I love watching the birds at this time of year. Blackbirds, blue tits and robins grappling with twigs and long strands of grass as they fly off to build their nests, making a safe place to raise their young. I think that our “nests” are also really important, not just for those of us with families, but for all of us. Sometimes we may not fully account how important the space where we live is to our psychological well-being.
We recently had an extension built to our house. The builders did a great job, in spite of this, it was still a disruptive and unsettling experience for me as our space was filled with noise, dust and dirt. So I’ve been thinking a lot about how important our own “nests” are, not so much in terms of expensive decor or labour saving gadgets, more about the connection we have to ourselves and the space around us. How we can be impacted and unsettled by a disturbance in our environment, whether at work or at home. And of course the opposite is also true – having a space that is nourishing, that helps in the process of feeling connected to ourselves and our environment can be an important element in feeling well and being peaceful.
In the hectic busy activity of our lives we don’t always see this link and perhaps where we live is just somewhere to eat and sleep. Yet my recent experience showed me how much more significant the place where we live can be. So an invitation to reflect: the next time you walk through your front door pause for a moment on the impact coming home has on you. Is this how you want to feel? If not, what can you do that might make a difference and make coming home a positive and nourishing experience that supports you and your well being.
For lots of people this time of year is often salary and appraisal/personal development review time, a time when it’s possible to receive lots of what Eric Berne, founder of Transactional Analysis, called Strokes.
Stroke is the word that Berne used for the very early needs we have as babies and children for touching, cuddling and physical contact with people. As adults we still have these needs for contact and we learn to substitute other forms of “recognition” in its place. So a stroke can also be called a “unit of recognition.” There are different kinds of strokes. They can be verbal – “I like your jumper” or non verbal – A hug. They can be positive or negative, and conditional or dependent on the receiver doing something – “That’s a great report well done!” They can also be unconditional “Thank you for being you.”
Unfortunately in today’s more difficult employment climate there may not be so many “strokes” available as organisations are cutting back, in some cases making redundancies, there is less security and many of us are being asked to do more.
For lots of us work can be a hugely important source of recognition and strokes and when these are not so readily available we might feel de motivated, stressed and our mood may suffer. So here are five suggestions to help you keep up your stroke quota by freely giving and receiving strokes:
1. Give and receive a big hug from a family member or close friend at least once a day.
2. Notice every stroke that comes your way – even the smile from the person you pass in the street. You may want to keep a note of them in your diary or a notebook.
3. Fully account for the strokes you are receiving. Sometimes we shrug them off or dismiss them. Take a moment to allow yourself to fully experience the recognition you have been given.
4. Say something appreciative to a work colleague every day.
5. Take a break at least once a day and do something for yourself. It may be something like a cup of coffee and a 10 minute read of your favourite magazine, or a walk in the fresh air.
I think that it’s when life is more difficult that we can forget to do the simple and obvious things that can help us keep our equilibrium and maintain a positive state of mind.