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SPRING HAS SPRUNG!

I like to acknowledge the change in the seasons, and to remind myself, and you, that we are part of the natural order, and also shift as the seasons do.

Spring is a time of renewal and growth. We see the plants begin to refresh themselves: the trees with fresh leaves and buds; the bulbs offering their bright colours; the perennials beginning to show new shoots. We notice the lighter mornings and evenings as the daylight time lengthens. Everything starts to come to life.

And in us, springtime is a time for renewal and growth as well. My mother always used to spring-clean our home. She would open windows, clear out cupboards, wipe down paintwork, and generally refresh the place. I may not be as thorough or as prompt as her, but I do get the significance of having a good clear-out, clean-up and airing. It makes our environment feel better and is part of the inner drive to match the season.

As well as the external aspect of refreshing, we usually have a resurgence of energy – our sap is rising, just as it is in the trees – and it’s a good time to look at what we want to do in the rest of the year: what we will experiment with; what we want to achieve; how we want to be.

We can prompt this in ourselves by just asking those questions, and taking a few steps towards the things that we think of, even if it’s only planning when we will do something about it.

Don’t just dissipate that energy, use it to begin to introduce a new useful habit, or to clear something that’s been hanging over you, or just to go for a walk and allow creative ideas to come to you.

It is in our nature to feel the urge for renewal and growth at this time of year, so let’s use our natural bent to make our lives even easer and more enjoyable. Spring is springing in you as well!

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WHAT IF…

A little while ago I wrote a blog about ‘if only’ – that not so useful way of replaying the past. This time I’m looking at its equivalent about the future: ‘What if..’.

There’s one thing for sure about the future: it’s mostly unpredictable. We don’t know in advance what will work out and what won’t. We don’t know what might happen to help or hinder our plans. We don’t have control over the future.

Yet we spend a lot of energy trying to cater for possible problems, where we have some concern over the way it might go. This can be at the micro-level: ‘What if I miss the train tomorrow?’, or at the macro-level: ‘What if I get ill and can’t earn my living?’

Once we switch on the ‘what if’ button, we can take ourselves very easily into a place where everything could be a problem, because our thinking has that flavour attached to it – we get the ‘what if’ syndrome, where we run scenario after scenario of things going wrong.

And that is the issue with ‘what if’. It sends us into a lot of ‘rehearsals’ in our minds of things going wrong. We imagine what could happen, we feel the emotions attached to that, and we get ourselves in a right old state! It uses a lot of energy, and sets us up perfectly to be anxious when we reach the part of the future that we’ve done this not very useful rehearsal for!

And have you noticed how many of our ‘what if’s’ don’t come to pass? So all that energy we used was completely wasted.

If we spent that energy on rehearsing in our mind how we make it more likely that it works out OK, that would be far more useful. ‘I’ll catch the train I want to, and to make that easy, I’ll go to the station early, and buy my ticket in advance’. This is a useful rehearsal, and prompts us into preparing properly.

Now I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have a back-up plan. It can be useful to have an alternative approach up your sleeve. So we can come up with an alternative by saying to ourselves: ‘And if that doesn’t work out, what I’ll do is..’ This prompts us into rehearsing a back-up plan in case we need it.

We can neither control nor predict what exactly will happen in the future, but we can make it easier for ourselves to handle it, whatever it is, by sticking to useful rehearsals in our minds.

Life works, most of the time, so don’t stick a spanner in the works by ‘what if-ing’ yourself!

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DISTRACTION CAN BE USEFUL

We tend to talk about being distracted as if it’s a bad thing, and sometimes it is – but not always. Distraction means to be pulled away from something.

Now if the something is a task you need to finish, or paying attention to something important, then it is not useful. We lose focus when we’re distracted, and it means that we are less effective.

However, most of us benefit from distraction when what we’re being pulled away from is what’s going on in our heads! You know what I mean: those spirals we can get into where we play anxieties and annoyances over and over and make them so much worse.

When we realise we’re beginning to do that, it’s time to roll out a distraction that switches our mind to another channel, and gives us a chance to regain perspective. And obviously, if we want to change channels in our mind, the distraction needs to be some form of mental occupation, something we are sure to pay attention to.

It helps to have a repertoire of such distractions, so you have choices ready, depending on the circumstances. There are the ones you can only do if you pay attention to them, like Sudoku or jigsaws; there are the ones that gradually draw you in, like gardening or watching something that makes you laugh; and there are the ones that give your mind a different rhythm to follow, like counting your breath or how many steps you take as you walk – by the way, counting is a really simple way of distracting your mind: children learn to do it as a natural way of occupying their thoughts. All of these take over your conscious mind and give it a chance to settle down again.

Physical movement helps too – if we move our bodies we move our minds.. To increase the speed at which physical movement sorts us out, it helps to deliberately focus on what we can see or hear externally while we move, or again, to count repetitions: steps, cars passing.

So just have a ponder on what works for you as a distraction, what ‘takes your mind off things’. And next time you find yourself stuck in one of those mind ruts, go instead to a useful distraction!

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