Category Archives: Personal development

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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