The Happy Starfish

Living Mindfully & Celebrating Health, Happiness & Peaceful Living


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My thrilling news

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You’re never too old to dream a new dream.

 

Ever since I can remember I’ve always been utterly gripped by stories. Reading, writing, or listening to them. To absorb myself in another world has always felt like such a treat.

I’ve been a contributor to many magazines and websites over the past few years sharing my story, offering my tips on coping with chronic pain, depression and anxiety with Mindfulness and, through the classes I teach and clients I mentor, I’ve met some truly inspirational people. It has been a privilege to be part of their journey.

But the tug of fiction has always been there. The temptation to write a novel. The can I? The should I?

 

Fear kills more dreams that failure ever will.

 

About a year and a half ago I set up a fiction blog, started posting stories, learning all I could from the feedback of other WordPress authors and I began to write the story I’d love to read. A psychological thriller with characters I fell in love with.

At the beginning of January this year it was finished and time to think about the next stage. It has been a whirlwind few weeks but I’m thrilled to have been offered a three-book deal (you can read the official announcement here) and delighted my first novel, The Sister, will be published July 2016.

It’s not the end for The Happy Starfish, although I will be taking a step back. Other teachers are on-board and there will still be classes running and one-to-one coaching available and I will still work with a small number of private clients. I get so many lovely messages via our Facebook page who find our daily postings helpful I’ll endeavour to keep it going, as best I can.

For now though, I’m off to celebrate.

Louise x

 

 


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Embracing Change #Mindfulness

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‘The only thing we can rely on in life is change.’

I like to think I’m spontaneous, open to new experiences, adventures, but at the same time, I like my routine. Structure. My little bit of normality.

My life has altered enormously over the past few years and more change is steamrollering towards me. My best friend is moving to Wales on Monday, my son leaving home, exciting things happening career wise. A real mixed bag.  Emotions are heightened. There’s a sense of waiting. Waiting until things settle. Longing for the stillness. The quietness that comes when you know where you are; feet planted on the floor. But that quietness only comes through acceptance of present circumstances. Things are what they are, not necessarily what we want them to be; and that’s not always a bad thing. How often has something happened and we’ve thought it the end of the world at the time, only to feel relief later as we look back?

I often tell the story of the Farmer and the Horse in my Mindfulness classes. A little reminder to hang-fire with judgements. Things aren’t always what they seem.

And so I wait.

And I choose to believe the fluttering I feel in my stomach is excitement, not anxiety. That my future will be bright, because ultimately we get to choose how we feel and today, I choose to be happy. How about you?

The Farmer and the Horse (origin unknown)

 A farmer had one old horse that he used for tilling his fields. One day the horse escaped into the hills and when all the farmer’s neighbours heard about it, they sympathised with the old man over his bad luck. “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?” said the farmer.

 A week later, the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and this time the neighbours congratulated the farmer on his good luck. “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?” said the farmer.

 Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone agreed that this was very bad luck. Not the farmer, who replied, “Bad Luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

 Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and forced every able-bodied young man to go fight in a bloody war. When they saw that the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they let him stay. The neighbours congratulated the farmer on his good luck. “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?” said the farmer.

 And on it goes….

 


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Museum of Happiness

10959649_1581154305434716_5474220634923512723_nThere’s nothing quite like the first hot day of the year. There’s something about the sun beating down that makes strangers smile and nod as they pass, as though part of some great conspiracy, as they scurry to the park to eat their sandwiches. Sleeves rolled up, ties loosened, tights removed.

Despite the icy weather, it was the same atmosphere this weekend at the UK’s first pop-up Museum of Happiness. Spitalfields Market in London may have had sub-zero temperatures but the fuzzy warmth radiating from the cluster of gazebos could heat the chilliest of hearts.

My Mindfulness teacher, Shamash Alidina, co-created this event so I couldn’t resist visiting, not quite sure what to expect, but knowing it would be awesome – and it was. Small, but fabulously organised, it was well worth the trip. Where else can you dance at a silent disco, meditate on a beach via virtual reality, try origami, practice gratitude and get creative at the arts table.

When the sound of laughter drowns out the thrum of shoppers you know it’s been a success. Open until Monday 18th January – pop along if you can.


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Recipe – Vegan one-pot vegetables

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My lunch was far tastier than it looked and really warmed me up on this chilly day.

I heated some coconut oil in a pan and fried a diced onion and carrot cubes for a few minutes, before adding shredded cabbage and potato cubes. I stirred in one teaspoon of turmeric and one of cumin (I was cooking a batch for four people), crumbled a vegan stock cube over the top and added a splash of water. The pan was sealed with a lid and left to slowly cook for thirty minutes. Gorgeous. It would make a great side dish as well.

 

 


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Ditch the New Year pressure

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We’re only a few days into January and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked what my New Year’s Resolutions are.

The cashier at the supermarket this morning looked baffled when I said I don’t have any.

‘I’ve put on weight over Christmas,’ she blurted out, ‘And I’m going to join a gym.’

Why do we do it? Heap unnecessary pressure on top of our often frantic lives, only to face crushing disappointment when we can’t achieve the impossibly high standards we set ourselves.

I have goals, dreams, aspirations. Everybody should but I strive every day to be better than I was yesterday, to always be kind, compassionate, grateful and mindful, no matter what day or month it is. To be the best version of myself I can be; to pay it forward whenever I can, and love. You can never have enough love. And that’s the only resolution I need.


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50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of Gratitude

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When Dawn Landau invited me to take part in a gratitude blog party I didn’t need any encouragement to say yes. I’ve kept a gratitude journal for years now and it really has transformed the way I think. It can be hard some days of course to find something to be grateful for – life has a habit of knocking us down – but once we start feeling grateful, it’s like rolling a giant snowball. That warm fuzzy feeling gets bigger and bigger until it becomes part of our automatic thinking. For tips to start your own gratitude journal read this. To join in with the blog party following the instructions at the bottom of the page.

  1. Water – I never cease to feel humbled when I turn the tap on and fresh water runs.
  2. My children – No matter how bad things seem, they always make me smile.
  3. My husband – A great support, I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s stepped up and fed everyone when I wanted to write ‘just one more page.’
  4. Bed – I have a bad back and it’s lovely to sleep in comfort; so many don’t.
  5. Healthcare – Say what you will about the NHS I feel fortunate to have received the healthcare I have.
  6. Clothes – Clothes for luxury, for fashion – how lucky am I?
  7. Food – I do love to eat. I can’t imagine feeling hungry everyday.
  8. Climate – The UK weather is unpredictable but it allows me to grow fruit and vegetables.
  9. Electricity – Making life easier in so many ways.
  10. Books – Whether for learning or pure escapism I always support my local bookstore and library.
  11. Mistakes I’ve made and leant from – there have been many.
  12. Inventors – It blows me away to think how hard life would be without so many of the things we take for granted.
  13. Scientists – Those who work tirelessly to cure diseases and make the world a better place.
  14. Volunteers – It warms me to hear stories of volunteers, whether close to home or abroad.
  15. Kindness – A simple act of kindness really changes my day – I pay it forward when I can.
  16. Sun – As well as sustaining life, doesn’t it make you feel good to see the sunshine?
  17. Friends – Always ready to listen.
  18. Emergency services – Where would we be without our emergency response.
  19. Mindfulness – Learning this really did change my life. So grateful to my mentor.
  20. A garden – I love to be outside.
  21. Light – Reading by candlelight wouldn’t be fun – I’d probably set light to my book!
  22. Authors – It takes a crazy amount of time to create a book and I’m grateful to those that do.
  23. Time – It’s a luxury and I carve out some for myself everyday. 10 minutes at least of doing something just for me.
  24. Car – I’d feel so isolated if I couldn’t drive.
  25. Music – Live gigs, cds, vinyl – I love it all.
  26. Piano – I love to play even though my neighbours probably have their fingers in their ears.
  27. Postal service – I’m just as likely to write a friend a letter rather than an email and receiving one back is warming.
  28. Photos – So lovely to look back on – how did my children grow so quick?
  29. Laughter – An essential part of my day.
  30. Movies – Pure escapism.
  31. Memories – Thinking of something that makes me smile.
  32. Nature – I adore the countryside. The space. The air. The stillness.
  33. My cat – He comes home every 30 minutes for a cuddle before going out again.
  34. Money – I don’t have a lot, but I’m fortunate to get by.
  35. A smile – As well as making others happy it gives a real good feeling to work those facial muscles.
  36. A home – A place to hang my hat.
  37. My dog – My spaniel is ridiculously happy – all the time.
  38. Seeds – I can grow flowers, vegetables, I’ve even planted a tree or two.
  39. Education – I’m so grateful for the opportunities we have in the UK, the qualifications my son has gained this year.
  40. Spiritual gurus – The teachings of others have really improved my life.
  41. Medicine – Diseases that would have killed us can now be treated – amazing.
  42. Complementary health – It’s great to have a choice.
  43. Wildlife – I’m animal crazy. Love to feed the birds.
  44. Colour – It just makes you feel, doesn’t it?
  45. A kitchen – A place to cook, to hang out and to nourish.
  46. A hug – Nothing seems quite so bad afterwards.
  47. Shoes – When I think of those trekking for miles barefoot for food and water…
  48. Hope – ‘It’ll be ok in the end, if it isn’t ok, it isn’t the end.’
  49. Doing something I love for a living.
  50. Love – Where would we be without it?

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If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! 

To join the bloggers who have come together for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click here3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List.

Please note that only blog posts that include a list of 50 (or an attempt to write 50) things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for, will be included. Please don’t add a link to a post that isn’t part of this exercise.


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Morris the Mindful Monkey

 

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Mindfulness is more than sitting in formal meditation, it’s being fully absorbed in the task in hand, not engaging with distracting thoughts. Yesterday I didn’t want to do a long meditation, I wanted to spend some quality time with my son so I got my creative on and we transformed a pair of his socks into Morris the Mindful Monkey. It’s hard not to be present when doing something expressive.

In today’s super-busy society hobbies can fall by the wayside, but hobbies are often where our minds quieten and our feelings of stress can dissipate. Finding the time to factor something you love into your day is not always easy. It can feel self-indulgent and encourage feelings of guilt, but by looking after our own emotional needs we are then better placed to help take care of family and friends.

When was the last time you did something just for fun?