Why a series of small, pleasant events can make a world of difference…

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Having just come back from a morning outing with my grandmother and the family dachshund Audrey, I’m feeling rather at peace with the world. Us ladies simply relaxed in a small, quiet cafe sipping on our coffee of choice (Audrey nibbling some treats), observing the comings and goings of morning shoppers, bike riders and delivery drivers. This easy, uneventful start to the day is all I ask for in life. A peaceful moment to take in my surroundings, spend time with my loved ones and ease into the day. And that’s where I think life’s overall joy comes from – a series of small, pleasant events.

I used to think I always needed something big to look forward to – a friends birthday party, a trip away or overseas, the release of my favourite TV show or a new movie. More often than not though, these ‘big’ anticipated events would roll around and I’d be left feeling less than happy. You know those activities you look forward to for days or weeks on end, but when the time comes it’s the LAST thing you feel like doing? We build it up so much in our heads and then the tiniest thing might go wrong, or plans change and boom – we’re left feeling completely bummed. I believe we need to look for the little pleasures in everyday life, and simply roll with our moods and emotions. You can’t force yourself to be happy or have fun in any given moment, you just need to ride the wave.

From the moment you get up – be grateful for the small wonders of life, for the things you have that others less fortunate do not have access to. A warm blanket, comfortable slippers, and a kettle to make your morning brew. Appreciate your family members, friends, housemates or colleagues. Without you being conscious of it, they’re always there for you in little ways. Be thankful you have a roof over your head, a car to get from A to B in, and a device to read this blog on. Louise Hay has a wonderful morning meditation that I sometimes like to do – a really nice way to start the day and open your eyes to the world around you:

I hope this post makes you think about the things in your life that are sometimes taken for granted. As the saying goes, ‘Enjoy the little things, because one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things.‘ Amen to that!

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Photo credits – takemoreadventures & thefuturekept

Letting the leaves float away…

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Having been meddling in the practice of mindfulness for the past few months in an attempt to reduce anxiety and stressors, I’ve come across some nice little exercises that with (regular) practice actually do help. I’m particularly enjoying one I was shown this week, which uses mental visualisation to help move anxious feelings and thoughts along;

You’re standing by a stream, watching the water flow by.  On the surface of the water are many leaves, floating down the stream.  No one leaf has any particular significance–they all just float by.  The leaves represent the many random thoughts that flow through your mind in a day.  Now visualise that your intrusive thought, or worry, is one of these leaves–watch it float past and disappear.  There’s no need to focus on that one leaf–just let it float on by, out of your sight and out of your awareness….

And so it goes on – as you assign a leaf to any thought or feeling that is worrying you and simply imagine it floating down the stream, you can definitely notice the tension leaving your body. I like to do any of these meditation or mindfulness practices in a quiet, secure place where I can completely relax – laying on the cool floor under a fan is particularly tranquil. It’s about your own journey though, so you need to find the right space and energy that works for you – whether it’s sitting on the beach at sunrise or a balcony at dusk. Find your peaceful place and zone out, even if it’s for a couple of minutes every day – there’s no excuse for not making time for yourself.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” ~Amit Ray

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Photo credits – zeebachi & templeofleaves

The importance of rituals.

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If you’ve moved house a couple of times like myself, you’ll understand the feeling of not being quite able to settle in until you’ve completed your ‘homely’ rituals. Even after the long days of packing, hiring utes (and friends) for the heavy items and the inevitable unpacking, nothing feels right until your favourite items are in place and a candle has been lit. I could be sitting in an absolute mess of books, clothes and bathroom products at the end of moving day, but as long as my family photographs and rose quartz crystal are on display, and the scent of a (preferably lavender or lemongrass) candle is delicately touching the room – all is well in my world.

So why are these rituals so important to our happiness? I think it comes down to a sense of grounding, of bringing us back to our perception of ‘home’ after engaging in activities that are perhaps unusual or exhausting. We all like to end our day with a familiar routine so we can feel calm, centred and peaceful. If I don’t get the time or chance to wind down after a stressful day at work, or a night out with friends, I feel uneasy and tense going to bed. I think it’s extremely important to ensure these little rituals don’t get pushed aside when life gets too busy, because it is precisely in those times that grounding ourselves and checking in is most needed.

In the last 9 months I’ve also become a huge believer in meditation. Before I got into it, the idea of taking 20-30 minutes to just focus on my breathing seemed ridiculous, and it did take quite a few weeks to feel comfortable with it. Before long though, I actually found myself craving those precious minutes, where all I had to do was focus on the in and out rhythm of air through my lungs – something so simple yet critical to overall well being. Learning the art of deep belly breathing can also help in times of tension when your body goes into fight or flight mode. Now that I’ve made meditation an almost daily ritual, I feel in tune with my body all the time. Even if I’m feeling a little agitated, I’ll enter that mind space of simply breathing to bring myself back to focus.

Whatever your little rituals are – keep at them, relentlessly. These are the small things in life that make us smile and keep us grounded, and sometimes that can make a world of difference.

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Photo credits – fleaandbear & theophelia_

 

The hardest part.

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It’s weird how just a few moments in time can completely alter your course, rattle your world and take so long to recover from. For me this moment happened about 9 months ago. I was driving along a familiar stretch of road when I started losing all feeling in my hands, arms and face. Hyperventilating and not having a readily available area to pull over in, it took all my strength to focus on making it to the closest side street. By this point I had no idea what was happening to me, nothing seemed to be functioning and I was terrified. Little did I know that I was having a regular old panic attack, something that happens to hundreds of people every day. It wasn’t until I had calmed down that I realised what had happened, and then the tears started – embarrassed and scared would be an understatement.

While I understand this might be a regular occurrence in some people’s lives, or might not seem like that big of a deal – I can assure you it was traumatic enough for me. Having never experienced the severe symptoms of a panic attack, I was completely unprepared for what happened. It’s also hard for me to say what triggered it – I had never been scared of driving, but work was in an extremely stressful period and I think this was weighing heavily on me at the time. Needless to say those few minutes in time completely shattered my confidence. Simple tasks like driving to the next suburb become an ordeal, as every time I went past the spot where my attack had begun I recalled it in vivid detail. I avoided highways for 8 months, thinking that if I had a similar occurrence then I wouldn’t be able to pull over so easily.  I was so frustrated that I had lost my confidence in something I took for granted – simply getting from A to B had become a nightmare. When friends wanted to catch up, I would ask if we could meet in the city close to where I lived so that I could either walk or catch a train. These little sacrifices did nothing for my confidence, and I honestly couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It wasn’t until I had moved home to be closer to my family that I truly started the process of healing. In a supportive and loving environment, I was able to slowly get my confidence back. I had no choice but to drive every day, whether it was going between my Mum and Nana’s homes (20 minutes apart with some 80km/hour sections), or picking my sister up from school, I slowly became familiar with my car again through repetition and positivity. On a recent road trip to visit family, I volunteered to drive the first 4 hours on the highway. For the first hour I felt sick – I had avoided anything like this for so many months. When we made it I was so proud of my simple achievement, something that was so monumental in my own little world.

I can now honestly say that 9 months later, I have 95% of my confidence back and will happily get in my car without worry or thought of the panic attack that had ruled my life for so long. I took to daily meditation and breathing exercises to stay calm, while also giving me the tools to manage daily stressors. I also head to the beach most afternoons for a walk, an activity that gives me so much peace and happiness. Wandering along the shore with your toes in the water is very therapeutic, not to mention just listening to the ever flowing ocean currents. Not to sound like a complete loony but I find that floating also really helps! Whenever I get the chance to head to the pool or beach, I’ll float as many times as I can – there’s just something about closing your eyes and letting the waves gently hold you.

I have written this blog post in the hope that people understand what I’ve been going through, but also to be a voice for those too afraid to speak up. It’s really, really scary to go through mental health issues, and even scarier thinking you are alone. But at the end of the day we need to remember that EVERYONE is going through something, and talking about it with those you trust is an important part of the healing process.

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Photo credits – folkscenery & rusticbones