The Un-Pursuit of Happiness?

Rather than seeking active happiness pursuits it would appear far more beneficial to develop a sense of ‘ataraxia’ calmness untroubled by mental or emotional disquiet or as I prefer to see it ‘tranquillity’. I came to this conclusion after reading an article in The Guardian regarding ‘un-pursuing happiness’ – Seems odd – right?

In these times of uncertainty, when we actively seek out happiness pursuits, we can become disappointed as unforeseen restrictions are placed upon us. But whilst reflecting on this, I guess disappointment can happen at any time even without a pandemic.

Maybe we could focus our attention and practise things that allow us to feel more tranquil in the long run. Which brings me on to ‘what things’ we can practice?

Stop taking everything for granted and practise gratitude. As I discussed with my son who was distressing about his fractured and dislocated shoulder – at least your mother is here to make you an omelette and wash your hair and it could have been your foot ‘to boot’. Gratitude isn’t some big new idea – it’s appreciation and being thankful. It’s about paying attention to what we (not everyone else) have and what we know helps us on a daily basis. Simple things like ‘enough milk for my tea this morning’ or ‘You answered the phone when I reached out’.

Become mentally flexible in situations. Riding the highs and lows and not attaching any particular mindset to either – in fact attaching no ‘mind’ would be more beneficial and although we are just mere mortals this can still be achieved by being aware of our thoughts at all times. Trying to ignore negative thoughts/situation doesn’t make them go away and conversely focusing too much on positive thoughts doesn’t allow them to stay forever – we call this life. 

What about developing a ‘problem solving’ and ‘curious’ attitude, even if you have no idea about how to fix a computer issue (I’m talking about myself here). Nowadays, my first thought is normally – ‘Can I sort this? Could I find out how to? It’s being curious about things, which can help when we are striving to adopt a non-fear of failure approach or ‘growth mindset’ – Why did the cream cheese frosting turn out so runny? Add a bit of research and maybe a bit of discussion with others and you might find that you can fix the problem – Ahhhh, if you use less than totally full fat cream cheese and you overbeat the icing sugar (icing sugar likes to become liquidy if overbeaten) and add too much lemon juice rather than zest – you get sloppy frosting and that’s no good if your cake is as dense as lead roofing. 

Experiencing different situations and learning new things regardless of whether we fail or not (as already mentioned – growth mindset). There is so much out there that we can experience, even from our own homes.

Shakespeare
And talking of the Bard

Get online and see what you can experience. I’ve ‘virtually’ been to a classical concert with Philharmonia, attended a few courses from Treadwells, learnt about the history of paganism and learnt how to make my own incense (who knew you could burn household herbs and spices), sat in an audience with His Holiness (or as I like to call him – Wonderfulness) The Dalai Lama, Daryl Edwards, Ruby Wax, Jon Kabat-Zinn and others from Action for Happiness events. I watched two brilliant ‘live’ events by Eddie Izzard (WUNDERBAR) and Russell Brand (Our Little Lives – Shakespeare and Me). And talking of the Bard – I felt very privileged to watch the rehearsals and live dress rehearsal of Henry VI and be an active part of the performance ‘Dream’. Attending some of these functions would never have entered my mind if it had not been for the restraints of the virus and therefore an enforced need to look elsewhere for entertainment. 

Engaging your inner child – although ‘inner child’ has, like a lot of terms in MH, become quite trendy, – It’s simply about being silly and playful and not taking ourselves so seriously. Sometimes as adults we think that we are looked to for those ‘adult’ attributes otherwise we may be less worthwhile members of society. If you think about the characteristics of children, they are really quite perfect. They don’t discriminate or judge (perhaps broccoli), they are very accepting, affectionate and loving – but they also know exactly how to engage with play and take themselves off on adventures. Whiling-away hours building dams and fighting the cause for the greater good and they never complain about what you have dressed them in. Of course, I am talking about kids up to a certain age and those who have not been unduly messed up and conditioned by adults – as Eckhart Tolle says when discussing the negative mind “Negativity is totally unnatural…Have you come across a depressed dolphin, a frog that has a problem with self-esteem, a cat that cannot relax, or a bird that carries hatred and resentment? The only animals that may occasionally experience something akin to negativity or show signs of neurotic behaviour are those that live in close contact with humans and so link into the humans mind and its insanity.” – I think the same can be said for most children. And they love to laugh and part of that is laughing at things being silly and being silly themselves – innocent silliness. Finally, whilst I’m extoling the attributes of children, they do not need a reason to seek out exercise because most of the time they call it playing – Check out Daryl Edwards Primal Play.

Lastly, I’d like chat about the benefits, as I see it, of listening to Solfeggio frequency music (see links below).

I’ve been listening to this music, of which there are many examples on YouTube, for about 6 months. You can listen whilst meditating or not meditating (always our choice). This frequency music has been linked to many mental and physical health benefits and therefore you can choose which ‘frequency/frequencies’ best suit your needs. This is how I tend to approach the music for the day when I meditate. It allows me to get into a meditative state quickly and induces feelings of blissfulness and calm during and continuing into my day. Great – Yeah? Well, something occurred to me not very long ago – Some days the continued feeling (after meditating) of tranquillity and bliss seemed to be drowned out by a petulant entity that seemingly delighted in producing negative thoughts. To quieten this propaganda, I would tell my emotional brain (my chimp) to back off but in doing so I would often be left feeling less tranquil AND irritated that the thoughts had ‘visited’ in the first place. Afterall, hadn’t I just quietened my mind and hadn’t I just been observing my thoughts? Upon reflection (reflecting, not analysing, reflecting) I was reminded that the thoughts were only visitors and that I could use a gentler, loving and kind approach to ask them to take their leave – they are after all my DNA, my Relatives, ME. I think that when we start out or continue on our lifelong learning journey, some days can seem like the first day, and a reminder to be self-compassionate and loving and kind and affectionate towards ourselves on those days will help to ease the ‘no man’s land’ of an obtrusive mindset. However, it is the ‘tools’ the ‘practices’ that will ultimately release us from ourselves and allow happiness to flow.

https://meditativemind.org/benefits-of-music-based-on-7-solfeggio-frequencies/

https://www.naturehealingsociety.com/articles/solfeggio/

Jackie Bean

Director of Operations

Book review – Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

A spinster who makes a pact with the devil, becomes a witch and finds herself in the Chiltern Hills. Sounds intriguing – Right?

This novel came highly recommended and has undoubtedly settled itself in my top 10 most favourite books.

It was written in 1926, between the wars by a British lesbian author who was quite revolutionary for her time.

My soul was stirred whilst the book unfolded – very much like the heroine of the story, an Edwardian spinster (we don’t like this term!) called Laura Willowes. Laura, an unmarried Aunt, was adopted by her sister’s family after the death of her father and was moved from the countryside to London. She was absorbed into the household “like a piece of family property forgotten in the will”. They even changed her name affectionately to the childish Aunt Lolly.

It was taken for granted that she was not whole without a husband. This attitude appears to have changed little in the last 100 years. I have been party to discussions with women who may find themselves single at a certain age, that have experienced all sorts of assumptions and prejudgements, often dropped from the mouths of the “well meaning”.

Basically, still reminding us that society does not think women can be happy, fulfilled or even capable on our own outside of a relationship.

Aunt Lolly sleepwalks through her London existence doing what was expected of her with a mere hint at witchiness – filling her rooms with extravagant purchases of exotic flowers. Slowly but surely the erotic and powerful forces of nature start to stir within her and she suddenly decides to move to the village of Great Mop much to the disapproval of her suffocating family. Here in the beautiful and wild Chiltern Hills she gradually, with the help of the gentle Huntsman (aka the Devil), discovers her strength of character and her vocation to be a henwife or a witch. The author skilfully evokes the beauty and secret mysteries of the English countryside. I am reminded of the healing power of nature as Laura takes her wild walks and begins to uncover her real self, the self that has been buried alive by the accumulating dust of societal expectations.

Why make a pact with the Devil though, another man, when the patriarchy has suppressed you so much? The Devil for me represents the dark side of ourselves, the part that is sometimes a little wicked but also the side that speaks up rather than pleases and settles for a quiet life. The Devil was not interested in controlling her, he just wanted to set her free.

I took away a lot from this book and it will be one that I will revisit frequently to remind myself of the lessons that spoke to me. Specifically…

Maybe we all need to make peace with the darkness within us in order to become liberated. That a deep connection with nature can heal us and guide us towards our true selves.

That so much joy and beauty can be found in throwing off a bit of unwanted conditioning and convention and becoming undomesticated. Which, in sense, is living by others and society’s common expectations.

Jackie Bean

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Feel Good Fridays – What a Year (and a bit!)

Feel Good Fridays – What a Year (and a bit!)

When our courses were moved online early last year as Coronavirus spread, Deanne discussed with the Impact team how else we could reach out to our current and former learners as the initial lockdown progressed.

One solution was to take advantage of the new technology we had successfully embraced for delivery of the programmes. So, by holding regular catch-ups using the Zoom meeting app, Feel Good Fridays were started!

“Starting every Friday at 10.30 and lasting for a couple of hours. These sessions are all about fun, discussions around health & wellbeing, updates and games! It’s a bit like popping out for coffee with friends and going home feeling relaxed, informed and more often than not, in a better mood!”

Just like we teach on our courses, as the last 15 months progressed many blips/wobbles occurred in our lives, as the country would go in and out of lockdowns and through varying restrictions. We found this regular get-together an invaluable source of Peer-Support, not only for our learners but also for the Impact team!

A good number of former learners, some having done courses 4 or 5 years ago gave us a great opportunity to catch up with their lives, plus occasionally help them review some of the tools and practises which could help with their current situation. After all, as Deanne and Jackie have astutely observed, “So, if you have been hard on yourself for not doing better than you think you should, ask yourself – when was the last time you went through a Global Pandemic?”

It has also proved invaluable for learners who have only met each other online this past year or so. This has extended their social support beyond the course/s they attended, which in a classroom setting may have been limited to their fellow attendees. Occasionally some may admit during Feel Good Friday that for personal reasons things are not going their way. However, the unconditional support, lack of judgement, compassion and love that comes their way from others they sometimes barely know has proved a great source of comfort and strength to them, leaving the get-together with a more positive outlook.

It has been striking how much depth of knowledge there has been imparted between attendees. We’ve all been educated on the most diverse of subjects, from gardening and plant-care, to arts and crafts, plus environmental concerns and solutions that are becoming important issues in our 21st Century lives. Where else would you find out where to get sustainable bamboo toilet rolls and tissues, how to forage for mushrooms and other foodstuffs, or healthy recipes using vegan alternatives…although providing yourself with tea and cake to consume during the session is always welcomed!

What Deanne and Jackie have also found useful about Feel Good Fridays is the opportunities to try out new learning. So, subjects such as Breathwork and improving Vagus nerve function have been discussed, with half-an-eye on introducing them into the Impact programmes. It’s also been useful for our former learners when something has been added recently to a course, as invariably they will be mentioned the Friday after being covered, e.g. WOOP my life!

So, after well over a year, albeit with the occasional holiday breaks such as the summer one just started, Feel Good Fridays will continue for the foreseeable. We will let you know soon when we plan to re-start them, after Impact’s August shutdown. If you’ve already registered for the sessions then there’s no need to register again, just keep the confirmation email handy and use the Zoom link in that each week, after we’ve emailed everyone with a re-commencement date in a few weeks. Of course, if you’re a former learner that always been meaning to join us, but not yet got round to registering for Feel Good Friday, then here’s the link.

Harry Lindsay – Volunteer and Tech Guru!

Planning My 2021 Summer Journey

Planning My 2021 Summer Journey

Summer is here, schools have finished and it’s time for a break from my Impact volunteering.

I’m feeling excited and ready for a break from routine, whilst looking forward to having time for me, lots of adventures, hopefully some sunshine and spending quality time outdoors with the kids. (This is what I’m telling myself but not necessarily feeling!)

Happy and grateful, is how I think I expected to feel right now and perhaps that’s what I think others expect me to feel too?

Not the case, because that is far from what I actually feel right now.

The truth is, I feel anxious about not having my normal structure and my reliable routine that school and Impact bring me.

I’m concerned that I will struggle to find a healthy balance in the daily routine for the kids and myself.

How am I going to entertain the kids for 6 weeks?! I fear the days will just roll into one, without me achieving anything and that I’ll feel guilty our life doesn’t look the same as ‘other peoples’ summer holidays on social media – the neighbours and colleagues with BBQs, holidays, days out, laughing, relaxing and achieving their summer goals. But what causes me the most fear is that I might have a blip in my mental health.

But! In writing all of the above and thinking about the ‘what if’s’, I am already aware of my thinking and emotions. So, I can now put things in place to challenge these thoughts/feelings around, and I start by going head-first into the Impact wellbeing toolbox for positive change!

First, I know I need to focus on me. Not in a selfish way, but in a self-care way because I know when I am mentally well, I am able to give more of myself to my loved ones.

Also, it’s not whole days I need to plan for myself, it’s 30 mins to an hour a day that I need to replenish, refuel and give myself the attention that I deserve.

The first tool I will be taking out of my toolbox is the Impact RAMPS.

I’ve been using it for a couple of years now, but like everything it can end up on the back burner, especially when we are doing okay.

Here’s what I plan to do!

  • My first task is to put pen to paper and plan my daily Impact RAMPS to help give me balance in my day’s, which in turn will help to create a healthy balance in the kids’ days.
  • Im going to take 5 minutes in the evening to plan the different activities for the following day. These activities need to be only for 5 or 10 minutes long, and some of them I would be doing anyway, but it’s making sure I’m hitting all of the RAMPS areas to bring a healthy balance to my day.
  • This summer I’m also going to try it out for the kids, what a great template to use for them. Summer days can easily pass them by on a games console or in front of the TV, and I’m sure there will be a couple of these days over the 6 weeks but it’s an important choice for me to plan a balanced structure for their day too.
  • Next, I plan on sitting down with the kids and deciding on something new we can learn together. I can just imagine what ideas are going to be suggested! Parasailing, Cliff Diving or Parkour LOL. Mind you, that might be for you and if it is, go for it! My thoughts are more, learn a language, begin learning to play an instrument, photography or nature trails. When we\they decide, wish me luck!
  • SMARTS is going to be my next tool. It’s going to be helpful in planning and breaking down exactly what we need to do step by step to achieve it. Whether that’s learning a sentence in another language or a few notes on an instrument, don’t get me wrong I’m not expecting to be bilingual or applying to be a part of an orchestra! But using SMARTS breaks down all the excuses that the Chimp might come up with and makes it achievable because I’ve decided what’s it’s going to be and I’ve planned all the steps I need to make. And if the chimp pops up and throws us off track we can evaluate and go back to the planning. I now actually looking forward to this summer holidays!
Parasailing

That’s my plan for the summer of 2021.

To be honest when I was asked to write something for the newsletter, I felt dread and fear. I don’t like putting pen to paper, publicly, although I can talk all day if required! LOL. But I am so glad that I did write this article.

Getting my feelings and fears out of my head and writing them down with my plans to face and overcome them, has made me feel so much better about the next six-weeks. This is something else Impact encourage their learners to try, as the science is there to back up journaling/planning and sharing our feelings/fears.

Writing or talking about them, gives our logical brain the time to kick in and look at the facts and not allow our Chimp to run with negative/unhelpful thinking and emotions that can sometimes tell us we are not good enough at… or, we are not able to do… or, we don’t deserve… or, we are not worthy of… 

So, with all that said, bring on the next 6 weeks and my Impact toolbox.

It’s not going to be perfect; nothing is! But it’s going to be me and the kids, structure, routine, fun, laughter, down days, and self-care, our way.

Life is a journey, and we can plan it, or not, just like our summer holidays and there will be ups and downs, and that’s ok. In facing our feelings and fears and being equipped with the Impact Wellbeing toolbox, we can learn to be in the driver’s seat of our journey rather than feeling like we are being dragged along.

I’m planning my 2021 summer journey to make sure the kids and I get the best we can out of the next 6 weeks, and I’m relaxed, rested and ready for Impact’s Autumn Term!

Elaine Pestell – Impact Volunteer

Excited to Unlock YOU!

A brand new mental health wellbeing course for 2021/22

The Impact team are often excited about our work, our research, new science, our courses, our own learning and often life in general!

But now we are REALLY excited, and here’s why…

Let me introduce you to our brand-new programme, available in September 2021, for all previous, current and future learners at Impact…

Say hello to the Impact four-day ‘Unlock YOU’ wellbeing programme.

The Unlock YOU programme organically started to take shape as a possible programme over the last year or so, and specifically because of the often-damaging effects from the necessary restrictions we have all endured as a result of the Coronavirus.

The Impact team have been busy researching and monitoring nationwide mental wellbeing data to capture information about the symptoms and struggles people have and continue to experience around the ‘domino’ effects from living through a global pandemic.

Significantly, from our research, what we understand to be the more recognised areas that people have/are struggling with, such as loneliness, low motivation, fear/anxiety and loss of hope, are those that we at Impact believe to be fundamentally needed to living and managing our mental wellbeing successfully.

That’s why we have pulled together our findings and the many suggestions from the learners we have worked with over the last year (Thank you!) to create a programme that specifically teaches and supports people how to shift from what was to what is now; to adopt new thinking and wellbeing practices in their daily lives and to learn how to rebuild their future hopes and dreams, invest in self-care – all whilst taking back control of their thoughts and emotions.

  • For 2021, the Unlock YOU will be delivered online over four days, FREE to residents of Bedford and Central Bedfordshire who are over 19 years of age.
  • This programme is suitable for anyone who has/is struggling with their ability to manage their mental wellbeing as a result of Coronavirus – in whatever way that is causing you not to live a fulfilling life.
  • More information about the content of the Unlock YOU programme will be available online towards the end of August.
  • Once the Unlock YOU programme is available on the Impact website, learners will be able to register and enrol on our website.
  • We accept referrals from professionals and always welcome self referrals.

I hope you will agree that the Unlock YOU programme is going to be an exciting new journey for Impact, and we very much hope, a useful, motivational and inspiring journey for all those who join us in September.

Impact Autumn/Winter Term Programmes 2021

Impact Autumn/Winter Term Programmes 2021

We are now accepting registration and enrolments for all of our Autumn/Winter courses.

Please share this with anyone you think might benefit from attending an Impact Wellbeing course, to help them secure their place before term starts.

In addition to our existing courses, we are also launching a new course Unlock YOU. More information will be available towards the end of August

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

We are more than happy to talk you through our programmes and how to access them.

Starts Sept 22nd
Mental Health Services Bedfordshire

YOUR Recovery Pathways – September 2021 MHD210203

Impact's 9 week, mental health recovery programme – YOUR Recovery Pathways. The words “mental health recovery” can mean different things to different people. What we mean by recovery is to use the strengths we have to get better or better manage how we feel. If you feel you need to make some important changes to have the kind of life you really want, you will learn a huge amount by attending one of our enlightening programmes.
Starts Oct 26th
the you programme mental health peer support in Bedfordshire

YOU Programme – October 2021 MHD210301

The YOU Programme can be the most important first step to feeling better, improving your mental health and wellbeing and getting your life back on track through supporting education and peer empowerment.
Starts Nov 16th
the you programme mental health peer support in Bedfordshire

YOU Programme – November 2021 MHD210401

The YOU Programme can be the most important first step to feeling better, improving your mental health and wellbeing and getting your life back on track through supporting education and peer empowerment.
Starts Dec 7th

Unlock YOU – December 2021 MHD210502

The Unlock YOU Course has been designed to support people who are struggling with the social, motivational, physical and mental impact that Covid-19 and Lockdown has had on their lives. The course will assist and enable people to learn wellbeing practices, engage with others experiencing similar struggles, build healthy self-support strategies and put into practice new ways of managing distressing, demotivating or negative thoughts and feelings.
Starts Dec 1st
Mental Health Services Bedfordshire

YOUR Recovery Pathways – December 2021 MHD210501

Impact's 9 week, mental health recovery programme – YOUR Recovery Pathways. The words “mental health recovery” can mean different things to different people. What we mean by recovery is to use the strengths we have to get better or better manage how we feel. If you feel you need to make some important changes to have the kind of life you really want, you will learn a huge amount by attending one of our enlightening programmes.
Starts Jan 18th
the you programme mental health peer support in Bedfordshire

YOU Programme – January 2022 MHD210601

The YOU Programme can be the most important first step to feeling better, improving your mental health and wellbeing and getting your life back on track through supporting education and peer empowerment.
Starts Feb 1st
the you programme mental health peer support in Bedfordshire

YOU Programme – February 2022 MHD210701

The YOU Programme can be the most important first step to feeling better, improving your mental health and wellbeing and getting your life back on track through supporting education and peer empowerment.
Starts 8th March

Unlock YOU – March 2022 MHD210801

The Unlock YOU Course has been designed to support people who are struggling with the social, motivational, physical and mental impact that Covid-19 and Lockdown has had on their lives. The course will assist and enable people to learn wellbeing practices, engage with others experiencing similar struggles, build healthy self-support strategies and put into practice new ways of managing distressing, demotivating or negative thoughts and feelings.
Starts Feb 23
Mental Health Services Bedfordshire

YOUR Recovery Pathways – February 2022 MHD210702

Impact's 9 week, mental health recovery programme – YOUR Recovery Pathways. The words “mental health recovery” can mean different things to different people. What we mean by recovery is to use the strengths we have to get better or better manage how we feel. If you feel you need to make some important changes to have the kind of life you really want, you will learn a huge amount by attending one of our enlightening programmes.