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At The Happy Starfish we are dedicated to providing a wealth of information, products, workshops and articles all aimed at celebrating health, happiness and peaceful living. We believe that life should be an awesome adventure filled with love; love life and life will love you back. Are you willing to surrender what you think you are for what you could become? Are you ready?

Monday, 31 December 2012

Not everyone is celebrating

"Happy New Year".

Three little words that have appeared with alarming regularity in my social network feeds today. Many people have plans and have started partying already. If you are one of them, I hope you have a good night.

What of those though who haven't had such a great year? Those who have lost someone they love, be it through a passing or the end of a relationship and can't see a reason to celebrate?

I have been in this position and it can feel incredibly lonely and isolating watching (seemingly) the entire world celebrate and yet feeling separate from it yourself.

If it's your first New Year without a special someone in your life be gentle with yourself. Do what feels right to you and don't feel guilty about it. If you want to be alone don't let anyone tell you that's wrong. It can be the loneliest feeling in the world sometimes to be surrounded be people.

If someone special has passed this year, honour them by raising a glass and toasting their memory. Know they would want you to go on and be happy. To live your life to the fullest.

If you are lucky enough not to have had a loss this year be mindful of those who have. A quick phone call to let someone know they are being thought of can mean so much.

Unfortunately we don't all get the opportunity to see 2013 but for those that do allow yourself to be loved, by others and, most most importantly yourself. Treasure those who are important to you and don't put off saying what is in your heart until a "better" time. There might not be another time.

I wish each and everyone of you a Peaceful and Loving New Year.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The only New Years Resolution you will EVER need

It's that crazy time of year again when lists are made with often unachievable, sometimes downright ridiculous goals.

Three people I know have already decided on theirs. One is currently eating through the Christmas food like there is a famine approaching so she can start a diet on January 1st, another has signed up to a gym but she doesn't want to actually start until New Year (although she has bought all the kit), and the third is "absolutely, definitely" going to give up smoking this year "for sure".

Sound familiar?

How often have you made a resolution only to break it and subsequently feel negatively about yourself? Why not try something different this year?

Although I don't really condone New Years Resolutions (why delay feeling happy until you are thinner/fitter/healthier etc?) if you want to make one, try this:-

"Be Kind"

Yep, it really is that simple. Be kind to yourself. If you need to change your diet, improve your fitness, give up smoking etc by all means try. That's being kind to yourself. However, if it doesn't work out don't be hard on yourself. You are not a failure. Be Kind.

Someone treating you not in a way you would choose to be treated? Be Kind. You don't know what's going on with them, and you are not a mind reader so don't second guess. Everyone has their own story to tell and we all could benefit from some kindness, always.

You can Be Kind, to anyone, in any situation but most of all, remember to apply it to yourself. Kindness flows into gratitude which transmutes into love. What more do we actually need?

If everyone used this as their New Years Resolution how lovely the world would be.

Happy New Year.

Louise xx

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Do we have free choice?

"Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't". Steve Maraboli

Ok so living in the Now, going with the flow and not resisting life are things I try to live by every day. The flip side to this is that I do like order, routine and stability. Hey I'm a Taurus, it's not my fault, I am pre-programmed to dislike change.

I think it is natural to want to feel some sort of control over our own lives, to be the driver of our own bus as it were, and to an extent we are.

We have the right to free choice which we exercise every day. This morning I changed my mind twice before settling for porridge for breakfast for example. What about the biggies though? The things we would change if we could?

My pain and mobility levels have taken a drastic turn for the worst this past week. Actually this is something I am handling really well. I am just letting it be. Not fighting the way I feel, getting frustrated or pushing myself too hard. This is just a temporary state I know. I hope to improve again, I may get worse, who knows? I certainly don't and won't spend my days analysing if I have done something to cause this and living out possible scary scenarios in my mind.

It is harder with my son though who is still poorly after a month. I want to stamp my feet, have a good cry and make things different. I want him well, full of energy and back at school. If I give into these feelings though, let them consume me, all I will change is the energy of our whole household, and not in a good way either. So how do we dispel these unhealthy urges?

Meditating is what keeps my mind clear. I can let the thoughts, whatever they may be, pop into my head and then let them drift away. I guess, to an extent, I treat my mind like a naughty child. If it misbehaves I don't put my attention on it. When it behaves in a more positive way I am happy to focus on the way I feel.

After a meditation I feel calmer, energised and happier. I know I am not affecting my son with any negative energy as he easily picks up on the way I feel. It's such an invaluable tool, easy to do anywhere and breaks the cycle of chatter that can be detrimental to my emotional well-being.

There are many things, we can't, with the best will in the world influence, but we can choose to change the way we feel about them. Now, back to things I can control. Hmmm, now what to have for lunch? 

Spreading the love

Louise xx

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Never judge a book by its cover

A few months ago I had a rare evening out with my partner at the theatre.  We managed to park directly outside the door and as I knew our seats were not far away I decided to be brave and leave my crutches in the car to save cluttering up the aisle.  Holding onto his arm for support we made it to our seats and for 45 minutes I completely immersed myself in the ballet and pushed my pain to the back of my mind.  During the interval I decided I needed the toilet. My partner helped me to the disabled toilet on our floor as all other toilets were down two flights of stairs.  When I came out however, there were two elderly women with walking sticks who took one look at me, jumped to completely the wrong conclusion and severely reprimanded me for having the gall to use the disabled toilets when there was obviously nothing wrong with me.  Assuming these ladies were not super-grannies withx-ray vision to see my bones, or psychic powers to sense my pain levels how could they possibly know what is or isn’t wrong with me?

Now I admit I am a rather funky looking (if I do say so myself) mum with nothing noticeably wrong with me.  I have all limbs, no disfigurements and am young, oh ok, youngish. If I am not in my wheelchair or using crutches no-one would guess I have any health problems.  However it both astonishes and dismays methat people can be so judgmental towards those with 'hidden' disabilities. 

Situations like the one above are sadly all too common, (I have frequently been shouted at using my blue badge)and the quandary is always how to react to it.  I actually do not know any language foul enough to rival the women at the theatre (who said old ladies were sweet?) and it is not in my nature to do so.  I always find education the best form of defense but sometimes you do not feel like justifying yourself to total strangers and nor should it be necessary to do so.

I did consider getting copies of my MRI scans and a brief medical history printed on flyers I could hand out when challenged but then thought this may be a tad extreme!

There are approximately 11 million disabled adults in the UK.  Out of this number less than 8%of disabled  people use a wheelchair.  As not all disabilities relate to discernible mobility problems, it can be incredibly hard to judge whethersomeone has the ‘right’ to class themselves as disabled and neither should anyone try to do so. 

So to all those narrow minded,intolerant individuals, I would say walk a mile in my shoes, but considering I can’t walk a mile in my shoes, (or any shoes for that matter), try to be more forbearing, failing that, please don’t be judgmental.

Spreading the love

Louise xx

Monday, 26 November 2012

Feeling out of control

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Charles Swindoll

This weekend I have had to stop, take a deep breath and reclaim my sanity.

My son is ill. He is now into his third week off school with no clear answers as to what is wrong with him. He has been for numerous tests and I, as a holistic therapist,have been refraining from treating him until all his test results are back which will hopefully be later. Frustrating.

Feeling out of control is a horrible sensation and one which happens to us all from time to time. It is easy to know how to ‘Be’ but when it is something affecting one of my children it can be hard to view the situation through detached eyes and implement a realistic action plan to safeguard the mental and physical well-being of every member of our household. Being a Mum I feel it's my job to make sure everyone is OK and when they are not I feel a sense of responsibility that I must be the one to change that.

Whatever situation you are in, if you find yourself feeling stressed and anxious due to a perceived loss of control try the following tips, they sure have helped me get my feet back on the ground.

Accept you can’t control everything. Sometimes, with the best will in the world, it just isn’t up to you what happens.

Resist your desire for things to be a certain way. Wishing things were different is not going to change how they actually are. Ignore your expectations and put your energy into things you can actually affect.

Appreciate what’s good. No matter how bleak things seem there is always, always, always something to be grateful for.

Know everything passes. Situations and emotions are only ever temporary. Although something may seem like the worst thing in the world, be sure that this isn’t the way it will always be.

Own your feelings. We can’t always change our situation but we can change the way we feel about it. How much negative energy we waste worrying, wishing and hoping is completely up to us.

Accept we can’t always help. Don’t feel a failure if you think there is nothing you can do. There is always something you can do. Love and kindness remains an option in any given situation. 

Spreading the love
Louise xx

Thursday, 22 November 2012

10 great things before breakfast

I was speaking with my cousin in Texas last night about Thanksgiving and how excited she was and I know my family Stateside will be celebrating with loved ones and enjoying the togetherness whilst devouring their veritable feast.

I woke up today feeling quite strange. I miss my family that are far away and this, coupled with the fact I haven’t been well for a while,led me to a rare case of ‘feelingsorryformyselfitis’.

At times like these I really have to make a conscious decision to practice an attitude of gratitude, so before I even got out of bed I compiled a list of ‘great things that have happened today before I even getup’.

1)   My 6 year old son came and told me he loved me.
2)   I have nettle tea to drink which will smooth my inflammation.
3)   My amazing partner bought me some breakfast.
4)   I have a nice warm comfortable bed to lie in.
5)   I can hear my family laughing in the kitchen.
6)   The sound of the rain on the window but I felt really snuggly.
7)   Friends that care, I received a text asking how I was early this morning.
8)   Our dog bought me the greatest gift ever (in her eyes) of a squeaky ball.
9)   I have the luxury of a slower start being self-employed.
10) Hugs from my children before school.

This is such a great exercise to do if you are feeling down. If 10 amazing things can happen before I get up I can easily release any (false) expectations that today may be a bad day. After all we get back what we put out there energetically. I now feel excited at the possibilities the rest of my day holds. 

One of my favourite proverbs is “give thanks for a little and you will find a lot”. It’s so true. There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. Sometimes we need to just open our eyes and see.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Don't limit kindness

Today I was fully intending to write a post centred around the fact it is World Kindness Day and suggestions of small things we could incorporate into our day to pay it forward.

However my partner and I decided to treat ourselves to lunch out after I had a rather stressful hospital appointment and met up with some good friends for a couple of hours of, what I hoped would be, lighthearted conversation and laughter.

Tragically someone decided to take their own life in the shopping centre we were at and after being evacuated we came home suitably subdued.

Although I didn't know this lady I feel such a huge sense of loss and sadness that someone can feel that despairing, that lonely despite being in a public place they feel suicide is their only option. I send sincere condolences to the friends, family and anybody touched by today's tragedy.

World Kindness Day is a beautiful concept but let's not do a good deed on a certain date and think that's enough. If we all consciously think of ways to pay it forward, it could become second nature. It can be easy to be so focused on our own 'stuff' we often don't see things right in front of us. With love, kindness and compassion we really can make a change.

Spreading the love

Louise xx

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Privacy Vs Secrecy

I have always been quite a shy and private person. To be marketing The Happy Starfish the way I am at the moment is a huge leap out of my comfort zone. Appearing so publicly through my writing, the website and social networking initially made me feel very exposed and quite vulnerable but I have so much belief in the messages we are trying to spread I have no doubt I am doing the right thing.  The Happy Starfish contains a huge piece of my heart and I hope that is apparent through everything I do. If I can help one person cope with their physical or emotional pain, the way I have learnt to cope with mine, everything will be worthwhile.

I have felt a massive shift lately. The more and more transparent I get the bigger the sense of freedom I feel. There is a huge difference between privacy and secrecy and that has been a big lesson I have had to learn. It would have been ok had I not wanted to talk about my disability for privacies sake. But secrecy is something very different entirely and predominantly fear led. Keeping a secret is about hiding something from the world, separating yourself, and that takes a lot of energy. I had tried to keep my physical health hidden as, ultimately, I realise now I felt ashamed my body no longer functioned in the way I thought it should.

It is perfectly ok to be private but to lay yourself open sometimes takes courage but when there is nothing left to keep hidden, nothing to fear, it can be one of the most loving and liberating things you can do for yourself.

The next time you find yourself not wanting to reveal things it may be worth questioning. Do you want to keep it a secret and if so what do you fear?

Spreading the love

Louise xx

Friday, 2 November 2012


I am currently away, staying with relatives in the middle of the beautiful countryside. The scenery here is stunning and it's easy to relax amongst horses, dogs and a token cat. Out of my normal routine I have lots of time to meditate and contemplate. I feel at peace here but know it is only a temporary visit. This is not where I belong but where is?

I sold my house earlier this year. After 20 years of being on the property ladder it is quite a strange feeling not to 'own' (aka owing the bank a huge sum of money) anything.

On one hand it is quite liberating to have no real ties, no commitment and to be free to go wherever I choose. On the other it can be really unsettling. As a mother I want a safe nest for my children who need some stability.

The best thing I can show them in life is that the biggest foundation, the only foundation, for building a true home is love. Releasing attachment to possessions can be one of the hardest lessons to learn, but once you understand, really understand with your heart, you can start to release the need for the 'stuff'.

Without craving the next thing or letting what you own define who you are, you naturally start to practice gratitude for all the small, organic things surrounding you. This feeling then easily makes the transition into love, which, after all, is all you need.

I hope my children can make their transition into adulthood secure in the knowledge that although circumstances change, 'things' are just temporary, happiness, real happiness can only every come from within.

Then I will be happy to watch them fly off into the world knowing that wherever they settle they will always have a 'home' straight from the heart.

Spreading the love

Louise xx

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Why I ditched the weighing scales

I met a friend for dinner last night who commented on how well I looked. There was a period, in the seconds it took the words to register in my mind, they would have been translated into “Louise you look fat”.

I realised that for the first time, well, ever if I am being totally honest I have absolutely no idea what I weigh.

When I was younger, that ‘weighing yourself once a week in the same conditions’ scenario would never have satisfied my curiosity. I was on and off the scales so often I am sure I heard them sigh whenever I approached.

Ridiculously the magic figure would then govern my entire day from what I wore, to what I ate, and, particularly, my mood.

It has only really been since my health circumstances changed so drastically I see what a beautiful gift the human body is. If I have a day I feel strong enough to stand and cook a nutritious meal for my family without too much pain I am grateful for my extraordinary skeleton. I am thankful for all I can do, none of which is dependent on my dress size or the figure on the scale.

Aside from the physical, when I got ill I realised the human body is just a place we inhabit in this lifetime. It doesn’t actually define who we are. I call the body the ‘little me’. Me, the actual ‘big me’, is something beautifully whole, intangible and perfect.

Unless your weight, is affecting your health, whether you be too light or too heavy, it is really not important whether you gain or lose a few pounds. Practice gratitude daily for all the incredible things your body does and self-love will naturally follow.

I am amazing, but you know what? So are you.

Spreading the love

Louise xx

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Doctors treating the physical through the emotional?

The NHS really surprised me yesterday. It couldn't have surprised me more if it had leapt out of a cupboard shouting boo.

I have been in and out of hospital the past few years having treatment on my back and pelvis. As part of my treatment carries a future cancer risk my consultant has decided to give my body a break from invasive treatments for a period and referred me for a meeting with a different team.

I attended yesterday not sure what to expect. It started off with them running through different pain killers available, all of which I have tried, none of which I continued to take as, for me, the negatives of constantly being medicated outweigh the positives. A mechanical restoration class with other patients in a rehabilitation stage was mentioned although, after examination,  it was agreed my body would not cope with such movement at this stage.

Then (and this is the good bit) I was asked if I was aware of the mind/body connection and how I felt about this. Although I work in this field I am the first to hold my hands up and say I do have fear about pushing myself past my perceived physical limitations and setting my recovery back. It has always been two steps forward and one step back and I am mindful of my structural abnormalities.
I am not sure how wide spread this is in hospitals but I was told they run education programmes on meditation, relaxation and for patients such as myself teach visualisation techniques where you keep picturing yourself doing things you used to which, in turn, over a period of time, the mind begins to believe the body is capable of more.

I never turn down a chance to try someone else's teachings and methods and never assume I know all there is to know so I am due to begin this programme next month.

I find it so exciting that doctors are acknowledging there is more to physical health than, well, the physical and that there are other, powerful, options to medication.

I wanted to share this as I had not heard of this happening before and would love to hear from anyone who is aware of orthodox practitioners taking a more holistic approach.

Spreading the love,

Louise xx

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Embracing the natural look (part two)

For those who have not read my previous blog my aim was to embrace the natural look for a week to see if I felt differently about myself and if it changed the way others perceived me.

Wow, well not only did I survive my make-up free week but I actually found it a really enlightening exercise.

Although I was very aware the way I feel internally reflects externally; everyone can see when I am happy, sad etc. by my facial expressions, glow (or not) and posture, being someone who usually takes care of her appearance I hadn’t fully appreciated that the way I present myself externally would have such a dramatic effect on my internal world.
Day one was fine. To be honest it was a shut myself away and write day anyway so aside from the school run I had nothing too taxing to contend with.

Day two was a different matter.  I had a meeting with my son’s head-teacher. To be honest this is a situation I am never entirely comfortable with anyway.  Previously lip gloss would have been my shield but I had nothing to hide behind.  I regressed from a calm, confident, mother of three who runs her own business to a bumbling, inarticulate mouse who found it difficult to even make eye contact. Surviving the meeting (just) I had to console myself with the loss of my make-up bag with cake, great for my skin but not so good for my waist.  Uh oh, this experiment could well end up deflating my confidence and inflating my stomach.

As the week went on however it got easier and easier.  Mornings were great. I actually had free time to plan my day properly before the school run.

There were cases where I had to return faulty goods to a store, to negotiate buying a car for my son with a salesman and to return food in a restaurant with hairs in it (that induced a whole other trauma not relevant to this piece)! I realised that actually nobody cared whether I wore make up or not and I was treated exactly the same.  I don’t think my partner or children even noticed and in a way I felt more accepted for me than I ever had been before which made my confidence naturally soar.

In conclusion I have realised I am exactly the same person, with exactly the same capabilities however I look. That’s not to say I will abstain long term, after all it’s a girls prerogative to change her mind and I do like to dress up but once you have conquered what’s going on in the inside the outside doesn’t matter so much after all. In short what’s important with my mouth is whether it’s smiling or not, not whether it is coated in lipstick.

Spreading the love

Louise xx

Is chronic back pain caused by our emotional state?

A subject close to my heart is chronic illness and pain, and natural methods we can use for coping with disabling conditions, be it dietary changes, herbal supplementation, relaxation and exercise techniques, as well as exploring the mind/body connection to ease emotional stress.

It was with interest then that I read an article today in the Daily Mail promoting a new book by a physiotherapist stating that emotional tension is “almost always the cause of chronic pain”.  The physiotherapist then explains that, in the case of back pain, even if you have structural abnormalities that show up in x-rays and scans, these don’t necessarily cause any physical pain.

It is widely recognised that when pain makes the transition between acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) psychological factors enter the equation. With an estimated 1.6 million Britons and 65 million Americans developing chronic back pain each year (half of which is disabling) there seem to be mainly two camps. There are those who believe pain comes from structural faults and those who believe that the mind manifests pain in a very real, physical way.

Personally I don’t hold with either of those views. I have sustained structural damage to my pelvis, spine and discs that cannot be undone and as a consequence I am in pain everyday (camp one would agree with this).  However, when I am under increased pressure and emotional stress my pain levels can more than double (camp two would verify that emotions are causing my pain).

We need to recognise the mind and body as being more intricately interrelated than we can fully understand at this moment in time and offer treatments that are a correlation of emotional and structural techniques which I do via http://www.balancinghealth.co.uk/.

Alongside the holistic therapy treatments that Balancing Health offers The Happy Starfish now has a section dedicated to coping with chronic conditions (http://www.thehappystarfish.com/coping.html). I hope that the combined knowledge of contributors will lead to a wealth of information on optimising your health and dealing with illness, whatever your situation, using naturopathic methods.

We have also added an ‘About You’ section where we will publish your story to uplift and inspire others.

Please send any contributions to me. As usual bios and website links will be published alongside your piece if you wish.

“Nobody can do everything but everyone can do something”.

Spreading the love,

Louise xx

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Embracing the natural look

Ok, however much I talk about, and practice self-love, self-acceptance and knowing that I am enough, I am the first to hold my hands up and say I very, very rarely leave the house without mascara on (as a minimum).  Being bought up in a family of models make-up was part of my life from a very early age and has become so ingrained into who I think I am I never stop to question why I wear it.

Last weekend we were going out to our local store to pick up something for dinner before heading off to London to see a show.  I haven't been well for a few days and my energy levels were on the floor.  Throwing on a pair of jeans and a jumper I said to my partner "I'm ready, I'm not going to put on any makeup today".  He looked at me questioningly and, with a raised eyebrow asked "are you sure"?

Now he is a pretty amazing boyfriend who was (I hope) either joking or making sure I was happy (well that's his story and he's sticking to it) but it has made me query why I feel the need to look a certain way, and, more importantly,  who do I do it for?

Is it so I will like myself more or is a misconception that others will treat me differently? I know the better I look the more confident I feel.  First impressions count and people can and often do judge by appearances.  For the days I have to use a wheelchair I am treated differently but then I do feel different so probably act accordingly.

Anyway, I have decided to bite the bullet and ditch my make up bag for a week.  I want to see how I feel, how others act towards me and try to figure out if I feel differently about myself, why that is.

So do I completely, unconditionally love myself?  I will let you know next week!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Phenomenal Paralympics

Being a part-time wheelchair user myself I am totally in awe of how effortless the athletes have appeared to compete in their chosen field despite their physical impairments.  I am the first to admit my upper body strength is rubbish and unless I am heading down a hill in my wheelchair, or towards a designer shop with a Sale sign in the window, my progress can be painfully slow.  David Weir completing a 26 mile wheelchair marathon in the blistering heat is inspiring.

Research has suggested that 65% of people who have watched the 2012 Paralympics feel it has had a favourable impact on their perception of people with disabilities.  I am not sure if this change will be sustainable once normality has returned to the country but I know it has altered my attitude to my own disability greatly.  A lesson reiterated to never give up on my own health and fitness has been received loud and clear.

I feel many viewers managed to see beyond the physical impairment and focus on the fact that each competitor was, first and foremost, an amazing athlete.

I think the big message to all, regardless of disability or not, is we are all capable of so much more than we think.  We have incredible potential to overcome challenges and limitations. To take life and, quite frankly, kick the arse out of it.

Did you watch it?  What did you think?

Spreading the love

Louise xx

Monday, 20 August 2012

Stop cleaning your house and clean your mind.

I am lucky enough to be staying with relatives this week, in a beautiful house in the middle of the Welsh countryside. 

I am completely relaxed, have no demands on me and aside the odd bit of reading and writing I am happy to just be.

Yesterday I sank into the comfiest armchair, looked out at the stunning view and before I knew it 2 hours had passed in a haze of conscious contentment.

I am feeding my body and soul with complete rest as that is what I need and deserve at the moment and I make no apologies for it.

However I do question if I would be able to do this at home. Aside from the obvious commitments many of us have to work, home and family how often do we say "I will just sit down when I have finished . . . . ", "five more minutes and I will relax".  I don't know about you but for me, five minutes never comes, I always spot something else that 'needs' doing straight away.

Previous generations had genuine reasons for keeping busy, a lack of home appliances meant keeping house was hard work.  With carpets to beat, clothes to wash by hand and wring dry and dishes to manually do, coupled with larger families to feed, meant spare time was a rare treat to be treasured.
Why is it then that with most of us having homes filled with electric wizardry to make tasks so much easier we are in fact busier than ever?

We need to accept that housework never ends, it will never be finished.  The problem is not within our homes but within our minds.  There is a huge difference between being restful and being lazy.  We need quiet time to cultivate some inner peace and ensure our bodies and minds are in alignment.
If we cleaned our minds through meditation as much as we cleaned our homes how much more rewarding would our lives be?  Rather than looking around at sparkling surfaces and floors we would have that sense of fulfilment within ourselves permanently.  How great would that be?

Of course we can say we want things to be perfect for our families, I want my home to be clean and tidy and a nice environment,  I know though that given the choice my partner would rather have a bit of mess and dust and me happy and peaceful rather than a show home and a totally worn out and stressed girlfriend.

Now put the duster down, make a drink and go sit.  Nobody will think any less off you.  Rather than obsessively looking after your home start looking after yourself, you are worth far more.
Spreading the love

Louise xx 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

What is confidence?

I am writing this lying on a blanket in the glorious sunshine at my local (ish) lido.  A cloudless sky, clear blue water and lush green grass make this a lovely place to be.  Add a pen and paper to the mix and I really am in heaven.

Although I am happy and relaxed, looking around it is clear that not everybody, particularly the women, feel the same.

A few ladies are wandering around unselfconsciously in bikinis, seemingly at ease with who they are.  Others are hiding under towels or sarongs, constantly checking how much flesh is exposed and adjusting themselves accordingly.  A small proportion remain clothed, even whilst in the pool.
This has led me to question what is confidence, when do we get it, how do we lose it and, most importantly, how do we get it back?

We are born with confidence, the inner knowing that we can, that we are enough.  A baby believes it can learn to crawl, a toddler believes it can learn to walk.  We all believe we can until we are told we can’t, we shouldn’t, it’s not a good idea.  It’s only then we start to question ourselves and the self-judgement starts.  Nobody analyses the way they look until they encounter spiteful taunts at school or unrealistic media images.

Our belief system, the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us is formed during our formative years.  Being told we are wrong, bad, can’t, will never be etc. is something many of us, subconsciously, carry into adulthood.  Even if we come from a loving, supportive family it can be a seemingly throwaway comment that stays with us. 

It is only recently I have linked my self-conscious nature and inability to speak publicly with a statement made to me by a teacher when I was 7.  Wanting to appear in a school play she told me “Louise, you are so softly-spoken no-one will want to listen to you when you speak”.  My brain registered “no-one wants to listen to you speak”, and consequently I have, until recently, spent the vast majority of my life hiding in corners, trying to make myself invisible.
So what can we do to raise our self-image?  Thankfully lots.

Firstly, if you have any negative memories like I had above can you now look at them with fresh eyes?  Looking at the situation now as an adult I think that the teacher was trying to be helpful, wanting me to project to enable both me, and the play, to be of a high standard.  This knowing came as a huge relief to feel I was not being personally criticised, that there was, in fact, a loving intent behind her comment.

Secondly, think of yourself in a more positive, loving way.  When was the last time you paid a friend a compliment?  When was the last time you paid yourself a compliment?  Exactly.  While it can feel a totally alien concept to be kind towards ourselves initially, the more we practice this, the more we believe it to be true.  Personal empowerment cards which pick words for you daily (available atwww.thehappystarfish.com/shop.html) are a great tool if you struggle with this concept. 

Thirdly, stop waiting.  Confidence won’t magically appear when you lose weight, change jobs or alter relationships.  Write a list right now of 10 things you are happy with and carry it with you.  Refer to it often and add to it when you can.  Gratitude leads to love, and when we are experiencing self-love it is impossible to be self-critical.

Now excuse me, it’s kind of hot and I’m going to make my way over to the ice-cream kiosk without my sarong.  I believe no-one will really focus on my wobbly bits.  After all, the most noticeable curve on a woman is her smile and mine is pretty big right now.

Spreading the love

Louise xx

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Pondering the NHS

Mention the NHS and you generally get one of two reactions.  Either a tale of woe preceded by the inevitable tutting and eye rolling, or, occasionally, praise.  With the majority of people having an experience to draw upon, whether personally or through a family member or friend. the NHS can, at times, be a controversial conversation piece.

As a holistic therapist, and lover of all things natural I had successfully avoided doctors for 30 something years when having a car accident added to my previous health problems and I found myself unable to walk.  My local NHS hospital completed numerous x-rays, MRI scans and tests and then pronounced there was nothing they could do for me.  My consultant explained that in years past, with a scan like mine, they would have surgically intervened but as they now recognised a huge proportion of back surgery does not work they tend to leave 'well' alone where they could.  I was told to take up knitting to keep my mind off the fact I was now a wheelchair user.  I was given physiotherapy for 6 weeks before my NHS physio announced I was a waste of resources as I would never be properly on my feet again with the damage I had sustained and I was discharged.  Now that could have been the end of my story but I am stubborn and feeling I understood my spinal damage was not my only problem, a fact I felt my consultant wasn't acknowledging, I spent hours and hours obsessively googling until I found a treatment I thought might, over time, help to stabilise my pelvis and decrease my high pain levels.  Excitedly going back to see my consultant with print outs, facts and success stories I was crushed to be met with scorn when he told me I was being ridiculous, he had never heard of the treatment and it wasn't offered on the NHS furthermore I had taken up valuable appointment time which could have gone to someone he could actually help.  "Go away and stop bothering me" was not the actual phrase but I got the gist.

Momentarily deflated, but never one to give up I decided to contact all orthopaedic units of every NHS hospital hoping to find one who could offer just a little bit of positivity.  My search widened and after much negativity stumbled across Birmingham Orthopaedic Hospital who had not only heard of the treatment, they offered it and agreed to see me for a consultation. Subsequently for the past few years I have been under the care of Dr Ketkar and I can't begin to express my gratitude that he not only agreed to undertake the regular treatment I required but gave me something far more valuable than medical intervention and drugs; hope.  He has always believed in my ability to progress physically and this has made me focus fully on the positive.

Now strictly speaking when I was discharged Thursday it could have been the last I would see of him and I was expecting this news.  He had told me last month my  body has been through so much it won’t cope with any further treatments without a good long break but surprisingly he still plans to regularly assess me and knowing I have his support makes a huge difference to my mental and emotional health.  I know should any new medical procedures come out that would help me he would get in touch as he genuinely cares about his patients.

So is this a rare occurrence to find someone caring in the so called 'caring' profession?  We all know doctors and nurses work long hours with not enough resources, is it any wonder that a few become jaded.  Would my NHS physio so brutally have discharged me, crushing hope of recovery if she had a choice or were her hands bound with protocol?  Did my consultant realise, as a mother of three young boys, how his negative words and pessimistic outlook of my future would impact upon my mental health?  Was I just unlucky?   After all a poor bedside manner does not mean these people are bad at their jobs. To be a good surgeon I guess you have to be good, well, surgically, boosting someone's self esteem is probably not in the job description.  I believe this is where holistic therapists come into their own, often more nurturing, I do feel orthodox and complementary medicine can and should exist side by side covering every aspect of a person's physical, emotional and mental health.

I don't like generalisation but on the whole we can be rather judgemental.  What is it that makes us want to label everything?  NHS care can be 'bad', private care can be 'good'.  Should we, could we, be open minded and not expect long waiting lists, poor care and bad attitudes, then we may be pleasantly surprised?
If I had listened to my original consultant and used this to demonstrate my experience with the NHS I could easily have tarnished the opinions of others. Yes I was met with a distinct lack of compassion in my local hospital, but, 80 miles away I have met the most amazing team of people who go above and beyond their role

What I am trying, in a roundabout way to say is do not judge, expect or let the opinions of others cloud you.  Go into every situation and greet every person you meet with an open heart and you may just be pleasantly surprised.  

I would love to hear of your experiences.

Spreading the love, 

Louise xx

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Positive parenting through language

For the past few weeks my 6 year old son has been having trouble getting to, and staying, asleep.  It is rare I sleep all the way through the night with my pain levels, so consequently this last month has passed in a blur of exhaustion.

Despite gently probing Finley the only explanation I have managed to secure is “Mummy I have worries that stop me sleeping, not big ones, just normal worries”.  I cannot dismiss any concerns at age 6 as being unimportant, I knew he had been worried about sports day but that had now passed and I feared getting up in the night had become a habit.

Last night at bed time I produced with flourish a bag of Gatamalan worry dolls.  I explained to Finley that these dolls were the answer to his sleeping problem and once they were under his pillow they would take all his worries away from him and he would sleep through the night.  After going through the bag and naming them all he promptly fell asleep for ten hours!

The language we use is critical.  The subconscious mind has difficulty processing negatives and they cause us distress and fear.  Consequently, had I said to Finley “These dolls will help because you can’t sleep” he would have picked out the wordscan’t and sleep which would have reinforced the belief he had formed that he no longer slept through the night.  Using the sentence “The dolls will take your worries away and you will sleep through the night” he subconsciously picked out will take worries away will sleep.  Clever old English language eh?

It is during our formative years that we develop many of our negative beliefs which many of us carry into adulthood;  I can’t, I’m not good enough, It’s too hard ….  Inadvertently we pick up these ideas from the language of our primary care-givers, parents, teachers, child minders etc. and the more we hear them the more we believe the words to be true.

If you begin using words affirmative in nature they will integrate naturally into your vocabulary.  If we can use language to eradicate limiting beliefs in a child’s head we can help them lead more empowering lives which will impact into adulthood.  Awesome how powerful words can be isn’t it, and such a simple thing to practice.

So next time your child asks you for something they can’t do, i.e. I want to go skating.  Keep the reply positive.  Rather than “you don’t know how to skate” you could try, yes “you can learn how to skate”.  Keep commands simple, replace “don’t run” with "walk" (the brain will respond to run).  Start to notice how differently your children respond to you and how much easier it is to parent.

In the wise words of Mahatma Ghandhi: -
Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive, because your words become your behaviour.
Keep your behaviour positive, because your behaviour becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.
Spreading the love, 

Louise xx

Monday, 2 July 2012

Buddhist Centre World Peace Day

Wow I am genuinely in awe of the amount of people on the Peace Path. I may have left with a croaky throat due to hours of shouting over the music but with such a warm fuzzy feeling inside it was worth it. A large crowd of like minded people all in one place meant you could virtually touch the love.

Hats off to the very brave lady who took the first steps in coming yesterday after her bereavement. Although she wasn't sure whether she should be there I do genuinely believe that we are led to the right place and people at the perfect time for us. There is such a thing as universal support but opening ourselves up and trusting that can, at times, seem mountainous.

I had such a hard time after my accident in accepting I couldn't cope, emotionally or physically on my own, but the greatest healing therapy is friendship and love and sometimes it can come from the most unexpected of places. I am glad now I let people in (eventually!)
Spreading the love,

Louise xx

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Feeling The Love...

Wow, amazing what you can achieve in 24 hours! The idea for The Happy Starfish website and products was born about a week ago but it wasn't until yesterday we decided to start pulling it together. Thanks to an amazingly quick local printers who turned around our cards in 24 hours and lovely patient children who have 'endured' take-outs for 2 nights in a row, it's fair to say we are pretty pleased with the result so far. The messages and emails we have received have been overwhelmingly supportive and I can't wait to carry on with this new chapter and see where it leads.

Spreading the love, 

Louise xx