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.

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

Emotion, Stress and Appetite – how to crave less and eat more.

If we are stressed, busy and under pressure, eating a healthy diet is an imperative. Not so easy as I have discovered recently. If I have a lot to do and my ‘to-do’ list is on my mind more than eating, I will start skipping meals. Then, I will end up snacking on things that are doing me no good.

Quick sugar fixes and caffine usually comes into play with me. I then wonder by 10.30am why I am ravenous. If you are used to ‘running on empty’, I would hold stress and anxiety as a possible culprit.

I always find if I am dealing with more stess than usual and a busy diary, I find my appetite suffers tremendously. The urge to eat disappears completely. Of course, if your stomach is tied up in emotional knots, eating will be near impossible.

Prioritise your stress load:

We all have a lot of stuff to do. It may not be as important as other things on the daily grind list so prioritising is a must. If too many things mount up, we become unable to deal with anything productively.

So we are not overwhelmed with stress and start forgetting to do really important things (like eating), we need to ensure we are on top of things. Get a pen, get the diary and organise yourself properly so you can plan your daily tasks before you feel yourself becoming swept away by them!

Stay away from convenient comfort food:

It is so tempting to eat food that is emotionally satisfying and not nutritiously good for you. Ready meals are a curse for this. Full of sugar, fat and filled to the brim with emotional comfort. If we are emotional, anxious or stressed, we will not think in a way that benefits are physiological wellbeing. Sugar rushes are not what you are craving in fact.

You probably need some carbs! The body knows what it needs and while we are right to follow our instincts when it comes to food, always ensure you are following your intuition when choosing what to eat. Cravings can lead you astray if you are not sure what it is your really need. The answers – know EXACTLY what your body is craving.

Avoid emotional eating:

How many food purchases are based on emotional eating? Loads. I remember when I left home how many ulster fries I would eat out and make at home when I was a student. Why? Simple really. My mum used to make it for the whole family every sunday and it was amazing. They tasted so good! I couldn’t wait for Sunday every week.

I don’t think I could remember feeling so much satisfaction and pleasure from food in such a way. When there was no more left, it was the worst thing ever! Crispy bacon, pancakes, fried bread and maple syrup…the worst food that could go in me and I was a glutton for more!

The key: Not allowing yourself to suffer excess stress will enable your body to respond properly to what it needs.

© Christina McDonald 2014

Workin’ 9-5….the only way to make a living?

It seems the majority of the population in the UK are working increasingly longer hours to pay the bills. According to a recent daily mail article, more than 4 million UK employees are now working at least 48 hours a week to make ends meet. That doesn’t sound like a workforce with any choice at all.

God help us if we catch the cold or flu these days. We trudge into the office relentlessly against all the odds. We stress out over the fact that we could have our hours cut back drastically or lose a promotion if we don’t show some kind of willing incentive. All this, despite being at death’s door.

Perhaps the stress of being ill is surpassed by lying in bed at home and knowing as a manager that things aren’t getting done properly at work.It is more reassuring to go in. It’s a catch 22 really. We work long hours to make ends meet. Then, we become ill, exhausted, run down and eventually sick and unable to continue working.

Increasing creative productivity and effective time management would be the key. Are we realising an employee’s potential contribution to a company or are we just filing them away under ‘drone’?

Is it really necessary to work long hours to the point of exhaustion? Surely there are ways to change our daily working routine? Perhaps in a way that would actually ease a stressful workload and complement our creative and logical abilities?

In addition to this, another article published in the telgraph outlines the pressure parents are now feeling in relation to work – parents feel they are now risking their career success and being subsequently undervalued in the workplace and childless professionals are forced to work longer hours in their stead when they take maternity/patnernity leave.

The mere fact that there seems to be flexible priority for one group of individuals (mums and dads to be) seems to create resentment that other members of the workforce have to work harder to cover for them.

Hardly fair for the childless workforce amongst us. They have chosen not to have children but seem to be unfairly penalised with a heavier workload in favour for those who have made their own choice to have children.

Perhaps if flexible working solutions were applied to the workforce as a whole, employee’s would be happier feeling that their productivity and free time was respected – not consequently of a default in which choice isn’t a factor.

Freedom to choose means no one can lose….

Time to think outside the ‘inbox’ somehow!

© Christina McDonald 2014

Understanding love….it’s a mystery?

Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and my mood is blue…..

Valentine’s day. I’m sorry to say it, but I’m not a fan. I am neither cynical about love. I do have some issues though.  Heaven help us. It’s here again and every single year, the same thing. The same pressure, the same feelings of obligation to our partner. Another mini Christmas. Over in a flash, leaving a whirlwind of chaos in credit card bills and hangovers. I overheard a woman in a shop today while I was browsing on my day off saying something I can’t seem to forget. She seemed a little bit lost and confused as she was browsing through an impressive collection of gifts themed for the occassion. When the eager and very happy to please assistant asked if she could help at all, the woman said she needed a gift (obviously).

She was torn between one which was more reasonably priced and another that was more expensive. In the end, she chose to pay more as she said she had just recently got married and she has to make an effort. She wasn’t joking.Those words send a chill down my spine. Making an effort? Is love really an effort? Is it so trying and tiring to love someone? This person didn’t seem as if she was happy. Married for the sake of being married perhaps. Pressured into it maybe? It was the ‘right thing to do’  somehow or ‘it was the right time?’ These unwritten rules also seem to bend towards doing the ‘right thing.’ Or perhaps what is acceptable to society as whole. A sense of obligation was more than apparent. Questions were simply tumbling through my mind as to how she felt about the mystery we all call love.

I can never see the point or the real meaning of celebrating the encompassing beauty of love in one day. It’s totality and wholeness is not simply confined to buying a gift on one day of the year to the one person who are supposed to love and cherish. Take the words ‘supposed to’ out of the equation. What are we left with? A hell of a lot of insecurity. Without ‘having to’ do something, would we actually do it? I suspect many of us are living a little bit of a lie when it comes to love. Like children, if we are not chastised by our parents (society), would we be badly behaved? Perhaps, given the freedom to choose, we may act in ways that surprise ourselves and others.

That is too scary to acknoweldge. Freedom? You mean – it’s OK not to all do the same thing all at once like sheep? There is no joy in acting out of obligation – unless you like experiencing the feelings of resentment. If you genuinely want to do it, that’s awesome. Don’t split up, don’t file for divorce. Don’t get married, don’t stay single. Don’t have kids, do have kids. If the do’s and don’ts aren’t your voice and someone else’s, you shouldn’t even be listening. Don’t live a version of a life that isn’t really yours.

I am a cheerleader for love of course (whatever love is). Always have been. As long as you mean it…and as long as you really feel it.  But how do you know when it is love? Now that question will keep me typing all day…..you just know.

My verdict in regards to the mystery woman in the shop- very strange indeed. Perhaps not so strange if we understand the subtle pressure of obligation we live under. Nothing will sap the joy out of you so much.

Be happy.

© Christina McDonald 2014