How to work the wonders of a mirror

A lot of you may have noticed that I mention mirrors quite often. Now, I don’t keep mentioning mirrors to point out the importance of vanity (that said, there is a lot to be gained by having an extra thorough look at that reflection, believe me). I keep mentioning mirrors because they are a brilliant tool!

For so many unfortunate reasons, most people have issues with their bodies in one way or the other. A lot of the time the same people have issues with their personalities too. As a population we have become overly critical with ourselves and unfortunately this results in a lot of criticizing on a daily basis – in thought and speech.

Most people tell themselves that they’re not good enough in one way or the other every day – are you one of them? Keep in mind that this isn’t just about what you say out loud, this is also very much about your thoughts. Have you been telling yourself lately that you are fat? That you are ugly? That your nose is too big? That you suck at school? That you can never do anything right? That you’re single because no one finds you attractive? That your boobs are too small? That you look old? I bet at least one of the above apply to thoughts you’ve had about yourself recently.

Now imagine your closest friend said these things to you every single day. Imagine the person you trust and love the most chooses to focus on the negative things about you. Would you want to hang out with this person? Would this person make you happy? Would this person make you want to wake up with a big smile on your face every morning excited about the day ahead? I didn’t think so. It’s time for a change. It’s time to be your own very best and positive friend! It’s time for some light mirror work!

mirror

Have a good look at the baby above. Does he look sad? Does he look like he hates what he sees? Does he look like he’s ready to criticise? Hardly. He does look like he’s just about to attack though – with a big kiss! He’s so excited about his own reflection in the mirror. Gotta love that! And this is where we want to get to!
There’s a good chance you used to look at yourself in the mirror this way when you were a baby. Then life happened and your inner voice changed. Let’s get back to basics my friend – be nice to yourself.

How to work the wonders of a mirror:
Next time you pass a mirror, stop. Stop and have a good look at that reflection of yours. Look into those beautiful eyes and smile! Not just one of those pretend smiles, but the real deal! You wouldn’t believe how important a smile is – it can be life altering (have a read: Why smiling is important). Keep the eye contact and the gorgeous smile on your face all through this exercise. Now focus on something positive about yourself and say (preferably out loud, but I appreciate others might be able to hear you in which case thoughts are ok for now) to yourself that you LOVE this trait. E.g. Let’s say you have a fabulous hair colour – tell yourself this! Or maybe you have great skin – tell yourself this! Maybe you just closed an important deal at work – tell yourself that you did an amazing job! I’m sure you get the picture by now. Give yourself the praise you deserve!

If this is all rather new to you, start with pointing out one positive thing about yourself today when you pass a mirror. Do this tomorrow as well. And the day after. Do it every single day this week. Then, next week, make it two things. The week after that, make it three things. Sky is the limit – tell yourself how incredibly amazing you are in every way and finish off with ‘I love you’ (I know this seems rather cheesy to most people, but the importance of self love is so severe I would urge you to do it anyway – have a read here for more on this).

There’s a good chance you’re shaking your head this very moment and thinking to yourself that this whole thing is nuts. I used to do the same, so I get it. However, here’s how I see it; What have you got to lose? Worst-case scenario, you’ll have a great story about the time you took a piece of advice from a blog and ended up talking to yourself in front of a mirror. This will then probably make people laugh and boom – a positive situation appears. In other words, this is a win-win situation. Go for it!

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5 questions that will spark your self development

I was having lunch with a good friend of mine a few days ago. One of those lovely lunches that turn into hours hanging out discussing life and all the ups and downs that come with it.
We ended up discussing an article she read recently where the author didn’t understand why getting engaged was seen as more of an accomplishment (at least on social media) than e.g. getting a promotion or a degree. In some ways I guess this is a good point; Post a photo on social media of a rock on a finger with the words ‘She/I said yes!!’ and you’ll probably have a few hundred likes within a very short amount of time. Post a photo of yourself with your degree and a happy face along with the words ‘I did it!!’ and the amount of likes will probably still be quite high. However, if you compare the two, chances are the engagement photo will be quite a lot more popular.
Personally I find both accomplishments fantastic! Both statements say a lot about who you are and what truly means something to you – what’s not to love? I think the main issue the author wanted to highlight is the tendency of putting the love two people share higher than anything else in life and this made me think!

I have a new scenario for you – a new post. I realise this will rarely happen, but imagine a photo of yourself with your arms spread out wide and your face lit up in a gorgeous smile. Next to the photo are the following words: ‘I LOVE MYSELF!!’ How do you think social media would react to this one?

Now this to me is much more of an interesting topic. Why is the love between two people placed so much higher on the accomplishment scale than the love you have for yourself? Don’t get me wrong – I love relationships and I truly believe in love between two people (I love my boyfriend to pieces!). But even more so, I truly believe we need to love ourselves first and foremost! I believe that if we put the same amount of time and attention to self development, loving ourselves and understanding who we are as we put into the efforts of looking for love from others, this world truly would be a happier place. To take it even further, and I realise this is a bold statement, I actually believe that a lot of divorces / break ups happen today because people don’t love or don’t know how to love themselves.
We enter into relationships hoping our partner will do this for us – which will probably be the case for most people for a little while. The issue is that we’ve seen far too many romantic Hollywood movies and believe life will always be like this as soon as we find that certain someone. We mirror ourselves in those movies and our surroundings rather than in ourselves and our own value. And then, one day, Hollywood is over. Life becomes boring. Enter the blame game; ‘She’s just not interesting any longer – she used to have all these hobbies and friends and now she’s just dull’ or ‘He’s gained so much weight. It’s as if he doesn’t care any longer. He used to be so fit when we met, now he’s constantly in front of the tv or checking his phone’ or ‘I feel so alone in my relationship. It’s as if my partner no longer sees me’. I’m sure you’re able to make up more – however, you might want to read this before you do.

If you’re in one of these not so happy relationships or if you’re doing everything in your power to enter a relationship rather than using the time to give that self development of yours a little nudge in the right direction, try the following exercise on for size:

Turn your attention away from whatever you were doing. If you’re in a relationship, let your partner do his / her thing and redirect all your energy to yourself. In fact, regardless of whether you’re in a relationship or not, when you ask yourself the following questions kids and partners are not allowed to be part of the answers. This exercise is about you and you alone. Take your time when answering the questions and remember that there’s no point in answering with lies. No one will know the answers but you (unless you wish to share them, obviously), so if you lie, you’ll be lying to yourself. Just saying.

your-self-development

Be honest and write the answers down as you go. Answer in full sentences and make the answers as long as you wish. This is for your benefit and your benefit alone.
Turn off the music, TV, phone and anything else that has the ability to remove your attention. It might help to close your eyes and maybe even lay down for a little bit during this exercise – when you remove all distractions it’s easier to get in touch with your body, it’s easier to get to the honest truth. Ready? Here goes.

  • When was the last time you felt happy?
  • When was the last time you did something for yourself that gave you a deeply content feeling?
  • What happens when you look at yourself in the mirror? Do you smile? Do you try to avoid the reflection?
  • How do you ‘speak’ to yourself (your thoughts count on this one)? Do you let yourself down daily? Or do you give yourself praise?
  • What are your dreams (for now and for the future)? What would make you happy?

Remember; Take your time.

Done? So, what are your answers like? Did you find the questions difficult? Do your answers add up to the life you’re living? Don’t panic if they don’t – you’re not the only one who feels this way, trust me. In fact, most people will have a hard time answering these questions. And very few answer them with positive replies.
The good news is that once you know what the issue is, you can do something about it! How’s that for a start? By being honest with yourself you’ve already taken the first step towards a more fulfilled and loving life. You have sparked your self development!

When we know what we truly enjoy and what’s important to us deep down inside, we can adjust our lives accordingly – this is why it’s so incredibly important to sync with yourself from time to time.

So, now what? What are the next steps? For starters, here’s a few links to exercises and information that will give your self development a good push:

The most important part of all of this is to NEVER GIVE UP (read this and this) and, by all means, don’t lie to yourself! If you find you choose to ignore your own signals or always put yourself last in the equation of life, believe me when I say you won’t be able to do this forever. Listen to your body now. Be your own best friend. Get to know your value – self development is your key.

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Don’t give up

So, it’s Monday. Again. And you don’t feel you’re any closer to that goal of yours. It’s as if no matter what you do, you’re just not getting there. So you look to your neighbour, colleague, friend – heck – even a stranger, to find company for your misery. But they are all so content! What are you doing wrong?! Why does everyone else seem to have it all worked out yet here you are in the same miserable state you’ve been in for weeks, months or maybe even years. Nothing ever works for you. Is the whole thing just a scam? Has life been set up to disappoint you? Is this a bad joke? Where’s the camera?
Don’t give up!

First of all, I can assure you that you’re not the only one feeling the way you do this very moment. Even the ones who smile the most and seem the most ’on top of the world’ have issues and challenges that will exceed your wildest imagination. Most people, however, choose not to let everyone else in on these matters – they choose to deal with them privately and quite often for good reason.

But then what about social media? Every day you’re faced with pictures from mountain tops, rooftop parties in exotic countries, weddings on beaches, babies, new designer bags, sports cars – you name it. Surely that’s not just something these people make up? Probably not, no (although some might be – trust me). But just because you bought a new Ferrari doesn’t mean you’re happy deep down inside. That friend of yours travelling the world and seeing all these exotic places could be just as lonely as you might be when tucked in at night. The ones who just became parents? They are probably scared out of their minds! The girl from your class who’s always at the right parties? Maybe she’s desperately searching for attention. My point is, we all have struggles. Even those who are genuinely happy most of the time have worries and challenges. You are not alone! So, my thoughts on social media? If it brings you down, leave it be for a while. But remember; some people aren’t really what they ’post’ to be…

Second, if you have set a goal for yourself, if you have dreams and visions of what you really want in life; keep working at it! Don’t ever give up. It’s usually when we give up that we were the closest to achieving what we had set out to accomplish.

Don’t-give-up

That said, if you’ve been stuck in misery for years in a life or job you don’t enjoy, this might be your wake-up call (you might want to read this). It might be time to look deep within and work on figuring out what you’re dreams and wishes are really about. In my opinion there’s no such thing as dreaming too big or setting unrealistic goals. Nothing is impossible! (Have a look at this exercise, if you need a little push.) Follow your heart and your gut and make sure you’re passionate about whatever you start up / set your mind to. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! If you’re passionate about it, you’ll put in the work required without hesitation. You won’t even perceive it as work. You’ll do it because it comes naturally to you and because you truly enjoy doing it. Chances are, you might not even be able to put it away. However,  even when we feel this way about something there can be a setback or two, which is ok. In fact, it’s natural. Just don’t give up. Be your own coach! Get back in the game. Trust me. You are so much closer to the break through than you think.

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Do you know your value?

Tough question, right? Do you know your value? If you’re in a relationship of some sort (be it a relationship with a significant other, a parent, a colleague etc.) and you feel like you’re always chasing, trying to make the other person happy, calling, texting or otherwise desperately seeking attention, chances are you probably don’t. The thing is, in your relationship with others you are the only one responsible for how you are treated. That’s right; It’s your responsibility – no blaming others. You are the master of how others react to you. You set the rules. Your surroundings do as you ask them to regardless of whether you do so with words, actions, body language or simply with thoughts.

Bring on the excuses: ‘But she says she’s not hurting me on purpose’, ‘But he is in the middle of a depression – I have to be there’, ‘But she’s just confused’, ‘But he is just busy’, ‘But he is ending it with his partner – it’s only a matter of time till we can be together’, ‘But I’ll never find anyone else like her’, ‘But we’re married – I have to stick it out’, ‘But I don’t want my kids to grow up with divorced parents’. If you’re like most people, I’m sure you’re able to make up more..

I realise that special circumstances can arise, and if you have children, are married or have otherwise made a life long promise to someone, you’ll probably need to have a longer leash. However, even when you’ve made these commitments, there’s no point in giving up all your power to your significant other. There’s simply no excuse for not knowing your own value. It takes two to tango in any relationship. Where is the puzzle piece with your happiness on it, if you’re constantly focused on making someone else happy?

I recently read a blog where the writer was describing how her mother was always subject to her dominating father. How her mother would obey her husband’s every request and generally do everything to make him happy. Which party do you feel sorry for in this scenario? Hopefully both (and the blogger, who was a child in this unhealthy environment). None of these roles are pleasant. No one enjoys that amount of power – no one enjoys being ‘small’. I don’t know this couple, but chances are the imbalance was probably there from the very beginning and has then, with time, become even more outspoken. Regardless, I believe that the imbalance wouldn’t be there in the first place if they both knew their value.

I was once told that relationships are all about meeting a person you’re at eye level with (in regards to energy and soul – not height). It’s all about healthy counteraction and great communication (the latter being the ‘glue’). When I heard this I had just been in a relationship where I was the dominating one (you can read about it here) and had formerly been in a relationship where my partner had all the power, so my first reaction was to fear the future. What were the odds that I would ever find anyone where the balance would be just right? I didn’t even know what to look for! So I gave up the hunt for a little while and focused on myself – the best thing I could have ever done.

I worked on my relationship with myself daily! In several different ways (some of the exercises I used can be found here, here and  here). If you don’t love yourself, how are you ever going to show anyone how you want to be loved? If you don’t respect yourself, how are you ever going to be able to demand respect from others? If you don’t see your own inner beauty, chances are others won’t see it either. Be nice to yourself. Think positive thoughts (a little about positivity to be found here)! Smile to yourself and the people around you daily – you have so much to offer and so much to be grateful for. Why would you waste your fabulous energy on someone or something who doesn’t appreciate it?

Respect yourself

If you’re feeling powerless in your relationship, you’re probably not placing yourself high enough. There’s nothing wrong with loving others (on the contrary – go for it!) or wanting to be good to them. But the problem with putting others first is, that you automatically put yourself second. Think about that sentence for a minute.
Putting yourself first doesn’t mean you’re selfish or rude. It means you value the one person that will be with you forever – regardless of what happens. (In case you missed it, this person would be you.) You need to be your own best friend. You need to realise your value. Once you do this, nothing can knock you over (not completely, anyway).

You are never powerless. If you’re not happy and don’t see a change on it’s way – make the change yourself. Your happiness is your own responsibility. Leave behind what’s pulling you down and move forward. Put yourself first. Value who you are or no one else will.

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How much worse could things be?

When we’re caught up in misery and pain, everything somehow becomes all about ourselves in the darkness – nothing else matters. Everything is just black, awful, unimportant, cold and there seems to be no prospect of anything ever getting any better. But what if things could get better? And what if they could get better by thinking ‘How much worse could things be?’

During her commencement speech at Berkeley on Saturday, COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, brought up the subject of gratitude several times in several different ways. Throughout an extremely touching, honest and truly inspirational speech she shared her hard core and heart breaking story publicly for the first time since the sudden loss of her husband a little over a year ago. Several times, she came close to letting her emotions take over and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one truly in awe of her strength as she stood there and shared her life’s biggest struggle with everyone.
Sheryl Sandberg touched base on so many incredibly important and very interesting subjects during her speech, but there was one subject in particular that caught my attention; Her ability to find gratitude during the absolute darkest hours of her life.
She managed to find gratitude with help from her friend and therapist, Adam Grant, who, one day, suggested she think about how much worse things could be.

Steps

Sheryl Sandberg tragically lost her husband, Dave Goldberg, due to a cardiac arrhythmia that the doctors had not yet discovered he had. In an instant she lost the love of her life and became a single parent to two children, yet she, like so many others who are suddenly faced with severe sorrows in life, managed to make life work regardless of tremendous heartbreak and pain. So when Sheryl Sandberg was asked to consider how much worse things could be, her reply was ‘Worse?! Are you crazy?! How could things be worse?!’ Adam Grant replied: ‘Dave could have had that same cardiac arrhythmia driving your children’. And just like that the situation was put into perspective. A perspective that made her realise how much she had to be grateful for.

Now, Sheryl Sandberg’s example is obviously rather hard core, but maybe that’s what makes the point so clear; that gratitude can always be found. Always. Regardless of what happens, you’ll always be able to find something to be grateful for in the light of a scenario that’s worse than the one you’re in.  And that little grain of gratitude can end up being the star that shines and leads the way on your otherwise dark road. The trick is to then add more stars to the sky and eventually you will have enough light to recognize the beauty that surrounds you.

I have formerly brought up exercises that can help you increase your gratefulness (and thereby also your happiness). Sheryl Sandberg actually mentions this one in her speech and another one can be found here. You might not be able to feel the effects of these exercises immediately, but I promise you that if you repeat them every day, you will feel it eventually, as what you put your attention to grows stronger. Put your attention towards the positives – always.

If you’d like to see Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement speech, which I highly recommend, this can be found below. You might think it’s slightly long, but trust me – it’s worth every minute and will stay with you for quite some time if you really let it sink in.

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I love you

I have now been blogging for a month! To celebrate, I hereby give you one of my most ‘wacky’ meetings with spirituality, but also one of my absolutely most important ones.
I love telling this story to people who know me well, as they always end up laughing several times through it and yet they actually get the point once I reach the end. Hopefully you will do the same.

In my early twenties I was severely heartbroken. To a degree where I actually think I went a bit crazy for a little while. You see, I had built my life around a boyfriend and truly believed we would get married, have children and all of the things connected to that picture. It started out as a beautiful love story. The kind where you’re so much in love that you can hardly breathe. I specifically remember telling my mother about him (about a week in), while spreading my arms out and float-flying around the kitchen in my childhood home. I was struck. Big time. And, to my big surprise, so was he.

As you have probably figured out by now our love didn’t last forever. One day I came home from college and there he was, on the couch, pretty much in the same spot I had left him during our morning fight. He was crying and, bless him, he had tried to paint his feelings in order for me to understand exactly what was going on inside him. Bottom line was that he wasn’t ready for all of it and I was – he felt trapped. Looking back, I really can’t blame him. I was so incredibly dependent on him that I have to say I’m quite impressed he didn’t leave sooner. I actually planned my week according to his schedule. Yes, it was that bad.

Nevertheless, he left me, and my life froze completely. Nothing functioned and I spent most of my time crying and wondering whether life was really worth living. With time though I did become rather good at socialising and partying especially, but when I was alone I was devastated and life made no sense to me. I remember I actually found partying to be a great escape from it all, right till the next morning when my feelings caught up with me and the hangover somehow made everything even worse. I lost a lot of weight, smoked way to many cigarettes and I was miserable!

One day a friend of mine told me about a man she knew called Dan. A healer. This was the first time I heard of one such and I found the whole thing fascinating (also, I had no better idea as to how I was to leave my own pity party). Apparently this guy had just opened up a place close to where I lived – an event space / studio / healer spot (oh yes, many hats) and my friend had been hired to play the piano at a Christian Healing Ceremony that was to take place in the large event space (as she’s an Atheist, I’m still not quite sure what that was all about).  She asked whether I’d like to come along that night, so I could meet Dan and speak to him about potential healing. Besides, she wasn’t really sure what she had gotten herself involved in so as I had nothing better to do I decided to be a good friend and off we went.

It was Wednesday evening and we laughed all the way there, prepared for a whole lot of ‘Hallelujah’ and talk of God (can I just say that none of us have anything against religion, I’m just not particularly religious myself and my friend is, as mentioned, an Atheist). However, I swear, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience…

The Christian Healing Ceremony itself was surreal to say the least. I have no doubt, that if this is your thing, these ladies would be your heroes. However, as Dan’s huge event space was completely new the Healing Ceremony was the first of its kind and the audience was very limited. As in, we were 4 people in the audience. 2 of them were Dan and me, who weren’t supposed to be there in the first place – the other two were a couple of siblings who had apparently both experienced quite severe drama in their lives recently. To say that the place felt rather empty would be an understatement, but they went ahead with it anyway and the siblings took turns going to the stage to receive healing. Yes, there was quite a lot of Hallelujah going on, and I just sat there, stunned and unsure of what I was seeing.
Towards the end of the ceremony one of the healers turned to me and asked me whether I wanted to receive healing. She specifically said ‘I know you’re reluctant, and that’s completely ok. However, you need it and would be doing yourself a favour’. Aha. Right. Well, what did I have to lose?  If you’re in doubt – say yes, right? So I went up there. Besides, saying no would have been rude at this point.
The very nice lady asked me whether I believed in Jesus. ‘Uhm… Undecided’, I replied. I could hardly tell her that I was only there to meet Dan now, could I? She told me that Jesus loved me anyway and that he was there for me. This is the last of our conversation I remember. Suddenly tears were streaming down my face and I felt weightless. My legs seemed to somewhat dissapear beneath me and I sort of blacked out (although, as it turns out, I was standing straight all along). The whole thing felt like it lasted a matter of seconds, but it definitely lasted a lot longer than that.
I eventually turned around to walk back to my seat only to find that Dan stood right behind me! For some reason, this seemed natural at the time, but as he wasn’t part of the ‘show’ he really had no business on that stage. He told me later, that he could tell that the other healer needed help up there. That he had never seen so much negative energy escape a person before and so he had run up on stage to help her remove it. Alrighty then.

So, this was my first healing experience. My second healing experience came to me the same night, straight after the first one. The healer in question this time was Dan. It was rather late (10pm) yet he asked me whether I would like to have a session immediately – and so I followed him to his healer room and we had a chat. The next thing I know I’m crying like a baby on his healer table while struggling to say the following words to myself: ‘I love you, Katrine’. I just couldn’t get the words out. I tried and tried, but something was blocked.

Here’s a little background info for you: All through my childhood I was reminded daily that I wasn’t good enough. I was constantly criticized and never completely accepted in my home, which I guess taught me to look for love everywhere else but within (something I have forgiven a long time ago, but these were the facts I was faced with and the challenges I needed to overcome). I was always sad and cried a lot – until I found my freedom outside the house. When I was with friends it all seemed easier. My friends became family. Generally speaking I was a peoples person, and I found myself ‘there’ for pretty much anyone whenever needed. I could easily relate to pain, and I felt love and acceptance when I was helping them. Basically, I lived for everybody but myself. I was a people pleaser and did everything in my power to make my surroundings like me. So, when my rock-star of a first real love left me I felt absolutely worthless. I was 22 years old and hated my own guts. Everything I had been told during my childhood had come true – of course he didn’t want me! I believed I would never ever be happy again and I was literally unable to say those three basic and ever so important words to myself; ‘I love you’.

see your worth

Back to the story: The healing session was over and I found myself on my bike heading home a little past midnight. Copenhagen was silent and I was alone in the darkness. I had spent 2 hours on Dan’s healing table and the only thing I could remember from this session was the fact that I had cried from start to finish and was unable to say ‘I love you, Katrine’.
I could hardly recognise myself in the mirror when I came home. My face was swollen, my eyes were red and puffy – I looked awful. And I didn’t care. I went straight to bed and fell asleep before my head even hit the pillow.

Next day, Thursday, I was a complete zombie. I felt like I was surrounded by fog and that I was moving in slow motion. I went to classes and spoke to people, but when I came home I didn’t remember a thing. My body was heavy, exhausted and completely drained. I have no recollection of what else happened that day, apart from this; I repeated Dan’s ‘I love you’ exercise right before I went to bed. I had promised him to do so every night before I fell asleep and he had promised me that I would be able to complete it one day.

Friday I woke up in a better mood than I had ever in my life experienced before. I was high! I was flying! Huge amounts of weight had been lifted off my shoulders and life was smiling at me. I remember standing on the balcony in the sun, breathing deeply with a huge smile on my face. I was on my way – I would get there one day. I was learning to love myself.
Believe me when I say, that this was the beginning of a true and amazing love story. My own love story. A love story that no one can mess with and a love story I continue to work on every single day.

The thing about life is that the only person you know will always be with you is yourself. Some people find this fact sad, others find it reassuring. Regardless, this means that the one place you should always be able to find love is from within yourself.
We all need love – no matter what we’ve been through. So, if you haven’t done this already, how about starting up your own gorgeous love story right now? Dan’s recipe can be found below, but feel free to create your own or see a healer, a therapist or anyone else who will be able to help you find your way.

The recipe for Dan’s ‘I love you’ exercise (min. 30 minutes required):

  1. Get comfortable. Lie on a bed, a couch, the floor – you decide. What’s important is that you’re on your back and not bothered by any sounds or things around you. Close your eyes. Place your right hand on your belly – solar plexus, to be precise. Place your left hand over your heart. Relax.
  2. Take deep, slow breaths and let your body get heavy. Concentrate on one body part at a time; Relax your toes (one at a time), your heels, your feet, your ankles, your calves, your knees, your thighs, your abdomen, your hips, your belly, your chest, your shoulders, your upper arms, your elbows, your lower arms, your palms, your fingers (one at a time), your neck, your jaw, your lips, your nose, your cheeks, your eyes, your forehead, your ears, your scalp.
  3. Now, imagine that you are standing inside your head. That you are standing right behind your forehead waiting for an elevator to arrive. It’s up to you to decide what you are wearing and what the elevator looks like. What’s important here is that you wait for the elevator – it will get to you eventually.
  4. Once the elevator reaches you, step inside and push ‘down’. Now imagine how this elevator slides down your forehead, your nose, your lips, your chin, your neck, your collarbone, your chest, and eventually stops at your heart.
  5. Once you reach your heart the elevator doors will open and you can step out. Look at your heart; see it beating – so beautiful and full of life. Now, in your own time, say ‘I love you (your name)’. Repeat. Tell yourself again and again, till you feel you have truly understood the message. Hug your heart if you like – nurture it.
  6. When you’re ready, step back into the elevator, let the doors close and push ‘up’. Now feel how you’re journey back to your head takes you via your chest, your collarbone, your neck, your chin, your lips, your nose and eventually stops in your head.
  7. Step out of the elevator and let yourself slowly come back to your senses.

I was instructed to do this exercise right before I fell asleep each night, but if you find there’s a better time during the day for you to do this, go for it.

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What a post-it can do

Ever wondered what a post-it can do for you in your personal life? What it can do for your self development? What miracles this little notepad can spark on a daily basis? Here’s what it did for me:

Quite a few years back I moved to Germany to live with my boyfriend at the time. However, I ended up coming back to Copenhagen with (what I thought was) a broken heart after only 6 days! Oh the horror, the embarrassment. I had just told everyone (including employers and newly established contacts) that I was ‘out’. Coming back was excruciating! Today, though, I smile at it and laugh – because it turns out it was all necessary for me in order to realise I needed to be true to myself. This painful event was the best that could have ever happened to me.

Long story short, I had been in a long distance relationship for 2 years – and a rather dramatic one at that (a bit about what caused the drama is to be found here). We were very wrong for each other, but none of us really wanted to admit it – myself in particular. The balance was as off as it can get. I kept pushing him away, he kept trying to get closer. I wasn’t in love, which I kept denying. My feelings were nowhere near strong enough to settle down. I would try to change everything about him and I ended up not liking myself in the process. I truly didn’t like who I had become during our time together, but I stayed anyway. The fear of being alone got the best of me – especially as everyone else was settling down, getting married and having children. Unfortunately, he had become the symbol of stability, future (although the thought of having children with him made my stomach turn) and safety. I lied to myself daily with anxiety attacks as a direct result. I was constantly grumpy when around him while my mood was fantastic when around my friends. I became so good at lying to myself, that I actually started believing my own lies! I managed to convince myself that I wasn’t that into intimacy and that it wasn’t normal to speak to your partner every day when in separate countries – a phone call once or twice a week should be more than enough.
Just for the record, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the man. He’s lovely (and as far as I know he’s just as happy now as I am)! He just really wasn’t for me, and, I guess, deep down we both knew it.

So, there I was. I had packed up my flat once again and had told everyone that this was it. I was off to Germany! We were going all in. However, I met with one of my closest friends and her sister for brunch the morning of my departure and I cried through most of it. True story. The tears were unstoppable! I kept blaming the country – that I had a hard time picturing myself living in Germany. But the truth was I had a hard time picturing myself living there with him.

I left Copenhagen and a few hours later he picked me up at the train station. We had a fight first thing – a big one. Then we had another one later in the evening. We had a few more the next day and so it continued. We fought from morning to night every single day for 6 days and in the end he cut the rope. He finally put his foot down and we were both free (I have thanked him for this action a million times since in my mind). Of course, it didn’t feel good at the time – on the contrary (I panicked big time!) – but this goodbye, this curtain fall, marked the beginning of something amazing – a new and absolutely gorgeous scene.

Life started over. Once back in Copenhagen I hid for a while as I was so embarrassed about the outcome of what was supposed to be a big love adventure. And then slowly I returned to life, picking up the pieces and looking ahead.

I saw Lis once a week and I spent a lot of time with my friends. I joined a running club and generally got back to my healthy habits. I created a fantastic mind map (if you don’t know what this is, you can read about it here) and used it as my screensaver. Slowly I stopped lying to myself and I started living the life I had dreamed of.

After about a month or two I came home from a night out and I was so genuinely happy. You know, the kind of happy, where you’re all bubbly inside and just know that everything is right. A bit like being in love, but with noone and nothing in particuar to aim it at. Nothing special had happened that night, I was just at complete inner peace and felt fantastic. I was in love with my freedom, I guess. A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I was free to do whatever I wanted going forward. I decided to make some sort of reminder for myself of that feeling – the feeling of complete bliss. So I wrote ‘I LOVE MY LIFE’ on a post-it and stuck it to my mirror. Then I smiled at my reflection and remember thinking ‘looks like we’re on the right track, Kat’ after which I went to bed.

That post-it stayed on my mirror the next 6 months as a daily reminder of how blessed I truly was (and still very much am). It became my promise to myself – my promise that I would never again ignore my own signals. I still have this post-it somewhere, as I brought it with me to London. And the words stay true; I LOVE MY LIFE. I honestly do. I feel blessed that I was redirected at such a crucial time and that I’ve learned to be true to who I am.

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If you find that your are in the middle of a storm right now, keep in mind that every ‘no’ takes you closer to a better ‘yes’. This hurt and frustration you’re going through shall pass and you are currently being re-directed to something better than what was.

So while going through the necessary motions, keep an eye out for the good moments. The times when you smile, laugh and truly enjoy living. When you recognise them (and they do happen, believe me), write down what you’re feeling on a post-it and stick it on your mirror. Do this as a reminder to yourself that a great feeling happened once, so it will most definitely happen again. And, by all means, don’t limit yourself to just one post-it. Fill out the entire mirror! Just make sure there’s a tiny space clear so you can send yourself a wink and a smile from time to time.

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‘No’

When studying to become a teacher, I specifically remember listening to a radio show one morning where the host was interviewing a Danish Family Therapist called Jesper Juul. The subject was ‘the importance of ‘no” when raising children. Jesper Juul claimed that parents today have such limited time with their children that they tend to say ‘yes’ and allow pretty much everything – mainly out of guilt. He claimed that parents are afraid of saying ‘no’, as they fear the child might feel unloved otherwise.
The interview was rather long so I’ll go straight to his point which was that a ‘no’ can be a huge declaration of love – quite often even more so than a ‘yes’. Children need their parents to set limits. A world with no limits is big and scary. Children need structure and they need specific guidelines as this gives them a sense of security. So really, saying ‘no’ can be the best you ever did for them.

As Jesper Juul is a family therapist, his theories and thoughts will obviously mainly deal with family issues. However, I find the point from above rather transferable to all relationships in life.

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Speaking to friends and family I’ve noticed how the fear of saying ‘no’ has become a common tendency. Even more so is the fear of hurting others, which I guess is a very positive thing – not a pretty picture if we all wandered around hoping to hurt one another. What is striking though is, that the fear of rejecting – the fear of saying ‘no’ – is present even when wanting to protect one self and set own limits. But why do we fear this so much? There are so many ways to say no, to set limits and define oneself. Why has setting boundaries become the equivalent to hurting or even violating others?

I recently wrote about meeting Lis (if you missed it, you can catch up here) and how she has showed me a new way of perceiving the world. The fear of hurting others was a subject we spent a rather large amount of time on – not because I’ve ever been that scared of conflict, but because I simply didn’t want to push particularly one person away even though he was driving me insane!

I had this person on the phone almost daily during a long period of time as he was panicking about his relationship in which he seemed to be constantly running his head against the wall. He blamed his parents, his partner, his job, the weather – you name it – for the pain he was going through. It was never his own responsibility and every time I came up with ideas as to how he could confront his partner in order to move forward (i.e. take action), he would somehow avoid doing anything by coming up with a negativity of some sort. I often felt like shaking him! I desperately wanted him to wake up and smell the coffee. He was being run over by his partner to such a degree that it was scary, and not because his partner was a bad person, but because he was so incredibly afraid of defining his own limits. He knew exactly what to do – he even said it out loud – but he was scared of the outcome, so he never did a thing.

With time, I found myself becoming rather honest with him. Frustration got the best of me and once in a while the truth became slightly brutal, resulting in him excusing himself and hanging up. I actually hoped he would tell me to back off, but he never did. He never said ‘enough is enough’ – not to me and not to his partner. He just succumbed to these ‘strong women’ – regardless of what they did to him.
It came to a point where I no longer felt like picking up the phone when he called me. My heart bled for him, I just couldn’t stand being the witness to how he slowly resigned from life. No matter what advice I gave him, he didn’t listen. He just let life be the way it had always been and as a result I backed off.

Looking back, I can now see why the whole thing bothered me so much. For one, I truly wanted him to be happy and seeing him in this state was awful. But what’s even more striking is that he reminded me of my ex boyfriend. Oh yes – the painful truth. My ex and I were so out of balance that I became more and more nasty trying to push him away and he became clingier as a result – it was horrible! Claustrophobia, right there. So why didn’t I just leave? I was scared to. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid letting go of him would mean turning into the strange cat-lady type (let’s be honest – we all fear that scenario). But, as it goes, the lesson kept repeating itself and eventually I was forced to let go. Thankfully.

I spoke to Lis about my struggling friend and how I should cope with it all. Lis asked me what I believed would happen to him if I straight up told him how I perceived the situation. Easy question! (I had pretty much done this already, although he got the ‘light’ version) I knew he would get hurt.  The particularly painful part though was that he wouldn’t fight back – he would just let me do it and maybe not call for a few days till he desperately needed someone to talk to again. Then Lis asked me what actually happened to him when I hurt him. This was more of a difficult one. Erhm… He would get sad? Lis smiled. Calmly she said ‘By confronting him you might hurt him. True. But hurting someone isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You start this person’s self-development as you force him / her to look within and deal with the issues at hand. In the end, not only are you claiming your own limits – which is the most important for you – you are also forcing him to set his own limits. You are doing him a favour. He just can’t see it yet.

As she said those words I had an epiphany. My older sister who didn’t always have a lot of patience when we were growing up, would sometimes be quite honest with me. As in, brutally honest. And I would hate her for it from time to time, but the truth is she has sparked quite a few of my most rewarding self developing adventures this way. Tough love, some would call it. Well, today I’m grateful – because it worked. So maybe Lis had a point?

I’m not saying we should all walk around criticising each other on a daily basis. I’m saying that if someone does something that, in one way or the other, somehow crosses your boundaries or asks you for advice and giving it ends up as a frustrating experience, there is absolutely NO reason not to do something about it. Just make sure you deliver the message in the nicest way possible. Constructive criticism, some would call it. It’s a win-win really. You set your own limits (which basically means you feel you are in control of your own life) and you might end up doing this person a favour – potentially a life altering one.

Is someone doing something that frustrates you? Something that crosses your boundaries? What’s holding you back from being honest? How do you feel about the word ‘no’? Do you fear rejection? Do you fear conflict? Why?

Or has someone been slightly more honest than you would have preferred recently? Did it hurt you? How and why? Is there some truth to it? Remember, that no matter how painful it gets, it triggers your self-development when used wisely. You can choose to hate anyone who confronts you or you can listen to what this person says, take it in and do something about it. Might the situation help you in the long run? Maybe one day you will end up being grateful to this certain someone..

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Life lessons in disguise

During my first session with Lis (not sure who Lis is? Read about her here), she asked me what the meaning of my life was. Just like that. ‘What’s the meaning of your life, Kat – Why are you here?’ What does one answer to a question like that? I remember thinking something along the lines of ‘Let’s be frank, if I could answer that question easily, I’m quite sure all the hard working philosophers of all times would get pretty annoyed.’ However, striving to be the good student in this ‘the school of life’, I obviously gave it a shot; ‘Uhm.. To help others?’
Lis smiled; ‘No. Just like the rest of us, you are here to learn.’ Simple. After several sessions I realised what she was trying to tell me with this:

Have you ever noticed how you’re constantly faced with the same challenges again and again? The setting and the people might change, but the actual challenge is the same?

A typical scenario would be dating the wrong people / being in the wrong relationship: Always chasing? Never being chased? Or slightly claustrophobic due to constant phone calls from this person?
How about work? Constantly in a role where someone is being nasty to you? Or do you find you hate waking up to go there in the first place (and are you feeling like this about your fifth job in a row now)?
Always in conflicts with your friends? Never lose the weight you were hoping to get rid of? Do your kids / partner / friends not respect a ‘no’?

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Especially during my early / mid 20’s I found myself pretty much chasing every date I had. Truth be told I did have a few dates where the guy ended up chasing me (even worse), but most of the time I did the chasing. It wasn’t because I necessarily believed this was the man I would marry – I just wanted the chance to find out whether he could be.

Most of my friends were in steady relationships during these years, moving in with their partners, having children, tying the knot and I was just never part of that scenario. I was always quite a few steps behind; single, confused and often heartbroken. I blamed the men for being ‘bad guys’, my parents for being divorced and thus not being proper role models, my friends for not being supportive – you name it. I played the part of the victim, that’s for sure. Thinking back, I really don’t miss my 20’s (although they were a lot of fun too) – but they were so incredibly necessary. I learnt so many lessons during these years, and this was definitely one of them. You see, I was always, generally speaking, focused on what everyone else was doing. It never occurred to me that I should rather focus on myself.

When dating it was all about the men; How great they were, how interesting, how beautiful, how talented, how mysterious. I would find something that fascinated me and then I would obsess about it! It would consume me completely. And, basically, I would end up scaring them off.
The worst part was that I, at some point down the line, became fully aware of the fact that I was pushing them away, but I just couldn’t control my obsession. I would even start ‘playing the game’ by deliberately not calling them (obviously hoping this would make them call me) – but I would still think of them 24/7. I would plan our future in my mind and imagine what our babies would look like (ok, I might not go that far, but you get the picture). Here’s the deal: Relationships don’t only work physically, they also very much work on a mental level. Energies reveal so much more than one would think. Bad luck 20-something Kat.
The men I was obsessed about were not stupid. I could play any game I wanted – they very well knew that I was still around. It wasn’t till I literally gave up (or met someone new I could obsess about) that they would give me a call or send a text – and at this point I would either not care any longer or the whole nightmare would start over. (I have actually created a theory about this, which I’ll write a post about later on, so stay tuned here on facebook, twitter or instagram.)
Looking back it was the same painful experience again and again. I so obviously had something to learn.

It wasn’t till I started focusing on my own well being that things changed. I started working out, quit smoking, found the right course at university, got a few really interesting internships that took up all my attention, got a job with an employer that was no less than amazing and found a genuine interest in eating healthy. Now, all of this didn’t mean everything magically fell into place over night, but I was on the right track and, most importantly, I put myself first. Finally.

So, if you’re finding that you’re constantly faced with the same challenges, there’s definitely a lesson in there for you somewhere. Search and you will find. Scary boss? Is it time for you to stand up for yourself? Maybe your job description isn’t right for you? Would you be better off having more responsibility? Constantly chasing others? Maybe it’s time you put all that attention on yourself instead? Not losing the weight you need to lose? Are you truly doing everything you can?

In the end, most of these scenarios are triggered if you don’t have enough self-love (there’s a reason why clichés become clichés). Maybe you were never taught how to love yourself. Maybe your role models weren’t the best they could have been in your eyes. Maybe your thoughts are mainly negative (in which case read this). Regardless of the excuse you come up with for this one, the good news is that your life is yours. The future is now. Don’t get hung up on the past. Take what you can from it and change it so you can live the life you want to live. Maybe try this exercise for starters? You are the only one responsible from here on – so take this responsibility seriously and do something about it.

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The painful truth

You know that feeling of complete annoyment when your superior is bossing you around? Or when you get annoyed because it’s as if your partner has lost his / her spark – life has become booooring? Or when you feel like the girl from class is being such a bimbo (while trying to get the cute guy’s attention)? Or how you can sometimes hardly stand the fact that you are related to a specific person? How your father / brother / sister / mother says these awkward things in public? How they draw too much embarrassing attention? Why can’t everyone just be a bit more like you, right? Here’s the deal. Here’s the painful truth; They are. They are exactly like you.

All these actions / people represent a side of you that you are not at peace with. Let’s take the example with your superior. Any chance you could be slightly jealous of this person? Deep down inside, do you wish you were the boss? Or, could it be that you, yourself, are bossing someone else around and being rather unpleasant?
And moving on to the example with your partner having lost his / her spark. Before you start pointing fingers and telling your loved one how incredibly dull life has become in his / her presence, have a look within. How’s your own spark doing? Do you wake up every morning excited about the day ahead? Do you enjoy what you do for a living? Have you got a great hobby and fantastic friends that you socialise with? Making you happy and sparking your spark is not your partner’s responsibility – it’s yours. So next time your partner annoys you ask yourself whether you are annoyed with your partner or with yourself?
And what about the girl from class getting all the attention? Slightly jealous, are we? Why not go for some attention of your own? Or is the issue rather that you act exactly like her (maybe even worse) when in a similar situation?
Last, but not least, the awkward relative; Is this person in reality saying or doing what you would have said or done? Do you, in all honesty, resemble this person? Or could it be that you used to resemble this person (you probably still do – just saying..) and have been told to stop doing so by a partner, a different relative or a friend, which is why you can’t stand when these ‘forbidden’ actions happen?

We are all born whole in every way. Look at babies! They are perfect and flawless. They never get embarrassed. They do exactly as they feel like doing exactly when they feel like doing it. Then they grow older and in come the surroundings to teach them what is right and wrong. Society, friends, family – they all have a say in how this little person turns out.
So what were your surroundings like? It is inevitable that you at some point have been told to stop doing something in a particular way or that you have been told you should always behave in a certain manner. The right manner. Obviously.
Keep in mind when digging up the past that these people who have had a say in how you turned out have (hopefully) all done what they did the best way they knew how. And no matter how well they did, nobody is ever perfect! They did as they believed was right and acted the best way they were capable of, so this isn’t about starting ‘the blame game’. The past is brilliant, as it can help us understand the present. But then that’s that. Once you’ve discovered what you need to discover, leave the past in the past and focus on today.

The-secret-of-change-is-to-focus-all-of-your-energySo, what can you learn from your past? What have you been told to stop doing? What have you been taught was right and wrong? And do you, as an adult, agree?

Right now, this very minute, you decide. You set your own limits and your own rules. So if there’s something you’re not happy with, have a look within and try to figure out what it is. Once you know what sparks your annoyment, accept that this is a part of you and make a conscious effort to either do something about it or remove yourself from the situation. But never blame the person who sparked the feeling in the first place. You are an adult – how you behave and what you feel and think is all your own responsibility. It’s true that you can not (always) control what happens to you – but you can definitely control how you react to it.

Your surroundings are reflections of you. Accept them as they are, use them as a mirror and concentrate on yourself and your own development. Once you do this, you will find that the truth doesn’t have to be quite as painful after all.

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