The Science of Happiness: Prioritising Positivity

The Science of Happiness Course began earlier this month and it has so far been B R I L L I A N T. 

It’s a FREE 8-week Online Course with the University of California, Berkeley. It’s not too late to join, if you feel called, you can sign up here. Alternately, I’ll be sharing my biggest happiness take-away’s each week on the blog and via email – you can sign up here to receive updates direct to your inbox if you’re not already a part of this community.

Happiness can feel at times like a bit of a touchy-feely topic or like a luxury in life to aspire to. However, the science shared in this course and in the article below shows this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Prioritising positive emotions, it seems, can have the affect of improving almost every area of our lives in significant ways. Let me share more with you below.

The Science of Happiness

What’s happiness to you?

For me, happiness feels like a fairly natural, default state of being. One that’s accessible when I’ve cultivated a calm and clear internal space and when I’m living in a way that feels authentic, healthful and satisfying.

How would you describe happiness for you?

How do Scientists Define and Measure Happiness?

In the Course, we find that Ed Diener, one of the leading scientists in the study of happiness, thinks of happiness in the following way:

Happiness (aka “Subjective Well-being”) = Overall Well-being / Life Satisfaction + Positive (Vs Negative) Emotions
 

How Scientists Define and Measure Happiness

In her 2007 book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky elaborates, describing happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

How can we measure happiness?

We can do so by self-reporting using the following scales (developed by Ed Diener at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign):

1. The ‘Satisfaction with Life Scale’ measures how much people agree with statements like:
– In most ways my life is close to my ideal
– The conditions of my life are excellent
– I am satisfied with my life
– So far, I have gotten the important things I want in life
– If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing

2. The ‘Scale of Positive and Negative Experience’ (SPANE) measures self-reported levels of positive and negative feelings – see the attached Scale of Positive and Negative Experience to gauge where you’re at!

(Diener, E., Wirtz, D., Tov, W., Kim-Prieto, C., Choi. D., Oishi, S., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2009). New measures of well-being: Flourishing and positive and negative feelings. Social Indicators Research, 39, 247-266.)

What’s more important in happiness – meaning or pleasure?

In their essay – Is a Happy Life Different from a Meaningful One? – Jill Suttie and Jason Marsh reported that some researchers have looked at what they call “eudaimonic happiness,” or the happiness that comes from meaningful pursuits, and “hedonic happiness”—the happiness that comes from pleasure or goal fulfilment, in an effort to establish whether it is helpful to separate out meaning from pleasure.

What’s more important in happiness – meaning or pleasure?
A recent study by Steven Cole of the UCLA School of Medicine, and Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that people who reported more eudaimonic happiness (meaning) had stronger immune system function than those who reported more hedonic happiness (pleasure). This suggests that a life of meaning may be better for our health than a life seeking pleasure.

What difference does Happiness make?

In an influential 2005 article by Sonja Lyubormirksy, Laura King, and Ed Diener – The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success? – the authors summarise that as we cultivate happiness, the benefits to us individually and collectively, are multifaceted. We’re more likely to live longer lives, to have healthier bodies, to be more innovative and creative, have stronger relationships, and even to have healthier cultures and communities.

How does happiness improve our physical health?

In her article for the Greater Good Science Center – Six Ways Happiness is Good for your Health – Kira Newman lists the benefits of happiness to our physical wellbeing:

1. Happiness protects your heart
2. Happiness strengthens your immune system
3. Happiness combats stress
4. Happy people have fewer aches and pains
5. Happiness combats disease and disability
6. Happiness lengthens our lives

How does happiness improve our physical health?

So, what makes one person happier than another?

Research shows that happy people:
– Are comfortable expressing gratitude
– Are often the first to help others
– Practice optimism about the future
– Savour pleasures and live in the present moment
– Make physical activity a habit
– Are often spiritual or religious
– Are deeply committed to lifelong goals

Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ken Sheldon and Dave Vishcody developed a theory that answers this. The theory is simple and the numbers approximations and averages from various studies but they give us something to work with to begin to understand the variances in happiness in individuals.

Their theory is that in each individual, happiness comes from:
Genes – 50%
Life circumstances – ~10%
Intentional activity – ~40%

As you can see, the implications are incredibly powerful. We have a whole lot of control in our everyday lives over around 40% of our happiness via intentional activity. We can pay attention to the activities in life, big or small, that make us feel positive emotions and then choose to do some of these activities each day.

So, what makes one person happier than another?
Further supporting this, in his essay – Happiness, The Hard Way – historian, Darrin M McMahon suggests that happiness has far more to do with how we order ourselves and our lives as a whole than anything that might happen individually to any one of us.

Why study Happiness?

With so much going on in the world, you might wonder what’s so important about studying happiness…

Within the Course, Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley and Co-Founder and Director of the Greater Good Science Center, explores 3 very important reasons why the study of happiness is important to our society. His reasons are shared below:

1. Increases in loneliness
– Americans have 1/3 fewer close friends than a generation ago
– 25 percent say they have no close friends at all which is twice as many as two decades ago
– More people live alone or with just one other person

Loneliness is linked to:
– Less resilience to stress
– Lower happiness
– Lack of sleep
– Worse health (e.g. higher blood pressure and weaker immune system)

Why study Happiness?
2. Increase in Narcissism
– From early 1980s to mid-2000s: 30% more college students show an above average level of narcissism (Twenge, et. Al, 2008)
– Rise in related traits like materialism and self-esteem
– Lower levels of empathy and concern for others among college students in 2009 vs. 1979 (Konrath, 2011)

High narcissism / low empathy can hinder social connection, kindness and compassion.

3. Rise in inequality
– From 1979-2007 (in United States), income of top 1% grew by 278% (vs. 35% growth for middle 20%)
– American CEOs now earn 110 times more than workers (vs. 30 times in 1979)
– According to a 2012 Pew survey, inequality is the greatest source of social conflict in the United States

Practicing Happiness

It’s easy to get caught up in what goes wrong in our lives while adapting seemingly effortlessly to the good things, essentially taking them for granted.

This 10-minute Happiness Practice – Three Good Things: The Why and The How – guards against those tendencies.

By remembering and listing three positive things that happened in your day—and considering what caused them—you can better tune into the sources of goodness in your life. It’s a habit that can change the emotional tone of your life, replacing feelings of disappointment or entitlement with those of gratitude—which may be why this practice is associated with significant increases in happiness (being shown to increase happiness immediately afterward, as well as one week, one month, three months, and six months later).

Two Core Truths about Positive Emotions

They Open Our Minds

In a video series within the Course – Positive Emotions Open Our Minds & Positive Emotions Transform Us – Dr. Fredrickson shares that there are two core truths about positive emotions.

The first, she says, is that they open our minds. They literally change the boundaries of our minds and our hearts and change our outlook on our environments.

Experiencing positive emotions has been shown to broaden our world view, to open up our minds and perspectives to not only increase the expanse of our peripheral vision at a micro level but also to be able to see larger systems and see more interconnectedness, which can make a big difference when trying to address some of the complex societal problems that we’re facing.

Dr Fredrickson shares that research shows positive emotions:
– change how open our visual perspective is at a really basic level, widening the scope of what we’re scanning for in the environment
– widen our awareness, which is directly linked to greater creativity, at work and otherwise
– make people more resilient and able to bounce back quicker from adversity
– help kids with better academic performance (e.g. they’ve been shown to do better on a math test or in a learning context if they’re just asked to sit and think of a positive memory before they take the test)
– help physicians making better medical decisions and making them better at integrating the complex information of an unsolved case
– change our ability to see our common humanity with others
– allow us to look past racial and cultural differences and see the unique individual and recognize individuals across racial lines to see past difference and to see towards oneness
– make people more trusting
– help people come to better win-win situations in negotiations all kinds of effects

Two Core Truths about Positive Emotions


They Transform Us

The second core truth Dr Fredrickson shares about positive emotions is that they transform us for the better.

Scientists estimate that on average, people replace one percent of their cells each day, so you could say in 30 days, we’ll have turned over 30% of our cells.

The latest science also suggests that our emotions affect the pace and form of this cellular change. In broadening and opening our awareness over time, positive emotions change our ways of being in the world and change who we are in the future.

Changing people’s traits or characterological positive emotions can be done she says, but it’s akin to making a lifestyle change. It’s something that you do with continual reinforcement and effort.

If we increase our daily diet of positive emotions we come out three months later being better, stronger, more resilient, more socially connected versions of ourselves.

It’s been found that the degree to which people experience positive emotions in their lives predicts whether they will flourish or languish in life. By following the light of our positive emotions in the micro moments of our lives, our path to flourish can be lit by positivity.

What’s the Best Way to Pursue Happiness?

A study by Lahnna Catalino, Sara Algoe and Barbara Fredrickson’s compares pursuing happiness to prioritisng positivity, and their results suggest that prioritising positivity is a more promising approach to boosting happiness.

In her essay – A Better Way to Pursue Happiness – Lahnna Catalino, postdoc scholar in psychiatry at UC San Francisco, School of Medicine, warns that the mere act of focusing on one’s emotional experience from one moment to the next, may get in the way of positive emotions.

What’s the Best Way to Pursue Happiness?
Rather, prioritising positivity through “situation selection” involves monitoring one’s daily itinerary and choosing to include activities that you know induce positive emotions – spending quality time with loved ones, spending time in nature, exercising, meditation, being creative, acts of kindness, volunteerism.

Catalino says the science on the deliberate pursuit of happiness is young, so any prescriptions for happiness must be offered with the caveat that the research is still evolving and conclusions might be subject to change. So far, however, based on her research, she can speculate how people might more effectively pursue happiness:

1. First, let go of extreme ways of relating to your happiness.
2. Second, reflect on the activities that give you joy or contentment.
3. Finally, once you think of a couple of activities, schedule them into your upcoming week.

I would so love to hear how all this sits for you and how you prioritise positivity in your own life.

How to adore your menstrual cycle and find your flow

July 25, 2017 /   / 

How to adore your menstrual cycle and find your flow

I’ve just come to the end of Winter in my menstrual cycle (otherwise known as my Moon or phase of Menstruation).

If you’d told me a year ago I’d be openly talking about my cycle, I would have politely told you you were nuts!

Don’t get me wrong, I cherish my cycle and am so grateful for the incredible potential it holds to gift life. But this hasn’t always been the filter through which I’ve viewed my cycle.

I’ve spent a couple of decades feeling some level of shame around being a woman and having a menstrual cycle: bleeding (and the worry of maybe leaking onto my clothes, the sheets, a chair, a towel); appearing erratic or out of control; and experiencing strong (sometimes otherwise out of character) emotions and changing moods.

The fact is that our cycles are a completely natural part of life and one of the sole reasons that we exist as a race!

It’s nuts right?! Anyway, I’m not willing to unquestioningly accept shame in this area of my life anymore.

We are the only ones who can allow shame to exist for us, we have to keep the shameful thing hidden for it to remain shameful.

To have a rich and deep love of our bodies in all their glory, and our womanhood, is such a great gift. There’s also a certain level of resilience and flexibility we learn as women by riding our ever-changing cycles.

Why I’m talking about it now is that I was recently referred to a pretty life-changing resource in this area – Claire Baker’s Adore Your Cycle eBook and it’s something I feel called to share with you (and anyone else who’ll listen really!). If you want to dive deeper into this work, I highly recommend you check it out. [I’m not in any way affiliated with Claire, although I would love to be!]

I can only think how amazing it would be for all young women to understand their menstrual cycles as the gift of nature they are and to feel comfortable talking about and sharing freely with their family, friends (both male and female) and partners about this.

So for the ladies who wish to understand (and love) themselves better and for the men who’d love to better understand the ladies in their lives, this is for you!

And those in relationship (where at least one of the partners is a female) – wow! The possibilities for greater compassion and harmony are unreal!

The Seasons of our Cycle

Seasonal Menstrual Cycle[Source: Claire Baker]

Claire describes our menstrual cycle as being like the seasons where every 28 days, we experience a spring, summer, autumn and winter and in each of these seasons the tides within us are changing in relation to:
– Our hormones and moods
– The desire we have for food, exercise, sex, intimacy
– Our energy, creativity, intuition, spirituality
– The type of work that comes most easily to us and our motivation to do it
– Our ability and desire to be active, social and extroverted in the world

I’ve been pretty aware of the ebbs and flows that happen with life and of course moods and emotions. But up until I read Adore Your Cycle, I’d never been quite so clear on matching those ebbs and flows to what is happening throughout the 28 days of my menstrual cycle.

There’s a remarkable amount of predictability and with that comes possibility. The possibility to honour the wisdom of what we know is likely to come up for us and to plan and schedule our lives accordingly.

I find this framework feels easy and fun to integrate, I love it!

“Find your flow, work your menstrual magic & change the way you live your life — forever…” Claire Baker

For example, choosing to do as little as possible on the first couple of days of Winter as we begin menstruation, planning a steamy weekend away when we’re in our Spring / Autumn, being understanding and forgiving of ourselves in Autumn when our appetite is likely to be at its highest.

I’ve been tracking my cycle for the last few weeks according to the information Claire provides and it’s been spot on.

How the Seasons play out in 5 Key Areas

Claire goes into wayyyy more detail in her eBook and I can’t recommend it highly enough but here’s a quick and dirty overview of 5 key areas and common experiences of them during the different seasons.

Season

Winter

Spring

Summer

Autumn

Food

Appetite can be low, warming, cleansing foods and dark chocolate

Reduced appetite, desiring whole, healthy foods

Time to plan meals and cook in advance for the coming season, salty cravings

Increased appetite, cravings for sugar and carbs

Energy

Low energy, this time is for gentle movement

Energy is increasing, building momentum

Feeling strong with increased energy

May feel a little less energised thought exercise may help with PMS

Work

Can feel a lack of motivation and passion, good time for intuition and planning

Great time for starting projects, yang (masculine) energy for taking action

Energy is high, schedule meetings, clients, workshops

Time for reflection, editing and refining projects

Social

Not likely to be feeling it, lay low, say no, chill out, energy is likely to be inward

Light energy, more desire to socialise and connect

Very social, plan catch ups with family and friends

Starting to withdraw, comforting social experiences are ideal

Creativity

Inward creative expression. Calmer, clear energy

Fresh energy, plant new seeds for the coming cycle

Expression is full and outward, creating and manifesting

Full, truthful and wild creative expression

My Self-Care Pack Recommendations

Love Pack

Energy Clearing Pack

Inner Calm Pack

Contemplation Pack

[Source: Food / Energy / Work / Social / Creativity: Adore Your Cycle eBook]

Tracking our Menstrual Cycle

One small thing I’ve done so far is map out my seasons in google calendar so when I’m planning workshops, meeting, weekends away etc, I can do so considering how I know I’ll be feeling at the time. You’ll see here the beginning of each week says the season and they’re colour coded too.

Seasonal Menstrual Cycle Calender

The 7 days for each season is not a set thing either, it’s a matter of tracking our experience for a little while and seeing what’s true for you, some could be shorter, some longer.

The more we come to understand, appreciate and work with our menstrual cycle, the richer our lives become.

Sharing this Wisdom

I’ve started the conversation with my partner, Tom about all of this as you can only imagine how useful this could be for the male folk in understanding us better! My plan is to provide Tom with my calendar of seasons above and the one page shortcut sheet from the eBook which is an expanded version of the table above.

The way I see it, armed with this information, we can all be a whole lot easier on ourselves. In understanding ourselves better, we can also manage our lives in a more congruent way, doing what feels best to us and when.

I’m super passionate about all this and would LOVE to hear any success you’ve had in this field. Don’t hesitate to shoot me an email and let me know.

And if you think this information will be useful to your friends, family and ESPECIALLY any young women, please do share it with them and help to diminish the shame and stigma that exists around a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Hope this has been interesting and helpful for you.

Big love,

Prue

P.s. I’ve created a downloadable guide for you below to get you started on your journey! 

Why am I here?

March 9, 2016 /   /  Uncategorized


I want to talk about purpose.

This concept is such a driving force in my life but it can seem a lofty goal and I want to bring it back down to Earth.

I have a note under my pillow this morning that asks, “Why am I here?”. My Mum always said if you’ve got a question that you want guidance on, you can write it on a piece of paper and put it under your pillow and literally sleep on it. The idea being that you wake in the morning with greater clarity on whatever that is.

I’ve just finished reading Adam Braun’s The Promise of a Pencil and in the closing pages, he talks about paying attention to (feeling into) the ‘Why’ – “Why am I here?”. Adam started the organisation Pencils of Promise when he was 24 which has gone on to build over 200 schools for children in poverty stricken areas. His seems a big, world-changing ‘Why’ but it started as a desire to build just 1 school in Laos that he could dedicate to his grandma, a holocaust survivor. I think our ‘Why’ can be simple, it can even be small – who knows where it is going to lead.

So, what answer did I get from my pillow? What’s my ‘Why’? Or my ‘Why’ right now?

To express myself.

Self-expression has been a major sticking point in my life. I’ve an overwhelming desire to express what is true for me, yet feel constricted in following through and fearful of not being good enough. I love writing and singing and creating and I have let fear drive this for so long. Life is too short and too precious, not to share ourselves with the world.

This is my challenge and what may ultimately be my gift.

I believe we’re all creative beings and that we’re all here to create and express ourselves in our own unique way. I think the more we take risks in this way, the more that energy expands out and touches other people and possibly inspires others to find their small, and simple ‘Why’.

So what’s one thing you can do today to give fear the middle finger?

[Dedicating this post to Tom, who pushed me to share myself authentically today. Thanks babe, I think… 🙂 ]

Where am I not Taking Responsibility in my Own Life?

March 11, 2016 /   /  Uncategorized

I want to talk about taking responsibility.

I’ve been noticing lately where people don’t seem willing to take responsibility for things that happen in their lives, happy to point the finger in any direction but their own. I find this really frustrating and also find my ability to trust them is lessened because I know that they cannot be in a place of truth or integrity if they are allowing themselves to be fooled in this fundamental way (namely the belief that they are not in control of their lives).

I think this habit can be really disempowering. If you’re not responsible for things that happen in your life, how can you possibly feel empowered to create change or be the master of your own destiny, the captain of your own ship?

It’s occurred to me that we don’t see too many great examples at a societal level for taking responsibility and being in integrity, particularly if we look at the leaders of most of the countries of the world. There’s so much underhandedness, finger pointing, bullying, bringing others down, it’s disgusting. I have such a strong distaste for the handing out of blame where the best medicine is often to look inwards, whether that is at a personal or collective level.

I always tend to notice aspects of others before I choose to reflect on that theme within myself – convenient I know but I think this is how self-reflection naturally unfolds (for me anyway)! I’m not going to lie, I have the capacity to be an a******* at times. It’s not something I’m proud of and it’s not something that happens too often these days but it happens, it’s an aspect of me. However, I am more than happy to own up to being a shit in those moments and apologise to the people who have been affected by my behaviour – in fact, this is something that I feel compelled to do in order to move on.

We are fully in control of making change in our lives. Whatever it is that we want to do is completely within our control. That realisation can sometimes be scary if you focus on the difference between where you are and where you want to be – in the words of Marianne Williamson, our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate but that we are powerful beyond measure. When this happens, I bring myself back to appreciating all that I’m grateful for in my life right now and that is a massive list which warms me from the inside out.

So where in your own life might you be pointing the finger or not taking responsibility?

In What Ways can we Honour and Appreciate the Sensitivity in Men?

March 15, 2016 /   /  Uncategorized


I want to talk about sensitivity and Men.

I think I’ve been ignorantly harbouring under a misconception or buying into a pre-packaged version of what men should be like.

For those who despise generalisations, let me say that I am merely reflecting on the experiences that I’ve had and continue to have with men in my life and with those that I have spoken to about this.

I’ve been noticing the sensitivity in the men around me more and more lately and to be honest it has come as a bit of a surprise. I’m in relationship with a beautifully sensitive man who has two boys, I have wonderful male friends, a father and stepfather who I love and adore, and on reflection I can’t think of one who isn’t incredibly sensitive and doesn’t appear to contain a rich internal world.

I don’t consider myself to be an easily led person but I feel foolish as I’ve clearly allowed my perception of men and the masculine role in society to be affected by the general media and Hollywood. The perception I’ve held is of men being strong and capable first and foremost, not just physically but emotionally, almost without exception. When there is a character who displays sensitivity, he is usually portrayed as weak and unsuccessful and may even suffer bullying. (The media has a lot to answer for in the perception of women in the world too but I’ve always been more aware of that).

If it is it true that some proportion of the male population are super sensitive then this misguided perception is incredibly damaging for us all.

Thinking about this makes me feel deeply sad for the experience men must have, growing up with this incredible sensitivity inside but having everything around them tell them that it is not okay and that it indicates weakness: that whatever they are feeling naturally is not acceptable. Having reflected to them from the outside that they’re instead supposed to be some combination of male characteristics that have been created and spoon fed by the media.

I’m curious, to the men out there, what ways do you find best for the people in your life to honour and respect your sensitivity.

And to the ladies, what have you found to be the ways that you can most appreciate the sensitivity in the men around you?

My Personal Story of Burnout & Resurrection

March 31, 2016 /   /  Uncategorized



I left my life in Melbourne and I can’t say I’ve ever looked back.

My life in the city was fast-paced, stressful and there wasn’t much time or space for self-care. I was overweight and even though I had great friends and family, I’d never been in a relationship and wasn’t happy at my core. I knew there had to be way more to life than what I’d been living and I was determined to find out what that was.

I’d been working with the same company for 6 years and while it was a rewarding role it was also extremely challenging. The way that I approached it made it stressful and in hindsight, I was not on a great path in terms of my health and well-being.

Because I worked so hard during the week I balanced that out by partying on the weekends. I have very few regrets in my life, least of all the incredibly deep and lasting friendships that were built in these years. However, while partying can be bucket loads of fun at the time it is not (IMHO) a sustainable way of life and the fact is that I’d been living that way for years to the detriment of my well-being – physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

I travelled to India with my Mum in 2008 and that was a real turning point in my perspective on both how I wanted to live my life and how much of what I wanted my life to be was within my control (read: mostly all of it!!!).

In 2009, a couple of my friends moved to Byron Bay to continue their own healing journeys. I’d holidayed in the region for a number of years and loved it, but I’d never considered the possibility of moving away from my friends, family and a lucrative career in Melbourne to live anywhere. For some reason, my friends moving somewhere beautiful and not too far away, made it seem like a remote chance. I guess there are times in your life when things just seem to fit and to feel right.

Like Victor Hugo once said, nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

I said to my friends at their going away party to let me know their movements over the next few months house-wise just in case I decided to move up. This sparked some decent excitement and even though at the time it was a seemingly throwaway line, a seed was planted. This was all of a sudden more than a remote chance, it was a possibility that I would carefully consider.

From there things shifted quickly. I contemplated the move over the next week and spent the following weekend calling on the wisdom of my sister, mother and best girlfriends to see if they thought this move would be beneficial for me. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive and by the Sunday night, my decision was made.

I met with my boss on Tuesday and handed him my resignation letter; I gave 2 months’ notice so we could find and train my replacement. It was a difficult meeting for me, I started crying as soon as I handed the letter over, I felt a deep sense of loyalty to this business and the people I worked with and I didn’t want to let them down. I’d also grown so much in my time there, but I knew this was something I had to do.

I left a good job, earning great money, senior in my field before my time and an integral part of the company I worked with. But I wasn’t inspired; challenged but not inspired. I desired change on a big scale and moving to another role while remaining in the city, continuing to live life the way that I was living wasn’t going to bring me where I wanted to be.

My best mate and I flew up on the 31st December 2009 to meet my sister and her mate who had graciously driven up my car packed full of my possessions. When I moved up to Byron I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had no idea how long I was going to last, what I was going to do for work or how I was going to survive. None of that really mattered though because I’d reached the point where I was deeply dissatisfied with life, I didn’t fear failure ‘cos I had nothing to lose.

I knew my life could be better and I knew that I was capable of great things.

I knew I had a lot to give and that I have the benefit of being born an Aries with spades of devotion / dedication and motivation to making things happen so all I needed to do was give myself space.

When I was saying my goodbyes and people were asking me what it was that I was going to do in Byron Bay, the only response I could fathom was that I needed the time and space to work out what it was that I truly wanted to do.

In hindsight and with the wisdom of a few years, I can see that what you truly want to do in life isn’t necessarily an end point, it’s an evolving, moving target which is, you know, the beauty of life. I am far more at peace now and that’s something I work on every day. My journey here has been all about cultivating time and space to take better care of myself and get closer and closer to the core of who I am.

What I know is that right now, writing for you about my experience, this is the most inspired that I have felt in my life. It has taken me years to get to the point where I am doing something that truly feels like I’m living my purpose, and I can tell you it may not always be easy but it feels damn good.

Now it’s your turn. I believe most of us experience a burnout in our lives at some stage. Let me know in the comments below, what three things do you wish could have magically come into place when you experienced burnout to get you out the other side?

How to Recognise When Burnout is Eeking its way Into Your Life

April 7, 2016 /   /  Uncategorized



I believe, when broken down to its simplest form, burnout results when we turn away from ourselves consistently, away from our deepest needs and desires and how we truly want to be expressing ourselves in this world.

Growing up, I feel like the information coming to me dictated that satisfaction, fulfillment, and acceptance were to be achieved from looking outside of ourselves. I think I launched an internal rebellion against this notion at an early age.

It makes sense though if you think that as a baby, we are completely reliant on our mothers and fathers. As a child, we look for our parents’ approval as we learn right from wrong. As we grow into adolescence, we learn from the media and potentially society and those close to us, that success and fulfillment can be reached by buying a beautiful home, driving a flashy car, finding a beautiful and successful partner, and collecting clothes and other possessions.

It is up to each of us as individuals to work out what and how much of the external we ACTUALLY need to live a good life and to also pay heed to cultivate a rich internal world that will support us when the external gets shaken as it inevitably does in the day to day of life.

The key, therefore, is in finding the balance between doing what we need to do in the external world and making sure we take the utmost care of ourselves internally in order to enable us to do what we need to do in the external world, it’s a virtuous cycle.

So how can we tell if we’re on the path to burnout?

Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North have divided the burnout process into 12 phases, in a Scientific American Mind article (http://bit.ly/1WaAg1A), these stages are outlined as:

1. The Compulsion to Prove Oneself;
2. Working Harder; an inability to switch off.
3. Neglecting Their Needs; erratic sleeping, eating disrupted, lack of social interaction.
4. Displacement of Conflicts; problems are dismissed, we may feel threatened, panicky and jittery.
5. Revision of Values; values are skewed, friends and family dismissed, hobbies seen as irrelevant,
6. Denial of Emerging Problems; intolerance, cynicism, aggression; problems are viewed as caused by time pressure and work, not because of life changes.
7. Withdrawal; social life small or non-existent, need to feel relief from stress, alcohol/drugs.
8. Odd Behavioural Changes; changes in behaviour obvious, friends and family concerned.
9. Depersonalization; seeing neither self nor others as valuable, and no longer perceive own needs.
10 Inner Emptiness; feeling empty inside and to overcome this, look for activity such as overeating, sex, alcohol, or drugs; activities are often exaggerated.
11. Depression; feeling lost and unsure, exhausted, future feels bleak and dark.
12. Burnout Syndrome; can include total mental and physical collapse; time for full medical attention.

I can relate to at least 9 out of the 12 above from my personal experience of burnout (and resurrection – if you didn’t catch that yet, you can do so here: http://bit.ly/22az25V). There was a surefire theme in the feedback from the personal story I shared when I asked you: what three things needed to come into place when you experienced burnout to get you to the other side?

The consensus was:
1. Space,
2. Time and rest,
3. And a support network – that you can call on for emotional support (people who you can safely share with what’s going on for you) and also instrumental support (asking for help and support with the day to day tasks of your life)

All simple but crucial elements we can look to cultivate more of in our lives.

This world needs people who are living their best lives and contributing to the planet in a positive and meaningful way.

Thank you so much for reading. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends.

Here’s my challenge for you – review the list of 12 stages above and let me know in the comments below how many you can relate to (or have related to in the past).

Prue
xx

How to Feel Supported and be a Great Support

April 13, 2016 /   /  Uncategorized



There is a part of me that still feels a little reluctant to share what is real for me (and I think that’s kinda natural). It can feel scary to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to open our hearts and to share our story. I’ve learnt though that for me, the internal rewards far outweigh the initial fear.

I’ve found that seeking support, talking with others and sharing my problems can help to reduce the feeling of stress inside and also to build my resilience. As the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. When we share what’s going on for us, it alleviates the emotional charge from the problem and lets it sit in a more neutral place where you can allow the solutions to gracefully come forward.

I’ve been reflecting this last week on being supported and being supportive and what I’m realising is that both aspects are active, engaged processes. We might think of being supported as being more passive but it’s actually quite active too. You can’t support someone who is unwilling to receive support and you’ll never feel supported unless you are willing to be vulnerable, to open yourself up to the possibility that someone else may be able to help you, may have the key to help you unlock the next level, even if that is purely in listening to what is going on for you.

So, here’s what I’ve identified as some of the steps in the process to supporting and being supported:

How to support:
– Ask how someone is or if they are okay
– Allow them to share their story
– Listen with an open heart and mind – try to listen to them actively rather than spending that time trying to think of your response (the response will come naturally when needed if you are actively listening)
– A lot of the time, the power of the support is in the listening, in allowing someone to be heard and accepted along with their struggle
– If you have feedback, deliver it gently, this person has just made themselves vulnerable by sharing themselves and needs to be treated accordingly – remember that support isn’t forceful, it’s an offering
– Accept that your feedback may be taken on or may not – your feedback will be coming from your point of view which whether you like it or not, means that it’s coming through your own personal filter of experience, in addition, the person you’re speaking with may simply not be in a place yet to receive that information and that’s okay too, you can still deliver it and if it’s going to be of use to them later they can draw on that again from their memory or ask you more about it
– Thank the person for sharing their story with you – this creates a feeling of safety for them – you are a safe place for them to share what’s going on for them.

How to be supported:
– Surround yourself with a handful of solid friends or family you can call on when things get tough
– Reach out to whoever you feel is most appropriate given the issue you are dealing with
– Allow yourself to feel vulnerable and drop into your heart space
– Be willing to share your story, putting aside your fear of what others may think of you
– Accept feedback with grace and also take it with a grain of salt (as well meaning as your peeps are, we all operate through our own filter so take what feels right to you and leave the rest)
– Be thankful and appreciative of the support you’ve received
– Notice what you liked and didn’t like about how you were supported so you can refine your own support skills (we’re all constantly learning and improving)
– Pay it forward – offer support to someone who sounds a bit off when you speak to them or looks like they are having a rough time

We all experience pain and struggle at points in our life and one of the most critical factors for us is in having support around us. Feeling supported by those around you starts with supporting yourself too; believing that you and your life are worthy and capable of being better.

There is a gratitude exercise you can try right now where you spend just three minutes thinking of all the people in your life who’s support you are grateful for. Go ahead, take the time right now, it will give you an instant buzz.

I feel blessed by the support around me. I’m also incredibly grateful that I now have the wisdom to call on that support when needed.

I’d love to hear from you. Can you add any other steps in the process to supporting or being supported?

Let me know in the comments below.

xx

Diving Into the Deep Unknown

April 20, 2016 /   /  Uncategorized

Last Saturday I went scuba diving for the first time. It was a Xmas gift from Tom who accompanied me on the day.

Before the day, my primary concerns were around what might be lurking down at the bottom of the ocean. There were reports of bait balls (big schools of fish) with large sharks herding them and warnings for swimmers. There had also been reports of a 3-metre bull shark in the area a couple of weeks prior – according to National Geographic, experts consider bull sharks to be the most dangerous in the world – yippee hooray!

Despite all this, I was determined to proceed. I was assured by Tom that the dive would be safe and I trusted that our instructor would be able to expertly guide us through any issues.

We had an 8:30am start at the dive school in the centre of Byron where our guide began by running us through some theory before we got geared up for the pool training aspect of the intro course.

I squeezed myself into a wetsuit I thought may never come off, then put on some tiny wetsuit shoes. The four of us intro divers gathered around the pool and had the equipment explained to us – a weight belt, a mask with snorkel, a set of flippers, the BCD – Buoyancy Control Device (otherwise known as inflatable jacket with the pumper upper and downer), air tank and 2 x regulators.

It was a lot to take in, especially at that time of day and after a night of celebration (and I don’t drink coffee so couldn’t rely on that pick me up!).

We spent a good half hour in the pool with all our equipment on and had three tests we had to complete for our guide in order to get the go-ahead for the ocean dive. It felt weird being so weighed down and constricted, and the water felt cold especially down my back. Being submerged in the water is a very personal experience. You can’t talk to anyone or communicate with any great depth. You are alone with yourself, inside your mind and inside your body.

We passed the test, walked out of the pool and up to the boat where we were helped out of our gear.

We walked toward the bus and as we did the schlump of the wetsuit between my legs reminded me of something I saw on Instagram recently posted by a friend – if you’re thighs are touching, you’re one step closer to being a mermaid. I considered making a joke to Tom but was too nervous about what lay ahead to get the words out.

In the boat on the way out to Julian Rocks, all three other members of my intro dive team – Tom and the two circus boys (literally from a travelling circus visiting town), were being sarcastic joking about sharks in the water and what a great idea it was for us to be jumping in. I couldn’t possibly engage. My internal world was primed and I was deep inside myself already.

We did the classic backwards slip off the boat and into the water then our guide instructed us one by one down the mooring rope and under the water.

It was really one of those ‘feel your fear and do it anyway’ kind of moments for me. I was definitely feeling the fear, the lack of control, the unfamiliarity.

The only option was to trust (or try to trust as that may be) myself, my guide and the experience.

Seems diving is all about weight balancing, that is you want to maintain a level of buoyancy which allows you to swim just above the bottom of the ocean. You don’t want to touch the bottom and disturb marine life, not to mention the Wobbegong Sharks that hang out on the bottom and can be unhappy when you startle them. You also don’t want to float to the top.

Apparently women are more of a challenge to get weighted correctly and our guide had some difficulty in getting mine right so was adding and subtracting from my weight belt while we were out there. A lot of the time I was stuck to the bottom of the ocean floor which didn’t add to my state of calm. Then our guide would take off some weights and I’d float up again.

While we saw plenty of sea life – Wobbegong Sharks, Turtles, a Spotted Ray, loads of fish, Sea Urchins, a Painted Cray, a Leopard Shark – the truth is that I spent the majority of my time underwater managing my own emotional state.

What I realised was that if I had a moment of fear (freak out) inside, it would magnify outside of me in that my breathing would get faster, then there would be more bubbles around me and I’d freak out even more.

This was exacerbated with the obstacle of having 4 intro divers, not completely in control of their own movements, trying to stay close together under the water with the guide so I’d have someone unknowingly hit me with their hand, flipper, tank in amongst trying to get the water out of my mask, maintain a steady breath, stay calm, remember what all these bits of equipment were for and of course wonder at all the sea creatures around us.

We were under water for 40 minutes in total. And it was one of those weird experiences where every moment felt like a lifetime but when we finished it felt like it had only lasted 10 minutes.

Since the dive, everyone’s been asking me with hopeful eyes – “So, was it fun??”

Well, fun probably isn’t the word I’d use to describe it.

It was an experience. An experience in presence.

After the dive, it took me a good hour to get my words back.

I’ve been a water baby all my life and consider myself pretty solid emotionally so I found it very interesting to feel so discordant under the water. I’m glad I did the dive because I like trying new things and pushing outside of my comfort zone. I think it keeps us fresh, interested and inspired.

My Step Dad Charlie always says the test is – would you do it again?

Yeah, I would.

I’m actually keen to do it again soon while the equipment and experience are still familiar and am keen as well to do the 4-day dive course at some stage too.

I can see the potential for the experience to be awesome and that’s what will get me back there.

So I’m curious, what experience(s) have you had that wasn’t exactly what you thought it would be but you would totally do again??