Posted on May 09, 2020

On Coronavirus, gratitude and positivity


The art of Relaxscaping, how to find your ikigai

Since the Coronavirus “lockdown” restrictions started in Portugal in March, I’ve been recording a daily gratitude post on Facebook with things that make me smile. I am a great believer in the power of ikigai to help to keep us grounded and calm by giving us a sense of purpose. With so much change happening in a short space of time, and no real sense of when it might all be over or when things will “get back to normal” (and even then, no longer the normal we knew), keeping a positive mindset, firmly focused on the present felt like a key survival strategy to put into practice.

Developing a positive mindset

Somewhat to my surprise as it’s essentially just me navel-gazing, the posts have been attracting a lot of positive feedback; giving a boost to those who needed a bit of cheering up and inspiring others to reflect on their own day and come up with lists of their own. They’ve definitely been helping me to get through these strange times. Research into gratitude journals has shown that there is a clear correlation between an “attitude of gratitude” and achievement, as well as having a beneficial effect to our overall health and wellbeing. Being negative stresses the body and the mind and brings your energy levels down, depleting your immune system. Plus you project that negative energy onto others, which reflects back to you, and so it spreads. The same principle applies to positivity - have you noticed that when you smile at someone, more often than not, they smile straight back? It’s infectious.

Taking control of your own life

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found these past 10+ weeks tough going at times, and an emotional rollercoaster too. It’s taken effort for me to resolutely find joy in the small things some days but, as I explain the ikigai approach to coaching clients, it’s a way of training your brain to replace negative thoughts with more positive ones, to consciously reprogramme your outlook. It takes time and effort to learn a new technique! Some people assume I am happy all the time, that nothing bad ever happens to me, that I’m so lucky with my lifestyle. But in reality, I’m no luckier than anyone else - we make our own luck, our life is a series of choices that we make, we have control over what we want to do, how we think and behave, and how we react to our circumstances. I’ve just spent time learning what works for me and training myself to be positive.

I’ve had some dark moments too during this Covid19 self-isolation. Living alone surrounded by beautiful nature can certainly be more peaceful than suddenly being confined in a small house with a family you don’t usually spend 24 hours a day with, but oh, it can be crushingly, diminishingly lonely too. It can be hard work at the best of times, not having anyone to share the chores with, or your daily highs and lows, but at least usually you have human contact of some kind or another when you're out and about, meeting friends, working, people coming to the house. For all of those life-lines suddenly to be cut off is hard, really hard at times. And in those low, aching heart moments, there’s no one to give you a hug, hold your hand, stroke your hair. All of you complaining about missing contact with others or your own space, at least you are still able to kiss and cuddle your immediate family that you are isolating with, your children, if not your partner. I haven’t touched another human being since March.

Knowing yourself and being kind to yourself

And there’s been the disappointment of seeing all the bookings that I’ve been working so hard to build up over the past year of my new business cancel, and the stress of trying to keep afloat with no cashflow, and not wanting to put those worries onto other people, as “we are all in the same storm” (if not in the same boat), and everyone only has limited energy which they need to focus, quite rightly, on what they need to do for themselves and their own families to survive this storm. So it’s been a real exercise in calling on my inner resources and strength, and that more than anything is something that I am grateful that I have lots of and have learnt how to apply for my own wellbeing. I’m not sharing any of this for self-pity, but just to help you understand the process, and to show you that it does actually work, and so hopefully inspire some of you to take this approach too.

Nature therapy and gratitude journals

Gradually, through a combination of nature therapy, yoga, meditation and ikigai - focusing on the joy of small things and on the present moment - I’ve felt my creativity and energy flow again. I’ve been busily and happily occupied developing new offerings for Relaxscape, bringing to fruition online the Eco Loja idea that first germinated in January but didn’t have time to blossom because of the onset of the Coronavirus, and thanks to some thoughtful advice from two friends to whom I will be forever grateful, introducing a new range of teas and other products to bring you a taste of Relaxscape into your home until you can come and enjoy it here in person again.

I’ve also been creating a Relaxscape gratitude journal based around ikigai for you to use to help you to develop your own more positive mindset. Just waiting for it to come back from the printers, and then it will be available to buy from the Relaxscape Eco Loja too. I’m very excited, as it is, in essence, a really simple way to make the most out of life, if you let yourself enjoy it. It works, it’s worked for me - I've been applying it ever since I embarked on my Portuguese adventure. If you’d like to read what I've found to be thankful and smile daily about for the past 10 weeks during the Covid19 pandemic, you can find the posts here, or on my Facebook profile.

You can buy a copy of The Art of Relaxscaping - How to Find Your Ikigai here. Now available with a Portuguese translation to help you use the journal!

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