Love, Life and Loss

017Another spring, another photograph of my favourite bluebell woods in full bloom – and a reminder that it’s over a year since I started writing my blog.  I’ve been silent for a while, not quite knowing how to write about happiness at a time of sorrow, as news of three friends coping with sudden and shocking bereavements has reached me over the last couple of months.

I guess we all fool ourselves that we are in control of our lives, until something so harsh and unexpected confronts us with the truth – that we really don’t know what tomorrow holds for certain.  Our human need to make sense of things, to understand and piece together the jigsaw, is challenged when life is shattered so suddenly.  We have so many questions, yet there are no easy answers.    Continue reading

Sharing Happiness and Laughter at the TA Conference

Just a few reflections from a fantastic day at the Cumbria Transactional Analysis Conference on 23rd February.  Thanks to the committee for organising another successful event, which brought together 130 people to enjoy workshops on a wide range of topics in a great venue with a delicious lunch.  Good luck with plans for next year’s conference, which will be the tenth one held here in Cumbria so a special date to celebrate!

I ran a 2-hour workshop in the morning called Happiness Matters, so many thanks to the participants who chose to come along and explore why happiness is so important to all of us.  We discussed definitions of happiness, the impact of authentic happiness on our physical and emotional health, how our beliefs and family stories around happiness affect our own experience of it, and our unconscious ‘Happiness Contract’ – and how to revise and update it for optimum success.   Developing a positive mind-set, building flourishing relationships, and enhancing wellbeing and resilience can offer huge benefits both to ourselves and the people we come into contact with, so it was great to see people relating the tools and activities to situations they met in home and work life – good luck in putting all your positive intentions into action!      Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Wishes

What a busy start to the year – apologies for the long silence!  I can’t let the day go by without wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day and reminding you of the links between love and happiness. Cynics may scoff at the modern commercialism of this festival – though it’s good news for the florists and card shops! – but why not have a special day to remind ourselves of the power of love?  Whether it’s love for a partner, a child, a family member, a friend, a stranger, or simply for ourselves, love is a healing force and a boost to happiness and wellbeing.  Take a moment to reflect today – who could you be more loving towards?  Who could you accept more love from?  Where could your love be a force for good in the world?  Set an intention to let more love into your life and see what happens!

I’ll be focusing on love next month with the publication of Robert Holden‘s new book Loveability (out March 4th) – can’t wait to read it and look forward to reviewing it here.

Of course love can manifest itself in what we do as well as in our relationships – when we have a purpose in life and when we feel inspired and creative.  I’ll be running a couple of workshops in a week of so at the Cumbria TA Conference and I’m so looking forward to exploring whether Happiness Matters (I’ll give you a clue, I think it does) in the morning, as well as taking part in creative workshops myself.  It promises to be a great day – it’s not too late to join us though there are limited places left.  Check out the details here – I’ll share some thoughts on the day afterwards.    Continue reading

Making a Difference

A reflective post this week to honour the passing of Alice Pyne, aged seventeen, who I wrote about in my post Two Inspiring Blogsites back in June of last year.  Alice achieved more in her short life than most of us ever will, with her national campaign to get everyone in Britain to sign up to the Bone Marrow Donor Register.  She also, with the help of her amazing family, raised tens of thousands of pounds to set up a charity, Alice’s Escapes, to provide free holidays in the Lake District for families with a seriously ill child. She lived up to her motto: ‘One life . . . live it!’

Many young people want to make a difference in the world, even if only to one person – my son has just started writing a blog and his first post was on this very subject – see also Action for Happiness on Why Helping Others Matters.  But to leave a lasting legacy that will benefit thousands of children and adults with life-threatening diseases is inspirational – Alice received a ‘Pride of Britain’ award and she and her sister were both honoured with the British Empire Medal for services to charity.  Alice’s courageous spirit lives on; her sister Milly plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, together with her parents, in memory of Alice – you can sponsor her here.    Continue reading

Embracing the Empty Nest

My younger son left home four months ago. 🙁 Time for some positive thinking! 🙂

  • He’s on cloud nine living with his clever and talented girlfriend.
  • He’s moved to Edinburgh, my favourite city – yet another good reason to visit.
  • Free sofa bed during the Fringe – whoop whoop!

Sigh . . . that’s enough of that, we all know that true happiness requires honesty, and the honest truth is that I miss him terribly. I miss hearing him singing and playing his wonderful music in the next room while I’m cooking.  I miss his enthusiastic book recommendations (and yes, I promise I’ll read The Picture of Dorian Gray).  I miss the way he always kept his bedroom spotlessly clean and tidy.*  And while Edinburgh may be only three hours away, that’s three hours too far to pop round for a coffee – and it’s still in a foreign country isn’t it?    Continue reading

Giving Thanks

I ran a workshop this week which touched on the links between happiness and gratitude.  When we remember to notice and give thanks for the good things in our lives we experience a powerful sense of connection with ourselves, with other people, and with the here and now; it’s a shortcut to happiness.

We also discussed the more challenging idea of giving thanks for whatever happens to us, unconditionally – that perhaps even things that don’t seem like gifts could be blessings in disguise.  It’s a shift of belief – as Robert Holden says, ‘What if life didn’t happen to you, it happened for you?’  A concept we use in NLP is that of reframing ie. taking a new perspective or putting a positive spin on a situation, in order to deliberately change our response to it.   Continue reading

More Reflections on Coaching Happiness

Let’s start with some real reflections from the Lake District – we’re enjoying a few days of golden autumn sunshine.  Thank you to my musician friend Fiona who captured this beautiful view across Windermere.

I promised a few more thoughts on workshops I’ve delivered recently.  The one I co-facilitated at the Cumbria Coaching Network‘s Coaching for Happiness conference with Beth Curl of Hyproformance was called Happiness from Within, and explored how some of our beliefs about happiness – often influenced by early family messages – can affect our later experiences.  Our participants had many thoughtful insights, both in the group discussions and in feedback afterwards. One mentioned two things that had a big impact on her, so I thought I would share them with you.     Continue reading

Experiencing happiness – past, present and future!

Do you enjoy planning and looking forward to a special event with a warm tingle of anticipation, setting an intention for future happiness?  Do you look back over favourite photo albums, listen to music you loved in the past, or reminisce about joyful memories, and re-experience the positive emotions they evoked at the time?  Or do you live in the moment and focus on simply being happy in the here and now?  Perhaps it’s a mixture of all three!

I’ve been musing on these questions while thumbing through a copy of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe brochure – as usual, satisfyingly thick and crammed with temptations – while planning my annual visit.  I first went in 2005 and loved the bustling city so much that I vowed I’d return every August to make up for all the years I hadn’t.  Pondering which of my unmissable favourites I need tickets for, and which undiscovered delights I might be swayed by – hmm, man in koala suit playing the ukulele? – started me wondering what it would be like if we weren’t able to visualise the future or remember the past.    Continue reading

In Praise of Imperfection


Allow me to introduce you to the Happy Wolf!  There, you’re smiling already, aren’t you?

I met the Happy Wolf quite recently, on a visit to Leeds City Museum.  As soon as I saw this wonderful creation I burst out laughing, which was no doubt very disrespectful of me when confronted by a work of art dating from the 3rd century. It’s a large floor mosaic discovered in the Yorkshire village of Aldborough, depicting the legend of twin brothers Romulus and Remus. They were the founders of Rome, who were abandoned as babies but found by a kindly she-wolf, who fed them and saved them from death.

If you get the chance, do go see the Happy Wolf.  You’ll be charmed, like me, by her round button eyes and broad friendly grin (despite the rows of pointy teeth).  I love the coquettish way she crosses her front legs.  I love the fact that her hind-quarters quite obviously belong to another animal altogether.  I love that the artists didn’t even attempt to depict any fussy wolf-teat / suckling business in tiny pieces of coloured stone – and who can blame them? – but instead opted to show the twins joyously jamming together on air-guitars.  In fact, I love everything about the Happy Wolf.

I wonder how the mosaic-makers felt on the completion of this masterpiece.  Did they step back to view their hybrid wolf-cat-pony with a puzzled frown, a little crestfallen that something wasn’t quite right? Oh for a Tardis to whizz back a few centuries and reassure them!  I’d love to say, ‘Please don’t change a thing – you have no idea how much someone a couple of thousand years into the future is going to love her exactly the way she is.  I’ve even got her picture set as a screensaver on my computer . . .’  No wait, think that last bit’s tricky even with a Latin dictionary.   Continue reading

Reclaiming Pride

Many years ago on a counselling course, I remember the tutor saying that while it was a good thing to be proud of ourselves and our achievements, it wasn’t on to be proud of other people, for example our children.

Now, I have two observations on this: a) he wasn’t a father himself, and b) I think it would be hard to stop!

I am blessed with two brilliant and talented sons, who often play in public (one as a magician and street performer, one as a singer and musician).  So it’s not uncommon to  find myself in the front row, bursting with pride and graciously receiving compliments on their behalf from the audience.

Now, thinking about it, perhaps my old tutor had a point – after all, my boys’ accomplishments are sadly not due to any entertainer’s genes inherited from me, but rather down to personal motivation and long hours hidden away in their bedrooms honing their skills (at least, I think that’s what they were doing).

Continue reading