Monthly Archives: June 2014

A flawed friend’s guide to fabulous friendships

FriendshipIn my hazy, heady teens and twenties, when money equalled fun and weekends meant hangovers and lie ins, my friends were my world. Who I was, where I went, what I liked, bought, drank and ate was defined by my mates.

Then life moved into a new orbit. I got a steady job, bought a house, had a baby. The world turned on its axis. My friends moved further away. They got married and had babies too. Everyone was juggling. Time and money became limited.

A couple of weeks ago, I realised that it had been months since I’d connected, really connected, with some of my closest friends.

Sure, things change. People move on. Some friendships aren’t forever and that’s OK. But the thought that I wasn’t making my friends a priority was a shock.

I was losing them. And losing out.

The positive effect friendship has on health and wellbeing is well documented. Those with a close circle of friends (not Facebook friends — real-life friends) are happier, less stressed, and less likely to form addictive habits. Studies have even shown that those with good friendships live longer.

I know it’s not always easy to fit friends into our busy lives. But like anything worth having, friendship takes hard work. This is what I’ve learned recently.

Be smart, be brutal and choose your friends wisely
You can’t be friends with everyone, and you can’t maintain every friendship you have ever had. It’s not mean — it’s reality. You’re busy. You’ve got no time to fuck about, so surround yourself with people who make you feel good — who you admire, respect and love and who feel the same way about you.

Don’t try and find the time: make the time
When confronted with my crapness recently, I cried “time-poor”. But it’s not good enough. Everyone’s busy. If you say “I’ll try and make time”, time will pass and weeks will pass and months will pass. And eventually your friendship will pass. So connect now. Make time. At the risk of sounding like a commercial, you’re both worth it.

Accept your friends just the way they are
Some of your friends will always be late. Some of them may be terrible listeners. But the latecomers may be the best listeners, and the bad listeners may be the ones that always come through for you in a crisis. We are all flawed. Perfectly flawed. Accept and embrace your friends’ shortcomings and celebrate their strengths. Unless you are perfect, you can be pretty sure they’re doing the same for you.

Look for the best in your friends, and tell them when you see it
Tell your friends you love them. That they are great friends/parents/children/grandparents/cooks/artists/listeners. Be each others’ cheerleaders. Make the time your have together fun and positive. Keep the whining to a minimum and the laughter (and wine) flowing.

Love yourself so others can see that you won’t accept anything less
Lead by example. If you are loving and kind to yourself, you will attract people who are loving and kind. It’s simple law of attraction stuff (c’mon, we’ve all read The Secret). Self love is the key to loving relationships. Open the door.

So be flawed. Be fabulous. But be a fucking good friend. It’s what makes the world go round.

I’m glad you’re my friend drawing by sam brown, explodingdog.

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Why ‘mindful parenting’ might not be as dumb as it sounds

mindful parenting2Before I start, let’s get one thing straight. I am not a ‘mummy blogger’. I’m a writer. Who blogs. And I am also a mum.

But a few parent-related things happened to me this week that bridged that gap between what I blog about (mental health and wellbeing) and being a mum:

  1. My four-year-old had a meltdown because I was too busy to watch him build his Lego helicopter for the 15th time that day.
  2. I read this quote: “Meditation teaches us that there is no greater joy than putting the happiness of others before oneself. There is no greater opportunity to practice this than in parenthood.” NO, I inner yelled. No! Don’t make me feel shit for putting my happiness at the top of the list! I’ve just started to be ok with that.
  3. I read an article on ‘mindful parenting’ — a term that initially got my back up. Does that mean that I’m currently a ‘mindless’ parent? But then I read the article. And it made a lot of sense…

Mindful parenting. Crap name. Great concept.

Mindful parenting often gets a bad rap (probably because the crap name makes it sound judgemental). But mindful parenting is simply about focusing awareness in the present moment — enjoying the journey rather than focusing on the destination. I say “simply”, but it’s when you have a toddler and a preschooler tearing the place up, practising mindful parenting is also bloody hard work.

As you can probably tell, I’m no mindful parenting expert. But here are a few tips that have helped me not put my kids on eBay this week (and have made my kids a bit happier too).

1. Be in the moment
Your life is only lived in moments. Your kids’ lives are the same. By giving your children your full presence, you’re indicating that they are important right now. I know you’re busy, so schedule in some time each day to be fully present with your small person.

2. Stop multitasking
Turn off the TV. Put the smartphone or iPad away. Get rid of distractions. And try listening rather than talking, especially when your little angels are being little shits. It’s amazing what you can learn (and what you can diffuse before it turns into an explosive tantrum — for either of you).

3. Try to see the world through their eyes
What’s important to my four-year-old: Lego, Octonauts, the park, lollies. What’s important to me: my work, meditation, a tidy house, not being late. They may have your genes but they don’t share your dreams. Being aware of this allows you to take a moment to view a situation from their perspective, and gain some.

4. Practise what you preach
Your kids look to you for an example of how to live. If you don’t place great importance on self care, self love and mindfulness, they won’t think these things are important either. Take time for yourself. Meditate. Relax. Do things that make you happy. Follow your dreams. Surround yourself with loving people. When your own tank is full, you have so much more to give.

5. Remember you don’t have to be perfect
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. You will screw up sometimes. Don’t beat yourself up. Your kids need you to be human. Move on, forgive yourself. Your children will get over it in seconds, so say sorry, give them a hug and follow their example.

One last point: if it doesn’t work for you and your kids, don’t do it.
This is crucial. There’s so much judgement in parenting. So many opportunities to feel bad. Some people think mindful parenting is setting parents up for failure. Some think its “ancient wisdom”. Whatever. It’s your life. It’s your family. You know best.

Right, if you don’t mind, I’m late to watch a Lego helicopter being built. I’ll be back next week and I promise I’ll be back to more ‘blogger’ and less ‘mum’…

If you like this post (or at least like the usual Wellbeing bites blog fodder), please take a moment to follow WB by email. That would be just marvellous. 

Great expectations — and why releasing them is the key to happiness

Releasing great expectations NonnettaI’ve been expecting. Expecting my kids to behave perfectly. Expecting my hard work to be praised and rewarded. Expecting my efforts to be noticed. Expecting my blog to be shared and liked and followed. Expecting my friends and family to care about ‘my stuff’ as much as I do.

My great expectations are starting to get the better of me. Because, of course, these expectations are rarely met.

That’s not because my kids are mean, my colleagues are nasty, my blog isn’t liked, or my friends and family are unsupportive. It’s just that when you expect others to act in a certain way, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. They have their own agendas, their own wants, their own expectations. Your expectations are not top of their lists.

Buddhists call this holding on to unrealistic expectations ‘the wanting mind’ or ‘the hungry ghost’. Unfulfilled expectations make for an unhappy life. When your expectations aren’t realised, you feel disappointed, resentful, angry, unsatisfied, unseen.

You become a hungry ghost.

Are your expectations haunting you? Here are five ways to release your expectations and make way for happiness.

1. Be mindful of your expectations

When you catch yourself expecting/wanting from others, or from a situation, stop. Ask why. Are you expecting others to validate your emotions? Have you supported that person in the past and expect them to do the same for you now? If you figure out why you’re expecting, it’s much easier to let the expectation go.

2. Separate your wants from your ‘shoulds’

Do your expectations reflect your true ‘wants’, or are they reflecting ‘shoulds’? Shoulds are expectations imposed by others. Do you expect recognition from others because what you’re doing is a ‘should’ not a ‘want’? Usually, if you’re doing what you really want, not what you feel you should, you won’t have expectations of others because you won’t need their validation or praise.

3. Put yourself in the shoes of others 

Are you perfect? Are you a mind reader? No. Neither are they. Remember that everyone is just doing their best, just like you. And your perfect may be their not-so-perfect. However, If your basic needs aren’t being met by the people you care about and you really feel let down, tell them. If you don’t communicate clearly, resentment will build up on both sides and may explode as anger if left unchecked.

4. Reframe and look for the positive

You expected to be fulfilled and praised at work. You expected your business to do better. You expected your kids to tidy up after themselves. You expected your partner to cook dinner. That’s the negative. What about the good stuff? Maybe your work pays well, which allows you to pursue your real passion. Maybe those business ‘failings’ have taught you how to succeed next time. Maybe your kids are messy but they sleep all night and tell you they love you every day. Maybe your partner had a shitty day and thought take-out might make a nice change. Reframing is a great first step to creating an attitude of gratitude.

5. Take back responsibility for your happiness

When you have great expectations of others, you give responsibility for you own happiness away. But you know no one else can make you happy. Own your actions. Own your emotions. Cheer yourself on. Love yourself more. Be proud of your achievements. Pat yourself on the back.

The solution is simple (not easy, but simple). As Leo Babauta from Zen Habits puts it: “Take your expectations, and throw them in the ocean.”

When you get rid of your great expectations, you free yourself up to enjoy things as they are instead of the way you think they should be. You’ll also make way for a great wave of happiness. Now all you’ve got to do is learn to ride it….

If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it or comment. Even better, sign up to follow Wellbeing bites by email (up on the right if you’re on a computer/iPad, or scroll down to after the posts if you’re on the mobile). No pressure. No expectations. It would just be very lovely. Thank you.

Great expectations image by Nonetta.

Fear — stop being scared and get stuff done

Last night, I was thinking about all the things on my to-do list: migrate my blog, set up a Facebook fan page, build my freelance writing business, put together a plan for exercising and eating well, practise meditation and yoga each day… the stuff that’s important to me.

Lying there, I realised that I have been ticking stuff off to-do lists recently. I’ve researched kinder programs and schools, given my husband marketing and copy ideas for his theatre project, helped build Lego helicopters, created advertising campaigns for clients at my day job. I’ve been kicking some serious goals.

But not my goals. My to-do list has been stuck at the same point for months. 

So why is it easier for me to ‘do’ for other people? Why can’t I find the time to help myself?

Lying in bed, I realised. It’s fear. I’m scared. 

Doing the stuff on my to-do list means I have to start living my dream. But what if my dream isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

I might migrate my blog and lose the readers I have. I might create a Facebook fan page and get no likes. I might put myself out there as a full-time freelance writer and get no work. I might not stick to my exercise plan. I might eat cake and drink wine. I might find meditation makes me angry again if it’s scheduled in. I might start to hate yoga…

The fear of what might happen.
The fear of disappointing.
The fear of being disappointed.
The fear of not being good enough.
The fear of other people judging me.
The fear of losing money.

The fear of failing. 

Suddenly my dream becomes a nightmare. All because of fear.

How to feel the fear and do it anyway

Be aware and accept
You’re scared. So what? Everyone else is shitting themselves too — at least everyone who’s doing something on their own genuine to-do list.

Ask yourself: what’s the worst case scenario?
Be rational about your fear. Would you be OK? Unless your to-do list includes bungy jumping without a rope or naked yoga in the Arctic, the answer is probably yes. The worst case scenario may not be ideal, but you’d be alright.

Be in the moment
When you accept what’s happening now, it’s really hard to fear a future that doesn’t exist. Practise mindfulness. Be in the moment. The fear will dissipate.

Do something proactive
Stop procrastinating. Procrastination is fear at its most debilitating. Start. Do one small thing on your to-do list. Spend 20 minutes on it, then give yourself a 10-minute break.

Focus on what you will gain 

If you push past your fear and do what you want to do, what will you achieve? Financial security? Creative freedom? Happiness? The ability to make a difference to others? Be bold. Be brave. You’ll never live your dream if you don’t step out of your comfort zone.

Say no to other people — just for a while
Put yourself first for a bit. Be kind but be firm. Say no, I can help you out in a few days/next week, but right now I’m concentrating on my stuff. Don’t fear being seen as selfish. Reasonable people will understand and probably respect you for it. And by giving to yourself you’ll have so much more to give to others.

Revisit your to-do list. Make a pact with yourself to start ticking things off. Everything you fear is in your head. Stop feeding your fear. Face it and you’ll realise it’s not that scary after all.

If you’re here at Wellbeing bites you’ll see I actually got off my bottom and did a couple of things on my list. But yeah — I’m scared you might not like my blog. If you do like Wellbeing bites/Apple a Day, please sign up to receive email updates.