photo of group of people sitting on rock formation

Calming Down Your Nervous System for the Homesick

This is just a short one. I realised that listening to the sounds of nature from back home in the UK made my nervous system instantly drop down into a state of relaxation. And then I wondered why that might be. 

I think that if you’re away from where you grew up (in a different country or even a different part of the same country), then you’re having an experience that is not always congruent with how your nervous system was formed. On the plus side you may have left old reminders of tough times behind. But on the downside, all those times you relaxed at home with the windows open, or in a park or in nature, where your nervous system learned to relax and let go, they might only be easily unlocked by the sounds (and other senses) of home.

And I believe this is true for city dwellers also, as you usually get birds and other wildlife in streets and parks. Although we might not be aware of all those sounds in the background, they sink in and become part of us. And not just when we’re children either, it’s also about the amount of time we’ve had experiences of relaxation, to build up that reaction. 

So why not find a (hopefully music-free) audio or video recording of nature sounds from a place you grew up or lived for a long time, close your eyes and breathe. See if it helps. 

And in case you’re curious, this is one I found for Britain (I think the nature may be more extraverted than the people 😀 ).

Take care!

A picture of Suzanne smiling beside a massive tree with deep vertical lines in its bark.
A photo of me in the New Forest, UK – can you believe this isn’t the Redwoods?
photography of yellow hibiscus under sunlight

Where are you spreading your sunshine? Aka the glorious and finite nature of your attention.

If we think of your attention an energy as a kind of light you can shine, where are you putting that effort? 

And who is putting it into you? 

The most satisfying relationships are the ones where the energy you put in is roughly equal (with allowances for child/ adult relationships and others where it can’t be the same). 

When we’re younger we’re a little more indiscriminate, and we tend to give our emotional energy to things that don’t always feel satisfying to us, but we haven’t learned not to yet. 

While as adults, we only usually do that when we have an issue that’s holding us back (i.e. as a wound from childhood that is trying to get healed). 

And there are different ways to put energy into people. For example:

– listening

– paying attention

– praising

– giving feedback

– supporting emotionally

– cheering up

– laughing with/ flirting

– validating

– connecting people with others

– giving advice

– problem-solving for them

– thinking for them

You might notice it as the sparkle in someone’s eyes when they talk to you, a text or call, a book recommendation, a suggestion of someone you might want to meet, a pat on the back, words of encouragement or advice, amongst many other forms. 

All these things are the little intangibles of being in relationship. And as such, we don’t always think about how we’re spending that effort. But we definitely notice when we’re starting to feel drained though. 

This isn’t a do this or don’t do this post. It’s just a question (OK, a couple): 

Is there somewhere you’re spending that energy that isn’t being reciprocated or is otherwise draining you?

Are you doing it because on you hope it will one day become mutual or satisfying? 

Where would be better to put your attention/ energy? 

I would say that even if someone is a friend or close relative, if the energy you put into them is always squandered, you’d be better off using it to cheer up your local barista. 

And sometimes people give all the appearance of reciprocating, but it’s only the appearance. The warmth and energy that should be coming through the smile or attention to energise us, doesn’t, and we can be left feeling confused and jaded – after all our brain saw we were receiving something, but at the same time our heart knows we didn’t actually receive it. It’s like zero sugar drinks making your insulin spike for no reason, because the sweetness was just a trick. And it might not be intentional, people are often doing the best they can do, but it still may not be enough for us.

And if, thinking about this, you realise someone has been putting emotional energy into you, it would be great to just recognise that and feel grateful. It’s not nothing, it’s a real effort for people. 

I hope that wherever you’re investing your emotional energy, it is paying off for you. 

And as always, take care! 

Growing Pains and Personal Evolution

Or outgrowing Your Old Life: the Discomfort of Shedding the Skin vs the Discomfort of Staying in it.

One of my most important jobs as a coach is to support people through transitional times. This is a privilege for me, as it’s a unique and special journey. But it may feel very not-special while you’re going through it! More painful and confusing, perhaps. 

Just like a snake grows and has to shed its skin, it is in our human nature to evolve. What was comfortable becomes restrictive, and we naturally set our sights on the next step up. 

But fear and comfort can stop us taking it. All that energy we’ve stored up, which was getting ready to help push us forward, adapt and grow, is now just pent up inside us. It has to come out somehow, so it may become an unhealthy habit, or a negative attitude such as jealousy of someone who has been successfully growing, or resentment towards someone we are blaming for our lack of growth. 

But either way, that energy for change will come out somehow. You can wait your impulse to grow out over time, as it can diminish with age as your energy levels diminish also. But it’s not ideal because deep down you always know the truth, that you let fear stop you from becoming more of who you are. 

Reading this, someone could definitely take it as a sign they should finally give up their job and go travelling round the world, end that relationship or start their own business. If that’s genuine then it could be your next step, but it’s often something smaller and deeper. 

Having a difficult conversation you’ve been putting off, setting up a healthy boundary, believing in yourself enough to learn a skill you’ve been wanting to for ages, loving someone more deeply, taking a chance on intimacy, being honest with people about who you are. 

A lot of self-development work is about leverage: a small but deep change is worth a million huge outer changes. 

And although many of us can get restless and feel pulled to grow, it can be hard to know in what direction. Many of us assume it should be more of the thing we’ve been doing, especially if it has paid off so far. More travel, more success, more money, more influence, more socialising. 

It’s a challenge to pause long enough to listen to what our deepest self wants, especially when we don’t want the answer (because the answer is often the thing we’ve been subconsciously avoiding for a long time). It’s the thing that is really going to make us leave our comfort zone. Not just of external things like how we dress or where we go, but in our experience of who we are to ourselves. What we know about ourselves. 

There’s a risk of shattering ideas we’ve held about ourselves that have helped us feel safe in the world. I could write a book, if I ever just sat down and wrote it – could you actually? I am a good person, even though I lose my temper – are you being a good person in that moment? I’d be a great husband/ wife, I just never felt like settling down – or are you scared of not being enough when you’re truly seen? (These are just examples, of course, and they don’t have black and white answers most of the time).

Our ideas about who we are keep us feeling safe in the world. What if we try to step beyond them and there is nothing there to catch us?

What if we try and we’re not enough? What if we succeed and then we actually have to like and believe in ourselves more as a result? What if we try to find love and get rejected? Or worse, are truly seen and loved, subverting our beliefs? What if the thing we’ve always been blaming (ie; I’d be happy if I got a raise), turns out not to be the thing (I got the raise, but I’m not happy) and we realise it’s been us all along?

The good news is that when we grow for genuine reasons, the path appears. But that’s not to say there won’t be hard and dark times. And it’s not to say the difficulties won’t last for longer than you want them to. For that reason, growing isn’t always the right thing to do. You have to be ready, with enough of the things you need to succeed and stay healthy. It could be money, health, emotional support or something else. 

Here are some tips based on what I’ve learned after years of supporting people through transitional phases. I hope they help. 

  • You won’t be able to see the end. You’ll definitely know you’re going through something, but the outcome will not reveal itself to you until you’re very close to it. I don’t know why, but I think it’s an important part of the process, because self-development dynamics don’t tend to be a certain way just to mess with you. It can feel disorienting though. 
  • Regarding the point above, since you may find it hard to know exactly where you’re going, it helps to try orient yourself according to your deepest self. Your needs, wants and instinctual knowing. Your deepest self will lead you in the right direction, you just have to try and make sure it isn’t your old habits and fears masquerading as your self in an effort to stop you changing and protect themselves. 
  • It may take a week, it may take years. Probably not what you want to hear, but change has its own speed and process. It’s much healthier to help it along rather than cut it off before it’s done (unless you are overwhelmed and need time off), or to hurry it up (and cause overwhelm). 
  • It may be a multi-stage process, especially if it happens over years. So you may be growing for a time, then resting and integrating for a time, and so on. For some of us this process is our whole lives, but I don’t think that’s the case for everyone. 
  • You have to have faith in yourself and your capacity to adapt. But you should also be smart and balance your material needs with your need for change. Other resources such as emotional support, nutrition, advice, practical help and more, may also become important at various points. 
  • Growing is hard work. Rest when you need to. 
  • A lot of emotion from the past may come up, so you may need therapy to help you process it. Growing doesn’t only open us up to new opportunities, it can also open up old wounds. Perhaps the scar tissue is too restrictive for who we need to become to fully be ourselves. 
  • We can get energised then a bit crazy. Sometimes throwing off a restraint that’s been holding us back (that we’ve been allowing to hold us back), for a long time gives us a huge burst of energy. Suddenly anything is possible and we feel young and vibrant. That is an amazing feeling, but I do recommend not indulging in a series of external changes, where you just go from one thing to the next and never settle. It can become addictive and a way of avoiding the deeper meaning of why you were growing in the first place. 
  • The above can also become a version of “my ex-wife never let me wear shirts like this”, while everyone thinks perhaps his ex-wife had a point. But actually there is a lot of value in trying different things to find out more about who you are and what you like. But you don’t want to orient yourself too much around the past, ie. what you were not allowed to do, how you were failed etc. New bursts of energy need somewhere to go and if you’re not certain of who you are, it can be easier to look to the past and to other people. So, I recommend trying different things, having fun, but also getting massages and meditating. It’s about getting a balance between using the energy to push outwards into new life, while also bringing it back to who you are deep down and staying grounded (and working through any emotions that come up). 
  • I also highly recommend journaling. It will help you to process what you’re going through and stay connected to yourself, even when it feels like nothing is certain.
  • I know I said it before, but it is the open-ended blank space you’re heading towards that is a vital part of the process. I think it makes you have faith in yourself, get closer to your instincts and hold a beginner’s mindset. It opens you up again, where comfort may have made you a little closed. I know it can be unnerving, but it’s really good for you. 
  • One last piece of advice: if you’ve been through a transformative time before, you may assume this one will be similar in shape, length or outcome. But it may be completely different this time, so keep an open mind. 

Although the specifics of a a transformational time look different for each of us, the general dynamics are the same. We go from a stable period in our comfort zone, to a feeling of restlessness and an urge to grow. From there we either don’t take action and the energy comes out in less productive ways, or we start to grow. As we evolve into more of who we are we also have to confront unhelpful beliefs, work through emotions, and then also re-evaluate priorities and make life adjustments to reflect our new, greater level of personal truth. We then either progress to another level of growth or we’re done for a while and we get to just integrate what we’ve learned by living and enjoying ourselves (hopefully). 

If you are currently in the restless feeling or the process of change, I can empathise. I’ve been around the transformation block a few times and experienced the unease (as well as moments of unexpected joy) that comes with it. 

Make sure you’re taking care of yourself and finding the support you need. It’s not meant to be a battle, but a natural process of growth. The difficulty is part of the process, but you don’t need to make it any harder on yourself than it is. 

Maybe the point of growing is not to become something, perhaps it is just to keep us open and supple in our spirits. If that’s the case, I think it’s worthwhile. I hate to see people sad and stuck, calcified in their ways of being, and so sure that nothing can ever change or improve. If pushing through the fear and uncertainty is the price we pay to stay open, creative alive and loving, I think it’s worth it. 

And, as always, take care! 


Photo of a broken bridge

Reclaiming Parts of Life Others Have Ruined for Us

I wanted to write about this topic because it’s another area of life that isn’t usually talked about directly. 

Before we begin, I need to say that if you need to reach out to a therapist for help with any issues that come up, please do so.

Trigger warning: If the subject of bullying or abuse is too triggering for you right now, skip this article. 

OK, with that said, let’s start with me giving you an example, because I know this concept may seem vague. 

Let’s say you were bullied in school by someone who loved a certain band. In fact, you used to like that band too, but the association with the bully ruined it for you. Years later you could be driving along and one of their songs comes on and you’re right back to feeling angry and insecure. 

The interesting thing about this to me is that it appears that the bully has more power. They have, in a way, claimed the band for their own, perhaps even intentionally ruining your love of them. Because bullies are (acting like) £$%holes. 

But let’s say you grow up and one day meet the band and realise they’re great people. They wouldn’t even like the bully or want to be associated with that person in any way. In fact, they would think they were an £$%hole too. 

So all these years, the association of the bully has stood between you and your love for a band, even though that person has no more power than you. In fact, they’re weaker because their personal power is so low they have to try and steal it from others. And the band isn’t associated with them at all and if they were, wouldn’t like them.

This kind of pattern can apply to almost anything:

  • Hobbies like cooking, painting, dancing. 
  • Smells of any kind you associate with someone you dislike, colours and sounds. 
  • Places, restaurants, entire countries or nationalities – perhaps even races and in extreme cases genders. 
  • Aspects of life including: self-care, intimacy, exercise, healthy diet
  • Names (you wouldn’t name your child after your school bully!)
  • Entertainment such as books, movies
  • Sports, games
  • Style choices, brands
  • Jobs. 

The list is endless! 

I currently have a negative association with a certain smell and right now I have something very similar melting in my wax burner. As the smell is released, I’m sitting here and trying, with an open mind, to rediscover what that my relationship to that smell is, without interference from the memory of the other person. I’m finding, as is often the case, that I’m detangling my true self and experience of life from that person’s pain and poor behaviour. 

This isn’t like the process of desensitisation that therapists will take you through when you have a phobia (although if the thing triggers you strongly, perhaps you should reach out to a therapist). It is about finding how you relate to that specific thing in a genuine way. 

And this is important, because I believe when you get disconnected from something because of a person or an association (such as a negative event) – you haven’t only lost your connection to that thing. You have lost connection to a part of yourself. 

The part of yourself that enjoys that band, that colour, that hobby. That smell. 

It isn’t always so easy to reclaim something when it triggers difficult emotions. But it can be a wonderful way to start working through those emotions. It may take you a long time, you may need to take baby steps and spread your efforts out over time. I think the key thing is not to try bypass your emotions or take back your power by convincing yourself you’re OK (which is really common when you feel someone has taken your power away and you want to get it back as quickly as possible by pretending you’re OK). As you reclaim that part you will also get more of your power back naturally. 

Whatever you are reclaiming for yourself, it is your birthright. No one can dictate your relationship to yourself or the world around you – there shouldn’t be another person stuck in there (or their “stuff”). 

Here is my crude diagram of that:

diagram of person in centre and things they relate to in circle around them, including smells, music, jobs, sports etc.

Unfortunately abusive people are often trying to insert themselves where they don’t belong, so if you have suffered from that, reclaiming this space can take a bit more effort. You have to separate who you are from how they want you to react, from who they actually are and from how they want to appear and other issues. It gets a bit tangly and messy. 

So take your time, follow your instincts, and just remember that any time you sense someone else has come between you and your relationship to something (or someone) and it no longer feels genuine, that you can always reclaim that for yourself. 

I have done another basic diagram where I labelled the person who ruined something for you a “boundary breaker”. Of course, you might have a negative association with someone who didn’t even do anything wrong, but it’s a bit less common. 

Diagram is explained in text below, shows person a circle in 1, in 2 with section missing, in 3 section is reconnected

As you can see in step 1, your relationship to a thing (I’ve labelled it “anything specific”) gets a bit weird when someone interferes with it by crossing a boundary into the space between you and that thing, where it should just be you and your personality. 

In number 2, part of you splits off from the rest of you, showing that when your genuine connection to something is damaged, it can also damage a part of your connection to yourself, usually a specific aspect of yourself. The boundary breaker is shown as having that thing (and part of you) in a net – because that’s how it feels, not because they could actually ever take that thing from you.

And in 3 you’ve reclaimed that part and by doing so you are more integrated within yourself. Your relationship to that thing is your own again. The boundary breaker is less relevant and you no longer give them as much power. 

That is a topic for another day, but it’s important to mention that although the title of this article is about other people doing something to you, to a certain extent we have also allowed them to do it to us. This can feel very triggering – especially if someone was abusive and even more if they were in a position of power. It is not to say your experience is not real. It is more a sense of shifting our own power back to our centre, and knowing we are the masters of our own inner experience. 

It’s not easy to do. I often fail. I often feel like people are taking advantage, or doing something to me. And to a certain extent, they are. But we mustn’t overestimate the power of weak people, or spend too much of our time or energy on them. This also extends to not allowing weak people to dictate our inner sense of ourselves and our relationship to the world around us, as I’ve spoken about here.

And “weak people” isn’t the kindest term. I really mean people who aren’t currently acting out of their best selves. But it is accurate in terms of what they are often putting out into the world. 

If you’re an HSP (highly sensitive person) like me, you may attract, and be affected by, more than your fair share. However, it is something we all have to deal with on some level. 

So if you want to try an exercise I just wrote for this, I’ve put that below. I hope you get to enjoy that smell, eat that pizza, listen to that song, wear that colour or any other thing you’ve been avoiding!

Let me know how it goes and what you’re reclaiming.

And as always, take care!

Exercise for Reclaiming What’s Yours

Have a think about the people who you dislike and/or who treated you badly and just wonder with an open mind – is there anything they ruined for me? 

And now try really clearly telling yourself that they don’t own that thing. (It may help to imagine the thing as really big and the person as really small).

Finally, see if you can ask yourself with an open mind, how you can reclaim that thing back for yourself? And maybe also wonder what that would mean to you. 

gray asphalt road surrounded by tall trees

Polarity and Balance

I’ve been thinking about balance and polarity recently – a topic that has stayed with me since I first started tai chi at the age of 16 (just a few years ago *cough*). I realised the other day that a need in us to view certain things as excessively positive might be a strong sign that we are dealing with an excessive negative in another area – we are attempting to find balance. 

Projection is a psychological term for a process where we see outside, what we cannot bear to see or feel inside. Perhaps another aspect of this is needing certain things to be positive enough to balance out a negative we can’t deal with. 

For example, this might look like needing a certain group of people to be above reproach because we have been associated with a different group that was worse than we could handle. And if we have this expectation it will often set us up for disappointment, because people are only human and good and bad are everywhere. 

I touch on this slightly in my chapter on acceptance (in The Art of Coming Home) because in order to be at peace we need to be able to accept positive, negative, joy, pain – the whole experience of life. Not condoning everything – just not fighting against the fact that it does exist. 

This is hard because we are primed to seek out the positive, generally-speaking (although we’re also drawn to the dark in different ways – again – seeking balance). So it can be really difficult to accept certain types of negativity depending on our experience and our personality. 

For example, let’s say we grew up with very angry parents and now we can’t stand that quality at all. We might see signs of it in others and not be able to stomach it, we might feel triggered or want everyone to be above reproach in that respect. We might also need ourselves to be “opposite-of-angry-people” and that might make us act in a way that is slightly false at times, have terrible boundaries or feel resentful. We may need excessive positivity to balance out the negative we experienced, which we have not accepted or processed. 

And processing is tough because even if we’re able to acknowledge everything that happened in our heads, our hearts might still be dragging a sore and painful wound that is not capable of assimilating it at all, or our nervous system may be on a hair trigger that we have not been able to diffuse yet. 

So there are some things I’d like to suggest if you recognise this in yourself:

  • This is something that has helped you in your life, probably a lot 
  • Self-protective mechanisms come from a good place even if their effect is not always desirable now
  • Where there is dark, there is light 
  • Where there is light, there is dark
  • Finding the positive in a negative situation does not mean condoning bad behaviour or glossing over your feelings and needs
  • Just because we carry a wound that is not ready to be completely healed it does not mean we have to let it dictate how we live and relate to others
  • Everyone has some version of this
  • We all have positive and negative within us
  • Polarity is part of life, aiming for 100% positivity is not realistic, limiting ourselves to only expecting the negative is also not realistic
  • Whatever we experience, we can be kind to ourselves.

Can you see the places you put the most emphasis on necessary-positivity? Does it at all feel like an expectation carrying the weight of a wound? How can we work through the negative that is pushing us to grasp so hard for the positive, keeping us off-centre?

Perhaps by simply acknowledging that it is. 

Seeing and understanding the roots of it.

And the fact that sometimes being with our pain is enough to transform it. 

I don’t think it’s possible for us to get away from framing things in terms of positive/ negative – just as the sun rises and sets every day, light and dark are key to orienting us and balancing us in our world. And they are always there. 

I can’t even end this without saying what I think would be a positive way to deal with polarity and our wounding. But what we can do is accept that this polarity will continue to play a part in our lives, that we’re both flawed and inherently perfect, there are people in the world that act in “good” and “bad” ways and that positives and negatives are going to keep coming at us – the only thing that matters it that we strive for what we want while accepting the opposite will happen sometimes and try not to take it personally – because this is simply a natural aspect of life. 

Powerful Goals

It’s that time of year again!

Moving into the new year is a great time to start with a fresh perspective and maybe set some goals to get us closer to the life we want. 

I wrote a comprehensive guide to creating and setting goals and then I used it for myself and today is day #1! I have three different goals set out, 1 personal development, 1 admin and 1 lifestyle change. That even distribution wasn’t on purpose, it’s just what I naturally ended up with after working through the process of seeing what was lacking and where I wanted to go. If you’re interested, there’s a link to a large preview of the goal guide below. 

I realised as I was writing the guide how important it is for our goals to be in line with who we are and our overall goals for our lives. It helps keep us motivated and find our willpower on those difficult/ grey/ blah days when we’d rather stay in bed/ on the phone/ in a food coma perhaps. 

Because I coach people I see some stumbling blocks come up all the time and you can read all about them in the preview, so I won’t repeat myself here. But I do want to let you know about a couple of other ones people often come up against early on in their journey towards their goals. 

  1. Setting a goal that you’ve often set before and often abandoned

This may be a great goal, but if you don’t figure out the sticking point or other reason you gave up the other times, it may be hard to see it through this time. This is not true 100% of the time, sometimes a person has grown more determined, resilient or engaged with their goal and this time they break through. But to make that more likely, take some time to reflect on what you tripped you up last time and see if you can put something in place (i.e. rewards, support, a process) to get you through that tricky stage and on to the delights of new territory – which is intrinsically very rewarding

2. Setting a goal you don’t have much confidence in

Maybe it’s a sensible goal, maybe you don’t think you can do it, or maybe you don’t really want it. Whatever the reason, you are not feeling a lot of conviction in it and maybe you’re even trying to compensate by appearing enthusiastic when you’re not, or spending loads on equipment or other, to try and compensate for your lack of conviction. Maybe take some time to go back to basics and figure out what you want deep down. If you do deeply desire this outcome, find ways to bolster your confidence and feel like you can really achieve it and that you really deserve it too.

3. Working towards a goal you know is right, but that you feel resistant to

We all deserve great things and we also know that they take consistent effort and dedication. However, many of us can: feel undeserving deep down, want to avoid change, want to avoid taking responsibility, fear failure, fear success, fear vulnerability ( perhaps from intimacy or increased visibility) or worry about the things we’ll lose when we gain something new. 

There’s no way around it – when we gain something we usually lose something else. For example – if we gain confidence we lose excuses not to take action and stay in our comfort zone. On the plus side we’re often only losing things that aren’t right for us any more – think how heavy we’d be if we didn’t shed things as we gained new ones. But it’s human nature to get attached to things, so don’t give yourself a hard time. Just know that you’re not losing anything that makes you you, when you gain something that’s right for you. 

Feeling worthy of good things can also be hard. If we weren’t brought up feeling worthwhile then taking action can move us forward, but then our inner state can snap us right back again. Taking small steps, getting the support you need, practicing self-care and celebrating your small wins (which may actually be huge to you) along the way will help you to progress without feeling you’re pretending. At a sustainable level of progress your inner state will be fairly evenly matched with your outer state and achievements. And don’t worry if this isn’t the case yet, it can be a journey for many of us. Just try not to jump out of your inner issues by leaping forward with drastic action that doesn’t align with who you are, as you may feel lost or untethered. Just keep making those small, genuine steps forward towards goals that are as big or small as you can work with.

4. Starting a goal expecting to fail

You’d be surprised how common this is. It can be hard for many of us to leave our comfort zones and for some of us that comfort zone may be a specific idea of where our limits lie. In some people that shows up as never taking action, while for others it looks like appearing to take action but knowing deep down you don’t really want to achieve your goal. Why would we do this? For a while it appeases the part of us that wants to progress, as well as the part that doesn’t. It also gives us something to talk about with others and a temporary diversion. I’ve noticed an underlying feeling of not having the resources to actually change (whether this is courage, intelligence, strength, worth or other). But we all have the resources to achieve the things we are genuinely drawn to – perhaps not always our version of them (i.e. fastest runner in the whole world or most famous actor), but a version of them (i.e. fast runner or talented actor).

I’ve known people to get quite angry when directly challenged about this, as if this cycle has become a part of their personality. Difficult habits are never who we are deep down, so if you relate to this just know that with the right support you can actually make lasting progress towards something that is meaningful to you. I’d recommend it is meaningful first because people with this issue may feel insecure and try to cure that with a win that isn’t necessarily right for them (see the point below).

5. Going after a goal you think will get you something you want (but actually won’t)

Sometimes we have a feeling and rightly let this spur us into action. But sometimes it’s worth taking a moment to make sure we’re taking the right kind of action. Real change is hard and patch fixes can be alluringly simple – they offer the promise of feeling better without having to actually change our thoughts or behavior very much. But in the long-term they are not satisfying and they can contribute to a widening gap between who we really are and how we experience ourselves.

For example, someone who feels bad about themselves may feel very drawn to dating a supermodel. It will help them feel more successful and attractive themselves, according to their reasoning. However, it’s very unlikely that having a transactional kind of relationship or a partner that many other people are drawn is going to be a good long-term solution for low self-esteem, and would probably make it worse. If instead they spend some time figuring out why they feel bad and what kind of support they need, they’ll be able to craft a meaningful goal that leads to feeling good long-term, not just for a few fleeting moments. So do put some time into figuring out what you want deep down and where you want to go.  

I hope you enjoyed these tips, they come from a lot of experience with goal-setting so I hope you’ll find one or two helpful. 

In my guide I walk you through a process of figuring out: what you want deep down, the most meaningful way to get there and a practical plan of action you can use to reach your goals. It has helped people really turbo-charge their new years resolutions and goals all year round. And don’t worry if you’ve already started with your goals, you can still use this guide for fine-tuning or to create some powerful motivations to help you achieve them. 

If you’d like to read a large preview of it, you’ll find a free one on this page of books and guides, click on “Powerful Goals and How to Achieve Them” to get your copy. 

I wish you a lot of success in achieving your goals and a really enjoyable time getting there!

crop woman writing down notes in diary

Personal Annual Review time

It’s that time of year again! One of my most cherished rituals for bringing the year to a meaningful end, a Personal Annual Review is a general term for looking back at the year gone by. Different people do this in different ways and in past years I have set out various tips for doing your own review on my blog, focusing mainly on personal experience rather than career goals.

This year I decided to do something different, however, and I wrote a complete guide to doing your own annual review. I wanted to set all the information out in one place because I know it can be confusing, especially when self-development is not your 9-5 job as it is for me.

I loved creating this guide because I know that so many people have struggled this year, and if there is one thing that can really help us to face difficulty and pain it is to find the meaning and growth in it. Through conducting our own personal review we can look at the challenges we’ve faced, our successes, how we’ve grown and the blessings we’ve received, all at the same time, allowing us to put the year in perspective.

Perspective is very helpful because it is so easy to either focus on the negative, or try to ignore it completely as a way of coping. But in order to thrive, we really need to process what we’ve been through and also respect the fact that we’ve been strong and have grown as people.

There is something very powerful about ending things intentionally and in a meaningful way. In terms of coming to the end of the year, I think this requires us to be open enough with ourselves to admit just how hard the tough bits have been as well as feeling grateful for the kindness of others and the positives we have received along the way. Allowing a pause between an ending and a beginning, in which we can take stock and understand what we need and what we want, can make a new start that much more aligned and fulfilling when we do begin.

Whatever kind of year you’ve had, whatever joys and challenges you’ve encountered, I hope you find time for your own personal annual review and that it brings you meaning and clarity.

More About the Guide

You can pick up your copy here and there is also additional support for the Guide available as a series of emails (which you can sign up to here), to help you get the most out of it.

This 39-page guide has all the info and exercises you need to do your own review and it has printable exercises at the back, so you can return to it year after year. I can vouch for the fact that it is really interesting to look back over past years’ reviews, knowing yourself better and with greater insight. It is an amazing way of seeing your progress through life.

And if you’re not ready to buy the guide but you’d like to do your own review, why not check out my blog articles from previous years for hints about creating your own personal review?

lake and mountain

My 5 Tips to Boost Wellness

I made a little video to help you feel better in 5, with 5 tips you can use to improve your overall wellbeing fast. They are quite eclectic because this is about the our whole self, why not have a try and let me know how you get on!

If you prefer to read my tips instead, here’s the video transcription:

Hi, my name is Suzanne Wylde. And here are my five tips for cultivating total wellness.

1. My first tip is movement, whatever kind of movement you like to engage in, it’s so important for our bodies. In fact, our bodies are designed with movement included. So if you’re not moving your body is not functioning optimally. But it’s not just about looking and feeling good. It’s about thinking clearly, and feeling emotionally well as also, because movement is good for all aspects of ourselves. So whether that’s dancing, having a stretch out, going for a run, going for a walk, try and includes movement in every day. So whether that’s dancing, running, going for a walk, having a stretch out, just generally moving, try to include some form of movement in your day, every day.

2. The next tip is recognising unhelpful thinking patterns. I think we all do this, you know, you get into a groove of worrying about a certain thing, having negative thoughts, or even excessively positive but unrealistic thoughts. And this will usually be a pattern that you’re quite familiar with. Most of us try and fight fire with fire – so when we’re worrying, for example, we try and tell ourselves is nothing to worry about. But when we’re being too optimistic, too positive, it doesn’t really feel real. Instead, try and introduce a positive yet realistic thought. So let’s say you’re worried about going to a party, and feel nervous about socialising. Instead of saying “I’m the most going to be the most popular person at the party”, just say, “I’m going to go, it’s going to be a bit tough, but I’ll meet someone interesting probably, and I’ll find out something interesting. I’ll have an okay time”. Managing your unhelpful thinking patterns this way by interrupting them with a more positive yet realistic thought is a really good thing to do for our mental well being.

3. My third tip is learning to expand your capacity to feel uncomfortable emotions. I didn’t say negative emotions, because a lot of us can even be uncomfortable with joy, excitement, love, for example, depending on the quantities. Our ability to feel emotion dictates our ability to experience ourselves and the world. But this doesn’t mean we want to get thrown into emotions, or wallow in them or let them be completely in control. What it means is when you have a feeling, see if you can just feel it as fully as you can, for as long as you can, before attaching a story to it or trying to argue with it. And this is the same whether it’s emotional pain, or excitement, love, joy or fear. Try and just feel the emotion first, and then get to the root of it by listening to what it has to say. The only emotional state I would not recommend this for is depression, although that’s a different thing than these other pure emotions.

4. Try to be completely honest with yourself. Now I know that we all do things that are a little bit on the edge in terms of our own morality and values. Sometimes maybe we argue with a parking ticket that we know that we deserved, or try to get some free stuff and break a couple of competition rules or something or even maybe worse than that – telling outright lies. Aside from extolling the benefits of being moral, which I believe in and living according to your own values, aside from that, it’s also really important to be honest with ourselves. So let’s say that I told a lie. That would be fairly bad, obviously. But I want to be honest with myself about what I did, I don’t want to lie also to myself. The reason that this is really important for mental well being is it means that you’re quite integrated as a person, it means that you’re not fighting against knowing something all the time or fighting to suppress parts of you that know something. Because when you lie to yourself, you create a divide in yourself with one part that says “I didn’t do anything wrong” and the other part that knows that you did do something wrong. The clearer you can be with yourself in your awareness of your reality and the way that you act and speak and feel, the better.

5. My fifth tip is a really important one. And it’s one that none of us do enough, probably me included. And that is to ground yourself, and be in the present moment fully. This has been talked about a lot and is something that we all need, because the more that we’re looking at screens, and thinking about complex concepts, the less we’re being in our bodies in the present moment. Not many of us are athletes, or, well – I suppose many of us are construction workers. But most of us don’t have physical jobs. And even those of us who do have physical jobs, we are not connected with our body in terms of listening to it, we’re sort of dictating to it: “run really fast, do this, do that, pick up this, pick up that” – but not listening to our bodies.

When we come back into our body, when we really are aware of the sensations it gives us a moment of peace and resting within ourselves. And this moment is really, really important in terms of letting go of stress. Not overthinking, and over-worrying all the time, not pushing ourselves beyond our natural limits in terms of our energy levels. And just for feeling relaxed and happy. So to ground yourself, I have a couple of meditations that you can do, but one really easy visualisation is to picture roots going down through from your feet through down into the earth and drawing up that earth energy into your body. But if that’s not your cup of tea, just going out in nature, gardening and trying to be mindful day to day, things like that can really help you ground yourself.

I hope you enjoyed these five tips for total wellness! For more information and advice and self development and well being just hit subscribe to my YouTube channel, or check out my books, and self development resources.

Tea and Transformation

By now it’s official (irreversible) – I have a full-on love affair with tea. There is probably nothing quite as glorious as a full, fresh pot of tea waiting to be enjoyed, maybe with a book to go with it. However, recently I have noticed a worrying trend (both in the UK and the US), which is that certain places pride themselves on making the “perfect” cup. This translates as letting your tea steep for a set amount of time (timed on a timer) and then giving you only the liquid so it can’t get any stronger. 

The problem with this is that most experienced tea-drinkers like their tea at different strengths. It’s just down to individual taste. 

Another problem is that you remove all the beautiful variation of enjoying the tea at different stages of taste and colour. One of my favourite memories of Beijing was going for  tea ceremonies and spending time enjoying the different fragrances and tastes of each cup, getting a very different experience with every subsequent pour from the pot. 

And then there’s always the joy of feeling really sleepy/ unmotivated and waiting till your tea has the consistency of jam to really get you going. OK maybe not jam.. but definitely up to Northern/ industrial strength!

Now, to reach only slightly awkwardly for a metaphor, self-development is a bit like this too. New realisations, behaviours or recently-discovered parts of ourselves take time to percolate through our system and sink in. Allowing the time and space to let this happen organically means we don’t risk missing out on fully-embracing or integrating an important part of our experience. I have never seen a client or myself trying to rush this bit without skipping over or missing something and just having to circle back later. There’s something genuinely kind about giving yourself the time and space you need without any expectation of the outcome. It leaves room for subtlety and nuance and removes any self-inflicted pressure from notions we may have about being on a particular schedule or moving forward in a specific way.

… Real exploration is open-ended…

So, please enjoy your tea – don’t muzzle it. And maybe try to leave pauses where there should be pauses, honouring yourself with a spacious attitude of self-kindness.  

And now I get to finish my little pot of Yunnan green tea, no timer in sight 😉

Sneak Preview of My New Book Cover

I am super excited to show you the cover to my new book, eta October 2019 [updated eta is April 2020 – I hope you don’t mind waiting a little longer]!

It has been a bit of an epic journey writing the book, and so it is wonderful to have a cover that reflects all the work and passion I put into it. Really looking forward to sharing this work with you.

If you want to stay updated on the book release just sign up to the form below.

The Art of Coming Home by Suzanne Wylde