What a Way to Watch the World – Gratitude Journal

Blog - Gratitude journal pic 2In the last blog as we had to ditch our limiting beliefs before we could clear our path and move forward. The tool I am sharing today will train your brain to open up to seeing possibilities and opportunities, which will give you options – A fork in the road! A Gratitude Journal trains you to see the advantages in situations, especially ones that are not particularly positive. It requires mental energy to say “I didn’t sleep well…. but I am grateful that was only for one night”. Focusing on gratitude when you are feeling low will help you break down a situation and put it into a more optimistic perspective, giving you the ability to make a change. Fancy giving it a go? My top tips are in the Tool 3 box below.

 

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A Gratitude Journal is a simple tool to generate healthy emotions and encourage you to think with your heart, which is a life changing way to watch the world. Watch this clip for further evidence (the first couple of minutes is a bit full on but it all starts to make sense after that). www.youtube.com/watch

To learn more about the benefits of gratitude, I direct you to Gosia Gorna, who is the most talented transformational coach and has experience in working with cancer patients at the Breast Cancer Haven in London.  my-successful-heart.com

Since writing this blog, I was given the Five Minute Journal. Admittedly I haven’t started using it yet but the first part makes lovely reading. I will give it a go and update this blog shortly.

Stay well 🙂

 

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Surviving Cancer Can Be Positively Life Changing – Removing Limiting Beliefs

1It’s no exaggeration to say cancer and the treatment that goes along with it is life changing. Friends I made along the journey all wanted to make changes once they had recovered but I don’t think any of us realised the recovery process would be an ongoing challenge and implementing changes became part of the process. The real challenge is making those changes when you are at your lowest – mentally, emotionally and physically.

I stumbled across a concept called life coaching, I was drawn to this because of my fear that I was falling into my old ways as I didn’t know how else to be. I was scared that my old lifestyle and habits caused my cancer and I had just fallen straight back into the same patterns. Life coaching helped give me clarity in what I wanted to be, identified the gaps between where I was and my new vision, and focused me on closing those gaps.

An important first step was to identify my limiting beliefs so I could see what barriers were blocking me from moving forward and changing my life for the better. After cancer treatment, I had many new “limiting beliefs” as well as all of my old ones. Here are my examples of some of my limiting beliefs;

Tool 1: List your limiting beliefs

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Human nature dictates that we want to prove our own theories correct, so I embed anything which remotely proves these beliefs right and they get engrained deeper and deeper until I paralyse myself into staying in the same situation. This time it was not an option, as my fear of my old lifestyle causing my cancer was enough to force me to break through the barriers I created for myself.

There are many tools online that can help you to overcome your limiting beliefs. I have chosen to use ‘The Works’ by the well-respected author Byron Katie in the example below.

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Tool 2: Byron-Katies-Four-Questions

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It amazes me how much authority we give to our thoughts. By working through this simple tool, I have managed to disprove my limiting beliefs and regain confidence. I attended a mindfulness course recently, so the power of the mind shouldn’t surprise me, yet I am amazed at how a fairly intelligent women can believe such irrational thoughts. The moral of the story, thoughts are just thoughts, and not facts!

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Sleep Like A Baby

Thankfully sleep is not too much of an issue for me, but I have heard many ‘survivors’ say that they are terrible sleepers. Lack of sleep ruins their day as leaves them feeling exhausted and grouchy. I can really sympathise as fatigue is still a major challenge for me and I dread what I call “crash days” as I can have a mini coma of 12 hours of sleep and still not feel energised. While learning how to manage my fatigue I learnt a lot about sleep and I will share some information and tips.

As with everything I am sharing, unfortunately you have to put in the work and be disciplined. My biggest learn is that sleep is mostly about what you do with your day and not just your bedtime routine. The easiest way to know what to do is to think of how you would take care of a small child and apply those rules to yourself. You feed and water a child well throughout the day (avoiding too much sugar and obviously caffeine and alcohol). You take them to the park so they can have a good run around, releasing happy and relaxing hormones, you shelter them from adult problems and avoid arguments in front of them, you watch the “nighttime hour” before bed which is soothing rather than hyperactive. You give them a nice bath, read them a calming story and give them cuddles before bedtime so that they feel secure and loved and are full of all the right hormones for sleep. If all this goes well, they should sleep like a baby.

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Do we look after ourselves this well? Or do we, skip breakfast, drink too many stimulating drinks, not nourish our bodies with enough wholesome food and water, sit behind a computer/TV all day, lack in physical movement,  not do enough “fill you jug” activities (see previous blog), worry about things that we can’t control, have conflicts at work or home?

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Another issue is that we are always available and check our smartphones (and other devices) constantly throughout the day and before bed. This makes us subject to a bombardment of information from news, advertising, friends and work; our poor brains do not switch off all day. All of a sudden we get into bed and expect our brains to automatically switch off. It is just not physically possible. Our brains have to wind down, as with the child, it has to take all of the information you have absorbed in the day and file it away. So here are some things you can try for a better night’s sleep.

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  • Eat wholesome food and get a well-balanced diet so that you are not lacking the essentials.
  • Drink plenty of water and keep hydrated.
  • Move your body – any physical activity is better than none.
  • Check your “Fill your Jug” list – make sure you are nourishing and not depleting yourself.
  • Take regular breaks throughout the day, this will help your mind process information bit by bit, rather than leaving it all until the end of the day.
  • Up your filters and only let in the information that you want. If your mind has to work hard to process everything it sees and hears, why not help it out and decrease the traffic. Maybe put your phone out of sight so you only check it when you want and not when someone wants you. I also upped my filter on the TV shows I watched, who I spoke with and what I read.
  • Have a routine – go to bed at the same time every night, just like the child.

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It is a lot of effort to get a good night’s sleep. It is why so many people don’t sleep well because they are not looking after themselves and putting themselves first. Read my other articles for more information and solutions on how to look after yourself well.

Sleep well and good night

Does Stress Cause Cancer? – Stress Busting Tools

I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the fellow patients I met along the treatment part of my journey seem to all be worried about the amount of stress in their lives and its contributing factor to their diagnosis and recovery. Admittedly, I love the adrenaline rush that comes with being busy and having lots to do but I know that being in a constant state of pressure and anxiety is not good for me.

It is well documented that long-term and high-levels of stress weakens the immune system and it is the immune system that protects the body against illness. It is this immune response that reacts to damaged cells and therefore your immune system may help to fight cancer. However, there is no strong evidence to prove stress causes cancer. This isn’t to say that this is not true but it just can’t be strongly verified. We do know that being stressed means we are more likely to make poor decisions on smoking, drinking alcohol and food/exercise leading to obesity, all of which are linked to cancers.

Since I have a love hate relationship with stress and anxiety I have had to address this issue as I fundamentally believe stress is not good for me and I’m sure was a contributing factor to my diagnosis. That is not based on evidence but just my gut feeling and in the words of my dad “you have to be your own doctor”. So I really need to address this area of my life and I confess it is the biggest challenge I face.

Firstly, I had to consider why I have stress in my life. When I dug really deep I found that most paths lead to wanting approval from others. For example, you work hard so your boss and peers recognise and praise you, you bust a gut to keep up with the Jones’ so your neighbours and friends will approve of your home and lifestyle, you pound your body at the gym so that you fit into society and strangers approve of how you look. There is constant pressure wherever you go and now we have the added pressure of getting “back to normal” and “making the most of life”.

So how do I get away from the stress? It seems simple in the black and white of text, stop caring what others think! Amazingly, I think it could be this simple. It is so freeing and the beauty of this secret is that the pressure doesn’t really come from anyone else, it is all within me and within my control to change. That doesn’t mean it is easy to stop caring what my boss or family think, but it does mean I have learnt to protect myself from myself and am now able to spot why I am stressed and say “Who cares what they think! My health is more important”.

The key is to be in tune with your own needs and filter out what other people think you need. For example, if others think you should stay in a job, home, relationship but you think you should change, learn to listen to your own desires and be confident in making your decision. Easier said than done, I find it impossible to make a decision without someone agreeing with me. So here are some tools to help us be more assertive and reduce stress. Please see Stress Busting Tools.

Stress Busting Tools

It’s freeing to step away from the drama and realise that whatever it was that was causing you stress really isn’t that important. 99.9% of the time, no one is going to die because something doesn’t get done today. Meditation is an excellent practice to improve this area of your life, by not doing anything but observing your thoughts, you can gain a much better perspective of what is really important to you vs useless mind traffic. You also get used to being in a calmer state and are more kind and accepting of yourself, how you are now and not how you would like to be or how you used to be BC.

Taking Care of You – How to Fill your Jug

Most of us who have been though a life changing illness have an increased appreciation for the good things and people around us. We want to look after our body with wholesome foods and be active but I have noticed that I have become more in tune with my mind and soul. I feel the need to nourish myself with positivity by doing what I want to do in life. I also feel the need to protect myself against anything that make me stressed, sad or pulls me down.

I went to an Emotional Health talk aimed at helping patients who had finished cancer treatment. The lady described our energy levels like a jug of water. If your jug has little water in it, you don’t have much to give to others and you need to fill you jug first. She told us that it was our responsibility to hydrate ourselves and fill the jug to the half way point so that we can have motivation for life. Only when your jug is half full can you start giving to others. This analogy has stuck with me as I was feeling extremely fatigued at the time and everyone thought I was back to ‘normal’.

The question is; how do you fill and keep your jug full? She set us a simple exercise, write three lists and do more of the good stuff and less of the bad. It’s as simple as that. Here is an example of my lists.

Fill your jug list:

Everything that energises you and makes you feel happy

Reduce the holes in your jug:

List activities that drain you, make you feel sad, stressed and angry.

Create a people seesaw
  • See family and friends (the ones who help fill the jug not drink from it!)
  • Learn something new that interests you
  • Keep moving – sports / walk / yoga
  • Sleep/ relax in bed / bath
  • Read
  • Listen to music
  • Dance
  • Watch your favourite film / TV show
  • Gardening
  • Shopping
  • Horse riding / spend time with animals
  • Play (or learn) a musical instrument
  • Make a nourishing juice / meal
  • Listen to the news / watch upsetting documentaries
  • Social media
  • Spending time with certain friends
  • Eating sugary/fatty foods
  • Forget to drink enough water / have tea and coffee instead
  • Skipping breakfast
  • Going to bed late
  • Skipping my meditation practice
  • Avoiding exercising
  • Being hard on myself and setting my own standards too high
  • Holding onto things that don’t serve me well
  • Agreeing to things I don’t really want to do.
  • Check my emails before bed
  • List the key people in your life
  • Put them on either side of the seesaw. Do they support you or you support them?
  • Check and see if you have a fair balance.
There are some quick and fun ideas in this article: http://greatist.com/happiness/34-ways-bust-bad-mood-ten-minutes This article keeps me in check; 10 Toxic Habits that Drain Your Energy:

http://www.marcandangel.com/2014/08/24/10-toxic-habits-that-drain-your-energy/

I love this article which gives three steps to help you deal with people who drain you:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201203/how-deal-people-who-drain-you

On that note, I’m off for a light jog while the sun is shining!