by Simon Henry @simlington
Writing a blog on your birthday? Are you mental?
Well, as it happens, yes. A bit.
I have a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder, chronic depression and anxiety disorder.
Physically, I have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (pain all over the place.)
So you could say I have some ‘issues’ that may affect my level of bliss on this earth.
But having these conditions don’t mean I can’t have many moments of calm.
And it doesn’t mean I can’t see the joy in life.
It does mean, though, that I have to work at it.
If you’re suffering from any, some, or all of these things – or even if you just get a bit peeved from time to time – here’s the Henry Birthday Recipe To Feeling A Bit Better.
1. Being in awe is good for you.
I know ‘awesome’ is an overused word since the Lego movie.
But there really is some awesome stuff all around you.
You just have to take a bit of time to look, hear, feel, smell …
Awesome things I like to stare at or think about include:
– Ants carrying leaves and other ant stuff that’s several times bigger and heavier than they are.
– Cats jumping on to walls that are several times higher than they are.
– The blue sky, especially if there are some green leaves in front of it to provide a bit of contrast.
– The feel of a cotton shirt against my body (especially if it’s from somewhere good like Gap).
– The sound of the cats crunching on their food.
– The smell of Miller’s gin – even though I don’t touch the stuff.
You get my point. Awesome is absolutely everywhere – we just have to decide to look for it.
And once you do, you can’t stop.
The world is just full of awesome stuff waiting to make you smile or gasp.
2. Let’s get physical
Before you do anything else, watch this clip from Olivia Newton John’s Let’s Get Physical (3 mins 43 secs). It’s utterly dreadful – a mix of mid-70s porno and early-80s breakfast TV fitness sessions.
(How can I pinpoint porno to a particular part of the 1970s? There’s surely another blog in that one.)
Anyway, when I was a lot younger, I used to sit around all day, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and watching TV. I know this sounds like bliss to a lot of people but stay with me.
I would do this all day without getting any exercise at all.
Then I’d wonder why I couldn’t sleep at night and felt generally terrible about myself.
A bit of advice: if you possibly can, walk – even if it’s up and down the road.
Some might say I’ve taken my love of walking to extremes. My favourite walk is now a 26-mile excruciatingly difficult walk in the Yorkshire Dales – the Three Peaks. I’m doing it tomorrow – as a birthday treat. I warned you at the start I’m mental.
For the more mundane days when I’m not allowed to spend 10 hours surrounded by sheep and grass, I encourage myself to walk with the help of technology.
I’ve downloaded the Pedometer++ app on my iPhone. You tell it how many steps you want to do in a day.
Then it shows you whether you’ve hit your target with a simple red (bad), orange (neither good nor bad) and green (good) colour-coded graph.
3. Do something for other people or for the world.
I’ve started giving blood.
I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But you do get one afterwards. And unlimited Club or Penguin biscuits, too.
And the tiny inconvenience of having your blood let is far ourweighed by the sense of wellbeing you get afterwards. (Unless you faint or die, but I’m told the risk is minscule.)
If, like me, you can tend to feel a bit cast adrift from the rest of the world, like you don’t really belong or fit in, it quite literally connect you to the rest of the human race.
After all, your blood ends up pumping round someone else’s body! Wow. That’s a bit awesome. (See 1 – I knew this blog had a plan to it.)
Don’t underestimate this one for lifting your spirits.
And if you can’t give blood, you could hold a door open for someone, smile at someone on the bus, or chat to someone in a queue at the Post Office.
I know human beings can be really, really annoying.
I mean, I wouldn’t fancy being stuck in a train with a load of Mormons – and don’t get me started on right-wing Christians in general.
But small things that connect you to the rest of the human race really can make you a bit happier. Go on, have a go.
4. Train your mind to stop it being quite so annoying
I’ve already written some blogs about a new thing called ‘mindfulness’.
Actually, that’s stretching the meaning of the word ‘new’ as it’s over 2,500 years old.
Let me just summarise what it is – and why I think you’d be mental not to try it, even if you don’t have a diagnosis.
a. Start by being aware of what is going on in your mind.
You’ll find quite a lot of it is not really welcome, like thoughts about a kid at school you hated 20 or 30 years ago, or the thought of getting cancer or dying.
b. Do some exercises to start being more aware of what is going on in said mind.
This is just like exercising your legs to firm up the muscles. You can train to become more aware of what is going on. And just think – you don’t have to go to the gym and smell all that sweat.
c. If you are aware of what is going on – whether that is your body tensing against pain or stress, or your brain going into meltdown years ago – you can do something about it.
d. That something is to accept what is happening and then to consciously anchor yourself in the present moment by meditating.
A lot of people meditate on the breath, but you could meditate on your right nostril, your left nipple or your central bum hole.
If you’re thinking about what is happening right now in your physical body or brain, you cannot possibly worry about the future or the past.
And the more you practise being in the present, the more you become aware of how little time you actually spend here.
And you also realise how much time you spend pointlessly worrying about things you can’t change.
Then you realise it’s actually quite nice concentrating on the present – and you do actually feel better when you spend more time in the here and now.
It doesn’t work instantly – in my case it has taken the best part of two years for it to start having an impact.
But it’s worth the wait. If you like your fixes quick, this ain’t it. But show a bit of patience, eh?
Why not have a go at any or all of these?
I’m off to meditate on how much my feet are going to hurt, how awesome the sheep will look and whether I’ll need a blood transfusion after the Three Peaks.
If you enjoyed this, you may like a recent post, How Mindfulness can make us all a bit happier
Or have a squiz round the rest of the site – there’s quite a bit in here about how to be a bit happier.
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Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014