Day 90: Going with the flow

Being mindful of going with the flow of life’s ups and downs:

I spent most of the Christmas period feeling absolute rubbish and pretty miserable with tonsillitis and a heavy cold and cough. Not surprisingly I’ve been feeling rather cooped up and am desperate to get out for some much needed fresh air.

As I am always drawn to water, my favourite soul stroll route takes me alongside a lovely zig-zagging brook not far from my home.

And so I set off today just as the sun was popping out to say hello.

I love that I can now walk right alongside the water. A few weeks ago I was delighted to see that the brook had been cleaned up, the rubbish cleared out of the brook’s bed, and the grass along the bank cut right down. WooHooo!

brook

After all the rain we’ve been having recently, I found today’s brook fast flowing and babbling at its beautifully sounding best. I find its melodic song incredibly soothing to my soul as it gently washes away my woes and lifts my heart and my spirits.

babbling brook

As I walked alongside the water, I had a sudden realisation that I always walk upstream, against the flow of the water. This made me think about how I often find myself fighting against what’s happening in my life: the CFS in particular, but it can apply to anything really, and often does!

One of my favourite metaphors compares life’s ups and downs to the ocean: sometimes it’s calm and peaceful, and other times rough and choppy. And fighting against can be exhausting and a bit pointless really. If you relax and go with the flow, all will be well. In fact, one of my favourite mantras I have pinned up in my room is: May I ride the waves of my life.

It’s so easy to forget this and I catch myself fighting against what’s happening in my life, fighting the waves, and trying to swim against them. When instead it really is so much easier to accept what’s happening and to go with the flow, to surrender and let the waves take me to wherever I’m meant to be. And trusting that all will be well.

On today’s soul stroll, as I reached the bridge where I usually leave the brook and continue on my walk, I crossed the brook and walked back along the other side, this time following the direction of the flow of water.

My spirits lifted and my heart did a little happy dance as I acknowledged that I have the power to choose to ride the waves of my life.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful of going with the flow of life’s ups and downs.

Day 89: New Year’s ritual

Being mindful while preparing and carrying out my New Year’s ritual:

I love my New Year’s ritual.

After having given up on New Year’s resolutions a long time ago, once i realised I was just setting myself up to fail, a dear friend introduced me to the idea of this New Year’s ritual.

And it immediately became my favourite way to spend my New Year’s Eves.

Sometimes I do the ritual with a trusted friend or two. And sometimes I do it alone. Either is absolutely fine.

Between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, I grab my notebook and pen, and head to my happy place for a couple of hours.

First I write down a kind of ‘year in review’. Month-by-month, I note any events and occasions, places I’ve been, peopled I’ve seen, lessons I’ve learnt and things I’ve accomplished, struggles I’ve had, and anything else that comes to mind that I feel is important.

Then I write down:

  1. All the things I’m grateful for in 2015 and why. I find this the easy part and thankfully the list is usually long as there’s so much to be grateful for.
  2. All the things I’m happy to let go of, particularly the behaviour, habits and beliefs I’d like to leave behind. This takes more thinking time and much more delving. Usually I like to think about this over a few days and write them down as they come to me.
  3. All the things I’d like to manifest, build on, and create in the new year ahead and how I want to live my life. I make sure these are clear, doable and can be turned into an affirmation starting with ‘I am’. Again this takes a little more time. I try not to go crazy with these as it can become too overwhelming. But as I revisit them on a monthly basis, I tend to adjust or add to if need be.
  4. I also like to think of a main intention for the year and will keep this up on my wall where I can see it every day. Again, I write it as an affirmation. For 2016 my main intention is: I am living from my heart♡

As the sun begins to go down on the last day of the year, I light a candle, burn some essential oil, and put on the soothing sounds of Deva Premal. (When I’m living by the beach, I head down to the shore and shout them into the sea!).

I then read my long list of gratitude out loud, genuinely thanking everything on my list from the bottom of my heart.

Then as the sun is setting, I write each ‘letting go’ on it’s own little piece of paper and burn each one as I speak it aloud. If that’s not possible, I tear each up into tiny pieces.

It feels fantastic to let them go like this, to watch them dissolve into the fire: it’s very gratifying, cathartic and cleansing.

I then meditate for a while.

As the sun comes up on the first day of the new year, again being mindful of speaking from my heart, I read out my list of intentions in the present tense as though they are already happening, already in motion. For example: I am living from my heart ♥︎

And that’s it!

I find this ritual so powerful, that I like to revisit my intentions and repeat this part of the ritual every New Moon. It’s like a check-in to see where I’m at, and to help keep me focused on manifesting the good stuff. Sometimes I find that my intentions have changed throughout the year. And that’s ok.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful while preparing and carrying out my New Year’s ritual. And I wish everyone a very wonderful and magical 2016.

Day 88: Christmas carols

Being grateful for a carol service for putting me in the Christmas spirit:

After weeks of being stuck inside as I recover from my relapse, it’s no surprise I’ve been feeling a little stir crazy. Needing to get out is also a good sign that I’m on the mend.

And I really want to soak up some festive cheer.

With today being the last clear day before Christmas Day (we have my nephews here the next couple of days) I discovered that a carol service was on at 1pm at my favourite church in the city.

And I couldn’t think of anything more perfect for capturing the magical spirit of Christmas.

I just love the architecture and stunning interior of St Mary’s Church: it’s the city’s oldest parish, dating back to 1377, and is even mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Even though it’s undergoing a major refurbishment at the moment, it was still a treat to go inside.

St Mary's church exterior

I was feeling a little apprehensive about going all the way into the city, as my energy levels are still so low. But as my lovely mum was joining me, I felt safe knowing that if I didn’t feel well I could get home ok.

Before the service began, we had time to brave the cold winds and heavy rain to have a little potter around the Christmas Market on the main square, watch the skaters on the outdoor ice rink, and have a festive bite to eat (which was also quite brave of us!).

IMG_2134

We got to the church early and as it filled up, I took the time to have a meditation break.

The service began with the Nottingham Girls’ High School Junior Choir, and the haunting beauty of their harmonising voices brought tears to my eyes.

carol service full pic

The service included traditional readings, more moving musical pieces from the young choir, and we all joined in for the festive favourites: O, Come All Ye Faithful; Once in Royal David’s City; Silent Night; O Little town of Bethlehem; and Hark, the Herald-Angels Sing.

Order of service

Although the key was way too high for my vocal chords (why do they do that?) and I found it a tad difficult to sing my heart out, I did my very best and thoroughly enjoyed it. And I got tingles at the soaring voices of the choral members dotted around the congregation.

It was a beautiful, touching, magical, moving, and inspirational service – all rolled into one.

Now I’m feeling fabulously festive. Bring on Christmas!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for a carol service for putting me in the Christmas spirit.

Day 87: You’ve been RACK’ed!

Being kind by leaving festive goodie bags on car windscreens at the doctors’ surgery:

I’m so excited about this act of kindness. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks, but with my recent big CFS relapse have had to put it on hold.

But as I start to feel a little better, I made it to the shops a couple of days ago to buy some treats to make some festive goodie bags; and I was delighted to have enough to make 24 bags!

RACK loot

Alongside a few sweet treats, I added a party popper, a festive feather and a Christmas bauble.

I also included one of my brand new Kindness Cards with the message: You are AMAZING (if you forget that, please read this again).

You are AMAZING

I’ve also made a ‘you’ve been RACK’ed’ card which reads: You have been RACK’ed. You have been chosen to receive this small gift through a Random Act of Christmas Kindness. May your day be merry and bright Xxx

RACK'ed

So today I nipped out to pop a goodie bag onto the windscreen of the cars parked in my local doctors’ surgery car park. I really hope that it will be a nice surprise for those who’ve just been to see one of the doctor’s about a health issue.

Doctor's surgery RACK

A dapper gentleman dressed in a smart suit was just returning to his car as I was about to put a goodie bag on his windscreen, so I got the chance to give it to him face-to-face instead. It was really heartwarming and rewarding to see his reaction to this little act of kindness: he gave me a huge smile as he said thank you. ♡

With the rest of the goodie bags, I hope to feel well enough to head into the city one day next week and will either hand them out or will hide them for people to find. If not, I’ll work something out.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being kind by leaving festive goodie bags on car windscreens at the doctors’ surgery.

 

ps if you received one of my festive goodie bags, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below…

Day 86: Carrot and squash soup

Being grateful for warming winter soups:

One of my favourite things about winter – and there’s not too many things on the list, to be honest – is a bowl of hot comforting soup.

It really is happiness in a bowl.

And I love how easy they are to make. And how little energy goes into making one. And how you can make a few portions to freeze and enjoy over the coming weeks. Result!

As my energy levels are still so very low at the mo, a soup was the perfect thing to make today.

As I peered into the fridge, I spotted a lonely looking butternut squash and big bag of juicy carrots just waiting to be used. So I decided to freestyle and make something up, which is another reason why I love making soups – you can play with the ingredients and it’s hard to go wrong really.

I roasted the squash and carrots in coconut oil, with a sprinkling of dried chillies, garlic, salt and pepper. Once cooked, I popped them into the blender along with some stock and fresh coriander. And after a minute or two, I was rewarded a thick, tasty soup.

How easy is that!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for warming winter soups.

Carrot and Squash Soup with a kick

1 butternut squash
6 carrots
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp dried chillies
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 litre stock (I used half chicken, half vegetable)
big handful of fresh coriander (I used 15-20g)
salt and pepper

1. Cut squash in half (with the skin still on) and chop the carrots into chucks and rub with coconut oil
2. Put onto baking tray and sprinkle with chillies, garlic, salt and pepper
3. Roast in oven at Gas Mark 4 for 90 mins, or until cooked
4. When cooled a little, scoop out the cooked squash and put into blender along with the carrots and coriander
5. Add half the stock and blend until nice and smooth
6. Slowly add more stock until you have the desired consistency, I prefer my soups on the thicker side so used 1 litre, you may want to add more if you prefer
7. Pour into a bowl and enjoy

NB This made 5 portions and I popped the rest in the freezer to enjoy over the next few weeks

Day 85: Relapse

Being grateful for the lovely Katie Manning’s words on relapses:

Relapse, crash, setback, flare up, blip. Whatever I’ve called them in the past, there’s no sugar-coating this one.

It’s a biggie.

The biggest one I’ve had for months and months.

One where I can barely get out of bed. Where behind my eyes hurts so much I can’t have the big light on once it gets dark at 4pm, I can’t read or watch TV for very long, I can barely look at my phone or laptop screen. Where I can’t tolerate noise, the neighbourhood’s barking dogs and car alarms go right through me, I have to ask my parents to speak quietly, and when I can watch a bit of telly the volume is barely audible.

Where my brain is so foggy I can’t think straight, I can’t remember anything, and I can’t cope with any conversation. Where I can’t make the simplest of decisions, like when mum asks me what kind of tea I’d like, or what I fancy for dinner. Where the slightest thing makes me cry, a hug from my nephews, a supportive text from a friend, a kind comment on my blog.

And as a friend and fellow CFS sufferer tells me, when we’re feeling wiped out our body struggles to produce natural energy, and our fight or flight mode kicks in. Which means that any slight stress, worry or concern is blown up to epic proportions, and wipes me out even more.

It’s no wonder my spirits have spiralled downwards and feelings of frustration, disappointment, panic and fear start to show up.

I’ve been kindly reminded by a dear friend that it’s ok to let my world stop for a while. And this is what I’ve been doing for a few days now.

As I slowly start to build up a little energy, I reached into my healing tool kit and pulled out the lovely Katie Manning. Not literally of course, but the tools I’ve gathered from her fabulous website Conquering Fear Spiritually.

Having fully recovered from CFS, Katie has created a positive and inspiring place for sufferers to dip into: blog posts, vlogs, e:books, and she’s even recently published a book on her story.

LIttle Book of relapse

As I reread her wonderfully helpful The Little CFS Book of Relapse e:book and watched her vlog Can Relapsing Really Be A Good Thing?, Katie gently and lovingly reminded me of the following:

1. To understand that this relapse is what I needed for my body to tell me to slow down, that I was going a little too fast, pushing myself a little too much – and this is very true with the build up of all the kindness activity I’ve been doing recently, especially with my Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar and my fun but exhausting afternoon with BBC Radio Nottingham.

2. To remember I have two choices: I can let myself be sucked under or I can accept that it’s happened and use this relapse as a lesson to optimise my wellbeing. I need to be careful not to dwell on it or fight it or beat myself up about it, but to gently accept it and let it be. Much easier said than done, but I get there in the end! And I keep this fabulous cartoon by my bed to remind me of this:

choices

3. To accept that this is just a small setback on my road to recovery. While it feels like I’ve taken two steps forward and one step back, it’s the two steps forward that count. That it’s actually a measure of progress and is here to teach me something. To now look back with curiousity at what I did before the relapse and learn from it. And to keep moving forward.

My short time spent refamiliarising myself with lovely Katie’s words was like a injection of positivity directly in my bloodstream.

My spirits are instantly lifted, my hope is restored, and I have renewed faith that I am making progress, be it teeny weeny baby step style progress but it’s progress and I’ll take it thank you very much.

Thankfully my symptoms are slowly easing little by little, day by day. I’m now managing to read a little bit more, sit through a film in one sitting, and write this post, even though it’s taken me a few days.

I have a couple of fun things planned for this week, that I have been really looking forward to and am reluctant to cancel. But if I don’t feel well enough to go, then I have to accept it and let go of the disappointment, anger and frustration. It’s not going to be easy, but I have to be gentle and kind to myself and take the necessary time and space to heal and recover.

As I continue to gently ride this wave, I am in complete trust that this too shall pass. I accept that getting back to where I was before this relapse may take a while. But I’ll get there. I  know I will.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for the lovely Katie Manning’s words on relapses.

Day 84: BBC Radio Nottingham

Being kind by handing out chocolate bars, face-to-face:

I did something new today: I handed out chocolate bars to strangers.

Face-to-face!

EEEK!!

And it felt really good.

My confidence is obviously growing! OK, it helped that I wasn’t alone. My lovely mum was with me, and also the lovely Sarah Julian a presenter from BBC Radio Nottingham.

I’d been invited into the studio to talk about my kindness acts in a pre-recorded interview, and then go out to perform some kindness acts with the presenter.

I was pretty nervous going into the studio, but focused on my mission: to spread the kindness message. Sarah and I had a great chat, and although it was really cringey to hear myself on the radio the next day, I’m happy that I didn’t make a complete fool of myself (well, I hope I didn’t anyway!).

And it was so much fun going out with Sarah to do the kindness acts.

We drove to the nearby retail park, which houses one of my fave shops: Hobbycraft – I asked mum and Sarah to keep in me out of there, by force if necessary!

My mission was to hand out some chocolate bars to busy shoppers, each with one of my kindness cards attached with the message: You are AMAZING. If you forget that, please read this again.

you are AMAZING

After I’d approached the unsuspecting shoppers, Sarah asked them a few questions about the experience. A couple of people ran away – Sarah kindly pointing out it was probably due to the big fluffy microphone she was holding – most were surprised, and everyone smiled.

WooHooo!

It was brilliant to see Sarah join in and hand out a couple of choccie bars too. And as we drove away in high spirits, I was happy to hear she’d had fun too. I can honestly say that from my experience, the giver benefits as much as the receiver.

Exhausted but happy, I got back home to find this lovely message on my blog:

“My partner and I met you today whilst you were with BBC Radio Nottingham at the retail park. We love what you’re doing and think you’re a fantastic lady!!! We bought you a little gift as a thank you for making us smile, when we came out of the shop you were gone! Is there any way we can get it to you? Xxx”

WOW.

This is what it’s all about: making someone smile.

I am so touched that this lovely couple made the effort to get in touch. And that they were kind enough to want to pay it forward is the icing on the cake, with the cherry on top!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being kind by handing out bars of chocolate, face-to-face!

ps if you fancy a listen….

Here’s the studio interview with BBC Radio Nottingham:

Here’s the outside broadcast by BBC Radio Nottingham:

Day 83: Kindness Advent Calendar (2015)

Being kind by creating an Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar so everyone can take part and spread some festive kindness:

Today I’ve put the finishing touches to my Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you.

I was inspired by a lovely friend forwarding me a fab one for children a couple of days ago, and I thought it’d be great to create one for us grown ups.

So I set to work and this is the result:

Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar by maketodayhappy.co.uk

To download your copy, please click on this link: Acts-of-Kindness-Advent-Calendar-by-maketodayhappy.co_.uk_.pdf (17123 downloads)

And I’d like to invite lovely you and yours to join me in doing a kindness act every day for the 25 days leading up to Christmas.

It works just like a normal advent calendar but instead of receiving, we are giving.

How cool is that!

Now, I know December is an extra busy month for most of us, and we can find ourselves rushing around trying to get everything ready in time for the Christmas holidays.

So, I’ve tried to make each kindness act:

  • Quick: most days it will just take a few seconds, and a couple may take a few minutes,
  • Easy: they don’t really take too much effort or energy to do at all, and
  • Cheap: well, actually most of them don’t cost a thing, and a couple cost the price of a cup of coffee or chocolate bar in the vending machine.

This way, anyone and everyone can take part.

You may want to mix it up and swap the acts around, or even make up your own kindness acts. And don’t worry if you can’t do an act of kindness every single day, sometimes it’s just not possible as I know too well with the nature of my CFS flare ups.

But even if every one of us manages to do just one kindness act on one day – imagine how amazing that would be!

It’s such a wonderful way to spread some festive cheer and boost our own spirits at the same time.

But I really need your help.

Please help me spread the word by encouraging family, friends and colleagues to take part in this kindness extravaganza as we countdown to Christmas.

And I’d be ever so grateful if you could share this blog post with others – simply click on one of the ‘share’ buttons below, or share it however works best for you – and let’s get the kindness ripple effect reaching out far and wide over the festive season.

And most of all, remember to have fun and enjoy creating a kindness ripple effect in your community.

Thank you so very much.

xxXxx

p.s. I’d love to hear about your kindness experiences in the comments below…

To download your free copy of the Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar, please click on this link: Acts-of-Kindness-Advent-Calendar-by-maketodayhappy.co_.uk_.pdf (17123 downloads)

p.p.s. Thanks to EVERYONE who’s shared, forwarded on and/or downloaded my Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar so far – you are AMAZING! I’m so excited by how so many lovely folk are joining me in spreading the kindness message this festive season, including the Nottingham Post – THANK YOU!

Day 82: City love

Being kind by leaving more kindness messages around my city:

Today I went into the city to go to my first hair appointment in, well, quite a few months. And I thought it’d be a great opportunity to sprinkle some more kindness around my city.

I wrote my new favourite kindness message on seven of my Kindness Cards: “You are AMAZING. If you forget that, please read this again” and set off to get my bus.

you are AMAZING

I’d planned to stick my messages onto lampposts around the city centre, but as lots of rain had been forecast, I knew they’d get wet and ruined very quickly. So I decided to bring my kindness act inside.

Kindness Card #1, I left on the seat of my bus, hoping to make the next passenger who sat there smile.

Kindness Card #2, I left on a bench inside the shopping centre, so the next tired shopper needing a rest would find it.

Kindness Card #3, I stuck on the bathroom mirror of the shopping centre, so shoppers can read it while washing their hands.

Kindness Card #4, I stuck on a pillar inside the shopping centre so busy shoppers will notice it as they pass by.

Kindness Card #5, I hid in the condiments tray on the café table where I had a bite to eat, so the next diner would get more than bargained for when reaching for the salt!

Kindness Card #6, I stuck on the cafe’s bathroom mirror, to make diners smile as they washed their hands.

Kindness Card #7, I sneakily stuck on the mirror while I was having my hair done, without my lovely friend and hairdresser noticing (Gotcha lovely Mel, tee hee!).

I hope it made everyone who saw one of my kindness cards, feel AMAZING. And if you’re one of the folk who’ve come across one of my messages today, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being kind by leaving more kindness messages around my city.

Day 81: First snow

Being mindful of the first snow shower of the season:

Wide awake at 4:30 with a mind like a monkey
I pull back the curtains to breathe in this new day
A sprinkle of winter magic makes my heart gasp
A light dusting of snow sits gently on the grass

A soul stroll at noon awakens my senses
I spy birds’ nests perched high upon the bare branches
My babbling brook full to the brim, near overflowing
Icy shards crunch with each step, my spirit is soaring

birds nest

icy shards