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Hero or Shero

I keep hearing people talking about  being a hero or shero. I had never heard the word hero until a few months ago. Is it a necessary word?

Before I start this blog I want to make it clear that I believe in equality. I believe men and women are equal, that they have strengths and weaknesses and that for the most part they complement each other. I also believe that throughout time women have been dominated by the patriarchy. Intelligent, opinionated women have been branded as witches, crazy and trouble causers. 

History really has been His-story. 

 

Shero

When we think about the key characters from the past there are very few women.

As a teacher I loved to highlight women in history but they weren’t included in the curriculum when I was teaching.

I have been trying to think how many women I learned about at school, or indeed taught about at school, this is the list I could recall: Boudica, Florence Nightingale, Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Anne Frank and the wives of Henry VIII (who, as anyone who has seen the musical SIX will know, are only famous for being married to a king and we know very little about as women).

I can’t even begin to list all the men we learn about.

Does this mean that women haven’t contributed anything to our advancement? 

Absolutely not. 

The woman pictured above is Hedy Lamarr. She was a beautiful actress. She was also an incredible scientist who developed a radio guidance system without which we may never have developed bluetooth or wifi technologies. She died in 2000 and wasn’t recognised for her contributions to science until she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

The film “Hidden Figures” highlighted the story of the the female mathematicians and engineers working at NASA in the 1960s without whom the moon landing may never have happened. 

There are countless examples of women having a massive impact but many we are only just learning about now as people sign deep into history to unearth these amazing contributors.

We need to be teaching our children and ourselves, about these key female figures. Young girls need to be shown these role models to help them to see that they can achieve anything boys can. This article from The Guardian in 2017 shows that we may be making headway in the equality stakes but we still have a long way to go. 

We have to show our girls and young women that they have just as many opportunities and they are equal to their male counterparts. However, equality is what I would love to see achieved. I don’t want women to have a greater chance of getting a job, being paid more etc, just to be given the same chances a man would.

Equally I don’t feel that words which are coming into common usage such as “Shero” and “Herstory” are necessary.  I can see how the words hero and history can be seen to be male focused but creating another feminine equivalent seems unnecessary. Let’s just claim the words as our own. The same way we now have actors rather than actors and actresses. Let’s just have heroes and know that women can definitely be heroes. Let’s start discovering more women who had an impact historically. Let’s learn more about people like Anne Boleyn and make them real women with personalities, hopes and dreams, not just “wife of Henry VIII”.

Most importantly, let’s make sure that future history books are filled with women doing amazing things. Women inventing things, changing the world for the better. 

We don’t need men to stop achieving, to step back. We have always been equal in reality. Working together is the answer. Helping each other, supporting each other. Men and women can change the world for the better, together. They can be paid the same amount for doing the same job. They can be given equal opportunities, equal benefits. Men should be able to take extended paternity leave, they should be able to go home if their kids are sent home from school ill, just as women do. It should be up to the individual family to decide who takes on these roles, not some ancient belief. 

The right to choose

It is all about choice. We have to stop shaming women for not being ambitious too. Choosing to stay at home and care for your children is just as challenging and valuable as going out and earning a fortune or inventing something life changing. We all deserve to be happy. To make our own decisions. All we need is for the world to provide equal opportunities for everyone; male, female, old, young, black, white, artistic, scientific…

We are all people. We all have a role to play. We change the world every single day, just by being in it. We impact others every day.

Whether we are heroes because we visit an elderly neighbour, or because we discover a cure to a terrible disease, we are all heroes. Whether you are happy with being a hero or shero. If you like to be an entrepreneur or a mumpreneur. Whether you are happier reading History or Herstory.

Be yourself.

Be the best you that you can be.

Be your own hero or shero but be happy.

 

The Benefits of Singing

Singing is good for you. 

 I know, it might sound ridiculous but when I read a study a few years ago that actually stated that singing can even prolong your life, I wasn’t even a little surprised. 

I have been singing all my life. I could have written the Abba song “Thank you for the Music” I think I was singing before I could talk. I love it. As a child I sang all the time. As a teenager I sang to pop songs, I was in the choir at school and I was always in the school productions (which at our school were always musicals). 

If I was happy I sang, if I was stressed I sang, feeling lonely, sing and I never get on a dance floor without singing along to whatever I’m dancing to. I’ve even been known to sing along to theatre shows! 

 

Why is it so good for you?

Well, there are many biological factors at play. We know that one of the best ways to calm our nervous system is to control our breathing, this reduces the production of cortisol and calms us down. In order to sing we have to regulate our breathing, even slow it down. So it is physically very calming.

It is an incredibly mindful activity. It is very difficult to sing and be thinking about other things. We have to be completely present and concentrate on the words and tune we are singing.

Socially it lifts our spirits to sing with other people. It builds a sense of community and belonging. We even synchronise our heartbeats with others when we sing together. It builds our confidence. When we sing we release endorphins that help us feel positive and boosts our energy levels. The more we sing the more we want to sing. 

Singing even boosts your immune system!

By calming our body through singing we strengthen our immunity and we are less likely to become ill. Not just that but it reduces pain. 

By singing regularly you not only strengthen your lungs but also your heart health is improved. This is another reason I have always done a lot of singing because I am asthmatic and it really helps by breathing. 

There has even been research done which proves that people who sing regularly have better balance and posture! 

 

Are you starting to see how dramatically singing could change your life?

In studies conducted with people suffering chronic pain, singing has been shown to alleviate the pain symptoms for not just immediately afterward but for up to 6 months later. The studies have also shown that singing could have a real impact on the amount of pain relief medication used by participants.

Sing Up Foundation

Singing has been shown to be really beneficial for people with alzheimers. It improves your circulation, increases the amount of oxygen in your blood and improves your mental alertness, concentration and memory. 

 

But I can’t sing! 

 

Who cares? I know it’s easy for me to say. I’m not even going to pretend that I can’t sing, I have done a lot of singing in my life, and people seem to quite like listening to me for the most part. I feel very fortunate but I have had my own struggles though. My acromegaly means that my throat tissues can become enlarged and when I was really ill before my surgery I couldn’t sing and it made me really depressed. When I say I couldn’t sing, I don’t mean it wasn’t good, I mean it was physically difficult. But it isn’t about performing. It isn’t about being a singer. It is about singing for health and enjoyment. You don’t look beautiful and composed when you go to the gym or take part in sport, but you feel better afterwards and your body and mind are healthier. It’s time to start seeing singing the same way.

 

There are lots of opportunities to sing whether you believe you can sing or not. You don’t have to join a choir or singing group (although if you can I can highly recommend it!). Why not sing in the car when you are traveling alone?  Sing in the shower, while you are cooking, put the radio on and sing while you are cleaning. I sing while I work in my office a lot (apart from when I’m writing because then I write what I’m singing instead of what I should be writing!). I also sing while I’m on my rowing machine. It passes the time and that way I am getting even more exercise.

 If you don’t like listening to yourself sing turn the music right up. But I’m fairly certain that your singing is no where near as bad as you believe it is! 

 

In summary

 

Singing is good for you because it:

 

  • calms you down  

 

  • boosts your immune system 

 

  • improves your memory  

 

  • benefits your heart and lung health increases your confidence  

 

  • can help with alzheimers

 

  • improves balance and posture 

 

  • reduces pain

 

  • helps you to be more mindful

 

 I’m even going to be brave and upload a song I have sang at weddings recently. I believe in walking my talk and if I am going to encourage you to sing, I should be brave enough to let you hear me sing. I would love to hear your singing and your stories about how singing has helped you. 

 

Be the change

As the new year approaches it is always good to take time to reflect on the change in your life over the previous year. Every new year brings change and we all start to focus on the what we would like to have achieved by the end of the coming year.

There is something in the air as we approach the new year, we are all filled with hope that any challenges we have faced during the previous year will pass and better things lie ahead. It is the perfect time to sit and take stock and check in with our progress towards our dreams and make sure we are still on track.

Those of you who know me will know that I LOVE planning. I love everything about it; the dreaming, the possibilities, the challenge and of course the stationery! But this year I am planning big changes.

Be the change

When it comes to planning I’m old school. 

I like a notebook and pen. I use an electronic diary so that I can sync my diary with my husband. He is also self employed so work routine is not something we understand! Everything else is done on paper. 

I know it’s old school but there is solid scientific evidence that our brains process writing and work on paper differently to the way it processes screens, and it works so much better for me, it’s so much more flexible. Paper also allows your mind to wander and it lets you tap into your unconscious more I find. 

At this time of year I use dotted paper and various pencils and pens to plan. I plan everything I intend to create and achieve in the coming year. I sit and reflect, I breathe deeply and allow my intuition to take over and make sure that everything I plan feels right. It is so important that everything we do adds to our happiness and contentment. If something doesn’t feel right then there is a reason for that. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t a worthy cause, it  certainly doesn’t mean that it is something that shouldn’t be done, but maybe someone else needs to do it. We can’t do everything after all.

 I also like to take the time to look back on everything I have created and achieved over the previous year. This year however, I went a step further and looked back over everything I have achieved over the last 10 years.   

Wow! What a change!    

In 2009 I had a newborn, I was just doing all my Reiki training, I had been self employed as a childminder but hadn’t started any of the work I am doing now. When I stop and look at all the work I have done, both with individuals and schools over the last decade I am genuinely shocked. When 2010 started only a couple of years had passed since my tumour surgery, I was just starting having my injections to control my acromegaly and I had spent most of my recovery pregnant and caring for a baby. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to function fully as a mum let alone run two businesses. 

Why not take a few minutes to think about everything you have achieved over the last decade?  

Grab a notebook or piece of paper and write down everything you have done, holidays you have had, friends you have made, all your professional achievements, all your personal achievements… You will be amazed at everything that has changed over the last decade.  

One thing is for sure. The coming year, and indeed decade, have the power to be whatever you make them. We can decide that this is going to be our best year ever. Why wouldn’t it be? We can get up every morning determined to make the most of every minute. Choose to be kind and thoughtful. Be dedicated to making the world we live in a better place in whatever small way we can. You don’t need to have money to change the world. Maybe you help someone out, pay someone a compliment or just smile at them.

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

Helen Keller

It is so easy to think that it is someone else’s job to make a difference. That someone else will step up.

Why not you? 

Why wait for someone else?

Get out there and do what you have seen needs to be done. If you can’t physically do it yourself raise awareness and encourage others to come together and do it. 

Life is amazing. Make sure you are living every moment. 

 That doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to have a pj day under a blanket watching Christmas films, of course you can. No-one can be on duty all the time, even heroes need a day off to recharge their batteries, but I implore you, stop and think about what you can do to make a positive impact on the world this year.

There is so much negativity in the world at the moment, lots of people despairing about decisions that are being made and the way things are being handled by those in power but we need to come together and create a movement of light and positivity. If we do then we are unbeatable. Are you ready to “be the change that you wish to see in the world”(Gandhi)?

If not now then when?

 Write down all the things you would like to change this year in your notebook or on your paper. Whether it is getting more fit, decorating your bedroom, sorting out your finances, maybe volunteering for a local good cause, whatever it is you want to change, write it down and commit to it now!

As another decade passes and I am reminded how much my life has changed, I can only imagine what the next decade will bring.  Honestly, I don’t like looking too far forward. I’m very much a “live in the moment” person. Just knowing that my children will be adults and I will be in my fifties makes me realise that I don’t have time to mess about. This year I am going to make big changes so that I am firmly on the right track for the rest of the decade and I cannot recommend enough that you do too.

Be the hero of your own story

Many years ago now I remember reading the Joseph Campbell quote “You are the hero of your own story” and I remember thinking “wow, yes, of course I am. Who else could be the hero of my story?”. 

Of course back then I was a naive 20 year old who had had a relatively sheltered life. Now as a more worldly forty something I apprecaite how easy it is to sit back and let someone else take the lead. 

It is easy to decide that you have nothing to contribute, that you aren’t good enough or that someone else is more important than you. 

 

Rubbish! 

Be the hero

In your heart there is a song that needs to be sung. There is a passion that needs to be expressed, an adventure that needs to begin or a journey that needs to be taken. Perhaps a project that has been waving at you in the distance for many years. Whatever it is, only you can make it happen. 

The world needs to hear that song, feel that passion, share that adventure or benefit from that project. As Marie Forleo would say “the world needs that special gift that only you have”.   

Don’t believe me? 

 What if the great inventors and influencers of all time had sat at home and played it small? 

 What if Isaac Newton, Einstein, Marie Curie, Brene Brown, Mozart, Ronaldo or Malala Yousafzai had just sat back and waited for someone else to take action? These are just the first names that came into my head but there are so many more. 

 Take a moment to think about all the people who have impacted your life; the teachers, coaches, authors, film makers, athletes, musicians, doctors… the list is endless. Think how much poorer you would be had those people not made the effort and put themselves out there. 

I can practically hear you screaming at your screen: “but I have nothing to contribute to the world, those people were like a different species to me, they are geniuses and I am a mere mortal”. Well, maybe that’s not exactly what you were thinking but I know I have thought similar things over the years.

You have a lot to contribute to the world. 

There are people who you have influenced more than you will ever know. Lives you have changed with a comment or a helping hand. You don’t have to be a celebrity, have given a TED talk or written a book to have made an impact on the world.

Perhaps you said something kind to a girl at school when you were 12 years old and because of that her self esteem was restored and she went on to invent something amazing. Everything you do, every day, makes changes the world in a small way. 

What sort of story will you be the hero of? 

If you don’t feel like life is going quite the way you expected it to, perhaps you are a hero stuck in the wrong story? The Hulk probably wouldn’t have been a hero if he had landed in Oz, equally Dorothy would be pretty useless when up against Abomination.

Are you following your bliss? 

If not you might want to take a moment to work out what your story is supposed to be. 

What sort of hero are you?

 When you find the right story things will start to click into place. This quote from Joseph Campbell sums it up perfectly.

I have had several instances in my life when I have made a decision, sometimes one that felt a little crazy, and suddenly everything aligns to make it happen. That is when you know that you are on the right path.  

I have literally been picked up and put onto the right path a couple of times in my life. The most significant time though was just after I had my son. I had been pregnant or ill for 5 years and felt like I had lost who I was and what I was supposed to be doing. I had been reading lots of “self help” books (I hate that phrase) and I sat down one day and decided that I needed to make a change. 

“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”
Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell

Author, The Power of Myth

I sat at my computer and typed “distant learning course” into Google and the top course was from the Institute of Counselling. It was a course called “Certificate in Spiritual Care”. I took a look and it was as though the course had been created for me. I had no intention of it leading to a career change, I just wanted to get my brain working again and feel like I had achieved something. Little did I know that that one decision would lead to me doing my Reiki attunements, getting back in touch with my spiritual side, doing qualifications in mindfulness and creating two amazing businesses. It was magic. I trusted the universe (or whatever force you believe in) to point me in the right direction and it really did.  

I have been trusting my intuition and the universe to point me in the right direction ever since. I pay attention to every sign and comment. If someone mentions a person, technique, book, event… and it comes up a few times in quick succession, I look it up and find out more. If I am feeling a little lost I take time to meditate or read or even just have a bath and try to work out where I need to go next. I know that if I am having to force something it isn’t right. 

Are the hero of your story? 

Why not let me know your story in the comments below?

Have Yourself a Mindful Little Christmas

Could having a mindful Christmas really be the answer to holiday stress? 

Christmas time can be so stressful. There are food preparations, gifts to wrap, cards to write, social occasions, friends to visit, family to visit, traditions to be remembered, the list seems endless. 

Add to that the pressure for everything to be “perfect” and it can be a really toxic combination or stress, guilt, financial worries and emotional exhaustion. We all want magical memories of Christmas, particularly for our loved ones, but all too often we are too stressed and exhausted to be able to remember anything let alone enjoy it. 

Mindful Christmas

How can mindfulness help?

I’m sure many of you are nodding with a deep understanding about the stresses of Christmas. How can mindfulness help though? 

Well, by staying calm and in the present it can help you to lower your physical stress levels as well as feeling more present and organised.

When we are busy and there are lots of things to think about it is easy to be constantly living in our heads. Constant streams of; “I must remember to…” can be distracting and not always as productive as we might try to convince ourselves. 

 

My top mindfulness tips for a calm and happy Christmas  

Be organised   

When we are organised and feel on top of things we always feel more calm. Deal with things as soon as you can and make lists for everything to make sure you don’t forget everything. By writing them down you don’t have to keep them going round and round in your head. 

Preparation is key   

Do as much in advance as you can. There are so many things you can get done really early so that you aren’t dashing round at last minute. Get your veggies parboiled and in the freezer. Wrap your presents as soon as you can. Whatever you need to get done do it as soon as possible.

Let go of the myth of perfection 

We all want our memories of Christmas to be greeting card perfection but in reality we are all just human. Often it is the imperfect that makes the day special. You don’t have to have an instagram worthy breakfast, have some toast so you can sit and enjoy watching your children open their presents. Realistically something will happen that will ruffle your feathers; you will forget one of the veg, misplace a present, drop the Christmas pudding, whatever it is you will survive.  

 

Breathe

It doesn’t matter what I am talking about, when it comes to feeling in control and calm breathing properly is always my top tip! When you breathe slowly and in a controlled way your brain knows that there is no need to worry and it begins to calm your whole body.  Even just a couple of minutes breathing in time to this little video is enough to calm your mind and body. 

Mindful Drinking

Why not try making a hot drink and really taking the time to explore all the effects it has on your senses? Watch as the hot water mixes with the dry ingredients. See the steam swirl out of the mug. Smell the aroma. Feel the steam hit your face. Then take a sip and really taste it. Feel how warm and comforting it is as it flows down your throat and into your stomach. Really take the time to savour each mouthful and enjoy some quiet time. 

Quiet moments

During the big day, try to find little pockets of calm. Even if it is just stirring the custard or making a coffee. If you can manage a quiet half hour with a book or a quiet walk with the dog, even better.

Remember, these festive days are for everyone to enjoy. You are allowed to relax and enjoy the day too. 

If you want to learn more mindful tricks to help you have a wonderfully mindful Christmas why not sign up for my Mindful Advent Calendar? It’s completely free and you will learn so many amazing mindfulness strategies in just 5 minutes a day.

 

Mindful Advent Calendar

Do you always feel stressed and exhausted by the time Christmas arrives?

Sign up for my FREE Mindful Advent Calendar and ensure you have a calm and happy Christmas.

If you need someone to talk to over Christmas please know that there is always a listening ear at the Samaritans they do incredible work. You are never alone. I may not check my emails as often over the holidays but I do check them every day and will always be there for  anyone who needs a listening ear.

Other blogs you may find interesting:

Time for a change

Why you need to start practising mindfulness

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