It has been so lovely to be back at work again this week and see so many of you back in the therapy room.
It will be a busy few weeks, and it won't be long before I'm dreaming of my next holiday.
Yes, I know I've only been back for 3 days!
I love to travel, and one of my birthday gifts was a map which I've framed and added pins to all the beautiful places my husband and I have been to - and there's plenty of places left to explore on our wish list.
We still have a long way to go before things feel like normal. Much of our lives are still restricted, including foreign travel. However, let's pretend the world is our oyster and talk about embracing cultures from around the world that could provide a solution to our emotional fulfilment or our health and wellbeing needs.
Seeking out the world's hottest well-being secrets gives me hopes and dreams of heading off to distant shores. From living in the slow lane to finding forgiveness, there's plenty to learn from globetrotting around some of the healthiest and happiest nations. Even if only in our minds.
Bulgaria's feel-good secret: Slow living
Famous for its golden beaches and untouched landscapes, Bulgaria is a place of natural beauty. It also has a dedicated culture of slow living. Ayliak (meaning slowness) is deeply ingrained in the country's culture and empowers its native people to live calmly and free from worry, something many of us would benefit from at the minute.
The promise of slowness is based on mindfulness. And many Bulgarian's incorporate this into their daily routine, choosing to focus on the positives and live in the moment.
Try it for yourself: place coloured stickers or post-it notes around your living space - the bathroom mirror, your desk, the fridge door etc., as a reminder to stop and take a few breaths. When you breathe slowly and mindfully, your exhale becomes longer than your inhale, slowing your heart rate and bringing calmness to your body and mind.
Our brains are hardwired to worry and ruminate. Hence, bringing us into the here and now by disrupting the constant thoughts is beneficial for our minds and bodies.
Sweden's feel-good secret: contentment
If the recent pandemic has taught us one thing, it's to be grateful for the things we do have. In Sweden, this philosophy is called Lagom (meaning 'not too much, not too little'). Countless studies have shown the mental health benefits in all areas of our lives from embracing the concept of gratitude.
For the Swede's it's also about enjoying life's experiences. Lagom decreases social comparison, which can lower our self-esteem.
Try it for yourself: As with all things lagom, spreading a little happiness doesn't need grand gestures. Sometimes the most ordinary acts add the most meaning and inspire the greatest smiles of all.
And often catching people off-guard with an unexpected act of kindness can be the most touching gesture of all.
Here are a few simple ideas:
Leave a kind note in a library book for the next reader.
Let someone cut in front of you in the line.
Donate flowers to a nursing home.
Write a positive review for local business.
Make a double batch of the cookies you're baking and take some next door.
Scotland's feel-good secret: being cosy
Closer for most of us, the dramatic landscape of the Scottish highlands will take your breath away. However, most of us would agree that Scotland is not famous for its warmer climate - even during the summer months, it can get a little chilly up there.
That doesn't stop the Scot's from getting their daily nature fix. Their outdoor living includes activities like wild swimming and hiking up rugged mountains. However, back in the comfort of their homes, the Scot's make it a cosy haven.
Whether that's creating a heart-warming homemade meal or lighting a roaring fire to cosy up next to, they love feeling cosy in their surroundings.
Try it for yourself: go outside and listen to the sounds of nature. Feel the wind on your face. And if the mood takes you, feel the texture of a tree, the grass, or a rock. Allow your senses to gently bring awareness to the sights, smells, and sounds that surround you. Then back at home, nurture yourself with a warming drink.
Hawaii's feel-good secret: forgiveness
As well as being a beautiful place to visit, the ancient indigenous people of Hawaii can teach us about forgiving ourselves and others. Ho'oponopono (which translates as 'to make right') promotes the idea that when you forgive yourself, you can forgive others too. Holding a grudge is bad news for the body, mind and soul. As you hold onto negative feelings, it floods your brain with stress chemicals, which over time, puts stress on the body and creates a heap of anxious thoughts and feelings.
To heal feelings like pain, anger or shame that hurt us deeply, we first need to feel safe. We need to 'feel it to heal it .' The time needs to be right; we can't heal before we are ready.
Try it for yourself: You believe that feelings are 'good' or 'bad' which isn't the case. Feelings are a part of living, and it's ok to feel angry. Just don't stay angry.
The first step is to acknowledge your feelings. Write them down in your journal, sit with them in quiet meditation, and then reflect on them. Get curious and see where they are coming from.
Finland's feel-good secret: self-care
It's been just over a year since people started working from home due to the pandemic (some of us already did!), and while this certainly has its perks - no traffic jams, for instance - it comes with some drawbacks too. It's harder to find the line between work and play, making a work-life balance much harder to create, and that walk after being hunched over the kitchen table seems more like a chore than it should be.
Finnish people have a tradition called kakkukahvt (meaning 'have a treat'), and it is all about not letting the pressure of life get to you. Finnish people believe in stopping for a coffee break and a slice of cake when things get tough. Think of it as self-care with a sweet twist.
Try it for yourself: if you love this idea (who doesn't love an excuse to eat cake?), then make a 'joy' list. Include all the things you have enjoyed during your day, like reading something inspirational, listening to your favourite song, or having a coffee and cake break.
Once you realise that you're enjoying yourself, the good feelings will rewire your brain with positive emotions. Then if you find you're having an off day, look at your list and choose something that will bring you joy, and do it.
The key to being happy is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go - Dodinsky.