Friday, 26 September 2014


It is argued that relaxation is one of the most effective self-help strategies for a healthy body and healthy mind.  It can help to prevent the development of stress and anxiety and depression, and can help you sleep.

Relaxation exercises and techniques are used to combat the signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety, to relax the body and clear the mind - that sounds ACE.  I thought that I would give it a go.

Of course any exercises or guided relaxation won't magically make the cause of your anxiety disappear; but what they can and will do is provide you with the necessary skills so that you will probably feel more able to deal with whatever is/was that was/is once the source of your anxiety; and it will do this by releasing you of any fear or tension that you may feel, and by clearing your thoughts. Right, OK. I'm ready to give that a go.

Most relaxation techniques combine breathing more deeply, and combine this with relaxing the muscles.  As with most things, this is learnt behavior. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned, and it will come with practice and become easier.  Both Yoga and Tai Chi (see previous TAI CHI BLOG) have been found to be good forms of exercise that help to improve posture and breathing and relaxation.

Awareness of ourselves and the world around us – is now often called, or is referred to as 'mindfulness' – and it is felt participating in 'mindfulness' and practicing 'mindfulness' that this can improve our mental wellbeing.  Mindfulness is advocated by the Mental Health Foundation.  Mindfulness therefore is a "mind-body based approach that helps people change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences." 

This is sometimes referred to as Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  "Mindfulness training helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, we're better able to manage them."  Mindfulness is felt to be a valuable tool in restoring people's quality of life: "Mindfulness therefore is a mind-body approach to well-being that can help you change the way you think about experiences and reduce stress and anxiety."

Research has found; and there is growing evidence that 'Mindfulness' can help with: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress 
  • Chronic Pain 
  • Chronic Fatigue Symptom
  • Insomnia 

All of these are symptoms that can be experienced with MS.

It is important to remember that relaxation or meditation or mindfulness won't make the cause of the anxiety disappear, it won't alleviate the source of your anxiety; what it will do is it will equip you so that you will probably feel more able to deal with whatever it was that was causing your stress.  Surely that has got to be a good thing?

While Mindfulness can be practiced quite well without Buddhism, Buddhism cannot be practiced without Mindfulness.  In its Buddhist context, mindfulness meditation has three overarching purposes: 'knowing the mind'; 'training the mind'; and 'freeing the mind'.

Relaxation and Meditation and Mindfulness are each concerned with developing techniques that enable us to live in the 'here' and 'now'.  They are about living in the present, about learning to live in the present.  About enjoying the moment.  About enjoying this moment.  I have slowing been trying to re-educate myself, to ensure that I live in the present.  This isn't easy.  This is not an easy thing to learn.  But, I am learning.

I love Audrey Hepburn, I adore Audrey Hepburn, everything about Audrey.  Her grace and her beauty, obviously; but she radiated other qualities of kindness and goodness.  She was kind and thoughtful in her actions, she took time and was appreciative of the good things that she had in her life.  She knew hardship and sorrow and heart-break, but she appeared to deal with everything effortlessly with style and grace.  She appeared to know the importance of living in the moment and taking pleasure from the simple things in life.  This is something that I have always admired tremendously.  Therefore an approach that I have taken to life is: 'What would Audrey do?'  That is my mantra in trying to be a better person.  What would Audrey do?

Friday, 19 September 2014


You know that feeling, when you feel fed-up?  You feel sad.  You feel a little bit flat and a little bit miserable.  You are upset.  And you don't know why you are upset.  You just are. You are just sad. You are unhappy.

You know that there is no reason, no justification.  You have no right to be miserable.  But, nevertheless you are, and there is nothing that you or anybody else can do about it.  Do you know that feeling?

Horrible isn't it?

I've had that feeling, on and off, this week and for the last few weeks, on and off.  And I know it is unfair and I know that it is irrational, and it is silly but it still feels very real.

I feel unloved.  I feel stupid.  I feel scared.  I feel lonely, and hopeless, and I guess I feel unhappy.

There is no reason why I should feel any of these things.  I am loved.  I have wonderful family and amazing, really amazing friends.  And while I may be a bit daft, I am certainly not stupid.  There is nothing for me to be scared of.  "The only thing to fear is fear itself." as Franklin D. Roosevelt famously exclaimed.  And I have no reason to be lonely.  So why then this feeling?  This feeling of feeling unhappy?

And if I try and quantify it I realise that I am being a little bit ridiculous, a little bit of a 'drama queen', a little bit 'attention seeking'.  But I am not, and actually I can't stop it.

I guess a have a 'Black Dog', as Winston Churchill famously called his depression.  But, my 'Black Dog', while it is still black, is small and cute, and with a very waggy tail.  I am not 'depressed', I am just a little bit 'anxious' and a little bit in a low mood, and a little bit unhappy.

I feel 'unworthy'.  I have a tremendous sense of 'unworthiness', of feeling 'not good enough', of feeling . . . of just feeling 'unloved', 'unlovable' . . . and just feeling 'sad'.

But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing can bring peace but yourself."

So, you have to learn . . . I have to learn . . . to love yourself, to learn to like yourself, to be accepting of who you are and what you are doing, and just be OK with that.  I do have to learn this.

Perhaps I need to learn to be grateful. To be grateful for the things that I do have. to focus on what I do have and learn to be grateful, learn to be so grateful that I don't have room for 'sad'.  I don't have time to be miserable, that I banish the unhappy.

I am not saying that this will be easy, but on those days where I feel a little bit sad and a little bit unhappy, I can perhaps learn to change my mind, I can change my mind and choose to be a little bit happy.

Friday, 12 September 2014


I love horses.  I have always loved horses.  Everything about horses.  Yes, I do, I even love the smell.  A lot of girls, almost every girl growing up love ponies, there is just something about ponies.  And we don't really grow out of it.  Yes, we may discover boys, but eventually we realise; we really do probably prefer ponies.

Contact with any animals, but with horses in particular has been used for years as rehabilitation therapy for people with MS and other neurological disorders.  Conditions such as Anxiety; Autism; Depression; Dementia; and MS.  Indeed equine therapy dates back to the times when horses were used for therapeutic riding in ancient Greek literature. That is quite a long time ago.

Certainly being around an animal seems to provide a psychological and emotional boost, but there is the general benefit of just being out in the fresh air, that somehow appeals to your general sense of well-being and sense of calm and joy and, yes, happiness.

I think that horses were my 'first love'.  I say 'horses' but I mean 'ponies'.  I mean a Shetland pony, a Shetland pony called 'Magic' ... and he was. He was, he really was Magic and I loved him.

Horses seem to know.  To know if you are sad.  To know if you are unhappy.  To know if you are hurting.  To know if you are in pain.  To know if you have got carrots; or apples; or sugar lumps; or polo mints.  They just know.

Equine therapy, also known as Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT), is a treatment that includes equine activities and/or an equine environment in order to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth.  Equine Therapy can help the individual build confidence, self-efficiency, communication, trust, perspective, social skills.  Apparently horses have similar behaviors with humans, such as social and responsive behaviors, it is easy for the patients to create a connection with the horse.

I look forward; massively look forward to the time that I spend with horses.  I am very lucky to have friends with ponies, where I can go and get a cuddle and some support from my friend, but especially from the pony.  I don't even need to get on and ride, although I have found my hat, boot and jodhpurs ... so you never know, but just being around horses for me if such a joy, and, for me, just massively increases my happy.