of a You that is frustrating and disappointing.  You know it’s not the real you, because you have so many hopes and dreams. You know you are a good person, but the constant chatter telling you that you slipped up again, that you are not as thin and fit as X, and not successful as Y, and have children who behave far worse than about every other family you know, gets into your skin and bones. It begins to feel real, even when you know it isn’t.   Unfortunately feeling – because it is embedded with strong emotions – has a stronger effect on us than cognitive reason and intellectual knowing.

I can’t remember the number of times over the last few years I’ve said to people – friends, therapists, coaches – “I know it rationally but I don’t feel it. I don’t feel it in my bones*. My body doesn’t know it.”

For example I know that I am the best mum that my children could ever have.  No one else could do the job because they need ME.  I know that intellectually, rationally, even in my soul, but emotionally I keep getting pulled back to all those times the voice in my head (and perhaps other external voices) told me I wasn’t a good enough mum, and I believed that instead because the emotions make it more real. It’s like I have many emotional reference experiences of feeling like a bad mother, but not so many of emotionally celebrating and acknowledging being a fabulous, loving, perfect-for-my-children mum.

This is how our brains work. They are programmed to sense danger, to notice things that are wrong (it’s called the negativity bias in psychology circles – here’s an article about it and other things our brains have evolved to do.) so we mustn’t get annoyed with it. We just need to be aware of it, and accept that it is normal.  Then when it happens we can laugh and say: “Whoops, I’m getting all caught up in that one mistake because of the negativity bias. I’m forgetting all the good stuff that happened today, let’s focus on that instead.”

So how do we get to feel in our bones that there is nothing wrong with us?  How do we know emotionally that we are good enough already?   As I said, this isn’t an easy or prescriptive thing.

It’s taken me 5 years of mindfulness and happiness practice and courageous opening up to myself to get to the point where I could finally let go of what my ego was telling me would prove I was ok.  I got to the point where I had learnt so many things which had helped me in lots of ways, but still my ego was in charge of the feelings in my bones! What finally worked for me was to let go of all the things I was clinging onto.  I’d been desperately clinging onto the idea that having a successful coaching business would prove to me and the whole world that I was worthy and deserved a place on this earth. I had been playing rather unsuccessfully at running a business (or a few different businesses) over the previous 12 years, but always coming from this place of fear and needing to prove myself.  My business and ideas were good, but my motivation was so contaminated by fear and so chained by my fear of letting myself be truly seen that it was always bound to fail.  So I had to give up my stop/start business completely and accept myself without it before I was able to let go of that damaging fear-based ego belief once and for all.

I can honestly say, it was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life.  I felt completely naked. Just me. Just me as a mum and a wife. Just a mum. Just a wife. Shit! I’d been trying to run away from that label my whole life – even before I had children.  Scared the fuck out of me. But I did it because I knew I had to. And over the course of a couple of months I realised that nothing bad actually happened after I’d told people ‘I’m not working.’ ‘No, I have stopped my business.’ ‘I’m in transition at the moment. I need to take a break before I decide what to do.’   I was basically saying to the world:  Look at me. I’m a mum. I’m a wife. I’m me. And I’m ok with that! And I was.  I was ok with being me. Me with no bells and whistles attached proving my worth. Just me. And it felt – it feels – great. I feel liberated. I feel like my cage has gone.  I know there are other smaller cages that my ego still keeps me locked in that I will discover and free myself from as I move through life, but at the moment this has been such a shift in my whole being that I can hardly believe it.

But to be able to let go of this ego-driven goal and belief I also had to connect to my true inner self, so there would be something to take the place of my ego voice and goals. This connection to my true self has come through walking outside, listening to music, mediation and writing. Lots of writing.  I’m still learning to connect with myself – I’m a newbie – but I’m loving learning how to. And the rewards of doing so are so huge: a feeling of peace; increased flow and losing myself in what I’m doing; feeling light-hearted – less serious and heavy; and having more clarity around what I really want to do.

Now I can start my business again without the fear that if it goes wrong I will be a failure, or not worthy of love and belonging.  I feel free to be myself and express myself and try things that I would have been too scared to do beforehand.  I can now dare greatly knowing that I am still the same wonderful person whether I succeed or ‘fail’.  My flaws or failings don’t define me. They make me me.  And owning them makes me braver and ironically more able to succeed in the future. I am building my business from scratch again, but it feels so different to the striving that drove me before – and which wasn’t very successful.  I now feel more creative and expansive.  I am patient and doing this properly rather than desperately wanting everything to happen now!  I know how I want to make my difference and I know I can make it work. I know I can do it my way this time and be successful.

Wish me luck!

 

 

*Brene Brown introduced me to this phrase and I love it.

 

Written at The British Library, London while listening to Muse, Drones and The 2nd Law.

 

25Sep/12

Other People Can’t Make You Happy…..and Vice Versa

I am reading Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Happier at Home, in which she embarks on her second happiness project focussing on creating a happier home.

She talks about how important her family is to her happiness, but that it’s also important not to rely on other people for your own happiness.  She says:

My family’s happiness matters so much to me; realistically, if they weren’t happy, it was very hard for me to be happy – but the truth was, I couldn’t make them happy, no matter how fervently I desired to, and they couldn’t make me happy, either.  We all have to find happiness for ourselves.”

Family life is very emotional.  Dramas of one kind or another seem to happen very regularly in our house.  As an emotional, expressive, heart on my sleeve kind of person these ups and downs of family life really affect my equilibrium and therefore my happiness. As a perfectionist, I have struggled to let go the desperate need I seem to have for every single moment of my family’s life to run smoothly.  I often rest my entire happiness on how other people are feeling, and how they behave.  Our family is very good at ‘catching’ emotions from each other like a nasty disease.

But it needn’t be that way. Recently, mainly as a result of my mindfulness study and meditation practice, I’ve come to realise that emotions are transcient (yes, I know that may be obvious to most of you, but it wasn’t to me) and that if I felt angry this moment, it didn’t mean that I would still feel angry in 5 minutes. Also, I’ve learnt that uncomfortable emotions are not necessarily bad and don’t constitute some kind of failure on my part.  Feeling bad, I’ve come to accept, does not mean that my whole life is wrong.

Being aware of this has enabled me to ride the family’s daily dramas much better.  When my children are upset, angry or frustrated, I can see it as a normal part of life rather than a huge problem that I need to fix, right now, perfectly, otherwise they will be doomed to misery for the rest of their lives.

Taking responsibility for our own emotional equilibrium and happiness is something that we are not taught how to do in school (if we were, the world would be a much calmer, happier place). Some of us might have been lucky enough to have parents who were able to model and teach this, but most of us need to learn as we go along, developing our own personal techniques over our lifetime.

27May/12

Are you Ready to Jump?

While I was weighing up an important decision this week, a friend posted me this card.

It immediately made me feel clearer about what I wanted to do.  It showed me that the doubts I had about taking on this new opportunity were more to do with being scared and nervous about the challenges ahead rather than whether it was the right thing for me or not.

Often we forget that in order to grow and develop personally and professionally we have to take scary leaps of faith. We have to say yes to an exciting adventure rather than choose to sit in the shade and watch others get out there and do it instead.  We need to accept that we will feel uncomfortable and out of our depth at times, but that the rewards are well worth it.  And the more you get into the habit of stretching your comfort zone, the easier it becomes.

What do you need to do to step over the edge of your comfort zone?

22May/12

Stop Resisting

So, I was having a bad day. The car broke down and had to be towed away for the second time in a week. I missed a meeting, the kids were grumpy and argumentative, I felt guilty for giving the kids chocolate biscuits again, the fire alarm kept beeping and I couldn’t make it stop, and I found myself thinking that the whole day had been waste of time.

Try as I might I couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling that because I hadn’t actually achieved anything, then it meant that not only did the day score low on the worthwhile scale, but so did I. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow of lesser value because I hadn’t accomplished enough with my time that day. It sounds crazy I know, but trying to rationalise it away didn’t seem to help. The fact that I had a bad day meant not only that I felt bad but that I was bad.

Even when I told myself that actually, most of the component parts of the day (even the two hours waiting for the tow truck) were ok, and that I hadn’t got particularly stressed or upset or frustrated throughout the day it didn’t seem to help.

And when I told myself that actually I have achieved a lot today (fed, clothed, cared for and loved 3 children) it still didn’t make me feel any better about myself.

But then – eventually – I remembered what I’d learnt in my mindfulness classes about not resisting my negative feelings and thoughts, but simply letting them come and then go. To be able to experience them without judgement and let them pass through me.

So I said to myself: “I am feeling upset and a bit inadequate because I didn’t get done what I wanted to get done today, but that’s ok. I’m allowed to feel that.”

And do you know what? The bad feelings just floated away.

I accepted them without judgement and they floated away.

01Apr/11

Who wants to be a Tibetan Monk?

The idea of responding appropriately to my emotions has always haunted me. Why can’t I control my temper? Why do I get so frustrated and irritated with my children – who I love and cherish with all my heart? 

I heard a story the other day about a monk who was an experienced meditator and who – while having his head covered in electrodes to measure his brainwaves – did not flinch when a bomb went off.  How amazing, I thought. How fantastic that he can control himself and his emotions like this. Why can’t I master the art of not automatically reacting to everything?

But then I thought…. Do meditating monks have children? 

If I had spent 20 years meditating on a mountainside my automatic emotional reactions would probably be different too.   But do I want that?  To be frank, No. I’d rather be an imperfect mother than a perfect monk.

The thing about perfectionism is that it makes you want to be something or someone else.  It makes you feel like you are not good enough already as you are.  So we try to be something else in order to be perfect and only then will we be worthy of love and respect. 

But the real answer lies in accepting ourselves now. With our faults and our bad moods and our crazy idiosyncracies.  This is who we are and the only way we will ever be happy is to accept it.

So I am learning to accept that it’s ok to lose my temper sometimes, and that it’s only natural that I get frustrated with my children. It does not mean that I am a bad mum or that I don’t love them. And it’s also ok to want to improve and control my temper more. It’s just that I need to do it in a realistic way, not by beating myself up because I don’t have the serenity of a Tibetan monk.