Are you trampling your health and happiness underfoot as you pursue ‘success’?
When people ask me what Gently be is, and I answer that it’s about enabling greater health and happiness in people’s lives, I can see that they’re often a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a better sound bite.
I can see they’d like something a bit more specific. Sometimes people even look embarrassed, as if I am hopelessly naive, and just wanting everyone to be happy in an unrealistic, Pollyanna sort of way.
It’s true that in the past two years we have explored snappy descriptions that might explain things in a two second Facebook visit, or the first half-sentence at a networking meeting.
We even developed the handy phrase: ‘Helping you to achieve balance and harmony in your life’, but in a sense that’s just saying the same thing in an even less direct way.
And if we go for the overworked, corporate sounding ‘we promote well being’... well, it’s just a yawn-trigger.
And so making no apology I want to explain what Gently be is about:
Etc etc etc
Because what a 30 year leadership career, and a practice as a psychotherapist has thrown into sharp relief for me, is the way in which we allow the fragile flowers of health and happiness to be trampled underfoot; trampled underfoot as we pursue the ephemeral and elusive icons further down the garden path – ‘success, ‘career’ wealth, status, admiration etc’.
For the vast majority of us, good health is something we set out with in life. We often take this for granted in childhood and then, almost sleepwalking, gradually lose or compromise the best of health as adolescence and adulthood draw us forward into the outward concerns and pressures of life.
It’s the same with happiness (which for my purpose here means contentment, freedom of spirit, appreciation of the moment, taking pleasure in simple things, feeling spontaneous love, enjoying rich affectionate laughter, easy humour, feeling assured that you are living YOUR life and not someone else’s template).
We lose touch with the things that really make us happy and pursue the things that are supposed to make us happy, but so often don’t.
As people pass through my therapy practice they talk about their lives and why they have arrived at a stage where help is needed. This picture emerges of so many bright young things who dived into life, then dutifully swam under water for perhaps 20 or 30 years – or more- and then emerged, gasping, tired out, not very well and not remembering why they swam so hard to arrive where they are!
And so many people are convinced that despite a growing list of health issues; often an unhappy relationship with food/weight/digestion (and perhaps other people); ‘no time’ to do anything except keep whizzing around in the hamster wheel, that they have no choice but to carry on as they are.
It’s human nature to get used to what we have, and the more our life becomes a series of habits, the harder it is to see the potential for change – even if it’s almost staring us in the face.
Too frequently anti-depressants, proton pump inhibitors, beta blockers, sleeping pills, smoking, alcohol and a myriad of other contemporary aids are helping to keep people where they are – madly blocking out the symptoms but rarely addressing the underlying problems.
All this results in a mass of dissatisfaction, a mass of dragging health problems that are simply a function of losing touch with what delivers true health and happiness, a mass of people who, given a choice would not be living life as they do.
Some people recognise this and build a story for themselves that when they retire they’ll be who they want to be, they’ll start to do the things that are really ‘them’ or they’ll simply have a rest and regain their health.
But the tragic thing is that for many people life doesn’t co-operate like that. Across the country therapists are seeing middle aged men and women whose labels in life include successful, achiever, dutiful, wealthy, respected ...whose health, mental and physical, is out of control. Long hours, endless multi-tasking, robbing from sleep, starchy foods and sugar addictions, relationship issues left untackled resulting in underlying stress etc etc. All the ingredients which pre-dispose humans to serious and chronic illness and compromise the potential enjoyment of those retirement years.
And there are so many women who think duty and sacrifice are required of them 24/7; that time for themselves is selfish; that somehow the things that they used to do to achieve rest, happiness and a sense of their own identity are no longer important.
It’s hard, sometimes, for people to acknowledge the cause and effect, they’ll often search in vain for other, less obvious reasons for their feeling of permanent discomfort and dissatisfaction.
But you can’t avoid it - when you drive yourself too hard for too long; when you ignore your real mental and physical needs, then effectively you build up a debt to your health and you start sacrificing your happiness.
And one of the saddest things I find is when I ask: ‘What makes you happy?’ the answer is so often a moment’s silence, a shake of the head, and then: ‘I don’t know, I don’t remember.’
Perhaps even sadder is the increasing number of younger people who, often pushed by the structure of education and society we seem to value, enter this treadmill early.
Their tender young flowers of health and happiness hardly had their heads out of the ground before they were trampled under the competitive rush towards ‘success’ in the guise of ridiculous homework and activity schedules.
These schedules push out natural childhood play and adolescent development, and the permission to just do nothing sometimes. Thirteen years olds who label themselves ‘failures’, 12 year olds on high doses of anti-depressants as they struggle to shape up to pre-determined models of what they should be. Twenty one year olds reporting 7 years of anxiety, OCD, medication and believing this to be an inevitable life pattern for them going forward. (And how wonderful it is to see them bounce back when you help them take control again!)
What if more of us could just ‘Gently be’? Live life confidently in touch with who we are, with a sense of our uniqueness, how special each of us is without reference to standards and benchmarks dished out to us from birth.
What if we could live life gently, flowing along with its wonder and beauty, appreciating the moments rather than marking the milestones, giving ourselves the time, and the honour of evolving into being our own person?
What if we were gentler with our own health; slowing down, considering what we put into our bodies and how. What if we gently listen to our bodies when they send us warning messages saying ‘too much; too fast; too challenging, too soon; too toxic’?
What if we ask:
What makes me feel healthy, truly happy?
And then look, really look, for the small steps, the small achievable changes (because they are always there) that will begin our journey towards making that a reality.
Because however far away you feel from that sense of natural health, gentle happiness, you are never too far away to begin a journey back.
We can nurture those trampled flowers bit by bit, bringing them back to blossom in the centre of our lives. And it’s quite magical, when you do that, how success and abundance and all those other elusive outcomes show up in your life anyway, simply because you are healthy and happy.
And quite simply, Gently be is here to help support you on that journey towards your HEALTH and HAPPINESS, step by step.