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10 Lessons learned from a 3 year old

I have a beautiful god-daughter who I think is one of the smartest, sweetest, most beautiful kids on the planet.  After minding her I have a further appreciation of sleep and for all parents out there. Kids are wonderful teachers as they can see a world filled with joy and opportunities. I think we could all benefit from having such beliefs.

Below are some things I have learned from her and other children, they are all adding light to an often dark and cynical world.

  1. The world is an amazing place. With fresh eyes we can appreciate so much more around us. Helicopters and airplanes are a marvel. Our imagination is an incredible tool that we rarely use for good. Every morning is a gift and we should all wake up as excited as a child because it means a new day full of possibility.
  2. We rarely check our needs, also known as the: ‘Do you need to wee?’ principle. Kids can get so wrapped up in playing, laughing or watching cartoons that accidents can happen. As you spend your day rushing around do you ever stop and notice your needs or how you’re feeling?  Take a second and close your eyes. Take a slow deep breath through your nose, down into you belly, then slowly exhale through your mouth. Do that a few times then ask yourself: How am I feeling? What do I need? Take note and follow through if you can.
  3. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. This kid only had a few mouthfuls of ice cream then stopped. I repeat, ice cream. Her body told her she was full so she stopped eating. We can get very detached from ourselves, our bodies and what they need. You can change that by trying to eat mindfully (pause between bites and appreciate flavours) then wait at least 10-20 minutes before getting a second helping.
  4. Sometimes a hug and a kiss can make it all better. Life can be difficult at any age. Even more so when we feel alone. A hug won’t make your problems disappear but it can make them feel more manageable. Feeling connected to someone else makes the hard times easier to bear and makes us feel safe. The small child in all of us needs to feel like it will all be okay.
  5. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. From a young age being independent makes us feel strong, capable and in control. But there are times when we can’t do it alone. Try to quiet the judge in your mind, you aren’t weak for needing/wanting help, you’re human.
  6. Bubbles are amazing. No need to elaborate.
  7. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. We want to instil in children that there is nothing wrong with getting it wrong; you will learn and grow. As we get older we forget about that. So many strive for ‘perfection’ feeling that every mis-step is a failure, that we are failures. That simply is not the case. Mistakes are an opportunity for growth. Grieve if you need to, show yourself some compassion then move forward with new knowledge.
  8. Make time to rest when you’re exhausted. Give yourself permission to slow down. Sometimes we all need a nap.
  9. Sharing can be difficult. When we’re young we are taught how important it is to share. As adults with jobs and families we have to once again learn that lesson. Sharing our space and time isn’t easy and we can sometimes feel as though we are stretched too thin. That’s when we refer back to #5 and #8, share with someone your vulnerability and your need for naps.
  10. Love and be loved. Of all the lessons we will ever learn this is of the utmost importance. I believe this is the reason we are here, to learn how to love and how to be loved. Children epitomise this as they love without condition and judgement. They do not question why others love them, they just know it to be true. I think they’re onto something.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” -Lao Tzu

“Is that normal?”

This is one question that as a therapist I get asked time and time again. Are those thoughts, feelings or behaviours ‘normal’? It ties into the fear that we are not the same as everyone else. The comparisons we can make to friends, family or even strangers can be incredibly damaging as they can make us feel like outsiders.

What is normal?

Personally, like perfection, I do not believe ‘normal’ really exists. Normality is based on cultural, social and personal constructs. Depending on what country you are from, the town you grew up in and family you were raised, normal can look very different. Instead of asking yourself is something normal or not, ask instead, ‘Is this helping me or hurting me?

  • Do you feel the need to drink alcohol when you’re feeling sad? (help or hurt)
  • Do you internalise your anger until you want to explode? (help or hurt)
  • Are you scared of happiness in your life because you are waiting for the other shoe to drop? (help or hurt)

We often go through life one way, not knowing things could be different. It’s okay to feel sad and want to cry. When you are angry you are permitted to express it as long as you aren’t hurting someone else. Feeling happy doesn’t mean fear is waiting around the corner to take it all away.1235048_10151844828924190_420843887_n

Instead of beating yourself up because your thoughts are weird or your dreams seem unrealistic, embrace it! The truth is, we’re all a little weird, which makes weird ‘normal’. We can all have those bizarre imaginings that makes us shake our heads. But isn’t that amazing? As far as we know, we are the only beings on the planet who can create these worlds in our mind.

The only time you should feel concerned is if these imaginings are bringing you down. If you are always worried about how you are stacking up how can you enjoy the weirdness that is you? Today allow your mind to daydream and go easy on yourself. Life can be such a challenge, you don’t need that voice in your head to add to the struggle.

“There is no such thing as a weird human being, It’s just that some people require more understanding than others.”  – Tom Robbins

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Past and Future

Life is fast. It seems even faster when we aren’t being present to the now. Many things keep us away from the present moment, however I believe that it’s negative emotions that pull us the hardest.

What do I mean when I say ‘negative emotions’? These are the parts of the human experience that can be the most difficult to work through. Anger, sadness, jealousy, worry, guilt and being judgemental are not enjoyable feelings. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling them, problems arise when we get stuck in feeling them. Which makes it difficult to let go and find brightness in our world.

I believe guilt (wishing we had or had not done something) and anger (wishing that someone else had or had not done something) keep us in the past. While anxiety transports us to a future that may or may not exist. Focusing all that energy on those moments means that what is happening right now is being missed.

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Being present is no easy feat. So where to start?

  •  Awareness – start noticing your thoughts. Once you take up the role of a non-judgemental observer you can learn a lot.
  • Options – once you have the awareness you have options. The next time a negative thought pops into your head you have a choice to make. You can follow it to the past or future, or instead say ‘no thanks’ and stay in the now.
  • Develop – you can start to train your brain to ignore the fear or not to feel overwhelmed by it. These thoughts aren’t necessarily facts and in this present moment, there is nothing to fear.

As the Summer arrives it’s the perfect excuse to sit outside and focus on your breath. Imagine you are on a sun holiday. Most people find it much easier to relax on holidays because they feel like they’ve left the stress of life behind. That’s partly true but in reality the stressors haven’t changed, your perspective has. Starting today try to change your perspective, attempt not to focus on things that have already happened or have yet to happen. Instead learn how you can let go and be present. Maybe grieve, put the past behind you and start fresh. Live your life as if you are on an eternal holiday. Be grateful for each passing second, because unlike many you are here to be a part of it.

“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.” – Ivan Turgenev

Interested in starting psychotherapy?

As a therapist I have the incredible honour of being able to get a glimpse into the lives of others. Usually during the first session clients are nervous, unsure of what to expect. Over time as they open up we are able to build trust and establish a relationship. At its core, this is what therapy is all about. Having a non-judgemental, empathetic listener is incredibly healing.

I often get asked about therapy and counselling wondering about the process. I thought it may be helpful to explain some things. If after reading this you have any additional questions feel free to leave comment or message me.

What’s the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?  The main difference is length of time. Often people start counselling because they have recently been bereaved, they are depressed, feeling anxious or have one issue they want to work through. Psychotherapy is more long term, perhaps after you have started working through one thing you realise there are more aspects of your life you want to understand.

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How long are sessions and how much does it cost? Sessions are usually 50 minutes and here in Ireland if you want to go private, on average a session will cost €60. However, there are many centres that offer low cost services or individuals like myself that offer a sliding scale.

Do I have to talk about my past? I believe to understand the present we need to understand the past. However, you don’t have to share anything that you are not comfortable with. The entirety of your life and past hurts has lead to the perception you have of the world. In some cases that perception is negative or unfairly judgemental of ourself and others. Therapy and objectively examining our past can help demonstrate when patterns began and allow you to have compassion for your struggles.

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What will be different? You. What is so interesting about therapy is that as time goes on you will start to feel different in yourself. Hopefully the end result is that you will feel more grounded, confident and secure in who you are. You may also notice a difference in your reactions and interactions with friends and family. As you feel better in yourself you have less of a reason to lash out which can benefit everyone.

Should I start therapy? I believe everyone could benefit from having a good listener in their lives. If you feel like there are aspects of your life that you want to change counselling or therapy could be great for you. We can get into patterns that are no longer benefitting us, sometimes we need support to change.

I have seen the amazing transformations that can happen thanks to psychotherapy. You can be happy in your life, you just have to decide you want things to be different and start making that happen.

“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” – Shannon L. Alder

The Stories We Tell…

For each and every person on the planet the only reality we know is the one shaped by our own mind. Throughout our lives that reality may have become skewed because of the words and/or actions of others. Perhaps your parents were cold, you never felt heard, or you were abused by someone you loved. All of those things can lead you to believe that you aren’t good enough; or that you aren’t deserving of love.

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When the truth is, you do deserve love. You deserve to wake up every morning feeling okay in the person you are. Many people don’t feel that way. That friend of yours who you love so dearly, most likely spends a majority of the day putting themselves down. Saying they are stupid, ugly or a host of other awful things and believing it’s true. How would you feel if you heard someone you love speak like that to themselves? Why is it okay to speak to yourself in that way?

 Often times the words that hurt us the most are the ones we always believed about ourselves but hoped no one else could see. That’s why one remark can cut us down and ruin our day. Those are the things we can believe so easily. What if at your core, your personal truth was that you are deserving of love and happiness? Because you are, everyone is, you just need to believe it.

Start to notice the way you speak to yourself, without judgement. Be aware and decide if you want to continue to do that to yourself. Choose to believe in the good you have within you.

“Happiness is always there. You just have to choose to see it. There’s no point dwelling in the dark and ignoring the light of the stars.” – Carrie Hope Fletcher

Cute Positivity

If you have had a stressful week or month you deserve to feel some warm and fuzzies. A wonderful artist named Emm Roy has created positive doodles to help you get through those difficult days.

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If you’re feeling down, try to let in some light. The world would be a better place if we all believed we were deserving of the good things.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton

Shop For Good

Console is the National Suicide Charity, founded by Paul Kelly following the suicide of his young sister in 2002. It provides professional counselling, support and helpline services (1800 247 247) to those in suicidal crisis and to those bereaved through suicide in Ireland and the UK. They seek to respond to the spiritual, emotional and psychological needs of their clients. Their mission is to provide professional therapeutic counselling, support and helpline services to people in suicidal crisis and to those bereaved through suicide with respect, dignity and compassion.

They are always working to give back to anyone who comes to them for support. Now is the chance for the rest of to give back to them. They are looking for volunteers for their wonderful campaign called ‘Shop For Good’. This is a unique fundraising initiative to raise much needed funds and awareness for Console, where every cent goes directly to the charity.

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It runs at the Dundrum Town Centre on April 24th-26th.  The concept is simple, buy a coupon from the Dundrum coupon kiosks for just €1.00. With each coupon you receive massive discounts in more than 100 shops and restaurants throughout the centre.  Multiple coupons will entitle the customer to multiple discounts so the more coupons you buy, the more you save and the more money will be raised for Console. Last year almost €40,000 was raised but they are hoping to double that figure this year.

Want to know how you can help? Console NEEDS volunteers! If you could give a minimum of three house in times listed below please contact Gerard Tiernan on 083 1265373 or email gerard@console.ie.

Friday, April 24th                         Saturday, April 25th                      Sunday, April 26th

9am – 12pm                                 9am – 11am                                     10am – 1pm
12pm – 3pm                                11am – 2pm                                      1pm – 4pm
3pm – 6pm                                   2pm – 5pm                                       4pm – 7pm
6pm – 9pm                                   5pm – 7pm

If you don’t want to volunteer then make sure to head to Dundrum over the weekend of April 24th – 26th and shop for good!

“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.