The Power of Gratitude

Being grateful is one of the most practical things we can do in order to affect our mood and create a positive mindset. No matter what circumstances we find ourself in, there is something to give thanks for, to feel blessed for and to feel gratefful for.

The more we appreciate and acknowledge the good in our lives, the good things we notice. The more we notice, the more we have to feel gratitude for. The cycle grows outwards and by practicing gratitude, the bad days carry less weight because we can see and feel beyond them.

Each day make it a habit that when you wake up, before you get out of bed, or as you drink your moring coffee, you think of a few things you have to be grateful f0r.

Bluebell

If you’re struggling to think of anything make it really simple – a good night of sleep, the taste of your coffee, the feeling of air in your lungs.  It really doesn’t have to be a monumentous thing. Just the feeling of gratidude is the only starting place you need.

I promise that the more you feel the grateful, the more you will have to feel grateful for. I’m not sure how it works but it does.

We don’t need to wait for the big house, the new car, the amazing holiday, to feel grateful or happy.  Those aren’t the things we are striving for after all are they?  It is the feeling of contentment, happiness and peace we are actually wanting.  So if we are feeling those feelings for what we have, everything else is a bonus.

Life is about the feelings,  not the things.

I’m sitting outside in the beautiful heat of summer-come-early, pondering all the wonderful things I myself have to feel gratitude for.

I’ve been through turbulent times and weathered them all.  I have evolved into a more equipped person who is able to deal with the things life throws in my direction. I have found ways in all this chaos to try and help other people that are going through it now. This gives such value to what was a pretty horrendous time.

I’m so grateful for this.

bluebell

I’m able to feel the heat on my skin, to hear the wind as it plays with the leaves on the trees, to hear the birds singing to each other. I can see the beauty of the spring all around me, smell the earthy and floral scent of the season and feel the breeze in my hair.

I am fully able to immerse mysellf in today.

I am so grateful.

I have the most amazing family who bring joy into my life so often. A husband who understands me completely and who I couldn’t possibly love more. A doggy-chid who completes me and who I am able to snuggle whenever I want.

I am so grateful.

I am blessed enough to be able to eat nourishing food every day and have access to fresh water whenever I need it.

I am so fortunate.

I am so lucky.

I have surrounded myself in nature and bluebells and birdsong this afternoon and taken time out for myself.

bluebell with hoverfly

My life is such a blessing and I am so very, very grateful.

I invite you to share in the comments a few things in your life you have to feel gratitude for and notice how acknowleding that gratitude makes you feel.

Blessings you lovely lot.

Love always, Claire xx

How To Hack Your Brain By Smiling Like You Mean It

Firstly, to clarify, I’m not suggesting in any way that if you are suffering from a mental health condition that smiling is going to make it all go away. Nor am I suggesting you should just slap on a smile and struggle through your pain. That’s totally not what this post is about. I’m suggesting you try the exercises, much like physio, to try and give your brain a bit of “happy” each day.
Let’s continue…
I’m sure you’ve heard the song.
“Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by, If you just smile…”
It popped into my head just now while I was supposed to be sleeping and it got me thinking. At first glance it seems like an instruction to just slap on a mask and forget your troubles. Gloss over your problems until they go away is not the greatest idea). Actually though, smiling is pretty good advice.
Have you ever tried smiling and feeling sad at the same time?  It’s hard, and I mean really hard. I actually think it’s impossible.  I’m not talking a half hearted, doesn’t reach the eyes, token smile – they don’t count.  I mean a full on, eye-reaching, cheek-inflating, heart-swelling smile.
3smiles
Smiling
The reason? Science and stuff of course…when we smile properly, we trick our brain into believing we are feeling all kinds of joy, why else would we be smiling right?  All the happy hormones, chemicals and unicorns get released and start charging around us and oooh, would you look at that?  We are feeling happy! It’s amazing, but it does work.
Let’s do some physio for our brains, each day, in the morning and before bed (and any time you need a boost) grin like a maniac. You don’t need to think of a happy thought (though by all means do), you don’t need to actually feel happy (you soon will, I promise), you just need to smile.
Start it in your heart and let it spread upwards, turn up the corners of your mouth, feel your cheeks swelling and spreading up towards your scrunched up eyes, let your nose crinkle.  You’re smiling! Now notice how much happier you feel?
Trust me, it works.
It might not be a cure for anxiety, but it’s definitely a soothing balm and the more you practice, the more happy hormones you’re going to get and the more happy you will feel.
So, smile before you get out of bed in the morning, smile in the shower, smile when you’re on the toilet, smile before you go to sleep, smile like you mean it.
Much love,
Claire.

Time Out

I was fortunate enough recently to go on a holiday to Wales with JJ, supporting our friend Jimmy, who is Deafblind. I never expected the holiday to be much other than work. It was so much more.

We had a wonderful time and made new friends who I hope will be in our lives forever. The views were breathtaking, the air clean and rich with smells of the country (yes – all of them).  I fell head over heels in love with every hill and valley and with the family that welcomed us into their home. I can’t wait to go back.

The most surprising thing we discovered when we arrived in this little patch of paradise was that there was no phone signal in the house. I didn’t know such places still existed! Our hosts generously offered to hook us up to the wifi but in what can only be described as a temporary lapse in sanity, a fleeting moment of wreckless abandon, I said “No thank you” and went off grid.

What happened next was magic.  I was present, truely present in the moments, in the room and in my head. I was no longer half listening with one eye on my social media. I was learning interesting things about the interesting people around me, I was spending time outdoors and playing wholeheartedly with the children…

I WAS BOTTLE FEEDING BABY GOATS!

BABY GOAT

All of the crap that life seems to constantly bombard us with dispersed and as the week went by the urge to check on what I was missing out on ebbed away too.

According to an offcom study, the average British Adult checks their phone every 12 minutes and is online for 24 hours a week! I’m one of them.  Phones are fab for keeping in touch but when I think about everything else I’ve been letting in with it…Brexit, War , Crime, Global Warming, Donald Trump, plus the constant media portrayal of perfect bodies, perfect lives, perfect lies… it’s no wonder I’m so overwhelmed half the time.

I realised during that week that my fear of missing out on what the world is doing can be the cause of me missing out on my own life. So I’m putting down the phone, even if it’s only for an hour a day.  I’m getting out there, for a walk, or taking time to sit and write or read a book. I’ll spend more time catching up with loved ones.  I will do something to bring myself more into the world and enjoy these moments while I can.

Thank you so much Mark, Sarah, Joe, Erin and Elliott (and a special mention to my best goat Wicket) for bringing me a bit of peace and a bit of perspective.  I can’t wait to see you all again soon.

A Change is as Good as a Rest

Well, here we are. We have moved to this shiny new bit of internet and here’s why…

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and I’ve had Joyful Spark for just over a year. In that time a lot has changed, not least of all me. I have grown as a person and as a writer.

I have gone from hating and resenting my own mind to embracing and understanding it . Learning all about mental illness and self care. From feeling embarrassed and ashamed of who I am, to feeling proud for what I have had the strength to overcome and sharing every aspect of it in a bid to help others going through similar things and raise awareness in those who fortunately never have.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer but never felt like I had anything worthwhile to say. As it turns out, when you write about what you know, it’s actually quite interesting.

And so, since my ultimate aim is to one day write a book and since I seem to be sticking at it and people are actually enjoying the things I write, I have taken the plunge and here we are.

So, pull up a chair and get comfortable.  Let’s pick up where we left off…

Stop With The Shouty Rage 

Why is the world so angry? Imagine if we could all just let go of that anger and focus on how we could make the world a happier, kinder place. How much nicer would the world be for all of us if we could just stop being expressions of our own rage?

Maybe all it takes is the decision to change our thinking and the patience to make it a habit. I have spent a large portion of my life as an unwitting hostage to my own way of thinking. I saw the negatives in each situation, worried about things that could go wrong, felt resentful when things didn’t go well and chose to believe I had no choice but to accept these feelings and suffer them. I was wrong.

What if I told you, being offended was a choice? Or being upset, or angry or hurt? Admittedly, it’s a choice that we are often unconscious of but once we get our head around that fact, it becomes a lot easier to take yourself out of other peoples business and just get on with being happy. Not being offended, or upset, angry or hurt is also a choice. It’s not as easy as the first option but it is far more beneficial.

If someone is rude to you and says something hurtful or does something that is a horrible reflection on them. If you choose to believe them or be offended by what they say and do, then who suffers? Only you. Better to let them live their life in a way they see fit and focus on living your own.

It takes a lot of work, but it can be done. The trick I’ve found is to notice your thoughts and when a negative one creeps in, acknowledge it and then replace it with something more beneficial. Little by little you might notice a shift in how you’re thinking and feeling because your thoughts affect your feelings. If you can choose how you react to those thoughts the possibilities for happiness are endless and if we’re all feeling happier and being nicer, imagine what the world could become.