Dear Husband…

I’m very lucky; my husband is a loving, kind, intelligent man.  On the whole we get on very well, and generally if we’ve got a difference of opinion we can talk it out. However, there are odd moments where he does things that baffle me, and he himself is often equally baffled by my reactions to him. Why don’t I find it funny when he pretends that I smell? Where is the line between offering help and insulting my independence? Why will I not accept “nothing” as a valid answer to the question “What are you thinking about?”, and why am I asking in the first place?!

So, dear Husband, here is my QuickStart Guide to Understanding Your Wife:

1. Your Wife likes to be cared for.

You may think I’ve gone a bit old fashioned, but hear me out.  Caring for someone can be noticing when they are tired and offering to give them a foot rub; emptying the bins when they are full and not just on bin day; remembering the thing they asked you to do without having to be reminded. Your Wife may not need someone to tie her shoelaces for her, but a little bit of TLC here and there makes her feel loved.

2. But not too much.

Your Wife is a capable, independent woman, who managed to keep herself alive perfectly well before you came along. Respect her ability to do what needs doing. Help around the house, offer to cook dinner, fix the computer – that’s all great, but if Your Wife is in the middle of doing something don’t barge in and take over just because you want to be helpful. There’s pride and satisfaction in seeing something through from start to finish; even if you think she needs your help at least ask before you dive in.

3. Always treat Your Wife with respect.

This does not mean you have to doff your cap every time she enters the room. This means letting her know she is a special and important person, and understanding that even if your mates at work think it’s hilarious to exchange insults about bodily odour or varying types of swear words, Your Wife may not feel the same way. You would not flip your middle finger up to your Grandmother – so afford Your Wife the same respect.

4. But don’t put her on a pedestal.

Although it’s wonderful that you are completely devoted to Your Wife, it does neither of you any good to worship her to oblivion. She is human. You are human. If she pisses you off, you need to tell her. Don’t let it fester and build up resentment, and don’t let her get away with it! Let her own her behaviour and apologise for it. If you piss her off, you apologise, but don’t be a martyr. Your relationship will be stronger and happier if you can both let each other screw up, apologise, and move on.

5. Think of her.

Probably the easiest way to make Your Wife feel loved and cared for is to let her know you are thinking of her when she is not there. It doesn’t matter how you do it – you could send her a little text from work just to say hi, or when you get home kiss her and tell her you’ve been thinking about her all day. (Even if you have to set a phone alarm to remind you to think about her, that’s probably OK, but I wouldn’t advise putting too much emphasis on that bit.)

I hope that clears things up a bit.

Love, Your Wife x

(P.S. I do realise this is all one-sided, but I can only write from my own point of view. Perhaps later I’ll try a follow up post on ‘What I have learned from My Husband’!)

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Going to the gym.. no I really am going.. honest.

I’m trying to get fit at the moment. I don’t just mean fitter, because that implies some basic level of ‘fit’ to improve on. I’d even settle for fit-ish to be honest.

I have been to the gym this morning. I’m supposed to go three times a week, however last week I went once, and the week before I’m not sure I managed it at all. But here’s the thing – whenever I do make it to the gym, I do quite enjoy it. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that thinking about going to the gym is far worse than actually doing it.

I could spend the rest of this blog post speculating about why that is, but I don’t think that’s a particularly helpful question at this stage, so here’s the one I’m going with:

How can I get myself down the gym even when I don’t want to go?

Seeing as I’m going to attempt two more trips this week, I thought I’d better try to answer this question, so I can refer back to it later if necessary. Here’s what I have come up with so far:

– Don’t think about it (this was my tactic this morning). Decide that you are going (preferably the night before when it’s a safe distance away), and then refuse to think about it again.

– Arrange everything beforehand so that it’s easy for you to do it. This morning I put everything in my car that I would need before I did the school run, then when I got back I didn’t need to go in the house for anything, and didn’t risk a sneaky sit down turning in to a two-hour email marathon.

– Tie it to another activity, so that in your head both are linked – this morning for me this was the school run and going straight to the gym afterwards.

– Arrange a reward for afterwards (no, not cake). My gym has a jacuzzi so sometimes I bribe myself with a relax in the bubbles afterwards.

– Realise that, no matter how important it seems to reply to this email RIGHT NOW (or finish that game of Candy Crush), actually the world is not going to end if you take an hour out for yourself.  I have started to see the gym as some me-time, and as something that I am doing for myself, to improve my health and fitness, and general quality of life. It’s very easy to lose yourself in the demands of other people, and it’s a really important and special thing to be able to set aside some time that is just for you.

If you’ve got any more tips about getting yourself to the gym, please comment below – I may need some backup on the days when even my top five aren’t cutting it!

Now, I just need to see if I can apply these principles to doing my tax return…. 😉

Cat x

The Value of Compassion

I read a really interesting article this morning on the value of compassion; it is a great read if you’re in to psychological research, but for those of us who like to get straight to the point, I’ve pulled out what I think are the most interesting bits:

Compassion is defined by the author as “the emotional response when perceiving suffering” and as involving “an authentic desire to help”. It’s different from empathy (experiencing someone else’s feelings) and altruism (doing something to benefit someone else) because of the active desire to help others, triggered by the emotional reaction to their suffering.

There’s a lot of evidence to support the idea that compassion is an innate behaviour – that is, one that occurs naturally, rather than having to be learned. Scientists have studied chimpanzees, rats, and human babies and found evidence of compassionate behaviour in all of them. Most people will be familiar with the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’, but here the article explains how the work of Charles Darwin might be more accurately described as ‘survival of the kindest’; compassion is a trait that is absolutely necessary for the survival of the human race.

As well as the obvious benefit of maintaining the existence of the the human race, compassion also has huge benefits for the wellbeing of individuals. The article describes a number of studies which show that the act of giving to others makes us feel better than receiving for ourselves. Amazingly, this even affects us on a biological level. The cells in our body often become inflamed under stress, which is something believed to be at the root of cancer and other diseases. You would expect that people who describe themselves as happy would have less stress, and therefore less cell inflammation. However, one study found that this was only true for people who lived a life of “purpose or meaning” (i.e. helping others), and that people who described themselves as happy but lived a fairly selfish life still had high levels of inflammation in their cells. And if that’s not enough to convince you – it’s generally accepted that if you’ve got high stress levels you’re going to die younger, yes? Well, not if you help people, according to another study quoted in this article. It seems that compassionate behaviour actually helps the counteract the results of stress in our bodies. Yet another study even found that people who volunteer live longer than those who don’t.

Anyone who has experienced the feelings of pleasure gained from helping someone in need will know how compassion can affect your mental health. The article speculates that this may also link to increased social connections, known to be a significant benefit to wellbeing. In fact, one study indicates that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. (Although possibly not if you’re doing all three at once..!) I think I might choose to interpret this as an excellent excuse to spend more time on Facebook..! 😉

So if you’re looking for ways to improve your life you could do worse than cultivating some compassion! I often think the world would be a much better place if we all followed the basic premise of ‘be nice to people’ – now it turns out that it’s actually good for our own physical and mental health as well!

You can get regular updates on the science of wellbeing by subscribing via the website of Emma Seppala, who wrote the original article. Or you could keep coming back here and let me put it in to bite-size chunks for you!

Happy weekend 🙂

Cat x

How to Make Stuff Happen

Well, the pressure’s on now! Having decided to write an inspirational blog to show that ordinary people can be awesome, I now have to work out what to write…!

A couple of years ago I was working through an exercise which asked you to look at a situation where you had achieved something, and pick apart what it was that you did in order to do that thing. No matter how much you might think that things ‘just happen’, there are always steps that we go through (consciously or unconsciously) in order to get to that place. If you can pinpoint what it is that you do when you are at your most successful, then you can use this formula and apply it to other situations which may seem challenging.

The example I picked was when I first started running a festival, which had been a dream of mine since university. My formula for success turned out something like this:

– First I gathered a team of people round me who also wanted to make it happen, and were committed to helping me to do it.

– I had good reasons why I HAD to make it work. It was something I desperately wanted to do, and in addition to that, it was something that I felt was important for my local community and something that ought to be happening – if I could do it, then I should do it. Those are good enough reasons to try, but I realised I also had something else – something worth losing if it didn’t work out. The three key things for me were my reputation, my pride, and the money I faced losing – failure was simply not an option. It wasn’t a case of trying and seeing whether it worked, I was going to MAKE it work whether it wanted to or not.

– I committed to it emotionally. It was a big risk, and I had to accept that and the fear associated with that as part of the committment. It’s not that I wasn’t afraid, or that I didn’t worry – but that I accepted that fear as part of the process and didn’t let it stop me doing what I wanted to do.

– On the practical side of things, I worked out a broad timescale of what needed doing and when. Which were the big important milestones? When did I need to have these decisions made by? I focused on the big stuff, and left the little bits to sort themselves out along the way.

– I did the bulk of the work in a few large chunks; put in the time, got stuff done, and then it needed a relatively small input on a regular basis to keep it ticking over.

– I shouted about it A LOT. I got in everyone’s face, whenever possible; I never left the house without a leaflet or business card that I could press on to an unsuspecting potential punter, I took posters and programmes to meetings and handed them out to people who thought they were attending to talk about something else entirely, and I actively searched out any opportunity to put myself in front of people where there was a vague chance they might be interested.

– It was on my mind all the time. Everywhere I went, everything I did, I would be thinking about potential for the festival. Four years later I am still doing the same thing – every time I walk in to a building I find myself running a quick mental check of how it could work as a venue!

– And finally, always have an end in mind. I’m not necessarily talking about having a detailed plan of everything that’s going to happen; I often have no idea what my project is going to look like at the end, but I always have some sort of concept or goal in mind. For me personally, this often relates to how something is going to feel when it’s working out right, or the way in which people are going to react to it. For you it might be a picture, or a mental image, or perhaps you’re that person who details out every step of the way! For the festival, I had a firm, unshakeable belief from the start that I wanted to run an event that the local community would feel a part of, and feel ownership of. That intention influenced every decision I made, and was the thing that helped to mould the concept of the festival as it grew in my head. Having an intention or goal simplifies things, because every decision can be boiled down to whether it takes you further away from your goal or moves you towards it.

So that’s a rough guide to how I get stuff done – but your way may be completely different! I would really encourage you to take some time to think about a time when you did something successfully, and analyse the steps you took in that process. What are the values that stand out for you? What were the beliefs underpinning your actions?

I’d be really interested to hear how you get on – drop me a line in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter!

Cat x

The First Post

I’ve always found the Last Post an incredibly moving piece of music; it’s one that’s on my mind a lot as we approach Rememberance Sunday in the year that marks 100 years since the start of the First World War, and in fact a friend of mine was on the radio today talking about this project.

I suspect the current mood of reflection is going to continue over the next few years, as each year brings us closer to the centenary of the end of the war. And that’s good; looking back is important, especially when something is as devastating and catastrophic as a world war. The *most* important thing however, is to learn from our past experiences, not to live there.  Life does move on, and the best way to truly honour what has gone before is to use it to learn from and to help you move forwards, living the best life that you can.

So from the Last Post to the First Post: My hope for this blog is that I can use it to inspire people – I want you to believe that anything is possible, and that you don’t have to be some kind of extraordinary person to do something special. I’d like to share things with you that I’ve learnt, that I find interesting, and that I’m generally mulling over. I’d like you to share things with me! I’d like to start a community of ordinary, inspirational people, who want to learn and grow together.

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, then welcome on board! Please feel free to leave me a comment, like and share on Facebook or Twitter, and let’s get the fun started 🙂