11 causes of anxiety – an unavoidable part of life on planet Earth!

How is it possible to be alive on planet Earth and not experience anxiety? This is a question I have pondered over and again because it seems that the most common human condition of the modern age is… anxiety.

I have considered all of the people I associate with, many of whom are technically doing fairly well in life, and without obvious emotional issues – and they all experience anxiety to one degree or another. I experience anxiety on a daily basis, though someone recently expressed great surprise when I said as much: “what… you? I didn’t have you pegged as a person who suffers from anxiety!”. Their choice of the word ‘suffers’ interested me, but also irritated me! Is there an assumption that people who appear to be generally strong and resilient are immune to anxiety… that it is the exclusive domain of those who are openly struggling, and for obvious reasons? That the strong and resilient somehow have it easier; that they don’t have the right to experience anxiety?

Putting aside those people who have a clinical condition, I believe that for the rest of us anxiety is relative. A teenager will worry about different issues than those faced by an elderly person. A young mother will have certain pressures to face that will differ from those experienced by a middle-aged business woman. We are all affected, influenced and programmed by our childhood. Like many others, my early to teen years were pretty dysfunctional, and although I don’t drag it around with me like a ball and chain, it can’t have failed to have left its mark. On top of this (and maybe at least partially because of my past) I put myself through some ridiculous crap over the years, leaving myself with memories I’d prefer to forget, and a residue of underlying unease. And I don’t believe that I am any different to the billions of other human beings in the world who are living, loving and functioning… whilst being completely resigned to the inevitable anxiety that is a part of everyday life on planet Earth!

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So, let’s take a look at some of the causes of anxiety in the western world:

(as opposed to war-torn zones and/or repressive regimes in which people are surviving under obviously stressful conditions)

1) Inherited anxiety:

We were born into a family that habitually struggles, or focuses more on lack and hardship than on hope for the future. Happiness isn’t an automatic process; some poor young souls are never allowed, or taught, to be happy… and a habitually unhappy mind is an anxious mind.

2) Natural Sensitivity:

We are exceptionally sensitive to the world around us. I remember, as a child, crying over so many things, including the other kids digging ants out of the cracks in the paving stones with lollipop sticks, and then stamping on them; Disney films (especially the animals in the forest crying when they thought that Snow White had died, and when Bambi’s mother was killed!); any film in which an animal suffered, was lost or died (including the 10 Commandments, in which horses were drowned when Moses held his staff aloft, and God parted the Red Sea!); public disasters in which people died (I was devastated at the age of 10 when Robert Kennedy was shot, even though I didn’t really know who he was. The images of him with his family and the public outpouring of grief hit me like a punch to the heart… I just knew that something really bad had happened. My 10-year-old friends didn’t care a jot and thought I was crazy!); racial prejudice and vivisection (this was when I was a teenager). I didn’t associate with anyone who appeared to be affected in the same way that I was, and so I learned to keep it to myself, grieving in private.

3) Low self-worth:

We have a strong sense of low self-worth that probably has its roots in our childhood. We don’t believe that we are good enough, smart enough, attractive enough or interesting enough. This leads us into experiences that only serve to confirm our unworthiness… which in turn attracts criticism from onlookers who can’t understand why we are doing what we are doing… which in turn leads us to shut down and defend ourselves, believing that the rest of the world has it all sorted out.

4) Inertia:

We don’t have the will to work hard for a dream, immobilised by inertia; the people around us are scraping by, always complaining about life’s injustices and restrictions, always willing to rain on someone else’s parade. We either don’t know how to get out from underneath the deadweight or we are afraid to… scared of being ‘different’. We tell ourselves that we are depressed – and we are, but not in the accepted sense; we are DEEP-pressed, pushed down into the swamp of hopelessness, and what we probably need is inspiration, hope, and something to aspire too – not necessarily anti-depressants.

5) Social awkwardness:

We feel awkward and inept, socially speaking, and so avoid too much contact with the outside world, living within the same old bubble, following the same old routine.

6) Hypersensitivity:

We are hypersensitive to criticism and confrontation, taking everything personally. I used to know a lovely lady who was consistently having ‘issues’ with other people, and I would listen to her tales, responding with indignation and sympathy… until I saw her in action! There was a local public event that we both attended, and at one point she was engaged in conversation with a woman she often complained about, but whom I had never met. Some time later the woman was chatting with me, with my friend hovering in the background doing her best to listen in – and when I moved on, she grabbed my arm, hissing, “do you see what I mean about her? She’s a real piece of work, isn’t she?”. I had to say that no, I hadn’t picked up that vibe at all, and I began to wonder about all of the other ‘unreasonable’ individuals my friend seemed to encounter… and whether or not she was maybe taking some things a little too much to heart.

7) Awareness:

If we keep even half an eye on world events we are aware that every second of every day, somewhere on the planet, someone is inflicting something horrendous upon another human being or animal… and that we ourselves are largely helpless to do anything about it. We are also aware that random bad luck appears to suddenly and unexpectedly descend upon completely innocent individuals, and we cannot help but identify with them. I defy anyone to be able to live an anxiety-free life whilst in possession of a conscience and empathy and not living in an airtight bubble!

8) Survival mentality:

We have become programmed to survive life, rather than embrace and develop it. There could be many reasons for this, some of which will be thriving within the depths of our unconscious mind. We view everything as a potential threat to ourselves or our loved ones, and we are on constant guard-duty, batoning down the same hatches, again and again.

9) Fear of loss:

If we allow ourselves to love someone, they could leave us or die. We might crave being part of a loving relationship, but the moment that we are the anxiety kicks in. They might cheat on us or leave us; we aren’t good enough to keep them; we need more reassurance than they are able or willing to supply, and this leaves us feeling raw, insecure and stuck in a loop.

10) Fear of change:

No matter how uncomfortable the known and familiar is, it can feel a million times better than the ‘unknown’. However, this leaves us stuck between two stools, metaphorically speaking. The known is hurting us and holding us prisoner, whilst the unknown looms like a deep, dark ocean we really don’t want to have to navigate… and so we remain trapped, with a misery-inducing cell-mate called anxiety breathing down our neck.

11) Death (our own and other people’s):

We are all anxious about death, even those who claim to have no fear of it. It is the one thing we cannot possibly avoid, an unknown quantity we know for sure we will have to face up to one day, and probably several times throughout a lifetime. If it isn’t a fear of the act of dying itself, it is a fear of loss and abandonment, of wasted time, of too little time… of having lived an unfulfilled life. Can you imagine how different the world would be if we had no fear of death? Terrorism and intimidation would lose its power, as would illness and disease. We’d be braver, more adventurous… and so much happier. Of course, we are never actually going to lose our fear of death, but I am just saying – imagine how life would change if we did! I actively encourage others, wherever appropriate, to explore what they believe to be true about death, how it ties in with life, and what, if anything, they believe they are likely to experience beyond this physical world. Floating around in the sky, looking down on my still-living relatives, doesn’t cut any ice with me… I’d rather have oblivion!

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Anxiety home-truths!

There is something else I’d like to add, on the subject of anxiety… something that may very well make me unpopular! Anxiety is sometimes hijacked by the lazy, inept and self-entitled, as a ‘reason’ for their unwillingness to accept personal responsibility and get off their backside. It is also sometimes presented, in a conspiratorial tone, as a condition that is unique to the ‘sufferer’… and upon their confession, we are all supposed to throw up our hands in shock and pour pity upon them… as if no-one we know has ever been crushed by the weight of anxiety! I understand that some celebs feel that, by revealing the fact that they are as human as the rest of us, they are helping their followers to recognise that anxiety is not restricted to mere mortals. And in many cases they are helping.

However, anxiety now appears to have gained celebrity status all in its own right, which cannot possibly be a good thing – and the hijackers are only serving to turn people off to the subject, tired of hearing about it at every turn. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all brand of anxiety, and at different times we will be affected by different things… which need to be explored and understood.

I myself am anxious about some things that are always the same, and other things that come and go. I experience anxiety through my work and dealings with certain customers; I experience anxiety about my family, relationship and pets; I experience anxiety about my hopes and dreams, my finances, health and fitness, and how other people respond to me. I definitely regularly experience a great deal of anxiety where the world is concerned, and not even just anxiety; grief, fear, and rage are familiar companions! I don’t really want to switch off from the world, living in a bubble, pretending that everything is hunky-dory, but I do have to make a conscious effort to prevent it from taking over, every now and then.

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Oh… and I really worry about Formula 1: after every Grand Prix I am drained and exhausted, as if I have driven the race myself! I am anxious not just about the results and the points, but the drivers and the teams, the highs and the lows, the failures and the victories. I worry for Claire Williams and hope to God that the team’s drivers aren’t throwing their careers away. I worry that Carlos Sainz may be in a precarious position if McLaren don’t have a consistently better car this year; I worry that Esteban Ocon won’t be offered a seat with a team worthy of his skills next year, if Valtteri Bottas proves to be someone Mercedes really want to keep for 2020 (and I also worry that he won’t be, because what would happen to him then… where could he possibly go, that wouldn’t be a major step backward? Sigh).

The fact is, life on Earth is an amazing, wonderful and breathtaking experience, not to mention miraculous; it is also consistently anxiety-inducing for every last one of us, at different times, for different reasons, and to one degree or another.

Some people have stronger pain-barriers than others and can appear to be functioning in a ‘normal’ way, even when they have their own internal and external struggles going on. I believe that it is absolutely non-productive, destructive even, to fail to recognise that anxiety is a natural human condition, with many different components… and that it is actually okay to be anxious: life isn’t wrong or bad if we don’t feel continuously emotionally safe and reassured. Modern society has forcefully been selling us all (especially the younger generation) a myth: that everyone around us is doing great in life, coping beautifully, and with nothing much at all to be anxious about – apart from us and our tribe. Which both you and I know is absolutely not true!

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“When will my life get better?” Are you a victim of being a victim? Here’s how you can change it!

No-one wants to admit to thinking and living like a victim. And as victim mentality is one of those super sensitive subjects that have the capacity to elicit an immediate and highly defensive response, I am aware that I may be treading on very thin ice with this blog.

However, it is something that I feel very passionate about because I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of people who have reduced their own lives (and those of their nearest and dearest) to miserable rubble, as a result of focusing on what they have ‘been through’. I am not, for one second, suggesting that there is no such thing as victimhood; absolutely not, that would be ridiculous. However, it is actually possible to be a victim, without being a victim… if you understand what I mean.

So, what does thinking, feeling and behaving like a victim entail?

It requires us to consistently focus on the past, and the ways in which we, or those close to us, were hurt or let down.

It requires us to feel cheated out of the life we should have had, had it not been stolen away from us, either by certain individuals, or life in general.

It requires us to continue to tell ourselves, and others, the story of a difficult life, listing all of the reasons we cannot let go of the past and move forward. We might say with our mouth that we do not see ourselves as a victim, whilst our most consistent story suggests otherwise.

It requires us to generalise and exaggerate: everyone has let me down; all men/women are liars; you can’t trust anyone; I support everyone, but no-one is ever there for me; I have tried everything, but nothing changes… and so on.

It requires us to continue to blame certain individuals for our ongoing unhappiness, and our unwillingness to trust again.

It requires us to join forces with others who also have tales of disappointment and betrayal to tell, adding extra weight to our beliefs.

It requires us to respond in a passive-aggressive way to those who ‘don’t understand’ our situation.

It requires us to respond with a ‘yes-but’ to well-meant suggestions or encouragement.

It requires us to pay attention to those things that align with our beliefs, and be oblivious or dismissive of those things that don’t.

It requires us to focus more on survival than growth and to settle for less than we actually and ideally would rather aspire to.

It requires us to give up too often, and too soon.

It requires us to have a limited repertoire, consistently responding in the same old way to different situations.

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What are some of the situations that can lead to a victim mentality?  

Childhood. The most common causes of bitterness I have come across are parental abandonment, present but unsupportive parents, abuse of one parent by the other, a sibling being more loved and favoured by either or both parents.

Ongoing exposure to excessive negativity in our formative years.

Unresolved or unacknowledged bullying at school.

Dysfunctional romantic relationships.

Poor life choices, and repeated patterns.

Unwillingness to accept personal, emotional responsibility.

WHY should we change it?

Because our happier, more fulfilled future depends upon us doing so… and if we don’t change it, no-one else will (or can).

For the sake of our loved ones, especially our children. The offspring of habitual emotional victims are more likely to unconsciously follow suit than not, unless they are exceptionally strong-willed, independent thinkers.

For the sake of our physical health, not just our mental health. There is plenty of solid evidence to suggest that our brain and body are in constant communication with one another, and that, to one degree or another, our body is influenced by, and responds to, what it is most consistently exposed to.

For the sake of the human race! Think of it like this: if two people spend a whole day together, and one of them is an absolute misery guts, the other is going to finish up feeling drained and negative, no matter how upbeat they usually are. We are all living in each other’s energetic backwash, whether we are aware or not… and we are all contributing to the ‘collective energy field’!

Because, unless we have a serious, clinical condition that is largely beyond our control, we CAN change it! And because there is no logical reason for not changing it. I have asked literally hundreds of people exactly what it is they want from life, and 99% responded with, “happiness”. If that is true (and many books and articles I have read on the subject suggest that, no matter where people are on the planet, the answer would be exactly the same), then why continue to remain in the limbo state of victimhood?

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HOW do we change it?

Firstly, by being absolutely honest with ourselves about the painful beliefs and the feelings of bitterness we are harbouring… and making a commitment to healing them.

By acknowledging exactly who or what it is we feel has wounded us, so that our ‘enemy’ becomes a known quantity, rather than a vague, undefined wound in our heart and mind.

By challenging our own story, and picking it to pieces; it may not all be completely true, and we might have edited it somewhat, over the years.

By asking ourselves if we genuinely were helpless and powerless, and at the mercy of what others, or life, threw at us? Could we have made different choices, responded in a different way… made different decisions? Can we do that right now, from this second onward? And if we see that, yes, we were a victim at some point in the past (for example, as a child I had no control over the way in which my parents behaved, and the actions they took, and I had no control over the dark way in which my ex-husband perceived life, and how he responded to those perceptions) – do we have to remain stuck in that place and time… reliving the experience and keeping it alive?

By accepting personal responsibility for our own choices, and asking ourselves what we believe we are entitled to; we might have intended to spend the rest of our lives with the one we believed loved us, but who then unceremoniously dumped us – but it doesn’t have to define the rest of our life. It hurts like hell, and we have to grieve… but do we really need to become bitter? Bitterness suggests that we are entitled to have things go the way we want them to, and that there is a right way and a wrong way… and that we have been unfairly cheated out of the right way. Life is not always just and fair, and sometimes people can’t or won’t be the way they ideally should be. But today is always built upon yesterday, and tomorrow will always be built upon today. If we make today cleaner and stronger than yesterday, then tomorrow can be something worth waking up to!

By growing a tasty carrot to dangle at the end of our stick – giving ourselves something to look forward to! The past is a still frame of a garden now permanently in the shade, and in which nothing new can possibly grow; the future is fertile ground upon which the sun and rain will pour down, and in which we can plant absolutely anything we want. If we have nothing to move towards, we will probably continue to look over our shoulder.

By becoming consciously aware of our inner and outer dialogue, and quitting the non-productive talk! By monitoring where our thoughts habitually take us, interrupting the old patterns again and again (100 times a day if necessary!), until we have evidence that we have actually reprogrammed our mindset.

By becoming positively proactive, even if we are only taking baby steps: no waiting until we ‘feel better’ to begin; no making excuses; no living on autopilot; no wasting time on negative stuff on the internet; no crumbling the moment the process becomes uncomfortable or doesn’t deliver immediate results!

By remembering that we only have this lifetime once, and asking ourselves if we are really willing to allow it to become a watered down version of a potentially great overall experience?

By recognising that, if we are going to negatively compare our life to other people’s, we have to do it both ways: there are millions who are better off than us, and millions who are far, far worse off than us!

By genuinely lightening up, having fun, learning something new, and having a new experience or two…  which doesn’t have to cost much! And by associating ourselves with positive people who have something productive to say, even if they are on YouTube or suchlike! There is a whole new world to explore out there, emotionally speaking… and to answer the question that is the title of this blog: when you decide to get better! 

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Our favourite songs recall the stories of our life – as they lift and heal our spirit!

My most effective way of getting myself back on track (well, my own personal version of being on track) is to become absorbed – consumed, even – by my favourite songs; today I had a glorious sounds fest, which began with me adding some beloved but forgotten old tracks to my phone music, blasting them through my headphones as I walked with the dog around the woods and along the beach… and I just couldn’t resist singing along, (I did at least attempt to keep it more to a whisper than a shriek). This afternoon I really needed to do a food shop, as we were down to a few fish fingers and half a pack of bacon… so I plugged my headphones in, selected ‘faves’, turned up the volume, and grabbed a trolley. I was aware of other people bustling around, whilst at the same time feeling as if I was in a delicious musical cocoon… there in body, but not in spirit. I admit to ‘shuffling’ a little, in time with the various beats, and even nodding along… but you see, it is now perfectly okay for me to be a bit of a crazy old bat in other people’s eyes… and to be honest, I don’t really care anyway! The drive home was blissful, as I vocally murdered one gorgeous song after another, at the top of my voice – happily completely alone. Because you can only do this stuff when you are on your own, which is maybe at least a part of the attraction: no-one asking you to turn it down, or complaining about your choice of song, or getting in a huff because you aren’t talking to them. I don’t get to indulge in this every day, but when I do, I overdose, leading me to feel gloriously high. I suppose it is pure escapism…

For some reason, I have very recently revisited a love of ELO, and their tracks have rather nicely been scratching a few little itches. I am sharing, at the bottom of this blog, a link to a video of Jeff Lynne performing Evil Woman, live at Wembley… and I absolutely defy you not to feel great, as you expose yourself to the amazing energy of the music, and and to the joy of the mostly middle-aged audience, as they enthusiastically dance and sing along, smiling from ear to ear! You cannot possibly beat it, this amazing relationship that we human beings have with music… it is positively life affirming and healing.

Music is rather like a photo album of our life, bringing back memories, and book-marking certain times and events from our personal history. I listened to ‘Can You Feel The Force’ (the Real Thing), and ‘Play That Funky Music’ (Wild Cherry), and was immediately transported back to dancing until the early hours, in a 1970’s Manchester night club; I played the Jackson’s ‘The Love You Save’, and ‘Blame It On The Boogie’, and experienced a wave of sadness at the way in which Michael’s life ended… but decided instead to joyfully celebrate the beauty and creative energy of his existence, smiling at the  memory of the enthusiastic video for Blame It On The Boogie. No medicine could be better. I floated through ‘Holding Back The Years’ (Simply Red), and the atmosphere of the 1980’s, a decade I loved, flooded my senses… where the hell has time gone?

I remember driving home late one evening, and Jimi Hendrix’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ came on the radio… and I was suddenly at a motorbike rally, with the stars shining down over a field full of mostly middle-aged party animals, drinking and laughing until the sun comes up, to a soundtrack of rock music and generators, accompanied by the smell of oil, leather and hot metal… ah, nectar of the gods!

And of course, music shares the most important moments of our lives; we walk down the aisle to a song that is personally meaningful to us, and our coffin is often accompanied by a musical statement piece! I remember being very much in labour with my son, my first child, and the hospital radio was playing Burning Beds (very apt, as I was lying in a tangled mess of sheets, on a very hot ward!). I could go on and on, as I am sure you could too, if you set about the task of listing every piece of music that has been a meaningful part of your personal history. My children have developed eclectic musical tastes, I am so happy to say, and my daughters look fondly upon the Eagles, understanding that they helped me through some very tough times in my life; and of course, they have their own go-to artists/tracks, for times of tears and of comfort.

Like every generation, mine tends to believe that our music was better… but you know, it bloody well was! There was a rawness, an imperfection – an un-tweaked, honest sound. The skinny, long haired, uneven-toothed Paul Rodgers was a delicious sight to behold, and even more satisfying to listen to; nowadays, he continues to be an amazing artist, but he is more physically polished, having developed quite a few muscles! I still love to see those old videos, though, with Mr Snakehips doing his stuff (sigh).

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Too many people are too caught up in everyday life, in the pursuit of security, to remember to seriously revisit their favourite tunes every now and then. It is even deemed to be immature to do so, something that is okay for the young, but not for grown ups who have more important things to attend to. Well, I am sorry, but if I ever become too old to lose myself in the colour and energy and emotion of the vibration that is music, dig a hole and push me into it. If I ever reach a point at which I no longer feel compelled to jiggle joyfully around the room, no matter how slowly I have to do it, I will have already died inside. Music has a life force all of its own, which drawers us in and heals us, tenderly reminding us that the life we have lived has been real and true… and kept alive by songs that will never be forgotten.

Anyway, I promised to share the Jeff Lynne/ELO – Evil Woman link, but I am also going to give you another treat! When I first heard Paul Carrack and Eric Clapton performing ‘How Long’, I fell in immediate love, especially with Eric’s second guitar solo… and the only way I can describe it is akin to having warm honey poured all over me! And even if they absolutely aren’t your thing (as much as I say I love music, I was never too keen on extreme punk, and I don’t enjoy screamo, so not every style is for us), they might remind you of some long forgotten tune you used to love, and would get a buzz from revisiting. Don’t allow ‘real’ life to keep you away from the magical, childlike world of your musical imagination, too often!

 

Stretch yourself daily – for long-term flexibility and freedom of movement!

I used to launch myself into an exercise session without a single second of warming up… but that was before I knew better!

Impatience was generally behind my lack of wisdom, but it never really paid off. And if kick boxing has taught me anything, it is that there is definitely no room for impatience where fitness and skill is concerned; it also reminded me of something Anthony Robbins has repeatedly expressed: repetition (and practice) is the key to mastery (which obviously applies to every aspect of life, not just martial arts).

But, what if you are not really interested in investing major time and energy into a fitness programme – can you still benefit from warm up stretches? Absolutely! And even if you have to start in small ways, due to health restrictions, it doesn’t matter; a small, consistently repeated movement will develop into something a little more ambitious… and that will develop into something more ambitious than that!

Why did I decide to begin kick boxing training at the age of 60, and 28 lbs overweight? Well, firstly, because I witnessed the grading sessions, and fell in love with the positive vibes generated by the students and instructors; secondly, it was because I don’t want to slide downhill into old age, physically limited by stiffness, aches and pains (which I was already experiencing) – I intend to be a thoroughly fit and strong 70 year old! But putting technique and belts to one side, the stretching we do at the start of each class has really helped me to feel looser and more flexible, and I began to recognise just how important it is to all of us, to make stretching a daily habit.

And, if we are going to say that we ‘don’t have time to stretch’, we are wrong! Whilst watching television, we can stretch our legs out in front; we can rotate our feet, and then point our toes upwards, pulling them back toward us (as long as we don’t have a health condition that would be exacerbated by such movements; if in doubt, always consult your doctor). Whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, we can stretch in any number of ways, such as: reaching up toward the ceiling for a few seconds; making circles with our arms; going up on tip toes and back down again; balancing on one leg (holding onto the table/worktop if necessary!). Also, when in bed, we can stretch our entire body for a few seconds, and then completely relax it… it can really help us to release tension we might not even realise we are holding on to!

I believe that it is important to vary our movements, as we get older, and not just follow the same routine. I have heard a lot of people say, “I don’t need to do any exercise, because I walk a lot”, and whilst walking is fantastic (I love it, and do it almost every day), we can definitely benefit from a bit of a daily warm up!

I have included two YouTube videos you might find helpful; the first is for general warm up, the second is a martial arts warm up (though certain stretches are demonstrated in both videos). So, stretch your way to greater flexibility and freedom of movement, regardless of current fitness and age!

 

 

5 ‘rules’ of visualisation – a powerful tool, when WE are ready to use it!

If we are always going to be thinking something, and creating pictures/images in our mind, it is probably a good idea to have some kind of say over the content… after all, we all know how easy it is for our mind to behave as if it has a will of its own, completely independent of us!

So, if we regularly engage in conscious, aspirational thinking and imagery, we are surely helping ourselves to feel more hopeful about our future, and more inspired by our life in general? A much admired television personality has expressed the view that it is wrong to encourage people to believe that they can change their lives by indulging in visualisation techniques, but I think that that might have more to do with his personal beliefs, than concern for others. Having said that, I can see (and have seen), how disheartening it can be for those who are desperate to create or attract something they so badly want and need… only to find that no matter how many affirmations they chant, no matter how often they visualise, nothing much changes at all: from that point of view, I can understand where he is coming from.

The question is, is the answer to “does visualisation work?”, a black and white, all-or-nothing, yes or no response? Absolutely not… but there are productive and non-productive ways to go about it (is my opinion!), and little ‘rules’ that can benefit us, if we understand and follow them.

I first began practising visualisation, in a hugely unpolished way, around 35 years ago. I read about it in a newspaper article, and jubilantly thought, “at last, here is that magic wand I have long been seeking, that is going to quickly and easily transform my life!”.

Fast forward, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years… and I am still skint, still slogging away, still waiting for the big break. I had, throughout that time period, been very lucky in many ways; some good soul would always pop up to bail me out, just as I was just about to go over the edge (which was often), but I never managed to get beyond the point of survival. Every now then, motivated by desperation, I would return to attempting to visualise more money (which I believed would solve everything), only to find that things tended to become worse! I remember travelling on the train, heading out to attend a booking for a group of customers, with all of the money I possessed in the whole world (less than £5) in my purse… which was placed inside my wide open handbag, on the seat next to me. As the train pulled in to the station, I went to pick up my bag, only to realise that my purse was not there! I panicked, and, becoming tearful, cried out, ‘my purse has gone! What am I going to do?’. I still had to take a bus to the customers’ house, but now had no money for the fare! A fellow passenger informed me that a young man had walked past my seat, whilst I was looking out of the window, reached down, and ‘grabbed something’… what? NOW you tell me? I cannot remember what happened after that, but somehow I did manage to keep the appointment, and return home with a small but well-earned amount of cash in my purse (pushed to the bottom of my now closed handbag, nestled safely in my lap), but also with a familiar, deep-seated, sick feeling of defeat. If you had asked me, at that moment in time, whether or not I believed that visualisation ‘worked’, I would probably have said, “not for me, it doesn’t. For the lucky ones, for the chosen few, maybe… but for me, hell no!”

Fast forward to about 6 months ago. One afternoon I picked up and opened my purse, and was struck by a sudden jolt of deja vu… as I realised that what I was seeing with my eyes was exactly what I had been picturing in my mind, over a long period of time… and I was blown away! No, the magic fairy hadn’t paid a secret visit overnight, depositing a chunk of cash into my purse; the money had recently come from a completely unexpected source, but I was only just putting the dots together. Not millions, for sure, but more than I had before, and a very welcome and useful addition. I had repeatedly been picturing images in my mind, of a purse plump with money, and healthy looking bank and Paypal accounts… and here it was now, manifest! Oh, I had a little wobble, a sudden wave of fear (am I worthy of this??), but I quickly and consciously jumped on it from a great height, expressing immediate and immense gratitude to the great, creative force of life (call it God, the Universe, or whatever else sits well with you), and the individuals who had played their part – and I will continue to do so, every single day. I also realised that it was up to me to capitalise on this gain, to use it to create further abundance in my life – to keep the energy of positive manifestation flowing, rather than just depositing and drying up!

So… what changed? Me – that’s what. My early attempts at visualisation were dry, without any real substance behind them, and motivated more by desperation than inspiration. If my ‘abundance mentality’, at that time, had been compared with something physical, it would have been a soggy lump of flesh, devoid of a skeleton. I didn’t believe… I couldn’t feel it, and I definitely didn’t think I was worthy of a comfortable, fortuitous life. And I was consistently making decisions that were counter-productive, and based entirely upon a survival mindset. I had to begin to heal my incredibly poor abundance mentality, before I could accept abundance. I didn’t know that then, of course, and even when I did start to recognise it, I still had a huge amount of ground to cover. The good news is, though, that ground that is gained cannot be lost, even if sometimes there are holes in the road, or brick walls to figure out and step around.

So, here are some of the helpful ‘rules’ of visualisation to consider, and maybe even utilise (in no particular order!):

1) It has to feel ‘real’ – it has to make some kind of sense to us. If I visualise myself as a Formula 1 racing driver, competing in and winning races, I am doing nothing more than indulging in a pleasant daydream; I know for sure that there is about as much chance of me jumping to the moon and back, as there is of me becoming an F1 driver… for solid, practical reasons. I might be able to achieve a very watered down version, such as getting to sit in an F1 car, or ride as a passenger in a two-seater version, at a promotional event (both of which I’d LOVE!), but as for the big dream… it ain’t going to happen, and I would be wasting my time and energy trying to visualise it into life!

2) We have to ‘believe’ – we cannot consistently follow up a positive affirmation with a negative thought or statement. Well, we can, but we would only be wasting our own time. We can only create something we believe has the possibility to exist. Say, for example, I wanted to design, cut out and sew together a ball gown, but I didn’t believe that I was capable of such a thing; I would either start it, and give up at the first hurdle, or not start it at all. I might say that I want to attract the perfect partner, through visualisation, whilst consistently reminding myself of all of my past romantic disasters, and all of the reasons I won’t/can’t trust. As the old cliche goes, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t not believe and believe, at the same time!

3) We have to be patient – we have to become aligned with whatever it is we are attempting to visualise into physical existence. We have to be willing to be consistent and persistent. Some events/circumstances may take shape and form more quickly than others, dependent upon where we are in our mindset, and upon the nature of the desire. I was consistently attracting enough to survive, because I was operating from a survival mentality. However, I had to evolve not only from where I was at, but also the nature and quality of what I was visualising… and I had to keep on going, until I became aligned with it.

4) We have to put colour into our visualisation, and emotional energy. We can chant and imagine, with all of the passion of someone reading names and addresses from the telephone book, but it won’t leave any impression upon our own mind, or the creative energy of life. And we shouldn’t just limit our visualisation to the times at which we are meditating (if we meditate). We need to allocate little pockets of time, throughout the day, to bringing to mind that which we are determined to create energetically, so that it can then begin to manifest physically. And we need to bless it, with pleasure and anticipation!

5) We have to be open to the ways in which our desired outcome might show up in our lives. I had believed that a boost of income could only come about through my work, or maybe, hopefully, possibly… a lottery win (I kept playing, having the very occasional, tiny win… and a lot of disappointment!). I was willing to work hard, but felt restricted by a) being a sole trader, and b) the nature of my work; I believed that I couldn’t humanly double or triple the number of clients I worked with each day (even if I could attract them), because of the high degree of mental and emotional energy required. However, when my finances took a turn for the better, I was able to recognise that the ‘good luck’ had at least partially come about as a result of work that had gone before…and I was obviously now ready to accept it. And I also realised that I had been selling myself cheap, working far harder than I needed (or deserved) to, and that if I didn’t value myself and my skills, how could I blame others for not doing so? I deleted my mailing list, stopped giving ‘special offers’, and increased my prices. Within months, I was working fewer hours for the same amount of money, freeing me up to develop other business ideas! And all of this, without a lottery win!

To finish, I thought I would share this interesting, entertaining YouTube video with you:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You have the power to start feeling better NOW – that HAS to be worth smiling about!

I was looking at some pictures of myself and my partner, taken around 5 years ago, and I was disappointed to see how much my face had aged. I gazed at my straight-faced reflection in the mirror, and it suddenly struck me… what was missing was my smile! I grinned warmly into my own eyes, and then glanced back at the pictures… and was heartened to see that, actually, there wasn’t a huge amount of difference between the younger me, and the current, older me. Some ageing, yes; a plumper face, agreed – but the smile somehow negated enough of that to be reassuring!

Now, I understand, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a smiling face looks more alive and vibrant than one adorned with a serious or vacant expression: however, I suddenly became acutely aware of how my face felt, when I wasn’t smiling… and the word that immediately came to mind was droopy… and who the hell wants to feel droopy? It is hardly high energy!

So, I decided to check up on myself, every now and then, and ask, “what is my resting face saying about me right now?”. I already suspected that smiling wasn’t just about appearance – and my little experiment proved me right. When I recognised that I was sporting a switched-off or frowning expression, and swapped it for a comfortable smile that also reached my eyes (yes, you can feel your eyes smiling!), I actually felt more cheerful. And not only that, my head and shoulders automatically lifted a little – an instant boost that cost nothing more than a bit of self-awareness!

Okay, it is true that there are certain circumstances under which a smile is completely inappropriate (not too many, but some); and there are certain circumstances under which even the most upbeat individual would struggle to muster even the slightest twitch of the lips; I am not talking about those times – I am talking about general, every day life. And I acknowledge that a consistent, manic grin would be more likely to cause ourselves to feel a bit crazy and uncomfortable, and other people to avoid us like the plague. But, a small, relaxed smile, hovering at the corners of our mouth, just waiting to blossom into something wider and warmer, can genuinely do wonders for our state of mind! And when we feel that a smile is maybe not entirely appropriate at a given moment in time, we can still be consciously aware of how our face is sitting, and what message it is imparting. We can appear attentive, or curious, or interested, or fascinated, dependent upon the circumstances; all of these, and more, will actually help us to feel what we are expressing, whilst allowing our face to appear animated and lively. I am not a scientist, but online research appears to confirm that there is a growing belief in the theory that our facial expression and body language are recognised by our brain, which then responds accordingly, communicating that information back to the body.

Which brings me to the subject of how we consistently hold our body… and this cute cartoon that really makes me laugh, every time I see it!

depressedstance

Posture, like facial expression, speaks volumes to our brain, as does our consistent inner and outer dialogue. I have come across people who habitually slouch, and consistently communicate in a dismissive or cynical way… and none of them have been even remotely happy or satisfied. Circumstance is often blamed, and yes, it is true that it definitely does affect how we feel and behave; however, we have all witnessed individuals who have faced the most dreadful adversity, yet who hold their heads high, whilst approaching the world with dignity and warmth (we are so fortunate, to have amongst us those souls who are living proof of just what we human beings are capable of aspiring to!).

Where my own body is concerned, over a period of two years I put on around 28 lb in weight, most of which settled on my stomach and hips (one of the side effects of reaching a ‘certain age’!). I became discouraged, and for the first time really struggled to motivate myself to do anything about it. That wobble drove me mad, and I began to avoid any mirror that reflected anything below my chest… I felt fat. I managed to lose 7 lbs, but still, not enough to reduce the dreaded spare tyre. As it happens, my eldest daughter is a fitness and kick boxing instructor, who runs her own school; my youngest daughter also trains there, and teaches some of the classes. Several times a week I would drop her off and collect her, calling in to help put the equipment away after the sessions… but I always resisted taking part, because I was ‘too fat’ (yes, really!), which both of my daughters thought was ridiculous!

One evening, I stayed to watch the kick boxing gradings, from the toddlers all the way up to the adults, and I was blown away. The atmosphere was amazing, and I was totally impressed to see how much progress the students had made… and I suddenly really wanted to be a part of it! That evening, I committed to training, and there I was, at the very next session. At first, I felt like a galumphing (I think I just made that word up) elephant, and the idea of roundhouse kicks terrified me. I had a stiff, incredibly painful shoulder, and a dodgy knee, and I feared that they would hold me back… but the physiotherapist told me that actually, I was doing the very best thing for myself – and he was right! Almost three belts on, my shoulder is 90% better, and my knee just aches sometimes, and my roundhouse kick is coming along nicely! I even attend some of the circuit training classes now, in addition (last night I did three 30 minute sessions, one after the other!). I am still ‘fat’, but the weight is coming off, bit by bit. And I am not saying that it is easy, because it isn’t, and I am not saying that things don’t hurt after training, because they do. However, my body feels so much stronger, and I cannot emphasise enough how empowering that is! It has improved the way I hold myself, and more importantly, it has transformed the way I feel about myself… and that makes me smile!

So, if you recognise any of this within yourself, make an immediate commitment to yourself, to lift your spirits, your shoulders, your chin, and the corners of your mouth… until it becomes as natural as breathing!