Articles by The Seeds 4 Change

How Happy Are You?


In the UK, government thinking has introduced a happiness index. Led by the Prime Minister, politicians and civil servants alike are actively seeking reassurance that people in the UK are happy. This is a big step up from people being satisfied- and with what purpose? Who decides what constitutes happiness?


In Bhutan all government policy uses Gross National Happiness as a measure. This was first introduced in 1972 by the then King and intended as a measure of the country’s progress. There are many conflicting views about this and a great deal of evidence, some of which is contradictory to Western eyes.


As a nation, we are some way off from the situation in Bhutan, but I have noticed lately that Customer Satisfaction Surveys now ask me ‘how happy my visit made me?’. Most recently this question popped up following a check up at my optician. Curious as I had never associated ‘happiness’ with the results of a medical check up! Relieved - yes perhaps. However, I feel there is a distinct difference between satisfaction and happiness.


In my own case, while I can feel satisfied with a product or service I cannot say that it always makes me happy.


I associate feelings of satisfaction and happiness with my achievements, when I have done a good job or spent an hour doing something I love.


Both feelings are positive and therefore support my overall wellbeing.


In some cases feelings of happiness can be brief – or replaced by other emotions. For example, telling yourself that you ‘will be happy when I get that new job!’ Of course you will – but not for ever. Other issues will pop up or other anxieties may appear – fear of the unknown, perhaps disappointment in the new job if it doesn’t live up to our expectations.


We cannot expect all aspects of our life to be happy and in the same way we do not tend to rely on government to make us happy.


In a recent piece of research into lasting happiness, findings showed that it is related to appreciating the little things and developing an inner belief that you are being the best that you can be. Knowing that you are better today than you were yesterday stimulates positive feelings and endorphins.


Neuroscience now believes that the brain is more malleable than previously thought and that you can change the way you think and feel. It takes effort naturally to break old habits and replace them with new behaviours or adapt existing ones.


 In 2005 the Dalai Lama spoke at the Society for Neuroscience in Washington on the topic of happiness and whether it is possible to think oneself happy through meditation.


Five activities that are proven to support positive change are simple and can be practiced in any context of your choice. These are


  1. Jot down three things you are grateful for
  2. Write a positive message to someone in your social support circle
  3. Meditate for 2 minutes (even at your desk)
  4. Exercise for 10 minutes
  5. Take 2 minutes to write down the most meaningful experience of the last 24 hours in your journal


Choose one that you can commit to every day and see the difference you notice in your positive attitude and feelings of wellbeing.


Happiness can become habitual and can impact on those around you whether at home, work or play.


Even in our darkest times, a few moments of happiness can restore the balance of our wellbeing.


So, how happy are you?



The body as an instinctual source


of information


There is currently much talk in the media about mindfulness which can be a remarkable method of slowing us down and bringing us back into the present. However, there is so much more going on in the body below the neck!


We have the ability to feel emotions with our whole body. Our instincts come from the use of our brain and so much more. We speak about ‘our gut reaction’ and what our gut is ‘telling us’ without really considering what this means sometimes.


Many scientists now refer to the gut as the second brain as there are in fact more neurons in the stomach than in the brain. They refer to congruence between our emotions, thoughts and actions. By becoming aware of our emotional and physical response we can learn how to deepen the experience of being present.


Listen to your body and what is going on in there! Become aware of your breath and where you are experiencing it – through your nose or mouth, or perhaps your lungs, or maybe your stomach or diaphragm. Singers control the quality of their breath by slowing it down and using their diaphragm rather than the throat. In the same way we can slow our breath down to help us relax or when faced with a stressful situation at work perhaps or travelling- in fact in any situation- once we become practised at it.


Listen to your heart beat and take note of what is going on in there! Is it fast or slower and what does that mean for us?


Use all of the senses to see what is around us, truly listen and take in the sounds about us.

Do you feel any sensation on your skin- warmth, cold, wet, tingling, the wind touching us etc.


Is your gut relaxed or is there tension there and if there is try and understand what is causing that- if you listen to your gut it is trying to tell you!


Sensations happen in the present and being wholly present in mind and body can help to deepen your listening for example. It can also help with concentration and focus.


Aristotle said ‘We are what we practice’. So why not practice centring yourself today and check what is going on with your system? When we pay attention to our whole self we deepen our awareness of how we respond and interact with others.


Your gut will thank you for connecting to the wisdom of your body!





Which one are you- Victim, Perpetrator or rescuer?


There are times in all our lives when we can become surrounded by burdens that come in many shapes and sizes.


There are the burdens that our friends and loved ones pass on to us, sharing their troubles, woes and responsibilities even sometimes.


The ones we create for ourselves – the self imposed deadlines and expectations, the desire to be the first/best or a better friend, partner or parent etc


Our internal conversations often tell us that we ‘should be happier’ ‘should be able to do more’ ‘we are not achieving as much as we should’ and so on.


But where does all this get us? How can we turn this around?


Let’s break it down a little! It is good to offer a shoulder to lean on in times of trouble and even to lend a helping hand – within reason. It stops being reasonable if the other person starts to take advantage by taking us for granted and assuming that you will always be available to step in when needed. What if the time you are giving them starts to impinge on your work, family time, or sometimes even your sleep as you can get embroiled in their problems. This is where resentment can start to creep in and your relationship can start to suffer.


As I mentioned in a previous article, the little voice that tells us we are not doing good enough sometimes may not even be our own but a memory from a parent, teacher or old boss! It gets stuck replaying in our head. We can justify it by telling ourselves that it is just healthy competition or sometimes going over situations when we ‘proved’ to ourselves that we should have done better.


It is easy to get into this frame of mind, becoming negative and looking for someone to blame- ‘whose fault is this?’- ‘why am I in such a mess?’


One way to solve this is to step back and look at the roles playing out here.


 Perpetrator  -  Victim   - Rescuer                    



Ask yourself ‘Which role am I playing here?’ It may be that you are fulfilling more than one role. For example, by becoming a rescuer, you may then become a victim yourself.


Also ask yourself-‘Is this situation reasonable?’ Often, our friends and relations are unaware of the burden that they are putting us under and may have no idea of all the other aspects of our life that are stacking up or on hold.


Perhaps then it is reasonable to sometimes just say no!


Many people, including myself, do not find this easy. It can be challenging and needs to be done in a way that is comfortable for ourselves as well as the person who is trying to get us to help them out by doing ourselves a disservice.


Suggesting alternatives or breaking the request down helps sometimes.-‘I can help out but you need to do …..’

‘I can’t do it now but when I have time….. ‘

‘I have found this works for me…..’


Sometimes it really may not be possible or reasonable – and then we really have to say no!

Especially to ourselves when we know we are overloading ourselves.


By taking this step and saying no on occasion, it is even more rewarding when we can actually say yes without any resentment. And how much easier it becomes when we are the ones asking for the help.


Remember – No is sometimes a positive word when used to keep a balance in your life!




In a maze you can get lost.....

‘In a maze you can get lost- in a labyrinth 


 you can only find yourself’



Labyrinths have been drawn and built for thousands of years. Today they are being rediscovered to help with stress reduction, connection with essential themes and true transformation says Anneliese Monden



Why this revival and why the link to coaching? There are several reasons

  • The rise of information overload on a daily basis
  • Natural disasters on the rise
  • Increase in security issues
  • Authority being questioned and not just accepted
  • Too much choice available leading to demand for increased decision making



Labyrinths can help to transcend rational thinking, because of their connection with sacred geometry in which numbers and shapes have symbolic as well as numeric meaning.



Historically there are deemed to be 4 key themes in the symbolism and use of labyrinths

  • Death and (re)birth
  • Initiation or transition to a new phase in life
  • Fertility
  • Spiritual Journey



The remains of labyrinths can still be found as rock carvings or drawings, constructions in nature, in palaces and churches, on old coins and vases.



Historically sacred geometry has been used to allow people to make connections in a non rational way. Walking the labyrinth connects both left and right side of the brain while literally ‘leading us’ to the centre. There is only one way to the centre and one way out. The road is winding but you cannot get lost.



Coaching guides people from being led in life towards leading their own life. It accelerates the process of discovering what is essential in life to you and how to integrate that into your life.



‘Labyrinth walking’ is a metaphor for finding what you stand for in the centre or your core and for aligning these findings with your walk as you walk into the outer world again. Each person experiences the labyrinth in a different way but most will experience a change in attitude towards self evaluation and a willingness to act. Insights can be powerful and simple, obvious or totally unexpected. Are you prepared to surrender to the sacred mystery?

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Why Worry?


Modern day life is full of stresses and worry – or so many people believe. There is a perception that we have more to worry about today than at any other time- and yet our ancestors of just a few generations back would argue with this. Worry has always been a part of human life, although of course the causes change continuously.


Worry is also perceived as a negative emotion and often does result in negative feelings, lack of sleep, anxiety and weight loss to name but a few.


It can however be a motivator for change which in many cases, leads to a healthier more positive place in our lives.


People who worry tend to be sensitive, intense, passionate beings, who react strongly to their surroundings and other people around them. They can be their own worst enemy, never being satisfied with themselves or being highly self critical as well as critical of others. Worriers tend to look for what can go wrong in any situation, anticipating problems in advance.


But are there any advantages to this? Well for one thing, worriers tend to plan meticulously and will often have a plan B or even C, where others will not. As a result this can lead to being more flexible and able to cope with the ‘unexpected’.


They are also usually good organisers with a real attention to detail that can often focus on complex analysis, a very useful asset in many careers.


Worriers are often deep thinkers and highly creative people using both as an outlet for their worries and channelling them positively without even realising in many cases.


As a motivator, worry can force us to look at alternatives, consider all the options and plan for life’s little – or sometimes, not so little surprises. Always carrying an umbrella- just in case – the worrier will also be able to react quicker when the real emergency comes along because they anticipated it would anyway!


Worry can lead to a desire to make changes and even champion causes such as caring for the planet!


In fact, worry in proportion can be a ‘healthy stress’ that helps us navigate life’s challenges. So the next time you hear yourself say ‘why worry?’ – think again before answering!




A Thorough Spring Clean for the Mind.........

A Thorough Spring Clean is good for the mind ……as well as for health, cleanliness and wellbeing!


The Chinese have advocated a balance between the Yin and the Yang in all aspects for over four thousand years. They believe that all things in the universe are either the female yin or the male yang. This is also often expressed as the dark yin and the bright yang. Together they breathe meaning into each other, resulting in harmony and wholeness. When they are not in balance, chaos reigns affecting the wellbeing of the universe and individuals alike.


This is as true today as ever. As the pace of life speeds up, so do our stress levels. Many people feel overwhelmed by responsibility, lack of money and resources and never having enough time.


As a Coach people often say to me that if they only had more time for their family or to pursue hobbies or set up that business they have dreamed of for years- they could tackle any issue. I start out by checking how they divide their time up now in all the roles they play in life.


One common theme is that their lives have become cluttered with paperwork, technology and the relentless deluge of messages that we all experience often daily! The frustration this causes and the attendant stress for many, slowly drags us down into a ‘can’t do’ attitude rather than the ‘can do’ we would love to tap into.


Perhaps there is some truth in the maxim- cluttered space, cluttered mind? How often have you heard yourself say ‘I don’t know where to begin.’ Does it really matter? Taking the first step is what counts. Go through that paperwork and shred anything that is out of date or has been dealt with. Look for the clutter in your rooms and deal with it. Create new storage if necessary and give away things that you no longer have need for. Can you cut down those messages from work and colleagues?


Only then can you begin to turn your thoughts to that ‘internal tidying’. Are their any ‘old thoughts’ holding you back? Have you changed or grown into a new phase in your life perhaps? Some people find it hard to let their ‘old selves’ go. It is comforting to stay in the same space, not challenging ourselves and ‘staying under the radar’. But if you feel the time is right to make changes in your life and bring a balance into being, then a thorough spring clean for the mind can help you achieve that.


For example


  • What are your values and beliefs?
  • Are you living these in all aspects of your life?
  • If not, what needs to change to achieve this?
  • Are you looking after your spirit as well as your physical wellbeing?
  • How can you devote more time to these aspects of your life?
  • Can you involve those you love in any way as well as those who love you?
  • How can you be that ‘better’ person?
  • How will you know when you have achieved that or recognise that you are already there?


Some people may already be living life being true to themselves but may forget to keep ‘ckecking in’internally in order to keep that flame alive. A thorough internal spring clean can help us to top up that flame to make sure it burns brightly!


Angela Smyth

Change Coach



‘They say we have to make space in our lives in order to attract new things!’


How true –but what does this mean? We can apply this on many levels.


In a physical sense we normally refer to our belongings, the clutter we collect throughout life, the broken things we hold on to and sometimes the painful mementoes such as letters and photos of loves lost. These all take up space physically in a very real sense – but can also be taking up space mentally and emotionally in our lives.


People often speak about ‘turning over a new leaf’ or ‘making a fresh start’ and of course have the best of intentions to follow through their commitment. It can be daunting however especially if we are holding on to more than we realise on the surface.


Mentally we may be holding onto unhelpful thoughts or out of date perceptions about ourselves or someone else.


Emotionally we may be holding onto old beliefs, feelings or even sometimes ‘friends’ that are no longer serving us well or maybe even having a negative effect on us.


Before we can strive out on our journey perhaps we should take time to ask ourselves some questions.


Does this have a place in my life now?

Where does this fit?

Can it be recycled?

Do I need to alter in some way?

Have I already altered in some way?


The answers to these questions can be harsh but in order to make room for new things, new feelings, new ideas- we inevitably have to let go some of the old ones. This can be painful as well as cathartic. If we think of it as a cleansing process we can often relate to updating or creating storage space for example. Just as we make decisions on what to let go and what to make room for in our new space, the same can apply internally. In order to allow new love in, we need to let go of the old. Sounds simple enough- but is it really? Of course not! But can we really make a fresh start and attract the new things we need in our lives if we hang on to the old. By acknowledging the significance and space dedicated in our lives to ‘old’ belongings, people who have moved out of our sphere and the feelings we held, we can recognise that some will not stay in our lives for ever. That is part of life. As a result we have the space needed to attract new things, experiences, jobs, friends to take us into the next phase of our lives even though it may take a while to see it!


What could you do to make space in your life right now?


Angela Smyth

Blue Monday - or is it?


Yesterday-the 3rd Monday in January is designated in some quarters as Blue Monday. This is for a number of reasons, but is this true or an invention that has crept into the media and so into our lives? Is it a reality or a myth and what if anything can we do to combat it?


It is the week when bills start to appear in the mailbox following the excesses of Christmas. Many people will have been paid early in December and there are still 10 days to go before the end of the month and the next potential pay cheque for those who are working. Either way, worries about bills and money, and perhaps attendant arguments which ensue are deemed as one cause for the blues.


It is also perceived as the depths of winter in the Northern hemisphere, with short, cold days and often snow and ice causing difficulties in travel and shortages in the shops as well as disruption to services. Perhaps the children are unable to get to school adding further pressure on parents who are already stressed.


Other people will have already ‘failed’ to keep their New Year’s Resolutions and are feeling blue about that. A shortage of money can often impact here- the good intentions to go to the gym etc.


How are we supposed to stick to our target of giving up that drink in the evening, cut down on our weight etc, when what we really want is comfort food and a night in with a bottle of wine to help forget about those blues?


But does it really have to be like this? There isn’t much we can do about the weather but we can plan to work around it as best we can. Have we exhausted all the options truly? And if we really have to travel as many essential workers do, then being prepared and keeping in touch with up to date information is paramount. Following advice that is available to ensure our health and safety is also essential.


One way to view this is to aim to celebrate the seasons in all their glory. For many, winter provides an opportunity to ‘play’ in the snow and enjoy the outdoors with their children and families. I have seen many examples of photographs of a winter ‘wonderland’ over the past few days and weeks, with people out walking and enjoying nature- and of course building snowmen!


Looking after ourselves is key for both our physical and mental health and especially in winter. Eating properly can be overlooked when journey times increase and the temptation to eat ‘junk food’ beckons. It is more important than ever to follow a healthy diet, which can often be cheaper when preparing your own meals. But if this isn’t possible then we can make sure we are eating at regular intervals and cutting down on some of the ‘comfort foods’ and sugars that our body craves when stressed.


There is plenty of free advice about managing finances and debt to minimise worry and sleepless nights. This is a great time to review your position and plan for the future. If you have overspent then identify where and why and consider how to avoid the same situation next year. Many people are feeling the same and would be glad to agree to cut down their spending on presents for example. A survey published recently showed that up to as much as 50% of food bought at Christmas goes to waste uneaten. It may be too late for this year but it isn’t too late to learn what we can change going forward.


Remember the old saying-‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’. How true!


With regard to resolutions made at New Year, these can often be unrealistic. For example- what will it cost you, who else will it impact on, what support do you have, what support do you need?


We can rush into making resolutions with the best intent but if we don’t plan properly, then are we setting ourselves up to fail?

Our goal might be to get fit –so we sign up to a gym-only to find weeks later that not only have we been only once, but actually we can’t really afford it. So the gym is cancelled and we feel defeated- or maybe blue!


I had a similar conversation with a client who joined a gym because she thought she should and her family were very supportive. In actual fact, she hated the gym, so she didn’t go and was feeling guilty that she was letting her family down. What she really liked was walking and swimming and once she realised that she would actually enjoy getting fit her commitment changed completely.


Resolutions need to fit with your life, your commitments and responsibilities and dare I say be something you actually want to do for yourself and not because you think you should or even worse because someone else feels you should.


Break them down into goals or plans or targets – whatever works for you and start with small steps which make them more achievable. Build rewards in for yourself as well – something to mark achievements along the away, however small.


If you need support from others then tell them and try your best to get them onside. There are also many organisations out there to help and a billion self help books for inspiration! All things seem easier to achieve when shared.


This all sounds simple and of course it isn’t that easy – but we have a choice. We can live with Blue Monday or we can refuse and do something about it.


What colour will you paint yours?




Effective Networking skills for Women


I recently attended a Breakfast Meeting at which 2 out of 3 attendees were male and was asked why it is that more men network in person than women in general!


That got me thinking and doing some research with my colleagues who confirm that this is often the case at networks they attend in various parts of the country.


Face to face networking is an invaluable part of life in business but, as social networking has grown in stature, it is a skill some are beginning to lose. Younger members of the business community and women in particular may not be getting the opportunity to network as a consequence of part time or flexible working hours and caring responsibilities, although these are not exclusive to women of course! Many networks take place outside of office hours now, more than ever before, in this challenging economic climate, making it increasingly difficult for women in particular to attend.


However, women can be every bit as effective as men when attending networks! There are skills and tips which can be learned, through coaching for example, to allow the meeting to flow and bring successful results for you and your business.


One of the top tips is to listen more and talk less! By asking the other person what they do and what they love about their work, what motivates them or about their successes takes the pressure off you and gives you the opportunity to find out about them first. Most will appreciate the opportunity to talk and meanwhile you can assess whether or not to take the relationship further to meet the needs of your business.


Remember that the people in the room share your mindset and approach. Business relationships built through networking can lead to valuable introductions to others that may become clients or perhaps will pass your details on to other connections.


They also provide you with the opportunity to share what you do, what makes you tick, what you love about your work. It is one thing to do this via social media but very different when given the opportunity face to face. Personalise your response. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it has to be a sales pitch. Being passionate about what you do makes a greater impression often than delivering a rehearsed script. Most importantly tell them what you can do for them and their business!


Think of the meeting as though you were talking to someone introduced by a friend that asked you the same questions. How would you respond?


And remember that everyone in the room is interested in hearing what you have got to say and being given the chance to tell you about themselves.


If you would like to increase your effectiveness in networking then why not consider coaching?




Seize the Moment!


I have just returned from Spain where I ran a workshop with my colleague allowing people time to reflect on where they are at this point in their lives and where they are heading.


Before moving forward, it is beneficial to spend some time ‘checking in’ with ourselves - how do we feel, what are our values and beliefs and are we being true to ourselves? This can be illuminating and also challenging. People often experience ‘light bulb moments’ regarding getting in their own way. Others find themselves questioning whether they still want that dream that they have been holding on to – or is it really just a dream after all that has lost its significance.


When we allow ourselves time for true reflection we can often be surprised by what reveals itself to us. Maybe we have been suppressing emotions or feelings that we don’t want to address or feel that we don’t have enough time to get ‘sidetracked’ by.


Sometimes people are overwhelmed by the pressure of work or demands on their time from friends and colleagues. It is hard to know where to start, but taking time out for yourself can help regain perspective. It is not a luxury, more sometimes a necessity to give yourself the time to prioritise that to do list. Are there things on there that no longer belong? Are there things missing that are crucial for your wellbeing perhaps?


We live in a society where people are made to feel guilty about making time for themselves. I see this at all levels. Directors and managers, employees, friends making demands on each other, parents and family members etc. We are afraid to be thought selfish by others, but sometimes unless we make that time, those around us can also suffer the consequences.


By taking time to replenish ourselves, restore the balance and start fresh we can find the strength and determination to achieve our goals and dreams. Having a fresh view point of where we are going and how we can get there can propel people forward, unblocking barriers that somehow seemed insurmountable before.


I find that the time I spend away on these workshops has a similar affect on my own goals and direction. I come back invigorated and ready to seize the moment. My time management seems easier somehow and I can devote time to tasks that I love as well as those that I need to do. I am reminded about what makes me tick as others follow the same journey.


I know that not everyone can afford to take a week away but building time into your schedule for yourself, however busy you are, can have such beneficial results. Start small if needs be – set aside a half hour or an hour in your week and seize the moment for yourself!


I can do!



People often contact me at various times when contemplating or making changes in their lives. The will and enthusiasm for change are apparent in many cases, plans may be in place, steps may have been taken…and yet something is missing. Perhaps plans have stalled or been obstructed or the person’s confidence may have slipped slightly.


At such times I suggest the I Can Do model


I ask them to

I.. investigate and think about what is important to them about their plans and goals


C..think about their current situation- what is possible-any apparent obstacles


A..think about their overall aims in life and where their goals fit in with those


N..think of a number of alternatives and options for achieving their goals and plans


D.. what date are they working towards for achieving their goals - this helps to focus realistically


O..what specific outcomes are they aiming to achieve and how will they know when they have achieved their outcome?


Sometimes it helps to break goals and plans down into achievable chunks -especially longer term, or life changing plans.


Finally we talk about their belief. Do they truly believe that they can make the changes/believe in themselves/have the confidence necessary to move forward?


What are your self beliefs and how are they serving you? Are they supporting you and your journey or are they getting in the way?


When we truly believe in ourselves then we all have the ability to say ‘I Can Do!’




Losing those we love……


…is a harsh experience whatever the circumstances. Losing loved ones through bereavement can be the hardest of all. I have recently been reminded of this through the experience of close friends and retraced my own personal experiences of bereavement and loss as a consequence.


Even when we are prepared, perhaps through a long illness – we experience shock – a hollow emptiness that leaves us barely able to function at times. The body shuts our brain down to protect us from unhelpful thoughts and many talk of feeling as though they are ‘sleepwalking’ through the early days and weeks in some instances. It can be difficult to eat, sleep, talk or even think rationally at this point.


Some are carried through this period by the constant activity required to make arrangements for a funeral service, burial or cremation. Then there is often paperwork, financial and personal affairs of our loved one to sort out. But then what? When everything is done and there is nothing to keep you busy – mentally and physically?


Some people are thrown back into work and/or family life. Everything appears to be ‘back to normal’ with people telling you kindly that ‘it gets easier with time’. Very true – but how much time and what will that journey back to ‘normality’ be like?


Elizabeth Kubler-Ross developed what she calls the Change Curve which describes the feelings that we experience in response to change in our personal and working lives. This applies to bereavement and loss and is described as a curve because we will all enter the feelings at different stages - but more significantly – we can go back and forth on that curve - just like a roller coaster at any point.


Once the initial shock subsides, we may find ourselves denying the emotions we are feeling - ‘this isn’t happening’ or ‘I shouldn’t be feeling like this’. We may tell ourselves that we ‘should be able to cope better’ or feel that we are letting others down.


It is common to feel frustration and anger –‘why is this happening to me’. Some people feel that they should be doing everything themselves while at the same time getting angry with others for not helping or getting in the way.


Guilt is also very common – could I / should I have done more - should I have acted differently - experiencing feelings of letting their loved one down. Some may even experience guilt at beginning to go on and live life for themselves. One person described how she felt guilty enjoying a nice meal without her partner as that was something they always shared together.


Depression and apathy are also common responses to losing a loved one. It can be hard to find the point of life and reasons for continuing particularly if you now find yourself alone perhaps as the children have lives and families of their own or friends have their own partners to care for. It can be a frightening experience to have to start out afresh again after many years. For those who have perhaps lost a child or a sibling there may seem no point to anything.


It is only after reaching the low point that people can start to experiment and find reasons for living. To some it may come as a relief from the feelings of depression and maybe even isolation as many people cut themselves off from friends and loved ones at this time.

Some may want to try new things while others find ways of re connecting with people and experiences that they enjoy.


Many people find that they will start making decisions about what they want to do from here on in - maybe moving home, changing careers, meeting new people – some of which others may find worrying. This is a time for deciding what works for you now, building the future for yourself …and integrating the changes you may choose while gaining support from those you love.


The thing to remember is that the roller coaster of emotions can creep up on you at any time. Be prepared for the conversation or experience that takes you back a step or two. This is inevitable as we are only human and can’t control every situation we find ourselves in.


Over time however, we learn to recognise those feelings and acknowledge them before moving back to where we are now.


Re living my own experiences has helped me appreciate how my loved ones felt at different points in their lives and to see things from a different perspective. It has also helped me to recognise that we are complex creatures, with a range of emotions and it can be a fitting tribute to our loved ones that we devote so much energy on dealing with their loss.


'We Cannot become who we need to be by remaining what we are' - Socrates


Many people are familiar with this quotation but how many have really thought about what it means to them?


For me the important words here are ‘WHO WE NEED TO BE’. Not who do others need us to be. The answer may seem obvious for some but for others it may be less straight forward.


Do you ever find yourself so tied up with work, responsibility or just everyday stuff that you forget to take time out to just be you?


Have you found yourself following the same routine day after day and wondered- ‘How did that happen’?


What happened to the dreams you had and promised yourself to follow one day?

Have you forgotten who you really are?

Or perhaps you are afraid to allow yourself to think about it.


As time goes by we may allow resentments to build up, blaming others for holding us back. How often do we face up to the fact that in truth we are masters of our own destiny?


I know many of you will be thinking ‘That’s ok for you to say but I have children, a mortgage, a partner to consider.’ However are we being true to ourselves?


The smallest steps towards becoming who we need to be can not only be rewarding for ourselves but also for all those we care about and interact with on a daily basis. We have many roles to play in life and how we live /behave has an impact on many people.


Before we take the first step however are we clear about who we need to be?

What are the things you most enjoy in life? Are you making time for them?


When are you completely lost in the moment or at your happiest? What is it that you are doing? Are you making space in your life to fit this in?


What do you dream of doing with your life? Maybe you are already doing it- but if not- how can you build it into your current situation?


Sharing a dream with a loved one can be very rewarding as can striding out on ones own! We are all different and have our own unique map of the world.


Naturally there is inevitably an element of risk. What happens if I get it wrong, I fail, or I alienate people? We are all human and part of that means we are not perfect. But what are the consequences of not taking the risk? Boredom, resentment, stress, sometimes even ill health!


By remaining what we are we may get through life without too many ups and downs but if you truly want to be who you need to be I challenge you to take that first step. It may not be easy but in the end it will be fulfilling.


If you would like to explore this further with a group of like minded people we are currently taking expressions of interest for our residential workshop in Andalucia this October 2012. Please see Events for details.









Mastering Your Mood  


Mastering our moods is a core life skill and yet some of us have forgotten that we have control over them. We can’t control when anger, disappointment or resentment will hit us – but we can control our response. We can chose to wallow in feelings that are toxic or, we can refuse to let them take hold.


I am not talking here of depression that may sometimes need medical intervention – although many Cognitive Behaviour Therapists use techniques to support medication and show some very positive results.


I am talking of the rage we can feel when someone provokes us, or the upset that causes us to lash out at someone or keeps us awake at night. The initial adrenalin rush quickly dissipates and is often followed by tears or by us plummeting into a bad mood. As we let our thoughts spiral and our mood worsen, the body is prompted to release more stress hormones and so we can be tempted to indulge in the seduction of the bad mood.


By becoming aware of our thoughts and reframing them we can break this cycle. The difficult part is finding the energy or the will to do this when bad moods take hold!


Start by changing your thoughts to a happier occasion- refuse to let the negative thoughts have the whole stage. Think of something or someone that has a positive effect on you or makes you smile for a moment. This is more difficult than it sounds as when we are feeling negative emotion, the brain conjures up other negative memories to add to our list.


Next, check your posture. When we are in a bad mood, our face shows signs of tension, our shoulders tend to be stooped. We may fidget or clench our fists or jaw without even knowing. Sitting upright and letting your facial muscles relax helps to release some of that tension.


Notice your breathing. Try holding your breath for 10 -15 seconds and then letting the negative feelings go out with the out breath. Try this three times and see if your breathing becomes more comfortable-returning to normal.


When you feel relaxed you can ask yourself why you reacted the way you did?

Why do you care so much about what the other person said or did?

What caused that bad mood?


It may help to write down your thoughts to help you unpick your feelings and let go of any negativity.


Perhaps imagine yourself calmly talking about your feelings or consider talking to someone who has a positive effect on you. Listen to what they have to say – it may help you to see things in a different light.


Reframing an experience helps to shift our perspective. Ask yourself what it is that is bothering you and if you had the ability to act differently –how would you do that? For example – when a colleague annoys you by not understanding you- ask yourself do they really know what is going on in your mind/life….what have you told them….could you do more to help them understand rather than expecting them to know what you need ?

What responsibility do you have in this scenario?


It is important to recognise your moods and to challenge your response if necessary. Acknowledge your negative feelings and consciously let them go. Erase them from your mind and if they try to creep back in- refuse to allow that to happen. Some people find it useful to visualise the act – take a rubber and rub them out! Whatever works for you!


Remember moods are passing through our lives constantly both positive and negative and we can control how we deal with our feelings and learn how to change our behaviour patterns accordingly. Allow your rational mind to observe what is happening and calmly decide what action to take.


The more you interrupt your angry thoughts and make a conscious decision to become calmer, the sooner your new behaviour will become an automatic response by building different neural pathways in the brain.


So, what mood will you chose today?




Poem - The Seeds of Change


An endless ocean shimmers out beyond the bay
Is there light over the horizon
Beneath the pale moonlit skies tonight?

Do our hearts remain the same?
Or are we the seeds of change?
Do we give in to the seeds of sin
That gather out upon the winds?

For if we look to the horizon
Where the sun is sure to rise
Would the future be in the distance
Beneath the moonlit skies tonight?

Would our hearts glisten like the stars
That shine above us in the heavenly skies tonight?
Would we ever be open to the power that is love?

For if we look to the horizon
As the winds come blowing in
Will we find a new direction?
Would we know where to begin?


By Darryn John Murphy



Pause For Thought

How often in our daily lives do we make time to stop and think, allow ourselves to simply be or just to take time out? Many of you will, I am sure, answer 'not often enough'.


Let's pause for a moment to examine whether this is truly important.


We live in an age of instant messaging, where many of us are on call 24 hours a day - even when we are supposed to be having a holiday from work or getting away from it all. The temptation to cheat and keep that phone or laptop on is too great for many people to resist.


We can be distracted regularly from what we are doing by the constant 'ping' of mail, which can often be trivial, or perhaps a sales message that is actually irrelevant to us. Why is this? What are we afraid of missing? Or is it perhaps a form of distraction from thinking about what is truly important in our lives?


When did taking time out become a luxury and for some even be considered an indulgence?


Being Mindful or 'present in the now' has been shown to help people work more effectively and creatively, be calmer, enhance wellbeing and the ability to make space for the things that bring joy to our lives.


There is a body of growing evidence to show that benefits have been experienced in health, sports performance as well as social and professional competence. So how can we all be mindful as there are so many benefits?


One of the beauties of mindfulness is its simplicity. In essence it means attending to being present in the moment - a shift from doing to being. Being simple does not however mean that it is easy!


Try this simple experiment:

For one moment, close your eyes and focus only on the flow of your breathing. Most people report that their mind wanders after a few seconds as our minds are used to being busy - planning, remembering, dreaming etc. However, if we do remember to bring our attention back to our breathing we can experience reconnecting with the present moment and gradually coaxing our brain to relax into a more peaceful state.


By taking 10 - 15 minutes out of our day to be mindful and pause for thought we can be more relaxed and reflective and increase our ability to focus on what is truly important - even for those few moments in our busy schedule. Choose somewhere that you won't be disturbed. Better still go outside into the sounds of nature if possible. If that isn't possible, really focus on an activity - ask how your body is feeling? If you are eating or drinking, focus on the tastes, colours and textures of the food for example. If you can't find 15 minutes in your schedule take 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes before going to bed, to check in with how you feel.


Over time the experience becomes easier and the practice becomes second nature. I practice travelling to and from work and while walking into town. All of us can benefit from the effects of taking time out whether physically, mentally or spiritually. Why don't you give it a try today?


Angela Smyth



“Nothing is permanent but change” by Angela Smyth


So said Heroclitus- a Greek philosopher in the year 500 BC..…and yet it could have been written yesterday. Change is all around us it seems. You only have to switch on the tv, open a newspaper or browse the web to be bombarded with it. The perception is that this is a modern phenomenon and that somehow change has ‘speeded up’.

Many people view change as a negative beast, that happens to them or is somehow foisted upon them but if we look at it objectively we are surrounded by change from

the moment we are born as a part of growth and development.  In our early years many of us embrace change enthusiastically looking forward to starting school, graduating, starting work, finding a partner or having a family. All of these can of course also be stressful but for the most part we see this as ‘positive stress’.

Other changes in life are felt to be a source of the ’wrong kind of stress’ and can even lead to cases of depression in extreme circumstances. Bereavement, divorce, redundancy, moving home and eventually retirement can leave us feeling that we are spiralling out of control. We are also familiar with those other milestones that many dread such as the spectre of midlife or becoming an ’empty nester’. As a result it is easy to fall into the mindset of victim. But does this really need to be the case?

While it is true that some changes may happen outside of our sphere of control, we do have control over how we react to the situation we find ourselves in. This can take time, courage and calling on all of our internal resources. It often requires the support of a group or facilitator. A Change Coach can help you put things into perspective when feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope alone. Many times the resulting change can be transformational and open up new beginnings that wouldn’t have even been dreamed of.

Some people reading this will be thinking ‘that’s not me – I have a dream but can’t take action because of….commitments, responsibilities, other people’s expectations etc.’ But is this really true or is something else- more personal perhaps stopping them?

If they find themselves asking ’Is this all there is?’ or having regrets for not ‘taking that step’ this can escalate out of control.

There are options for all of us and the most acceptable are those that fit with our values and beliefs. For change to take place successfully and to be lasting, we need to take ownership, take the power back and stop allowing ourselves to be the victim.  Even better when we can find the positives for us and embrace the change. Then when we look back we will wonder what all the fuss was about!

If you would like to discuss this further with a group of like minded people we are currently taking expressions of interest in a week’s residential workshop in Andalucia Spain this autumn.

Angela Smyth

Harnessing the power of change – by Angela Smyth




Change is something that happens to us at every stage of our lives and helps mould us into the person we are. And yet many people live in fear of change. Why is this?


Firstly we react and respond to change in different ways particularly when we feel we are not in control. For example if a loved one dies or when we are made redundant. We need to work though and live with a number of emotions sometimes over a long period of time. Shock, anger, guilt, fear all show up to torment us at such times but to what effect?  In a sense these are all forms of self preservation helping the mind and body to make sense of what is happening around us and most importantly what is happening to us ourselves during these experiences.


We tend to regard these emotions as negative and often try to quell them. How often do you hear people apologising for crying or letting themselves go/letting themselves down in front of others when faced with such changes. However, these emotions are all part of the healing process, helping to restore self confidence and encouraging self responsibility.


At other times when we are in control of our own destiny and faced with making decisions that will result in changes in our lives, we can be restricted by our own limiting beliefs.

‘I am not good enough’

‘Who would listen to me?’

‘Why should anyone think that is a good idea?’


Our internal conversations can take us round in circles to the point of inaction and convincing us to stay as we are, stay safe, and take the easier option.


But what if that didn’t have to be the case? What if the grass looks greener- because it really is?


How can we take the first step?

Aristotle believed that happiness results in living the good life as a result of living with and exercising our values and strengths. How often do we think about these?

What resources do we have to call upon, that have perhaps worked for us previously?

What do we believe in/ how do we want to live our lives and how will that impact on others?

By re examining the values and strengths that are vital to us and ensuring that these match with the decisions we make, we can enhance the power of change. Quell that little voice inside- or better still get it on side!

By building on our self responsibility, taking responsibility for our decisions and having the courage to face change head on we can start to see change as a positive force in our lives. It might even make us stronger. What do you think?


Angela Smyth