Tag Archives: self-care


We all have some form of inner critic, but many of us have let that inner critic get out of control. When we were young, that voice could be useful. He/she took on some of the things our family would get cross about, and remind us before we got into trouble. The critic helped us to navigate the accepted behaviour of the world.

However, they didn’t stop there at collecting reasons we might be considered a failure or badly behaved. The critic took up any and every reason they came across and set a higher and higher bar for our behaviour and attitude.

Consequently, most of us are pretty harsh with ourselves, never quite doing enough to be pleased with ourselves. We wouldn’t treat anyone else this cruelly!

What we can forget is that this voice is our own creation and in our control. We can change it to something more useful, by making that inner voice a critical best friend.

A best friend will support you, encourage you. They are honest but not unkind. If you’re way off the mark, they will tell you. If you’re making a mountain out of a molehill, they will tell you. If you’re being daft, they will tell you. And if you’ve done well, they will praise you.

Next time your inner critic gets going, ask him/her to be a critical best friend instead. Imagine it’s your best friend you’re talking to rather than yourself. Gradually, the voice will change its tone. You’ll hear, ‘well done’ more often and at worst, ‘you silly thing!’ instead of, ‘you’re useless’. Give yourself an inner best friend.


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.


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.


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!


I have an ambition in life: to feel good about every day. I want to feel that each day of this precious life is in some way pleasing and/or fulfilling.

There’s an assessment I do every morning, usually with my first cup of coffee. I notice how my body feels, what sort of energy levels I have, and what is my mind doing. I know what’s planned for the day, if anything, so the question I ask myself is: what else do I need in my day for me to feel good about it?

I am always interested in what comes up as an answer. Sometimes it’s getting something done that I’ve been putting off; or it may be going out in the fresh air for a while. It could be using my energy in a physical way, or it could be something that would stimulate my thinking. Some days, it’s to make sure I have a conversation with someone I love, others, it’s to have a quiet period just reading a book. And of course, sometimes I don’t feel I need anything else in there to make me feel good about my day.

Often the addition I make to my day is a small one. It may not take long or be hard to do, but it does change the flavour of the day.

I think we all deserve to have mostly good days in our lives. It may not be possible to make it a hundred per cent, but we can all adjust the flavour of our day to make it feel better – that is always in our control. So spend a few moments each day assessing where you’re up to: what your body, mind, energy levels and heart are telling you. Then add that little extra spice or sweetness to make it a good day. You deserve it.


Our minds are so busy most of the time, with all that thinking. We think about what we’ve done, we run a commentary on what we’re doing, and think about what we’re going to do. And these thoughts link to other things: times we’ve done the same before; how we feel about it; people; random memories – it just goes on and on.

But once in a while, there is a space between the thoughts, a moment of emptiness. That space, however brief, is like an oasis of calm. Nothing is going on and we can just rest in that space, a lull in our everyday busyness. I first became aware of this possibility when I was exploring meditation, but found it almost impossible to stay still, let alone quiet my mind! I was reassured by someone who had followed Buddhist practice for a long time, who told me that it is an aim, but difficult to do – so it wasn’t just me…

But then I realised that we do sometimes have that space, by some kind of accident. So can we find these spaces when we need them? Not always of course, but we can create the environment where they are more likey to happen. Gentle, rhythmic sounds certainly help for me. The sound of waves by the sea, the wind blowing gently through trees, rain pattering on the window – all these can encourage us to find that space as we focus our attention on therm.

So too can looking at something beautiful: a flowering plant with the colours and shapes and contrasting foliage; a landscape with its contours, colours, shadows and light; a piece of art we love. All these can send us into a peaceful reverie if we stay with them.

And of course there are ways to reach that space through the feel of things: cosying into soft warm clothes; gently stroking a dozy cat or dog; enjoying the feel of warm sunshine on our skin.

You will have your own prompts to reach that space between thoughts. Recognise them and use them – they give us a much-needed break, a rest from our busy minds.


In any recipe, there are essential ingredients and others that can be varied according to your taste. The same thing applies to creating for ourselves our unique version of a life well-lived.

We all need some basics: some form of physical activity and a reasonable diet to keep our bodies as healthy as possible; we also need some form of mental stimulation through our work, or reading, or lively conversations; and we need emotional connection with others to feed our ability to love and laugh and feel a sense oof belonging; we also need, of course, some way of supporting ourselves financially.

Even with these essential ingredients, we can vary them to suit our own tastes. We’re not all going to go to the gym daily, do a Masters degree, or have a large family!

And once we have the essentials in place, we can begin to add in the extra ingredients which make our recipe for life unique and delicious. These may be hobbies, interests, passions we have, or activities that give us particular pleasure. We may want to have adventures or times of peace and quiet. We may want things that distract us from the less enjoyable aspects of our lives. We may want to try something different, to see if it adds a good flavour to our recipe.

There may be some parts of our life that are not ideal, although essential. But we also have lots of areas where we can make choices to improve that life we’re creating.

So have a look, now and then, at the recipe of your life, and see if you can make it even tastier and more delightful for yourself.