Tag Archives: Smile

Life’s little miracles

A few days ago one of life’s little miracles turned up after a 9 month wait:

lifes-little-miracles

As a result this blog will be on a short break after which I’ll be back, but for a little period of time the posts will probably be fewer and further between.

Stay up to date on blog activity and the occasional inspirational meme via facebook, instagram, twitter and pinterest.

Life’s little miracles come in many shapes and sizes. I realise that this one of mine is one of the more obvious ones. However, sometimes life’s miracles come in disguise, so keep your eye out for them; Chances are, you have more of them around than you are aware of.

Enjoy your summer – I know I will enjoy mine!

Gem

3 reasons why you should ask for a doggy bag

Bringing up the subject of a doggy bag on this blog can seem odd, but believe me when I say that a doggy bag can contribute to so much happiness, gratitude and – who would have thought – it can even enhance your mental health! Read on, my friend..

Recently my boyfriend and I were out with friends for what ended up as a very late dinner at a fantastic pizza place in central London. It was one of those evenings where everyone laughs a lot and you leave uplifted and slightly high on life (in addition to being so full that you feel somewhat sick).
This particular pizza place serves massive pizzas. Seriously huge! So even though especially the guys hardly ever say no to an extra slice, we still had a few rather large slices left over. Now, we could have just left the pizza there, as so many people unfortunately choose to do these days, however, we decided to ask for a doggy bag.

For a while now I’ve been working on an online project that will hopefully contribute to less food waste in the world once it goes live (did you know that roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – gets lost or wasted*? In the UK almost 50% of food waste comes from households. 7 million tonnes of food and beverages are wasted this way even though roughly half of it could have been eaten**!), so I generally have a hard time leaving food behind in restaurants where I know the employees (in most cases) have specific orders to throw it away.

Long story short, we brought the wrapped up pizza with us and, on our way home, gave it to a homeless man who was more than thrilled and incredibly grateful to get a warm meal. Think about this for a second. If we had left the pizza in the restaurant it would have gone straight to the trash and this man might not have had anything to eat that night. In other words, what you might perceive as trash could, quite literally, be another man’s treasure.

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Now, why am I telling you this? Why is asking for a doggy bag so important? Three reasons:

  1. Obviously, as you can tell from the above, eliminating food waste is a subject that’s very close to my heart and as it’s also a worldwide issue I urge you to always think twice before you throw food away. Keep an eye on expiration dates at home so you manage to eat what you’ve bought before it goes bad (you’ll save money this way too). If the food has passed the expiration date, make sure the food has actually gone bad before getting rid of it – quite often you’ll find it is still perfectly fine. If you’re going away for a few weeks and food won’t keep, give it to your neighbours, your friends or someone less fortunate. Last, but not least, if you’re having dinner out, ask for a doggy bag if there’s any food left over. For some reason a lot of people have a hard time doing this. Maybe it makes them feel cheap? If you are one of these people, please put those silly thoughts aside..  It’s ok to ask for a doggy bag. You paid for the food after all.
  2. When you ask for a doggy bag you have two options;
    a) You can decide to bring the food home and eat it the following day. This way you won’t need to cook and you have saved the money you would have otherwise spent buying groceries.
    b) Or you can decide to give the food to someone less fortunate and hereby do some good. Think about it. With this very simple gesture, you are contributing to someone else’s well being and brightening this person’s day at the same time.
  3. If you go for option b, there’s a part of the equation that works out really well for yourself; Research shows that acts of kindness towards friends and strangers alike lower your stress levels and contribute to your enhanced mental health! (Read more about this here) What’s not to love?!

doggy-bag

What you choose to do with your food is obviously your business. This is me urging you to think twice. And, for goodness sake, don’t be afraid of asking for that doggy bag. Do it with pride! So many restaurants throw away crazy amounts of food daily. Don’t let perfectly good food go to waste. Bring it home instead and enjoy it tomorrow or, better yet, be the reason someone smiles today <3

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* 2015, United Nations Environment Programme – www.unep.org
** 2015, Love Food Hate Waste, www.lovefoodhatewaste.com

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!

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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.

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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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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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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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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:

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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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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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