The Year of Happy - How to Make 2021 More Fulfilling and Stress Free

 Have you spent a lot of 2020 wishing that you were happier with your life and less stressed? A lot of the time, we take our happiness cues from the outside, especially ones that other people can see. And if we don’t meet these standards or ideals, we can quickly feel that happiness is out of reach. Rather than putting your ideals of happiness onto other people or in material things, it’s super important to recognize that true happiness has to come from within you. Are you ready to start finding more happiness in 2021? Here are some tips for being happier and less stressed in the year ahead. 

Tips for Finding Your Happy, Stress Free Place

Move away from negative thinking
If negative thinking is a problem for you, it’s definitely something you’ll want to change in 2021 to achieve your year of happy. Negative thinking can be a vicious cycle that leads to a lot of stress, anxiety and depression. Breaking this cycle is one of the best things you can do for finding a happy and stress free place. 
Being in the present moment is very important for stopping negative thinking in its tracks. It helps to put some distance between yourself and the things that trigger your negative thoughts. It forces your mind to become aware of negative thoughts and take a step back from them so that they lose their power. 
Reframing your thinking is also a good goal for promoting a happy, stress free life. Do you always tend to think negatively about situations? It can be a big challenge to flip this around and see the positive side of things instead. Start trying to put a positive slant on situations that would normally give you stress and bring your mood down. For 2021, aim to reframe your thinking at least once a day. Over time, you’ll train your mind to look for the positives and encourage different thought patterns. 
Immerse yourself in authentic experiences 
Linking your happiness to outside factors often fails to achieve the happiness you were hoping for. Instead of setting goals relating to money, status and other things that you think will make you more satisfied with your life, swap them for authentic experiences that make you feel genuinely happy. Focusing on things like your hobbies and friendships can help you to feel emotions such as joy, contentment and relaxation. 
This has been backed up by a study carried out by a psychology professor at Cornell University. He set out to see whether spending money or having experiences ultimately made people happier. The end result? Experiences had the power to increase happiness, partly due to the fact that we tend to experience them with other people. This gives them more meaning and makes them more memorable. 
Practice self-acceptance
In a 2014 study that looked at “happiness habits”, self-acceptance was one of the habits that was deemed most likely to lead to genuine happiness. We’re often a lot kinder to other people than we are to ourselves. If this is true for you, it’s time to change this. 
Being kind to yourself is one of the best things you can do to make 2021 the year of happy but it can be difficult to achieve, especially if you’re used to being negative about yourself. 
If you feel you’re not good enough, you’re more likely to look outside of yourself for happiness. If you’re setting intentions around happiness in the New Year, it’s hugely important to work on self-acceptance first and commit to self-love in 2021. 
Show compassion and gratitude
As you may know, gratitude and random acts of kindness have both been shown to improve happiness and life satisfaction. One of the reasons for this is the fact that it helps you to feel better about yourself. 
Being thankful can have a major impact on your wellbeing and studies have linked keeping a gratitude diary to optimism, improvements in mood and better physical health. Having a more positive outlook on life can help to reduce stress and cut back on negative thinking, which makes gratitude a much underrated way to feel happier about life. 
A gratitude diary isn’t the only way to feel more thankful. A few ways that you can embrace gratitude include sending heartfelt and handwritten notes to people who have made a positive difference to your life, taking a walk in nature and feeling grateful for the natural world around you, and reflecting at mealtimes on the work involved in getting food onto your plate. 
Research has repeatedly linked kindness to feeling happier. One theory for this involves the production and release of neurochemicals that create a “high” … not that dissimilar to a chemical “high”! It also encourages your brain to release oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone”. 

Commiting to including some of these tips into your life this year will certainly begin your journey to a happier life in 2021. 

For more tips and to get my Happiness Bundle, which includes a daily planner to help you live a happier 2021, click here.
This bundle is included in my subscription group MAGIC. For more details click here

How Mindfulness is Changing my Life

As I go through the mindfulness course, I am learning so much. The benefits of mindfulness are staggering. The mental and emotional benefits are all very well documented but there are many physical benefits too. Mindful living helps strengthen the immune system, it is good for the heart, it can help reduce blood pressure and it also helps with all the stress related conditions. These are just a few of the benefits of mindfulness.

    Mindfulness is not a quick fix. It takes effort, persistence and consistency. So often in the world at the minute, we want convenience and a quick fix for everything. Mindfulness will never be any of these things but it is a long-term fix. It deals with the root of the problem and isn’t just dealing with symptoms. In modern medicine, symptoms are inclined to be treated and root causes are ignored. However, the only way to make a real difference is to treat the root cause.

    Mindfulness also puts me back in control. I am taking charge of my own wellness and not hoping for the best.

    For me, however, the biggest change mindfulness has brought is in my outlook, my mind-set and my quality of life. Now I am in charge of my life and my moods. I’m no longer being controlled by outside influences. I am keeping my focus on the present moment as much as I can. I’m not stressing about the future or beating myself up about things that are past. I am finding more joy in daily life and more gratitude for all my blessings. I find, for the first time ever, I am not over thinking or making assumptions about things that happen.  I’m not comparing myself to others, I’m trying to live the best life I can. I am trying to focus on things I can control. It’s not always easy and there are times when I fail miserably but, where before I’d get very self-critical and give up, now I refocus and start again. It’s getting easier and easier to get back on track the more I do it.

    Having given myself the space to live in the present moment I have found myself with more time on my hands. I’m not mindlessly scrolling social media, I am not spending hours living what ifs or regretting things I’ve done.

    I used that time to analyse my life and I discovered I was making do. My life was grand, I was getting by. It was very much by chance I was getting by, there was no intention in it. Getting by is grand but we all deserve so much more. That’s what led me to Oola. I never felt life coaching was for me. That was for people with big goals or business people but not ordinary people like me. However, when I analysed my life I discovered that, although I was strong in some areas, there were areas I wasn’t strong in at all. There is work to be done and when some balance is achieved, there will be a chance for some real growth.

If you want to try some mindful living, join me for my Mindful Moments. Click here for more details and to register.
For more information on Oola coaching click here.

Now is the time to take action and so to make 2021 the best year yet.

Growth and Gratitude

I was thinking today about the situation in the world. It has definitely replaced the weather as the thing we talk most about in Ireland. 2020 has certainly been a rollercoaster so far. Things happened this year we would have never believed could happen – our modern world was brought to a standstill.

I think one of the things I will take from 2020 is the unpredictability of life. The only moment we are sure of is this moment. We never know what’s coming and so making trying to make the best of each moment is vital. Living in the past or the future only brings worry, regret and anxiety. Living in the moment and focusing on what we can control is one of my goals for the future.

Modern society has made being happy very complicated. We see people on social media telling and showing us what happiness is. We watch TV or Netflix and we see what happiness is. Is it that complicated? When did the happiness become a thing we all crave and have to search extensively for?

All those external sources connect being happy with having certain things or with living a certain kind of life or with being a certain kind of person. If we don’t fulfil these condition we can’t surely be truly happy. When did these things become prerequisites for being happy? Who decided they were requirements? I think we can all be happy just as we are.

When we talk about being fulfilled there is an assumption we want to climb Everest or be a millionaire but the fact is, most of us don’t want to do either. We don’t have to have travel the world or run a marathon to live a fulfilled life. For some of us those are the dreams but some of us are happy with the life we have we just want to live it the best we can.

It’s good to have big dreams, I certainly do, and I set goals every day to move me towards them but being happy isn’t something that happens when we achieve the goals. We must be happy where we are now while still striving for other things. Oprah Winfrey once said “If you look at what you have in life you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life you’ll never have enough.”
Maybe being happy is as simple as being grateful for what you have and having goals and dreams you are striving for.

Another thing people talk extensively about these days is getting back to normal, or a phrase I hate – a new normal. Maybe now is an opportunity to look at what our normal was. Were we happy with the normal? Was it fulfilling, were we living a full and happy life? Is normal working in a job you don’t even like? Is it realising as you get into bed you spent all evening scrolling on social media? Is it stumbling from one paycheck to another, hoping there are no unexpected bills?

As we approach the end of the year this is a good time to look at what our normal was and what we wish it could be. As I worked through Oola I discovered that unless all areas of our lives are balanced we’ll never be completely content with our lot. I looked at my life in 7 areas – fitness, finances, family, field (career), faith, friends and fun. I discovered my dreams and set goals that were right for me in all 7 areas and am working towards them every day. It has changed my life. I have purpose but am living every day to the full.
On social media this month I’m sharing my growth and gratitude campaign. One of the ideas in Oola is

Keep one hand on your heart in gratitude, while the other hand reaches toward growth. 
We need to work on both gratitude and growth and this series of posts will help you do that.
Make today the day you commit to making a change and beginning the journey to a more balanced, more mindful, stress-free life. It’s time to invest in you. Don’t leave it to the new year, don’t leave it until next week. 
Have a look here for more details on my 10 week Oola programme or my 3 week Quick starter programme (which you can start anytime) or to register for details about my next Oola group coaching programme (next one starts in January)
Join my free communities – I Teach, I Learn, I Grow for anybody working in education (the posts sometimes have a school focus)
                                                       Inspiring Intentional Living, similar posts without the school focus.

Making the best of the days to come.

How have we reached the end of August so quickly? Who would have thought, that day five and a half months ago, when the schools closed down we’d just be going back now?

It has been a very strange and different time. As I look back on it, some of it was great and some of it wasn’t. For people who lost someone, it was a terrible time made even worse by restrictions.

For those of us who weren’t separated from our loved ones and who weren’t hit by the virus, there are many great memories, memories of family time, of quiet time and of great weather. Communities united to help people who were more vulnerable. There was a feeling of being in this together. There were, of course, not so good times too!

As we look back and reflect, we will all have different experiences. Some people baked, some painted, some studied and others didn’t. For some people just getting through the anxiety, fear and worry was their achievement.

Now we look into September, a time when, although things are definitely nowhere near how they were this time last year, some familiarity will be restored. Schools will open and, for our young people and us teachers, there will be a structure to our time.

Life still, however, remains very different and I suppose we all have a choice from here on. We can spend the next month, six months, a year, who knows how long, waiting on things to go back the way they were. We can complain and give out about how things are now. We can reminisce about how things were and wait for things to go back to that. Whether we do this or not, hours, days, weeks and months will pass, time we will never have again. We will get older, children will grow up a bit more, birthdays will come and go, and life will go on.

The alternative is to start looking for the joy, the moments of happiness, the ways we can make every day a good day. I have to say, the thing I miss and will miss most is the human interaction. As a teacher, I think it will be very hard not to have that interaction with all the children in the school. It is so difficult not to be able meet people and be able to stand and chat, whether that is in the school corridor or the supermarket.

Our challenge is to find ways to do these things safely, to find ways to make birthdays and family occasions special in the current circumstances, to make times when our movement is restricted special and memorable, in the classroom to find ways to do things differently.

Maybe we need to think a little harder about how we spend our days, about what we can do to make someone’s day a little brighter. We might need to stop letting life drift past with very little thought and think about using our time wisely. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the way time passes and regardless of how we use it or waste it, we will never get it back. Of course we can look forward to a time when we won’t have to wonder are we two metres from everybody but not at the expense of living today. All we are guaranteed is this minute, let’s not waste it.

Over the next few months I am going to do a number of focus series. These will include a Focus on Kindness and a Focus on Inner Calm but I am starting with a Focus on Gratitude. 
If you want to take the first step to living intentionally, to making the best of every day, join my 14 day Focus on Gratitude. Click  here to register for the series.

Controlling outside influences

Following on from the last post I did about making the choice to make every day a good day we had a very dismal week in Ireland. I was thinking during the week how easy it is to say what we should do but how much more difficult it is to actually do it.

The negative spiral is very easy to get caught up in. Getting up and looking out at grey dismal-ness, especially now when walking is maybe the only outing we get in a day, can start that spiral. For me, then, I get annoyed with myself for letting the weather affect my mood and so I feel worse and so it continues!

I was struck by the influence of other people and events on our moods and our lives. We wake up and it’s dismal, we feel less positive. When we watch the news or scroll social media and read negative stories or bad news, it brings us down. When we are in the company of someone who is always complaining we are drained.

How many times have we had numerous compliments on something we’ve done or even on how we look, but if one person criticises us or even is less positive, that’s the thing we remember. I know I was very inclined to do that.

We spend our whole lives looking for validation for our whole being from external sources. We take the negative as being truth, even from people who don’t really know us or who we wouldn’t ever turn to for advice. Don’t get me wrong, everybody loves hearing good things about themselves. It really boosts us and it’s important when we see good or beauty in others we tell them. Boosting others and building others up is a very valuable and important thing to do.

Building our self-worth and self-belief around the opinion of others is never going to work. The opinion of others can at times be unreliable. People are inclined to make judgements based on experience or their own mood. Sometimes people just want, for whatever reason, to knock you down. Some people feel threatened by others doing well.
Equally, we will never be able to really achieve our potential or be happy if we are depending on others for our self-belief. Even if we surround ourselves with people who will compliment us and make us feel good, any gains will be short-lived and will vanish as soon as we meet a challenge.

It’s not just other people who control our moods. The weather, the traffic, a long queue at a cash desk, someone pulling out on the road in front of us, being kept waiting at an appointment – they are all things that have the potential to spoil our day if we let them and that is only a fraction of that list.

Until we start taking control of our own mind, we will never be happy. We will always be at the mercy of other things. It isn’t an easy journey – we are breaking the habits of a lifetime.

For me, I’m working on it a long time and there are still times when I realise I’ve spent hours – even a whole day – stressing about what someone said or wallowing in negativity or self-pity. I’ve discovered it’s very important to be kind to myself when this happens but as soon as I notice I’m in this spiral it’s time to do some of the things I’ve found that help me flip the mood.

The first step on the journey is to find things you can turn to when you are in a negative spiral or feeling down. These things vary from person to person. For some it’s music, for others - exercise. For me it’s reading, walking, Harry Potter films, detective shows on TV, EFT, Ho’oponopono, meditating, affirmations and essential oils. I add to the list frequently as I find things I can use, the list can never be too long. 

Once we can control how we react to outside influences, it brings us a step closer to controlling our thoughts and so controlling our outcomes. At the end of the day, we can only control ourselves - we can never control things outside ourselves and so, even if we waste time and energy trying, we are definitely going to fail. We must therefore control our reactions or outside influences will control us.
Register and download my guide to Make Everyday a Good Day here
Join my Facebook group at for more ideas and tips.
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