I walk in gratitude every day. By that I mean I am thankful for everything I have, do, create and experience. I don’t wait for greatness to happen before I’m grateful, I’m happy for the smallest things: sunshine, my morning chai, the way my legs move when I get out of bed, my family, hot water. You can see where I’m going with this.
Making the effort to frequently experience gratitude balances out negativity and cultivates awareness of what we want in our lives, not focusing on what we don’t want. I’m not saying that we should ignore problems or be superficial about the challenges of life, but our spirit is enriched by feelings of gratitude, and good memories are formed by focusing on what’s working and what we are grateful for.
Gratitude is an instant mood booster. When we consciously shift our attention to what’s thriving in our lives, our need for safety, satisfaction and connection is met. Activating gratitude tones down the alarm system of the brain (the amygdala) and reduces the stress response. Practising gratitude reduces levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the body and releases dopamine, the natural feel-good chemical in the brain, which supports more focused attention.
Slow everything down by walking in gratitude; appreciate your surroundings.
Soften towards your family, friends and colleagues.
Thank others for the smallest kindness.
Forgive yourself, be gentle on yourself.
Give people the benefit of the doubt; don’t take things personally.
Actively notice new things to feel grateful about.
The story of The Promise begins at a launch of my previous children’s book, The Flying Angel in 2021. It is my second book written about a nurse in WW2.
The Flying Angels tells the story of a group of RAAF nurses who were handpicked to rescue injured soldiers from the frontline of Papua New Guinea in WW2, and transport them safely back home to Australia. These nurses where known for their courage and compassion, and this story was inspired by the life of one of these remarkable nurse’s, Sister Marie Craig.
At the launch of The Flying Angels, I was seated next to Terry O’Neill, who during his 50 years of living and working in Papua New Guinea and the Asia Pacific, had the desire to support vulnerable communities which have been impacted by war and social disruption. He placed a silver Kina in my hand as a gentle reminder of the local Papua New Guinea people who also assisted, and helped our Australian soldiers in WW2. They were called the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.
Immediately I thought of my father Henry George McGregor, who was stationed in PNG during WW2 in the Signals Corp. He told me that without the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels that he, and indeed I, would not be alive. With care and love, these PNG natives became the Australian soldiers’ unsung heroes, rescuing injured Australian soldiers and bringing them to safety.
Terry’s passion about these PNG’s unsung heroes, encouraged me to start my journey to find this amazing story about Maiogaru Taulebona. A Papua New Guinea Mission Nurse, who was one of those brave locals who took enormous risks to help injured Leading Aircraftsman, John Donegan, and with the risk of grave personal danger to herself, cared for his wounds and secured him away from the enemy.
Maiogaru Taulebona was awarded the loyalty medal by the Royal Australian Air Force. The Promise, is a celebration of the bond between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
This is the story of courage, resilience, kindness and hope. It is the first of a series of books I have been asked to write about Papua New Guinea heroes.
I interviewed hundreds of people for my latest book 100 keys to Love and found that we are not alone, each one of us is searching for love and self-discovery. Many people I spoke with are over-achievers in their work but have felt frustrated about how to find love and happiness in their personal lives.
Life is challenging. We are expected to work, be perfect mothers and fathers, friends and lovers. Calmly juggling everything, balancing our lives, whilst looking fabulous and buying just the right gift for St Valentine’s Day.
But when it comes to love, we struggle to find it, express it, keep it, or untangle from it.
Kind and gentle self-care is essential when falling in love. Nurturing yourself. Think about what you want and how you feel. Do not let your thoughts and actions about another person pull you ahead of getting to know yourself first. The more you know and like yourself, the more chance your relationship has of success. Care about yourself as much as you care about the other person, then falling in love can happen more naturally and sustainably.
Love is a skill-set that includes care, honesty, respect, affection – physical, emotional and mental. Open, honest and direct communication and personal responsibility are our agency.
There are times when you may not feel loving at all towards others but still choose loving actions because that is what love is.
“If you inherently long for something, become it first. If you want gardens, become the gardener. If you want love, embody love. If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation. If you want peace, exude calmness. If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint. If you want to be valued, respect your own time. If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself. This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.” ― Victoria Erickson
When my publisher asked me to write a book encapsulating everything about living a hope-filled life, I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. Thrilled to be sharing my ideas but terrified that by opening up, I would be forced to navigate deeper levels of my understandings of anxiety. Why poke the sleeping bear?
As an adult, I’ve struggled with being enough. Overachievement and the need for approval have always driven me, often to the high end of anxiety and, when I was younger, to depression. Like many others, I have had lots of counselling to help pinpoint where my anxiety started, and this exploration has helped me to live a life of curiosity, love and passion. That’s why I decided that The Book of Hope – Antidote for Anxiety would be a handbook based on what I’ve learned about handling the ups and downs in life.
The book was published in February 2020. Little did I know when I was writing it, that the looming worldwide pandemic would turn our lives upside down.
Over 2 million Australians suffer from anxiety. Research suggests that 45% of Australians are expected to experience some form of mental health issue in their lifetime. These staggering numbers are growing in our 21st-century living. When we add the level of anxiety and stress created by COVID-19 there seems little opportunity for peace.
We are becoming increasingly anxious, frightened, depressed, and overwhelmed, but let’s not kid ourselves; we were already anxious, frightened, depressed, and overwhelmed before COVID-19.
Human evolution relied on fear as a critical response to physical threat, our in-built mechanism of fight-flight-freeze is how we survived as a species. If we didn’t feel fear, we couldn’t protect ourselves. But now our survival-based fear has evolved into overwhelming anxiety, which we accommodate by soothing, avoiding, or numbing it down.
What kept our ancestors alive is killing us slowly.
Our ancestors were able to put aside their anxiety, to rest until the next battle or event. Our fast-paced technology, TV, social media, and texting drives us to feel like we are never quite free of pressure. Anxiety has become our new normal, and high levels of anxiety can smother hope in a heartbeat.
Recognizing anxiety is the first step. Identify when cortisol and adrenaline are activated; when our mind starts to race, hands tremble or there’s a shaking sensation in the chest. When you feel anxiety, sit quietly and breathe into that feeling, resist attaching a story of ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘who’ to the feeling. Don’t argue with yourself about it; don’t try to blame, shame, or guilt the feeling away. That’s never worked. Identify the anxiety as early as possible and breathe through it until it lets go of you.
A pioneer of dealing with anxiety Dr. Claire Weekes wrote, “To recover, we must know how to face and accept panic; to go through panic until it no longer matters … Recovery is in our own hands, not in drugs, not in the avoidance of panic, not in ‘getting used to’ difficult situations. Permanent recovery lies in the patient’s ability to know how to accept the panic until they no longer fear it.”
We may not be able to control the outer circumstances of our lives. However, by identifying and taking notice of what’s happening within, we can develop resistance by taking small moments of mindfulness, awareness, and being in the current moment.
My definition of hope is optimism in action. Hope won’t stop the challenging things from happening, it just helps us to understand that they are transitory.
We need to create new neural pathways in our brain – those stimulated by gratitude, kindness, optimism, cheerfulness, buoyancy, and hope. When we think more hopeful thoughts, our bodies release dopamine and serotonin, two types of neurotransmitters that relax the nervous system. Both of these chemicals are linked with happiness.
Stop constantly accessing the news or having it on as background noise; at least take it down a couple of notches. Being hammered with the same event over and over again is not healthy.
Spend time in the outdoors, read more, meditate, experience art, literature and music, these are the things that nurture our hearts and make us more peaceful and wise.
As a small child, I remember the excitement of saying goodbye to my favourite aunt as she boarded a luxury liner from Sydney Harbour, heading to Southampton. She threw a yellow streamer from the upper deck and I eagerly caught it and held on tight, smiling and waving with my other hand. This encounter left an indelible mark on my imagination. Now as an adult, hope for me is the streamer between the ocean liner and the dock. Between me and my future.
If we thought the world was mad before, COVID-19 has bought us to a new level of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, overload and what sometimes looks like madness. Lack of certainty and the consequences of fear have engulfed us worldwide. But don’t underestimate the importance of this time for affecting change.
We are tested daily by not understanding or knowing what the outcome of this pandemic and its ramifications will look like. Our collective anxiety around health, economics and survival is skyrocketing. Uncertainty about when the pandemic is going to stop and what we will be left with when it’s over. And on a very personal level, the safety of Aged Care facilities, concern about economic survival, including our investments and our fears for our children’s and grandchildren’s futures.
Constant uncertainty feeds anxiety. But we still wake up every day and steer our way through what’s in front of us. Let’s not underestimate our individual strength and courage and our collective strength and influence.
How can we connect to a hopeful future? How can we tune into confidence for the future? How can we collectively ride the wave through this?
We need to become more resilient and hopeful. Now is the time for radical hopefulness. Hope is the ability to believe in the possibility of a better future. Hope is optimism and action engaged. Optimism on its own won’t cut it, we need to do something with our optimism.
Many people are helping others in this time of pandemic, reaching out and speaking up more clearly about what they want from the world in the future. One where we can care for each other, look after our community and care lovingly for ourselves.
Our action can be a subtle or as big as we are comfortable with, but each of us can find more ways to be resilient and hopeful. Every little bit of caring for our community, our environment, and our families helps.
Think big but start small.
This article first appeared in Your Life Choices, Friday 4th September, 2020.
Letting go of expectations a tricky one to understand. How can we have goals but let go of our expectations of the goal? Being a goal setter and a visualiser since my teens, I found the difference lies in detaching from a particular outcome.
Detachment is a vital part of goal-setting and visualisation, and yet it appears to be a paradox. Writing goals and creating a detailed plan of action with completion dates is essential, but I’m suggesting that, once set, to detach from a specific outcome. This allows for a vital element, creativity, to be ignited.
Undue or fixed and over-determined attachment to a specific result or solution can inhibit creativity. Creativity occurs when there is an abundance of possible solutions and results; strong attachment to a specific outcome may blank out the possibilities of something even better happening.
Detachment from the timeframe is important too. Sometimes the goal will manifest sooner than anticipated, sometimes later. Don’t give up because a goal hasn’t materialised on cue.
Detaching from the outcome means that we remain committed to our goal, but release energy from the exact outcome. When we get locked into a precise outcome, we may not see an opportunity that comes out of left field, or the need to go in a different direction. If we keep our mind open to access creativity, we may achieve an even better outcome.
Creativity is about allowing the magic in. Look around and notice the coincidences, and the serendipity in this world. I use this magic every day to create the material that goes on my social media stream. I never know in advance what I will be writing about. I find a picture that resonates, then write about what it means to me on that day. My goal is to write a short article, but I allow for it to look or express itself differently than any expectation I may have.