The other morning I could not sleep past 3am. Having had only 3 hours sleep, I tried everything I could for 2 hours to get back to sleep but nothing was going to work. I got up, opened all my blinds to the darkness of the night towards first lights.
Just before first lights, nature starts to awaken. Birds begin chirping. The distant stars and planets still shimmering though disappearing in that night sky. Whilst, some animals who have been awake and alert all night head off to their corner of the world to sleep.
Slowly the skies change from darkness to dark blue to the first glimmers of light. As the sun starts to peak, that orange alerts one’s eyes to the ambience of a new day dawning. Slowly the most hottest planet in our solar system emerges as we keep spinning slowly on our earth’s axis. As bright as the orange glows before our eyes, slowly the shimmers of the distant stars and planets disappear. Though they are still there, always reflecting, moving in the sequence of all brilliance in perfect harmony with everything else in the universe.
A miracle it is! This daily event never gives up, never takes a break, never packs up and leaves, saying ‘it is all too much to keep going’.
We could take a new day dawning for granted. We could take this coming new day for granted. Go about our normal routines – being busy, getting things done. When is the last time you’ve stopped to be a human being not a human doing? To see the wonder of our planet, our existence, how all things form and connect together. How you are indeed connected into all this majesty. These are priceless moments, and ones that I have cherished as I did at first lights that morning.
That ball of energy and heat that is rising, lifts our depression, gives vibrancy to our day and fills us with satisfaction. When the sun is hiding above those clouds, we feel the difference within our very being. And yet , it is always there. It never left our side. Our perception changed.
Sometimes it is so hard to find contentment in our lives. At 3am – 5am, was I content? No, exactly why I couldn’t sleep. By shifting my focus and perspective, I was able to enjoy the miracle of a new day dawning. I then found contentment.
Lao Tzu described contentment as “when action is pure and selfless everything settles into its own perfect place.” (Tao Te Ching, verse 3) As I reflected on this verse, I wrote:
If we do not stop and enjoy the connections life has for us, the daily grind will eventually burn us out; where we will not find contentment, be grounded or even able to serve. One of my favourite Irish bands, Mumford & Sons, in their song Below My Feet describes a grounding process that joins these two ideas together:
Keep the earth below my feet
from my sweat my blood runs weak
let me learn from where I have been
keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn.
To reach out and serve we enter the risk to use our hands, in this engagement have we truly learned or merely helped? Let our eyes do the serving, as we see each dimension, and our hands will follow with learning at our fingertips through the power of a whole contentment experience.
A few months ago I was standing in a skyscraper, looking right down at the ground, about a 70 metre drop. I was totally drained of all positivity. I struggled to be present in the moment. In fact, my mind was stuck in a past trauma. I felt like I was experiencing it again. I wasn’t really seeing the ground beneath me, I was seeing what happened to me back then.
In that moment, I could choose to stay stuck in my past, or I could choose to bring myself out of it and be present. I could choose to keep looking at the ground, and try to tell myself I can make it; or I could choose to look up, and see the beautiful view that surrounds me. In looking up, I am changing my outlook to be ahead. I am changing my posture to be tall and confident. The shift has caused me to focus on me in the here and now, to calm my being and be positive.
Now I can speak positivity into my situation. Now I can believe in myself once again as who I am today because of what I have gone through. And then, I can radiate positivity. From what I have experienced, that captures another soul walking by feeling perhaps stuck or lost.
Positivity celebrates life at various levels. It is choosing to see life from a different perspective, and helps to overcome and improve life’s moment to be more liveable. As a smile or laughter is infectious, letting go of life’s pressures and allowing us to shine brings so much more to ourselves, to others around us, and to our very act in living.
Our souls long for love. A tender touch that can only render inside. An expression that every person craves. At times, we can wonder where such love can be? Love can feel so dim inside a lonely heart. What would life be like without love? For we would not know the true meaning of this world, the true depths of relationships and friendships – for what we have and what we hope for is bound in love.
A common trait among those who become mentally unwell is lack of self-love. We tend to give more to other people’s needs than our own. We tend to care for others, more than we care for ourselves. We tend to love deeply, and hurt deeply, and neglect to give that same love to ourselves, but it seems we have no issue in blaming ourselves for the hurt.
However, it is not just mental health sufferers who are not great in self-love. Adults who have not suffered from trauma or been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, also struggle with it. From my research, the average mental health sufferer reported 50.3% and the average healthy adult reported 55% that they regularly self-love.
Self-love is a prerequisite to belief in self. Believing in ourselves is one of the strongest internal validations we can have to build our self-worth, have hope, be successful and build a stronger foundation. Without self-love, we would struggle to believe that we can truly make it.
Have you ever felt incredibly stuck? And in that stuck place, a part of you is slowly dying. I felt within me a longing to be nurtured, of who I am with no pretence, no falsehood or invisible masks, no compromise. I have learned that being stuck requires action. If we know how to care and love others beyond description, then we should be able to apply those same principles to ourselves. I must admit it is harder though! We have to start off with the belief that we deserve love, care, attention; and when we start to believe, we then see that receiving love is much easier too.
If you have no reserves in loving, caring and nurturing yourself; what would your world look like?
For me, it will be a world of freedom, love, compassion. There will be boundaries. It will most definitely be a safe haven. A place of no fear. A place I can know my needs and wants and freely give me the chance to receive them. A place I offer genuine care and concern as I have done for others for so long, but to also freely give that to me too. This world will have a solid foundation, surrounded by nature, beauty, peace and acceptance; so that when I walk into my world I will feel empowered to be me.
Ultimately, the more we can love ourselves, the better we will be in serving and helping others and also in receiving their love in return. It’s a win-win.
Publication on self-love will be out September 2021.
How many times have you gone through a life event feeling like your world has crashed? Or you could be just holding it together, then something so tiny comes in your path and that is the thing that has tipped you over. How we deal with every life event has a significant impact on our health and well-being.
When I was in recovery of adult trauma, I built on my well-being research and created about 150 tools over the course of two years. The tools helped me learn more about myself and how to deal with life events in a positive way and they went on to help many other individuals as well. In a St John of God (SJOG) program I attended (2014-2015), on Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), it widened my horizons in understanding more of my behaviour following trauma. A program that every individual should complete! Like most things I learn, I drew on everything I have read about, attended and utilised in therapy to harness their full potential. This included, my own research, DBT, CBT, ACT and mindfulness. Out of my learning, I created a board game The Wellbeing Roadmap Game that is designed to discover your core values, five senses, a firmations, world views, well-being and acceptance to life events. At the end of the game, you walk away with tools to use when stressed and more of an understanding of self through the roadmap of life.
You may find yourself going up through the mountains on Overcomer Highway. You may visit Respite Place at the foothills beside a beautiful peaceful lake for some time out. You may find yourself a few times in the desert of Internally Stuck Avenue, you know the place, that endless vicious cycle that never seems to have a way out! And you may even wind your way down into Give Up Close, that cave or pit, we hang out alone in sometimes. Whatever path we are on, we discover and learn more things about ourselves. When we get the opportunity to be at Acceptance Round-a-bout that’s when we make a choice what road we actually travel upon. If we continue to not deal with the life event, we might find ourselves on that rollercoaster ever circling Internally Stuck (the suffering road). This road is not all bad, sometimes we need to build up our courage, and growth does come from suffering.
In DBT, Marsha Linehan, talks about radical acceptance. If we accept, then we are willing and free; if we don’t accept, then we are wilful and su fer. Acceptance doesn’t mean we approve of what happened to us. Acceptance means we acknowledge that this life event happened and work out the best strategies to move on and not let the event drag us down any further. The more we stay on the “suffering road”, the more we are using all our energy to fight, and our health will deteriorate because the amount of stress and cortisol that is mounting up can cause long-term damage.
To learn more about acceptance, read inspire stories, see amazing outback Australian photography, be empowered in learning about the top 5 movement therapies to improve your mental health and heal illnesses – grab your copy of issue 3 today!
Purpose is like the breath of life. Or for some it could be more the breadth, depth and width of life. The times when we think most about our purpose is usually when we are struggling: as a teenager wondering what job we will do and/or university course; when we become dissatisfied with our job, career direction or course; and when we su fer trauma or health issues and lose the role we loved. I’ve been through all three and the worst was the latter one. When you finally found that role that fits you like a glove, you’re passionate about it, you love going to work, being part of the team and then everything is taken from beneath you. Not only have I experienced it, but I’ve also witnessed and stood beside thousands of police o ficers and Defence personnel going through this change once labelled ‘hurt on duty’ then medically discharged. How do we recover from this loss? Not only loss of something we loved, but loss of our mental health and perhaps physical health, loss of our passion and drive as well as loss of our purpose.
One thing I discovered on my journey through this is that my purpose was actually never lost, the way that I executed it needed changing. It will certainly be di ferent and when we get our head around that and it is okay, then opportunities start to arise. My purpose throughout life has always been education, motivational speaking and supporting others to be the best they can be. What I started to do post-police and navy in various roles, I could see that my drive, passion and purpose was still thriving. I just had to find the right avenue with my limitations.
After you decide to move forward, what happens next is truly amazing. It is like the shifting forces of nature were engulfing your whole being beforehand, even most days felt like you were trying to move in the opposite direction through a massive wind storm. Then, the day it all becomes too much, sand is flickering into your eyes disabling your sight and you feel totally exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. It seems impossible to go on. At this point we have a choice and we think the choices are to give up or keep battling, but there is another choice. Let go. Let go of everything we are holding on tightly. Allow the storm to pass. Rest our mind and our body, then start working on the root cause slowly and steadily. Yes, it’s hard work, but the result is amazing. Things in life start to align again. We feel more connected to life, to friends, to nature, to the world! Indeed, we feel alive! We are survivors and becoming people who can empower others to reach that amazing place too.
Feel free to download a free tool on how to discover your purpose and meaning.
If there was one golden key that we needed to find in life that we can’t live without, it would be connection. Our existence on this planet can only be because of our connection to all living things and beings. The more we connect with people, nature and animals, the more we will thrive. However, in the 21st Century, connection through the day has largely changed to be with technology! This takes us away from the very fabric of what connection actually means.
As a society we are feeling more disempowered. Mental illnesses are on the rise. Suicide rates are higher than ever before. 3.96 billion people from around the globe are on social media every day for approximately 2 hours and our teenagers are glued to their smart phones or tablets for 7.5 hours per day on average!
What is this actually doing to our mental health and well-being? It is creating a culture of panic, fear, anxiety, depression, sadness, discontentment and loneliness. We are masking our true feelings through cute emojis and through an online presence that shows how good we are doing, not how bad we are feeling. It is forcing ourselves into a world screaming of attention, with a shallow mindset, creating more internal wounds.
The ability to engage and find people to connect and empower each other is possible! The way to find connection that brings empowerment and contentment is to engage physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually with others face to face, time in nature and with animals, caring for our planet and doing what is best for our growth.
How much time do you spend with technology versus living things/beings? If the former is higher than the latter, then finding balance may be near impossible. Aim to connect with the “living” at least 50% of the day.
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You definitely know when you feel balanced. Life feels goods. You are not exhausted. You are having that “top of the mountain” experience. Those moments that rarely happen. Can we help ourselves to be more in-tuned and more balanced? Yes. In fact, most of us most likely do the opposite of bringing balance, unity and harmony in our lives.
In my wellbeing research, regardless if you are a healthy adult or suffering from a mental health disorder or gone through trauma, a BALANCED LIFE was the lowest category.
What thoughts and behaviours do you have that unbalance you? The law of attraction theory states that we essentially become what we think about all day long. Do you dwell on what’s missing from your life? Do you have conversations heavily weighted with what’s lacking in your life? Do you cultivate an inner picture of yourself in the negative or being unlucky?
If you think scarcity, you will create scarcity. If you analyse shortages or downfalls constantly in your life, more will appear. If you talk negatively, you will attract more negatives and wonder why bad things keep happening in your life.
Seven thought systems that keep us being unbalanced in life:
- Not believing in yourself
- instead enjoy the fullness of life, believe that you can do anything
- Making excuses
- instead don’t limit yourself, there is an infinite supply of abundance, resources, what we need to live a full life
- Saying “I don’t deserve it”
- instead cultivate an inner affirmation of who you really are, you are worthy, you are worth it
- realign your desires with your thinking
- Believing you have limited abilities and talents
- instead don’t compare yourself with others, you are a unique individual given abilities and talents just for you – some receive many (like me get bored easily), some receive a few (that’s all they need) and others receive one (as it is part of who they are to do one thing exceptionally well).
- create an inner picture of yourself already living an abundant life, then become the abundance you desire utilising your gift/s
- Saying “I’ve never been lucky”
- low negative thoughts attracts low energy (depression) instead positive calming thoughts in the spiritual activate the desires of your heart
- no such thing as luck, accidents happens, it was a moment that went wrong
- Believing it’s always been this way
- instead learn from your mistakes, keeping your thoughts on your past mistakes will guarantee them into your present moment!
- rather, look upon your entire history as a series of steps you needed to take in order to bring you to this moment – you have everything you need for what is coming
- restoring balance is releasing yourself from the past and focusing on the present and where you desire to be – doing meditation, Tai Chi, Qigong all helpful for this
- Saying “I don’t know how to think abundance for myself”
- instead start saying to yourself “I am abundant. I am balanced with the desire of my heart aligned with my Creator. I will not think negatively about myself again.”
You are entitled to live a balanced abundant life. Start living it! Start believing it! Start aligning your desires and thoughts towards it.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you, don’t go back to sleep.Rumi, a Sudi poet
I was watching the latest series of David Attenborough on Netflix, an incredible inspiring story looking back over his lifetime of change on our planet. To do that at 93, what an inspiration! He stated:
A species thrives when everything else around it thrives.– David Attenborough, A Life on Our Planet
That is not only true for animals and nature, but also true for humans. When we thrive, we are surrounded by others who are thriving too. We are more accepting of our circumstances. We are open to challenges and what is going around us. We are more positive about life in general. We are not scared of facing obstacles head-on.
I was really good at this before I collapsed following trauma. I was strong and able to push aside anything in my life that got in my way and I accomplished so much from 17-43. As my psychologist said to me recently, “you have lived through 5 life times worth in half century”! I certainly feel it as now I am constantly exhausted and struggles seem to be endless. There are some days that I am thriving, and others were I am more struggling than surviving.
Perhaps for most of us we are surviving each day more than ever, especially in this change of climate, with rising temperatures, extinction of animals and plants, pandemics, destructive natural disasters … the list goes on. Most days it seems like our planet isn’t thriving either, so how do we thrive?
From my experience, it comes down to what we believe, what we see, and what action we take for ourselves. If we continue on the same journey of despair and hopelessness, we will only feel despair and hopelessness. If we hang around people that are always negative or have not got your best interest at heart, then we will end up being negative and not care for others either. But if we, take on our responsibility, accept our choices and believe that change is possible, we can rise above the things that get us down, then our outlook will change and we will walk towards thriving. It is all a matter of perspective.
Have you gone on a journey from surviving to thriving?
I have seen the burden carried by humans. I have certainly felt the burden of my own battles – externally and internally. Yet, in the midst of all this there is beauty. A new flower budding. A new life brought into this world. The miracle of a healing. A lost soul found. It is so easy to be caught up in the chaos of life and not stop and see the beauty.
Grief is chaotic. We cannot control our grief. We cannot control the moment it will arrive at our doorstep. We cannot control the triggers we may have from memories, certain dates, smells, reminders. Grief comes in various ways for us all throughout life. We cannot really escape grief.
We could be mourning the loss of a loved one. We could be mourning the loss of our health. We could be mourning the loss of a job we loved. Or the loss of the family pet, or everything we have worked in life towards. I think I’ve gone through every single one of these and it certainly is not pleasant!
When I lost my health and career at the same time, my world certainly went into chaos. What I learned out of the chaos is a special little formula.
be PRESENT + take COURAGE + find ACCEPTANCE = CALMS CHAOS
There is a time to mourn, a time to cry and be sad; but there is also a time to laugh and most certainly dance.
Struggling with being mentally unwell is one thing and then when your body cannot stand it anymore, the physical illness signs start to show, especially if you are fighting against your mental health and not doing the best things you can to avoid stress.
I was certainly one of those people. I was under a great deal of stress and trauma for 6 months before I finally told someone. By the time I did, I was thrown in all sorts of directions and work in the navy didn’t help my cause. They kept me in the same place for 18 months where the triggers from the trauma existed strongly and my body couldn’t cope. Daily I was led to jumping off the edge.
I certainly understand looking back why my body withered away – inflammatory diseases, arthritis, hypertension, stacked on weight, most likely because I was drinking far too much to cope with the trauma and numb. So I wasn’t helping myself either and it took many years to accept this and take on the responsibility of my health.
I learned the more we can accept, the more we can take courage in taking that step forward. In going forwards, and not stopping, means we can find the best avenues towards recovery or living with the conditions we have. It is a balance. I still hold victory in my mind that one day I will be healed, but at the same time in knowledge of living with my mental and physical health conditions that I do what is best for me in this moment. That is all I can ever ask.
In finding balance, I have found that if I complete something I am passionate about in each of these areas on a daily basis, then I am doing okay.