School – Halcyon Days?

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I stumbled across a Facebook post about my old secondary school. Photographs of the empty shell as it was being dismantled. Corridors desolate, rooms empty yet all awash with numerous memories. Genuine goosebumps ensued as I was transported back to a tumultuous time in my personal life that shaped who I became. Ghosts of events, people, lessons and feelings flooded back. I know I am guilty of remembering the good and forgetting the bad and often dire times school brings, but in general that place was my womb; it served as my safe place when all around me caved in and collapsed.  

Having gone into the teaching profession myself, I know what it is like to have the potential to impact on young lives. I vowed to make a difference, to listen and support. Looking back, you remember the teachers who took the time to care, to treat us with respect. Mr Willsher, Mr Mantin, Mr Hyde, Mr Finn, Mrs Reynolds et al…you all made an impact on me.  I was amused and touched to learn I was mentioned by an ex-pupil in his head boy’s leaving speech back in July. I don’t think it was for bad reasons (phew!).  Happiness was always what I strived for in my classroom. Regardless of age, problems are problems, however petty or major. These worries do have correlation in the classroom, in their attitudes, in their positivity and outcome.  A lot has been written about teaching happiness in schools as part of the curriculum. I do feel that our education system is outdated in its approach to how it treats pupils. It is the herd mentality, rather than looking at what suits the individual.  Differentiation is not just for the page, it is for the whole being. With the emphasis clearly on tables and results these days, schools need to think about why children are not meeting their full potential? What is going on in their world that is having a monumental earthquake which makes school work so much more of a challenge? It is time to change our approach. The world is evolving, but not for the better. Schools can take the initiative. Listen, learn and lead. Lead to a better place. The crusade continues….

Changing your mindset can change your life!
Dream Big, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

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Back in the carefree days of my later teenage years, I recall a conversation with an elder member of society that caused me concern, but subsequently dismissed the notion with the bravado of youth. I was told that when you are older that you could count your true friends on one hand! WHAT? How ridiculous thought I, with a core of wonderful friends and a fantastic social life.

Who knew – they were indeed correct. Happiness is….my friends.
My friends have been my family through some major life events over the past few years. There are a few key players in my life who will always be with me until we end our days. These friends are the ones that you may not see daily or even weekly, but you know they have your back and will be there like a shot if needed. These are the friends who can pick up exactly where you left off when you next meet up – no questions asked. These are your soulmate friendships. For me, the most important relationships I will ever have in my lifetime.
There are the transient friends, who come into life for a reason, at a certain time, who provide support and guidance for that period in your life when it is relevant, but may drift away at a later date. Never underestimate the power of a transient friend.
There are also friendships of the opposite sex. I do not agree with the old adage that you can never just be mates with someone, that there must be some form of sexual frisson. One of my longest-serving mates is a chap. Met when I was 18 and he hasn’t been able to get rid of me since. We have survived him travelling the world, working together and he is now in Africa for two years, but the bond remains. There are times when the viewpoint of a male is most welcome, there can be less rivalry and more stupidity. But… when it comes to confidentiality and opening up the real me…it has to be the ladies. I am ambivalent about being born a female, but I do thank my stars and the babymaking dynamics of my parents that I am me! The ability to be open about life’s issues, talk through events that cause angst; all these things allow me the freedom to have learnt who I am and not let things eat away inside of me.
As we get older, making new friends can become increasingly harder. Job changes and common interests herald one or two key additions. The power of social media can also have an impact. The shared joy of Twitter and love of my football team fostered one new friendship (yep…you!). So, back to the young me, panicked at the thought of a small clique of support, I would say – it will happen. What you don’t realise is the power, nurturing and unconditional love and support that those handful of friends give and receive is worth far more than the masses of air-kissing disingenuous.
“ Friends should be like books, few, but hand-selected.” C.J Langenhoven
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Unity in the Beautiful Game

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Human nature, particularly the southern-residing Brit’s nature, is to avoid talking to strangers, to avoid eye contact with anyone who looks like they may possibly want to engage you in conversation, to pretend to be in a highbrow discussion on one’s mobile…all to be allowed to get on with life unhindered.

Yesterday was different. Yesterday I spoke with many people whom I had never met and would be unlikely to do so again. It was a day of unity, a day of family, the Brighton and Hove Albion football family.   I immersed myself amongst the 6000 people who watched the most momentous monetary match ( love a bit of alliteration!) in our history at the gorgeous AMEX stadium.  People talked, had the classic ‘banter’ and togetherness that only something special can bring. I saw no nastiness, I witnessed no harsh words towards the fellow fan. It was the collective consciousness at play – the wartime spirit, the united front.

Post-match, deflated and in need of food, I stopped off at a local supermarket, only to come across other adults in BHA tops. We rolled our eyes and shared a few words. Even a small child in his top saw mine and did a sad face, thumbs down.  I accosted a lady unloading her shopping into her car, a total stranger. We stood discussing the match and our respective history of Albion support five to ten minutes. Unity.  Today when I eventually venture out into the later afternoon sun, to walk along the beachfront, once the daytrippers have returned home, I will again speak to no one. Back to normal in a very unnormal time.  The private southerner in her private world. And as for the team and the fans…As a former manager always said, “Keep the faith!”  

 

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY …. Win the PLAY OFFS!! SEAGULLS!

A Happiness Fund!

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http://tinyurl.com/zkworoc

So the UAE, the happiest nation in the Arab world,  has a Charter for Happiness and Positivity.  Stemming from that their theme park has recognised that staff work better when they feel happy and positive about life and have set up a Happiness fund which will offer support for major life events of the staff. A downside maybe that it is to be funded by the employees themselves rather than handouts from those in power. Nevertheless, any initiative to promote well-being can only be a good thing.

With the UAE launching its Ministry of Happiness earlier this year I do wonder if any other countries will follow suit! I can’t see any of our current political stalwarts fronting such a chamber when the mere word ‘politics’ drums up other words which are far-removed from positivity!

Something needs to change.

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

The Sound of Silence

 

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In our modern world, in our modern daily lives, who experiences silence? It is very easy to avoid that space in our world that promotes quiet, a stopping time where we are left alone to our thoughts and the inner workings of our minds. For some that is something to avoid, a place best left hidden as it is too difficult to face and embrace.  We can be silent, but the world around us has always something to offer, something to tune into, albeit manmade noise or the natural world. My favourite place to be to gain some semblance of peace is by the sea or the river. Watching the ebb and flow of the tide is my relaxing space, but it is far from silence. The noises of nature have a profound impact on my emotional and physical well-being.  I enjoy being still at home. A contemplative stare at a naked candle flame or a glance out of the window at the garden all give peace, but are we ever truly silent?

I am guilty of living too much in my head. A criticism I give myself, thinking too deeply about things, a constant mull of my virtual reality mind. Some people talk to their pets, I jabber to myself!

In a  Lifehack article, Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think,  by Rebecca Beris, it states that consistent noise can elevate our stress levels. Children can suffer from reading, attention and memory deficit due to noise pollution. For those kids who plug themselves into tech, music and television, where is the escape into silence? With experience in the developmental changes occurring in pupils over the past 20 years, I can see the huge impact our thirst for outside stimuli has had on minds and attitudes.

I fully advocate the need to introduce some quiet meditation within schools to teach a different way of being, to incorporate stillness into a very transient and busy world. We all need stillness, we all need silence. With no access to a truly silent world, learning how to switch off and cut off the outside world is a must. We have become so far removed from the world of our ancestors that I can only hope we find a pathway back to the simple, the free and just be.

Silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything. John Grossman
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Social Media – Happy Talk?

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With the increase in popularity of social media for those of a certain age, having an online presence is paramount. Whether it is new business, established bastions of the high street or just plain old Gordon Bennett ( one for the oldies!), being active on Facebook, Twitter et al is a given. But does this access to the world and its wife mean that we are seeking some kind of instant gratification? Is our inherent need to be liked further compounded by whether someone has liked / shared  / retweeted what we post? Is it bad for our health – ultimately, is it bad for our happiness?

I would like to think I retain a measured approach to the big business of social media. I do what I should for work and peruse at leisure for pleasure – mainly anything related to football and my beloved Brighton and Hove Albion. Even I, however, cannot resist an air punch if someone of note responds or retweets something of mine. It is like an acceptance. I am suddenly part of this gang, the online family that grants closer access to the rich, famous and infamous.

I have also seen the damage that can be done via posting online. The keyboard warrior who gains joy inflicting pain upon others through the vitriol of their words can create havoc and damage in a second. Their comments wounding a stranger without thought for the person involved. Of course there are those that court this kind of interaction and thrive on the ‘banter’ that ensues.  I have witnessed those who perhaps seek something else from their online existence, a cry for help, for friendship, an escape from their external world. When life is not in balance, when your core is not happy, social media can be both supportive, but also a dangerous attempt at self-medication.

As with all relatively anonymous offerings, posting can be cathartic to those in need, but also can compound the unhappiness in their lives. Why does everyone else seem to be having such a great life, yet theirs is so bleak?  Why does Joe Bloggs have over a thousand friends, yet they have just a hundred?  It is a facade and one that does not help those who crave a need to be wanted.  Sometimes, the only thing to do is to revert back to the good old days. Be friends with people in the real world and don’t worry about things beyond your control.  

Happiness cannot be found in others, it is within you!

 

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

 

Mirror, mirror

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The joys of Valentine’s Day or as for so many, a day to rue what is missing.

Are you one who is single and feel like you are part of an underclass or are you rocking the spinsterhood movement – or somewhere in between?

For those who are alone on this over-hyped day of enforced love and commitment, are you genuinely happy with your life? If the answer is that you have spent all day wrapped in the duvet, eating chocolate bemoaning the lack of love in your life, then look deeper.

Happiness and self-love are very much one and the same. Do you really need the external world around you to make you feel happy?  People are attracted by many things. To be attractive to someone else, you need to feel attractive to yourself. Having that inner core of happiness is much more that a smile on the face. It is a total approach into how you deal with the mundane, everyday life and your relationships with those around you.

Take time to think about how you portray yourself? What could the mirror, mirror on the wall show you? Would you like what you saw? If not, change takes a nano second. Decide on your pathway and make those steps out of unhappiness.  If you listened to Fred on FIrst Dates, the whole world is about love. Yes, it is, but not necessarily partner love. Love yourself first! The rest will follow.

Clarity – Confidence – Courage = CHANGE

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Snow – no thanks!

 

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Living on the south coast of England, sheltered by the protective arms of the South Downs, my interactions with the white stuff are not so prevalent as many in other usually afflicted parts of the country.  Driving back from visiting friends residing north of the Downs last night, my heart sank when the drops hitting my windscreen turned into sleety snow. There was no shriek of delight, thoughts just turned to the last big flumpage in Sussex back in March 2013 when my journey from work, which normally took up to an hour at peak times, took four. Snow driving, although not my favourite, had never bothered me before….that journey was scary, loss of control of the car, wondering if myself and all the other motorists would ever see home that night… all with the rather surreal backdrop of beautiful ice white scenery.

So, does snow make me happy? Not as a motorist. As a human being however, no one can undervalue the sheer scale of awe of the muffled world that we witness when Mother Nature empties her white blanket over our busy, frenetic world. We stop, we listen, we notice the silence.  We laugh, we talk to strangers, we help each other in difficulty, we seem to re-find our sense of community. Long gone is my desire to make a snowman…but thinking back to my childhood I can picture the depth of snow in the garden that allowed my sister to create a huge snow teddy, walking through knee-high snow to the local school field to crash and faceplant in snowdrifts. They are happy memories. The carefree life of a non-adult. I watch with anticipation the weather forecast and am afraid to say, only smile when I hear that there will no chance of snow for the morning drive through the roadworks to work…..HAPPINESS!

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Workplace and Wellbeing

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Sitting at my desk, in my home, I trawl and read what is out there about a subject dear to my heart – happiness. I have blogged before about the importance of the link between happiness and a successful business. I was therefore pleased to read the article written by Lesley Stones – see link.  The momentum is gathering pace.. it isn’t just a half-baked idea adopted by the holistic happy-clappy brigade in the UK – this is worldwide. If you think about the core of what the whole happiness at work ethic is all about, it is not rocket science; it is basic human understanding.  Happy people will work more productively which equals more success for the business!

Can companies who are not creating the best working environment take stock and change? Of course… change is proactive, change shows willing, it is never too late to change.

Science, for those who need a more solid foundation, has shown that happiness can be taught. The brain can develop and attitudes can therefore alter. I particularly love the quote from the UN

“Happiness for the entire human family is one the main goals of the UN.” Whether we like it or not, our workplace is usually our second family. It can be our escape, but it can also be a major trigger in stress and illness. It is my mission to bring awareness that times are a-changing and businesses need to think about their staff not as commodities, but as individuals, with all the problems, joys and baggage that it entails.

Seek staff development. Seek staff fulfillment. Seek happiness.

“Everyone smiles in the same language.” Unknown

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Give It Up!

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http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/10-things-you-should-give-boost-happiness.html

As 2015 draws to a close, I found myself performing a yearly stocktake.  As last year was my annus horribilis, with the death of my father, I wanted to see how far I had come on my road to recovery.   Being lucky enough to have a strong core of friends who have kept an eye, and have often commented on my strength and ability to process my grief in a healthy way, I felt that the tide had turned. WIth all anniversary milestones met, the focus was truly back on me. NO excuses.

Profound change was made in my own life over the past year. I knew once my head and heart was settled, time was right to unleash the creativity within and mix it with the teaching, training and holistic backgrounds I have to formulate something worthwhile to help others.

In order to do just that, the last remnants of baggage clearing needed to occur. To commit to assisting others to find their happiness, mine needed to be genuine and heartfelt.

On a perusal of Twitter, I read the above article by Lianne Martha Maiquez Laroya on the 10 things you should give up to boost happiness.  I am in agreement with her list and could check back in my own life and mentally tick off each and every one. Number 10 was the hardest. How do we really give up the past? It surely is the past that shapes who we are and what we value in life? It took a long time to reconcile my past. To view things differently, to take from it what I needed to learn and to think what life lesson I had been taught each time, rather than whinge and moan and ‘why me’?

Lianne states, “Happiness is not a goal, it is a state of being.” My happiness has taught me to view life with more compassion, to strive to achieve all that I can in my pursuit of business, to take risks and know that the pathways will always lead somewhere that I am supposed to be.

It is liberating. It is how we should be. It was hard to get there.

My advice to you? Read the article, see which of the 10 things you can tick off, and which you need to work on. Find a way. Changing your mind-set can change your life. If you want to that is… Bring on 2016

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY