The Secret to Happiness?

Newsletter, Issue 6

Why Looking After Yourself Might Be the Secret to Happiness

Scene 1: Sitting at my PC going round in circles trying hard to write my newsletter.
• Eat a piece of chocolate
• Eat a bar of chocolate
• Put the washing on
• Do admin
• Go out out on my bike
• Stay writing boring, trite rubbish which I will later delete

Bridget Jones eat your heart out. The irony is not lost on me; I am struggling to look after myself as I write this article. I know I’m making it hard work, pushing to have something done rather than listening to what I need for my creativity to flow.

I give in. This time I get it.
I have to start with taking care of me.
I choose the bike ride (AND a piece of exceptionally good chocolate)

Scene 2: Sitting at a local cafe listening to the birds sing and feeling the breeze as I write on a napkin.

There are times when we push to do what needs to be done and ignore our needs and feelings. The result is a backlash of exhaustion and anger, and a need for space to express the built up emotion, to be and reflect, and probably to be creative and feel physically refreshed.

* Why do we sometimes need to push ourselves to the edge and anger to give ourselves what we need?

* Can we start to introduce new habits that help?

How to Look After Ourselves

One of the most helpful and healthy things we can learn in life is how to look after ourselves. Yet this secret to happiness is not easy. We tend to get stuck at one or many of the following steps.

1) Identify what you need and want
2) Express these needs and wants, both to yourself
and others
3) Give what you need or want to yourself, or
specifically ask for it from someone
4) Receive what you need or want

Life evolves and so do our needs, so it’s easy to feel that just when we’re getting clear, a transition in life takes us back a step or even to the start. It might be something major like going self-employed, getting married, having a baby, illness, or retiring, or it may be something more subtle that shifts.

Why ‘Being Strong’ Can Get in the Way

I am learning that in an upbringing based on ‘being strong’ and ‘pulling yourself together’ that it’s not surprising I struggle with being vulnerable and taking care of myself. Knowing that its normal, and that some of the messages we receive as children affect us as adults, helps. It doesn’t mean that I can’t change what I tell myself, and shift how I feel, and I do, but sometimes I just can’t. Sometimes I hit a very familiar brick wall. Yes, it’s a myth life coaches have it all sorted! The thing is these walls are important – they remind us how far we’ve come, and what we need to continue to explore if we are to be ourselves and feel more whole. They keep us learning about how to mother ourselves.

Mothering yourself might sound a very odd concept, particularly for men, but it captures the idea that part of us is able to nurture and care for the rest of us, especially the part that feels like a child. In relationships, one of our major challenges is to look after ourselves rather than handing this responsibility over to our partners. Otherwise we just become a child seeking mummy or daddy – not adult, attractive or sustainable!

What does looking after yourself look like?

I see it as anything that we need for our mind, body or soul to thrive and feel whole, so it’s incredibly varied and personal. Here are a few ideas, along certain themes that seem to repeat for people.

• Physical – going to the doctor, hugging, eating healthy food, noticing your body’s rhythms, having a long  bath, exercising, making love, noticing changes in your body, going to the dentist, having a massage, eating food you love, seeing an alternative practitioner

• Creative / Self-expression – cooking, having ideas, doodling with a pen & paper, doing DIY, writing, singing, sculpting with modelling clay, gardening, listening to music

• Spiritual – reflection, being in nature, journaling, stillness, meditation, reading

• Connection / Belonging – expressing emotion, sharing time with friends, being with children, feeling part of a community, ecological awareness, being in teams, family time, sharing interests or hobbies, belonging to clubs

The Stretch Zone

What habits support you in looking after yourself?

New understanding of our brains, as shared in a recent New Your Times article, shows that when we consciously develop new habits we create parallel synaptic paths and even new brain cells, that can jump us onto new trains of thought. Author of ‘This Year I Will…’ Ms Ryan, & her business partner in Professional Thinking Ms Markova, talk about the Comfort, Stretch and Stress zones, and how change happens in the Stretch zone. So, if you want to add new habits and look after yourself more, the tip is take lots of small steps and be curious.

There are no rules, just listen to yourself and your needs… and know it may change with time.

Enjoy experimenting.


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