Be True! Be You!

Would you like to connect more deeply to your true self and be more ‘you’? I believe this is what everyone wants, deep down.

I believe in continually discovering and expressing who I really am and I love empowering other people to do the same, so I’ve taken almost three decades of life experiences, meditation, self-development books, audio programmes and videos, and condensed them into 16 of the most important things that I’ve learned – and have helped me – along the way… Here’s the result:

Be True! Be You! Simple strategies to empower you to connect to the real you and live from a place of total authenticity.

In this book you will learn: how to connect to your true self; why everything is OK; how to meditate and breathe; the ‘1% rule’; how to deal with negative thoughts; how to be kind to yourself; how to get what you want; and more! You even get a bonus poem!

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Regret

Regret is a very powerful emotion. It’s very easy to slip into varying degrees of “I wish X had happened” or “If only Y hadn’t” – and it’s easy to beat ourselves up with this and end up going round in circles. One strong branch that emanates from regret is control; we try and CONTROL the past. When we actually think about it, we know that we can’t control it. We know we can’t change the past event, but what we can control is how we see the event now.

 

Try and bring to the surface something that you feel regret about; it won’t take most people long – if it does, then this post might not be worth reading! Try and list all the positives to come out of the decision you made, or didn’t make. They might be really hard to spot but they’re in there. The first step in this exercise is the hardest – once you find one, others tend to follow more easily!

 

Another thing you could try is to do something about the past, now. Reframe it – think about it differently. Or use your sense of regret to propel you forward – like the principles I talked about in “Enough is Enough” (http://fittoflourish.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/enough-is-enough/). Use the injustice you feel to inspire yourself to take action now.

 

Remember that everything decision you’ve ever made was based either on what you wanted at the time, what you thought was right at the time, or the result of the tools you had (or didn’t have) at that time, so try and forgive yourself in order to move forward.

 

Good luck!

 

David x

Enough is enough!

A quote I remember hearing sums up the last few weeks for me. Unfortunately, the quote I’d remembered came from the mouth of the biggest drugs cheat that sport has ever seen! So I’ve cleaned it, stripped the tainted Tour de France titles from it, and prepared it for your eyes!

 

“There comes a point in everyone’s life where they say ‘enough is enough’.”

 

That point has come for me over the last few weeks. A few weeks ago, the world gave me a two-week crash course in “This is everything that’s wrong with your life and why” in the form of depression. Since that fortnight (which, at the time, felt like anything but a blessing), I have generally been on an upward curve. This was probably around the tenth bad episode I’ve had over the last six years or so, and it will be the last. I decided – I think a short while after I began to climb up from the depths this last time – that enough was enough, and that I was going to do whatever it takes to make myself happy. There was so much that each episode has taught me, but this one was slightly different. This one seemed to teach me all the lessons I’d learned from the previous ones, and more! It also importantly, and probably as a result of the severity and breadth of this one, made me decide that I’m finally going to do something about the messages each episode had given me.

 

The messages the depression had for me this time are irrelevant to the main point of this post, but I’ll write the main one anyway: I have to stop searching outside yourself for the answers and for happiness – only I can make myself happy. After having wrote it just now, it seems so obvious, almost silly. But I know that this is the most important realisation I’ve had in my life – I’d always known it, but never really realised it before. (There’s a big different between knowing something and realising it.)

 

Back to the main point: enough was enough. The time had finally come to make myself happy. In the last few weeks, the transformation I feel inside me is huge! I’ve managed to do everything that I know helps me be happy (yoga, meditation, and doing huge courage if I notice the demons coming back) and, more importantly, I’ve stuck to it. In the past I’d do a bit here, and a bit there. But I’ve realised that I have to do these things every day – and I have.

 

Where in your life could you say “enough is enough” and start making the changes you need to make in order to make yourself happy?

 

David x

Be kind to yourself!

Self-compassion is one of the most important tools I’ve recently learned – it’s taken 26 years but it’s been worth the wait. It’s taken sheds full of beating myself up to get there, but I’m on the self-compassion path now! The more compassion I show myself, the more I realise I could’ve provided all the props for the book Fifty Sheds of Grey – as long as they required sheds that were full of self-abuse, self-sabotage, and self-loathing! The reason I’m only just realising how hard I’d been on myself now is two-fold: firstly, I’m on the other side of the self-loathing now (or, at least, on the journey to the other side), and, secondly, the stream of negative thoughts was so constant, so engrained in my behaviour, that I just assumed that ‘that’s how things are’ and it would be impossible to change.

I see compassion as ‘active sympathy’ – taking action to try to soothe and understand a part of you or a situation you’re going through. Here are my tips to help you start, or continue, being kind to yourself:

  • Imagine someone talking to you the way you talk to yourself (when it’s negative); would you want them in your life?
  • Imagine that whatever you’re going through, your best friend or a family member is also going through. Would you talk to yourself the same way as you talk to yourself about what you’re experiencing?
  • Judgements and negative generalisations are a large part of being hard on yourself; we judge ourselves for so many things. We are ‘a failure’, or ‘a bad person’, we ‘should be slim’, ‘should (or shouldn’t) have said X, Y or Z’ or ‘shouldn’t be feeling like this’, etc etc – the list is endless! Notice the use of ‘should’ too – there’s no ‘should’! There’s no set way to live your life – you determine it. And remember, if it’s in the past, you did exactly what you could at the time, with the knowledge and emotional intelligence of that moment. Experience is something we get immediately after we need it, so you did the best you could at the time.
  • I mentioned negative generalisations; it’s important to recognise where you generalise things. As the saying goes, the only things that are inevitable are death and taxes. So if, for example, you have a recurring thought/belief that you are ‘a failure’ this implies that you are ALWAYS a failure. It also depends on your definition of a ‘failure’. There are also varying degrees of ‘failure’. My point is that the belief isn’t ALWAYS true; try to focus on the (sometimes tiny) evidence that the belief isn’t true.
  • Remember you’re doing the best you can. If you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s probably a build up of loads of things over time that have caught up with you – so feeling this way is not a sign that you’re weak, it’s a sign that you’ve just dealt with way too much than you can cope with.
  • Give yourself a break! Being kind to yourself on the inside is definitely the most important kind of compassion, but it doesn’t hurt to spoil yourself once in a while. You could get a massage, for example; just do something that you love doing that’ll reward you for all you’ve been through.
  • Take it slowly; if you’ve been beating yourself up about something (or everything) for a long time, just gradually ease in the compassion – don’t expect yourself to be able to instantly be kind to yourself about everything, just notice little victories and focus on them – they’ll soon turn into massive wins!

Go on – be kind to yourself!

David x

Before you get changed…

Everything is OK exactly as it is!

Now, I don’t mean that you don’t want (or need) certain aspects of yourself and your life to change, I simply mean that however you feel, whatever’s happened in your past, and whatever your current situation, is perfectly fine as it is right now.

The first stage, I have found, in pretty much anything – whether it be an emotion, a financial situation, a bodily ache or pain or an emotional block – involves awareness, acknowledgement and acceptance. Before you can change anything, you have to be aware of the current situation, acknowledge it, and accept it. Only then are you in a strong position to be able to change. If you neglect these three A’s – if you push on to change something before you’ve really completed this ‘A’ stage, you’re setting yourself up for a fall sooner or later. If you do skip straight to ‘change’ it’s kind of like building a house on really unstable, rocky, sandy land that you didn’t know was unstable, rocky and sandy. Sure, you might have a decent house for a while, but eventually the fact that you built it on dodgy ground is going to catch up with you in a dramatic, house-falling-down kinda way! If, however, you had been AWARE of the ground and its characteristics, ACKNOWLEDGED it for being there and ACCEPTED IT it as it is, you’d probably come to the conclusion that it’d be best to CHANGE where you built your house. It’s a bit of a silly example but I hope it gets my point across!

I’ll give you a practical example (assuming you weren’t planning on building a house on dodgy ground…) to get your teeth into. As you read, please try and spot the principles I’m trying to get across, and don’t get too bogged down by the specifics (unless they’re relevant to you of course). Let’s imagine you’re having problems with anger. And let’s suppose that you don’t know how to deal with anger in a constructive way – which is very common in people, myself included. Here are a few thoughts that might naturally come up when we feel angry, that aggravate the situation; these are ones that come up for me – I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to some of mine, as well as having some of your own.

  • “Arrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhh!”
  • “Why me?!”
  • “I shouldn’t be feeling this way!”
  • “Anger is so bad! I don’t want to feel angry!”
  • “I can’t express my anger because I’ll hurt people or they’ll think bad of me”
  • “I want to punch something!”

What happens when these thoughts come in we put ourselves into a negative spiral. The anger (the feeling) comes up, and we talk ourselves into ways to feel more angry! Not helpful in the slightest. The more we fight against the anger, the more angry we feel, and the more damage it can do to us because it’s not being expressed in a healthy way. The cycle continues. So what’s the alternative? Here’s an example of how to AAA formula might play out in this scenario to help us deal with the anger more quickly and more effectively:

  • Awareness: Become aware of the anger. This is probably done automatically already – you normally ‘know’ you’re angry. If you don’t – if you feel like something’s wrong but you don’t know what it is – spend more time on this stage to become aware of what the issue is.
  • Acknowledgement: Admit to yourself that you’re feeling angry. This is an important step – if you don’t acknowledge the presence of the emotion, that’s when it can take hold and you end up fighting with it, resisting it and when it can cause you some damage.
  • Acceptance: Be OK with it being there – you can’t change the fact that you’re angry with a switch, so surrender to the fact that it is there. This is probably the hardest step – it is for me, anyway. This is where you have to try to resist resistance! Try not to resist the anger – let it flow. As I said at the top of the page, this does not mean that you think the anger (or whatever emotion or situation it is you’re dealing with) is good and you want loads more of it in your life, it just means that you realise you can’t change the situation immediately, so you’re accepting it as so that you ARE able to change it. Remember that the three A’s are the foundation for change.

Now, all of that might sound easy (there’s also a high chance it might not too!), and I’m not suggesting that this is a quick fix – nothing worthwhile is – but hopefully the AAA method will help you to at least start becoming more healthy – emotionally healthy in the example I’ve given. I’ll be talking more about emotions in an upcoming post – for now, please try to see through the example to see the underlying principles of the AAA tool.

So from now on, AAA isn’t a small battery that you put in your mini remote control helicopter, it’s your cue to be Aware and Acknowledge and Accept the situation exactly as it is!

David x

Headaches and Migraines

I think everyone has experienced headaches to at least a small degree in their lives. I’ve suffered from migraines and headaches for a long time now – probably the last 15 years. Over this time, I’ve learned a lot about what causes them, what eases them if they do occur, and what helps to prevent them in the first place. I’d like to share my experiences with you here.

What causes them?

  • Stress
  • Worry
  • Thinking too much (try and work out specifically which thoughts might be causing you pain)
  • Stress
  • Worry
  • Thinking too much…
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dehydration
  • Hunger (interestingly, I get a ‘hunger headache’ on the right side of my head, but if I’ve got a headache for any other reason it’s on the left side!)
  • Disturbances in patterns (sleeping, eating, etc)

What eases them, and what helps to prevent them in the first place? Prevention is obviously better than cure, but I’ve put these together so that you can try what works for you in each scenario.

  • A good old bag of frozen peas! Put it where the pain is felt most intently (for me, normally the left side of my forehead) and/or where you feel the pain is coming from (for me, normally where the bottom of my skull meets the top and sides of my neck).
  • A gentle massage (getting someone to do it for you is obviously much more preferable than doing it yourself!) wherever you feel it’s necessary. Other than the obvious places (head, temples, neck. shoulders etc), there’s also a great spot between the base of your index finger and thumb on the back of each hand. It’s a fleshy part, and, if you have a headache or generally a tight head/neck you’ll probably find it’s tight and painful in this area. Put some gentle circular pressure on this part of your hand and see if it helps.
  • Grounding – getting outside into the fresh air helps with pretty much anything, and headaches in particular. It fills the head with fresh air and the space it needs.
  • As we know, prevention is better than cure; try and learn to spot the signs of a headache coming as early as possible so that you can do what feels right to you to help yourself and take yourself in a different direction other than Headacheville.
  • Meditation and deep breathing. I’ve found that my headaches are more likely and more frequent when I breathe in a shallow, rather than a deep, way. Try and breathe in really deeply so that you fill as much of your body (and in particular your head and neck) with each breath as you can. If you can spend some time alone, just ‘being’, I’m sure you’ll feel calmer. Start with 60 seconds a day if you have to – it’s all good!
  • Check your posture. One light that has recently been shed on my headaches is the postural aspect. Try and make sure than your hips are level (so that your torso is in one long line) and your pelvis, heart and head are all in one vertical line.
  • Mudras. A ‘mudra’ is just a posh name for a hand position – kind of like hand yoga! The way we hold our hands and fingers can have various effects on the mind and body. Here’s one that works to draw the energy down out of your head and shoulders, which obviously helps with headaches: Take the ring finger and bend it so that the end of it is pressing lightly into your palm.
  • Speaking of yoga..! Any kind of yoga practice will help with your headaches, because one of the benefits is that it reduces muscle tension. Having said that, here are a few specific poses that you can try:
  1. Legs-up-the-wall pose (fairly self-explanatory I think! Lie on your back with your feet as comfortably straight as you can. It might help to have your hips supported by a pillow to allow more blood to enter your head where it’s needed.
  2. Open the chest with this one: Stand, as best you can, with your pelvis, heart and head aligned. Clasp your hands together and put them on the bottom of your back. Keeping them there, gently pull the shoulder blades together and pull your elbows back. From here, keeping your shoulders and elbows steady, extend your arms as far as is comfortable until you feel a nice stretch across your chest and the front of your shoulders . Try and keep the head steady (don’t let the chin fall down) and hold for as long as you like – I normally do it for between 10 and 60 seconds.
  3. Child’s pose: Sit on your knees on a folded blanket. Separate your knees wider than your hips and let your feet touch. Bend down from the waist and reach the arms forward with the forehead on the floor (or a folded blanket if it’s more comfortable) and your chin dropped towards your chest so that you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your neck. Place your palms down on the floor, with your arms in a comfortable position.
  • Learn to let go of your stresses. Find ways that release the stress. For me, it’s being in nature, exercise (particularly yoga), meditation, writing and deep breathing; find out what works for you.
  • Massage: massage is such an important and, in my view, underused tool in combating stress and improving health. Try and work a massage into your life as a treat as often as you can! I’ve had deep tissue and Swedish massage in the past – which one I choose depends on how much tension I want to release and how much pain I want to be in!
  • Essential oils: See my post on how I got into oils as a result of my migraines here: http://fittoflourish.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/7/. Oils that I have found to help include basil, roman chamomile and marjoram, but the two that have given me the most relief are peppermint and lavender – I put them on my neck and head, and/or inhale them.
  • And finally… Carrots! No, I haven’t gone mad. They help! I don’t know if it’s because they help with eyesight (which is linked to headaches I’m sure), but eating carrots helps ease and prevent my headaches!

So there you have a few ideas as to what causes, and what can prevent, headaches in my experience. I hope it’s of some benefit to you! Thoughts/comments/questions  are most welcome!

David x

Poem: Chains

Here’s a poem I wrote that I wanted to share:

The chains that restrain you and make you feel down,

The ones that take over and force you to frown;

Some you can identify, some you can’t,

When you think they’re there forever, know that they aren’t…

When you acknowledge the chains – it’s hard, I know,

They’ll loosen their grip and let you grow;

When you understand why they’re there at all,

You’ll realise right then they don’t want you to fall…

When you’re kind to the chains and focus on peace,

They’ll reward your compassion and you’ll feel them release;

The strain will be gone and you’ll be free to be free,

Like a bird in the air, soaring  over a tree…

It’s scary to think of yourself with no chains,

But without them to drain you you’ll have control of the reigns.

Love will flow in the spaces they leave,

And you’ll find out what magic life’s got up it’s sleeve.

David x