I know appreciation is a buzz word at the moment (not only for me, but for many people like me) but it really is an important topic that you need to think about. When you think of appreciation, what does it mean to you? Does it mean thanking someone for holding the door open for you? Holding close in your heart that your friends are always there for you through think and thin? Or that you have a roof over your head and live in a safe environment?
There are so many layers of appreciation and this is why I believe that you need to think about it and peel it – like an onion, it might even make you cry!
I titled this blog post ‘Appreciation: Is what you have really enough?’ because I know you are aiming for a better and more happy life doing the things that you want to be doing with the people who you want to be doing it with and having the things that you want. But is that what you really want?
You can be happy in your home, that you are safe and well and that you have the means to live a good life (not in poverty or in a war-torn environment) but do you really appreciate it. Can you really tell that what you have is enough? Do you feel appreciation for the air that you breathe, the sun shining in the morning and the smell of the dew on the grass?
What limits are there to appreciation? personally believe that there are no limits to the amount of appreciation that you show in your life and to the people and things around you. What you really need to do is gain an understanding of what appreciation means to you and what you really do appreciate.
If you are building a business in order to have a larger house, faster more fancy car and designer clothes, think about whether you really do need them. Will you actually appreciate it more than the home that you are in now? Will it bring greater security and pleasure or will it just push you to wanting more and losing appreciation for what you already have – safety, security, warmth and shelter.
I am not saying that aiming for bigger and better is wrong – far from it – but being realistic in the things that you have and appreciate is a way of keeping in check with the direction you take your life and the your belongings.
I live in an area that people class as ‘rough’. It is classed as a deprived area and not the most desirable. I appreciate that we (my boyfriend and I) have been able to buy a house (7 years we’ve been here, so it can’t be that bad!) which is a luxury for so many young people. Living in an area that has its problems can be difficult at times, but if you look for the good and appreciate what you have then it can be simply enough.
Yes, we will move from the area, but we will always have the appreciation that the area offered us the biggest and best house that we could afford – as well as being 15 minutes by bus from the city centre, whilst having parks and a canal to walk around! We also have the most wonderful of neighbours who have become our friends who we would never have met. This path has given me so much appreciation for the opportunities we have encountered. It has also brought about the opportunity to receive free training, develop skills working with different people and to have the luxury of allowing 6 cats to join my family.
So, is what you have really enough? What do you need to be able to appreciate your life and the people and things within it? Could you go without some of the bigger and better things just to be able to be happy now?
Appreciation is a HUGE thing and can influence your life journey in many ways. Don’t let it get away and make sure that you take time each day to enjoy the things that bring you appreciation.
Are you carrying around pain and upset from something that happened to you in the past? Anger about something that someone did to you or said about you? Do you feel like the weight of the word is on your shoulders?
Well, that would be because you are lugging around a load of unwanted baggage. When packing for a holiday or trip away, you don’t take the clothes you don’t like and that don’t fit or are inappropriate for the season, so why would you choose to carry around emotions and feelings that are just adding extra weight and not useful to you in any shape or form?
It is true that we learn from every experience, they help us to grow, develop and evolve. But that is it. Learning. When we learn a new skill we don’t continue to carry the reference books around with us, that would be silly because we know the information and are able to move on. Can you imagine how many books you would be towing behind you right now? I bet there would be a LOT!
Same goes with emotions and feelings from past experiences. Yes they teach us things, help us to evolve and change, but we have no need to keep them alive and carry them through our every day lives.
Have you ever found yourself feeling down and miserable because you are still holding sad and painful feelings from something that happened some time ago (in the past) and found that it was affecting your day and your decisions on the future? That is what carrying old emotions will do for you. They cloud your judgement and make you feel like they are controlling you.
The reality is that you are letting that past experience/person/situation live on in you and control your journey. Do you really want that to happen? Do you want someone who hurt you to retain that power? (and not even know about it!)
Of course you don’t!
So what can you do about it? Well, you can let those feelings go. Forgive yourself for feeling hurt or pain or sadness and forgive those who caused it. You can’t change the past so don’t let it change your future.
By letting go of the past and letting the bad feelings fly away you free yourself to choose your own path, without discrimination or influence from negative forces. You look to what you want through clear eyes and with clear vision with no useless baggage. To come back to my metaphor on packing for a trip, your bag will be filled with gorgeous clothes that not only make you look INCREDIBLE, but make you feel INCREDIBLE too. You now the ones that get the right attention from the right people and are light and fun to wear.
Letting go is not letting someone off for what they have done, rather setting you free from the harnesses they imposed on you.
Everyone has their own ways to let go of the past, writing everything down on paper and setting them alight, writing everything in a book and burying it in the garden. Whatever you do, make it personal to you, it is your freedom party so CELEBRATE!
What do you need to let go of? How can you celebrate your new-found freedom?
I have been thinking a lot about what perfection is lately being a recovering perfectionist and I wanted to explore the idea further.
The dictionary definition for perfect is:
When I look at the definition, I think ‘well, you know what, perfect isn’t all that really!’, it is when you look at they synonyms that the meaning seems to emphasise the criteria that we should be meeting.
To me, having all the desirable elements, qualities and characteristics and to be as good as it is possible to be is something personal to each and every one of us. One example of my perfectionist coming through was when I was earning construction and brickwork in particular. I would struggle to get it perfectly (yes, I know!) straight, even, matched and exact spacing in the mortar beds. It would frustrate me that the bricks would appear to change size as I added each course of bricks. It drove me mad that it wasn’t perfect, that I wasn’t perfect at it.
It wasn’t until my mentor pointed out that not all bricks are exactly the same size that I realised that brick walls are never going to be perfect and that it wasn’t a reflection on me being bad at the trade. I actually had all the ‘desirable elements’, ‘qualities’ and ‘characteristics’ and it was as good as it was possible to be. I wasn’t going to get it perfect and it didn’t need to be. (NOTE: brickwork has to be to an incredibly high standard otherwise houses etc would just sink and fall, but they are in no way perfect!)
So why was I striving to have everything faultless? I think, for myself anyway, that it was the challenge to be the best at everything and to prove that I can do whatever I set my mind to. To which I now look at and think, where did I say that I had to be perfect or faultless? I didn’t!
My experience of doing brickwork was life-changing for me, in my recovery from perfectionism anyway. I realised that there is no perfect, we have to learn everything that we want to be able to do and in order to do that we must make mistakes and realise that perfect is not really a thing. As I demonstrated above with my story about my brickwork, as long as you have the desired elements and that they are put together as good as possible, where is the problem?
What we need to do as recovering perfectionists is to see when good is good enough and to stop comparing ourselves to others and giving ourselves outlandish standards to live up to. When did we have to be the best in the universe anyway? And even if we were, how would anyone know if we were still trying to get to our standard?
So next time you are stuck trying to be perfect, remember to stick to the definition and not the synonyms to get you back on track.
It is so easy to fall into a routine and habit what we don’t even notice that we are doing it, most of the time. We get stuck in a groove and seem to just carry on rolling along it with no idea that we are there.
Does this sound familiar? Habits can be good, but often we find that we have developed bad habits (ones that don’t add value to our lives or actually take value from our lives) which are hard to shake as they become part of our beliefs and we look on them as normal or as a crutch.
They say that it takes 30 days to create a new habit. So when did we take the thirty days to build bad habits and negative beliefs? Surely we didn’t consciously choose to stop going to the gym or having a snack at 11 am with a large latte?
It is without realising that we build these habits into our daily lives. Sometimes they start as treats (think the muffin and large latte at 11 am) which then become routine and subsequently habit. It is by not really paying attention to what you are doing when things can, an do, get out of control. I am not saying that the occasional muffin and coffee will do you harm, but when it becomes habit and you stop noticing it as a treat and the pounds pile on because of it, then that is when it is not so nice.
I remember myself building a bad habit of having an espresso on my way to work in the mornings just to avoid a crazy lady (seriously, she would phone me while on holiday and all sorts…another story in itself!) that would attach to me on the bus journey. Even when she wasn’t at the stop, I would grab a coffee, then I might go for a second. I suddenly realised that I had developed a habit to buy coffee on my way to work. I had never needed an espresso to get me going in the morning (tea is more than sufficient) and I wasn’t particularly enjoying it or looking forward to it. Plus, I was spending money that I could have better used elsewhere and I ended up rather wired most mornings from the caffeine buzz!
Being able to identify when things are habits is an important first step in working out which ones you want to keep and which you want to kick to the curb.
Think about the habits that you have, you may be able to identify some of them very quickly such as biting your nails or cracking your knuckles (*cringe*) which I am sure you will realise are not benefiting you in the slightest. Other habits you may have to look out for during the day as they may come at times that you don’t expect and as I mentioned, many go undetected.
Keep a note of the habits, both bad and good, that you notice. Which of them benefit you and make you feel good, confident, happy, fulfilled and which drain you or take something away that you would really like to retain? Remember that habits aren’t necessarily visible, thoughts can become big habits too. Saying things to yourself like ‘I’m too stupid to be able to get a promotion’ etc. are also bad habits, so make sure that they get included in your list.
You now know the habits that you already have. Are there any that you would like to add? Perhaps taking more time to look after yourself, to meditate or to go walking during the work day? Add these to your list.
Now you need to work on building your new habits and removing the old ones. When getting rid of the old ones remember that you are not giving anything up, you are gaining from removing them. This way you won’t feel like you are going to be missing out on something, but you have something wonderful to get back and to enjoy in your life.
Building new habits can be as simple as choosing a certain time and place that you will do something, e.g. setting an reminder alarm in your phone to go for a 10 minute walk at lunch time (this is something that I am doing since starting to work from home – it is so easy to get sucked into my work and end up sat still at my desk all day!) You have to remember that you will need to be sure that you want the new habit otherwise you will just turn off the alarm and say to yourself ‘Ah, I’ll do it tomorrow’.
Make sure that the habits are both something you really want, benefit you and are good for those around you – you don’t want to create a new habit that will cause grief in your life somewhere else!
With thought habits, you can find a replacement for them which will help to remove them and fill the thought void with something that will bring you cheer, joy and (let’s face it) a better outlook on yourself. For example, if you think to yourself that you ‘will never get a pay rise’, replace it with ‘I can get a pay rise’ which will get you thinking in a productive positive way, which will become a positive habit and way of thinking. Positive thinking has a huge affect on life’s direction.
To make sure that you stay on track, why not tell trusted friends and family to keep you motivated and accountable? Comment below or over on Facebook and I will help keep you motivated by reminding you and giving you support.
There is an app called Lift that you can download into your phone to help you log your new habitual behaviours and gain support from the community also creating change in their lives.
What habits will you grow today?
Everyday we are face with choices. In every part of our lives there are choices to be made; what to wear that day, what to eat, when to cross the road etc. How do you know that you are making the right choice?
Well, you can never be completely sure that you are making the right choice, but you can make sure that you make the choice that fits with you in that moment. Choices are dependent on how we are feeling, what situation we are in and many other factors that can come into play at that moment.
For example, you are feeling tired and a bit grumpy from getting up late and having to miss your morning coffee to make sure you got to work on time. Your best friend sends you a text message to see if you fancy going out for lunch on the weekend. You have the choice to say yes or no. Because you are feeling grumpy at that moment, you may well say no because you are stuck in a grump and can’t see anything positive at that very moment.
Because of the earlier scenario making you feel grumpy, it affected the choice that you made concerning the weekend, even though you probably know that they feeling of grumpiness is only temporary and you will feel fine by the weekend.
You see, there are internal and external factors that affect every choice and decision that we make. So how can we make sure that it is the right one for us at that moment? Gut instinct.
You know that feeling you get in your stomach when you are thinking about a decision that you need to make and you instinctively seem to know what the answer or direction should be? That is your gut instinct that helps you to make decisions that are right for you, both in that moment and that matches up with your values and beliefs.
This feeling can be greatly beneficial to our choices as it can bypass any temporary feelings of emotional input – like being grumpy because of the situation you are currently in.
Listening instinctively to how you react to a question or choice can help you make the right decision for you. It doesn’t need input from other people and you are free to go against it if you are wanting to challenge yourself. The right choice is personal and only you have the answers to them.
If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. If it feels right then go for it. Those who love you will support you when they realise that you have made the best choices and decisions for yourself.
You will know when it is right!
No doubt you have heard of meditation and perhaps have the view that it is for Buddhist monks sitting in loin cloths on the top of a mountain somewhere is a meditative trance.
You might think that mediation isn’t for you because you don’t want to have to give away all your worldly possessions, give up alcohol, quit using money and spend your time contemplating life in ways that you couldn’t even imagine…how will you pay the mortgage?! *and back in the room*
Yes, meditation has strong roots in Buddhism and there is a way of life associated with it but you don’t have to become a monk to be able to take in all the benefits of meditation! (unless that is the path that you feel drawn to) Seriously, you can keep your things (although you may find that you look at ‘stuff’ differently when you do get into meditation, but that is another blog post in itself!) You can even enjoy a glass of wine or two and chocolate and take-away! It is entirely possible to meditate in the modern world.
If you are a regular reader of Your Happy Life, you may very well be giving mindfulness a try… for the newbies, here’s the link. Mindfulness is meditation in itself and brings you to a state of being in the present and noticing the things around you. I am not going to go into that again, being that you can follow the steps in my previous post.
Meditation has many forms and many various benefits and can be a huge help when coming to understanding your own mind and the positive and negative thoughts going on inside. This helps you to become more relaxed, less stressed and more confident in yourself. And, by making time for meditation you become clearer and are more productive which in turn gives you time back.
I have personally found that meditation and mindfulness has played a HUGE role in my life helping me to overcome depression and anxiety without the use of medication (I am not saying that this works for everyone, but I can guarantee that it can add to any of the other interventions that you might be undertaking) It helped me to become clear in my own mind what was happening with my thoughts and enabled me to recognise them when they came into view. By understanding your own mind patterns in meditation, you are able to see them in your conscious life and take effect on them quickly.
Even if you don’t feel like you need meditation, it is worth trying as you might be pleasantly surprised!
If you are new to meditation, the first thing that I want you to do is get rid of any association that it may be boring or that you can’t do it or that you don’t have time. OK?
Right, now you are open to the idea you can give it a go. Read through all the instructions before starting so that you have the space to really take in the meditation.
Let’s start with a basic breathing meditation.
Find a space where you feel comfortable and won’t be disturbed for the next 10 minutes, somewhere where you will feel comfortably warm and your body will be supported.
You can sit up or lie down, it is entirely up to you which feels most comfortable. Lying on your bed might cause you to drop off to sleep though, so bear that in mind! You might want to set yourself a gentle alarm to alert you when ten minutes are up, just in case you get carried away (you can get soothing bell chimes on iTunes and Google Play)
In your comfortable position, close your eyes.
Breath in deeply through your nose and and out through your mouth.
Focus on the breath going in and out, your chest inflating and deflating, your diaphragm moving with the breath.
If your mind wanders, gently give the thought a smile of acknowledgement and bring your attention back to your breathing.
Each breath will make you feel more and more relaxed.
Let each breath fill your body with warm light, releasing any tension and stress, letting any negative feelings flow from your with every out breath.
Carry on with concentrating on your breathing and smiling at your thoughts for the remaining time.
When the alarm goes off, slowly begin to bring yourself back into awareness. Wiggle your toes, roll your eyes with the lids shut, feel your feet on the ground and gently bring yourself back into the room. Familiarise yourself back to the room by looking around, feeling your body on the chair or floor and raising your awareness to everything around you.
How do you feel? How was the experience for you? What have you learnt from the process?
Don’t worry if you found that your mind was filled with flitting thoughts, it is absolutely normal. With practice you will get better at freeing yourself from the thoughts and be able to be in the meditative moment. Nothing comes without practice!
Now all you have to do is make the time to try it every day!
Have you been wondering what you are doing with your life? Comparing yourself to others and thinking that there must be more out there, something more satisfying, rewarding and just downright enjoyable?
You are not alone! IT wasn’t long ago that I was feeling exactly like that. Yes I loved the organisation that was working for, but the joy of my job had dropped and I was just plodding away each day waiting to find another job that would make things better. You know what, I was applying for other jobs and getting interviews, but I kept getting turned down afterwards. It was demoralising and I began to believe that I was going to be stuck forever!
That was until I realised that:
a) I was applying for the same job in a different organisation
Why would the same job somewhere else be better?!
b) I was coming across as desperate to get out of the place that I was.
Who would employ someone who had no real love for the organisation they would be coming to when they are essentially running away from something else?
I was not looking for what was actually important to making me happy and fulfilled. I was stuck in the rut of ‘this is what I should be doing’, ‘this is the experience I have’, ‘these are the jobs available right now’. Sound familiar?
It is realising that you are not on the right path that starts to send you in the right direction. I had to step away from the job and the job hunt and work out exactly what I was looking for and what I needed to do to get there.
So I quit my job.
I went to do a voluntary construction course, (it was free and I was hoping to attend the conservation course afterwards. I am very practical as it is, so really interested me to boost my skills and abilities) volunteered to help out teaching it and gained a teaching qualification. I was doing something completely different that I was finally able to be clear on the direction that I was travelling. This is when I trained to be a coach and take the path that (to be honest) I should have realised YEARS ago, but was too blinkered by the job I was in.
The moral of this story is to realise when you don’t like the life that you have and to actually do something about it! It is so easy to get stuck thinking that what you have is all you can have and that in turn makes you take on a short-sighted view of the world and what you can do.
You need to be able to take that leap of faith into the unknown and grab the world by the balls. My experience has shown me that by taking chances and trying new things, you can open up so many new possibilities and opportunities which you may never have had offered to you had you stuck with what you had.
If you don’t like the life you have, change it!
Wouldn’t it be great to have more free time to do the things that you want to do? Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to get your chores, jobs and other bits and bobs done more quickly and efficiently? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to no longer procrastinate over the things that you’re putting off?
It is entirely possible and easy to do too. Just by creating some new habits, integrating some planning and by getting tasks done as they come up, you can create the free time that you crave!
I bet you have a to-do list with things that have been passed from day-to-day, month to month and so on. Yep, been there! Both in work and at home! To the point that I still need to finish my decking from 6 years ago! (blah!)
It is so easy to procrastinate over the jobs that you least enjoy doing which is why you need to get them out-of-the-way first. That way you will feel great for having completed them and will have the drive to get more things done.
The best way to start this process is to grab all the to-do lists, post-its, envelopes with scrawled tasks or information, calendars, paper diaries and any other item that has things that need doing. Bring them together and place them in front of you. Overwhelming, huh? Don’t let it put you off though and don’t be tempted to fall into procrastination again (I know you were about to click onto the Facebook tab!) as it is part of the process that will start to free up you time and have you working smoother and slicker than you ever even imagined!
Now grab some paper and a pen and write down any of the things that you need to do that are floating around your head. Pop these into the pile of to-dos. Dump everything that you need to do into this pile so that it can be sorted out. You may find that a lot of them don’t even really need doing or are things that you can delegate to someone else (how great does that sound?) See, I told you things would get better!
Set yourself up with four piles and a bin (or boxes which are even better if you have some) and go through each piece of paper/note/scrawl etc and answer the following question.
Label each pile or box with the following:
and of course DUMP IT for the bin.
Is there an action to be taken there?
If the answer is ‘NO‘ then work out whether you actually need the momo or note and if not, bin it! Be ruthless here, you don’t want hings lingering over you that are of no use! If you do need it, work out whether it is something that is reference or will be actioned later and pop it into the right box.
To help you to decide which pile each needs to go into, here are some examples:
If it is something that will take less than 5 minutes to complete, pop it in the DO IT pile. These can be things like tidy up the kitchen before going to bed or put the books back on the shelf before leaving the house for example.
If it is something that someone else can realistically do for you. For example, getting the children to put away their own books before they go to bed or asking your other half to wash up the dishes after you have eaten your evening meal. (this is not the place to put everything that you don’t want to do and want to pass onto someone else! Just be realistic!)
This is for things that are non-urgent that you can always add to your calendar to do later on or that can be fitted in when you have some free time. For example, painting the garage doors.
Things that you do need to keep like bank statements (if you still get paper) or pay slips. You might even use this file for items that you might need to reference in the future or that you might want to review the next time you repeat this session. (you will separate these off later, but for now pop them into this pile)
For anything that is of no use e.g. an old shopping list or a magazine that you have been meaning to read for the past three months or a phone message that you forgot to pass on.
Now that you have your piles done, you can begin turning them into actions. Go through your DO IT pile first and pop them onto a to-do list, breaking down the tasks if they are quite chunky e.g. tidy lounge, dust lounge etc. Write every action onto the paper.
Next go onto your DELEGATE IT pile and write down the actions that you will need to take for each of the items there e.g. ask Helene to pick up the children on Thursday.
Do the same for the DEFER IT pile and the FILE IT pile so you can see exactly what you have to do to move forward with your tasks.
Review the tasks and pop a deadline next to the items. You might want to start with the DEFER IT items as they are jobs for the future or to review later on, then work back tothe top of the list working out when you will do the items.
Right, you have a definitive list of things that need to get done. What are you going to do now? Well get on with it of course.
Yes, other things and new things are gong to crop up as that is life. So you will need to hold reviews of the list and to tweak it occasionally. I would recommend blocking off some time to hold a weekly review so that you can plan your time wisely and make sure that the necessary things get done.
Don’t beat yourself up if things get pushed on, just remember to ask yourself whether it is a necessary task or whether it would be better suited being delegated to someone else?
Start each day by doing the horrible tasks, that way it will get the yuck out-of-the-way and (hopefully) prevent you from procrastinating. Notice you don’t procrastinate over the jobs you don’t mind doing…!
See how you get on and how much free time you can create for yourself. I’d love to hear how you get on!
Everyone seems so busy these days. Always running around, trying to steal time, working every hour available and losing the time to rest or take recreation.
Why? Surely there is the same amount of time available as when people didn’t used to run around like headless chickens!
As I write this, I am reflecting on how busy people seemed to be while I was on my trip to London the other week. People would even fit in a run in the lunch break or to and from work, just to pack enough into their daily lives. (don’t get me wrong, that is a productive idea…IF they aren’t just going to run home only to start working again) On returning to Manchester, which generally seems very metropolitan, busy and rushed, I was faced with the realisation that it is WAY calmer than London. People will take time to help out or have a chat. The world was moving at such a slower pace! I felt as though I could breathe again and take time to look around me without being carried off in a group of business workers moving from one building to the next.
The reason I think this concept applies to appreciation is that if we pack out time to tightly with work, exercise and all the other stuff, when do we have time to appreciate what we actually have. To appreciate what is going on around us, the joy that we might be skimming past on our run or missing while we refresh the emails in our phones.
I understand that everyone has a lot that they need to fit into their daily lives, but every minute needn’t be filled. In fact, you need to have free minutes to breathe, to digest information and to take stock.
Appreciation can be make a HUGE difference to your life and it may actually create the need for space in your hectic world. You don’t need to cut out the things that you need to do or enjoy doing, but you can prioritise and become more productive in your planning and living.
Take a look at your everyday routine. Is every single hour filled with activity or do you have time to spare? (If you have time to spare, don’t immediately let you brain go into a spin about what you can fill it with, block it off – use a marker or highlighter and make it a sacred space in time. Look at tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. When can you block off time to just be? I am sure that there will be moments in between these blocks, but if you are able to make sure that you have some time out from the hubbub, then you will be able to develop good habits.
What can you appreciate from making some time to appreciate? Think about it, how do you feel? What will it mean to you to have some space in your days? What will you do to enjoy that time?
Even the process of noticing time is an act of appreciation. You realise that even when you say to yourself ‘I don’t have the time’ you realise that in fact, you do. There is always time to be appreciative of what you have and you are lucky to have time.
Appreciation can be as simple as realising what you have; love, a roof over your head, food, clean water and clothes and can also be the purr of your pet cat sitting next to you or the giggle of your child as you try to get them to sleep. It is about seeing the positive even in times of adversity. It can really help to put a spin on a situation e.g. my cats are eating the leaves of my houseplants and proceeding to throw it up on the carpet, stairs, from the top of the seven foot cat tree. No, I am not feeling hugely appreciative right now. But I realise that I am lucky to be able to have such wonderful animals in my life, that I can care for them and that they are healthy and loved. They don’t do it on purpose (I don’t think!) ;-) and they will be there with my while I clean the mess. It is a much better way of thinking than getting annoyed or angry. Try it, when you are in a situation that makes you feel rather flustered.
The challenge for you is to appreciate what you have and to take time to enjoy the moments. If you like, record what you feel and notice in a notebook and come back to it when you feel that you need a boost.
Yes, time is precious. But it needs to be used wisely not blindly. Time passes fast so take time to slow down and enjoy it.