Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

Surely I don’t believe that? Oh, but I do. It’s another way of saying there is always good to be found in all situations.

When an athlete plays football and the team doesn’t win, what does the coach do?  You can be perfectly sure the coach will have analysed everything for the next time the players are back in the field – making sure what was once a weakness becomes a strength. The coach will strive to make his / her athletes better at their game and eventually make them go as far as they possibly can go.

Obviously we don’t all have a coach by our side in everything we do, but why would this scenario be any different in general life, love or work? When something doesn’t work out as you had planned it’s time to analyse and get back in that field with a new and better strategy based on your learnings. Be your own coach!

There’s no such thing as losing. Your partner left you? Give it a little time and you’ll probably find that this person did you a massive favour. You got fired? Chances are the job wasn’t right for you – something better is out there. Didn’t get the pay raise? Now you know your current approach doesn’t work with your boss. Study the subject and come up with a new and even better approach for next time. Your blind date turned out to not be the one? Get back out there! Didn’t get the house / apartment you were hoping for? Count your blessings! It was probably full of mould – there’s a fantastic place waiting to greet you right around the corner. Every ‘no’ takes you closer to a ‘yes’! Don’t give up!

You either win or you learn. Keep this in mind next time you’re disappointed or beating yourself up for one reason or another. You did the best you could have done – now take home what you have learned and find a new tactic for next time.

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You can do it!

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Why smiling is important

Recently I posted a challenge on Facebook. The challenge was rather simple, but something very few people think about in their every day lives. I challenged you to smile at a minimum of 3 strangers that day. A rather simple task really, but one not many people would consider on their own. I’m quite sure the majority don’t even register how they interact with their outer world just by physically being in it, but the truth is we do. Every time you pass someone on the street, buy something in a store or bump into someone randomly you are interacting. So imagine if everyone made a conscious effort and smiled at a minimum of 3 of these people daily. Imagine how beautiful the world could be!

I grew up in Portugal as a diplomat child, so meeting strangers was a part of everyday life and, in all honesty, not something I always enjoyed, but it taught me to smile and be polite to everyone – something I am more than grateful for having learnt as a natural part of life. My mother would tell me I had a responsibility when interacting with others and that smiling to people can brighten their day massively whereas being grumpy can affect someone’s day negatively. I never really thought much about it – maybe because she always smiled so much herself, so I figured this was just what people did. Maybe because I was just a kid. However, as an adult I have to admit that people don’t all naturally smile, which was probably my mother’s main reason for making a big deal out of it in the first place. Little did she know she had science on her side!

First of all, smiles are infectious. If you smile at someone or someone smiles at you, the smile will be almost immediately reciprocated.
What’s more is this; Smiling at others and brightening their day this way actually makes you happier! Research has shown that acts of kindness towards friends and strangers alike lower your stress levels and contribute to your enhanced mental health! The author of ‘The How of Happiness’, Sonja Lyubomirsky, found that when asking test persons to complete 5 acts of kindness over the course of a day, these people reported back that their happiness levels not only increased, but that the happiness boost continued for several days after the experiment was over!
When you’re happy, you smile. When you smile others get affected and smile too – what’s not to love about this chain reaction?

Just make sure your smile is genuine! Zygomaticus major (the muscle on each side of your face, that raise your lip corners) is involved regardless of which kind of smile you choose to show off to the world – also the fake ones. Genuine smiles of enjoyment, however, require the involvement of orbicularis oculi too (the muscle that circles both of your eyes & lifts your cheeks and creates crow’s feet when contracted). According to American Psychology Professor Barbara Frederickson, showing insincere positivity, i.e. not smiling fully (with the eyes / orbicularis oculi) can be equated to anger when it comes to health. The short version of this specific piece of research is, that anger can cause severe health issues and it turns out insincere positivity / fake smiles can do the same trick. Better stick to the real thing then, huh?

But what if you’re having a really bad day and a smile just feels wrong? Well, you can actually provoke a genuine smile just by doing the facial gestures it requires:
Next time you’re standing in front of a mirror, lift those lip corners and those cheeks. Stay like this for as long as it takes – I promise you you’ll end up smiling ‘just because’ sooner or later and you’ll probably return to whatever you were doing beforehand with lifted spirits and maybe even a huge smile on your face for someone else to receive. (If nothing else, you can smile at the exercise being silly)

So there you have it. Smile fully! For the sake of your health and for the sake of the health of others. Several times a day! A smile is free. It doesn’t cost you a penny and it can make the world of a difference to yourself and those surrounding you.

But then, what if you smile at someone and this person ignores it? Will it make you look like a fool? Absolutely not!

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Smiles are beautiful – share them with everyone you meet.

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What you want more of!

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I don’t actually remember exactly when I started making these ‘mind maps’, as I call them. Nor do I remember where I heard of them first. Nevertheless, I have now constantly had a mind map as my screensaver for about 4 years.

Research shows that most people tend to focus on what they don’t want as opposed to what they actually do want, which is a real shame, as what we focus on tends to grow stronger. Negative becomes the dominating factor in many lives and the positives suddenly seem further and further apart. I wrote a little something about this the other day – catch up here.
But then how do we focus on what we want? Good question. If you, as most people, have grown accustomed to sneaking in negatives during most of your day, positivity can seem like quite a challenge. You might want to start with simply reminding yourself daily of what you are grateful for. In the post ‘Dancing in the rain’ I go deeper into what I mean by this.

Another way to focus on what you want more of is by creating a ‘mind map’. Although doing this is slightly time consuming, it is worth every single minute! You can go ‘High Tech’ (min. 30-60 minutes required) or ‘Low Tech’ (min. 1 hour required). What’s important is that you take your time while working through this exercise.

If you don’t find you have time for being creative right now, bookmark this website (maybe do so regardless) and return when you have the time. However, I’m assuming you’re up for the challenge this very minute, so grab a cup of tea or coffee and let’s get started.

Low Tech version

  1. Get out a piece of paper or cardboard (A4 should do for your first one – you can always upgrade to A3 or bigger later on), some glue and maybe a sharpie / permanent marker or two.
  2. Grab all the old magazines you can get hold of (make sure no one else wants to read them before you do this as you might become highly unpopular otherwise – you’ll find out why in a sec). Image wise, we’re looking for humans, houses, desirable places, dancers, office workers, children, jewellery, cars – anything that speaks to you.
  3. Now, go through each magazine one page at a time. While doing this ask yourself one, simple question: ‘If I could have anything in the world, what would it be.’
    Don’t read the magazine, just look at the images and cut out anything that appeals to you. Anything that sparks your dreams and gives you a relaxed, happy feeling. Don’t be critical (e.g. ‘In reality, I could never afford that!‘) – just go for it. Let go of all negative thoughts! Sky is the limit. You can have anything you like this very moment. If anyone has ever told you otherwise and this person’s voice is replaying in your mind, block it! This is your dream. You control it. And you are choosing, this very moment, to focus on what you really, truly want from life. Happiness? Go through the magazine and find an image of a truly happy person. Relaxation? Search the magazine for a beach, yoga course, a sunset, a field, a bed even – whatever works for you. A car? Find that car and cut it out. A pet monkey? Find it!
    Keep in mind that no one will ever see this (unless you show it to them, obviously). This is yours and yours alone. Nothing is silly; nothing is unachievable – go for it. Own your dreams!
  4. Once you have cut out all your images, stick them on your piece of paper / cardboard (this is the part where an A3 might all of a sudden be more appropriate, but I’ll let you be the judge of that). It’s your mind map – it’s your design.
  5. When you have glued all the images you want on your piece of paper / cardboard, place it somewhere where you know you’ll see it every day. Stick it on the mirror, in your cupboard, fold it and place it in your wallet, take a picture of it and use it as your screen saver. Again, this is completely up to you. The important part is that you see it every single day. In the end you might not notice it any longer, but your subconscious will still pick up on it.
  6. Now leave it where it is (unless you want to move it to a new place once in a while) and let life work it’s magic.

Focus

High Tech version

  1. High tech people will laugh at me calling this a high tech version, as the minimum required here is a computer with either Word or PowerPoint installed + an internet connection. But compared to the above it is, in fact, rather high tech.
  2. Start by opening up one of the above-mentioned programs and start a fresh page.
  3. It’s time for Mr Google (images). Positive words that mean something to you is what we need. What would you like more of? Success? Type it in there and see which images appear. Someone standing on top of a mountain? Thumbs up? A quote? A jump? A large corner office in Manhattan? Save your preferred image and paste it into your open document (who cares if you live in one country and have dreams of living in another although you can see no possibility of this happening! This is your dream – everything is realistic).
    Money? Google it and see what comes up. Save an image and paste it into your document.
    Health? What is health to you? A fruit & vegetable bowl? Someone running or lifting weights? Google it, save the image and paste.
    Love? See what Google comes up with and pick the image that speaks to you. Save it and paste it. You know the drill by now.
  4. Keep going till you feel you have gathered the images that represent your inner most amazing dreams. Remember that this is your personal mind map. No one gets a say but you.
    Place the images as your wish in your document. If you have a favourite inspirational quote of some sort, maybe put it in the middle or the corner. It’s your mind map – you decide. Just remember to save your work as you go.
  5. Once you are happy with your mind map print it out and hang it where you’ll notice it every single day. On the fridge, the mirror, in the cupboard, in your diary, wallet. You know best.
    As you chose the ‘High Tech’ option, chances are you use your computer just as much as I do, in which case you might want to consider using you mind map as a screensaver.
  6. Now, just as in the ‘Low Tech’ version, leave your mind map where it is (unless you want to move it to a new place once in a while) and let life work it’s magic.

As I wrote earlier, I started doing these mind maps about 4 years ago – creating a new one each year (but how often you want to create a new one is entirely up to you). Recently, I came across the first one I made. I had honestly forgotten about it, but finding it made me smile. Every single image / dream on that mind map has either come true or is literally coming true this very moment. Now, how do you like that?

A little less than a year ago I randomly met a girl in a café. We were sat next to each other with our computers and all of a sudden the Internet stopped working, so we started chatting. Time passed and the conversation turned personal. In just a few hours she went from seeming slightly down to shining – the transformation was outstanding and I’ll probably write a post about it one day. For now though, the end of our conversation is what’s interesting;
We were saying our goodbyes when her eyes caught a glimpse of my screensaver – my current mind map. In the corner of my mind map is an image of a veranda with an ocean view. She smiled when she saw this and asked me whether this was a place I would like to go to? I replied that I would love to. That this was my idea of complete relaxation. Full of joy she said the following words: ‘Let me know when you want to go and I’ll make it happen! That image could have been the view from my familie’s holiday home in Ireland.’ What were the odds? Keep in mind that this girl was a complete stranger just a few hours before.

So, if you’re wondering whether to spend a few hours doing a mind map, I’ll say as I always do; What have you got to lose? What’s the worst that can happen? Exactly. Just do it.

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Let it go

About a year ago I had a call with a prospective client while I was enjoying some down time with a close friend of mine and her children in their holiday home. I had left the living room and placed myself in the garden for this call – nice and professional, away from the noise. Half way through the call, my friend’s 4-year-old daughter decided to make her way to the garden in order to pitch in with a little background music. So there she went (extremely loud and slightly off-key) ‘Let it gooooo, let it goooo’. Elsa had joined the party and I suddenly found myself discussing Frozen during a business call. #thingsIthoughtwouldneverhappen
To be fair though, Disney does have a point with those lyrics.

There are several ways to let go. Disney’s version above, where you don’t hold back is one of them. Another way we often need to let go is when obsessing with unfortunate situations. Random example: You’ve accidentally said something inappropriate during a mind wonder and it’s too late to take it back.
Quite often no one else remembers this situation 30 minutes later, but you hold on to the shame, the guilt and the need to do something about it.

Let’s be honest. This happens. And these scenarios are typically the smaller, less important parts of life. But somehow these small things can grow really big and we end up beating ourselves up about it. I have especially one friend who does this. A lot. She’s the ‘think out loud’ kind of person we all know so well – and she will almost always call me up the day after we’ve seen each other to apologise for something she said to me or tell me how upset she is about something she said to someone else in the room. I honestly rarely remember the situation she refers to. I do know the devastating feeling though.

A few years ago I said something really silly at a job interview. My heart wasn’t really in it and all of a sudden it was too late to take back what had come out. It bothered me to a degree that I found myself twisting and turning the whole situation again and agaian trying to figure out how I could have handled it differently. I’m quite sure I even had sleepless nights about it. I eventually spoke to my older sister about it and this was what she had to say about it: ‘Remember that you’re not the centre of the universe’.

I found my sister’s remark rather harsh at first. After all, I had been obsessing about this ever since it happened. But after a while, what she had said made perfect sense; People have problems and worries of their own. Sure, they might register your silly remark, action or tone, but by the end of the day they will forget it pretty much as fast as it happened. They will move on to the next thing on their list. Several things will probably be more important to them. Who knows? They might be going through a divorce, be really exited about an upcoming holiday or be trying to make it home to their kids in time for dinner. In other words, you should let it go just as easy as they probably did.
As one of the experts in the new documentary, The Abundance Factor, put it: ‘The world forgives and forgets. Only you remember.’ I wasn’t the centre of the universe. I didn’t get the job either – which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me.

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Personally I have always found the exercise of letting go very difficult. Although I am a lot better at it now, it has taken me years to work out a way to handle the prospect of someone not liking me or thinking bad things about me.

When faced with this battle I find the following to be a really good exercise. It’s all about reminding yourself that you are just a tiny piece in a massive puzzle. My thoughts go something like this:
‘I am Kat. I come from a little town north of Copenhagen. Denmark. Scandinavia. Europe. The World. The Universe.’
All of a sudden you become so incredibly small in the bigger picture, which makes something you have said or done on a random day even smaller than it probably already was.
I also remind myself that my time on earth is so limited that really what does it matter if a former colleague thought I handled something the wrong way or I said something that was meant nicely, but was misinterpreted?
Life is too short. Move on. Focus on something great instead and let it go. You can’t change the past anyway so really, what does it matter now? You didn’t get the job? You scared somebody off? Keep this in mind:

luck

You might be the centre of your own universe. But you are not the centre of the universe. Remember this with a big smile on your face next time something small and unimportant has turned big and scary. Let it go and be grateful for all the good that surrounds you.

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Dancing in the rain

I had lunch with a girl today that I hadn’t seen for a few years. She was actually one of my first acquaintances after coming to London – a brilliant artist with a stunning personality. Meeting her during my first time in London was a gift. However, for some reason we lost contact (although in this day in age you never really lose contact with anyone due to social media).

After starting this blog and sharing the news I have been blessed with hearing from old and new friends, but especially people I haven’t spoken to for years. It has been such a fantastic experience and everyone has been so incredibly positive about this little venture of mine – so thank you! The friend I met up with today was one of these people.

It turns out that during these last years she has gone through quite a lot of pain and suffering. She got married to a lovely man that turned out to be struggling with challenges bigger than what he has been capable of handling. As a result, she has put up with daily negativity and rejection adding to which she has been the victim of heart breaking stories. Recently she left her husband and has consciously taken life into own hands. She is crashing at a friend’s place at the moment and is trying to figure out where to go from here. She is starting over.
Seeing her today – so strong, brave and full of positive energy while telling her story – reminded me of my own adventure and especially of my first few months in London.

I moved to London about 3,5 years ago as a result of a nasty breakup and the urge to get away from the settled life I desperately wanted to live, but  found I had never been further away from achieving. I had been the spectator of my life falling apart for quite a few months at the time, so the chance I took by moving countries didn’t actually seem that crazy or even that challenging (although everyone seemed incredibly impressed by my decision). Yes, I was worried about the outcome, but in the end I just did it. Little did I know that this move would end up changing everything.

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When I first came to London I stayed with my older sister and her family in a gorgeous little town about a 40-minute train ride from the city centre. I would get up in the morning, buy my train & tube ticket and spend the rest of the day roaming the streets of London, trying to figure out how everything was connected, which parts of the city I liked more and hanging out with Mr. Google during meals to find a job and some sort of living arrangement for myself.
I’m not going to lie – these weeks were hard-core! First of all it dawned on me that rent was going to gobble up pretty much all the money I had for survival each month. Secondly, I realised that getting a job in London was extremely up hill when London is not already on your resume and you have no contacts that can help you out. Last, but not least, I often felt that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
Every night I would come back to my sister’s place and either catch up with her and her husband in the kitchen or sneak straight into bed (the bottom bunk of my 7-year-old nieces bunk bed to be precise), ready for what the next day had to offer.

About a week into my struggles I came home rather late one night and snuck into bed, conscious that I shouldn’t wake up my niece while doing so. As I lay there under the duvet it suddenly hit me that I couldn’t stay in this bottom bunk forever. My situation was unexpectedly very clear to me: I was 31, single, homeless, jobless and planning a life that would have me pretty much broke by the beginning of each month. Things could hardly get any worse.
Then I started laughing. I laughed and laughed to a degree that I was sure I would end up waking up my niece. Tears were streaming down my face.  I was happy! Never had life been more exciting. Never before had I had so many options. I felt so alive! I was dancing in the rain.

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That night was my turning point. I had successfully managed to switch my way of thinking – I was focusing on the positive and could feel deep down inside that this move was going to be one of the the best things I had ever done for myself.

Truth be told, several times after this night I had the feeling of everything seeming hopeless, but then I would remind myself of how far I had come and how lucky I was. Suddenly all the pieces started falling into place and I have not looked back since.

One of my best exercies during this time, was reminding myself of what I had to be grateful for: Every night before I closed my eyes, I would write down a minimum of three things I was grateful for. It didn’t have to be massive things. It could be something as simple as:

  1. A stranger smiled at me in the supermarket
  2. The sun was shining today
  3. My favourite song played on the radio

Try it. It might seem silly at first (maybe even hard), but one day you will find this exercise easier and you might come up with five things, seven things or even ten things you are grateful for. All of a sudden you will notice positives all through the day and the times of darkness will seem far away. Trust me.

If you’d like to know more about what positive thoughts can do for you, have a look at this post: Positivity vs. Negativity

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Positivity vs Negativity

As much as I have no doubt most people wish to be happy 24 hours a day, this simply isn’t achievable. It wouldn’t be natural either in my opinion. Imagine being around people who constantly smile, even through the worst tragedies in life – I wouldn’t trust it. Frankly, I would be worried. It doesn’t connect to reality. That said I wouldn’t want to spend too much time with someone who’s constantly negative either.

According to the American Psychology Professor, Barbara Fredrickson (known for her extensive work within positive psychology), living by a positivity ratio of 3:1 is ideal. Basically this means that in order to properly thrive we need to have three heartfelt positive emotional experiences for every devastating negative one. Newer research suggests the ratio to be more along the lines of 7:1, but regardless of which you choose to go with, the bottom line is that you can’t have one without the other.
Personally I believe that going through negative emotions makes us enjoy the positive emotions much more, which I guess would be another way of putting it. What’s important though is, that the positives outnumber the negatives.

During my late teens and early 20’s I was all about the negative. I had lots of fun, but emotionally I saw the glass as half empty and focused on the impossible instead of the possible. The most impressive part of this picture is, that I wasn’t even aware of it – this was simply my perception of life. Sure, I knew I was unhappy (I even told everyone about it too), but I honestly never thought I could feel otherwise. I hoped I could and dreamt about the happy Hollywood ending, but I never truly believed this could happen to me.
It turns out I was far from alone on this one. Shawn Achor, American Happiness Researcher, has found through thorough research that humans are always striving for something better. ‘When I get my dream job I’ll be happy’, ‘As soon as school is finished, I’ll make the money I need, meet the partner of my dreams and life will be a bliss’. However, once we reach these goals, we’ve usually set new ones and we never fully enjoy the process. Focusing on the negative has been and continues to be a challenge in society – we’re simply used to focusing on the negative and are programmed to believe that we need to work hard at it (sometimes for years) in order to achieve any sort of happiness. Apparently as late as 1998 the entire field of psychology focused almost only on the negative. This means that the negative and how to get rid of it has been the dominating approach within the industry till less than 20 years ago! Then came along the President of the American Psychological Association and claimed it was time to shift the traditional approach. It was time to look at what works (i.e. positive psychology) – not just what doesn’t. Maybe we should do the same in our everyday lives?

People who are close to me will confirm that my outlook on life has changed dramatically. I still have bad days like any other, but I will always try to find the positive in why something has happened the way it has. Finding the positives can take a while, but so far I have managed and I sincerely believe that I will keep finding them no matter what happens to me.
I believe that everything happens for a reason and that nothing is so bad that it isn’t good for something else. However, this doesn’t mean I walk around with my head in a pink cloud. We need to react when the less positive parts of life show up. We need to go through the motions and process the hurt. Simply ignoring heartache and pain will only make matters worse and one day your body will scream what it has been trying to whisper to you for years. Been there, tried that – it wasn’t pleasant.

The challenge with negativity, I find, is that it tends to be such a natural part of the human mind that most of the time people don’t realise how negative their thoughts are. Let’s test it: When was the last time you thought ‘I hate my job!’ or ‘I wish my relationship was more like my neighbour’s – my partner is such a bore!’. Chances are, you don’t even notice these thoughts any longer. They have become a natural part of your daily routine. The danger here is, that what our minds are full of tend to grow stronger.

So, you find you are in a dull relationship? Focus on it and it will get even worse. Your workplace didn’t turn out to be what you had hoped for? Focus on it and you’ll probably end up having no responsibility what so ever resulting in the fact that your colleagues won’t even notice you’re there.
Now try turning the table. Next time you get to the office, notice the fresh flowers on the table at the reception desk. Who do you think put them there? Why do you think he / she did this? My guess would be the receptionist did it and that this person placed the flowers there in the hope that it would brighten your day (amongst others). I bet if you tell the receptionist you noticed it, you will brighten his / her day right back. And let’s say you really don’t like the job you’re in – maybe it’s time you look for a new one? One where you can make the most of all your passion and talent. One where you’ll wake up daily with a smile on your face because you know your day is full of fantastic, rewarding challenges. I appreciate switching jobs isn’t always as straightforward as it can sound. So you are a banker dreaming of joining the circus? Maybe start by finding an evening or weekend course where you can work on those juggling skills and make sure this is the right switch for you before you go for it full time.
Instead of focusing on your neighbours amazing love life, how about taking matters into your own hands when you come home tonight. Stop your partner in doing whatever he / she is doing, have a hug and seal it with ‘you look great / beautiful’. Who knows, maybe this tiny action will trigger a great story about what happened today or a suggestion that the two of you go out tonight (dressed up and all) – just like you used to.

Changing a thought pattern takes time. Once negativity has become a habit you need to make a conscious effort to change it. Anyone who has ever tried to get rid of a bad habit will know that it takes devotion and you need to be quite stubborn about it. Start by noticing your thoughts in the first place – on the tube, in the shower, while cooking, in the car, on the bike – what are they like? Maybe change one thought a day to begin with. Turn what was negative into a positive and try to notice how your body relaxes when you do so. Sometimes finding the positive can be a challenge, but I’m certain it can be done.
Stuck in the tube with thousands of others? Instead of criticising your fellow commuters in your mind, try this little game: Who’s got the best hair today? Prettiest face? Funky style?

As Shawn Achor’s TEDx talk below will vouch for, if you can train your mind consciously to focus on the positives in life, only more positive will come. Give it a go – what have you got to lose?

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“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

About 5 years ago I met a woman who ended up changing my life by introducing me to her way of thinking. She is an older woman, wise, and – truth be told – quite wacky in her own charming way. Best of all though, she’ s fantastic to talk to.
I came to her because I was stuck in life (we all know that feeling). I was in the wrong relationship (which took me a few more years to figure out), had no idea what I wanted to do with my professional life, felt lost and, in general, I was just unhappy.

Lis, as she is called, came into my life by chance, some would say.  She wouldn’t put it that way. Lis would say we met in between former lives and agreed that this meeting would happen. However, as I am still undecided as to whether that kind of spirituality is something I personally believe in, I choose to believe that we were meant to meet and then I leave it at that.

I had just come back to Copenhagen from an internship in Brazil, was writing my thesis based on the research I had gathered there and took part in a rather dramatic long distance relationship with my boyfriend at the time. I was tired and worn down. I needed someone to be an adult for me. An adultier adult, so to speak.

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One day I bought a deal on one of those deal websites that have become increasingly popular. The deal was for one session of Craniosacral Therapy, which I had heard of, but was rather sceptical about. However, now that it was cheaper, I was ready to try it – and so I did. To be honest I didn’t really feel any difference physically (or mentally for that matter) afterwards, but the craniosacral therapist made a big deal out of speaking before and after the session, so as we sat down after the session she told me that she had never seen an aura as holed as mine was when I first came in the door. She believed I needed someone to talk to – whether I knew anyone? If not, she knew just the right person for me. This person was Lis.

Although this whole aura business was a bit too out there for my liking at the time, I figured I had nothing to lose and so I made it to Lis’s Copenhagen flat about a month later. I slightly feared this meeting, as she had sounded a bit tough on the phone and, to top it all off, I had managed to sign up for no less than three sessions, three days in a row, with this woman (a rule of hers).

I walked into an apartment made up of pastel colours (literally!) and was greeted by a little lady with white hair and a big smile, dressed in – surprise – pastel colours. The energy in her flat was so warm and welcoming that it took me about a minute or two to start opening up. I spent the next three days on her couch crying, laughing and, at one point, even being angry with her for giving me a bit of the ‘tough love’ that I had obviously asked for by being in her flat in the first place. Those three days became the start of a crazy and amazing adventure (I still try to see her when in Copenhagen) and although Lis is still a lot more spiritual than I think I will ever become, she has placed seeds in my heart and soul that have grown and continue to do so. Seeds of gratitude and warmth, of finally understanding who I am, what I am about and, last but not least, she has taught me to trust the process of life.

In this school of life Lis has been (and continues to be) one of my absolute favourite and most important teachers, but she has also made me aware that no one will learn anything unless they are ready for it.
I sent her a loving thought when I recently came across a line that made such perfect sense to me: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
I was ready. True, I had been well on the way for years, reading books and analysing past and present, but I was ready to meet Lis and I am forever grateful for having done so.

Have you got an adultier adult in your life? A mentor? Are you ready to make the necessary changes? Are you ready to become a healthier, happier person? If not – what is holding you back?

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Boxes

Have you ever noticed how your outer and inner states usually reflect each other? I find that it’s especially obvious when entering someone’s home. It’s even obvious to me in my own home.

We all (or, at least, most of us) enjoy when our homes are clean and tidy, but some days there’s just not enough time to keep it up. Some days the kitchen will be a mess and the laundry won’t be sorted – we’ll live. It’s part of life. Other days we find ourselves full of energy and maybe we even enjoy tidying up the living room and doing the bed so it’s ready for the night.

Last summer I sold my lovely, light Copenhagen apartment. It had been my home for 8 years at the time – my sacred haven. During those 8 years I had gone through hangovers, wonders and tragedies within that space and I especially loved returning to the flat every time I had managed to live in a foreign country for a while.
While living abroad I would rent out the flat, usually partly furnished. This meant that I would box up everything I had and left those boxes in the attic and / or basement in the storage rooms that came with the flat.

The last time I returned from being abroad was in August 2012 and I specifically remember having to be careful when opening the door of the attic storage room, as I knew the 12 square meters (about 130 square feet) were stuffed to the rim with boxes and things. The storage room in the basement was pretty much the same story (and the same size).
Back then I wasn’t sure how long I would stay in Copenhagen, so I only took down a few boxes from the attic to begin with. In fact, I ended up living in the flat for 6 months without taking down more than about 6 boxes or so during the time. Then I left for London and everything was boxed up, as I was renting out the flat once more. I never lived in the flat again.

Anyone who has ever lived in London will know that you pay obscene amounts of money for very little living space. My case was no exception. I moved into a room the size of my attic storage space with my two suitcases and this became my home for the next 6 months. Then I met my boyfriend and moved in with him.  Even though we have a little more room now (not much more – after all, it is still London) storage space is severely limited, so every time I buy e.g. a new sweater, I have to throw one away. This has probably been one of the most practical educational experiences I’ve had in London: The less room you have, the less crap you gather. Everyone should try it.

Last summer I had lived in London for a few years and could tell I would stay here for quite a while longer, so I decided to sell the flat. I was, however, in no way prepared for the fact that it sold in three days and the buyer wanted to take over the apartment as fast as possible. What was I going to do with all my stuff? After all, I had two storage rooms packed full of memories! If I were to bring all of my things to London there would be no room for my boyfriend or me in our flat.
I ended up doing the only thing I could do. My boyfriend and I went to Denmark for what was supposed to be a weekend all about my childhood friend’s wedding, and managed to fit in one single day (with a very good friend of mine – thanks Christopher) cleaning out the storage rooms. I got rid of three quarters of my belongings that day and we took the rest of my things to my father’s summerhouse, where it is currently stored till it comes to London in a few weeks.

Three quarters of my belongings. Imagine that. How is that even possible? To be honest, I’m not sure I would have been able to throw and give away as much if my circumstances had been different, but the truth of the matter is that storage in London is so limited and so I had no choice.
Surprisingly it was such a freeing experience to get rid of all those things. I had teddy bears and letters from old boyfriends stored away, old essays from third grade, cd’s (Christopher managed to save some of these), cassette tapes from the early 90’s, records, a broken keyboard, furniture I hadn’t used in years, 4 doors (this came as a surprise to my boyfriend especially), candle holders, clothes, flashlights, kitchenware, books from university – you name it, I had it. And now I’m rid of it and it honestly feels amazing!

In many ways cleaning out my storage rooms felt very much like starting a fresh. I have met the man I want to be with for the rest of my life and I’ve started a fantastic life with him in London. I’ve let go of a lot of things that I had kept close ‘just in case’. Emotional baggage I had held on to in order to not lose the people connected to those memories for good. I let go of the past and while doing so I realised that memories are worth much more when they aren’t connected to physical things.

I feel lighter. Happier. And I don’t miss a single thing I’ve thrown away.

When was the last time you cleaned out your closet, so to speak? Have you got excess boxes and bags stored somewhere? Chances are you don’t even know what’s in them. Maybe it’s time for you to thoroughly go through your belongings and give yourself a fresh start?

I once had a colleague who lived in a three bedroom flat. One of the rooms had belonged to her step son – a person she had loved dearly and who was ‘taken’ from her when she split up with his father. When we worked together she told me she hadn’t used her step son’s room since. It had become storage space and she hardly ever was in there. One day, after seeing a healer, she started cleaning out the room. She threw away boxes, tidied up and turned the room into a study. I still remember how uplifted she was when she came to work and told me about this experience. She felt she had finally let go and that a massive weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

So, the question is – what do you need to get rid of? And what have you got to lose, if you start now? Worst case scenario? See below:

childhoodmoney

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If you’re in doubt – say yes.

Most people are surprised to find that I am a rather private person. I love spending time on my own and don’t usually share my inner feelings with people unless I truly trust them. For this reason, starting a blog is a rather terrifying experience.

So why do it then? Because I have learnt that we usually regret the things we don’t do a lot more than the things we do. And in this case I’d rather try and fail with the knowledge that ‘at least I tried’, than wonder what it might have been like if I had followed through. After all, I have nourished the idea of a blog for quite a while now.

Another way to put it; If you’re in doubt – say yes. A sentence a very good friend of mine introduced me to several years ago. She used it mainly when it came to male acquaintances, but it is very much applicable to general life. If you find yourself faced with doubt as to whether to throw yourself at something or stay at home under the duvet I say do it. What’s the worst that can happen? She didn’t show up? You didn’t like it? You weren’t good at it? You froze in front of several hundreds of people? Sure, this sucks for a little while, but eventually it becomes a part of the past and then at least you will know you tried. Now imagine you didn’t do it. That you stayed at home. Chances are you might never think of it again, but you might also end up thinking of it every day, once a week / a month / a year for the rest of your life, because ‘what if?’. What would have happened? What if going backpacking in Asia in your 30’s had been the most amazing experience you had ever had? What if going back to university turned out to be exactly what was required for your dream job a few years later? What if putting your foot down would make you free of the chains you’ve been living in for a decade? What if that girl in the café could have become the mother of your children one day, if you had just had the guts to say hello?

With all of the above in mind I will now push the publish button of this, my first, blog post.

What if I fall?

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