The unfed mind devours itself

Quote by Gore Vidal

A new week and time to remind ourselves that our brains need stimulation.

Feed your brain the nutrition of a Watsit, stay in your comfort zone and stop learning new things = brain mush.

Our brain is not only crucial for daily functioning but it’s what we use to make decisions and steer the course of our lives with, with each new turn of the steering wheel we create new neurone pathways and that gives us more options and allows us to flourish. When it comes to the brain, variety is not only the spice of life but the whole plate.

It’s very easy to sit in our comfort zones and as we get older, I suggest much like an old and loved couch, it’s becomes harder to get out of. This post is a moment to reflect on whether you need to do something new, go somewhere different, to take up that course you’ve always wanted to do. Perhaps you are well read and enjoy regular trips to the library, you may have not realised that you always read the same genre, or same couple of authors. This means you are likely to stay roughly in the same word count and in turn you haven’t learnt any new words or expressions for a while. Much like a child learning to speak, the more eloquent we are the further we can use language to express our emotions and to an extent, feel deeper. The same can be said if you tend to watch the same TV programmes, genre of films or visit the same websites regularly.

Part of my job as a behaviour adviser, is going into schools and observing children in classrooms. Boredom isn’t as rare as parents may hope. Whilst the bored mind can also stimulate imagination and innovation – in the majority of classrooms I’ve observed in, this isn’t always the case, it’s more likely that biros will be tapped, twirled, dropped and span. After a while, the bored mind becomes frustrated and antisocial behaviour kicks in, the mind devours itself in chaos.

The other thing a bored mind does is it has too much time, when this happens it fills itself up with fear and ‘what ifs’ – again, great for the imagination but not so much for in being / becoming a mentally well balanced individual.

A diet of fear, leads to a vulnerable existence and anxiety, so every now and then we need to take stock and reassess what our brains are digesting, food wise there are many awesome ‘brain foods’ from blueberries to nuts they can help increase performance. Exercise wise, the brain craves new environments, challenges and goals. However, one element that often gets forgotten is sleep. A good nights sleep allows the brain to process, reassess and much like a computer it turns on more effectively after it’s been reset. We may not grizzle like toddlers when we are tired (I think I do actually?) but it lowers our mood and our performance, which can effect how enjoyable we are finding the task at hand. Don’t devour your own brain, use it and manifest the life you always dreams of.

Sometimes the tiniest things shine brightest in our lives.

Quote Anon.

I’m a fan of the small twinkles of joy that I find in my life. I’m hardwired to see them, breath them and appreciate them. It’s true I’m one of the happy, cheerful sorts that you don’t want to meet on a bad day, but you’d be wrong in thinking that this outward joy comes naturally to me. So what keeps me on the sunny side of life?

My thoughts:

I consciously make positive choices asking my internal self ‘Does this feel good?’ or ‘Do I need to let go of this?’

I also read positive literature and online only follow accounts that make me feel good as I scroll, the exception are topics I feel passionately about; like teen mental health, anxiety or sometimes adoption stories – however, again I select accounts that are giving solutions, tools or sharing positive intentions around those issues. We don’t have the TV on in our home, instead we sit down to stream specific films or series – the news is never on. If I need to know, social media has a way of letting me know the big stuff, without the TV on we also don’t have adverts blaring through our home or the constant chatter of day time TV and negative energy.

I do meditate but I admit this is something I’m currently struggling to keep in my routine. Mornings can be manic and evenings I just end up dozing off, however this week I’m going to trial lunch time meditations now the little dude has returned to school. There are many articles on why we should all meditate and so many different ways; guided or not, with or without music, with actions or still….it’s worth exploring what works for you.

Magnetised by positive people:

We can’t always avoid people that have low energy or perhaps drain us, in the work place you may not get to decide who you work with and its unlikely that you’re already thinking of a certain someone that drains you faster than the bathroom plug can be emptied. However, in your personal life you can, or you can minimise interactions with people who dont raise you up.

Another way around this, is balancing your time with personalities who both drain and radiate for you at the same time or near each other. I also sometimes will make sure I have time to myself to ‘fill up my cup’ before I enter a situation that I know may be highly stressful, although I realise that this isn’t always possible.

Actively search for the tiny moments of sparkle in your day:

Don’t just notice them, highlight them. Keep track of them in a gratitude diary, or a note in your phone, share them with others or just relish them a little longer than you might normally.

To get you started here are a few of mine from where I’m seated in this moment:

  • The sun is shining through the windows and its hitting my prisms that hang and casting rainbows everywhere.
  • My cup is over half full…no seriously, I just filled glass with water (hydrations lifts moods too)
  • My dog is laying across my feet – bonus that she’s keeping them warm
  • I hoovered this morning so my carpet looks clear (no toys in site!)

Once you begin this Polly-Anna approach to looking for the light in life, much like any habit you’ll magnetise to more of the joy life offers. Whilst its not always easy to see, I promise you there is always something good to appreciate. Basic maths tells us that we can’t get a negative number from two or more positive numbers. I suggest that you can lead a more hopeful, sparkly and joyful existence if you choose to focus on the tiny moments life offers us.

You’re not in a storm, you’re in transition.

Quote Anon

When you feel weighed down by life, it can often feel like you’re stuck in a bad weather. You ‘baton down the hatches’ (I shut the door?), you hibernate until it’s over and at times you moan about the heat of summer and how you miss it. If you live in the UK then a very British culture trend is to discuss the weather in great detail with everyone you meet. “Did you have that storm last night’ you say to the Lady at the bus stop…the bus stop that’s around the corner from where you live. She replies “it was horrendous” she then extends with tales of garden pots crashing to the ground, how she can’t hang her washings and that the trampoline from next door nearly took off…it didnt, but that’s what she tells you.

You can actually make the ‘stories of the storm’ last for a while, my friendship group still discuss the Storm of 1987 whenever the ‘S’ word appears, its the mecca of all storms in my lifetime and every storm / hurricane in the UK has been compared to it ever since. It was a good storm, if such a thing can exist….

Of course it can exist. Storms rock natures, remove weak trees, turn the earth over, add decomposing elements and allow for new growth to thrive. It humans a metaphorical storm is an occasion where we sit in our negative pattern like concert. We wallow in our story…in concrete. We can’t grow in concrete, we can’t thrive, we just sit and think about how bad we have it.

All Storms have to end, in fact all weather systems are temporary….the sun goes down, the clouds fill with water, the rain falls… it moves, it flows and even storms, thunder, lightning and hurricanes ‘blow over’. As do peoples ‘storm like’ situations. The problem is if we are so invested in being negative, we can’t see the moments of sunlight that inevitable pass. Instead we wallow in our negative patterns and perpetuate the situation.

While life isn’t all rainbows and at time certainly many of us will need to seek external support to lift ourselves up from our dark skies…it’s possible….it happens in small transitions and I am proud to say that I’ve seen so many people find glimmers of light, sometimes the heavy clouds return but just like our weather – its often temporary, its often made up of many elements, and its just another transition in the weather map of our lives.

If you or someone to love needs to seek professional support, this UK site gives you the A-Z of charities and organisations that are trained specifically in taking down storms and throwing out lights. Much love to you on your journey.

Hope is being able to see the light despite all of the darkness

Quote by Desmond Tutu

We all have our moments of darkness, some come and go much like the sun and moon, others seem much heavier and forever shape us.

I have had my share of darkness and have also had the honour of supporting teenagers as they face trauma and often actions out of their power. I’m no expert but I have learnt a few things that’s I’d like to share – the first is simple. No two dark nights are the same. Just because you are grieving or have experienced death doesn’t mean you know how someone else feels, sure you can empathise and much like this blog tries to do, you can share your ideas and positive sparkles but ultimately everybody feels and reactions are individual.

That’s the good bit, that’s what makes us unique. If you are currently facing a dark time, I urge you to reach for the light switch. It’s often just out of grasp but you can ask for support, loved ones or perhaps your GP this link is full of amazing experts and advice, it’s literally and A-Z of services.

I’d also urge you to see the light in the darkness, much like one of my favourite children’s books ‘The owl who was afraid of the dark’ there is always a positive to see from a negative experience – in the children’s books the owl learns that fireworks truly shine at night, that the stars can’t be seen by day…often our own joys or darkness are us becoming more empathetic to others, better listeners or perhaps have experience in a specific type of darkness.

However, I have seen and felt myself how impossible the long nights can be an I urge you all to create a tool box of light. *no batteries needed – these are a few of the things that I’ve felt have helped me and others around me. You can create your box to suit you. Loved ones to talk to

  • Talking to loved ones
  • Drinking more water – it sounds simple, but us humans are just complicated plants
  • Go for a walk
  • Make your bed when you wake
  • Help others or volunteer your time
  • Make plans, these can be small to begin with and within your comfort zone
  • Self care: this doesn’t need to be candle lit meals but can again start with brushing your teeth and having a shower.
  • Look at positive content online
  • Clean and declutter: my favourite is the cutlery draw as it only takes a minute to wipe it over but every-time you open it you feel a sense of achievement
  • Take it slow – life isn’t a race

I hope as you read this you can’t feel any shadows, I hope your life is lit up like a Christmas tree… but I promise that finding light in the darkest of time’s can be rewarding, just nobody said it would be easy.

Much love x

Worry is a misuse of Imagination

 Quote by Dan Zandra.

I’m not very good at worrying? I get distracted, like a fly or a toddler…it’s not necessarily a bad thing, worry can cause a variety of medical conditions; heart complications, anxiety issues that can lead to depression, even a shorter life expectancy. I also never really understood what people got out of it? For example if you have a telephone bill that you can’t pay…worrying won’t pay the bill? I do have moments where I may worry, particularly when loved ones are ill but I never understood ‘worrying’ until last year when a yr 11 girl in my school asked me to help her with anxiety over her exams.

A little bit of digging made me realise that she used ‘worry’ as her form of fuel, she worried about everything in life and her neurotransmitters responded; it was even how she showed she cared. More importantly it’s how she released the power to push through life and achieve daily tasks. I thought that was pretty cool, so I made her embrace her worry and not become debilitated by it. It worked too, she aced her exams with the right mindset.

This links directly to the second part of this quote – imagination. Rather than worry think about doing something creative. Imagination is the gift we all have that sadly so many adults loose or forget. Mine is sometimes a little too extreme and if I were a balloon i’d float off into the sky. Luckily, I have Mr F to keep me grounded (he is the string in our relationship) for example when we were planning to upgrade our kitchen he suggests a practical solution that is cost effective and I suggest a kitchen made of Lego. (Seriously, next time you’re on Pinterest take a look at the Lego kitchens, you won’t be disappointed), we then compromise with a practical kitchen that has Lego for cupboard handles (please), okay well negotiations are on going…

I really do believe that imagination is the key to the soul, to success and to life. You have to believe it to receive it.  If you can’t imagine yourself doing something or think you aren’t worthy then you’re likely to miss opportunities and live with regrets.

If you are a natural worrier – harness that energy and use it to fuel your imagination, rather than the ‘what ifs’ life may or may not bring, enjoy the tomorrows and embraces the dreams of now, they can be your reality for tomorrow. You may be surprised at how much you can achieve.

Hope is being able to see the light despite all of the darkness

Quote from Desmond Tutu

The journey of life often brings uncertainty and darkness. One minute life is lit up like a joyful Christmas tree, the next an unexpected power cut plummets you into darkness.

Darkness can often be uncertain and you bump into things. I’d suggest anyone who finds themselves in the dark reaches for the light switch as soon as possible, call me the health and safety police but I’m not into bumping my head. If you are currently living in the shadows or grasp of darkness then you might think ‘easy for her to type’ and so I’d like you to know that darkness has knocked on my door, circumstances out of my control mean I’ve lived more of my nightmares than I’d care to mention and Ive also supported many young people in the most tragic of circumstances. However, this doesn’t make me a darkness expert; Ive learnt that each individuals darkness is unique to them.

My most recent darkness was my silent miscarriage, after a quick survey of the darkness I decided not to stay there. I reached for the light switch of hope. It’s not particularly stable and somedays it’s just out of my clutches, although I may not have much choice about the darkness I do have a choice about how I look at the dark.

It reminded me of a children’s book I enjoyed as a child and have shared with my son. ‘The owl who was afraid of the dark’ through the story the baby owl who fears the dark learns the joy of fireworks who’s beauty can’t be appreciated in full light. In my favourite chapter the owl learns to see and appreciate the stars. Then I remembered that if I looked outside of my initial darkness…the stars would light my way. Small beams of appreciation, hope allows me to see the light. Perhaps your dark past increases your empathy to others, a better listener or generally a kinder soul. 

At other times when I hear of other peoples darkness it makes mine seem more like i’ve got life on a dimmer switch. Of course, one persons tragedy doesn’t diminish somebody else’s feelings but I do think it sometimes gives situations a clearer perspective. 

Noted below are a few things that can make the light switch a little easier to find, most of them are free and I’m sure you’ve heard of them all before.

  • Keep a gratitude diary
  • Volunteer and help somebody else
  • pop on some music
  • go for a walk 
  • declutter a draw – my personal favourite it the cutlery draw, takes 2 minutes to wipe around yet every time I open the draw I feel like I’m winning
  • write down how you are feeling and then shred it or burn it. 
  • drink more water – we are after all complex plants with emotions
  • fake a smile – apparently the brain can tell the difference and the happy hormones will be released. 
  • Make a plan for tomorrow. This doesn’t need to be huge like a holiday (although they can be fun) 
  • try and get a good night sleep (I know this ones tricky)
  • practise self care: this doesn’t need to be a full facial and luxury bubble bath, just having a wash and brushing teeth is a good starting point 
  • Make your bed – this will require you to leave it 
  • remember that before you can step out of the tunnel, the light gradually increases with small bursts of light…so be kind to yourself. You’re doing the best you can.

If the darkness persists and you feel like you’re in the longest night of your life, make an appointment to see your GP or check out this link with helpful numbers and website for you to look at. Best wishes in finding a little more light. 

I can smell Autumn dancing in the breeze

Quote Anon

This week I’ve been teaching my year seven pupils (aged 11) about developing and sustaining a positive mindset. It was also national mental health awareness day (10th October) and so I thought I’d bring the two together and create a gratitude list for Autumn.

I keep a daily journal in which I write down three things I’m grateful for and three intentions for the day. Personally, I find it helps focus my day and it starts my day in a good vibration.

My favourite season is spring, but that shouldn’t stop an Autumn list from occurring, in fact it’s often more beneficial to dig a little deeper when it comes to gratitude, that said I’m often surprised at how simple pleasures usually are? *Sorry if most of my list is food based.

Autumn gratitude

  • The crunch of the leaves as they fall under my feet
  • Cosy evenings in with pyjamas and hot chocolate
  • The colours of the trees that seem to change daily through Autumn
  • Searching for conkers (seriously it’s like discovering buried treasure)
  • An excuse to wear a cardigan
  • Smell of Crock pot dinners – it’s like coming home to my Mums cooking at the end of a working day, except I did it whilst I was at work!
  • Wearing wellies on walks
  • Homemade soup and fresh bread
  • Cups of tea on the sofa whilst it rains outside
  • Autumn seems slower and so I find more time to read
  • Bonfires (marshmallows on bonfires)
  • Fireworks in our village
  • Watching the stars
  • Empty beach walks wrapped up warm

…your turn, what are you grateful for as we step into Autumn? Comment below.

The words you speak become the house you live in

Quote by Hafiz.

It’s natural to furnish your home with delightful trinkets and buy a bed to sleep in. You then purchase bedding, cushions…the list is endless. As the years go by loved ones treat you to gifts and the house you bought in a state of empty becomes full, it becomes a home….a cluttered home but I’m working on it. We stamped our identity on each wall with the paint colours of our choosing, as expected quotes frequent the walls, photos of memories gather across the shelves and in time the space around you reflects who you are as a group. In our bedroom my clothes hang in there given spaces, each item has a home and all looks tranquil, it reflects my mood and attitude towards sleep, life and….hang on?…if you gaze to the left, clothes are thrown on the floor, dirty and clean collide in a mountain of mens fashion and ‘our’ bedroom reflects us. Two people who see the world through their perspective, the Mr’s perspective is chaotic and I’ve learnt to not look left when walking in the room.

When I get home from work I can tell how my other half’s day has gone by the state of our living room – if the cushions are puffed and the floor clear it was a busy, productive day. If my sons toys cover every inch of the carpet, the Mr’s day has been one of chaos, the toys my son played with before school have merged with the after school activities. Bowls, cups and plates collect in clutter free corners and I will find Daddy upstairs, clinging to a cup of tea, hidden behind a computer screen with the door ajar, on the edge and ready to hand the baton of childcare and adult responsibility to me for five minutes of peace.

Just like our homes, our brains are places full of ideas, whizzing and connecting – pulsating neurones connecting pathways we didn’t know we had. When we are calm, breathing deeply and taking care of ourselves – thoughts are linear, often clear and we speak with clarity and act with intention, we often think before we react and our brain is a state of serentity. If like my living room – toys erupt, the television blares and chaos can be seen, it’s all the likely result that our brains are overloaded. If our brain was a computer we have thousands of tabs open, all needing our attention. The volume is loud, turned on full. There is noise, interference and for our brains (and our living spaces) chaos…unfinished jobs, quick tempers and hot mouths.

Todays quote is simple. Create a space inside you that you would like to live in, because frankly that’s exactly where you do live. Your first address is under your skull. It’s natural that sometimes in moments of tragedy or stress your brain becomes cluttered but don’t let it become your default setting. No matter what the day has been like, we always clear the living room. The toys go away, candles are lit and the space resets itself (usually for another day of play), make sure your brain has this option too, for me a ten minute morning meditation means I unwind from sleep and step into my day with the brakes fully applied. I am in control rather than the whizzing motions of task and lists that need completing. I’m a self care guru and will either make time to do yoga each day or if the day is busy I will pop the kettle on and sit down with a cup of tea. Whether you have an hour to exercise or five minutes to sit down, or two minutes to breath deeply make the time and create the space your head needs. The bonus is you might also end up with tidier home too.

Worry means you suffer twice

Quote by Newt Scamander.

  • Warning, I’m doing that thing again where the need to write pulls me out of my bed (even with freshly laundered sheets) and on to the floor in the office at the back of the house with the glow of my Macbook for company and a beauty salt lamp by my side. (desks have always felt a little too formal for me and I’m grounded on the floor; even if its a little draughty), so please forgive me if what I write is waffle.

I often write on the topic of happiness, perspective or self care. There is usually a silver lining or positive perspective to sparkle up this corner of the internet and worry isn’t my friend. I don’t invite him/her to my celebrations, neither does she/he make my Christmas card list (frankly, since having a child and working full time anyone who receives a card from me is truly blessed). I avoid negative people, conversations and situations. We don’t watch TV in our home, the news (web or paper version) are non existent. Yet still I am totally aware that the world we are part of is out of control. That plastic consumption is ridiculous and that banning plastic straws has probably come a little late in the day. That power, money and fear are still the driving forces. That scare mongering, praying on the vulnerable, greed and selfishness are growing much like plastic straws on our oceans seabeds, that stress is increasing, that happiness is often ‘sold’ in a misguided manner… I know this. It shakes my bubble that I work hard to create hard every now and then, its sucks the sparkle and actually at times has taken my breath with it.

Worry is the new fear (I’m not sure how new is new). We worry about worrying in between moments of ‘what if’s’ and ‘could’ ‘should’s’… the list is long. In education bullying is old hat, self diagnosis of anxiety and depression are on the increase amongst our children, as a species we are lost and drown our sorrows with drugs and alcohol (usually through those blooming plastic straws) and what I guess woke me from my comfy bed is a request, to ask you too to build a bubble, a cocoon of kindness and self care, to not engage with the negativity described above. Contrast is necessary for us to thrive, I can’t promise you can fully cut it out. Think of my request as a new detox regime – no fancy products needed, no 90 day money back guarantee required, in fact it won’t cost a penny. I’m asking because worry can be such a positive tool – it lets you know when you’ve lost balance, it reminds you that you care…but never give it the power to allow you to suffer twice.

If you can’t do this, then please at least stop using plastic straws.

Happiness is only real when shared

Quote from ‘into the wild’

Happiness princess here again, absolutely loving this quote. This week Kate Spade died, at the point of writing this the news is reporting that she had left a suicide note. I text my friend and told her about Kate’s death (she’s a KS handbag lover) and she texted back some seriously wise words

“Being mentally healthy is everything”

The text above made the hairs on my neck stand on end. Truth can do that, it can cut through your soul and not leave a trace that’s it’s obliterated your very being.

I pondered on happiness to raise my self out of a potential pit of sadness and then I decided to do what I always do when my world looks like it might turn sour or the weight of the day has left me feeling empty – Make a mental gratitude list.

The list usually works like a magic spell to lift my spirit and redirect my day. However, I then realised something that for me felt profound. Although I relish the time I have alone (like now laid on the bed with a cup of chamomile tea and a candle for company #gangsta) all the moments of happiness I have usually involve sharing it with other people.

My son came home from a new Tennis club beaming today, he couldn’t wait to tell me what he had achieved. My happiness soared just hearing about his adventure.

New purchases don’t feel fun until you show others or they compliment, or ask where you got it from.

My tribe is the basis for most of my drops of happiness, but retelling and sharing moments is often the best bit.

I don’t think you can experience the true power of happiness alone. Do you? Perhaps you share a moment through social media or even with a pet (seriously my dog laughs at all my jokes), you send a postcard, letter or email.

The only way I can think that not sharing can be more fun is when you eat an entire bag of share sized crisps to yourself.

Being mentally healthy really is everything, if you are blessed with a serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine mix that’s good, or even better if you are mentally better by 1% then you were yesterday – you’re blessed. If you have someone (anyone…could be a pet) to share any more plus percentages with, then you’ve made it.

If you need some support to increase your percentages, please seek help via your GP or talk to the experts: Mind.org.uk for more info, many people (nearly 70% in the UK of elderly people) report being lonely, again more info here