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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?

Thursday, 31 January 2013

I believe I can fly

"Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is."
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

An experiment was carried out recently led by Dr Robin Rosenberg, from Stanford University, and documented in the online journal Public Library of Science.

Volunteered completed missions, via virtual reality equipment, with some participants being given the superpower of flight.

After their virtual reality experience, the participants were all seated waiting to go when the researcher (as was prearranged) knocked over a large cup of pens. Interestingly the people who sprang forward to help her pick them up were the people who had believed they could fly through their googles.

The scientists have said that one possible explanation was that playing the role of Superman in virtual reality led players to ‘think’ like superheroes, making them keen to help someone in difficulty.

It was written "Because the participants in the flying conditions were given a superhuman ability, cognitive (thinking) channels linking 'super' activity (and related concepts and stereotypes) to heroism and helping behaviour may have been opened, which would then influence their decision to help".

Visualisation is such a cool concept and the subject of many studies. From athletes using it to enhance their performance to students thinking their way to better grades, a few minutes positive thinking a day can help you achieve your goals.

For some tips on creating the life you really want using visualisation as one of the tools check out my previous article; All I want to manifest is ice cream

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Embracing the challenge

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough”.
Og Mandino

When a crisis hits most of us react in one of three ways. There are those pessimists among us who roll over and give up (the glass is half empty), the optimists who keep believing that everything will be ok (the glass is half full) and the opportunists who embrace change and spring into action (they drank the contents of the glass while the pessimist and optimist were arguing it out).

13 year old Shelby Grebenc is definitely one of life’s go-getters. At the tender age of 9 her Mum Nancy was diagnosed with MS which became so severe she had to go and stay in a nursing home. Shelby’s dad Jonmichael tried to keep the family afloat despite the loss of Nancy’s salary and the mounting medical bills but sadly bankruptcy loomed.

Shelby offered to help and Jonmichael, not wanting to dampen his young daughter’s spirit, told her to do what she could.

This enterprising school girl had an idea to start selling eggs, borrowed some money from her grandmother and bought chickens.  Four years on Shelby has 135 birds, turns over $15,000 per year, her family home is safe and she became the youngest farmer in America to win the Animal Welfare Seal of Approval. The icing on the cake is that Nancy’s health has improved too.

It’s amazing how resilient the human spirit is and what can be achieved when we stop resisting what life throws at us and work with it instead. Then, and only then, can we put all our energies into sourcing a positive outcome rather than wasting valuable time wishing and hoping the situation had never happened.

One of my favourite quotes is “it will be alright in the end. If it isn’t alright, it isn’t the end”, and you know what? it’s absolutely true.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Lessons from a robot

"Once you have learned to love you will have learned to live".

My dad, who is 66, is so conscientious he has never had a day off work (other than annual leave) in his whole life. Even if he feels under the weather he goes in as he worries about letting people down.

I was really shocked to receive a phone call from his boss this lunchtime to say he hadn't turned up and they couldn't reach him on the phone. Naturally they realised this was really out of character and were worried. Thus commenced a frantic half hour trying to trace him (he is fine) but my heart rate is still returning to normal.

I had watched the Transformers movie not long ago with my son and Optimus Prime said "the greatest weakness of most humans is their hesitancy to tell others how they love them while they're alive". I instantly loved this quote and it made me wonder when I had last told my family and friends how much they mean to me. I mentally resolved to remedy this as soon as I could. With some people it was easy to have a hug and tell them how important they are to me, but with other, non tactile friends, I have to admit I didn't say anything as I felt, well, slightly ridiculous. What this afternoon has taught me though is that it is ridiculous not to express how you really feel while you have the chance, as ultimately we never know when we may get another opportunity.

So if any of this resonates with you please seize the moment and be honest about how you feel. If we are lucky enough to feel love and gratitude we should shout it from the rooftops.

Friday, 25 January 2013

What's your 'prozac playlist'?

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”.
Bob Marley

I have always loved music, indeed I wrote an article a while back explaining why I incorporate sound healing into my practice, (http://www.thehappystarfish.com/health002.html). 

 I enjoy nothing more than curling up and listening to songs that transport me off to another place. As an artist, it must be phenomenal to be able to touch people with lyrics and melodies. To provoke such deep emotion that you can gently guide people through their best and worst times offering joy, comfort and understanding amazingly all through a cd.

I adore tunes that evoke happy memories, in a flash I can be experiencing the same feelings I felt when I was on holiday or with my family, just by selecting a track associated with that time.

Neuroscientist, Dr Jack Lewis has recently conducted research into why particular songs make us happy for an online streaming site, finding high pitched voices are best at boosting our mood.  He looked for music that stimulates the limbic and reward systems - areas of the brain responsible for generating emotions and sensations of pleasure, and looked for songs that invigorate both these areas.

Dr Lewis came up with the ultimate feel good playlist (below) for a natural high.

·         Prince - Sexy Dancer
·         BB King - Let The Good Times Roll
·         Beachboys - Surfing USA
·         Curtis Mayfield - Victory -
·         Norman Jay remix
·         Bob Marley - Three Little Birds
·         Muddy Waters - Got My Mojo Working
·         Boney M - Sunny
·         The Darkness - I Believe In a Thing called Love
·         Scissor Sisters - Take Your Mama
·         Outkast - Hey Ya
·         Future heads - Acapella
·         Harder Better Faster - Daft Punk
·         M People - Moving on Up
·         Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture

I am going to be going through my cd’s later to make up my own playlist of songs that I know always put a smile on my face.

We all have at least one song that has a positive effect on us. ELO Mr Blue Skies is mine, what’s yours?

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Poorest President

 “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature”. Socrates
President Mujica could be living in a luxury home that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and living a privileged life of wealth that many of us can only dream of. Instead Jose Mujica chooses to live on a tumbledown old farm where the only source of water is an outside well and give away 90% of his salary (equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500) to charity.
By donating this amount to good causes he lives on the average Uruguayan income of $775, £485 per month.
"I've lived like this most of my life," he says.
Mujica spend 14 years in jail after spending the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution. 
Most of his detention was spent in isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy.
Those harsh conditions helped define Mujica. 
"I'm called 'the poorest president', but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more," he says.
"This is a matter of freedom. If you don't have many possessions then you don't need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself," he says.
"I may appear to be an eccentric old man... But this is a free choice."
The Uruguayan leader made a similar point when he addressed the Rio+20 summit in June this year: "We've been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty. But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left”?
"Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet."
Mujica accuses most world leaders of having a "blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world".
Like many leaders not all of his policies are welcomed and supported but I think we could all learn an awful lot from this selfless and inspirational man. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

It's snow joke

Where I live in the UK today there is heavy snow and ice. Beautiful to look but it can severely affect the lives of many.

It’s not just the elderly we need to be mindful of in adverse winter conditions, (although we should care whatever the weather), anybody with a physical impairment can find themselves housebound. Prosthetic limbs do not cope well on slippery surfaces. Wheelchair wheels cannot grip. Sufferers of lung conditions struggle to breathe in the cold air. Walking sticks become unstable. The list could go on and on.

Driving back from my physiotherapy today we passed a lady struggling to self-propel in her wheelchair. We stopped the car and offered her a lift which she accepted. It didn’t take long to fold up her chair and drive her where she needed to be.

To encourage my children to think of ways they can brighten someone’s day we now have a book in the kitchen where they can record any random acts of kindness they carry out.  They have volunteered to shovel the snow from the drives at the old people’s bungalows near us.

I don’t want it to become competitive but believe awareness is the first step towards a better world. All we can do is pay it forward one step at a time. Kindness is contagious. Be a carrier. 

Louise xx

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A generous gift

“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love”. Henry Drummond

You are probably getting to know by now that I love the whole concept of Paying it Forward. My motto has always been “Be Kind” and nothing makes me happier than hearing about random acts of giving.

I was thrilled to be able to blog about Tony Tolbert last week, the 51 year old lawyer who donated his furnished house, rent free, to a homeless family for a year. Less than a week later I am excited to share another beautiful story with you. It looks like 2013 may be the year for selfless acts.

Dick Hannah Toyota Dealership in Washington have publicly shared that an ex-military couple recently visited their showroom after inheriting a modest amount of money. They cash purchased a Toyota Sienna minivan and donated it to Paul Meyer, a police officer who was paralysed from the waist down when a tree fell on him during a training accident last November.

The purchaser, who wishes to remain anonymous, had spoken to Paul briefly during a traffic stop and when he recognised him from a TV report decided he would like to do something to improve the life of Paul and his family.  The car was titled in the name of Paul Meyer and parked in his driveway.

To keep the spirit of paying it forward going the dealership, alongside Toyota, are not only funding all future maintenance bills on the vehicle but have also donated £10,000 to a charity chosen by the nameless purchaser. In this case a fund that assists wounded marines.

Wow. It is humbling to hear of two such huge random acts of kindness in less than a week. Keep it going, no matter what you do, do it with kindness.

Louise xx

Friday, 11 January 2013

Pursue your passion

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you”.   
Oprah Winfrey

Having moved to a new town where I don’t know anyone I made the brave decision to gatecrash the local creative writers’ group last night.

As soon as I arrived I instantly knew I would really like these people, and not just because they meet in a pub regularly.

When you have a passion for something it lights you up from the inside out. These people weren’t just looking for a hobby to pass the time; they had a genuine love for their craft. I watched them animatedly discussing their latest ideas, with big smiles and shining eyes and couldn’t help feeling totally relaxed, despite them all being strangers (or friends I hadn’t yet met before?).

I am relatively new to writing. Some of you know I started after I lost my mobility and needed a hobby to pass the time. It’s now something I incorporate into my life almost daily and has replaced the sports I used to play yet still leaves me feeling fulfilled.

I think it’s so important to have something that’s just ‘ours’ in this world. It’s a busy old life, especially for those of us with families, and sometimes it can feel we are being pulled in all directions. Pursuing your passion keeps you grounded, combats anxiety and depression and instills a sense of purpose. Experiencing such intense emotion about a specific part of your life can’t help but encourage positivity in other areas too.

If you can’t think of anything you love to do think back to when you were a child. Did you love playdoh, making models? Could you transfer that to a creative hobby now? My son used to love spending time outdoors in his tent and is now a keen nature photograph.

We all have our ‘thing’. Something that excites us, and makes our heart sing.  Have you found yours?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

An epic pay it forward

I read a news story today that filled me with such a warm fuzzy feeling I wanted to share it with those of you who may not have heard it.

Tony Tolbert, a 51 year old Lawyer in Los Angeles, moved back home with his mum so he could offer his furnished home, rent free for a year, to a homeless family he had never met before. Tony visited a shelter and met Felicia Dukes the lucky recipient of this generous offer. Felicia lived at the shelter with three of her children but the eldest was deemed too old to stay with them.

Growing up Tony's father, Jimmy, always helped people where he could, often offering a spare bed to those who needed it.

"You don't have to be Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or Oprah," Tony said. "We can do it wherever we are, with whatever we have, and for me, I have a home that I can make available."

On hearing the news Felicia recalls "They had a young man that wanted to donate their house to you for a year, and I'm like, what? Like -- Are you serious? My heart just fills up and stuff, um....I'm just really happy".

Tony Tolbert talked to the media about the life lessons he learned from his father, who is now suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

"Kindness creates kindness. Generosity creates generosity. Love creates love," he said. "And I think if we can share some of that and have more stories about people doing nice things for other people, and fewer stories about people doing horrible things to other people, that's a better world".

How completely awesome is that?

Before you dismiss it as a lovely story but not something you could ever do, take a second to think about it. If you have food to eat and somewhere to sleep you probably have all that you actually need, anything else is a bonus.

Embracing the concept of gratitude fully, and practicing it every day, enables you to open heartedly start sharing the love. Many of us pay it forward everyday without consciously realising it. Imagine what could happen if we consciously tried to do something on a regular basis too? Although it may seem impossible to carry out an act on the scale of Tony Tolbert's don't underestimate anything you can do. What would seemingly seem a small thing to you can make a huge difference to someone's life.

Regardless of your personal or financial situation love and a smile are two things you can share at the very least.

Be kind.

Louise xx

If you pay it forward in some way or hear of any similar stories please post on our pay it forward thread http://www.thehappystarfish.com/community.html or our our Facebook page


Saturday, 5 January 2013

Love shines on in New Delhi

"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive". Dalai Lama

I was shocked and saddened to read of the gang rape and murder of a student on a moving bus in New Delhi recently. The sheer magnitude of terror this poor girl and her boyfriend must have experienced is incomprehensible. Such brutality is unfathomable and I send my deepest condolences to their family and friends.

On Thursday a group of 600 guitarists joined together to play "Imagine" by John Lennon. The anthem for Peace, Love and Hope.

The group assembled at a music festival in the eastern Indian hilltown of Darjeeling on Thursday, nearly three weeks after the senseless act brought an outpouring of national anger.

Sonam Bhutia, tourism secretary of Darjeeling and one of the festival organisers is quoted by the media as saying "We chose this song because it talks about hope, peace and promise. The song is so inspiring. It talks about a universe without any boundaries. The tribute was a gesture on our part to show that we are with the victim's family in their hour of unimaginable sorrow".

Whatever tragedies befall upon us, Love can always find a way to shine through.

Friday, 4 January 2013

I choose to forgive

“Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself”.

I have just had a horrible experience.

Going out with my son for the first time in his new car (he has just passed his driving test) we parked in a disabled bay (using my eligibility badge) only to have a complete stranger come and shout at us aggressively that we shouldn’t be there.

I don’t “look” disabled apparently and if I was I would be unable to stand at all.

He then started taking photos of us and of the car and filming us. His idea was to intimidate and to a point, it worked. I wanted to remove my son from the situation as quickly as possible. Naturally he was upset knowing what I have been through health-wise and wanted to stick up for me.

So what can you do when someone intentionally tries to ruin your day?

I had various options. I could have shouted back, tried to justify myself, let my son deal with him, got upset or, as I have in the past, felt ashamed of my disability and let an experience like this put me off going out at all.

Instead I choose to forgive him. Yes he was rude, misinformed, judgemental and ignorant but this will have a greater impact on him throughout his life, far greater than he had on mine today.

Forgiveness ensures that I can let this experience go and not harbour any negative feelings surrounding it. It was unpleasant but no amount of lamenting can change it. By forgiving this man I am also forgiving myself for not reacting in a different way. I know that not dwelling on what I could of or should have done or said is far better for my emotional and physical health.

Holding on to anger and bitterness will, eventually manifest itself physically. By embracing forgiveness I am also embracing love, peace and all things good. Leaving me free to continue travelling along the road to healing unhindered. 

It is a shame that people aren’t always as compassionate and open as we would hope them to be. All I can continue to do is to treat people with the same love and respect I would like to be shown.

Be kind. Always.

Louise xx