Tag Archives: happiness

One wild and precious life.

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A few years ago I discovered the poet Mary Oliver ( 1992) she has a poem called ‘The Summer day and the last line of the poem says

‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with you one wild and precious life?’

I love this question, for me, it is a question of hope, a question of encouragement. When we are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, unhappy, we can feel powerless and hopeless. However, this question can act as an encouragement. I doubt for many of us the answer is to work harder, as I am writing this the importance of those words are poignant to me, I have a close friend who has recently died. Over the last 18 months, after hearing her diagnosis was terminal we discussed a lot about what she was going to do in her last months and weeks with her precious life. She was very intentional about doing things that made her happy, she met with friends, went on beautiful walks with her husband, grew flowers, was part of a choir, drama group and book club, worked as a volunteer chaplain and walked many Labyrinths. She loved life and lived it well; she also had a rhythm to her life which brought her balance, she learnt when to slow down and also how to embrace the life she had left. At her funeral, I was moved by how many people she had loved and how many loved her, being with family, friends, spending time with others were an important part of how she lived her one precious life.

This morning I walked along the coastal path, reflecting and thinking again about this question from Mary Oliver. I write about wellbeing, and I work with children and adults to help them have a good wellbeing, I think returning periodically to this question is an important part of embedding wellbeing into our lives. To stop and think, reflect and check in with yourself and ask this question

“what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’

 

Photo- Labyrinth carved by Iain Cotton, this was a birthday present for Liz

 

Learning to be self-compassionate

 

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I spend a lot of time in my nurture role reminding Ta’s and teachers that they need to be kind to themselves and self-compassionate, that these are essential to having good well-being. I spent a month writing a chapter about well-being for adults and looking at how we need to have good well-being ourselves if we want to improve children’s well-being. The last couple of weeks my husband and a close friend have reminded me that I need to be more self-compassionate, I need to be kinder to myself and think about my own well-being!.

This is so easy to say to others, I think I am good at nurturing other people, at encouraging others to think about their needs and usually, I remember to be kind to myself. But this term has been quite hard, there have been changes with our eldest moving away to uni, our youngest has been very poorly for weeks and my nurture work has felt very emotionally demanding. I feel that I have cried a lot these last 6 weeks, tears over work stories and tears of frustration, worry and loss. My self-compassion hasn’t been as strong as it could have!.

This week is half term, this week my aim is to do something each day which makes me happy, something each day which helps me to love myself. These will be simple but they will make me smile. I plan to plant bulbs for next spring, walk each day amongst the beautiful autumnal trees, listen to music, read books, drink coffee and share meals with friends, spend time with my daughters and husband, bake cakes and do some knitting and felting. I plan to enjoy the precious moments and enjoy the space the week will hopefully bring.

What brings you joy?

 

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This is the last week of the school holidays, my nurture  work with 4 yr olds will start again next week. This week I will be reminding myself about my new children, thinking about how best to support them over the next few tricky weeks for them, I will be pulling in new resources I might need and generally preparing.

I know from previous years as a nurture consultant these first few months of the new school year can be really hard. I will be needing to make relationships with all new staff this year, building up their trust, I need to gain the trust of 7 small, scared children, who sometimes will display very challenging behaviour. To do this well I need to ensure I am taking care of myself, that I am finding ways to nurture myself.

For me an important part of nurturing myself is through trying to find something each day which brings me joy, this may be as simple as noticing the roses growing in my garden, enjoying eating some chocolate, it doesn’t need to be big things. By stopping, recognising and enjoying that joyful moment it helps to nourish me.
One of yesterday’s joyful moments was buying myself Dahlias from the local farmers market. I love Dahlias. Dahlias remind me of my Grandad and my Aunt, Grandad grew beautiful, bold Dahlias in his small back garden every year, alongside runner beans, I don’t remember him ever growing anything else. Every time I visited as a small girl, a teen and an adult, when the Dahlias were in bloom he would take me into the garden and show me with pride his flowers. My Aunt Pam also went on to grow Dahlias for years as well, I think she had some of the bulbs that Grandad started. I love gardening, but I can’t grow Dahlias, they always die, get eaten by slugs, look dreadful. So instead I always buy myself cut flowers. By looking at them it brings me so much joy and lovely memories of my Grandad and Aunt.

Re-connecting with nature

 

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This last week has been a half term holiday for me, a small break from working in schools, an opportunity to refresh and relax a bit. I have spent large chunks of the week re-connecting with nature. I spend a lot of time with children outside, helping them re-connect with their feelings while outside, this is great but it is work, I work hard while with the children commenting, supporting, observing, modelling to staff, supporting staff and enabling the child to engage.

So this week I felt that I needed to reconnect my feelings with nature. When you work with children who find life hard, who become dysregulated quickly, it is so important to be aware of your own feelings, emotions and needs. I spend a lot of my time telling staff they need to be kind to themselves, so I need to make sure I do that myself!

Since a trip to Denmark over 5 years ago, I have developed a love of foraging!. So this week I have been enjoying foraging and cooking. I have enjoyed cooking nettle soup, elderflower cordial and red clover cordial. I have also enjoyed times of walking barefoot on grass, in meadows and on a beach. I love the experience of walking barefooted, it makes you feel more connected to the earth, more aware of what is around you. This morning I took my usual early morning Sunday walk in the meadow at the back of our house, I love the beauty of this space and how it changes over the season. It is now almost at full height, with the various grasses, clover, wild orchids and oxeye daisy’s growing. There is a path mowed around the edge of the meadow, for the community to be able to walk around and enjoy it without trampling all the wild flowers. I walked it this morning barefooted, I noticed this made me really slow down, really take notice of what was around me. This felt very timely as I know I am about to enter my busiest term of the year, ending with current children, meeting new children and supporting an extra four year six children, as well as training and writing. Lots to look forward to.

 

Photo of Tunley meadow

How will you be kind to yourself this week?

 

 

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I have spent my week mostly asking this question to the teachers and TA’s that I work with. It’s the end of the term, the teachers are exhausted, the children are a mix of being irritable and bouncy! they inevitably pick up on the stress of the staff and this, in turn, leads them to respond in ways which the staff finds hard. So, everyone, this week has been saying how much they are looking forward to the week off, but then in the next breath, the teachers have been telling me the work they need to do, the planning that has to be done, the reports that have to be written. So my question has been how will you be kind to yourself  this week?

When we are busy, when we are stressed, those are the times it is particularly important to be kind to ourselves. For one teacher I suggested that each day in half term she did one thing for herself that she enjoyed, that made her feel good. She looked a bit blank and wasn’t sure what that could be, I told her that for me I like to bake or garden, those are 2 things I enjoy and find therapeutic. She agreed that she loved baking and would try this.

I am interested in how we learn to be kind to ourselves and what different people do for this, I have one friend who loves running, Jenny  ran through her treatment of cancer last year, this was one way she could be kind to herself. I have another friend who loves knitting and finds the process of knitting helps her to switch off. My husband cycles, if he doesn’t have a chance to cycle in a week he becomes agitated, this weekend he is cycling to and around the Isle of Wight with a group of friends and Amos Trust, to me that is an extreme way to be kind to himself, but it works for him!.

During my week off from schools it will be an opportunity to start a new chapter, the next one is on staff well-being, it feels pretty timely after this last week!; but along with writing I plan to be  kind to myself by gardening each day, my garden at this time of year brings me so much joy and pleasure ( as long as the slugs don’t eat everything!).

Happiness

IMG_7639We watched a film last night on Netflix called Hector and the Search for Happiness. It’s beautifully filmed, and quite quirky, with some poignant questions. At the heart of the film the main character, a psychiatrist played by Simon Pegg, goes on a journey trying to find out what makes people happy. It sounds really corny, but surprisingly it wasn’t, it was actually very moving. I have also been reading recently a book by Anthony Seldon called Beyond Happiness. Both the book and the film ask questions about what makes people happy, and why are some people more happy than others. Anthony Seldon argues that happiness is good but can be fleeting and it is a deep sense of joy that people really need.

Through the nurture work I work with children who can be very unhappy. In our team we use an assessment tool called Thrive.  This tool helps us to look at a child’s social and emotional development. One of the first stages on the thrive assessment is looking at a child’s ‘being needs’. It describes these as, ‘a child needs to feel safe, to feel special and to have their needs met.’ Initially it is quite easy to look at these criteria and presume that is obvious and something that everyone needs. However as I and my colleagues have worked with these criteria and reflected on them, I have increasingly realised just how fundamental and vital they are. If a child is feeling scared and unsafe, if they don’t believe they are special and don’t hear that they are special, or if their basic needs are not being met including the need to be loved, then they cannot be happy. Their wellbeing will be low, and the way they view and see the world will be through very distorted and unhappy lenses.

As Nurture Workers our role is to support the educators in meeting children’s needs. Through nurture work and support, and providing an emotionally and nurturing stable environment, we often see good progress. However I am also aware that so many other children, young people, and adults are also in a place where their basic needs are not being met and consequently they are carrying great sadness. For me the search for happiness is implicitly linked to thinking about these questions; are you feeling safe, do you feel special, are your needs being met? I believe these questions are worth exploring when working with people who are unhappy.

 

image is of a moment of light by Summer Mainstone-Cotton