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!

Your Opinion

newproject_1_original-4Many conflicts arise from a difference in opinion. One side cannot accept that the other disagrees with their clear logical determination of a subject. What they fail to see it that the other side feels the same way as they do, they just accept they’re different people. The aggressor’s outright blindness and refusal to entertain a thought they don’t agree with is ultimately related to ego. Admitting they have been hasty in their opinion or having their facts proven wrong can be an enormous hit on personal pride, self-worth and self-allusion.  If you are a particularly intuitive person then you may sniff these people out as soon as you meet them and have the smarts to keep conversations with them ‘safe’, by avoiding any controversial or sensitive subjects. If you are somewhat away with the fairies when it comes to tact and other people’s emotions, then chances are you have already upset many people by refusing to give in to their opinion.

Humbling one’s self to consider an opinion we disagree with is a major opportunity for learning and self-growth. Not only does it make us better communicators, it boosts our self-esteem because we have no ego to try hide.  People aren’t admired for always being ‘right’, they are admired for their uniqueness, which only radiates out of us when we are being truly open and honest about who we are. The more we allow ourselves to be…ourselves, the less we get offended by the opinions of others. After all, we all take different paths and experiences so having different opinions are a natural extension of that.

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Another aspect of your opinion is WHEN to give it.  Our internal drive to help, be right or just get involved in an issue without invitation can be damaging when it comes to our relationships. We must consider if our opinion is really needed. Will it help? Will it add value to conversation? Will it cause argument? Is this really anything to do with me?

For instance, a friend comes to see you and they’re feeling very down and upset after having an argument with their partner. All they really want is light company, consisting of emotional support and positive vibes. Instead you flip out and tell them they are stupid for getting together with them in the first place and that they are deluded if they go back. Does this really help? Does what happen under their roof directly impact on your day to day life? No, probably not. So, in that moment you can help your friend heal quicker by showing them kindness and compassion.

At work, you have a colleague who you absolutely detest. Another colleague, who you quite like, is getting on swimmingly with them. Do you pull them to one side and say ‘hey, in my opinion they will screw you over.’? No, you do not. For the simple fact that they may relate to that person in a way you never could. They are their own person and if they’re of working age, then they’re grown up enough to determine who is worth building rapport is and who isn’t. The best way to play it at work is to not give a negative opinion on any relationships you witness, just treat everyone equally and with respect. It’s always okay to have an opinion but it’s not okay tear people down with it.

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In the right situation, your opinions could propel you further that ever. It’s about choosing the right moment for the right impact. If your friend dumps that bloke they were crying about then giving your negative opinion might just cheer them up! And if that colleague has the trouble you predicted then you can emotionally support and advise them with your own opinions and experience.

The bottom line is, if you make people feel stupid or berate them for thinking or acting in a way you disagree with, then it is likely you will lose them. Analyse the situation and think if it is wise to give your opinion. If they request your honest brutal judgement then give it to them with a bit of understanding, like the nice person that you are. If you are aware that some big stuff has gone down with someone and they haven’t asked your opinion, then they clearly don’t want it, so leave them to their business.

The only exception to this discussion is if you think someone is being physically harmed or there is something taking place which is severely detrimental to them, perhaps emotional manipulation and/or control. Even in these circumstances though, caution and compassion must be exercised so you don’t push them further away.

20170720_195016Lastly, if you find people avoiding conversations with you then try considering if your mouth is overtaking your head. Some people just don’t enjoy hearing the uninvited opinions of others and having their own beliefs challenged. Especially if you’re ramming your life’s accumulation of thoughts down their neck so they don’t know who they are anymore.

 

Accept that everyone sees the world differently and concentrate on moulding yours.

Just my opinion 😉

 

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.

Are you suffering from Chronic Stress?

wp-1491043434690.jpgDo you ever feel, that if you must say, hear or feel one more thing then your brain and body will just explode out of frustration?

If yes then you have the stress.

The problem with chronic stress is that it can take some time to identify if you have got used to coping. Unless you have very close caring people around you who see the subtle changes in your mood and looks, others will attribute them to you just ‘having a bad day’, ‘being out of sorts’ or ‘having a late one’. It is quite concerning how much stress is brushed off as something minor. Even if you recognise it in yourself, you may be reluctant to make anyone aware in case they accuse you of being unable to cope or that you’re being melodramatic…it is okay to feel this way! The emotion needs to come out eventually, although it should be in a constructive way.

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A little bit of stress can be beneficial such as helping you run away from danger, completing tasks under pressure or making a difficult decision. It becomes an issue when it is the only emotional response you are experiencing over a prolonged period. When the body detects stress, it releases hormones and adrenaline, a fight of flight response if you will. Being stuck in this state for a long time will send your body haywire and ultimately strip your immune system of its strength.

Whilst I try to err on the side of mentioning myself in these blogs, I have experience of this unforgiving feeling. Forcing myself to cope with stress resulted in following ailments for nigh on six weeks-

*Cystic Acne- A real confidence destroyer. Scientists can only speculate why this happens but they assume the high hormone levels promote oil production. Cystic acne is deep within the skin and can take months to heal.  The face feels tender and pressurised. Picking it will make it stay, trust me.

*0-100 Irritability- Reacting to comments and situations literally faster than lighting. Shutting down negativity with aggression because you just can’t bear to hear anymore from anyone. Every noise sounding like an atomic bomb. People’s voices sounding like nails on chalk boards. ‘Burn them all!’ is my Cersei phrase of choice. FYI- If you don’t watch GOT that sentence will mean nothing to you.

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*Broken sleep- Sleep is my first love and if left alone with it, I can easy do a peaceful ten-twelve-hour session. Stress took this pleasure from me and said I can only have 4 hours a night…in intervals of four. Thanks.

*Unable to fall asleep- Turning off electronics, lighting incense and melts, audio books, massage, working out late, none of it helped. Sleeping for a few hours then tackling a 12-hour day just spells disaster.

*Unexplainable rash/hives- As I have resilient skin in that I can use any washing powders, soaps etc. I was surprised when I developed hives on my arms and behind my ears. If this happened to you it is your immune system telling you ‘we’re done, good luck!’. An anti-histamine will only sort it in the short term.

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Lethargy- Walking into the gym ready to do a heavy weights session, feeling pumped. I try to warm up and feel my body rejecting the exercise. Muscles seize up, mind clouds over and suddenly I can barely lift a dumbbell, never mind the 55kg squats I usually do. Sad and defeated I blubber my eyes out in the sauna, feeling like a big fat failure of a woman. My body and my brain had given up on me.

Migraines- These are prompted by all manner of things from lighting to food to lack of sleep. Nonetheless, it is also a characteristic of stress. Your brain is trying to force itself through the cloud of raging hormones and stress to think clearly. The blood vessels are under pressure and the stress increases. Then boom you’re in a 24 hour migraine that medication can’t penetrate.

Feeling alone- This is the worst part of chronic stress. The reality of this world is that most people are only concerned with themselves. We all have that right and I am true believer that you must look after yourself first and foremost. Nonetheless, showing kindness when someone is projecting a negative feeling can go a long way to helping them.

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Getting rid of chronic stress is doable if you are willing to ask for help. You also need to learn to draw the line in all aspects of your life. People pleasing, taking on too much, feeling singled out, resentful feelings, confrontations, making assumptions and all other destructive behaviour/feelings will ensure you burn yourself out. Don’t be afraid to speak up and tell people you are stressed, or if you think that they are being inappropriate and it is impacting on you. Most importantly, it is about choice. What you choose to listen to and how you choose to respond will shape your response to stress.

On some occasions, you will simply have to re-evaluate your environment and you may conclude that it needs a complete overhaul. This could be moving house, changing job, ending a relationship or cutting off toxic people. Remember that it is your right to live in peace and if you’re stressed you’re not living at all.

Take a step back, breathe and look after yourself…FIRST!

Keyboard Warriors

wp-1485965304685.pngThe first step to getting along with someone with an opposing opinion (and possibly changing their mind and creating peace), is acceptance and understanding. Even if that means accepting you can’t change their mind or understand their view. This can be difficult if the topic in question is sensitive such as racism, sexism, religion, Brexit or Donald Trump. I myself was called a fascist this week, which made me laugh myself to tears. I’ve also been called diplomatic but it was meant as an insult…yes seriously. Am I supposed to scream and shout and carry a weapon instead? Apologies for treating humans as humans, my bad. Unfortunately, those who label others don’t realise they feed the right-wing mindsets of this world and ultimately assist in promoting fascism, racism, religious intolerance and all manner of other evils. The bottom line is, any group that is organised is hierarchical and to truly understand the mechanics of the world we must step outside it and look at the wider context.

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Perhaps being a historian allows me to do this a little easier, as I am forever required to put myself in different historical shoes; men, women, devout religious followers, politicians, soldiers, indigenous peoples and so on. The notion that you cannot possibly understand something until it has happened to you is a bit too extreme (in my opinion, please don’t cry). Humans have compassion and empathy built into their DNA, although using it is by choice. If you claim someone does not ‘understand’ without knowing anything about them, then it makes you the ignorant bigot. And this is the problem with our society in the twenty first century, we’re all social media keyboarding bigots.

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Keyboard warriors just cannot help themselves. They type without thinking. I have been there myself when feeling passionate and instantly regretted it. This approach  just does not work. If you cannot have a debate without it turning into a heated argument, then you’re probably better just logging off for your own wellbeing. Those who continue relentlessly usually aren’t well read and most likely eat up the headline of every article they did not read. Finding the truth or getting to a place of understanding (understanding something doesn’t mean you agree!) takes research and a degree of cross referencing. Being unable to entertain a thought you don’t agree with means you’re being close minded. This approach will make it difficult for you to place people and events in a wider context. It also results in a lack of personal growth. Sadly, many individuals go with majority opinions without researching topics themselves because they either-

  1. Don’t know their own opinion or how to form it.
  2. Are brainwashed
  3. Are attention seeking
  4. Bored of their existence

Those who are adamantly opposed to any opinion but their own will always focus on the negatives. They will find numerous problems with your solutions and anything you verbalise will fall on deaf ears, even if it makes sense. It is admirable and strong to stand alone in your opinion, although speaking to be right only wastes time and energy and does not bring any form of peace or understanding. You’ll know if someone knows their stuff because they will debate, not argue with you. Anyone who evokes their anger does so due to feeling uninformed and backed into a corner, as they do not really know enough to keep the debate going peacefully.  Anyone with a well-informed opinion will stay humble and hit you with facts. Don’t be too proud to admit it if you have come around to their way of thinking either. This is how society should operate!

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In closing, there is no shame in changing your opinion or sticking with it, providing you are willing to consider and examine the views of others. Those who respond with anger by labelling you or getting upset are the ones that create mass panic in this world. Only brainless people will be keen to jump on that band wagon. Unfortunately, social media is full of people like this so 99% of the time you will face persecution if your opinion differs from the majority. Don’t let this get you down though, things could be worse…you could be living like them… with your eyes wide shut.

So, remember, knowing is being well read, taking time to read between the lines and coming to your own conclusions, not taking a headline and running with it. Do this and at least your opinion will have understanding from all perspectives, rather than the agenda of someone else.

Dear diary, am I living?

wp-1483736788875.jpgWe all have different ideas about what it means to live a full happy life. There are those ‘superior’ people who insist that if you haven’t done what they have done or do what they are doing, then you have missed out. These kinds of people lay their words on you thickly and they want you to feel envious of their fabulous existence. The truth is though, it can’t be all singing and dancing if they find the time to brag about that existence to you. A higher being did not descend upon them and instruct them to spread the word that everyone should live like them. If they need to put it all up in your face, then perhaps they are not fully enjoying themselves either. The point is, these people make you doubt your life and that is unacceptable. You could have a little fun by pointing out the flaws in their life or ask them if they have considered that not everyone needs the same things as they do…but you would be wasting your time. Leave the self-confessed ‘high fliers’ to their business and wish them well in their future endeavors (like what ex employers who hate you tell you when you leave!). It is delusional to assume someone is jealous of your circumstances and then to be smug about the fact that they feel that way.

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Our society as a consciousness is mainly concerned with success in a monetary and popularity sense. This can push us to chase things that aren’t really for us and this eventually damages our self-esteem, particularly if we fail. Seriously though, who wants to be remembered for how much money they made or how many people they knew?! There are likely to be people who do feel like that and we are not here to judge them, although spiritual living sounds much more appealing than buying ‘stuff’. Money undeniably makes things easier, however, it shouldn’t define the worth of your life. Knowing lots of people may make you feel popular but if they don’t lift your spirits what are they doing for you? We often compare other people’s fun to our own existence and this results in us surrounding ourselves with the wrong people. There are those who think living is going out partying and getting drunk. Others think it is seeing as much of the world as possible. Many parents don’t need anything but the presence of their children to feel fulfilled and see them as their greatest accomplishment. Interestingly, I often see the below meme, which gets thousands and thousands of likes on social media.

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Perhaps living simply is the real key to living? 

Getting bogged down with trying to save for that holiday, getting that promotion or getting little Timmy into that school are all examples of situations that cause us stress. It could be that you keep dropping something (my own cause of stress! Why won’t my hand just keep hold of the damn things?!) or your computer plays up and for the rest of the day you’re annoyed and stressed. These instances stop us living in the moment. For every short spurt of annoyance and anger, happiness disappears from your brain. How many of these moments have you had only this week? The simpler you live the less stress there is to take away your happiness…

…and you will start to feel like you’re living life to the full.

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It’s like when you come across an old friend and have a simple conversation to catch up. There is only you two but the laughter can be heard in the far east because you are feeling spiritually alive. Sadly, we all had the freedom of living like this when we were little children. Whilst children may fight for a toy or paddy at eating dinner, most of their time is spent finding fulfilment in simple things. You buy them a toy and they play with a cushion (lols).

Go back to basics and find life in your immediate surroundings. If you feel the need to steer yourself somewhere else, then go for it. As long as you are still finding happiness in the simple things, you will always feel fulfilled and that your living your life…not just existing. In the end though, only you can validate it!

A Christmas Poem

It’s Christmas Eve so Santa please

grant me this one desire

When I go to bed and lay my head

don’t set my house on fire

 

Down the chimney you wander nimbly

making footprints with the snow

Just leave your gifts so I can sift

through them all in one crazed go

 

It would make you sad if I’d been bad

I assure you I’m good as gold

but if you wake me up I’ll stamp my foot

and put you in a choke hold

 

Your fat belly knocks over the telly

you scramble to put it back

Then in haste as you move your waist

you trip over our sleepy cat

 

For a sec I had to check

for on its end stood my hair

In my bed I think I said

‘Santa are you there?’

 

The magic dust was a must

you sprinkled it on my head

I forgot… your present plot

and went back to my bed

 

In the morning when day is dawning

perhaps I will remember

That special feeling that left me reeling

one night in dark December