The power of thoughts…..

You may consider a thought about something is nothing important. Something transitory and fleeting and in many ways, this is true. Thoughts are impermanent but their effects on our entire wellbeing can be quite extraordinary. The power a simple thought has can be found in our reaction to it.

When we begin to identify and react to our thoughts, we allow ourselves to become what we believe to be true. ‘I am positive. I am rubbish at this. I can do this. Nobody wants to be with me. I am worthwhile.’ The list goes on. How many thoughts do you have during the course of a day that you would say are useful and positive?

You can think about anything you like. You can choose what to believe, what to feel and what to say. You are in charge of how you react to yourself and the world around you. When you are aware of this, it becomes so much easier to see that there is a choice when it comes to how we feel. We can choose which thoughts to react to and those we ignore.

Emotions are a constructive tool we can use when it comes to changing how we feel. Instead of reacting to emotions without an awareness of why we are experiencing them, we can effectively learn to watch our negative thoughts without reacting to them.

A lot of stress and anxiety can be managed simply through becoming aware of our emotional ‘triggers’. Only you can know what they are. Is it a thought or a feeling? An event perhaps? It could be anything.

What you need to remember is that the thought or feeling itself is just what it is. Your reaction (or non reaction) to it is the key point that will either create a good or a bad day.

And we all want to have a good day. It is easier than you might think….

Just be aware of your thoughts and the choices you have…..:)

Feel good and be happy….

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Developing Mindfulness and Staying Grounded

This is all about practice. Like everything else in life, it doesn’t always come easy but it does become easier with time. Mindfulness is a way of being. There are no set rules to becoming mindful and aware but you can begin this process by directing your attention towards simple things such as your breathing. This is probably the easiest way to ground yourself and ease yourself into a relaxed frame of mind.

We tend to lose our sense of grounding when we become emotionally stressed and by that stage, it is usually too late to act. It will be harder to come back to grounding if you do not train yourself to look for the warning signs – for instance, snapping at people without any real need to, feeling ‘worked up’ for no reason, having a knot in your stomach that stops you from eating, breathing too quickly (the body has gone into flight or fight mode as it is perceiving a threat of some kind is imminent) and racing thoughts which are usually very negative.

If we are very used to brooding and obsessing over problems, there will be a strong chance that we end up blowing things out of proportion. When we become lost in a maze of thoughts, there is something we can do to help alleviate the feelings of emotional discomfort. By focusing on the breath, we immediately divert attention from thoughts and thinking and into the body. As soon as you do this, you stop the endless cycle of repetitive thoughts. Aligning your attention with the breath is the only way to bring yourself to a centre of calmness.

You then become aware and mindful of the present moment. That is all you ever have to deal with and can deal with. Doing a thousand things at once is possible if you are very organised but if you have a thousand thoughts zooming around your mind creating varying degrees of emotional anxiety with no purpose or resolution, you experience levels of stress that you cannot deal with. Focusing on your breathing releases you from the prison of emotional anxiety and the thoughts that are related to them.

I would say that with practice, you can begin the process of becoming more mindful over time. You will have good days and bad days but the important thing to remember is that you are moving forward. It is a process that takes a lot of time and perseverance and sometimes you feel like it is pointless trying when you are having a difficult time.

Don’t let the bad times get you down! Everything you go through is an experience – it is how you learn from it and how you react to these changes that shape your future.

© Christina McDonald 2014.

I’m not perfect (nor do I want to be)

I’m not sure if it is because I am too tired (or getting too old to care anymore) but I feel as though the pressure to be perfect is just a crazy way to feel and live. I am all for high standards – don’t get me wrong – and it is extremely important to give your very best in life. If you stopped trying, things would just fall apart. Caring about what you do is paramount and sometimes, other people’s lives and safety depend upon it.

I just hate that feeling – you know – the feeling that everything you do hinges on being absolutely perfect. No mistakes, no errors, no room for failure. I make mistakes sometimes, even when I try not to. I’m not perfect – there!

Are there people out there who simply don’t mess up? How do they do it? Do they just cover it up superbly when they do make a mistake so nobody notices? (In other words – through ‘bull****’? I’m not saying I make mistakes all the time. Not at all. Sometimes when I do, I feel like it is the end of the world and it isn’t. I say to myself ‘Why did I do that, how stupid! I should know better than this!’ (And I should and do). So, why do I make silly mistakes then? Are mistakes the be all and end all? No, of course not. But – they feel like they are sometimes.

I don’t know about you, but I feel as though the drive for constant perfection in society is maddening. High standards, yes. Perfection – no (and it can sod off). The perfect body, the perfect image, the perfect holiday, the perfect relationship. The perfect amount of money, (Yeah, right).

The problem is when it comes to perfection, enough is never enough especially when it comes to materialism. You always think you can do better and have more, improve this, change that. To me, perfectionism is an illness perpetuated by fear that quietly resides in the psyche waiting to pounce the moment you feel just a little bit insecure or unsure of yourself.

(The fear of not/never being good enough – that is the driving force behind perfectionism – so we keep striving at all costs to prevent a realisation of this truth…that we might not be what other people think.

Who cares?????

I am not perfect and I don’t think anybody should feel guilty for it and feel as though they should apologise for their own perceived ‘failures’ and weaknesses. Realising you have a weakness is actually a strength because (if you feel you need to), you can then become aware of it and can change it.

When painting a picture and your paintbrush slips across the paper, do you score it all out, tear it up and put it in the bin? No. You simply include the ‘mistake’ as part of the creative process. You are the one defining what that mistake is. Perhaps I am also defining my mistakes – I am self-critical to the point where I can sometimes lose perspective of what really matters – the fact that I am human….

I remember years ago when I was applying for jobs after university, going through endless application forms and reading the requirements – ‘must have superb attention to detail, must be proactive, dynamic, a leader, a visionary, presidential material, quite simply – awesome, amazing and magical (of course, not forgetting to demonstrate excellent customer service, blah blah etc. Must, must, must must. Fine – I get it. You want someone who will try hard and do their best.

Reading those kinds of things just makes me not want to bother – why? Perhaps it is some kind of false sincerity on my part – having to care when I didn’t actually care that much. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think I’m alone here – most people want to do their best, earn their money and go home at the end of the day and forget the fact that in their 9-5 jobs, they are actually superhumans in disguise of a person who makes mistakes from time to time.

At least now I have a job I love and really do enjoy – thank goodness. Even when I went for flute lessons as a student, my teacher told me once when I was auditioning for an orchestral vacancy – ‘you cannot make a mistake at all here, there are over 300 candidates going for this seat and there is no room for error.’ Well – I went to the audition, made one tiny mistake and hey presto, that was that. (I tried not to, but I did). So myself, and 298 other candidates bit the dust. That’s the way it goes….

So, I guess the theory is – try not to make a mistake but if you do, just let it go and try not to let it ruin the rest of your life….it doesn’t matter if you screw up. Having high standards is perfect enough. Striving for perfection in my case is very self-limiting and completely soul destroying. I cannot do that but I am sure there are others who can.

Be creative, make music, paint and write, even though people may never appreciate it and be joyful for the sheer sake of it. Life is short and very precious. Don’t make unnecessary sacrifices for nothing. Just be and do.

In life, it only matters if you stop trying. Whatever happens, do it for you.

© Christina McDonald 2014.

Emotional Healing through Conscious Awareness.

If you have been on a ‘mental spin cycle’ as I would call it, you know exactly what I’m talking about when you cannot get your brain to switch off. Endless thoughts that carry on endlessly without ceasing. When life has become too difficult, when stress has taken over, it is very easy to lose perspective.

What I discovered years ago was that you can make this cycle stop simply by being aware of what is going through your mind. Through awareness, you stop identifying with these thoughts. You no longer lose yourself in the ‘drama’ as it were. They are just thoughts and they will only have a say if you let them.

Take a deep breath:

Focusing on your breathing is the best way to centre and ground yourself when you feel emotionally anxious. When you bring your attention to something as simple as your breathing, you are directing attention away from your mind and into your body, into the present moment. Within this moment, is where your attention should be.

Don’t react to negative thoughts:

Allow yourself to become aware of your thoughts, just allow them to be as they are. You may perhaps feel anxious within yourself but just let those feelings exist within you. They will subside eventually when you stop reacting to them. When you react to negative thoughts, you give them more sway and one negative thought leads to another and then another and so the cycle continues. You can stop it simply by being aware of what is going on in your mind.

Don’t over-analyse:

Brooding, obsessing and mulling over thoughts endlessly diverts your attention from what you should be doing and robs you of energy. When you do this repeatedly, you will feel incapable of focusing on anything else. Your work and your relationships will suffer needlessly in the end. Stop thinking for a while and just be.

Emotions are transitory:

Feelings and emotions change constantly. Like throwing a pebble into a lake, they are like ripples in consciousness. They are fleeting and if we react to them, we are reacting to a naturally impermanent state and making it into a permanent one instead. Watch emotions and feelings come and go as they always do but remember they are ephemeral…

© Christina McDonald 2014.

Living Consciously in a Stressful and Chaotic City Centre…

Living in today’s world means living in a way that requires us to be aware of not just ourselves but of other people’s feelings and needs. One of the problems that society is facing today is that nobody has time. Everybody is in a hurry and nobody can wait. The philosophy of ‘me, me me’ is consuming every aspect of being human. Yes, we are all busy and we all have problems, stresses and issues to deal with – who doesn’t? Is there anytime to live when we are all trying so desperately hard to survive?

When you learn to become self-aware, you realise that the world does not simply revolve around you. An awareness of how your thoughts, words and actions affect other people becomes second nature after a while. You begin living life from a different perspective which allows you to interact with the people around you consciously (with awareness). It isn’t as hard as it sounds. Just be considerate and understand that other people (yourself included) matter.

Living in a busy and stressful city centre, it is all too easy to see how the effects of stress can make people act angrily and irrationally. Emotion and tiredness takes over and logical reasoning flies out the window. Before you know it, you see people swearing, criticising others, beeping their horn as loudly as possibly at other car drivers, shouting at contractors for not doing their job properly…I’m sure there are many others instances you can think of. The joys of running in the rat race….

I would rather run in the human race. I don’t know what the difference between the two is sometimes. There is so much anger and hatred in society that it makes me question what motivates people to carry on like that. I am happy in myself but it saddens me to see so many people who are unhappy, stressed and miserable. Life is far too short to be anything but happy. I know it is not so simple sometimes but we can at least smile at others when we are having a bad day….it would be a start.

Friends and family are important, spending good quality time with the people we love is something that matters and none of us do it enough. Lets not forget that we should extend that love and care to the people who surround us. A moment in which we say ‘thank you’ to someone who holds a door open, a smile that brightens a stranger’s day, making cheerful small talk with the cashier in the shop…all these little things give people the incentive to keep going. There is nothing worse than feeling that nobody has the time to care and nothing that makes you despair more.

We can all make time if we really want to. It is the little things that make such a big difference in the end. Make sure the little things are a smile and not a frown….

© Christina McDonald 2014

Learning to Dance…

Life is difficult enough sometimes. It is even harder when you face those difficulties on your own. Sometimes all you want to do is sit down and cry. We have all been there. I think it is a good thing to let it all out. If we don’t, eventually we end up sitting in the Psychiatrist’s office wondering how it all fell apart. keeping it together is a challenge now and then…

Perhaps if we gave ourselves permission to let everything fall apart, we would be surprised at what would happen. Maybe the solutions we need will emerge from the chaos. New beginnings cannot be formed otherwise.

“Out of chaos, comes order”
(Friedrich Nietzsche)

Holding on too much to life (through worry and anxiety) is a way to stop life in its tracks. We are not meant to become so stressed that we lose perspective – and that’s just what stressful reactions to problems can do. Sometimes we need to find a way to remove ourselves from the constant whirring of our minds. People have addictions for those very reasons.

We should never be afraid of feeling out of control. Life has a way of sweeping you off your feet and if you don’t find a way to go with the flow, you end up fighting instead of dancing with life. (What if you don’t know the dance moves? Improvise instead until you work it out!)

Whatever comes your way, no matter how difficult, you will be able to deal with it. Believe you can and you will. The passage of time brings many changes. How we deal with those changes depends on our state of mind. It is all about perspective and seeing life in a positive way. Not to easy to acknowledge (I know) when you’re dwelling in a state of negativity. The trick is not to enter that state in the first place….

The joy of life is found by simply letting go more often. Just stop trying and fretting so much about things that don’t really matter. Everything will be the same in 100 years.

1 – Work out what is causing you stress
2 – Find a logical way to deal with the problem as best you can (even if there is no apparent solution, there is a way to manage the stress involved
3 – Talk about it with someone in confidence

Don’t take it all upon yourself when you don’t have to at all….talk to someone.

We all need somebody….

© Christina McDonald 2014.