April 30, 2014

Unwind. Release. Discover

image Photo Credit: Slgckgc via Flickr CC

Feeling tired, overworked, busy and stressed? You aren’t alone. It seems that most people are feeling low on energy, tense and like they are always ‘behind the eight ball.’ Stress is one of the biggest barriers to happiness, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Knowing how to release built up stress, anxiety and sadness allows us to move through life with more ease and more calm… and ultimately more happiness.

The solution? Find a couple of relaxation methods that you love, and do them daily or at least weekly. The trick is to have these methods become part of your regular routine so you don’t have to go searching for something that works when life gets tough and you are feeling stressed. Ever tried meditating for the first time when you are stressed? It is seriously hard work!  

Back to Nature

If you are feeling stressed, a great way to unwind and support your body and your happiness is to get back to nature and enjoy connecting with the Earth. Think of wading in the ocean, walking barefoot through the sand, going camping, sitting under a tree with your shoes off and nestled in the grass.

As children we were always ‘grounding’ as we ran around barefoot and playing in the sandpit or the park. As adults, however, we spend most of our time in shoes and socks, on the carpet, or on concrete…we rarely enjoy direct contact with the Earth.

If you don’t enjoy ‘getting back to nature’ in this way, there are still so many benefits from going for a walk or sitting by the ocean, a lake or in a park with gorgeous trees and flowers. The Earth provides so many healing qualities, allowing us to slow our minds and connect with the largeness of life.

Exhale and Release

Quick and easy is what we are often looking for in life. This is one of my favourite yoga techniques for releasing the stress of the day and it only takes a few minutes and requires nothing but yourself and the floor.

Release all the tension, all the anger, all the sadness, all the tiredness, all the uncertainty that you might be feeling. 

  • Start by sitting cross-legged on the floor
  • Take a big breath in
  • Raise your arms above your head and as you do, exhale as forcefully as you can
  • Swing your hands back down by your side as you inhale 
  • This sequence of movements looks like you are throwing something away over your head, using both your arms
  • Repeat until you feel ready to stop
  • Do this sequence as fast or as slow as you feel comfortable
  • When you finish sit still with your hands resting on your knees and just breathe

I always feel great after doing this exercise. I feel fresh energy moving through my body, I feel a buzzing sensation and I feel much, much lighter. If, like me, you store most of your tension in your shoulders, this is also a great exercise to release some of that tightness.

Start Today

Which activities provide you with the most relaxation, release and joy? Which activities leave you feeling lighter in your body and mind?

Not sure? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself.

Which activities allow you to:

  • stop the incessant mental chatter in your head
  • slow your breathing rate
  • make you smile
  • help you see a more positive view of your life

Aim this week to do one of the activities on your list each day, even if only for 10 mins. It is amazing what difference 10 mins can make, so try not to skip it even if you are super busy this week.

Still stuck? Try some of these ideas this week and see what works for you:

  • Enjoy a long bath
  • Get lost in a good book
  • Get moving in some form of exercise
  • Book in for a massage
  • Meditate (there are heaps of YouTube clips to get you started)
  • Spend some time in the garden
  • Get creative: paint, draw, knit, cook
  • Enjoy a coffee and read a magazine or book at a cafe
  • Have a good chat and catch up with a friend or family member

Start where you are, and with what you have. It is usually the simple things in life which are the most powerful.

Did you find this post helpful? Leave a comment below, send this link to a friend, or sign up to be part of the hope inspired community.

Jess xxx

April 23, 2014

The Most Dangerous Question You Can Ask Yourself

image Photo Credit: Marco Bellucci via Flickr CC

“Why Me?”

If you’ve ever asked this question you would know that it leads to a dead-end.

Dwelling on why keeps us stuck on what we believe ‘should’ have happened…it keeps us stuck in the past…it keeps us powerless and small.

If, like me, your life hasn’t ‘gone to plan,’ you too have probably wondered “Why me?” as you’ve tried to make sense of change, pain and loss. The problem with asking “Why me?” is that there’s often no rhyme or reason as to why things happen to us. Even when there is, asking “Why me?” doesn’t allow us to move on or to find happiness.

Holding on too tightly to a pre-determined ‘version’ of our life keeps us stuck, unhappy and unable to see new opportunities as they arise.

Step 3 in the Happiness Today series is about releasing. This step is about releasing our grip on the ‘story of our lives’ and making the hard decision to give up asking the question that is most damaging to our health and happiness; “Why me?”

Accepting that life is unpredictable and often takes us down unexpected paths, is no easy task. It is necessary, however, if we want to experience more peace and happiness in our lives. Alternatively, we waste precious energy and time trying to get life to ‘conform’ in ways it simply doesn’t…and never has.

The only thing we can control in our lives is our attitude and response to the things that happen to us.

While we can’t ‘script’ our lives, we can commit to a set of values and a life-perspective that will allow us to move through life with less angst and more inner stability.

When I reached this step in my journey, I knew I had to release my attachment to the ‘old Jess’ and all that I could do and achieve when I was 100% healthy. I had to release my attachment to the way I thought my life would pan out, and instead I chose a new life-perspective and set of values.

My new life-perspective was the decision to live well, no matter what my capacity was or wasn’t. Committing to self-awareness, to listening to my body, taking care of my physical and mental wellbeing, and living with gratitude formed my new set of values.

Deciding to release my hold on what ‘should’ have been, my life began to change and evolve in a more positive direction.To read more of my story you can click through to my previous blog post, where I shared why it’s important to never to give up.

Are you ready to release the ideas and perspectives that are keeping you stuck and unhappy?

Start Today

  1. What has happened in your life that wasn’t what you’d hoped or planned for?  
  2. Do you blame yourself for what happened? Can you release any blame you might still hold towards yourself?
  3. Are you ready to stop asking “Why me?” and start asking “What can I make of this situation?”
  4. What values do you want to take through with you into the future, no matter what is happening in your life?

Next week I will continue to look at releasing and how we can find more happiness and peace by letting go of the stress and tension in our bodies and minds. Until then, have a great week and I look forward to hearing from you. 

Did you find this post helpful? Leave a comment below, send this link to a friend, or sign up to be part of the hope inspired community.

xxx Jess xxx

April 16, 2014

15 Ways to Boost Happiness When You’re Down

happywall Photo Credit: Stephen Boisvert via Flickr CC 

Chatting with a wonderful woman on the weekend about my blog post last week. She said;

“I read your article but I couldn’t read it again because you were saying the opposite of how I felt. You said we need to accept and go into our grief but I just can’t…not at the moment, it’s just too much. You also said happiness is not just about positive thinking, so what do I do?”

Great question. What do we do when we can’t go into our grief at the present moment, but we are struggling with unhappiness?

It seems the topic of grief is touching a nerve and creating our biggest barrier to happiness, most likely because grief can leave us feeling hollow and deeply sad. Experiencing joy and happiness can be tricky, as the activities which used to bring happiness don’t seem to any more.

Accepting and processing our loss can also be more than we can manage. If this is where we are at, we need to be gentle and caring towards ourselves. Trusting that when the time is right we will move out of this phase, and into a space where we feel we can begin to process our loss and sadness.

We can help ourselves make this process easier and smoother.

Living well alongside our grief and moving towards happiness requires two things: being productive and finding meaning in our lives.

Being Productive

Feeling that we can’t change what has happened in our life underpins grief. By being productive and seeing what we can make, produce and achieve, we remind ourselves of our ability to shape the way we experience life. Enjoying a day of productivity allows us to shift our focus off the areas we can't change, to those we can.

Finding Meaning

Adding value to other people’s lives, adds meaning to ours.

Dealing with my sadness after my Dad died, I took up knitting. I knitted a blanket for one of the women who received surgery at Dr Catherine Hamlin’s Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. As I knitted the blanket I was able to focus on someone other than myself and my own sadness. Allowing me to find more purpose and peace, I was then able to build into happiness.

Being stuck in grief and feeling like our life is out of our control is not pleasant and is disempowering. Finding ways to harness our own power and to remind ourselves of our ability and resilience, is the way forward. So how do we do this?


By engaging in activities that are challenging, allow us to see results, and provide us with the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life, we will begin to rediscover joy and happiness.  

Start Today

15 Ways to Boost Your Happiness 

Try some of these ideas this week or come up with your own:


1. Assist a family member or friend in a practical way

2. Try something arty- painting, crocheting, drawing, writing poems

3. Bake or cook a new recipe

4. Make a gift or a card for someone

5. Join a new social club/group

6. Say yes to an activity you would normally say no to

7. Knit for a charity

8. Set a goal and achieve it e.g.) Jog 1km a day, meditate for 10 mins a day

9. Watch an inspiring documentary

10. Sign up to a night time class or weekend workshop

11. Sign up to volunteer for a charity e.g.) Daffodil Day

12. Help a stranger in your travels

13. Expand you mind and read a book on a topic you know nothing about

14. Clean out your wardrobes and donate unwanted items to a charity

15. Re-vamp a section of your garden and plant something new


Have fun as you work through some of these ideas and let me know how you go.

Did you find this post helpful? Leave a comment below, send this link to a friend, or sign up to be part of the hope inspired community.

xxx Jess xxx

April 9, 2014

Why Acceptance and Grief Come Before Happiness

Do you give yourself permission to live authentically, and allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling? Not shutting off certain emotions or judging them as ‘negative’? Not beating yourself up for not ‘being more positive’? Not seeing it as a weakness when you feel sad or down?

Life is too complex and unpredictable to be ‘happy’ all the time. We shouldn’t be afraid of going into the less comfortable feelings and emotions that arise, because on the other side of the grittiness of unhappiness is freedom. But first we must first be willing to embrace our life with an attitude of acceptance.

By accepting ‘what is,’ we begin to free up the energy, focus, creative thinking, and resources we require to start re-building our happiness from where we are.
Acceptance is a conscious decision to acknowledge what is happening in our life, and to stop resisting it.
Unfortunately acceptance is not just a matter of waking up one morning and thinking, “Okay, life is as it is.” To fully accept our unhappiness we often have to grieve our losses, both current and past. It is my experience that without this step, happiness remains elusive.
When we acknowledge, accept, grieve, and release our unhappiness and pain, our lives begin to change…we find inner peace and we can move forward.
When we hold on tightly and resist our lives, the more happiness seems to slip out of our grasp. It is like trying to hold water in a clenched fist…it all seeps out. However, if we cup our hands we can hold the water easily. The shape we make when we cup our hands is an act of surrender…of acceptance. It is a symbol of receiving in openness the life we have, and the good things that are yet to come.

Handful_of_Water Photo Source: Biswarup Ganguly via Wikipedia Commons CC

I find the image of cupped hands holding water a beautiful reminder to move through life with acceptance rather than resistance. To find happiness through truthfulness and openness.

How can you start finding more happiness and freedom through acceptance today?

Start Today;

Ask Yourself:
1. What do I need to accept is happening, or has happened, in my life that is keeping me stuck and unhappy?
2. What is the most difficult or painful part about accepting this reality?
3. What do I need to grieve in order to accept my life as it is?

This process is difficult and sometimes makes us anxious. If you’re struggling with anxiety, these following techniques may be useful:
Breathing Exercise

This exercise is useful in slowing down a racing mind and bringing peace and calm to the body. 

Breath in and out and count, ‘1’. Breathe in and out and count, ‘2’. Continue to 10 then repeat, starting at 1 again. 

If your mind wanders and you forget what number you are on, start at 1 again. If it is too hard to stay focused on your breathing for 10 counts, start at 2, 5, or whatever is comfortable for you. 

Repeat this exercise until you feel calmer, being conscious to relax your shoulders and jaw as you do this exercise.

Mantra Exercise
This mantra is a great one to use at night if you struggle to fall asleep from an overly anxious and active mind. Repeat the phase until you feel more peaceful and calm. 

“May I be well, may I be at peace, may I be free from suffering.” 

Or alternatively you can repeat; 

“I am well, I am at peace, I am free from suffering.”
Did you find this post helpful? Leave a comment below, send this link to a friend, or sign up to be part of the hope inspired community. I look forward to hearing from you.
xxx Jess xxx

April 1, 2014

Why Positive Thinking Could Be Making You Unhappy

 birdcage 1

Photo Credit: Ajari via Flickr CC

Are you unsure about your future? Maybe you are disappointed and frustrated that your life is not where you imagined or expected it would be? Maybe you feel trapped?

When we feel stressed, disillusioned, unsure or powerless, we struggle to feel the joy and contentment that we so desperately want and need. We struggle to feel happy. But is ‘thinking more positively’ the answer? 

Many self-development coaches would say yes, that happiness relies on positive thinking, but I disagree. Positive thinking is vital to happiness, but at the wrong time in your journey, forcing yourself to ‘think positively’ can be only momentarily helpful, and at times detrimental. 


If you haven’t been able to acknowledge and accept what is happening in your life, or what has happened in the past, positive thinking acts more like a band-aid over a gapping injury. Just like a band-aid, after a little while it gets mangy, dirty and drops off. So does your motivation around positive thinking when you are in the midst of pain and loss.

So if positive thinking is not the sole path to happiness, what is?

The Four Steps to Happiness

1. Acknowledge

2. Accept

3. Release

4. Discover and Rebuild

Over the coming weeks we will explore each of these steps, but this week we will start by looking at how we can begin to acknowledge what is happening in our lives…what is really happening.

1. Acknowledge

“What we don’t acknowledge keeps us trapped, confined and small.”

What we don’t acknowledge we are actively denying. Not a great place to be. Denial is a big energy sucker as we invest time and energy into resisting what is happening in our lives. Unfortunately what we resist only becomes stronger, keeping us stuck, frustrated and unhappy.  

So why do we sometimes deny what is happening in our lives?

Sometimes we just don’t realise what is happening at that deeper level, and sometimes our present reality (which also encompasses our past) is just too painful. The reason we feel so much pain is because we are experiencing loss. Loss of a whole gamut of things: health, self-confidence, youth, loved ones, innocence, certainty, financial security, relationships, employment…the list is endless.

“Trying to put a positive spin on distressing circumstances before we are ready is a backwards step. Putting on a ‘happy face’ cause us inner distress and it is exhausting! Being real with yourself is the only way forward.”

What does it mean to ‘be real with yourself?’ Being real is about acknowledging what is actually happening in your life, both on the surface and at a deeper level.

For example, you might tell yourself you are too busy to slow down and take time out for yourself. However, when you delve a little deeper you discover what is actually happening…you are to afraid to slow down in case it brings up uncomfortable memories or thoughts. You fear looking ‘lazy.’ You fear saying no, and looking ‘selfish’ or being seen to be a ‘bad’ mother, father, friend, colleague.  

“The first step towards happiness is acknowledging what is at the heart of your struggles.”

Start Today:

“Once we know better we can do better.”

Ask yourself;

  • What am I most stressed or unhappy about in my life at the moment?
  • What am I saying to myself about this situation?
  • Why is this issue or situation causing me so much unhappiness and stress?
  • What is at the heart of this issue? What is actually causing me the unhappiness or stress?

Once you have acknowledged what is actually happening in your life, you can move to the next stage. Stay posted for my article next week, where I will explain why acceptance is the most powerful step in the happiness journey.

Did you find this post helpful? Leave a comment below, send this link to a friend, or sign up to be part of the hope inspired community.

xxx Jess xxx