Music as Medicine can Help you Feel Well

Music as Medicine can Help you Feel Well

Music is magnificent. Music as medicine is free of all unpleasant side-effects! It can sooth, relax, enliven, energise and move us to dance. It evokes memories, provides an atmosphere, enhances a celebration, sends a message and facilitates the expression of our emotions. Music can help us journey to other worlds, create imagery, bring people together, and even shift energy blockages.

Music as medicine
I often take music for granted but it is something I am actually truly grateful for. Playing instruments was a big part of my childhood and teenage years.
I can remember practising for music exams an hour each day and finding it so calming and meditative. That was before I even knew what meditation was! I am sad I haven’t carried that on into adulthood, although there is still time to get back on that horse, even though it doesn’t feel like it!
There was a time in my 20s when I realised that I wasn’t at ease unless there was some background noise, such as the radio or television. I was aware that this was not healthy to be uncomfortable with silence, so I made a conscious effort to switch everything off and I grew to really love silence. In the years that followed, I was training in sound therapy and was very focused on sound but still did not listen to any music at home anymore. It didn’t hold any interest for me anymore strangely and I seemed to be more attuned to pure frequencies, so would enjoy toning, drumming and playing my singing bowls at home but again was mostly in silence.
Then one day we had to pick a few pieces of music to listen to as homework for the course. We had to lie down with closed eyes and really listen to the tracks with every part of our being. It was a very moving experience and I had profound emotions, sensations and memories arising whilst listening. It reminded me of the power that music holds and I have brought it back into my life again at times when it feels right. However, mostly I have to admit I am still quite hooked on the silence when I am at home. Maybe it is a response to a noisy family life!

As a trained sound therapist I have experienced the power of sound to heal first hand and witnessed my clients having breakthroughs physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. In 2013 Lyz Cooper of BAST (British Academy of Sound Therapy) teamed up with Marconi Union to produce a piece of music. The intention was to make the track as relaxing as possible. The scientific research done on the track afterwards showed that it was the most relaxing piece of music they had found. Amazing! The track was embedded with healing frequencies and rhythms that sound therapists use regularly. It was interesting to me that even played through digital music players, the effects of the sacred sound frequencies still had the power to relax the listener very significantly.

 

Here is the full length 31 minute extended version of the track if you would like to kick back and have a listen.

Prepare to be very very relaxed!!

 

 

This year Lyz Cooper produced another track with duo Silence & Air to help people enjoy a restful sleep. I was part of the research study group and I have to say that when I listened to it before bed it definitely helped get to sleep quickly and have a deep restful sleep. The results of the research on this track were also highly significant. You can learn more about the study here and listen to the track for yourself. For more information about ways in which to enjoy restful sleep, have a look at my post on 8 easy ways to get more rest.
Music as mecicine

Examples of music as medicine:

I have a wonderful friend who has sadly experienced ME/CFS and PTSD amongst other physical imbalances of many years. She decided in the last year to take up her practice of piano playing again after having not played for many years. Therapy, acupuncture and hypnotherapy led her to this point of being able to clear the blocks that were stopping her from playing. Her experience has been that the playing of music has incredibly healing for her.
She has shared that it helped her unlock her heart blockages and release fear and trauma. It helped her express her emotions non-verbally and stimulated her creativity when she was improvising. She also finds the regularity and stability of practising pieces and scales very balancing and comforting. I wonder if she has benefited from the right/left brain balancing that is inherent in playing with both hands as she says that she finds it easier to focus and her brain fog has lessened. She has also built up some strength in her hands and wrists which previously caused her a lot of pain. It has brought her a purpose for living again when confined to indoors with ME so much of the time. Of course, the music that arises also brings her joy, as it did me when I heard her playing her beautiful pieces.
“Sound is the force of creation, the true whole. Music then, becomes the voice of the great cosmic oneness and therefore the optimal way to reach this final state of healing.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927)
 
Music as mecicine
I know of another young man who used his music to survive his schizophrenia. It helped him push the voices away and soothed his troubled mind at a time when his medication was not working well. For him, music was essential to help him navigate his illness.
My husband Anthony has always played the guitar and spent many happy years busking on his travels. Since we have been together I have always noticed that when he is feeling down, he will pick up his guitar and play and sing and it soothes and uplifts him. I think that the guitar is especially healing in this way as the vibrations emanate directly from the body of the guitar which is resting on the player’s abdomen.
Music as mecicine

My vision of music as medicine in the future:

The future of medicine could be the application of sound frequencies to clear blockages and restore healthy energy. Imagine a device installed in your home that would scan your bodies energy and then emit the frequencies you needed to rebalance yourself embedded in a piece of relaxing music that would be played throughout your home. How cool would that be?!
“Eventually, musical therapists will compose prescriptions after the manner of a pharmacist…”
Dr. Ira Altschuler (of the Eloise State Hospital) (1942)

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The Trauma and Chronic Illness Connection

The Trauma and Chronic Illness Connection

Trauma is defined in the dictionary as ” a deeply distressing or disturbing experience”. Trauma and chronic illness are intimately linked as I will discuss in this post. I believe the peer-reviewed evidence of this is not being acted upon and taken forward by the medical profession.
Trauma is clearly a very stressful experience but it is important to remember that experiences are subjective. I think that there is a tendency for people to think of trauma as being caused by a very extreme situation. However, trauma experienced is very personal. What traumatises one person will not bother another.  It depends on our emotional make-up and sensitivities, and what can seem trivial to one person can be devastating for another. It is the individual’s experience of the event and their ability to cope with it that determines whether it is trauma or not.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is not only a condition suffered by war veterans and accident survivors. It can affect anyone and many people who have lived “ordinary” lives have developed PTSD from events that are emotionally complex but not as outwardly dramatic as the better-known triggers of PTSD.
Everyone experiences trauma at some point in their lives. Traumas trigger reactive feelings and emotions, which form the beliefs that consciously and subconsciously underpin the way we live our lives. These beliefs create dense areas in our energy fields which can then lead to illness and disease.
trauma and chronic illness

More evidence is coming to light now about how trauma affects our health and some experts now believe that early trauma, in particular, is instrumental in the causation of chronic illness. Of course, it also can lead to substance dependence and mental health disorders. For some great information on trauma and chronic illness have a look at Veronique Mead’s blog Chronic Illness Trauma Studies. There is a wealth of well researched and groundbreaking information on the blog and I am looking forward to reading it in more depth.

Jennifer McLean who developed the Spontaneous Transformation Technique gives this example of how negative limiting beliefs can be formed from trauma.
trauma and chronic illness
She describes a young boy who is having a great day out playing with his skateboard. The sun is shining, he is getting the hang of his skateboard tricks and life is great. He is in bliss.

On the way home, he is playing with a stick as he walks, and he starts to run the stick along the fence, enjoying the noise as it clatters along the fence. The large dog on the other side of the fence is not so impressed and starts to bark furiously. The dog even manages to leap the fence and starts to attack the boy. Luckily, the owner quickly grabs the dog and rescues the boy. The poor boy is physically unhurt but is shocked and terrified. He runs home crying, leaving his skateboard on the pavement.

He gets home to his Mum who is up to her ears with making dinner for her large family. She scans the boy as he walks in, as he tries to breathlessly explain what has happened. She sees quickly that he is physically unhurt but when she finds out that his expensive skateboard is lost, she yells at him and sends him to his room in a rage.
trauma and chronic illness
Now the boy is still in “flight or fight” mode with adrenaline rushing through his body and he is really upset that he got a roasting from his Mum.
In this moment his subconscious creates some beliefs about life, for example:
Life is scary and unsafe.
Bliss doesn’t last and things go wrong when you are enjoying yourself. 
Things are more important than people.
 
This leads him to have issues later in life with trust, committing to relationships and being more interested in possessions than other people. Many other beliefs could also have been formed. This great example shows how even traumas from childhood that have been long forgotten, can still be running the show and causing multiple limiting beliefs that make life more challenging and frustrating.
Ideally, a child can respond to stress and recover from it, developing resiliency. However, chronic repeated stress in childhood constantly floods the child’s body with stress hormones and keeps it in a hypervigilant inflammatory state. It can interfere with the child’s ability to turn off or dampen the stress response. The cascade of chemical reactions that occur in the child’s body on a regular basis can then predispose them to disease and imbalances on every level of being.
I have done an enormous amount of work on myself in releasing trauma and the limiting beliefs formed from my early and young adult life and it has helped my health and well-being enormously. There are more to clear and I have been somebody who held literally hundreds of negative limiting beliefs about life and myself. I am reassured now though, as I am able to use my therapy skills to clear these blockages and open my arms to greater health, happiness, joy and abundance.
trauma and chronic illness

 

Here are some examples of therapies or techniques that release trauma and limiting beliefs:

I personally prefer techniques that work with trauma from an energetic healing perspective rather than a psychological so that is what i have listed here. I feel that these therapies are more holistic and provide deeper transformation more quickly and easily than psychological methods. They don’t require reliving the trauma in an upsetting way or analysing the psychological aspects of the trauma which can be mentally exhausting. That is just my preference, however, and one can find many other models of therapy online should you resonate with a different path. For more information on using energy medicine to improve chronic illness see my post on energy healing here.

 

trauma and chronic illness

The need to acknowledge the role of trauma in the aetiology of disease:

Research linking childhood stress to adult illness was carried out in 1996 with the “The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study)”. Over 1500 peer-reviewed studies have replicated these findings in the last 20 years.
Amazingly, in this study carried out in 2009, they found that compared with persons with no ACEs, persons with >or=2 ACEs had 100% increased risk for rheumatic diseases. Childhood traumatic stress increases the likelihood of hospitalisation with a diagnosed autoimmune disease decades into adulthood.
The research is extensive, widespread and conclusive but yet there is little focus on the importance of this root cause of disease in the conventional healthcare system. There are so many excellent techniques, energetic and psychological therapies available now to deal with the roots of trauma and chronic illness. I would like to see this being more widely available and focused upon by medical practitioners, as I believe it is a crucial part of the puzzle when it comes to resolving chronic diseases, giving people hope and a brighter future.

Please comment below if you feel trauma has contributed to your Chronic Illness.

Food as a Mood Booster

Food as a Mood Booster

I think of local vegetables and fruit as being gifts from nature with the perfect constituents to keep us healthy. In my mind, the way we assimilate these beneficial substances from food is superior to taking a supplement and certainly a conventional medicine. With some careful planning and thought, we can introduce specific food as a mood booster into our diet to ensure that our minds and bodies are working in harmony and health.
Have you ever noticed that when you eat a lot of white bread or greasy chips, for example, you can end up feeling sluggish, bloated and grumpy?
Are you having severe mood swings due to the effects of caffeine and sugar?
 
Could you be deficient in essential minerals and vitamins due to eating a standard western diet that is not optimised for your well-being?
It is becoming more and more apparent that a diet rich in plant-based food is the most healthy for humans at this time. Avoiding processed food and as much sugar as possible is essential to promote health. We were just never meant to eat all those weird unpronounceable substances on the back of the majority of packaged food. Whether you then add in grass-fed meat and safe fish with your vegetables is your choice. However, if you are avoiding grains and pulses to reduce inflammation, then it will most likely be essential to add that protein back in.
I have been following the Autoimmune protocol diet for a couple of years and have enjoyed huge improvements in my health because of that. It is very restrictive and can be difficult in social situations but it is worth it to experience a transformation in your well-being.
Thankfully now there are huge online resources of information and recipes to make it easier. There are even Facebook groups and books written to guide you through the transition to the AIP diet. Essentially the Autoimmune Protocol Diet is the paleo diet with the removal of additional foods, such as nightshades, which are considered to be inflammatory. The aim is to heal a leaky gut membrane and then once that is improved, additional foods can be re-introduced in a careful manner. For more information on the AIP diet see my links page.
All the suggestions below, therefore, are in keeping with the AIP diet (with the exception of the nuts and seeds which could be an early reintroduction).

How can we use food as a mood booster?

One way is to add more protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates into your diet to help to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
When your blood sugar levels drop, you can start to feel stressed and down. The beneficial fats and complex carbohydrates help to make hormones and neurotransmitters in the body that help make you feel better. Also, many people are deficient in essential minerals such as magnesium and calcium due to our depleted soils, so adding these in is also an instant mood booster.

1) Coconut oil

Coconut oil consists of medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat which is turned into energy quickly and efficiently. This type of fat is easily used by the body so it doesn’t tend to be stored as fat deposits. It provides lasting energy and has a whole host of other benefits, such as being antibacterial, antifungal, boosting brain function and reducing cholesterol. Make sure you are buying a good quality organic extra-virgin coconut oil.

2) Bananas

There is hardly a day that goes by in the last few years that I don’t eat a banana. Bananas supply your body with lasting energy. They are rich in potassium and vitamins A, C and B6. The carbohydrates provide your body with a sustained release of energy and maintain blood sugar levels. The fibre helps fill you up and slow down digestion. The potassium assists with fluid movement in the body and consequently helps your muscles work efficiently. Also bananas help with the absorption of Tryptophan and the vitamin B6 is important in the conversion of the Tryptophan to Serotonin.  Serotonin decreases appetite and improves mood and heart health.

3) Raw nuts

Nuts are a fantastic source of long-lasting energy and protein. Almonds, cashews and hazelnuts are all high in magnesium and help convert sugar into energy. Brazil nuts have high levels of selenium which can improve mood and reduce anxiety. Avoid processed, smoked, highly sweetened or salted nuts. Go for the raw plain organic ones. You can always find a healthy recipe for a way to season them. Of course, some people can be highly allergic or intolerant to nuts, so if you are reintroducing them, do it with care and attention.

 

Food as a mood booster

 

4) Asparagus

Asparagus is a fantastic plant source of Tryptophan, one of the building blocks of Serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter in the brain. Asparagus is also high in folates which have been shown to be important in reducing depression.*

Food a sa mood booster

5) Avocados

Avocados are an incredibly versatile food that many just swear by for boosting health. I also eat these most days, whether in a smoothie, a delicious salad or a yummy cacao desert!!  Avocados are natural hormone balancers, and that is what you want to keep your brain happy and functioning well.

 6) Sesame seeds

Sesame seeds make a wonderful seasoning and contain tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid which boosts the brain’s dopamine levels. Dopamine is the chemical that allows us to have feelings of bliss and pleasure. When it is deficient, the brain cannot send messages easily. This affects behaviour, mood and cognition adversely. I like Tahini as an alternative to hummus which is not allowed on the AIP diet. Recently I had black roasted sesame seeds for the first time on a delicious meal and I adored the smoky flavour. Black sesame seeds are also an excellent source of magnesium, calcium and vitamin B1, and so are beneficial in a multitude of ways.
 

 7) Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is a revitalising leafy vegetable that is packed with magnesium which is needed for over 300 different chemical processes in the body. To find out more about why Magnesium is beneficial for mood, read this great article in Psychology Today. It is delicious in vegetable broth or stir-fried with garlic and lemon juice. If you aren’t a leaf loving person, you can always stick it in a green smoothie.
Food as a mood booster

8) Foods rich in probiotics

Include water kefir/ kombucha/ raw sauerkraut in your diet for the beneficial effects on your gut microbiome. The number of probiotic cultures in these foods exceeds natural yoghurt by far.  A healthy microbiome can also help a person to stay calm and relaxed.
Food as a mood booster

What we eat and how we feel is obviously intimately interlinked. Also, food intolerance reactions can affect you days after ingestion. If you suspect that you have some food intolerances, I strongly suggest seeing a qualified nutritionist to get some help with your diet.

Food as a mood booster is an easy and wholesome way to increase vitality, positive outlook and energy.

Why not have a look at your diet and see if you can incorporate some of these mood-boosting foods daily.

J Affect Disord. 2000 Nov;60(2):121-30. Enhancement of the antidepressant action of fluoxetine by folic acid: a randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Coppen A1, Bailey J.

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Have your Yearly Goals Gone by the Wayside?

Have your Yearly Goals Gone by the Wayside?

So it is April. That means it is the second quarter of the year guys!  How the heck did that happen. I mean January and February went fast, but March was a speeding arrow of a month that I didn’t quite grasp hold of until it was almost over. 

 

In our little family of four, we have birthdays in each of the first four months of the year. That means we seem to just go from one birthday celebration to the next in the first quarter of the year. Mind you, it must be worse for our extended family trying to remember it all!

 

In the last few weeks, I have had a bit of a slump. I have fallen off all my practices, including my Bullet Journaling (which helps to keep me on track). Bullet Journaling is the one thing that helps to keep me on track with what I am supposed to be doing! This feels disheartening, but I am remembering that I am human, and a human with incapacitating fatigue for that matter. So I am trying to be kind to myself and accept what is happening.

 

Goals
At the start of 2017, I spent quite a lot of time reviewing the previous year. I set lots of intentions and made goals in all areas of my life for the coming year. I have done this enthusiastically in previous years also.
One year, quite a while ago, I even came up with 200 separate goals that I wanted to achieve! Quite soon afterwards this seemed completely ridiculous. I was laughing at myself, along with some of my friends who were also laughing at me! In addition to this blind ambition (my Capricorn traits showing!), I hadn’t really formulated any plan of action that would get these things done.
Needless to say, the number of items on my list that I achieved that year were not quite into double figures. Interestingly though, on reflection, the ones I did manage were the ones that were the most important to me. I might not have picked those ones out consciously at the time but looking back on it I can see now that those were the ones that really mattered. I had completed the ones that spoke to my heart and not my head.
goals

 

 

So in recent years I have been more restrained and focused in my goal setting. Also, I am resonating with the notion of setting intentions but allowing for change and surrendering to the bigger picture of how those intentions will play out. It is interesting… and challenging.

 

Intentions aren’t much without action. Action can be so rewarding when you are in the flow. It can also be like banging your head against a brick wall at times when nothing seems to go as planned. I have wondered whether that means I am trying to go in the wrong direction. I have also wondered whether that just means I need to keep trying and persevering, like those inventors who only succeed on the 99th attempt.

Looking back on my goals for the first quarter of 2017, I have only managed four (and a half!) out of fourteen. That is a 30% success rate! Or a 70% failure rate on a bad day! However, I gave a talk to a group of 15 people, overcoming my severe fear of public speaking (to a degree), I saw more of my family (very happy about that!), and I painted 6 paintings (3 more than intended).
I might not have grown my blog to 1000 subscribers (nowhere near!), I didn’t swim weekly or do yoga, in fact, I have never been so inactive physically. My fatigue has been really incapacitating, so I have to forgive myself and move on. I have got a new supplement that will hopefully help.
Spring has sprung now, so hopefully, things will look up. I will get moving as I know this stagnation is a bit of a vicious circle. Too much sitting at the computer trying to work out how to make my blog successful I think! And I guess that is my point.
Perhaps what we most wish for, whether it is a new car, a promotion or a new house, is not actually what is best for us or what we need. In the chronic illness paradigm, we struggle with a seemingly unending list of unexpected and predictable variables that can upend the best of intentions. Acceptance and surrender are the keys here.
Goals
“We should not be discouraged at our own lapses … but continue. If we are discouraged, it shows vanity and pride. Trusting too much to ourselves. It takes a lifetime of endurance, of patience, of learning through mistakes. We all are on the way.”
Dorothy Day

Please comment below:

Let me know how you are progressing with your goals and intentions for this year.

You could even make some new ones!

Surrender to Chronic Illness as a Way to Wellness

Surrender to Chronic Illness as a Way to Wellness

Surrender to chronic illness

I have been thinking about surrendering in general, but also a surrender to chronic illness. For those of us with chronic health issues, accepting and surrendering to the realities of our lives is a crucial step forward. On diagnosis, many will go through periods of grief and anger, defiance and depression.  In the past, the Kübler-Ross model suggested five stages of grief, which were denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, this model, although helpful, has less significance now as we realise that grief is not linear. It can’t be encapsulated by a timeline. It is organic and we jump from stage to stage, emotion to emotion at any time. Emotions are feelings “in motion” and the best way to process them is to keep them moving. It is when emotions become trapped or stuck in our energy bodies that we start to run into more physical and emotional problems.
Resistance to a situation creates more rigidity and stress. I am learning this through parenting my boys! So it is best if we can come to some state of acceptance and surrender to the situation.

How can we surrender to chronic illness and the consequences?

I would like to divide this into four areas related to the different levels of our being: Physical, Mental, emotional and Spiritual.

Physical Surrender:

This means rest, rest, rest, (let go of the guilt), and rest some more. I personally find this really difficult. I often want to fill every moment that I can, catching up with everything that I have missed. This is very counterproductive. Letting go into resting is vital for people with chronic health issues. Even taking a catnap where you don’t fully fall asleep counts. When you doze, you allow your brainwaves to come down into an alpha or theta state where your sodium potassium pumps can be rebalanced and cellular renewal can take place. This means you wake up feeling much more refreshed than you would expect.
Other suggestions:
  • Restorative Yoga,
  • Massage,
  • Floatation tanks
  • Having a self-care day where you rest, journal, watch movies and meditate.

Mental Surrender:

When you are in a state of anxiety and mental tension, you are producing stress hormones which are affecting your body adversely. It is so important to let go of the “what if’s”, and blaming yourself or others for your health situation. It just takes you into the past which has already happened and cannot be changed. Focus on the present and what you can do today to help your mind be calm and clear. If you are finding this difficult Byron Katie’s The work is a very helpful method of self-inquiry to help work through this. Of course, a meditation practice helps enormously with mental equanimity but even as little as 10 mins a day will be a positive start.
Other suggestions:
  • Listening to calming high vibrational music.
  • Walking in nature: The Japanese advocate “forest bathing” for health. It has now been shown scientifically that trees assist the human body in boosting immune response.  The molecular interactions between certain tree species and human bodies trigger the production of Natural Killer (NK) cells in humans. NK cells are a type of white blood cell that attack virally infected cells and tumour growths. So go and sit under a tree and relax!
  • Learning to stay with your own energy and not getting too involved in others business.
  • Getting grounded which helps to reduce overstimulating mental activity.
Surrender to chronic illness

Emotional surrender:

If you can, have a really good cry! This is emotional letting go at it’s best! If you find it difficult to cry, sometimes watching a sentimental film can help you release those tears. The tears produced in high emotion actually have stress hormones in them and so that may be why you feel better once they are released. In Japan (again – they must be on to something!) it is possible to go to organised crying sessions. They show sad films to help the participants release emotions in an environment where they feel safe to do so. It is especially popular with men and is an interesting contrast to the Japanese culture of not showing emotions or anger, similar to the culture in the UK and Ireland.
Emotional surrender means identifying your challenging emotions and allowing them to be really felt and then expressed safely or released through an energy practice. Remember, “You are not your emotions”, they are just moving through you.
Here is a link to a great TED talk by Dr Judith Orloff all about surrender where she talks a lot about emotional surrender.
Other suggestions:
  • Singing/ Sounding: Toning a long “AH” sound from the heart or even just sighing “AH” on an exhale is great for letting go of stress and anger. Try doing it for five minutes and notice the difference in how you feel.
  • Self-compassion and self-love. Check out my post on self-care tips for ways to show yourself love.
  • Remembering not to take things personally and realising that you don’t need to be approved of or liked by everyone.
  • Let go of intensely researching cures and ways to get better for a while as it is very draining.

Spiritual Surrender:

This is about trust. Trust and faith. Trust that the Universe/God/ “Power greater than yourself” has got your back. You don’t have to believe in God to surrender in a spiritual way. Surrender to whichever higher power you are comfortable with, it could be your intuition, for example. We can’t always understand why we have all these challenges and turns in the road. Surrender to that mystery and trust in it. Our souls are on a journey much more immense than we can fathom.
Ways to foster this are:
  • Source meditation (spending time in meditation allowing energy to pour into your body from above through the crown of your head).
  • Learning to communicate with your guides.
  • Trusting and listening to your intuition.
  • Being in gratitude.
  • Make decisions from your heart , not your head.
  • Practicing letting go of fear.
  • Prayer
Surrender to chronic illness
So surrender is not being submissive and it is right to still take actions. It is more an opening, an allowance of what is..an acceptance. I believe that from this place of least resistance, healing can start to take place.

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Please share any other ways you have found to surrender to your situation in the comments box below.

I would love to hear your tips!

Self Love Day

Self Love Day

Self Love Day

Following on from my post last week on self-care, I came across the fact that February the 13th is International Self-love day as championed by Christine Arylo.  As I have had a really exhausting and draining week, I thought I would continue on this theme as self-love is really important for me right now.  I actually really need to rest so I will keep it short and sweet.

Expectations

The thing is, that if we don’t show ourselves love, compassion, respect and gentleness, chances are no one else will either. The atmosphere around Valentine’s day is one that can actually induce acute feelings of worthlessness, loneliness and frustration. I remember at school there was an in-school Valentines postal service. Inevitably, a few kids in the class got numerous Valentine’s cards and the rest were left empty handed. I don’t know how the others experienced it, but this often felt humiliating to me.

I have heard, countless times, of women being upset and angry because their partner had forgotten/ ignored/ ruined Valentine’s Day for them. Let’s face it, there can be a lot of expectation loaded on that one day for a lot of women and I would guess that not many experience the romance they were wishing for. It can be hard to be romantic on demand, or at the call of commercial forces.

The origins of Valentine’s Day.

Lupercalia, a pagan celebration, was a fertility festival which was outlawed at the end of the 5th century. It involved nudity and whipping women with goats hides, ha ha..love it! There were a few Christian Valentine’s who may have inspired Pope Gelasius to declare February 14 St. Valentine’s Day but it is not clear what the inspiration was exactly. During the Middle Ages, it was believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season. This set the scene for an idea that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance, although I am guessing that the original pagan qualities of the feast day were still shining through. So it is a bit of a confused celebration, like many in this day and age, and of course, it has been hijacked by commercialism like all the rest.
self- love day
Self Love Day seems to be aimed at women and is centred around femininity, which is great of course. However, it got me thinking that guys could also do with a whole lot of self-love too. I must say I don’t actually know any men that give me the impression that they are terribly full of self-worth, which I find really sad. Many men have grown up in a culture where it is not ok for them to feel or express their emotions and softer compassionate side. I am tired of this patriarchal paradigm and I want my two young sons to have a more accurate and balanced view of what it means to be a boy/male/man. I have even noticed that in our parenting, cultural influences have made their mark. The instructions to  “Man -up”, “stop the crying” and “toughen up” seem to be all too common.
I hate to think of them stuffing down their emotions so early on, and they are both sensitive beings. I want them to know that there is strength in sensitivity too. As mental health issues in young people increase yearly and suicide rates amongst young men are at shocking levels, I believe it is crucial to teach our children self-love and self-awareness.
self love day
By chance, as I was contemplating this, I came across the Jennifer Siebel Newsom documentary, The Mask You Live In. It explores how the limiting definition of masculinity is harming boys, men, and society at large while urging viewers to take action.   It looks really inspiring and I look forward to watching it.

So in this Valentines’s week, I encourage you to find little moments for self-care in your life. Yes, that means you too men! If you can, make February 13th a day to really explore how you can give yourself that extra nourishment. Cherish yourself, so that you feel loved and looked after. And if someone else wants to wine and dine you on the 14th, then hey, it’s just a welcome bonus!

 

 

Please comment:

Let me know how you are showing yourself some love this week and how the energy around Valentine’s Day feels to you. I would love to hear how you celebrate Self Love Day!

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