Hello darlings! (Blame the new Ab Fab film coming out for the plethora of ‘Darlings’ in this post – I’ve gone all Joanna Lumley again)
Whatever your politics or views, the news from across the world has been very sad and full of gloomy predictions. It’s hard not to feel ourselves sucked into that mindset, and frankly, we’d have lost our humanity if sad events ceased to touch us in some way. That said, life goes on (never been afraid of a cliche here!) and we can still make choices about how our life goes on.
For the purposes of clarity, darlings, I’m not talking about turning you all into *Stepford Wives who nod and smile inanely and stop living in the real world. That way madness lies. I am talking about understanding your feelings, appreciating how emotions can be contagious, and how you can, to an extent, be in control of your own, and make them work for you in a positive way. As a result, you will feel more in control, and, dare I say, a bit happier.
OK, how do I make myself ‘Happier’?
Well, what normally makes you feel good? My gardening idol, Monty Don, recently tweeted that now is a good time to pay attention to your garden, or plants, window boxes, whatever you have. He’s right, there is plenty of research to show how gardening in any form can lift our mood. I love getting my hands dirty (never managed to garden in gloves, somehow). I appreciate that it may not do it for you, so take a few minutes to think what does. What do you do where you can truly ‘lose’ yourself for a period of time? It may be crafts, it may be writing, it might be aspects of your job; you might even love the colouring mindful books that have become so popular. (People love the creative exercises we do with colour on our courses, although they do roll their eyes a bit when we first explain).
You need to put something good back in. Sometimes, when we get despondent, or really busy, we forget to do those things which make us feel good. Schedule in some time just for you as soon as you can.
Negative emotions can be just as infectious as positive ones. Constant reinforcement of negativity encourages it to take root in our brains (I’m paraphrasing some really serious research into one sentence here…forgive me.) I think of it as a short cut across the grass; you know, a groove you’ve made over time that becomes really easy to slip into. We need to help ourselves out of that groove, try a new path, and spending time with positive, radiating people will help. Conversely, spending time constantly bemoaning whatever it is that ails us will us make you feel worse.
Back to that Stepford Wives analogy again. Just pretending everything is OK is clearly not helpful, so if you feel very strongly about something try to channel those feelings into a positive action, take some control. You may join a group which is helping to combat this, or donate to charity, or write to the press, support someone in need. Anything. The world has been transformed by people turning their anger or despair into something positive. For me, someone who is passionate about gender equality, that meant I enthusiastically joined the Women’s Equality Party when it started last year. For you it may be something entirely different.
Ok, this may well me sound like Pollyanna, but, helping someone else out helps us feel better ourselves. My Twitter bio says ‘Kindness is underrated‘ and it can feel that way sometimes. Now seems like a good time to extend some kindness and goodwill to our fellow human beings, whether we agree with them or not. It can be something really simple like deciding to let a car out into the stream of traffic, thanking a shop assistant for their help, writing to an old friend who is a bit down. It will make them feel better and, being human, it will make us feel better, too. You might even cause a chain reaction of kindness!
Finally, my favourite quote of all time which literally changed my outlook on life. It’s from Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher. He said:
We are not touched so much by life events themselves but by the view we choose to take of them.
P.S. Self disclosure warning: I’ve recently had cause to revisit this myself. An emergency hospital admission left me feeling very out of control and there is a operation looming where I will have to cede all control to the professionals. Despite having worked in hospitals for many years I am, I confess, a bit of wimp when it comes to being actually in them as a patient. I far preferred swanning about with my ‘manager’ tag on. I could feel myself getting more anxious and, frankly, becoming a victim of circumstances. So I did what I always do, I researched and I took back some control. I found some interesting information, below:
Patients who take responsibility for their own well being, both physically and mentally (i.e. a positive mind set about recovery) have significantly better outcomes than those who don’t. Recovery times are quicker and risks of complications are much less.
The power of our minds is pretty impressive, isn’t it?
*A 1972 film. The premise involves the married men of the fictional town of Stepford, Connecticut and their fawning, submissive, impossibly beautiful wives. They’d been ‘robotised’ to be nice and compliant.
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Posted on June 29th, 2016 by Jane