An alternative to New Year’s resolutions

How about a new approach to New Year’s resolutions? Let’s be honest, most of us don’t follow through anyway, right? After a few weeks the discipline wavers and we’re back to where we started. If you’re an exception, great! Congrats then keep going and see this suggestion as an add-on. If you’re not good at sticking to your NY’s resolutions, then let’s just not do them this year.

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

So here’s a different idea (which I started a few years ago):
Why not start with an empty jar and collect happy moment memories, success stories or pictures of events and positive changes happening in 2021?

Recipe:
Take one empty bottle or jar, have a few pieces of paper or post-it notes and a pen ready. Set an reminder on your phone or in your calendar to record at least two or three things every week or reflect each Sunday on what to record. No worries if it’s less than that, the idea is to keep counting and recording your blessings.

We could even record things like the end of lockdown, the joy of being allowed to see friends again, the pleasures of shopping or keep a record of how you’ve improved your home, your skills or hobbies, write down your favourite jokes or heart-warming moments when you felt moved or perhaps record an pleasant walk in nature with a picture, a beautiful sunset, a home-cooked meal that you enjoyed, a time when you laughed until your tummy hurt, a special gift you received, a zoom-party or joyful phone call with a friend. The list is endless.

Then at New Year’s Eve 2021, take out the bottle or jar and read all the notes on the happy moments of the year. If you do this with your family, have everyone pick their top three! Feel free to amend this recipe to suit your needs.

The point is to recognise and record happy moments throughout the year and then reflect on them at the end of the year. Do this and watch how your life will change over time. We all got so much more to be grateful for than we perhaps realise. Accept the challenge!

Photo by Oleg Zaicev from Pexels

How to switch your focus from anxiety to calmness

These are difficult times and not being able to see friends and family, the current uncertainty about the future mixed with fearful messages from the media can really have an impact on somebody’s mental health. Now it’s especially important to look after ourselves and for some it might be easier as long commutes are not on the agenda at the moment and working from home or not working at all free up time and hopefully provides comfort. So we’re trying to find the balance between what’s worse right now, getting used to what’s different and be happy about what’s better.

Our mind is such a powerful tool yet it’s important to feed it the right messages and take control. There was once a story about two wolves, an old legend of unknown origin. It’s the tale of the fight between two wolves we all have insight of us representing our inner conflicts. One wolf is evil full of anger, jealousy, self-pity, regrets, arrogance and laziness while the other, the good one, is filled with joy, empathy, peace, courage, faith and generosity. The question is asked which of these fighting wolves would win the battle and after reflection the answer is revealed: The one you feed.

Free photo 88039025 © creativecommonsstockphotos – Dreamstime.com

So which one are you feeding? Are you spending time complaining how bad it is or are you actively seeking to find the opportunities in the current situation? Are you taking time to look after yourself and embrace new hobbies, habits and connecting to others perhaps via technology? Or are you hiding in your ‘cave’ waiting for the storm to blow over? The important bit is that we all have a choice which wolf we feed and the one we feed will be growing and becoming stronger.

I know this is a very simplistic point of view and things aren’t usually just black or white but I like the message behind it as we can only focus on one emotion at a time, we can’t be happy and sad at the same time and even if we’re sad we can switch our focus to something else, someone we love, for example and the feelings will change and follow our thoughts.

Sometimes, however, we can get stuck in a negative emotion, such as anxiety and find it hard to switch and get out. If changing your thoughts doesn’t change, then give your body a break and use both your body and your mind to find a bit of peace. When body and mind work together, anything is possible. So here’s a quick and easy 5-10 minute relaxation exercise to get from anxiety to calmness:

Sit somewhere quiet and comfortably. Focus on your breath, observe it for a minute, then start counting. Count to five or six while you breathe in and to five or six while you breathe out. Do this for a few minutes. Then start daydreaming. Think of a lovely safe place where you can relax, perhaps a beach or a forest you know. Build it up with your inner eye and notice the colours, sounds and smells. Then imagine going for a stroll there while taking in the calmness of that place. Do this for a couple of minutes or so before coming back. Notice the difference in how you feel. Repeat regularly.

Try it out, really, how about now? Don’t postpone or delay. If appropriate, do it now for a few minutes! If it works teach it to someone else. If everyone did take a 5-minute break like this every day, we’d all be much calmer and happier.

Stay safe. Big hug. Love and light.

Sandy x

Am I really depressed, or could I just be an introvert?

In a world where the majority of people (apparently two thirds) are extroverts, there are certain unspoken expectations of how to fit in and how to ‘be normal’. For example, we should see friends and family regularly, always go out when asked, engage in active hobbies and continuous professional development, support good causes, be successful, do exciting things and ideally let the world know about it by posting pictures and status updates on social media.

For extroverts this might not be a problem as many of them like being around others and don’t usually mind the general busyness and noise of modern life whereas introverts, on the other hand do! Working all day, commuting and the feeling that we then should also fill our leisure time with exciting things, tasks and people can be overwhelming, although I guess to a certain extent that is true for everyone. Perhaps extroverts just generally cope better with being busy, having full schedules and long to-do-lists and somehow still seem to find the energy to have a great social life too.

Introverts may just need more time alone, they may not want to be out and about all the time,  communicate with everyone constantly about what’s going on in their life or simply do lots of different things. They like to retreat, have time to think and process events of the day, need peace and quiet to balance out all the noises, pressures and expectations they encountered. And that is totally okay! We’re all different and both introverts AND extroverts are needed and valuable.

Introverts might get fed the feeling that something is wrong with them, if they need a break from it all every now and then. Questions might pop up around them like “Where have you been?” “Why aren’t you coming out with us?” “You’re so quiet, is everything ok?” “Did you get my text?.” etc. The unspoken label ‘depression’ may occasionally float around but are people who need some alone time and don’t feel up for talks, events and gatherings really depressed?

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m neither downplaying depression nor am I suggesting that introvert people come across as depressed. It’s just that in my experience as a holistic health practitioner I’ve come across a number of clients who diagnosed themselves and thought they had some sort of mild depression, many of whom turned out to ‘just’ be introverts with no mental health problem whatsoever. So, I thought I’d write about it as I guess it can be quite a relief for anyone doubting themselves.

You don’t have to bend over backwards to fit in. It’s okay to be who you are, it’s okay to miss out on an evening with friends, it’s okay to stay in and take time out for yourself. In fact, if you feel you need it, it’s necessary! It’s important to respect our own needs and if alone time is what we need, then let’s take it. It helps to recharge our batteries and only if we look after ourselves, can we also look after others, plus if you have kids, you set a great example in showing them the importance of self-care.

Now, I’m not advocating to become a hermit. If someone is losing interest and enjoyment, feels in a depressed mood for an extended period of time, experiences increased fatigue or loss of energy, has disturbed appetite and/or sleep problems and engages in pessimistic views of the future, there might be an element of depression and getting support would be advisable. The IDC-10 (meaning: international classification of diseases 10th edition) is often used as a model for diagnosis and can be helpful. I’ve worked with a lot of clients to help them get out of their ‘down period’ and there’s lots of wonderful tools to help with that, such as Solution-focused psychotherapy and hypnotherapy and EFT.

Yet simply being introspective, reflective and observing, enjoying a bit of alone time, having quiet hobbies, not joining every social event or being a bit under the weather every now and then does not mean depression! These are qualities of introverts and it’s important to respect them in order NOT to get depressed in the future because by not getting our emotional needs met, we are more prone to mental health problems. So, take a break to daydream if you need to. Take time out for yourself and please respect others who do the same. What about you? Has this blog post been helpful? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I look forward to reading your comments. Thanks.