Reprogramming Thoughts…

I have learned behaviour from childhood where I can over analyse everything, worrying over the smallest thing. That’s why I love mindfulness. Now if someone says something where I automatically go into panic mode I know I can think “it’s just my thoughts”, and everyone’s thoughts create their own realities.
If you observe your thoughts while being mindful you notice they are mainly negative. I used to panic just seeing a bill arrive in the post, even though I had enough money in the bank to pay for it. Now I pay most of my bills by direct debit.

We are so good at thinking the worse. I know I did. If I was invited to a party I wouldn’t think “great, an opportunity to meet new people”, I’d instead think “argh, new people. I won’t know what to say and people might think I’m stupid!”

The same goes for body image. We are bombarded by social media how we should look, how thin we should be, how much cellulite we should have. And before social media, there were magazines telling us the same. The unachievable body that you always try to attain.

I am a mother, and carer to my youngest son who has learning difficulties. I used to feel guilty, even though my time was taken up, because the media makes out that you’re only a real woman if you have a career. So I felt that being a carer and homemaker, I wasn’t pursuing a career. I was letting the family down because we were living off carers allowance and my husband’s wage. We had the odd holiday here and there – but not every year, and when our latest car broke we made the choice not to replace it as we couldn’t afford to.

 It’s easy to compare yourself to others, but that doesn’t make you happy. Everyone has their own idea of what makes them happy.

Yes, a car would be nice. I could visit different parks and woodlands at the weekend with the dogs. But my local one will suffice. Holidays are great, but we can still do day trips. Besides, who doesn’t like an afternoon in the garden when it’s sunny for an impromptu BBQ?! I feel I am lucky because I was able to raise my children, whereas some mother’s would love to have been stay at home moms but were forced into work for the money, and possibly felt guilty too.

I treat my thoughts as if it is a conversation with a friend. If I think to myself “huh, I washed up last night and everyone has eaten snacks since and left me more washing this morning,” I first think, “it’s just a thought”. Then I will look at the thought as if I’m chatting with a friend. And I’ll say back, “well you could calmly point out to everyone that you’d really appreciate if they tidied up after themselves in the evening.” Then I would say that for that morning you could wash up. It would take 5 minutes and you could practice mindfulness while doing it. I would explain that nobody in the house would realise they were being rude leaving their dirty dishes and pots, that it wasn’t a personal attack.

And from that I would see that reality. That my family loves me and weren’t out to ruin my day by leaving just a few dirty items. Everyone has their own reality, they imagine each others points of view differently. And with this example I can tackle any subject rationally.

If someone was in a bad mood, well I used to take it personally and become very defensive. My mood would lower and either I’d spend the day feeling I was rubbish at doing something or I’d think of all the things that person did that annoyed me. And all the things they did a year ago that annoyed me. Dragging up old arguments, etc. Now if someone is feeling grumpy, I leave them to their bad mood. I can rationalise it’s not personally aimed at me, and by leaving them alone, or refusing to be sucked into an argument, they will soon return to a happier way of being. And if there’s a problem we can discuss it rationally, once they are calm and everyone is level headed.

Everything is so much easier once you’re mindful, and you find you judge yourself and others far less. You realise you’re not in a competition with the rest of the world. It’s just you. Right here. Right now.

Being Happy

Being in the present moment can help you to be happy. If you are fully present, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying of the future, then you begin to appreciate things more. You start noticing and appreciating the little things, like nature, like how lucky you are to have your friends and family, and less bothered with materialistic objects.

I’m guilty in the past of thinking things would be better when I’d move house, got more money, lost a few pounds in weight, bought various items, when I had a family, when the children started school, when the children started secondary school, when the children were grown ups. I was basically wishing my life away, instead of appreciating them in every waking moment. Life is too short and time does indeed fly. My boys are now young men, I am in middle age, and there has never been an aha moment that I’ve finally gotten to that elusive part of my life when everything was perfect and I could live as if I’d reached Nirvana.

However, I do now live mostly in the present moment. I no longer think that there are missing things in my life that would improve it. I have always looked after my health anyway so I no longer think I will be happy once I get that photoshopped celebrity look. I’ve had two boys, I have wobbly bits. Big deal.

A few years ago I had a wake up call. I was having difficulty breathing and​ put it down to my wrongly diagnosed asthma. I ended up in a&e and was told I had clots on my lungs. I was treated in hospital for a week, being reassured that everything would return to normal. It didn’t. The clots were so large on both lungs that I developed chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. 

It took a while to be taken seriously by the NHS but eventually I was diagnosed and luckily for me I was able to have an 8 hour operation that removed the clots. It took my body over a year to recover from the operation.

But what I will say is this…

It was a scary time, yes, but when you are staring death in the face, it makes you look at things differently. It makes you appreciate the little things, the birdsong, the seasons, a sunset, the sound of rain, your loved ones. It makes you realise that your life is pretty awesome. That you wake up every morning and the sun always rises. 

I can walk across my living room floor now without feeling violently ill and out of breath. In fact I can walk for miles now and I do.

Everyone who can breathe with ease takes breathing for granted. I know I did. Life’s so unfair because I don’t have that fancy kitchen/car/job/boyfriend,etc. Yes, but you have your health. 

Now every day I wake up early to walk the dogs. As I wake I smile to myself and think another day and I’m awake and alive and the sun is going to rise again. I am grateful for my body, for my health, for being able to take these two wonderful creatures out for their walk. And as I walk I breathe deeply and wonder at the air filling my lungs.