How to build more social connections

At 9 years old Summer Farrelly was the kid that no-one talked to and she spent most of her lunch breaks in the school library. Summer, and her whole family are on the autism spectrum and she didn’t know how to make friends. Summer raised chickens and she observed that her chickens formed different groups according to their moods. As she studied the ways these different groups communicated with each other she applied what they did to her own interaction with other kids at school. Before long she went from being the kid with no friends to one who connected well with others. Her mother said that the biggest difference, apart from her growing confidence and resilience, is that Summer learnt self-acceptance. Summer and her mother have created a chicken therapy program and at 12 years old Summer is now helping disabled animals.

We all know that we’ve become a society that has disconnected from each other. Social isolation and loneliness are on the increase which affects our health and wellbeing. This separation from others isn’t something we intentionally create we just get busy and there are less opportunities to make new friends. So, what can we do?

I feel that if we can all establish habits that support support connections, we can change the culture of the world around us.  Following are a few suggestions that come to mind:

Set an intention to connect more

When we set an intention, preferably by writing it down and placing it somewhere that we can look at it daily, we remind ourselves of what is most important to us.

Allow time to connect

When every minute of our day is scheduled we miss opportunities to be spontaneous. We need time to connect, to be able to stop and chat if you run into someone unexpectedly. When you are focused on doing all the time you often miss the clues that someone else is in need. Schedule some time each day that is free time, if you don’t have time to talk to someone when you run into them you can always tell them you’d love to catch up and give them a call at this time.

Smile more often

I don’t mean just a quick upturn of the lips, consciously choose to smile in a way that engages your whole being. Smile when talking on the phone, when talking to a shop assistant, when you greet your family. Smiling makes you feel good, and it makes the recipient feel good too.

Make time to talk to strangers

When my daughter was waiting for her liver transplant earlier this year I was totally worn out. One day I was getting into my car at Woolworths before heading into the hospital and wondering just how I was going to summon the energy to get through another day, when an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked me if I was okay. I asked him why he thought I might not be and he replied, “You are moving so slowly”. I stopped and talked to him for a few minutes, told him what I was going through, and he told me about his sister’s illness. Then we said goodbye. I have never seen him since yet his kindness to me that day lingers on. It was exactly what I needed at that time.

When you feel lonely look for a way to give something to someone else

This could be by performing a simple act of kindness, or it could be joining a community group. Whenever I need a pick me up I look at what I can give to someone else. Sometimes that’s having a conversation, doing volunteer work, or doing an act of kindness. It doesn’t always mean I connect with someone, but it always makes me feel good about me.

Join a group that shares a common interest

Communities are formed when groups of people who share a common interest come together. I read this morning of a group that meets to knit mittens for koalas hurt in bushfires. There are also groups that knit for kittens. Meetup is a great place to look for common interest groups, but if you can’t find one see if you can find one person who shares your interest and start your own, it could grow into something bigger.

We can all talk about what’s wrong with the world, and what is missing, but change begins with each one of us. By choosing to be part of the solution and reaching out to others today, we may just change our own life as well as helping others.

 

 

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.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Moving into a state of flow

One of the things that I was surprised to learn about myself, when I first started doing this work, was how much resentment I felt. For many years I tried to be superwoman, taking on too much at home and at work, and it was a pattern that was part of my life for way too long. The insidious thing about resentment is that it damages relationships and stops money and opportunities flowing to you.

If you want more from life than you have now then look to your emotions.  Our emotions determine how much we allow into our life, and show us where we are resisting. Often feelings of resentment aren’t easily recognisable because nice people, who spend much of their time giving to others, justify or bury emotions they find unacceptable.

If you find yourself feeling resentful look at what is missing from your life.  Many women feel resentful simply because there is no time left for themselves.  So it makes sense to reassess your priorities so that you can make time to fill your own needs.

If you find yourself feeling resentful, irritable, anxious or mildly depressed look at what triggers those feelings for you. Then give thanks for these feelings, and annoying situations for reminding you to move into a state of flow.

Make a conscious choice to check in on how you really feel on a regularly basis, you can do this through being mindful, meditating or reflecting. When you live in a flowing energy state life is easier, you do the best you can, take responsibility and actively work towards your goals in a relaxed way.  If you need to, forgive yourself or someone else. Give thanks continually and make a habit of looking for the good in every situation.

Regular reflection and healthy habits enable you to recognise opportunities, this in when synchronicity occurs.

 

How a Smile Can Change Your Life

 

CamMi Pham grew up in Vietnam in a very wealthy family, her life was good until her father was accused of participating in a financial scam and he was served with a lawsuit. Years later CamMi’s father was cleared of all charges but during that time the family lost their money and even worse were ostracised by their friends.

CamMi’s parents decided to move to Canada  a transition that CamMi found incredibly hard. She didn’t speak the language. The kids at school made fun of her and wanted nothing to do with her. She didn’t want to burden her parents so she kept her feelings to herself. She felt that no-one wanted her until one day a stranger looked her in the eyes and smiled. It was the first time that someone had smiled at her in a long time and it is something that she says she will never forget. Cami says, “That moment changed my life. From that day on, I promised myself I would always smile and treat everyone I met like they were family”.

109 volunteers participated in a study on the benefits of smiling and this was followed up by a poll on 1000 adults. They used an electromagnetic brain scan machine and heart rate monitor to measure brain and heart activity to measure what boosted particpants moods.

They found that a child’s smile created the same level of stimulation as one would get from eating 2000 chocolate bars, or receiving a large amount of cash (in excess of $10,000).

They also found that smiling created a short term high better than sex, shopping and chocolate.

Now all smiling benefits both the giver and the receiver but it seems that some people’s smiles are more valuable to us. Smiles from friends and people we love rate higher than a smile from a stranger, as do smiles from people we admire.

We urge you to smile at everyone you meet today, and not just a quick upturn of the lips. Where possible genuinely look into the eyes of a stranger and share a genuine smile. Look into the eyes of your children, family, friends and smile, these are the people we often overlook. You just don’t know what a difference that smile could make.

Here are some of the benefits you can gain from smiling more, you’ll find more on our Share a Smile campaign page.

Smiling is as stimulating to your brain as receiving a large amount of cash

Smiling is an antidepressant.

Smililng reduces sress

Smiling makes you approachable

Smiling makes you happier

Look up our campaign and try it for yourself and share your positive stories with us.

To Change Your Life Change Yourself

There is no truer saying than, If you keep doing the same things you will keep getting the same results. The end or the beginning of a year is always a great time of year to reflect and review if there is anything you need to do to change your life, and if you feel tempted to use the excuse that you don’t have time be aware that that choice does not value you. Reflection is something you can do prior to going to sleep, while you exercise or drive your car. It’s not something that you need to have a lot of time for, just a regular quiet time.

A client I once worked with said, ‘I can’t understand why my life works sometimes and at other times it doesn’t matter what I do, or how hard I work, nothing seems to work out for me. I am positive. I watch my thoughts. I watch my words. I’m not perfect but most of the time I’m congruent.’ Congruence in this instance means that your thoughts, words and actions support your life choices.

What really frustrated this woman was her boss who made so much money when he was a negative, inconsiderate man. My client said, ‘I don’t want to take his success away from him. I don’t want his life. I just want to understand why someone like him who is always talking poor, who treats people badly, who does no work on himself, can prosper, while I, who work so hard at being the best me I can, struggle. Where is the justice in that?’

Most people believe at some level that if they are good they should be rewarded but life doesn’t work on a reward system. The laws of the universe work the same for everyone, there is no judgement as to who is worthy and who is not. Instead of focusing on what she wanted to create my client focused on resentment towards her boss, a touch of envy, and the frustration she felt that she did not have the resources to live her life the way she wanted.

Every single thing in life is energy. If someone who is in a bad mood walks into a room, you can feel it. If a couple who just had an argument go out with you, you can generally feel the tension between them, just as a happy optimistic person can brighten another person’s day. Even when you put on a good front people unconsciously pick up on your energy.

Emotions such as anger or sadness can be positive or negative, feeling sad is a transitory emotion and can be healing, but it’s hard to find the positive in emotions such as frustration, envy and resentment unless you use them to change you.

To change your life observe your emotions over a couple of days, look at what triggers your downward spirals or causes you to feel stressed, it is very easy to gloss over, or bury emotions which we find unacceptable.

Look at what is missing in your life to cause you to feel this way then take responsibility for fulfilling that need. Now I am fully aware that some of your desires may be beyond your reach right now, but it is amazing how things can change when you choose to believe that you can have what you want. At first it is just a choice, but support that choice with your thoughts, words, emotions and actions then opportunities will come your way to help you turn that choice into a reality.

It may seem easy for me to say those words but I know it’s true. When I lived on the poverty line when my children were young, I dreamed of a better future. When I rented a nice home, I dreamed of owning my own home. When I owned my first home I dreamed of living in a beautiful area by the sea. All of those dreams came true. Those dreams did not come from dissatisfaction, I was very grateful for what I had, they came from a desire for a greater level of comfort, ease and beauty and through actively choosing those things for myself I became a bigger, better person.

If you find yourself feeling resentful because other people have more than you do, look at what you can do to improve your situation. Make a conscious choice to check in on how you are really feeling regularly. When you live in a flowing energy state you flow with life, you do the best you can, you take responsibility and you actively work towards your goals in a relaxed way. And, often when you do this, synchronicity occurs, and you draw people and opportunities to you.

If you want to change your life – change yourself.