Diversity

Last week I wrote about the importance of Keeping It Simple & Straightforward so, on the surface, the title for this week’s post might seem a bit of a contradiction.  And maybe this is one of those fabulous paradoxes that I love!  But as well as valuing simplicity, I also feel that diversity is essential and should be celebrated.

This world would be a dull place indeed if we were all the same – and we don’t really want that… or do we?!  In many ways we like variety.  It offers us lots of choices, and when it’s about food, clothes, holidays, jobs, even breeds of dog(!) it seems our view is that ‘the more the merrier’.

But when it comes down to ‘our neighbour’, it appears that we’re sometimes less flexible.  Even here in the UK I see signs of some people being uncomfortable around those of a different colour or religion; or those who have made different lifestyle choices; or who express themselves in a ‘non-binary’ or ‘atypical’ ways.

In a way, I ‘get that’.  I grew up in a society that was almost all white.  My family was middle class.  Gender was much more clearly defined – at least in my little corner of the world.  This was my norm, my comfort zone, and these were the values that I subconsciously absorbed.

Sometimes, now, I notice my mind throwing out thoughts that come from these unconscious values.  Or I find myself judging, or feeling uncomfortable, in certain situations or with particular people.  But I’ve learnt that I can look at these thoughts and feelings and decide whether or not they are how I choose to respond.  Generally, they come from ‘voices’ that I have internalised, and not from what I actually believe.

Subconscious conditioning runs deep, and lack of experience can make us feel awkward in some situations but, as everyone is an individual anyway, I generally find that it’s ok to ask questions about how people wish to be referred to, or what their needs, beliefs or choices might be, as long as this is done from an open and non-judgemental mindset.  In fact, it shows that we’re taking an interest, we’re open to learning, and that we care.

The biggest ‘difference’ that I saw when I was young, was that of age, as I was fortunate to have regular contact with my extended family.

I was fascinated by ‘other’ though, and how experience might differ when viewing the world through other eyes, or from another perspective, be that cultural, religious, experiential, or whatever.

Going to secondary school brought it home to me that for many in my part of the world (Belfast, Northern Ireland), I was ‘other’.  Being a Catholic in a mixed (mostly Protestant) school and as a girl from a single-sex primary who went on to do Physics, Chemistry and Biology A levels with mostly boys in the classes, I was the one in the minority.

Later I moved to Manchester and then greater London, before settling for many years in Bristol.  I’ve also been fortunate to travel round much of Europe and to have visited the States a couple of times, and it’s true what they say – it really does broaden the mind.

In addition, I’ve worked in the Deaf Community and become fluent in Sign Language.  Now there’s a way to really explore a different way of perceiving and interacting with the world!

If you follow my social media posts you might be aware that I’m a fan of Abraham Hicks.  I love what they say about difference and not resisting the things that don’t align with our own world view.

The misunderstanding we often make is to feel threatened by difference, but in reality there is plenty of room for us all to co-exist and no-one else’s life choices can have a negative impact on us if we just allow them to do their own thing while authentically, and gently, holding our own boundaries.

Nature is a great example of this.  Each species finds its own niche.  They live in ways that are authentic to their needs and don’t demand that other species change to be like them.  Some are predators and some are prey but, when left to live in a natural way, a balance is achieved that benefits all.  As conditions change, plants and animals have to adapt.  To resist this change is to risk extinction.

Here at Equenergy, we had a visit from someone from the Gwent Wildlife Trust.  He came to survey the land and to record its flora and fauna.  It was exciting to see the range and variety that we have here.  We should receive a report later in the year, with suggestions on how to maintain, and even enhance this diversity.

Here in the UK it’s currently looking like it might be a lovely summer, so if you’re looking forward to some holidays – either abroad or more locally – I encourage you to notice how you respond to being in a new environment and enjoy this opportunity to see things from a perspective that differs, even slightly, from your day-to-day norm.

I’d love to hear about what you notice and I invite you to post about your experiences in the comments below.

It’s a rich and beautiful world out there!

Let’s celebrate all its colours and flavours 😊

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Simplicity

Did you know that next Friday, 12 July is National Simplicity Day?

I’ve been a fan of simplicity for a long time, believing that we as humans – and certainly myself as an individual – can have a great tendency to overcomplicate things.

I think this is at least in part due to our brain’s negative bias – its need to always be on the lookout for things that could potentially do us harm.  As a result, it comes up with all sorts of scenarios of what could happen, or why something is happening or why that person is looking at me that way…  Our imaginations run riot with complex and convoluted permutations – not just one, but several for each scenario.  It’s no wonder that we think life is multi-layered and difficult to understand!

But when we relax and go with the flow, it usually turns out that things were actually much easier – and simpler – than we’d thought.  At the very least, it means that there is only one way in which things play out, not the many possibilities that we’d imagined in our heads.

So I’m all for getting back to simplicity!

I love Nature and what it can teach us about keeping things simple.  On the surface it might look complex, but in reality it’s often a simple pattern that repeats itself many times.  The deeper we look, the simpler it becomes.

Animals too can help us, because they generally live very much in the present, concerned with the basic needs of eating, drinking, finding shelter and the continuation of their genes.  They don’t worry about tomorrow or last week or about what their herd or pack mate is thinking about them.  They mostly go through their day just Being.  This allows them to be mindful and grounded because their minds aren’t distracted by anxious thoughts and worries.

Of course it also means that they aren’t as creative as humans and our brains obviously have an important role to play in this tapestry of Life, but I think we often get too caught up in thought patterns that don’t support our wellbeing and so it’s a good idea to take stock from time to time in order to check in with how we’re feeling and to make sure that we’re keeping a healthy balance.

This is some information I found on why this National Day was started:

National Simplicity Day was founded in honour of Henry David Thoreau, who was born on July 12, 1817.  Thoreau was an advocate of living simply and wrote a number of well-known books on the subject.

In the complicated world that we inhabit today where mobile phones, laptops and other modern day gadgets mean that we very rarely experience true peace and quiet to gather our thoughts, what better excuse to leave the technology at home and experience the feeling of truly being in the moment.

https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/national-simplicity-day-2019/

Synchronously, earlier this week I came across a post on Instagram that really resonated with me:

The simplicity in simply being is quite complicated.

But not really complicated at all.

It simply is.

But isn’t at all.

byraa_a

https://www.instagram.com/byraa_a/

I wish you a beautiful Simplicity Day, and hope that you can take the chance to get outside and appreciate the wonder of simply being present.

What is this thing called ‘Rewilding’?

…and what, if anything, does it have to do with me?

According to Rewilding Britain:

Rewilding is the large-scale restoration of ecosystems where nature can take care of itself. It seeks to reinstate natural processes and, where appropriate, missing species – allowing them to shape the landscape and the habitats within.

https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding

To me, though, rewilding can take place on a smaller scale too.  I think that we can look at our own lives and see how we can add a bit of ‘wild’ in order to have greater balance and wellbeing.

In fact, this is something that I have been exploring for a while and it’s part of the reason why I was so keen to move to a more rural location.

When we started house hunting last year I was just thinking of a house, with a paddock for the horses, situated in a more rural location, but the more properties we saw, the more excited and inspired I became about the possibilities that were opening up to us, both personally and for my practice.

Finding this place was like a dream come true!  We first visited on a glorious summer evening and as we viewed the woods and fields and felt the energy of this place, we both fell in love and could picture ourselves living in this magical space.

In many ways, it’s the perfect location – when you’re here, you feel far removed from the hustle and bustle that characterises most people’s daily lives, and yet we’re within easy reach of the town of Abergavenny. 

There is a great sense of stillness and peace here, and everywhere you look there is the green of trees, bushes and grasses. 

At this time of year we also have many wonderful flowers in bloom. 

The sounds are wonderful too:

  • the stream gurgling over stones
  • breezes blowing through the branches of the trees
  • birds singing
  • insects buzzing…

There’s also a wide variety of wildlife.  Obviously there are lots of birds, including many common species such as robins, blackbirds, bluetits and wagtails.  We have birds of prey too, such as owls and buzzards, and some summer visitors such as swallows, but also the less common pied flycatcher. 

Our mammal neighbours include rabbits, squirrels, voles, mice, and shrews, and I’ve also seen a couple of lizards.

This Wednesday we have a guy coming from the Gwent Wildlife Trust to do a survey of the land and give us tips on how to work with all the species that we have here, to do our best to maintain and support this little eco-system.  I’m very excited to find out more!

To me, the joy – and challenge – of living here is to find ways to live in harmony with this place and its diversity of life.  I want to find a balance where we can all enjoy this wonderful space – humans, plants and animals. 

I believe that there are many benefits to reconnecting with Nature in this way.  Research has shown that spending time outdoors helps us to let go of stress, find our inner balance and recharge our batteries (This is your brain on Nature).

Rewilding doesn’t always come easily for us though.  We are so used to our ‘creature comforts’ and having whatever we want right there at our fingertips.  We live in a society that seems to be built on – and value – speed: fast food, broadband speeds and instant messaging.  We say that ‘time is money’, and we tend to prefer things that will get us what we want in the shortest time – eg travel, delivery services and searching the internet for information.

But this ‘need for speed’ comes at a price.  It is exhausting!  And it’s addictive.  Once we’re hooked, it can be difficult to slow our pace again, to reconnect with ourselves, to take the time to listen to our bodies and to give ourselves the nurturing and support that we need.

Often, we have lost sight of the fact that we, as humans, are just a part of the picture.  We are simply one thread of the rich tapestry of Nature.  We need the other threads in order to create a rich, colourful, dynamic and sustainable world.

I believe that when we are connected, conscious and aware of this, we can live in balance, harmony and respect with all Life. 

Here in our little cottage, we’ve had other beings come to share our space.  Sometimes this can make us uncomfortable – we don’t want the spiders, ants, mice, wasps, flies or whatever in our homes! 

But I tend to look at it another way… 

  • this is their space as much as it is ours
  • their kind has been living here much longer than I have
  • they too just want to live out their lives, and do their thing, whatever that might be – they’re not ‘invading my space’ and it’s not personal!

That’s not to say that I want all these creatures sharing my home – and in an ideal world they would often be better off being back outside – so I then try to explore why they have been drawn inside.   What am I doing that is making my home attractive to them?  For example, am I leaving food available for them?

On a larger scale, there are often complaints about the rat population of cities, or seagulls stealing food from people in coastal towns, but I think that we need to look at our own responsibilities too, such as the amount of food that goes to waste and is dumped outside in containers that are not animal-proof.  This both supports the current population – and its growth – and attracts more individuals to the area.

So, for me, part of rewilding is to look at my responsibilities as a part of this eco-system:

  • How do I become aware and conscious of my actions and how they affect the other threads of this tapestry? 
  • How do I minimise my impact while also supporting the local flora and fauna?

Doing this, I believe, will support me in my balance and wellbeing.  After all, how can I be fully well if I live in an environment which is out of balance?

If this is something that is of interest to you too, or you’d just like to have a taste of the healing power of Nature, then take a look at my day retreat which is taking place next Saturday here at Equenergy: Wellbeing Naturally.  If you’d like to know more about the day, or you’d like to book a place, please click on the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reconnect-through-nature-day-retreat-tickets-60580175937

It’s all about perspective

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about perspective this week – by which I mean the way we look at things.

The perspective that we take has such a huge impact on the experiences that we have!

I used to be someone who was always waiting for the bad things to happen.  For a variety of reasons, I had learnt that Life was difficult, rarely went to plan, and was often against me.  I just ‘knew’ that good things couldn’t last and that sooner or later – probably sooner – there would be another big problem to face.  I was anxious, worried and operating in stress mode.

I’m still a work in progress on this, and a deeply ingrained perspective can take time to shift, but overall there is a lot more ‘sunshine’ in my life now.

Moving to our new site here in Wales has really tested me on this!  It’s been a huge shift, leaving the city suburbs and moving to a rural smallholding.  Nothing seems to function in the same way!  Cities have such a solid infrastructure: services and utilities generally flow smoothly to and from one’s home, and you rarely have to think much about it.  Here we’ve struggled with internet connection and our water is from a spring so we’ve had to sort out an alternative for the horses as their pond and stream have dried up.  The house still has good water at the moment, but if we have a spell of dry weather, will this continue?  Will we be able to wash ourselves, our clothes, our dishes?

We now have to manage our own supplies of gas and oil as these have to be delivered, where previously our heating and cooking facilities were constantly available at the flick of a switch.  The septic tank, too, requires attention.

All of these things are easily done, it just takes some getting used to, and can be a source of those little niggles – Will I notice when the gas cylinder / oil tank is running low?  Will I order in time to avoid running out?  Will I be able to do this at a time when the price is good?  Will the septic tank block up / overflow… and if it does, what will I do?

I’m sure that in time the management of these things will become the new ‘norm’ but for now it’s still new and a little out of our comfort zone.

It’s good, though, to challenge ourselves.  It’s only through challenges that we can learn and grow.  If things stay the same all the time, there is no incentive or motivation to push ourselves and we can end up stagnating.

In the past, I craved ‘safety’.  I didn’t really feel ‘comfortable’, but still I had a kind of comfort zone in the routines that I’d built up, as these gave me a sense of having enough control to be able to cope.  And yet there was the constant worry that things would go wrong and the knowing, somewhere deep inside, that I didn’t really have control and things could suddenly shift away from where I felt safe.

Over time, I came to see that the more I tried to hold rigidly to my ‘structured life’, the more I felt overwhelmed.  The more I tried to control things, the less control I actually had.  I also began to see how unhappy I was and how my wellbeing was suffering.

Having spent a lot of time pondering on this – in my head and heart, and through keeping a personal journal – I began to see that the only thing I could control was my perspective, my choice of lens through which to view the world and the experiences that came my way.

I’ve been very fortunate, too, and I can testify that the old saying is true:

When we open ourselves to new learning, when we set the intention that we’re ready to grow and ready to take on the challenges that this brings, then something shifts and we will see opportunities where we might not have noticed them before, or someone will come into our lives and challenge, guide or inspire us in some way.

The thing with stepping out of our comfort zone is that it is… well… uncomfortable!  If we’re not prepared for this then we can end up rushing back to where we feel safe.  This is why people ‘fall off the wagon’ and return to old behaviours.

But if we acknowledge that there will be challenges, and we address these constructively, then we’re much more likely to succeed in making the changes we’re aiming for.

So, how can we address the challenges constructively?  Some suggestions would be:

  • To consider what triggers the behaviour you want to change – knowing this allows you to put plans in place for when you face these situations
  • Accepting that there will be times when you feel triggered and that this will result in you feeling uncomfortable
  • Being ok with discomfort
    • It can be a great teacher, helping us to look at our needs and find supportive ways in which to meet these
    • Trusting that it won’t last forever and that it’s just your body adjusting to the new way
    • That it is a short-term thing that will lead to a happier, healthier you
    • Knowing that it helps to build greater self-knowledge, resilience and emotional intelligence
  • Having a list of things to do when feeling triggered
    • How can you support yourself to stick to your commitment in making this change?
    • For example
      • do something active, such as going for a walk in Nature
      • Talk to a good and supportive friend
      • Journal
      • Read things that encourage and inspire you

As I said, I’m still a work in progress with all of this.  My mindset and thinking have changed greatly, and I now view the world in a much more positive light.  I believe that the Universe is a supportive place and that Life is bringing me so many wonderful experiences and encounters that are helping me to step ever more fully into Who I Really Am.

However, I’ve noticed that my body is still holding tensions that come from my old way of thinking. 

Whereas before I might have worried about this and listened to lots of critical self-talk, I am now able to view it as an opportunity to address another layer in my personal growth and development.

This is where I am now grateful for my earlier challenges and discomfort, as facing myself and exploring those less pleasant feelings and those aspects of my personality that I’m not so proud of, is not as daunting as it would once have been.

Also, I know that if I can help myself to release this tension, it will bring many benefits!

Thankfully I now have a wide range of tools to draw on, and also a number of great colleagues that I can ask for help as necessary.

But one thing that I was pondering on as I poo picked in the fields the other day – a great time for reflection, I’ve noticed! – is that the things that help me to let go of tension, anxiety and worry are amusement and delight

So, the task I’ve set for myself is to:

  1. Notice when and where I’m holding tension
  2. Accept that this is how I’m feeling – without adding to it by beating myself up about it, or worrying about it
  3. Commit to finding ways to support myself and to release the tension
  4. Look for ways that I can bring more amusement and delight into my life, on the small scale as well as the bigger scale

Some of my joy recently has come from:

So, in moving here I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, but it has brought realisation that:

  • I was feeling stifled in the city
  • Structure can be good, but it can also become rigid, inflexible and constricting
  • New experiences can be stimulating and inspiring
  • Challenges can help you discover hidden strengths and skills
  • New adventures can be fun
  • Overcoming problems can bring such a sense of achievement and learning
  • Living closer to nature is teaching me so much about myself, and inspiring me to greater care for the planet
  • Meeting new people and making new friends is wonderful
  • There is so much more to me than I had dared to believe!

So I highly recommend getting out of your comfort zone (even just in little ways to start with), pushing your boundaries, trying new adventures and exploring some new perspectives. You might be surprised at what you find!

Climbing Mountains – personal learning and growth

As some of you might know, my ‘other job’ is as a British Sign Language / English interpreter.  It’s an amazing role and often teaches me so much that benefits me in my role as a holistic wellbeing coach.

One recent example of a crossover learning came from reading the interpreting journal that I subscribe to: Newlsi.  A woman called Christina Healy was commenting on growth and learning within the interpreting profession, but it struck me that it could be about so many things, including personal growth.

She wrote:

“[It’s] a bit like we’re climbing an enormous, multifaceted mountain.  We reach summits, gratified to see the distance we’ve come, we traverse plateaus, relaxing into needed rest and rejuvenation and we climb ascents that challenge our perseverance and commitment to growth.”

To me, this describes perfectly the journey of personal discovery, leaning and growth.  Sometimes it does, indeed, feel like a steep climb with lots of rocks and challenges along the path.  At other times we might find the going easier, allowing us to rest and build our strength for the next uphill section.

Another valuable analogy was that we can think the summit is in view only to find, when we reach that point, that there is another, higher peak ahead:

“It can feel like we’ve climbed miles up the mountain, finally breaking through the cloudbank in exultation, only to see [others] ahead who have climbed higher than we imagined possible.  We’ve opened a new Zone of Proximal Development.  We can see the next summit above the clouds, but we don’t yet know how to get there.”

I hadn’t come across the term Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) before so I looked it up:

The zone of proximal development refers to the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner.

https://www.simplypsychology.org/Zone-of-Proximal-Development.html

It’s similar to the concept of the Conscious Competence ladder:

Ms Healy also explained why we can feel competent one day, and the next, feel that we have lost all our skills – and possibly that we never really had them in the first place…

“… the ground that seemed far below has vanished beneath the clouds.  The lowest spot we can see is only inches beneath our feet.  It feels like incompetence has appeared from nowhere!  But perhaps it’s just that we’ve been Unconsciously Incompetent in some aspects of the work, and our new Conscious Incompetence indicates advancement despite the sense of regression.”

I think it is so important to be aware of this!

Often, we are our own worst critic and when we feel moments of doubt our inner voice compounds our discomfort by beating us up about our perceived shortcomings.

I’ve often heard people say that they thought they’d ‘dealt with this issue already’, feeling that they must have failed in some way because it has suddenly ‘reappeared’ in their life.  To me, it can be a positive indication that the person has actually moved to a point where they’re now ready to address a new aspect of the issue – a further peak (challenge) that they now have the strength and skill to climb.

I also regularly encourage clients to pay attention to their self-talk and to catch it when it is being critical.  The first step in making a change is awareness but then we also need to take action.  Knowing that this sense of self-doubt and feeling de-skilled is normal, and that it doesn’t actually mean that we’ve become incompetent, can be so helpful in redirecting our thoughts towards being more self-supportive again.  We can use this information to talk to ourselves as we would to a good friend, reassuring ourselves that this is just a part of the process, and in reality probably means that we’ve moved further along the path than we were yesterday.

As Ms Healy goes on to say, this is uncomfortable and yet valuable, in that it can prompt reflection on our motivations, values and beliefs.  This in itself can be of great assistance in our personal growth, allowing us to reassess Who We Really Are and how we can step more fully into this essence of our deepest Being.

The concept of our ZPD also shows that there will be times along our journey when we can benefit from support and help from others who have more experience.  They can help us to develop the knowledge, skills and resources we need to reach our next peak.

So if you find yourself feeling that you’re stuck, or even going backwards; or that you’ve lost your way and you’re not sure on what your next step should be; or that you just don’t have the strength to move forward, don’t be afraid to reach out for help!  Remember that it’s perfectly ok to feel like this.  It doesn’t mean that you’re weak in any way.  Probably all those ‘successful’ people that you see around you have been right where you are now!  In fact, without these ‘dips’ we wouldn’t feel the challenge that motivates us to change and grow!  Remember that ‘you got this’ – you have the resources within you – and it’s great to ask someone to give you a bit of guidance.  After all, this could be just what they need too, since we really do learn and grow from helping others to find their way:

The journey

Exploring ways to align with authenticity, integrity and congruence

This journey of Life is such an interesting thing, isn’t it?!  Full of twists and turns that bring lots of opportunities for growth and change.

Some time ago, I would have described things differently!  I would have said that Life was full of ups and downs, and probably many more ‘downs’ than ‘ups’; that it was a struggle and often difficult and uncomfortable.

But I’ve changed 😊

My journey has slowly taught me – or at least my learning and beliefs have taken time to shift – that Life just ‘is’, and it’s my response to it that determines my experience.  Therefore, I can actually choose whether my life will be one of ‘struggle’, or one of valuable learning experiences.

In my ‘other job’, I’ve recently been involved in an ‘ACTivate’ course, here in South Wales.  I’d never heard of this before, but basically it is a 4-week course to support people through learning mindfulness techniques and helping them to develop the skills of Acceptance and Commitment to new practice (the ACT of ACTivate stands for Acceptance Commitment Therapy).

I’ve attended 2 sessions so far, and we’ve been looking at the concept of ‘You are not your mind’ – ie that the mind is only one part of who we are.  It talks to us constantly and it’s impossible to switch it off, however we don’t always have to listen to it.  It has a tendency towards negativity, often being critical and cautious, or even fearful.  But by practicing mindfulness and conscious awareness of our thoughts and responses, we can choose when to listen to our mind, and when to make a different choice on how to act.

I’ve also learnt the truth of the saying that:

Both physical and emotional pain are part of Life.  They can be helpful because they give us information and can help us to avoid further injury, and to learn and grow.

Suffering, however, comes from our response to the pain.  When we fight the pain, trying to resist it, it often actually makes the pain worse, and can add new pain to the original hurt.  If, instead, we can accept that the pain is there, and explore it with curiosity to see what it can teach us, then the suffering is greatly lessened.  We can, in fact, end up being grateful for the pain and the growth that it brings.

Learning and change can be challenging though.  We can find it difficult to change our beliefs and habits, sometimes not even seeing a need for the change.

A recent example of this for me has been highlighted by our move to this new rural location.  It has challenged me in many ways to be more reflective on my choices and to be more conscious of how I ‘walk my talk’, particularly in regards to my relationship with Nature, as this is so much a part of what I do.

I’m exploring ways to be authentic to Who I Really Am, and to live in congruence and alignment with my beliefs.  This is obviously a very individual thing, but the more we can do this, the more we are in balance and can feel comfortable in our own skin, knowing that we are being true to ourselves.

For years I have gradually been trying to be more ‘eco-friendly’ and I thought I was doing pretty well.  Isn’t it interesting how these things happen?  It’s a process really.  You make some changes and think that you’re doing the best you can do, but then as those changes settle in and become your new ‘norm’, you become aware of further adjustments and begin to explore these and eventually take them on as well.

One example is my use of plastic.  I’ve been using my own bags and travel bottle / mug for years but I’m becoming more conscious of other things, such as my toothbrush, plastic vegetable bags at the supermarket, plastic bottles and jars for toiletries, cling film, etc.  As a result, I’ve done some searching and made some new purchases.  The following are some of my recent acquisitions:

coconut fibre pot scrub

alternative to plastic bags

alternative to cling film

alternative to cotton buds

bamboo toothbrush

There are lots of great websites available now for eco-friendly products.  One of the best for avoiding any plastic that I’ve found is: https://www.plasticfreedom.co.uk/ . And if, like me, you’re looking for animal-friendly options, they have a dedicated Vegan section.



Another good site is https://www.nirvananatural.co.uk/ though their range is quite small.



And there’s https://www.peacewiththewild.co.uk/



So Life, to me, is a journey of change, learning and growth.  It’s about exploring our thoughts, emotions and experiences and seeing which ones resonate and support who we want to be – who we really are – and which ones take us further away from this.  We can then choose which ones we want to have more of, and give our energy and attention to these, and which we no longer want to engage with, allowing them to fade out of our lives.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if you have an experience that you’d like to share, please post in the comments below.

Why are ‘old’ friends so important?

Good friends are just so valuable, aren’t they?!

A much-loved friend of ours, who we haven’t seen in way-too-long, came to stay the night last Friday… and didn’t leave until Monday morning!

Don’t you just love how that can happen?

The original plan was for a catch-up and to show him our new place, but it ended up being a whole weekend of laughs, reminiscing and creating wonderful new memories to treasure.

This got me wondering – what is it about ‘old’ friends that makes them so special?  New friendships are great, but there’s a precious extra dimension to being with someone that you’ve known for years…

I think that, particularly as we get older, it’s nice to have friends that we’ve known for years, who are still in our lives.  It gives us a sense of connection, both to each other and to the past – our past – a shared history.  And if that history involves lots of silly antics and ‘foolish’ things that we might not do now, but can laugh at the memories, all the better.

Human beings are a social species.  We are wired for connection.  Our brains naturally seek patterns, making comparisons and looking for similarities.  Having a shared interest can bring us together and help us to create lasting bonds.

I think too, that the world is ever changing, and as the pace of that change seems to be speeding up, we can easily feel that we are being left behind.  It can be comforting to have friends of the same vintage who share a similar framework of memories, for example the music of the 80’s, fashion trends and major news stories.

TV programmes and things that we learnt at school can also be common frames of reference.  I was travelling home on the train yesterday and heard a conversation behind me between a woman and the man selling refreshments from the trolley.  She told him that he had arrived at just the right time as she was half-way through her journey and really fancied a cup of tea.  He replied that it was ‘Kismet’ that he had come along to serve her at that moment, but she was unfamiliar with this word or its historical reference.

Having ‘old’ friends is like being part of a ‘school gang’ – you can use your own ‘in’ vocabulary, talking in a kind of short-hand, because you know the other(s) will get what you’re talking about.  This also separates you from those who are ‘outside’ the gang – those who are ‘other’ – helping to give you that important sense of belonging.

Having a friend who’s known you since your younger days, and sharing a history of fun times, silliness and various life events, gives us that ‘warm, fuzzy feeling’.  If some of these stories are mildly embarrassing, even better!

But it’s not just about the good times.  Friendships are tested and strengthened by going through challenging times together.  Here too, it is sometimes good to know that we don’t have to explain ourselves.  The other person immediately knows and understands.  With new friends we might have to tell the story again, or choose to keep it to ourselves, but an ‘old’ friend gets it because they were there with us and felt our pain right alongside us.

We are becoming much more aware of the importance of friendships for our health and wellbeing.  I recently read an article which said that:

“Loneliness is as big a mortality risk as diabetes.  Research links social isolation to dementia, heart disease, stroke, depression and a 29% greater risk of dying. … recent research shows the quality of friendships also helps keep us alive…”

www.theguardian.com

So, treasure your ‘old’ friends.  If you haven’t seen them in a while, call them up and reconnect.  The internet is a great tool for this as we now have Facebook, Messenger, Skype, Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp and all the other wonderful ways that we can stay in touch.

Share the memories and the laughs – so simple to do and so good for our souls!