5 easy ways to show kindness today

  1. When walking the dog, let him/her sniff and snuffle around outside.  This is their version of reading the ‘news’ or catching up on the local gossip!
  2. When on the verge of criticising someone, snap your lips tightly shut and BE QUIET!
  3. When thanking someone, lightly touch them on the arm and look them in the eyes.  This is a lovely act of kindness to yourself and others:  these simple acts of connection can make a difference to your day.
  4. Before you eat, pause for a brief moment and give thanks for all the people who have been involved in bringing this food to your table (growers, transportation companies, delivery companies and so on).
  5. if you receive a request to sign a petition against a cause which resonates with you, then DO IT!  Your participation can make a difference.

Wishing you all a happy week.  It’d be great to hear your thoughts on any of these suggestions.  Anita.

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Weather the storm with gratitude

(published in Fibromyalgia Magazine, Oct 2017) Estimated reading time: 5 mins.

You know, I’m not an expert in psychology.  Neither do I have all the answers in dealing with pain and fatigue brought on by Chronic Fatigue syndrome and Fibromyalgia from which I’ve suffered for nearly ten years.   But, like many of you, I’ve been at my lowest point many times over these years and have increasingly found that gratitude and kindness help me weather the storm until it passes.  So I wanted to share some suggestions from my book, ‘Acts of Kindness from your Armchair’ on self-kindness and gratitude in the hope that these may help you too.

A little self-analysis:

Are you a glass half-empty or a glass half-full person?  I admit to being the former in the past.   Youth brings for some a tremendous sense of entitlement and when things don’t go according to our plan, we blame others or make excuses.  We rarely think that our negative attitudes may be contributing to our failures.  Many psychologists believe that we have an inbuilt tendency to notice the bad things in life, the possible threats as we see them.  Perhaps this can be traced back to our Stone-Age predecessors whose very survival hinged upon their ability to notice threats on the horizon.  It does help to explain why many of us hold a negative view of life:  the glass half-empty standpoint.  At the extremis, those in this group rationalise that because they will never be successful, there is no point in trying.

However, I have seen that for every negative act, every act of disappointment or despair, there are thousands of acts of kindness and love throughout the world.  If our focus is solely on the negative aspects – as we perceive them – of life, our vision may become blurred to the good things around the periphery.  That’s why it’s important to give gratitude every day for the blessings in our life.  Remember also that when we focus on things which we perceive as a threat, this often triggers the stress response, (the “fight or flight” response) which can be incredibly harmful to our bodies.   It produces noradrenaline which floods our system; increases heart rate and pulse; induces feelings of nausea; and causes muscles to tremble and shake in preparation to “fight or flight”.  This is a useful inbuilt genetic program which kicks in in times of extreme danger.  However, our stressors/dangers are other people in cars, screaming children, barking dogs, all sorts of things which invoke this hitherto ‘emergency’ response time and again.  If this physiological response is allowed to continue over time, it may detrimentally damage your health.

It’s certainly easier to look on the negative side of life if we have an inbuilt propensity to view the world in this way.  It takes a lot more effort on our part to counteract this tendency and focus on the positives, all the blessings in our life.  We have to retrain our minds not to take our blessings for granted but to be grateful for them.   The following gratitude practice has proved to be very beneficial to my mental health, allowing me to climb out of the well of depression where I saw no glimmer of hope, to sit calmly in the warmth and light of positivity and optimism.

Practice 4:  Daily gratitude

Make a note of five things which you are grateful for every morning.  If you prefer, say them in your head, but I believe it’s beneficial even for a couple of weeks to write them down.  This allows you to look back and gain an overview of your thoughts and words.  Some people prefer to record their daily gratitude journal onto a tablet computer using the microphone keyboard icon.   Do this every morning before rising, at morning coffee break or some other time to suit you.  Be sure to say why you’re grateful for the blessing and what difference this makes to your life.

Here are some of the things I am grateful for and why:

  • I am grateful for the fact that I work from home and can keep my own hours, as this flexibility is really important to me and gives me a sense of control.
  • I am grateful for my dogs, as they get on well together, and are good company for me.
  • I am grateful for electricity because it provides an abundance of energy for cooking and heating. In this way I can wake up in a nice warm environment which helps my pain with a lovely hot cup of tea which soothes my soul.
  • I am so thankful for my sense of hearing, so that I can listen to the birds at the feeder in the morning. This makes my heart sing.
  • I am grateful for my friends as they make me laugh and keep me positive.
  • I am thankful for the family into which I was born. My parents instilled diligence and perseverance in me which allowed me to prosper in life and my siblings are a constant source of friendship for me.

Make your own gratitude list.  It may be tempting to allow your ego to intervene in this process, noting down things which it thinks you should be writing down to make your life appear more exciting.  But no-one else needs to read this list.  No-one will judge you.  Simply write down what you’re grateful for this day.

If you’re thankful for your husband’s patience as he cares for you, because this makes your life so much easier, write this.  If you’re grateful that you live in the middle of a city because you love all the buzz and the noise, write that.  List the ones which resonate with you.  Everyone’s list will be different.

Practice 5:  How did I show love and kindness today?

The second practice in this chapter is to note how you showed love and kindness.  I do this at the end of the day, lying in bed. Reviewing your day, remembering what you did, and more especially, in what ways you were loving and kind is an act of kindness to yourself.  It focuses the mind, enabling you to analyse events and how you made someone else’s life better that day.  Break this practice up into three sections:  kindness to the self; kindness to other people; and kindness to the natural world and the environment.   To help you get started, here are some things which you could include:

  • I showed kindness to myself by eating healthy food because I know it helps to keep me strong;
  • I showed love and kindness by watching something other than the news. In this way I was more positive which I know is good for me;
  • I showed kindness to myself by meditating on one of my poor behaviour choices from the past and handing it over to God;
  • I showed kindness to myself by sitting out in the garden for a while, just being with nature. It is so good for the soul: the birds singing, the flowers showing off, the warmth of the sun on my bones, the smell and sounds of grass being mown.
  • I smiled at the grocery delivery man and engaged him in a conversation. He showed me a photo of his dog on his phone.  That made us both smile!
  • I showed kindness to the birds by making sure their feeder was topped up. Otherwise they waste vital energy flying in only to find there is no food and I do love to watch them.
  • I showed kindness to others by joining in a remote meditation, sending love and positivity to world leaders as they met to discuss a peace plan for a Middle Eastern country which has been ravaged by war for years.

It’s over to you now:

Being thankful is a major way to show love and kindness to ourselves.  It also has the added side-effect that our renewed positivity will affect those around us.  Even if we don’t say anything, they will perceive by our demeanour and outlook that we are much more positive and thankful.  So, be kind to yourself.  Change negativity, sarcasm, pessimism, lack of motivation, glass half-empty attitude, to positivity, optimism, compassion, determination, glass always half-full!  You will become a better, kinder person if you effect these changes in your life.

 About the Author:

Anita Neilson is an Author, Spiritual Poet and Kindness Blogger.  A secondary school teacher until ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia struck in 2008, she now spends her time writing for many mind, body, spirit publications; walking her dogs and meditating.  You can connect with Anita at: http://anitaneilson.com, on Facebook @AnitaNeilsonAuthor and Instagram @anitaneilson61.

Her book, ‘Acts of Kindness from your Armchair’, is out November 24th 2017, available from your preferred online book retailer.

 

War and Peace: a poem of hope

“Our boys deserve to become men
Not casualty numbers soon forgotten”

War:  a bloody impasse between
Sense and nonsense
Normal rules no longer apply.
As planes fly overhead
Men lie wounded and dead.
Would that another way were possible
Of peaceful compromise, of entente-cordiale
Between people who are not so different after all!
Our boys deserve to become men
Not casualty numbers soon forgotten
In the everyday chaos of battle.
Let them create future memories now
In the safety and peace of tolerance and love.

Peace:  New life springs forth from the tears
Of the Earth
For gentleness and patience heal all wounds.
Resilient shoots emerge after the ravages of fire
In this benevolent field of hope.
Love soothes all anger. Love eases all pain.
Hatred and fear will not take root here
For it takes joy to create such a beautiful tapestry
A binding together of all peoples in peaceful accord.
And it takes understanding to nourish it.  Amen.

Fibromyalgia…..it’s a pain! – 10 things I do better now.

September is Fibromyalgia Awareness raising month in the UK.  I want to share with you the 10 things I do better now that I have fibro!  If you don’t know what fibromyalgia is, it’s an illness categorized by constant pain in muscles, joints, nerves as well as overwhelming fatigue at the slightest activity.  I have had fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (M.E.) for around 9 years.  I’ve run the gamut of emotions in that time, but now I make it my intention to focus on the positive every day (and some days that can be so difficult, but we know, don’t we, that we have to ride the storm of bad days in the knowledge that the following day will be better for sure!).   In this spirit of positivity, here’s a chart tabling what I can no longer do and what I do in its place. I’d be interested in your feedback!  I hope it’s helpful.

What I can no longer do: Here’s what I do instead:
1.      Swim I take a few moments to visualize swimming and immersing myself in the peace that it can still bring me in my imagination.  I wrote a lovely post about just this: Inner-stillness-the-joyful-soul-dance
2.      Go for long walks Go for short walks! We go to our local park in the evening and walk along the tree-shaded riverbank for a few minutes.  It’s so relaxing. We stop and chat to other dog walkers; we take in gulps of the freshest of air; we peer through the trees to catch sight of the deer.  We delight in nature for the short time that we are out in it.  Start small and build up a little more each time.  I sit out in the garden for a few minutes each day too to bathe my bones with rays of healing sunshine.
3.      Hold down a full-time job Request a job-share or go part-time, although firstly take a really hard look at your finances to see if you can afford to cut your working hours.  If you can, be so grateful that you can and make the right choice for your health.  There are plenty of opportunities for volunteering to help others, and I have found that when we are engrossed in helping others, we forget about our pain for a while.
4.      Heavy housework I was unable to do any housework at the beginning of my illness (not so much of a hardship!).  Now I am able to do light housework such as 10 mins of dusting or tidying up.  Hubby does the heavy work like vacuuming and emptying bins.  If you live alone, ask for help from your neighbours or friends.  Employ a cleaner once a week if you can.  This is also good company for you, especially if you are mostly housebound like me.  If you really miss housework (!), you could always spend a few quiet moments visualizing how wonderful it was.  Lol!
5.      Concentrate in the afternoons I do any writing in the mornings because I know this is the time I am most alert.  For others, it may be the afternoons.  Do any paperwork or anything when you need to concentrate (such as make telephone calls) at the optimum time for you and REST at your worst times.
6.      Go shopping I really don’t miss shopping.  The shopping mall, that cathedral to commercialism.  It all seems so unpleasant now.  I buy clothes online, making sure I check the size guides before purchasing.  If you need to make a return, in the UK it’s so easy now to have packages uplifted from home or from local stores.
7.      Holidays/Travelling I can’t do airports (too much stress, light, noise, people, extremes of temperature; just too much of everything, sensory overload); I can’t travel in the car more than an hour at a time and when I arrive at our destination, I’m exhausted and have to sleep!  So we tend to go away for day trips to the beach, to seaside towns or to a Farmer’s Market, and I always write nice reviews for any places we have visited as an act of kindness.  You can make future memories in the small things.  You remember the weather, the time for you and your partner to talk, the nice food and good service you had for lunch, the photographs you took and so on. I’ve visited many places in my earlier life; nowadays I enjoy watching television programmes about travel to beautiful places.  The brain doesn’t distinguish between imagining doing something and actually doing something, did you know that?  Fascinating.
8.      Knitting I used to love knitting, but it belongs to the past and to the perfectionist personality that I was (and which still lurks in waiting in the background!).  There was a lot of ego involved in knitting, that sense of “Oh look what I’ve created.  Aren’t I clever!” I was looking for praise from other people and that was all tied up in my lack of self-esteem.  Now I know I no longer need others’ approval.  I can appreciate my niece’s knitting achievements for example ToryaWintersDesigns, but don’t feel the need to take up the needles again.
9.      Socialising I can no longer drink alcohol, but you know, I don’t miss it.  I realised that I relied on alcohol to relax me and I thought I couldn’t have a ‘good night out’ without it.  Not a bit of it!  I can now go out for a short meal in the evening, although I find it very tiring and have to sleep a lot the following day.  But it’s wonderful to feel connected again with family and friends.  If you can’t get out, why not invite people to your home, which is what we did for the past 8 years.  By doing this, I was able to sit and relax on a comfortable chair at home while everyone else organised the meal around me!  People are so happy to come and spend time with you, they don’t mind if you ask them to heat up some food or make tea. If you’ve explained your condition, they’re happy to help.
10.   Driving I used to love to drive.  The freedom that it gives you.  I rely on other people to drive me now, although we have recently bought an automatic car which I can drive for a few minutes at a time, but it does cause pain in my arms and I daren’t go out at all in the afternoons when concentration is poor.  I just wouldn’t put others at risk.  The thing about driving is, it encapsulates the big thing about having a chronic illness:  having to rely on other people.  My goodness, how I fought this for years, so determined was I to stand on my own two feet.  But it’s such a relief when you finally say, “Yes, would you help me with this…”  You can still do many things for yourself, but everyone needs a little help with something in their lives. Your pride stands in the way; let it go and you will be happier.

 

Rose petals floating downstream

A poem about simply being…

Rose Petals Floating Downstream

Lying here, blissful and serene
Tranquil as a rose petal
Floating downstream.
Gently swayed,
Its essence conveyed
to the waters:
As in a dream.
Its wistful beauty reflected
in a cloudless sky.
Its languid joy a
Contented sigh.

Stretching its form
Each cell drenched in light.
Twirling and pausing,
Bobbing and floating.
Each moment: sheer delight.
Cast adrift, free
it basks in simply being
A rose petal floating downstream.