Gratitude

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About a year ago, I began keeping a gratitude journal. When I remembered, I wrote down things that I was grateful for. Usually a few evenings every week. To be begin with, I was just writing and it was a useful way of seeing my life in a positive way.

Since then, I have progressed my gratitude routine. I now write between three and five things that I am grateful for every morning and every evening, but the valuable change has been in my mindset. I am really very grateful for the things that I write down. I feel them again, I stop and realise all the amazing things that I have in my life and the wonderful things, some very small, some immense that I connect with every day. I write down those things.

I do this in my journal (more of this next time). I write in the mornings: ‘This morning I am so happy and grateful that…’ and in the evenings: ‘This evening I am so happy and grateful that…’.

This morning’s entry went like this:

This morning I am so happy and grateful that…

  • I have had such a positive week at work this week, with several new opportunities for areas of growth that will help the people in our city
  • I now have five days where I am not working
  • We are off on an adventure to return to our Gaia Tribe
  • It is raining today, so the trees and plants will be refreshed and it will add to their beauty.

I wanted to include some gratitude for the rain. So often we feel that the rain is a negative thing in our lives, an inconvenience. I imagined what would happen if we didn’t have rain – we wouldn’t be here. What kind of life would we have if it hardly ever rained? What is better becuase it is raining? I am grateful that it is raining.

A short post this week. I am grateful to you for reading it, thank you. I hope you found something of value to you from doing so. I look forward to connecting with you again.

Wishing you love and light.

Namaste

Next week I would like to share with you how embracing a morning rhythm has enhanced my life, share what I include in mine and encourage you to try one too.

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness image

This week I would like to share my journey into creating a mindfulness habit and how it has helped on my journey to happiness.

I have played with the idea of mindfulness for a few years. Not fully embracing it. I have meditated in yoga classes for a number of years and some of that time, I was definitely being mindful as we focussed on each area of our body using a tense and release method, therefore being present in the moment. However, I had not managed to make mindfulness a habit.

I had taken some great classes with Adam Dacey who is the founder of Mindspace. Adam runs 8-week beginner courses in Mindfulness. They encompass all types of mindfulness, from walking to eating and of course sitting meditation. I also attended a couple of  his advanced courses where we discussed things a little more philosophical. For a while I managed a short-term habit, but when I couldn’t attend any classes for a while, I broke the fragile practice of daily mindfulness meditation. If you are interested in attending a class in the West Midlands, Adam’s introductory classes are very accessible, especially for beginners in their mindfulness journey.

So what helped me to really ‘get’ the mindfulness habit? Well, it came from the ‘Exploring what Matters’ course from Action for Happiness. You may remember from last week that I facilitated a course late last year. The sessions introduced the idea of mindfulness week by week, at the beginning of each class, as a method of tuning in. This was a great introduction for all participants. Even more amazing was the offer of a year’s free subscription to Headspace as a thank you for completing the post course survey!

Soon after the end of the course, I claimed my free subscription and began using the app every day. To begin with, I was using it first thing in the morning. But then I began to use it both morning and night. It is a great app, especially for beginners, or those who find it hard to get into the routine of regular mindfulness meditation. That was how my mindfulness practice became a habit. I have now meditated, using the app, for a total of 45 hours and completed 288 sessions. I have also meditated quite a lot without using the app. If you are thinking, that is a long time, imagine what else you could’ve been usefully engaged in with that amount time. Well, it is less than 20 minutes a day and most of that time would have been previously spent on one of my social media accounts. So I consider mindfulness meditation an infinitely more productive use of my time.

The change that it has made in my life is quite difficult to measure accurately and hard to explain because it has been a gradual change. But perhaps by describing one story I can give you an example. This is probably quite a revelation and I haven’t shared this before; I hope that it helps. At times, I used to feel anxious about the future, I used to worry that if I anything happened to me or my job, that the family would not thrive. My thoughts quite easily went into a downward spiral (known as catasrophising). You may recognise it, it went a bit like this: ‘My day didn’t go well at work, what if I can’t do this job, what if I need to leave, what if I can’t earn enough to keep the family, what if I couldn’t pay for all the extra curriculur activities, that would be the end of their hopes and dreams, what if, what if… My final thought was usually, well at least we could sell the house and move somewhere cheaper and that would help for a while. I don’t really understand where this anxiousness came from as I have had far less in the past. But at its worst, it could affect the way I spoke to my family. When I felt like this, it led me to say things like, ‘If I don’t have this job, then you will have to give up (insert activity). It came from nowhere, but left a lasting hole in our pleasure of enjoying the fact that for timebeing, at least, I did have that job and we could afford to pay for that activity. I feel quite sad that I passed that anxiety on to my children, especially now that I feel very differently and I know that they were only passing thoughts – never the reality.

In using mindfulness to interupt the chain that leads to the feeling that ‘we’re all doomed’ your thoughts can take a different path. In using your breath to stop for a moment, remind yourself they are just thoughts, it is just your mind doing what it likes to do best; chatter away often negatively. But we are not our thoughts, our thoughts come and go endlessly. If we can break the chain by reminding ourselves that all we actually ever have is this moment anyway. What has gone has gone and what is to come is only in our imagination – another thought. This moment, this breath, this body, this time. We can learn to just ‘be’.

Next week, I will be sharing how using Gratitude has been another step in my happiness journey.

Happiness

 

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I am a member of Action for Happiness and have signed their pledge to work to make the world a happier place. If you are interested, you can join the movement by signing-up on their website and making the same pledge. I joined a couple of years ago and at the end of 2017 I facilitated their eight-week course, Exploring what Matters, with two of my dear friends. My focus, therefore, had been very much on happiness over recent months. The course content takes participants from personal happiness, week by week, to actions that will create a happier world. I suppose then when I created my The Year Compass and it was suggested that we use one word for our focus for the year, that ‘Happiness’ seemed an obvious choice. I added the word, using gold lettering, in the centre of my vision board. Everything I added to surround the word were activites that I felt would manifest happiness in my life. I included all areas, my home, work, relationships, spiritual/personal development and health. To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t that I was really adding things in a hugely intentional way, but it feels as though they are manifesting naturally, without any real effort on my part. All things happiness kept popping into my world!

A little while later, I bought a happiness journal. Quite by chance I had been given a token for Christmas for Kikk.K, I didn’t know this company, but one day in late January, I browsed their website and found a lovely happiness journal with a bright, sunny yellow cover. It was perfect for turning my Year Compass and Vision Board into planning for taking action. The Happiness Journal introduction says that:

‘Feeling happy and in control of your life is an extraordinary feeling – one that should be celebrated. Happiness is a unique concept, and for each person, happiness will mean something different. Think about the things that make you happy, What makes you smile? What makes you feel good? When you know what makes you happy, you can choose to experience more of it. Just remember to enjoy the journey.’

It arrived in February, I completed all the objectives and so that I could begin at the beginning of a month, it was March by the time I started using it. I have really enjoyed the experience.

Also, in January, I came across the Network of Wellbeing. My first introduction to the network was joining their first free webinar. It was entitled ‘Happier Self, Happier World’ – there it was again – happiness! This webinar was to lead me to adventures that I hadn’t planned at all. The guest speaker on the webinar was Shamash Alidina from The Museum of Happiness. He introduced the term ‘kindfulness’, he describes this on his blog:

“If mindfulness is practiced without lots of kindness, it’s missing something vital. If you’re just more aware of your stress, or anxiety or depression, that alone won’t help. You need to be kind to your emotions. You need to forgiving of your mistakes. Mindfulness tells you what’s going on. Kindfulness heals.”

Shamash has an amazing presence and his bubbling enthusiasm is positively infectious. Following the webinar, I followed-up by finding out more about the amazing Museum of Happiness. Before I knew it, I had put out an invitation on our Wolverhampton Action for Happiness Facebook page that I was going to visit on 17th February inviting others to join me. Six of us journeyed to Camden and had a brilliant fun-filled and happy day out. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that there are pictures of some of us, doing the rounds, reliving our childhood in the adult ballpool! Before the visit to the Museum of Happiness Experience session, we enjoyed a lovely vegetarian/vegan lunch together in one of my new favourite restaurants called Mildred’s, if you are ever in Camden, I recommend a visit.

Next week I look forward to sharing how I got into the mindfulness habit.

The Year Compass

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I can’t remember how I found myself in Birmingham at the wonderful Impact Hub in Digbeth, Birmingham @impacthubbrum in January 2018. I think it might have been through my friend and colleague Sam Axtell (more about Sam another time). I think she suggested that we went to a session being run by Daniel Blyden @danielyep where he was taking us through an exercise based on the Year Compass.

I will be writing more about this process at the turn of the year when the aforementioned Sam and I will be running our own Year Compass event in Wolverhampton. It was a fun session, connecting with people I hadn’t met before and some that I had. During the session we created a vision board. I had never undertaken this exercise before, I had never wanted to manifest a fast car and I had only connected using a vision board in this way. How wrong I had been! We each got stuck in to cutting out and sticking pictures that helped us to create a pictorial representation of our workbook. I brought my vision board home, completed it and left it near my desk.

A few weeks passed and eventually I decided to stick it above my bed and there it stayed. A month or so went by and I hadn’t really paid it much attention, but when I took a proper look one day toward the end of March, I realised that so much of it had already started to happen. Working through the workbook and creating my vision board had really become a compass for my year and was guiding my decisions and actions without me noticing.

Since waking-up and becoming aware, I see how putting something out into the universe with intention and then, importantly, taking action, had effortlessly moved me to achieve what I set out to achieve. There were other things along the way that also helped me to turn my vision board into reality and I will share these with you in my next blog.