Alternative Therapies, Healthy living, Mindfulness, reflection, Well-being

Three Months to 50!

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

In exactly 3 months time I will be turning 50.  I understand now what people mean when they say that life slips by in the blink of an eye.  On the whole, I am very happy with where I find myself on the approach to my 50th birthday.  I’ve experienced all kinds of things during those 50 years, travelled to more places than I’d imagined given my dislike of flying, ticked several things off my bucket list and achieved far more than I’d ever imagined I would.  That’s the great thing about not being a goal setter – any achievement is a bonus!  There is just one thing during those 50 years that hasn’t quite been as tip top as I’d have liked and that has been my health, but I’ve tried really hard not to let it stop me.  As I go beyond this milestone, though, I would quite like to see the end of the niggles and embrace life with vigour and verve.  I quite intend to grow old as disgracefully as I can.

I am a big believer in using alternative remedies and diet to manage health conditions.  Obviously, not in place of allopathic medicine, especially in the case of severe ill-health, but for the every day, not so great niggles I do believe they have their place.  This time last year I was in a position where I struggled to walk for any great period and was in pain for most of the time.  Having had every test known to man the medical profession was none the wiser and popped me off with some painkillers.  During one of the consultations with my GP he asked me what was I doing to manage the situation myself.  I love it when I GP asks this question.  So I reeled off all the things I was doing:  yoga, meditation, walking and he recommended that I keep on doing those things.

Fast forward a year and I have maintained a daily yoga practice.  It is only 10-15 minutes per day, but it is daily.  I have reached the point where I can walk 3-4 miles a few times a week and not be in agony and be able to walk the following day.  I have also maintained a daily meditation practice.  But there is still that last bit of pain.  What I have found interesting is that during periods of lockdown the pain levels have been significantly lower than when I was out of lockdown – when I put my party hat back on and let it all go.  Don’t get me wrong I am significantly better, to the point that I have been able to come off the painkillers and it is a minor inconvenience, but for once, I would just like to know what it feels like to be pain free.  For a whole day.  And if that could be for multiple days then that would be even more amazing.  

So.  I have three months to achieve my goal of pain free living!  Apparently if you believe things hard enough they can happen – thoughts become things.  I have a bit of an outline.  I’m not great with plans, so no point making one of those as I won’t be sticking to it!  But I am going to try my very best to:

  • Not drink alcohol (again).  I’m not very good at this!  I tend to get swept along in the moment, but I am really going to try not to.  I just want to see what happens if I don’t drink for 3 months.  Obviously, this is helped in part by being in lockdown and so socialising at bars isn’t happening at the moment. Will it make any difference to my pain levels?  It may, it may not, but if I don’t try I will never know.
  • Cut out sweet treats.  This is a real killer for me, but added sugar is really quite bad and it is an inflammatory food.  It may be that I treat myself to one cake per week, just to keep me sane, but again, if I don’t cut it out, how do I know if it does or doesn’t impact the pain that I feel.  I have a strategy for this.  Each time I feel the desire to eat something sweet I will get a piece of fruit to eat instead.  I’m not a fan of fruit, so suspect that the majority of times I’ll have nothing!
  • Try to increase my activity levels.  During March I am going to attempt 500 sun salutations and am going to try one or two full length exercise classes per week.  And I will continue with my daily walks.  At the end of the day, it’s not like I am short on time and in general, the more I move, the less I hurt.  It seems to be sitting still that causes the most discomfort.

But I guess the key thing is that I believe it can work.  Husband isn’t really onboard with all the voodoo joo joo to quite the same degree I am, but he understands that I think it works and with many things, that is half of the battle won.  I’m going to try using affirmations.  I’m going to try turning negative thoughts into positive thoughts.  I’m going to try living with an attitude of gratitude.  I’m going to try going into each and every situation with an attitude of love rather than fear.  We’ll see how this all pans out, I may well be mad as a box of frogs, but at the end of the day, I’m willing to give it a try and embrace the idea of pain-free living.  Wouldn’t it be exciting if by my 50th birthday it had actually worked and I could dance the night away with no fear of how I’m going to feel the next day.  

Albufeira, Happiness, Joy, Mindfulness, Reading, Well-being

Where is the joy?

As I have mentioned previously I am doing the Happiness Project Experience this year.  June is the month of Play!  As adults play becomes less acceptable and becomes lost in the detritus of life, but having read around the topic for the past couple of weeks I can see how important it is, and particularly what a difference it makes to me and my engagement with the world.

yellow pink and blue party balloons

This is perfect timing for me.  Many of the books I’ve read on anxiety and how to manage it have focussed on being ‘with’ the anxiety – acknowledge it is there, without judgement and appreciate it is a part of me.  The problem is I have been ‘with’ my anxiety to too great a degree and I have actually been spiralling further into its dark depths.  I’d already started to think that this had to stop and I had to engage with life in a fuller and more light-hearted way.  Although, I have to confess I had no idea how much had been written on this subject and I have well and truly been sucked down a bright, joyful rabbit hole in my desire to learn more!

I pulled a book off my shelf, ‘Living out Loud’ by Keri Smith.  As with all the other books I’ve read it asks the question ‘What did you love to do as a child? What activities allowed you to lose all sense of time and space’?  For me it was make-believe, dolls-houses, Sandy dolls, cars (my mum’s mantel piece made a great multi-storey car park), painting, colouring, making anything with my Grandad and as I got older knitting and sewing.  Quite often the start of a school holiday meant a visit to Bratt & Dykes in Hanley for some fabric and a pattern.

It’s almost as if the cogs of the wheel were lining up to fall into place, to point me in the direction of play and with it, joy. As I flew from Bristol to Portugal I listened to Fearne Cotton interviewing Maisie Williams on her Happy Place Podcast.  Maisie referred to a book ‘Ikigai‘ by Hector Garcia.  I’ve not read the book (yet), but the way she explained it is that there are 4 aspects of life, when they overlap you will be happy.  One of the four – and the one that most resonated with Maisie Williams was to do something that you love every day.  It got me thinking. What do I love to do and how can I fit it in to my everyday life.

Finally I started reading ‘Joyful‘ by Ingrid Fettell Lee.  She has identified 10 ‘aesthetics of joy’.   I’m not yet halfway through the book yet but the things that have stood out for me are:

Abundance:  Not as in having too much of anything, rather, having variety.  One example she gives is that of a small child who chooses their own outfit – spots, stripes, bright wellies on a sunny day – you get the idea!  An example of my own is a day on the beach – the sand, the sea, the umbrellas, the people laughing, people in the sea, boats, the waves, the people on the bouncy inflatables – there is always something happening that involves most of your senses at that time and provides multiple reasons to laugh out loud.  I could spend hours just sitting watching the world go by.

One aspect of Abundance I found interesting was the relationship with food.  More often than not, when you turn to food it is because your brain is lacking stimulation.  I have decided to use this approach with online games – I know when I am playing them it’s because I’m bored and I also tend to start snacking at the same time.  So I’ve started to put the tablet down and to pick something up that I know will bring me joy – make a cup of tea, read a book, do some crochet, make something – something that I really will lose myself in.

colorful umbrellas
Photo by Katelyn on Pexels.com

Colour:  I used to love colour – in everything.  Most of my clothes were those taste-transplant clothes that you see in the shops that no one in their right mind would buy!  It was me – I bought them!  Somewhere, when my need to fit in was at it’s peak, the colour seeped out of me and I became Mrs Navy & White.  Colour changes everything, in your wardrobe and your home.  The current trend is for muted tones in homes, and it would be fair to say that I haven’t quite mastered that one!   Our home is mis-matched at best, but since we recently downsized, everything we do have provides us with joy.

Play:  Play means different things for different people.  Some things that people love to do, I really don’t enjoy, but likewise there are things I love to do that other people don’t.  I’m not a fan of big dinner parties, but I love eating out with small groups of friends.  I love playing in orchestras and bands, but hate playing solos.  When I look back to my childhood it didn’t really matter to me if I was on my own or in a group – it was the activity I was involved in that was the cause of joy – that allowed me to lose myself in the moment.  Play is increasingly being identified as something that people need – sadly it would appear that the age at which children stop playing, or believe that it is in appropriate, is getting younger and younger as the pressure to achieve academically is increasing.

So, how can I introduce more play, more joy into my life?
I’ve started by posting on instagram one thing each day that brings joy into my life.  Despite all the evidence to the contrary – things can bring joy.  Marie Kondo is on to something here!  Where it goes pear shaped is when you start to buy things for the sake of buying, for the gratification you get from buying it (generally, short-lived) rather than the joy it brings in the long term.  Equally, you can get joy from the world around you – the one thing that brings me joy more than anything is looking at the stars at night.  This is having the knock-on effect of encouraging me to look around me – what are those things that bring me joy – so I am engaging more with the world and people I’m with.

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I’ve started to listen to music every day.  As the song says, “Music was my first love”.  When I worked I got ready to the radio every morning, had the radio on in the car to and from work and generally listened to music far more than I do now.  So I’m making a point of listening to music every day, trying new music, singing along to old classics, even throwing in the odd move or two.

I’m trying to bring more colour into my life!  I’m trying to move away from the navy and white, by adding in little additional bits of colour with scarves, ear-rings and bold coloured shoes or bags.

I’m trying to make something every day.  I love making things.  I spot things all the time in shops that I think I could make just as well.  This month I am having a go, rather than just thinking the thought.  I’m practicing calligraphy; I want to learn how to copy dress patterns from the Portuguese pattern books; I’ve seen some key-rings that I thing I could copy, make and leave as gifts for people stopping at our apartment this summer; I have some beautiful fabric that I brought in Seville that I’d like to make into a dress.

I’ve realised that I love yoga.  Play can mean anything to different people, as can exercise.  For me, yoga and exercise counts as play, it’s something that I do and that I love.  I don’t consider it a chore, but a key part of the day and something that brings me joy – I’m not particularly good at it, but I really do love it and embrace it with gusto!

Obviously, I’m still drinking cups of tea!  Nothing brings joy quite like a nice cup of tea!

I have to say, that after only 2 weeks it has made a difference to the way I feel.  Rather than continually looking in, I am looking outward and seeing the joy in the world.  I am looking for opportunities add joy and play to my days and I have to say I am enjoying myself!  For the first time in a long time, I can honestly say I am enjoying myself!

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