Category Archives: happiness

Word up. The power of positive language.

thinkbeforeyoutalkI hate my job. I’m so unlucky. It’s not fair. I should be… I wish I was more… I’m so tired I can’t see straight. I can’t cope. I can’t stick to anything. Why does it have to be so hard?

All this has poured out of my mouth over the past couple of weeks. And it’s left a bitter taste in my mouth.

The way I talk, the words I choose, are negatively affecting the way I perceive and handle life’s challenges. When I say it’s hard, it is hard. When I say I’m so tired, I feel exhausted. When I say I can’t cope, I don‘t cope.

Are you choosing language that helps or hinders your happiness? Here are five fixes to help you talk yourself into feeling better.

1. Drop the word “should” from your vocabulary
“Should” is a destructive word. Every time you say “should” you’re saying “I am not enough”. So drop it. Use “could” instead — “could” gives you back your power by giving you a choice.

2. Use positive self-talk
According to Michelle Austin, ACT Academy of Sport Psychologist, positive self-talk (“I’m amazing.” “I can do this”) is associated with better athletic performance. Positive self-talk impacts on an athlete’s self-confidence, anxiety control, concentration and mood. It works for people who don’t wear Lycra too. If it feels alien, talk to yourself the way you’d encourage a child. You’d never tell a kid who was learning to ride a bike that they were crap and would never be able to do it. Unless you’re an evil child-hating meanie. If you’re not, be kind to yourself. 

3. Act, think and talk like a child
Talking of kids, I caught my 4-year-old doing karate moves and pouting in front of the mirror yesterday. I asked him what he was doing. He said “I’m looking at myself being cool. Do you wish you had skeleton pyjamas like me mum?” Indeed I did. I wished I could be just like him in fact — full of confidence in his own awesomeness. Kids don’t waste time on self doubt and they tell themselves they’re amazing. They’re pretty smart. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you how awesome you are. Tell your awesome self. Be 4 years old. Be epic. 

4. Use positive affirmations
The Secret has given affirmations a bad name. They seem a bit like self-delusion. But be open minded and giveaffirmations a go. Start slowly. Pick one thing that’s challenging you, look in the mirror and make a positive statement about it (out loud please). Maybe you feel overwhelmed? Say “I am grateful that I am in demand and I take on tasks with energy and enthusiasm.” Too much? Why not just “I am perfect exactly as I am”? Keep at it. Do it once a day for a week. You’ll feel like a dick for the first two or three days. Then it’ll start feeling good.

5. Choose who you talk to
Be discerning about who you discuss your hopes and dreams and loves with. Negativity is as contagious as stress. If someone shoots you down with negative words, remember that it’s their issue, not yours. And don’t talk to toxic people about stuff that really matters to you. Surround yourself with people who are positive and who empower you with encouragement and loving words.

For many of us, negative language and self-talk is a long-term habit. A habit that’s hard to break. But by being aware of the way you use words and language, you can take steps to change.

Make positive language your new habit. Practise it. Commit to it.

It’ll make you feel better. Even if you don’t have skeleton pyjamas.

Think before you talk drawing by sam brown, explodingdog.

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The bleary-eyed banshee’s guide to keeping love alive

Romantic loveLast week, in the midst of mess, sick kids, sleep deprivation and more work than I could handle, I turned into a bleary-eyed banshee.

“You’re not hearing me,” I screeched at my husband. “Sometimes I feel like we’re talking different languages.”

He walked away. He does that.

It wasn’t our finest moment.

I said we were talking different languages, but it wasn’t so much that. It was that we hadn’t been talking about anything lately, aside from kids, finances, household chores, groceries, bills, work.

Our relationship, the big-fat-romantic-love-of-our-lives relationship, had lost its place on both our to-do lists.

Love. If it’s ‘meant to be’ it should be easy, right?

I don’t think so. The idea that romantic love should happen effortlessly is a big pile of poo rolled in Hollywood glitter. Every other aspect of your life — a fulfilling career, happy kids, friendships, healthy meals and a decluttered home — doesn’t just happen by itself, so why should your most important relationship?

It’s time to put some effort in. I’m no expert, but here are four little love ‘tweaks’ that are helping us help get the ‘elation’ back in our relationship.

Figure out your love language (and theirs)
Gary Chapman, love guru and all-round good guy, says there are five emotional love languages. According to Gaz, each of us has a dominant ‘love language’ and if you and your partner are talking different languages, that’s going to bring out the banshee in anyone.

You may feel most loved when your partner tells you how amazing and beautiful you are (words of affirmation). He may feel most loved when you initiate a midday quickie (physical touch). Doing something that doesn’t come naturally to you is a greater expression of love. And what you give, you get back (hopefully in your own love language).

Nurture your relationship by changing habits
Changing a few simple habits can make a huge difference to your relationship. Try and eat dinner together a few times a week (not in front of the telly), go on a date or plan a weekend away.

Ditch the dull routine if you can. Go roller-skating. Paragliding. No cash? A beach walk in winter or a picnic in the hills will work just as well.

Lower your expectations and find the positives
I’ve said it before, expectations are bullshit. When you expect others to act in a certain way, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Your expectations are not top of their lists. Theirs are not at the top of yours. Instead of what makes you want to tear your hair out, think about what you love about your partner. Write it down. Now show your partner your list.

Talk, talk then talk some more
You make time to talk about shopping, washing, childcare/school, money, work. So make the time to talk about your dreams, share your visions, communicate your plans, the things you love, the stuff that needs work. Tell your partner what makes you happy (and what you love about them) loudly and often.

Let’s face it — it’s not Hollywood. Relationships are hard work. But they’re usually worth a bit of effort.

So banish your inner banshee, stay in the room, get over the small stuff and put that big-fat-romantic-love-of-your-life relationship back where it belongs — at the top of your to-do list.

Want more Wellbeing bites morsels? Sign up to follow this blog by email and in return you’ll get a happy inbox and my undying love. 

Image from www.gratisography.com

I must be liked by everyone… and other unrealistic self-expectations

Expectations of selfYesterday, I got the “I hate you and everything you stand for” face from a barista. I asked for a 3/4 latte. I got a half pour so asked for a tiny top up. She gave me the face.

This woman is not my local barista. I will never see her again. She will not feature in the movie of my life and, if hadn’t got the face, I would never have given her a second thought post 3/4 latte.

So why did I spend the rest of the day replaying our milk-based passive aggression over and over in my mind?

Because everyone has to like me. Everyone. Even the people I don’t like. Because if I’m not likeable, I am a failure.

I know this is absolutely ridiculous. And this is just one of the many unrealistic expectations I place on myself.

Other self-imposed expectations include a Branson-like career trajectory, Buddha-like patience, JK Rowling’s bank balance, Zen Habits-style blog success, a model-esque appearance and perfect parent status. What could possible go wrong?

A few weeks ago, I talked about letting go of the great expectations we have of others. Self-imposed expectations are even more dangerous, so here are my top tips for getting rid of those unrealistic little suckers.

Drop the word “should” from your vocabulary
Do you start sentences with “I should really…” and end them by feeling shit because you haven’t, didn’t, won’t?

Should is the most dangerous word in the English language. I should be thinner. My salary should be higher. I should be married by now. I should be exercising/meditating/eating healthy/drinking less.

Should makes you feel bad. Should translates to “I am wrong. I am not good enough.” Try using “could” instead. Could is a choice word. Unlike should, could isn’t shrouded in shame and guilt. It allows you space to think about why you’re not [fill in blank here]. Perhaps it’s simply because you don’t want to. Perhaps your shame and guilt has been defeating you. Should is an obstacle. Move it out of your way.

Be realistic about change 
Change is hard. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. Instead of berating yourself for not finishing the chapter of your novel, pat yourself on the back for those few incredible paragraphs you did write. Rather than feeling like a failure because you didn’t get to three yoga classes this week, congratulate yourself for getting to one and focus on how much your body and mind has benefitted.

Risk disapproval, then embrace it
As you may have guessed by the barista experience, this is a tricky one for me. But usually when others disapprove of you, it’s their issue. Push the envelope. Live your dream. Hit a nerve. The other option is you don’t do anything and they won’t care either way. And that’s much more scary.

Stop comparing yourself to other people
Yes, I’d love Wellbeing bites to be as big as Zen Habits. But it’s not Zen Habits. Yes, I’d love to look like Eva Mendes. But I’m not sure I could cope with the pressure of being Mrs Gosling anyway (well, maybe I could live with it). It’s so easy to compare yourself to others. But you will never be others. You will always be you. Perfect, flawed and fabulous you. You are epic. Go be you. Go be epic.

Today I went back to my usual barista. He gave me a 3/4 latte with a perfect little heart on top. And a smile. It was unexpected. And I think that’s why it felt so good.

What unrealistic expectations do you place on yourself? Any tips on how to manage your self-expectations? Please leave me a comment — I need all the help I can get.

Image by Ryan McGuire from www.gratisography.com

Why second-hand stress is contagious and how to avoid cracking it

Second hand stress contagiousEver had gastro? It’s officially my least favourite highly contagious illness. My house has been in the throws of it for the past five days and no one has escaped its gut wrenching grasp, (including my poor in-laws who had travelled interstate to spend time with their darling grandkids…)

I knew we were all going to get sick. You knock about with people with gastro; you get gastro. You hang about with people who have a cold; you’re going to get a cold.

But did you know that stress is just as contagious? And can make you much sicker?

A recent study by St Louis University in the US has found that simply being around another person in a stressful situation can be enough to make you stress out. And the more you genuinely care about the stressed out person, the more likely you are to ‘catch’ their stress.

Apparently three-quarters of us are already stressed. And stress is worse for your health and wellbeing than a tantruming 2-year-old with gastro. It takes over, making your body put off essential processes like wound healing, digestion and immunity. Stay stressed for long enough and we’re talking heart attacks, strokes and depression.

How to avoid catching second-hand stress

1. Identify stress-head warning signs

How do you feel when you start to get stressed? How does your body react? Shortness of breath? A pounding headache? Losing your shit at your nearest and dearest? Figure it out. Then you can start to….

2. Avoid your second-hand stress triggers
Does walking into your workplace make your heart start beating like a nineties house track? Do certain people make you anxious? Do over-tired kids make you want to pull your hair out? Avoid these situations whenever you can. If you can’t, seriously consider changing jobs or swapping kids (joking about the kids). Alternatively, you could…

3. Think carefully about the company you choose
If you’re around stressed people a lot, think about why you are surrounding yourself with people who feel bad about themselves, or who allow others to make them feel bad about themselves. It’s not a flaw to be stressed, but you don’ t need to immerse yourself of the misery of others. If you’re having a hard time disconnecting, shift your attention to those you care about, who care about you, and who have a positive outlook on life.

4. Look after your health
If you’re anything like me, when you’re stressed you tend to stop exercising, reach for the comfort food (and the wine bottle) and stop doing all the stuff you know is good for you, like yoga and meditation. Then you spend countless hours berating yourself for how shit you are. Instead of that try to…

5. Be mindful about your mindset
Talk to yourself with encouragement and love. Stop being your own worst enemy. Practise mediation, breathe, walk. Be grateful for what you have. Think about what makes you happy and do it.

Like most contagious illnesses, stress can cause acute pain and suffering. But you don’t need to let it get the better of you long term. Only you can choose how to react to stressful situations. Only you can choose how you are affected by others’ stress.

Choose happiness instead. It’s as contagious as stress. And it’s much easier on your gut.

Like this post? Oh I do hope so! Show your love by following Wellbeing bites by email. Your loveliness is my happiness. Let’s spread it around…

Cracking under stress photo by Bernard Goldbach

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. 

Emotional detox — 7 steps to releasing toxic thoughts

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about decluttering. I said a cluttered home equals a cluttered mind. And decluttering my home did make me feel less stressed, and gave me a bit of thinking space. But to be honest, it only scratched the surface. 

So I’m digging a little deeper. This time I’m on a mission to spring clean my emotions. It’s not so much a declutter as an emotional detox.

Why take an emotional detox?

You know how it is. You over indulge in junk food, alcohol or drugs and you know the next day (or even the same day) you’re going to feel lethargic, sluggish, unhealthy.

Toxic emotions work in the same way. They stagnate, keeping you mentally stuck in the same place, or worse, suck you into a downward spiral. 

Now I don’t believe that any emotion is inherently unhealthy — there’s no good or bad. It’s all down to attitude. It’s what you do with the energy the emotion generates that causes it to turn toxic. 

You feel stressed — you berate yourself for the emotion
You feel angry — you suppress the emotion.
You feel jealous — you reject the emotion.
You feel hopeless — you lie about the emotion.


You believe you shouldn’t feel what you do. 

But it’s when you reject, judge, suppress or lie about emotions that toxicity sets in. An emotion doesn’t go away just because you’re pushing it back under the surface. It festers, sabotaging your health and happiness, and eventually leading to stress, anxiety, burnout, addiction and depression.

And it’s not only the mind that suffers. Toxic emotions have been linked to high blood pressure, ulcers, IBS, and even cancer. 

Toxic emotions can be lethal. 

Releasing toxic emotions
Right, so that’s the scary part over. Now on to how you can begin to release toxic emotions.


I won’t take all the credit for this — Oprah’s mate Deepak Chopra inspired this simple seven-step process, which gives toxic emotions nowhere to hide.

1. Identify the toxic emotion
You feel bad — you’ve established that. But what is the actual emotion that’s making you feel that way? Too many to list? Identify the one that holds the most power over you. Which one robs you of self-confidence and self-esteem and keeps happiness and fulfilment out of reach? That’s the nasty one.


2. Witness the physical sensations
Now you know which toxic emotion you’re dealing with, witness what it’s doing to your body. Panic attacks? Nausea? Shortness of breath? Headaches? By releasing resistance and allowing yourself to experience the physical sensations, you‘ll find that the emotional charge dissipates.


3. Take responsibility for how you feel
Realising that you have the power to choose how you respond to and interpret your experiences is a crucial step in the healing process. Don’t feel guilty about your feelings either. Be kind. Accept that you feel crap and pat yourself on the back for making a change. 


4. Express the emotion Place your hand on the part of your body where you sense that the feeling is located. Say out loud “it hurts here”. If that’s too weird (or you’re on a train), write it down. 

5. Release the emotion through physical ritual
You knew it was coming… This is where your deep breathing, meditation, green exercise, interpretive dance (?) comes in. Do whatever you feel will best allow your body to release the tension that’s stored with the toxic emotion. If you wrote it down, now is the time to burn your piece of paper.

6. Share the toxic emotional experience When you feel calm, share the emotion with someone you trust. Just make sure you’re not seeking pity or approval, or trying to blame anyone else. 

7. Celebrate the emotional detox process
Reward yourself with something nourishing that’s just for you: book a massage, go out for dinner, or buy yourself a gift. And practise self love — the best way to prevent the build up of toxic emotions. 

Declutter. Detox. Emotionally or physically, cleaning up comes down to control. 

Take back control. Stop holding on to the stuff you don’t need. Let it go. 

Have you ever taken an emotional detox? What did you do? I’d love you to leave me a comment. And while you’re here, please take a minute or two to sign up to follow Wellbeing bites by email. It’s a little piece of awesomeness in your inbox each week.

Image by Matthew Johnstone

A beginner’s guide to finding the beauty in burnout

I have to confess. I let things get the better of me this week. There have been tears before bedtime. And after bedtime. And in the office loos. And even a little train sob or two (cunningly disguised with sunglasses).

I’m a woman on the edge. I’m not sleeping. My skin is in teenage breakout mode. I’m snapping at my kids. I’m anxious about everything. I can’t get my shit together. I feel completely drained.

Stress? That’s part of it. Anxiety? Nup — doesn’t quite cover it.

Burnout.

Yeah, that fits. Burnout.

Burnout is the exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.

It’s a state of joylessness. And it feels pretty shitty.

I can’t tell you how to stop the burnout — I wish I could. But maybe, just maybe I can help you transform your thinking about burnout.

Rather than the idea of burnout as a failure or ending, try reframing it as the precursor to transformation and change. Burnout is a new beginning. A beautiful new beginning.

Here are a few steps that might help you uncover the beauty in burnout.

1. Take a break
When you’re in burnout phase, you actually can’t function, so if you don’t give your body, mind and spirit the chance to recuperate, you’re going to get stuck. If you can, take a holiday, a day or two off, or even just set aside some time to relax. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to ‘fix’ things. Take long walks. Take long baths. Meditate. Breathe.

2. Focus on the body first
When your body feels healthy and recharged, so does your mind. So eat well, exercise gently (but only if it’s fun), nap and get enough sleep. Sleep is critical. Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on cognitive function, productivity, lifespan, and causes irreparable damage to our brains. Get some sweet sleep tips here.

3. Be good to yourself
When we’re in burnout we tend to beat ourselves up. I can’t cope. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be like XYZ? Why can’t I get my shit together? Because you’re burnt out. Your body is trying to tell you something. Practice a little bit of self-love. Stop being a meanie.

4. Now you’ve given yourself some space, create
You’re rested. Now get up and change it up. It’s too easy to simply get back on the treadmill and get burnt out again. Try doing this stuff instead:

Set some boundaries. Whether it’s work or family, say no when you feel you need to. And mean it.

Dream again. Spend some time daydreaming and pose some “what ifs”. Burnout makes you feel stuck. Now’s the time to imagine life without limits.

Be inspired and create. If your burnout’s work-related, start taking baby steps towards doing work you’d love. Start a blog. Do some internet research. Sign up for a course. Contact someone you admire professionally.

Take responsibility. Your burnout is no one else’s fault. Sure your boss is an arsehole and maybe your kids drive you crazy but stop expecting them to change. No one else is going to fix it for you. Assume responsibility and take back your power.

Burnout can be beautiful. It can be the best thing that ever happens to you. Because it can be the first sign of a new beginning.

Take small steps. Brick by brick, you can create something incredible and rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of your beautiful burnout.

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