March 24, 2014

Happiness Today: Tips to Start Enjoying Your Life Even in the Tough Times

If you type “more happiness” into Google, you will find over 500 million hits. To say we are interested in finding happiness in our lives is an understatement. But what does it mean to be happy and more importantly, how can we begin enjoying more happiness in our lives?


Photo Credit: Jessica Stead

This post is the first in a series I will be sharing with you called Happiness Today. In this series I will share with you tips that will help you move from feeling stuck, anxious, stressed and unhappy, to feeling more in control, optimistic and motivated. Tips that have proven to have worked in my that I come back to time and time again.

What I have learnt about happiness I have learnt the hard way, through my experiences of illness, anxiety, depression and grief. The most important thing I have learnt about happiness I will share with you today;

Happiness is not a result of having a perfect and problem free life. Happiness comes from knowing how to find inner peace, no matter what is happening in your life.

If you are striving to remove all problems in your life, I think you are fighting a losing battle. Experiencing challenges in life is the price we pay for living. We also learn the most from the challenges we face, so we shouldn’t aim to live a ‘problem free’ life.

But at times the challenges we face in life do rob us of our happiness. We seek happiness when we are unhappy, and we are unhappy when we feel we can’t find a way through our problems. We feel unhappy when we are overwhelmed, or simply too tired to put into practice the things we know we should be doing.

So how do we get through these tough times and find happiness again?

Instead of trying to ‘problem proof’ our lives, we need to develop an inner resource that is solid and stable. An inner resource which allows us to navigate our challenges without going under, getting stuck or losing our hope and happiness.

By developing a firm foundation of inner peace, we can move away from the ups and downs associated with inner turmoil, the feeling of being consumed day in day out by worry, fear and anxiety.

If you are struggling to find happiness and hope, then you aren’t alone. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In the Happiness Today series I will outline how you can develop inner peace in a step-by-step sequence, starting with acceptance which I will share in my next post.

Finding happiness is about learning how to successfully manage the tough times in life and building up your confidence to know that you have all the resources you need to get through, to ‘hang in there’ and to rise above.

The first step in this series is to take some time out to get your ‘life bearings.’ To discover how you are feeling about your life and what you think might need to change. The following questions will allow you to get started today on your path to greater happiness and provide the foundation for the weeks to come.

Start Today

1. How happy are you with your life currently?

2. What would you rate your happiness from 1-10, if 10 is ‘extremely happy’ and 1 is ‘not at all’?

3. Can you identify the top 3 things which might be holding you back from feeling happier?

4. Next month, what score would you like to achieve?

5. What is one thing you would like to change about your life?

Even when life changes in ways that are challenging and difficult, we always have the ability to think and act our way towards greater peace and happiness.

Positive change begins with knowing better then doing betterit all starts with one step.

I look forward to you joining me for this series. If you don’t want to miss out on the Happiness Today series, make sure you sign up to receive email notification when new content appears on my blog.

P.S. Don’t forget to leave a comment in the section below, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Love and Gratitude,

xxx Jess xxx

March 16, 2014

What You Need to Know About Grief

crow 1Photo Credit: Jimmy Brown via Flickr CC

Like a bird swooping, soaring, or coming to rest on your shoulder, grief comes and goes and changes its form. Grief can feel like a big black crow; its dark weight moving with you through the day. It can feel like it knows no bounds, like an eagle soaring and dipping. Yet at other times it can feel almost playful and light, like a sparrow or a Willie Wagtail, allowing you to reminisce with happiness and laughter.

You can never be sure which bird will visit, when, or for how long. One thing is for sure though…when you lose someone or something you love, that window to grief is always open. I don’t mean to sound morbid, or even to communicate that grief ‘traps’ you in some way, but grief is always there, it becomes a new partner in your life’s journey.

If you have experienced loss, you will know how horrible it is to hear that “time heals,” or that you can find a way to “move on.” It is true that we never want grief to ‘paralyse’ us and to leave us unable to continue living our lives, however, we also don’t want to forget. We don’t want to live as if nothing significant has happened to us.

The truth is that grief changes us. Grief cracks open the soul and the mind in a way we never knew possible.

We come to see how painful life can be. We touch that place where experiences are raw, unrefined, unconfined, and unknown. We can literally lose our breath when confronted by the depth of grief and the magnitude of our loss.

We also come to see with greater clarity what it means to ‘live.’ Grief cuts through and strips away all that is superfluous; we begin to see what matter, what truly matters. Interestingly, it is not always what we expect, nor is it always a reflection of how we are living our lives.

There is an opportunity within grief. That opportunity is to realign our lives; to realign our thoughts and actions until they reflect our new-found, and definitely hard-won, understanding and knowledge.

I wrote this post today because grief is real for most of us. It certainly is for me at the moment. Grief has surfaced again in my life…the black crow is circling...

In a few days it will be 5 years since I received a call, just after 9pm, to say my Dad had suddenly passed away… Not easy. It has also almost been 5 months since my Nan passed away, and her passing has left me somewhat traumatised. Not only have I lost someone I loved and admired immensely, but her suffering in the end stages of her life was highly distressing.

Losing my Nan, who was my Dad’s mum, has also compounded my grief for my Dad. I feel a sad intensity to losing two important people in my life. I hadn’t realised how much my Nan kept the memory of my Dad alive, until she is now no longer here to reminisce with. 

Just like me, I know so many of you are facing your own grief. The thing is, sometimes we need a little guidance and reassurance along the way. Mostly we just need to be reassured that we will be okay and that we will get through. But we also want to be reassured that we are ‘allowed’ to grieve, and allowed to grieve in the way we do. We also want to know that there is no ‘acceptable’ limit to when our grief should be finalised.

If you are experiencing grief at the moment, my message is simple: respect this deep process. Your soul, mind and body are going through a profound process. You are consolidating your new experiences, feelings, thoughts and insights.

Don’t ‘judge’ your experience as ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Don’t judge your experience and determine if it is ‘taking too long’ or maybe ‘not long enough.’ Take care of yourself. Do what is right for you.

Also be honest…if grief is paralysing you, begin finding people and techniques that will allow you to find your way back to what it means to live, but to live alongside your grief.

As you move through your week, know that you are not alone in your grief. Know that grief is unpredictable, and whatever you are experiencing is where you are meant to be for now. Know that there will be days when the black crow and the eagle show you the depths of the darkness, but also days when the sparrow and the Willie Wagtail will also come to play. Enjoy those moments of respite, of hope. Relax…enjoy the moment and cherish the joy of your memories and experiences.


“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contribution, and of unspeakable love.”~ Washington Irving ~

Xxx Jess xxx

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March 9, 2014

The Biggest Lie We Tell Ourselves When We Feel Scared


Photo Source: Capture Queen via Flickr CC

How many times have you pulled back from doing something because you felt scared? How often have you told yourself that you will feel more comfortable, safe or secure sitting on the sidelines? Surely it’s better than the horrible uncomfortable feeling that floods your body, or the anxiety that rises when you start to feel scared?

Or is it?

The biggest lie we tell ourselves when we feel scared is that by sitting on the sidelines we are safe. But what does ‘being safe’ actually mean?

We seek safety and security in response to a threat...a real threat. I have worked with refugees and know with certainty that there are times in people’s lives when fear is a result of very real threats, such as an imminent threat of death or violence.

However, we often misinterpret threat with the feeling we experience when life bumps up against our lack of self-belief.

Very rarely are our ‘every day’ fears related to real threats. How many times have you feared something that never happened?

The confusing part is that we experience fear as if it was a serious threat. What our experience is, however, is our response to being confronted by our own sense of limitations. “Am I smart enough to do this, or will I look stupid and be embarrassed?” “Can I cope? Am I strong enough, or will I fall into a big heap and not know how to get back up again?”

How we answer these questions shapes our lives entirely.

In life we are either expanding or contracting. We expand when we challenge our self-limiting beliefs and begin to step out and try new things. We expand our sense of self by challenging what we believe is possible. We expand when we accept that we will feel uncomfortable and that we will fail, knowing that this process is vital if we want to live our lives with meaning and depth.

We contract, however, when we continually choose to sit on the sidelines, believing that feeling scared is a sign to step back, believing that we are safer when we feel comfortable. The truth is we aren’t safer.

We aren’t physically safer, considering the most dangerous thing we do each day, driving a car, we do with little concern or anxiety. Our fears around physical safety are often overinflated. Our fears around emotional safety are also overemphasised.

While it’s never pleasant to be embarrassed or to get something wrong, it’s not a ‘life or death’ situation. In fact those unpleasant feelings can be a springboard into growth and expansion if we are willing to learn from them.

The more we expose ourselves to things that scare us the more confident we become. We begin to discover that we cope remarkably well and that our fears are often unfounded.

Letting fear define your life doesn’t make you safe it just makes you feel safe. The trade off is a life half-lived. 

Your challenge this week:

What is one thing you would love to achieve this year if weren’t so scared? What is stopping you? Are they real reasons? What is one step you could take to start moving forward?

To get you started I will share with you my answer;

I would like to publish a book this year. What is stopping me is the fear that I won’t have the energy to do it and it won’t be successful. I know these fears are real possibilities but they aren’t real reasons why I shouldn’t get started.

My first action is to start looking into publishing options. I will also start talking with people who have successfully published a book and will start writing a book outline. These are fairly simple and easy steps and I am already excited about taking action on something I have wanted to do for years.

So how about you? Leave your answer in the comment section below...I look forward to reading them. 

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xxx Jess xxx