The other day, a friend I haven’t spoken to for a while was on my mind when I woke up, so later in the day, I gave him a call. He burst out laughing when he heard my voice and said: ‘I was thinking about you this morning, and was going to call you this evening.’

I find that my life has lots of examples like this of so-called coincidence. We think nowadays that it is purely by chance when there is a coincidence, that it has no particular meaning. Yet the word, in its etymology, was originally used in astrology and means that the planets or stars are in alignment. This was seen as a good omen; it was the right time for something special to happen.

I choose to believe pretty much the same thing: that there is a good reason for a coincidence happening, and it is up to me to follow it through. Whether it be bumping into someone in town that you haven’t seen for years, or wondering if you should visit somewhere, switching on the tv and seeing a documentary about that place, I assume that there is something here for me to follow through.

I can’t prove that this isn’t just a coincidence, but I can enjoy following the thread, and it has led to many lovely things in my life.

We may dismiss things like astrology because we don’t believe it’s factual and want to make our lives follow a logical course. By doing so, we miss out on some of the magic and wonder that being alive can bring. What a shame!

Maybe one day our scientists will prove that coincidences aren’t an accident, but a message to help us on our way. Meantime I will continue to delight in the stars aligning to introduce something different into my life, should I choose to take notice of it.


Everyone deserves a special place. I am lucky, I have three: being on Maui; my garden; and my comfy chair in my living room. Having been on Maui recently, I was reminded of how important it is to be somewhere that feeds your soul, makes it easier to find calm, feel at home, relax.

When we go to Maui, the effect of the place is a major part of the purpose in visiting, and I sometimes forget that I have that same possibility at home as well.

What do I mean by a special place? Somewhere where you automatically relax and feel safe. Somewhere that helps you to find your centre, find some perspective, forget worries and troubles and busyness for a while. A place to recover yourself.

It is a place that has good associations for you, reminding you of happy times in your life, with a sense of familiarity and comfort. Does this sound grandiose, out of reach much of the time? It needn’t. We can create such a space quite simply.

It can be a corner of our garden where we can see favourite plants, be sheltered by a tree. It can be space in our living room where we can sit and look at things that remind us of good times -photos, books, objects we love – rather than staring at the tv. It can be a particular bench in a local park that has an air of quiet about it, no matter what’s going on.

By choosing to make it our special place, we begin to create the atmosphere of repose around it and this will grow eery time we use it for that purpose.

You may, like me, have a place you visit for holidays that is special to you. But we all deserve a special place in our everyday as well, where we can take a break and recuperate.


We are taught in our society that doing nothing is a waste of time. And most of us find it hard to just do nothing in a literal sense – we consider it lazy. So we keep busy doing things to give ourselves a sense of achievement in our days.

Yet doing nothing some of the time is essential for our well-being. Doing is focussed outwards. We are working on something with some goal in mind, however trivial that task may be. It pulls us away from ourselves and takes up all our space.

Doing nothing allows us to just be. It lets things come to us, rather than us going out. We can notice sensations, the air on our skin, the beauty around us. It enables our minds to wander, or even sometimes be quiet. It is a place of recuperation, our opportunity to stop trying and pushing.

Doing nothing doesn’t have to be taken literally. We don’t have to sit still and try to do nothing – that tends to make our minds even busier!

It is really about shifting our focus from what we are doing, whether that’s walking or sitting or reading, or even simple tasks. Instead, you allow yourself to be, however you are, and relax into a place where the world comes to you, rather than you going to the world. When you change your focus, you gain energy rather than using it – you take in, instead of giving out.

Doing nothing is a respite from our normal busyness, and we need it for our health. We were not designed to keep going like a machine – we have ebbs and flows, just like the tide.

Never feel guilty about taking some doing nothing time. It is a wise way to spend part of your day.


It’s easy to go outside when we are on holiday. No-one goes somewhere lovely for a break and then stays inside, do they? I’ve been on Maui for a couple of weeks and have spent most of my waking hours outside.

It’s made me realise how important that breath of fresh air, that time in nature is. Being in nature, even in our own garden or a park, is automatically revitalising. And just being outside in the world helps us to regain perspective, taker a few deep breaths.

I don’t mean a quick walk to the local shop with our phone in hand, thinking about what we need to buy, what we have to do. I mean the saunter to the shop, round the block, or even round the garden, when you notice the flowers, shrubs, bird call, clouds in the sky.

It doesn’t need to be a major expedition – just fifteen minutes will help – which is just as well if you live somewhere like England, with our unpredictable weather!

It’s so easy to get caught in a routine of going from home to car to workplace and back again, without really going outside. And in winter it’s tempting to stay in the warm rather than venturing outside.

But I came back from Maui determined to ensure that I do take that step outside, even on the worst of days. It’s too good for my spirits for me to deprive myself of it. Try it and see, if you don’t already.


Our minds are designed to learn. In the first place, they are like empty cupboards with lots of space to store things in and they absorb everything. So as small children, we find it easy to place things: language, behaviour, experience.

Along the way we collect lots of useful stuff that comes to have its own place in our mind, and that we can find without any effort. We don’t have to think about how to talk to others, how to act and react in common situations, how to deal with most things that crop up in our everyday life. It all becomes habitual.

Unfortunately, we also collect stuff that’s less than useful, those habits that don’t serve us well. It is relatively easy to identify these as we get older, such things as: procrastinating and thereby putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure; making others wrong to give ourselves an excuse; ignoring problems until they’ve grown like Topsy; under- or over-eating – there are so many not useful habits we can develop!

This is not because we are stupid or careless or bad. When we are young, we aren’t able to discriminate between the useful and less useful stuff. We collect it all and find a place to store it in our mind. And that’s why it’s hard to unlearn. We have to consciously clear out that space of not useful habit and fill it with a more useful one instead.

How do we do that? A bit at a time. We can’t just decide to empty that shelf, because it will refill automatically with the same type of stuff if we leave it empty. We have to begin to replace it with something more useful, until that space is so full of the new habit that it relabels itself and goes on to automatic.

So if you want to change a less than useful habit, you start by deciding on what would work better for you. Then you identify where or when you could easily use the new behaviour or approach instead.

When you come to that identified place where it would be easy to change the habit, take a breath before you launch in, to remind yourself that you want to do something different.

Once you have become used to using the new way in those circumstances, you can extend it to more situations. Gradually it becomes your default behaviour and the shelf gets relabelled.

It’s hard to unlearn, but it’s well worth it. Every small step towards a more useful habit is a step towards an easier and more enjoyable life.


I read an article recently about a man who gives talks on imagining a bright future, for us and for the world. It was inspiring and made me reflect on the power of our imagination.

Imagination is a gift we all have. From being very young, we create stories in our minds: fairies living at the bottom of our garden; a whole world made of lego; our future lives as an astronaut or an explorer.

Then we are taught to ‘face reality’ and deal with the day-to-day, and we become infected by the often depressing or distressing stories we are fed by the media.

In ancient times, people would sit around the fire in the evening and tell stories about heroes and grand adventures. It was a way of inspiring them to live their lives to the full.

Nowadays we watch the news, documentaries, dramas, about crimes – it doesn’t feed our positive imaginations and depresses our belief in possibilities. Yet our imagination is still there, ready to be used to our advantage.

I’m reminded of when I first came across the concept of visioning – imagining a positive future. I loved the idea and set to, writing a story about the home I would have, the type of work I’d be doing, the friends I would have etc.

I then forgot all about it until three years later when I was moving house. As I was clearing stuff out ready to move, I found the notes I had written. And I was moving into that home I had described and doing work I loved. It wasn’t a 100 per cent match, but a surprising amount of my story had come true.

This imagining the future is not an exercise in wishing: ‘I wish I could be fitter,’ etc. It is about making a leap forward in your imagination to 3,4,5 years’ time: ‘in 2026 I am…, I have…’ It’s about living that future in your imagination.

By painting a picture for yourself of how you want your life to be, you gear up your unconscious to notice opportunities to create it for real. It has to be vivid: see things, hear the sounds, feel the sensations, put in details. It’s fun to do. And to make it more powerful, write it down, revisit it occasionally, read it through again, add more.

Our ability to create our own lives is underestimated. We can all imagine a brighter future if we choose to.

The man in the article is imagining a brighter future for the world and asking people to do the same. We can all do that as well, but let’s start small and imagine a brighter future for ourselves.


Okay, I’m not talking about memory tests here: did I remember to get something out of the freezer, or someone’s birthday. Those things are really recall – did I keep that in the front of my mind.

I’m talking about those memories that pop up sometimes because something reminds us of them. For example, we may hear a song on the radio, or see an old-fashioned sweet in a shop, or watch a programme about a place we have visited. This is rich remembering for several reasons.

It tends to have detail that we weren’t conscious of absorbing at the time. So a song may make us think of particular people, places, moods and feelings. Or a sweet may evoke a whole period of our childhood.

Remembering also gives us a chance to review the significance of things in our past. It may have seemed catastrophic at the time, yet now we can laugh at it. or it may have seemed unimportant, yet now we can see how it helped us to grow in some way or played a part in a bigger pattern in our lives.

Remembering is putting things back together, joining them up. It means that we put singular events into a bigger context, the context of our whole lives till now.

Remembering helps us to value and understand who we are and how we’ve developed. It helps us to let ourselves i=off, so we don’t feel bad about things in our past: ‘I was only a youngster’, or ‘that was pretty awful, no wonder I felt like that’.

And above all, it can be delightful to remember times when we felt happy, had fun, enjoyed our lives – it brings back those same feelings.

So enjoy those times when you reminisce, on your own or with others, and even prompt it sometimes to remind yourself of the richness of your life.


Most of us have been conditioned to seek approval from others. As children, we mostly try to do the things that get us that approval from parents because then they will care for us. At that stage in our lives, it is useful, because we cannot care for ourselves fully. We develop the habit of proving that we are worth caring for, worth loving, worth having as a worker, a parent, a friend, a companion.

What we’re not aware of is that in seeking approval, we are telling ourselves that we’re not good enough as we are. It puts us always on the back foot and diminishes our self-esteem. This might be worth it if it gained us the approval we were seeking, but it frequently doesn’t. Most of us like someone else for who they are, not for who they’re trying to be to be liked by us. In fact, their effort often makes us feel uncomfortable.

What we can all do is be the best we can be at any given moment. Sometimes this means that we will happily make an effort to help someone because we want to. Sometimes it means that we will sympathise with their plight. Sometimes it means that we won’t even notice that there’s something we could have done. We’re human, we’re inconsistent, we have stuff of our own going on.

If we feel later that we could have done better, we can always apologise or have another go when we’re ready. If we are pleased with our own reaction, that is enough. We all know if we have done our best – we don’t need someone else to approve it.

All of us love people who have foibles and moods as well as some brilliant characteristics. It’s called being human. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone – just be who you are.


One of the many reasons why in-person interactions are important is that they give us the opportunity to give and receive small acts of kindness.

A recent study showed that, across different cultures and age groups, there are frequent moments of kindness, where people offer each other help – and we probably don’t notice it: holding the door open for you; making a cup of tea; reaching down something from a top shelf; giving you directions to somewhere; helping you look for something you’ve lost; even just greeting you pleasantly.

The researchers’ conclusion was that these small acts of kindness are a part of our inherent nature – we are built that way. And it makes sense. Each of those moments releases the ‘happy hormones’ in our body, for both the receiver and the giver, and this helps to keep us healthy and build our immune system. We increase this effect when we notice and say thank you. Gratitude is a bonus that we all appreciate.

If you wonder whether this is real, just spend a day noticing how, in your interactions, you lend a hand to someone else, or they help you. Did they rinse the cup for the second cup of coffee while you put the kettle on? Did they clear the table? Did they pick up something you dropped and give it back to you? Did they slow or speed up their pace to match you? It happens all the time.

Aren’t we lucky!!


Over recent years more and more commentators have referred to our government policies as sticking plasters policies: they come up with yet another plan to try and hold a system or process together and ignore the fundamental problems which are causing the holes/crises to appear.

A good example is the production of renewable energy. We now produce over a third of our electricity through wind power, which is great. They did subsidise off-shore wind farms to achieve this. But there is no significant investment in improving the National Grid infrastructure so that the use of wind power can be extended. Investors in wind power now will be waiting years to connect it to the Grid. And it has no effect on our prices for energy, as that is controlled by global prices for gas and oil.

So it looks good on the surface, but is limited in its positive effect.

If we were to use the same sticking plaster mentality on our lives, we would soon hit the limit on the use of short-term measures to alleviate problems.

Or have we already? How many people take painkillers so they can carry on rather than establishing the cause of the pain? How many people buy ready meals full of preservatives rather than making their food fresh? How many people ignore their body’s messages to slow down and then wonder why they are worn out or develop an illness?

I’m not being critical of others here – I’m far from perfect myself. But I do wonder if we have learnt to ignore the fundamental causes of our discontent or discomfort, instead going for some short-term quick fixes, which will shudder to a halt at some point in the future, or lead to other problems.

So when you find yourself reaching for the sticking plaster remedy, just stop for a moment and consider whether you could instead begin to deal with the underlying cause. Have the mould on the wall treated rather than paint over it. Go and have a nap rather than having an energy drink. Get yourself an appointment with an osteopath or chiropractor rather than taking more painkillers for a bad back.

Take more care of yourself for the long-term – you have more life to live!