My post this week is going to take a slightly different tone. No hard science, no, "eat this", "supplement with that".....I'm going to take a step back and wax poetic about life and the choices we get to make each and every day.
Challenges....we've all got them. For some, it may be financial hardship, for others it may be the challenge of a stressful job, lack of social network or chronic illness. I hear from women all the time who struggle with adrenal fatigue, infertility or just straight up lack of mojo for life. So many of these conditions are exasterbated by how we view the world and our place in it. I don't mean to offend or place blame on the many women, myself included, who have struggled with adrenal issues and anxiety. I'm writing this post for everyone out there, who, like eeor, finds themselves shrouded in a little black cloud more often than not. How can we change the way our minds work so that we can welcome more pleasure into our lives? What do when we feel like we've been handed a big ol' box of lemons?
When one is handed a box of lemons, one has a few choices:
1. Pucker, grimace and complain wondering why you were so unlucky to be handed such a batch of bitter, sour fruit.
2. Juice those little babies and make some sweet lemonade. Wait, why stop there, make a lemon pie, make lemon tarts, lemon poppy seed paleo pancakes and heck go all out, make some beautiful lemon cupcakes.
My point, aside from my obvious cravings for lemon flavoured confections is this; we all have a choice about how we want to view the world. Some of life's great hardships are created, in one way or another, by decisions we've made in the past, while others, like accidents or misfortune, we have no control over.
The one thing we certainly DO have control over each and every second is how we cope with the stress these little lemons create. Every moment of everyday we can choose optimism, positivity and happiness over pessimism, negativity and sadness. We can choose to feel stressed or, when we start to feel the stress of life build up within us, we can choose to recognize it and release it.
Sounds simple, right? Well, if it was that simple then I'm guessing the world would be a much happier place. The practice of becoming mindful and aware of your own stress, anxiety and tension takes great patience and repetition. In my case, it's taken about five years to work with my own neuroplasticity. As a result of a lot of hard work, I've changed the way my brain thinks and responds to stress. I didn't read any books or follow any guru's methods or recommendations, I just simply made a decision to choose happiness, practice loving kindness for myself and release feelings of stress about things I could not control.
Ask any of my friends, I still get stressed! No doubt about that, But, the difference is now I know when I'm stressed and I can consciously change my thought patterns away from negativity, towards positivity, creating lightness in my mind, body and spirit. The result, I smile more, even when I should be crying. My health is better, my sleep is deeper and I love my life.
Meg the Midwife's Favourite 5 ways to create a happier verison of you
(even when you've been handed a box of lemons)
- Play. Find an activity, preferably outside, that makes you feel like a kid again. It can include doing something fun with others like rock climbing or biking (some of my faves), or playing a silly board game or do something more solitary like practicing headstands. Laugh, smile, dance and sing. Play makes us all feel good and turns our mind away from our troubles.
- Give Back. Stepping outside of ourselves and giving back to others has an enormous benefit for both our communities and for our own sense of fulfillment and self worth. If fosters a connection with others which, studies have shown, is an important component of feeling content with ourselves.
- Meditate. Quieting the mind and body can be like a grown up form of 'time-out'. Meditation teaches us to be still, present and in the moment. So often in our daily lives, we are focused on the past or driven to push ahead for some lofty future goal. Staying present has been associated time and time again with a sense of wellbeing. I practice a form of meditative yoga that has totally rocked my boat! This practice has taught me stillness and brought so much REAL joy into my life. Baby Making and Beyond will have lots of info about how to get started with meditation. Our resident yoga guru Erin Urton will be your guide and teach you some easy ways to get started.
- Gratitude. Studies have shown that feeling a sense of gratitude can drastically increase our happiness and protect us from stress, anxiety, depression and illness. Gratitude is easy to practice. Some people start a gratitude journal or share a few things that they are grateful for at the end of each day with their kids or partner. Even in the worst moments we can ALWAYS find something to be grateful for. It's an easy way to change your mind from that of a 'negative nelly' to a 'positive polly'.
- Don't chase happiness. What? I thought it was about being happy? Well, sometimes it's a good idea to 'be' with your feelings of negativity. They are real and do need some attention. Get mad, get sad, get frustrated or hurt. Let the feelings move thorough you so you can release the power they have on you and move on. Practice gentle loving kindness with yourself. It's okay to feel every feeling under the sun, just don't dwell. If your feelings of negativity start to dominate your thoughts then maybe it's time to get some help processing them. Talk to a friend, loved one or a well trained therapist.