The first step to happiness

newproject_1_original-5The meaning of happiness is different to each and every one of us. For some it is treasuring the time spent with family and friends, for others it is financial freedom. The rest is made up of hobbies, whatever those maybe, travel, sport, reading etc. All of these aspects of happiness are reached with the same first step, which is:

Realising you have the right to choose.

More often than not, we live for other people. We may not intend to but the pushy overbearing natures of some individuals leaves us backed into an uncomfortable corner. Before we know it we are spending Christmas in the place we said we definitely wouldn’t, we‘ve paid for a holiday we don’t want to go on and we’ve committed to a slap up meal at an expensive restaurant we can’t afford. It could even be other burdens like looking after family and/or friends.

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Yes I said it.

Not everyone wants to spend their life looking after others but they feel they are obligated to, usually by other people. Just because someone is your family or friend, it doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate anything to you, especially how to live your life. There are stories of people losing those close to them because they did not choose them as a bridesmaid, invite them to an event or visit that person. Are these really people who care? If someone loves you and cares for your wellbeing, they will tell you to do whatever makes you happy, even if that means them missing out. Sadly, this species of human is few and far between. More often than not, the people surrounding us have set expectations of our actions and often presume and assume we will do whatever task they conjure up next.

So how do we get out that one?

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Simple. We say no!

Saying no takes balls if you are not naturally assertive and it is always better to say no in a polite way. You may want to offer up an explanation if you feel really bad, although it is probably better not to bother. If you are 100% soft 99% of the time then the people who know you will be so taken a back at your ‘no’ that they may sense it is unwise to question you further. If they do ask why you’ve said no, try get into the habit of saying ‘I just don’t want to’, or ‘it’s not for me’. Just like you are not obligated to cave into their demands, you are not required to provide evidence to satisfy them either. Whatever reaction you have received you should not feel guilty because you have been true to yourself. If the person wants to make an issue of it then they have not considered you and your feelings anyway.

Keeping your behaviour and responses surprising keeps others on their toes. They are 20170724_123911less likely to harass you to do x y z when you’ve just finished a b and c for them. They will also start to treat you with respect the more you give answers that are true to how you really feel. If this does not breed respect then you will have to use some ruthless scissors to snip them from your life. Life really is too short to tolerate shitty people who refuse to understand and accept you.

Another aspect to the first step of happiness is accepting that others may reject you on the quest for their own happiness. They have the right to say no too and the best way to respond to them is with humility. Their decisions should not determine your worth or your life path, so don’t take offence!

Ultimately, you should want anyone you care about to be happy and as stated, that usually means the freedom to do what they want without negative feelings, or people unnecessarily holding them back. We all risk waking up one day to find we have ran out of time to do what we really wanted to.

So start saying no to others…and say yes to yourself!

DIFFERENT CLASS by Rebecca Gatenby

 

Well hello there sir,

Yes you, opposite me on this train

 

Suited and booted

Upper lip curled

Carrying a look of disdain

 

I am sorry dear sir

If my attire offends

Suits like yours are not often required around these ends

 

I will hazard a guess that you’re just passing through?

I can’t imagine any business here would concern one as smart as you

 

May I enquire what you’re reading?

You assume too intellectual for me?

 

Shoes polished

Cigar in mouth

One hand on your knee

 

Ah it is a Bronte novel you hold in the other hand!

A change of expression, you do not understand?

Well of course I’m well acquainted

They were women of my land

Do not presume your status sir gives you the upper hand

 

As a literate man, you should know better than to judge a book by its cover

Yet in life it appears you don’t apply this rule

You have no urge to discover?

 

We may seem like simple folk

Simply spoken, simply dressed

But there’s much more than meets the eye

With our minds, not clothing, we’re blessed.

 

We are each from a different class

Yet we are but the same

We both possess a functioning brain

And blood runs through our veins

 

We are not so different you and I

So, try not to look down your nose

You may end up in my position ONE Day sir

Depending which way the wind blows.

The Power of Silence

newproject_2_originalPeople want to be heard and they use words and gestures to achieve this (duh). If they do not receive the response or attention they want, they may raise their voices louder and make grander gestures. Whilst this is an obvious point to make about humans, it is often forgotten that silence can be even more powerful.

A typical example is bartering. A proposition is made to buy something for £10. The proposition is declined and a counter offer is made of £20. This is declined and the buyer asks to meet in the middle at £15. The seller pauses to consider this and a silence is created. If the buyer assumes in the silence that the seller is going to say no, he may break the silence and say, ‘what about £17.50?’. The seller is immediately happier as the price is nearer to his original asking price. Had the buyer let the silence hang in the air, the seller may have concluded that it was in fact reasonable to meet in the middle at £15. This art of negotiation can be used for anything, as long as silence is utilised effectively.

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If you ask someone a direct question, always leave it to them to break the silence, otherwise you disturb their thought process and inadvertently end up where you didn’t want to be. Silences like this can be majorly uncomfortable, although once you see the rewards of staying silent, you will find things go your way more often and it is easier to do. The reason for this is that the respondent often feels pressured to answer a direct question quickly and are therefore more likely to  please in haste. In a sense, it is ruthless, however, this skill is beneficial in official settings such as debates, business and protests.

Another way that silence is powerful is when someone or a group of people are attempting to tear you down, either mentally, physically, or both. This behaviour is mainly rooted in jealousy. Jealousy is just as powerful as silence, but it is a negative emotion that can be destructive. If someone calls you a name or spreads hate about you, the worst thing you can do is respond. As soon as that response is made you are in the same categories as them, petty and childish. Remember…

‘Queens don’t leave their thrones for peasants throwing stones’

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The people who know you personally will not pay attention to such comments anyway and any external people who feed hateful behaviour are not worth your time. We live in a politically correct yet judgemental society which is for the most part ‘noisy’. This means silence is now our greatest power. Show people how to behave and progress by focusing on enjoying and furthering your own life. Don’t brag just live! We’re not all born with thick skin but we are born with the ability to be indifferent. In time, the negatives will realise that they are not going to get the response they want from you and that they look more and more ridiculous each time they attempt to strip you of your worth. Let them show the world who they are. Your silence speaks louder than their voice ever could.

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This is applicable to other situations, such as people trying to engage you in negative conversations. If Sandra tells you that she can’t stand Sharon for X, Y and Z reasons, but you like Sharon, don’t sell her out just for the bants. If you stay silent, Sandra will be forced to reconsider if what she just said was appropriate or not. She may continue venting in your silence, or she may pause, think and then break the silence by back tracking, ‘but Sharon’s alright really’. Lols. Engaging in negative conversations about others does not result in positive outcome for yourself. Your circle is representative of who you are, so use your silence to reveal people.

Silence is also an educator for children. It can be majorly frustrating when a child misbehaves or simply won’t listen. Many parents get into the routine of telling their kids off and even arguing with them to stop bad behaviour. The easiest tool to use is…silence!

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This must be backed up with all the willpower you can muster though. Children want attention and they do that by making noise. If you stay silent they will get louder and if you give in at this point then silence can no longer be your weapon of education. However, if you stay silent and let the child’s noise levels peak (even if they’re screaming!) they won’t be able to sustain it in your silence.

20170414_133905No words, no eye contact, no moving them or yourself away. Just still silence. As children’s attention spans are short, they will eventually move on to doing something else. Stay silent until they show a positive action or say positive words. Doing this consistently builds into the child’s consciousness that if they do positive things they will get a positive response. If they do negative things, it will isolate them. Let’s face it, that’s how it is in the adult world and if they grow up with this skill, they will use it effectively in their adult lives. Win win!

So, there you go, a few ways to make silence your all conquering friend.

Birthday Blog

newproject_1_original-7Today is my birthday. (Edit…it was two days ago)

Born 9th April 1988, on the 100th day of the year, on the 142nd Grand National Day, just after 1pm. My dad lost his bet…a great start.

Throughout my twenty-nine years on this earth I have pretty much had as much freedom as I have wanted. What a beautiful thing. Reflecting on that, I admit I did not use that freedom wisely most of the time, which is selfish when considering how much some people would simply like freedom. On turning twenty-nine I still unashamedly enjoy some of the same things as I did when I was 9 or 19. I feel I have also learned a million life lessons…but I didn’t feel like that when turning 28…

…interesting.

It is a common notion that knocking on thirty’s door is a time of growing up ‘properly’ once and for all. No more excuses for bad behaviour or for not looking after yourself. Spontaneous drinking sessions with friends fade and those annoying things start to batter at your walls…
…expectations.

As the big 3 0 looms closer, there are suddenly one hundred and one expectations placed20170411_102615 on us. ‘When are you having kids?’ and ‘When are you getting married?’ …are the most frequently asked questions if you haven’t already done those things. Of course, millions treasure the idea of domestic bliss…but not all. There are still those who are happy to embrace the opportunities that arise from simply being one with oneself. The absence of responsibility and obligation is its own fairy-tale and it’s not one that we can all give up easily. It is a little bewildering as to why some view this as unusual or horrifying; ‘time is running out if you want to settle down!’. These kinds of responses can push us in to thinking we must act to keep up with the ‘norms’ of society, instead of growing old alone in a cardboard box somewhere as our heart really desires.

Even when you do embrace a life other than the domestic one, it won’t be good enough for everyone. If you haven’t completed their imaginary list of things to do before you’re thirty then you’re a big fat failure. When our minds cloud with other people’s expectations and ideals we ultimately lose ourselves. And that is the key to happiness at any age. The relationship with Self. Living in the moment by doing what you enjoy as an individual will attract what you truly want in life. Any energy dispelled on people who can only give you negative opinions, rather than adding value to your life, will only hold you back in the long run. They will make you second guess yourself, go against your gut and before you know it you’re knocking on the door of the next decade wondering where it all went wrong.

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People with expectations about how others should live have little going on in their own life (or they’re insecure so they pull others down with them). Let them do that while you do you with a happy mind, whatever your age. The moment you allow yourself to chase life validation you begin to fight a losing battle. Only misery and disappointment will ensue, simply because you’re not living your own truth.

So, in this last year of my twenties, I solemnly swear…to be myself. Young at heart with my mind closed to the expectations of others.

Willpower

The power I seek is one of will

I know I have that ability still

The goals in my head won’t be achieved

If I don’t ignore feeling aggrieved

 

No one will be my success for me

I separate the real from the corny

What I need is a motivator

To make me sit and write on paper

 

In the gym I feel strong

but if I stay home I feel wrong

Tiredness has taken over my being

and my goals are sat staying unseen

 

The worst thing I do is look at others

It makes me hide under covers

Self comparison cannot compare

to embracing yourself and artistic flair

 

Just for writing this poem I feel better

I’ve changed into my gym kit from my sweater

I’ll shut out the world and finish my tasks

and ignore the creepers behind the masks

Christmas Wars

wp-1481446743074.jpgWhether you think it or not you are in some sort of Christmas War, we all are. From fighting the queues in the shops to convincing your five-year-old Santa is real (because someone at school said he isn’t!), we all want that happy magical day. So how do we get through these festive times of stress?

Well, checking Facebook and Instagram posts I have found some common themes that cropped up last year…

The age old ‘I’m a better parent than my ex’

Number one so far on Facebook is baby mother/father drama. I’m not quite sure why I thought this wouldn’t be a reoccurring theme but it seems I am filled with too much Christmas hope that parents can get on for the sake of their kids. Let’s get this clear now, if you’re letting your ex drive your emotions so far that you must post on Facebook, then you haven’t fully moved on. Whether it is love or anger just let it go, let it go, they can’t hold you back anymore! Ultimately, kids don’t care if Mum spent £100.00 more than Dad, or if they open their presents at yours or Grandma Joan’s, they just want happy festive fun. So, if deadbeat other parent is not having the sprog over the holidays or they haven’t met your standards of buying, maybe you should keep your beak out of their business? You’re doing everything right, right? After all, they are nothing to do with you anymore, you just share kids! It is ‘social’ media not ‘personal’ media. Let it go, accept whatever your ex is doing with the kids and make sure YOUR time with them is memorable.

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‘I told my mum we’ll be there at 12pm’

When two people merge their lives, they must haggle over their ‘Christmas time’ and who gets it. You may spend the festive day at your mums for dinner, see Aunty Julie in the afternoon and then share a sherry with Grandad in the evening. Your partner protests this, as they have already told their mum you are going to hers for dinner! Major time consuming debates ahead to resolve…but there is an easy answer…stay at home! Why let your day be ruined by social dictators? If they want to see you and your kids so bad tell them you’re having Christmas at home and they are more than welcome to stop by for egg nog (said no one in the UK ever). You should anticipate some guilt tripping from family over Christmas, just remember, it is your day too and you are not obligated to spend it trying to people please.

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‘I can’t go to the pub, I’m skint mate’

How many of us get to January with empty wallets and pray we can make our pennies last until payday? The pressure of buying for lots of people, or getting literally everything your child wants can easily spoil the break. Where Christmas used to be a religious holiday, in its place lies an overly commercialised day which the media and high streets ram down our throats. Each year proud mothers post the pile for presents for their little one on Facebook, to show off their generosity (or stupidity depending on your view point) and general superiority as a parent. Take it from Thrine in the politest way…no one gives a damn what you buy your kid for Christmas. If you want to be suckered in to filling your house with crap and creating a brat in the process, that really is your business. To those with common sense, only spend what you can afford and don’t feel obligated to buy for adults. The day is about family and love, don’t let the materialistic aspects take over too much. If your children get to a point at Christmas where they openly tell you they don’t like their presents, or some presents remain untouched for months after then you have over done it…you have successfully created a spoiled brat. Lastly, adults deserve fun at Christmas too, so at least save yourself some money for a cheeky tipple!

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‘I don’t celebrate Christmas’         

You think you have it bad trying to plan Christmas? Think about those who don’t celebrate it! Almost everything in the UK is shut on Christmas Day. The High Streets, Supermarkets, Restaurants…you name it, it is shut, confining everyone to their homes. In addition to the inconvenience of the day, there is the big Christmas rush leading up to it. A non-Christian, non-Christmas day celebrator may need to go Primark for some socks in December and he/she is met with a snaking queue that stretches to the street outside. He/she seeks out the pound shop for some AA batteries but can’t even squeeze in the door due to some women fighting over the last Santa sacks. Help him out by doing most your buying online…in November!

So, there you have it, a little overview of ‘Christmas Wars’. Rest assured, there is a happier Christmas blog post in me somewhere. I will get it to you before the guy with the white beard comes down your chimney or when the cows come home…whichever happens first.

Why it’s good when bad things happen

wp-1479649605358.jpgWhen bad things happen, we start blaming the world for our problems, build resentment towards others and ask the sky what the hell we did to deserve all this. The truth is though, you can’t have the good without the bad. Too much good and you’ll end up taking things for granted. Too much bad and you may turn a little crazy and/or evil. Whatever bad situation you’re in, there is some good to come from it I promise. The main thing to remember in any predicament is that there isn’t a reaction…without your reaction. In other words, things are only bad if you let them be. Of course, there are also the terrible times we all go through, such as death and betrayal but even these have a somewhat ‘good’ aspect to them depending on how optimistic and hopeful you are.

Death reminds us of the old cliché, ‘life is short’. Losing a loved one immediately grounds you and all the problems you thought you had become extremely small and insignificant. We are reminded that we all face the same fate and we must muster the mental strength to grieve and mourn ourselves to a place of acceptance. So, where is the good here? Well, it is hard to see and you won’t exactly feel good but it is a positive to your wellbeing in the long run either way…it is self-reflection. The notion that life is short hits us hardest when we lose someone and this is often a catalyst to ‘live life to the full’. The grief also enhances our ability to be compassionate and kind to others, traits that some people don’t usually have.

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Betrayal is painful. It is painful because it comes from the people who we thought we could trust and we end up replaying situations with them over and over to try figure out how we could have been so stupid. Each of us has our own internal battle and our own way to reason, so you may never understand why someone betrayed you. What you can do is examine what you tolerate. You are not obligated to spend time or converse with anyone, even family. If you need to take a step back to protect yourself then don’t feel guilty about it. The betrayer may continue to try justify their actions to you or may even get angry when you don’t see it from their point view. Ultimately, you should weigh up if the person can add value to your life. If they don’t then keep your distance and remain neutral about their existence. Causing further drama means you have adopted your betrayer’s ways of handling things. The good in taking these steps is that they ensure you have the right people around you to help you live your life to the full. Negative people are betrayers too, as they are blatantly opposing aspects of your existence…true friends would never do that. Your business is your business, negs can keep on walking by.

Other bad things that happen to us can be minor. A car drenching you by driving through a puddle when you are on the path (been there!), being late for work, failed promises from loved ones, being let down by a friend etc. etc. These are the ones that don’t exactly shake you to your core but they may reduce you to tears of frustration if they keep happening one after another. If you get easily flustered like me, try sitting still for a good ten minutes and arrange your thoughts. The universe must pick on someone and today it is just your day. Remind yourself it will pass and that there are more serious things to get bent out of shape over. I take these moments as a test of my patience and self-control. A good sweaty gym session and sauna always calms me down, or letting out random screams (hahaha).

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As stated in the opening paragraph, having good things happen all the time can make us take our good life for granted and it just becomes normal.  For instance, if a child is bought and given everything they ask for, they stop understanding the value of gifts, so they then start to demand things. If they always get their own way, they will be distressed and angry when they do not. It is all about balance. Bad happenings switch on and expand our coping mechanisms in life. If children learn when they are young that not everything is a given, they will cope much better as an adult when things don’t go their way. This understanding also breeds a self-confidence and allows them to recover quickly from failure. If you struggle to cope with bad events, then look back to your childhood and consider how ‘sheltered’ you were. You may have developed a big ego from people always letting you win, or a strict stubbornness because you were always told you were right. This can be difficult to reflect on and you will need to be willing to humble yourself to heal.

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So, the moral of the blog really is to first take a step back and try reason with the bad, so that you may take some good from it, however small. If you can adapt this practice you will be happier and cope much better in times of trouble. If you completely struggle to do this then you may need a proper break from your surroundings, away from the people you see day to day. Get back in touch with your sense of self and remind yourself of the things you find joyful. Train your mind to take the good with the bad so you may live in balance.