Why We Need to Connect More

When I moved into my first home, with a 3-year-old, it was scary and a little lonely at first. What helped enormously were the wonderful neighbours I had. I often had coffee, a meal or a chat with one lot of neighbours, while my adjoining neighbours, a young married couple with a daughter the same age as Lisa, were a Godsend. That neighbour often brought my washing in if it looked like it was going to rain, checked up on me if she hadn’t seen me for a few days, and cooked for us when I was sick. We also minded each other’s children for short periods when necessary. That was my first real taste of what is was like to live in a supportive community.

Several years later I moved into another rented home in Lugarno, where I also had two wonderful neighbours. One had a pool which we were invited us to use any time. I often had coffee and a chat in my neighbour’s kitchen on a Saturday afternoon. The other neighbour would ask if I needed anything taken to the tip and told me to call on him if I ever needed any help. When my mother had her first heart attack my father contacted my neighbour who picked up Lisa from school and looked after her so I could go to the hospital. Every Christmas, for six years, we had breakfast at either one of our neighbour’s home, whilst another neighbour, who was a member of the Salvation Army, sang carols outside. I only moved out of that home because the owners, who had been living overseas, decided to return home, otherwise I suspect I’d still be there today. Since then I’ve lived in houses where most of the time I don’t even see my neighbours, let alone talk to them.

I found this statistic interesting. Sarah Pressman, from the University of California discovered that: obesity reduces longevity by 20%, drinking by 30%, smoking by 50% and loneliness by 70%. Social connection is something we are losing and it’s one of the most important ingredients for health and happiness.

Why we’ve lost our connection

A lot of people say we have lost our connection because we are too busy, and while some of that may be true, I don’t believe it’s the only reason. I know that when I lived at Lugarno my career was really taking off and I worked incredibly hard, but I always had time for a coffee and chat, or even to help out my neighbours.

The leading cause of death in Australia, and increasingly throughout the Western world, is heart disease. Of course, a lot of that can be attributed to our diet and way of living, but it can also indicate the impact this lack of connection is having on us. Just look at these statistics:

  •  Depression is the leading cause of disability world wide and an estimated 45% of people will experience a mental health condition (According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics).
  • Between 2011 and 2014 1 in 9 Americans took antidepressants, whereas 30 years ago that number was 1 in 50 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • Suicide statistics have increased over the past ten years and are now at the highest levels ever.

What’s coincided with these alarming statistics is the introduction of technology. I’m a lover of technology and I run a business that uses a lot of technology, so I am not knocking it, but what we all need to think about is the impact technology has had on the way we connect with others.

The reason we are not connecting the way we once did, in my opinion, is that we fear rejection. When we used to ring people not everyone had time to talk, and we accepted that, we didn’t take those rejections personally. We would knock on the door of a new neighbour. We would walk up to a stranger and start a conversation, and sometimes people would look at us strangely but we survived. Now we take the easier route, we message, text and connect over social media and in doing so a vital skill that once  developed naturally, has gotten weaker.

If we want the world to change, we have to be willing to put ourselves out there. We need to stop worrying about what other people think of us. We need to be prepared to reach out and fail, then pick ourselves up and try again. We need to smile at strangers more. Take a chance and join a group or do something new. And don’t wait for people to talk to you, be the one to start the conversation. Not everyone you meet is going to be someone you’ll want to be friends with, but it’s the act of being open that tends to draw people to us.

I believe that one of the major contributors to depression is a loss of  hope. When we don’t believe that anything will change what is there to look forward to. Hope gives us the courage and is something we all need to hold onto, because without hope we will never develop, or maintain, resilience, the two are inextricably intertwined.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

 

 

Everything will be alright

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling worried about my daughter’s health and her upcoming liver transplant when I received an email from Hay House which I opened on my phone. Instead of opening an email it went straight to an audio of Wayne Dyer’s which I hadn’t heard before. It was only 10 minutes long and his voice sounded slightly different, but very definitely Wayne’s. In this audio he talked about trust and towards the end he said the same sentence over and over again, and that was, “Everything is going to be alright. Everything is being taken care of in every area of your life. Trust. -Everything is going to be alright.”

Later that day I went back to the email to listen to the audio again and I couldn’t find an audio attached. I asked other people to check it out, just in case I missed it, and according to everyone there was no email attached.

I even went so far as to email Hay House and ask, but unfortunately, only got an automatic response. I know I didn’t imagine it, and I don’t have that audio on my phone so I’m taking it as a sign from God.

Whenever I go through a tough time in life, I go back over the ten steps to see if I’m not doing something. Invariably I find there’s some little habit I’ve let slip, recently I noticed how often I complain. That tells me that I am not being congruent. So I’m back to monitoring my thoughts and words.

I also noticed I’ve been feeling resentful, so I’m monitoring that, and doing more to fill my needs. I have only been meditating once a day for a while now, so I’ve returned to twice a day. I’ve changed my values, and I am ensuring that I take 100% responsibility for my life. And I forgive daily and focus on what I’m grateful for.

I wrote my book Love the Life You Live so I would have something I could refer back to any time my life didn’t flow, and I can only say that for me these steps have been invaluable.

Whether you use my work to help you create the life you want, someone else’s, or you have your own routine, it will only work if you embody what you believe in, otherwise it’s just intellectual knowledge. I have had so many people say to me they feel like a fraud, and that happens when we pretend we are something we are not.

None of us are masters. We just have to practise ourselves what we teach and/or believe in and everything will be alright.

happiness heals

Happiness isn’t something you have to wait for. It’s never dependent upon something changing. Happiness is something we choose and allow into our lives by the way we live, but that doesn’t mean we are going to feel joyful every day.

Recently I attended a family constellations workshop, which I discovered is not my thing, but a fascinating process nonetheless. In that workshop there were a lot of people who were in deep emotional pain and I heard many expressions throughout the day such as: It’s too hard, Life’s so painful, I don’t want to be here. The tendency to avoid pain seems to be deeply entrenched in our psyche, and the message I wanted to share with you today is that you can get through anything, yes anything in life, if you don’t resist it.

My life’s been tough. All I ever wanted was to be a mother, it was more important to me than anything else, and I treasure every one of my children. Then, my son died at five. My youngest experienced major depression and was suicidal for many years. And now my eldest, who has always been my rock is suffering. Ten years ago, Lisa was diagnosed with a rare liver disease. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with stage 4 cirrhosis. Recently, she was told that she would be lucky to be alive in two years without a transplant, but there was no guarantee that her liver wouldn’t fail at any time and she could be dead within two weeks.

Right now I feel sad and a little worried but underneath that is a core of peace. I can feel despair on occasions, without losing hope. I can wish my life was easier without complaining about what is. I expect a miracle, yet I know I can accept whatever happens.

The only thing that stands in the way of our happiness is our inability to accept what is. That doesn’t mean we don’t need coping strategies or that we don’t need to express our emotions. Some people cry but I don’t like crying in public, I like to cry alone. I used to talk about my problems all the time, but I’ve learnt that a better way for me to express any pent up emotion is to write it out of me. I’ve spent many hours at my keyboard alone, crying and typing out my feelings.

I used to think that writing was my purpose. I know now it’s just the vehicle through which I express my purpose. My purpose is to share, and that is how I make sense of pain. I share what I learn with others in the hope that it makes their life easier.

I came into this world to experience acceptance. My gift is the sharing of what I learn with others.

I have learnt that forgiveness clears away negative energy and opens doors to opportunity, so on a regular basis, prior to my daily meditation, I often go through the Ho’oponopono forgiveness process. Which is based on accepting responsibility for everything in your life, forgiving everyone no matter what they have done to you, and that includes forgiving ourselves, and the final step is extending love.

Now I know so many will resist this message, and many won’t even have read this far, if you have all I can say is be willing to try it. Resistance of any kind is the cause of all pain. Resistance keeps us stuck.

A question I’ve been asked is, how can we accept what is without resigning ourselves to what is?

The way I do it is I do it is to: forgive, release the pain, and accept. Sometimes it takes a while to accept, but I’m always willing to. Then live your life as if all of your wishes will be fulfilled and it’s just a matter of time until that happens.

Choose happiness today. Not when the miracle occurs. Not when someone changes. Not when your depression or struggle ends. Not when you find someone to love you. And not when the pain ends. All you have to do is make the choice, you may not feel any different for a while but if you keep affirming that you choose to be happy, that you choose to live, one day you’ll find you really do feel happy.

Do at least three things that make you happy every single day. They can be small things like walking in the sunshine. Enjoying a cup of coffee. Talking to someone. Savour these moments.

Then start a list of twenty wishes, these are things you want in your future. These wishes aren’t about material possessions, they are about experiences and can include big things like sharing your life with someone you love or being a mother. They can also include fun things as well such as taking a ride in a hot air balloon or riding a bike.

Today is the only day any of us have, let’s enjoy it, and share that enjoyment with others.

“Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you.”
St Ignatius

 

 

 

 

Finding Your Passion

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” —Oprah Winfrey

When Charlie Albone left school all he wanted to do was go backpacking in Australia, so he took any work he could get that would help him save towards that goal. During the day he worked for a house painter doing mostly grunt work of scraping and sanding. At night he worked in a bar. On his way home one day Charlie witnessed a car crashing into the stately gates of an English manor house, then drive away. The following day Charlie called in to tell the home owner that he had witnessed the accident and what make the car was. The owner asked Charlie if he knew anything about gardening and offered him a job.

For four months Charlie worked alongside the home owner every weekend in his garden and found it was something he really enjoyed. Then Charlie moved to Australia and fell in love with this country. When he asked around for work he was offered a job with a landscaper and before long knew that working in gardens was his passion. Charlie enrolled in a two year course in horticulture and design at TAFE and was only out of college a couple of years when the opportunity to apply for a presenting role as a landscaper on a new TV show arose. He applied, not really expecting to get it. When he got the role he only expected it to last only one season. Eleven years later Selling Houses Australia still going strong and Charlie is well known to many Australian households.

Since then Charlie has won a silver medal for his first garden at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show, as well as two gold medals for other work he has done. As well as filming Selling Houses Australia he now fulfils his passion for garden design by working all over the world, choosing only jobs that really interest him.

Now some people will always think Charlie was just lucky, but the real reason some people are lucky is because the activate the electromagnetic field of their heart. The heart is a tiny organ, weighing just half a kilo, yet it packs a lot of punch. Not only does it keep us alive it generates an electromagnetic field that is 60 times greater than our brain waves. HeartMath believes that, “electromagnetic signals generated by the heart have the capacity to affect others around us”. Some people are ‘luckier’ than others because people are drawn to their electromagnetic field.

When I was younger I experienced quite a few financial crises, and when I couldn’t do any more, I always took time out and did something I enjoyed, then when I’d come back I always found a solution to that crisis. I didn’t know why it worked back then, I just knew that it did. It took me a while to realise that the key to success and happiness is to follow your passion. Passion starts as liking something, and as you consistently add more things you like doing into your daily life you’ll often find that likes evolve into passions.

So, any time you feel confused, or if life doesn’t flow the way you would like it to, go do something that you love. Working harder, searching for answers and talking about problems only helps so much, whereas feeling happy can turn your life around.

Better still make a point of doing at least three things every day that you genuinely enjoy doing, so that you always have something to look forward to. Holidays and special events come and go, and a big mistake many people make is always looking forward to some future event, but it’s not sustainable. If you include simple things that make you happy every single day, then the bigger events are nice bonuses.

If you don’t enjoy your work look for three things you can do at work that will make you happier, this could be as simple as be kind or considerate to a co-worker. I love helping people and making a difference so when I was working in a job I didn’t enjoy I would give flowers to the receptionist, buy someone a cup of coffee, pay someone’s toll. Every week I looked for different ways to brighten someone’s day and those simple actions made that job so much more enjoyable.

By focusing on doing things that make you happy, your energy field changes and this is what other people respond to. Do this consistently and you’ll find that opportunities just gravitate to you. Best-selling author Nora Roberts says, “I don’t have hobbies, I have passions”, and I must admit I can say the same now. You don’t need to search for your passion, just do what makes you happy and you’ll soon recognise it.

Messages of Hope

When Wendy Fitzgerald[1] was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2018, she and her husband left a paver, inscribed with a calendar of dates at the beginning of a local coastal walk. The aim of the paver was to inspire her to keep moving outdoors, and every time she walks up the steps to the walk, she marks off another date.

What started as a personal motivational tool soon received the backing of the community. Two weeks after placing the paver, they discovered trinkets of inspiration left by community members. These came in the form of cards, earrings, rocks with hand written messages. The messages said things like, “We support you”. “You are amazing” and “Hope”. It wasn’t long before they installed a second paver to place some of the trinkets on.

Wendy and her husband Mike were so touched by these messages of love and hope, they commented that most people did not realise just how much they helped. Wendy said that these messages, many of them from people she didn’t even know, inspired her to keep going when things got tough.

Hope doesn’t just happen, it’s a mindset that we cultivate, it’s who we choose to be.

Shavkat Tursunbayev[2] spends his days scouring abandoned buildings in Uzbekistan looking for people who may be infected with TB, a disease he battled. Shavkat was initially infected ten years ago, then re-infected while serving a prison sentence. While undergoing treatment he received support from outreach counsellors, who are supported by Project Hope. Once his health was restored Shavkat decided to help others just as he had been helped, and he joined the multidisciplinary team that had supported him.

When Shavkat finds potential patients he encourages them to get tested and seek treatment. Because he has been through the experience himself, he is non-judgemental and people trust him and feel safe. By having the courage to hope Shavkat turned his own life around, and created a life that is meaningful. He says he loves his work and feels his life has a purpose. He has become a highly respected member of the outreach team.

Project Hope was set up in 1958 to provide health and humanitarian support around the globe. Since that time they have provided healthcare for tens of millions in more than 100 countries. Trained 2 million health care workers. Delivered $2 billion in medicine and supplies.

Organisations such as this do such wonderful work but we don’t need to be a large organisation to inspire others. Hope is the gift we give ourselves. By demonstrating hope in our daily lives we become positive role models and our actions can inspire others. Hope provides us with a rock solid foundation on which to build a happy life.

St Ignatius said, “Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you.” Such a powerful way to live.

 

[1] Manly Daily, September 8 2018

[2] https://www.projecthope.org/

The Healing Powers of Forest Bathing

A few months ago I had a strong feeling to write a course on mindfulness, which I resisted. I am a big fan of mindfulness and I practised it occasionally but I wasn’t someone who made it part of my daily life. I kind of liked the buzz I got from multi-tasking and juggling numerous projects at once and I didn’t want to give that up. But the more I resisted the stronger the urge became until I decided to follow my inner voice and it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

Whenever I write a course I do every exercise and make what I’m writing about a part of my daily life, so I can be sure it works before recommending it to others, and I must admit I didn’t expect to find mindfulness such a fascinating subject. Before long I started noticing a change within myself as I implemented mindfulness practices into my daily life.

At the end of June, when I was half way through writing the course,  I went on a month long trip to Europe and while In England I did some research on the topic and discovered for myself the power of forest bathing. Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku, is the practice of walking mindfully amongst trees and there is a growing body of evidence to demonstrate the physical and emotional benefits of this.

When we walk amongst trees we are in an oxygen rich environment. We are exposed to sights and sounds that generally relax us but even more important is our exposure to phytoncides (wood essential oils). Phytoncides significantly increase our NK cells which are known to fight cancer[1]. In a nutshell walking in the forest has some major health benefits the full extent of which is, as yet, unknown.

What does appear to be the case is that regular forest bathing can have long lasting effects. Weekly sessions of around 20 minutes or more are recommended. If you don’t have an area of bush that is easily accessible go to your local park, where there are trees. The benefits gained from just one session last for a week.

Forest therapy[2] has been proven to:

  • Improve the immune system
  • Increase relaxation due to increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Reduce blood pressure if it is high and raise it if is low
  • Increase feelings of wellbeing
  • Decrease cardiovascular illnesses[3]
  • Help with respiratory system issues such as allergies[4]

In the US particularly, some doctors are recommending this practice to their patients. Dr Nooshin Razani[5], a paediatric infectious diseases doctor at Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland California, conducts a program call Shine, where once a month she leads of group of up to 50 people through a lush forest of redwoods. Her patients range in age from 8 months to 18. Dr Razani published findings that park visits, no matter where they were, or whether they were led by a guide or not led to a decrease in stress.

Suzanne Simard, a researcher at the University of British Columbia also quotes a hospital in Atlanta that formally offers forest therapy to patients with cancer. Another doctor in Iowa, Dr Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmill, an obstetrician-gynaecologist became a certified forest guide and leads groups.

Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki[6], who is a researcher and director of Chiba University’s Centre for Environment, Health and Field Sciences and author of Shinrin-yoku, says that our genes cannot change in just a few hundred years and the loss of trees and our natural environment is a major contributor to modern day stress.

Dr Miyazaki also says that stress today is not just triggered by dangerous situations but emotional ones as well such as a crowded commuter train, a driver who takes the parking space you wanted, or an employer who is unhappy with your work. We have more triggers for the stress response today than ever before and when our bodies remain in a state of hyper-arousal for too long illness occurs.

Mindfulness is the way to change our state and ultimately our entire lives, whether we practice being mindful as a daily exercise, or we make walking amongst trees something we do on a regular basis.

I am now offering online courses in Certificate in Mindfulness and a Certified Mindfulness Teacher certification.

 

References:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/

[2] Shinrin-yoku, Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Octopus Publishing, Great Britain, 2018

[3] Your guide to forest bathing, M Amos Clifford, Conari Press, Massachussets, 2018

[4] Your guide to forest bathing, M Amos Clifford, Conari Press, Massachussets, 2018

[5] https://e360.yale.edu/features/exploring_how_and_why_trees_talk_to_each_other

[6] Shinrin-yoku, Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Octopus Publishing, Great Britain, 2018