Let’s go Ouside – Is Too Much ‘Viewing’ Damaging Our Health?

There has been concern about possible harm being caused to our eyes from staring at various screens for too long. Television screens, smart phones, tablets, computer screens, all play a huge part in our everyday lives. I often worry for our children and grandchildren who could be more affected than the older generation; they spend a lot of time using the available technology, both at school and at home. Tablets are a great asset  to learning and in many ways invaluable, so how can we monitor their use? There have been worrying headlines in the media stating that visual problems are on the increase. It has been claimed that more children are becoming short-sighted now than ever before, and there has also been a rise in hearing problems due to overuse of headphones.

Many of us, myself included, spend more than a few hours a day sitting down staring at a computer screen; often it is the main feature of our working day.

 Could we all really be damaging our health? What are the implications here as super technology isn’t going to go away? Indeed, the modern world couldn’t manage without it. It remains to be seen what new and amazing developments could be on the horizon, but how will these new developments affect our long term health? Of course, advancements in the field of medicine could help us tremendously so there are many positives as well as concerns.

I listened to the advice of an optometrist on the question of the increase in shortsightedness. The interesting, and encouraging news was this: yes there is a small increase in visual changes but this is not due to too much time staring at screens as we may have assumed – it is due to spending too much time indoors. Often children are not spending as much time outside in natural daylight as previous generations did. They are missing out on the amounts of natural light needed for eye health.  I think this is actually good news! We have a remedy. Fresh air and exercise! We can’t stop our children using their screens and games but we can encourage plentiful amounts of outdoor play when they put the screens on idle for a while. I have yet to meet a child who turns down the chance of a game of football, climbing trees or a visit to the park!

Ever since Stone Age man trundled his way around the land, human beings have been filled with the desire to learn and to evolve. We have always found a way to adjust to modern ways of living and hopefully we always will. But sometimes it is good to take a look back at some of the ways of our ancestors and follow some of the older and perhaps, simpler ways of living now and again.

For those of us who tend to be desk bound, more serious problems could arise if we do not move around more. Sitting for long periods of time can do us untold damage in the long run. Scary stories abound about the results of sitting hunched over our desk for hours on end, including upping the risk of diabetes and cancer. But again, we can take simple steps to improve things. We cannot all change our daily work requirements, but we can make a difference to our daily routine and feel much better for it.

So there are a few simple solutions here:

We can encourage our children and grandchildren to enjoy outside play with us on a regular basis – leave the smartphones/tablets tucked away for a while!

When spending time in front of the computer screen encourage children (and yourself) to look away into the distance every twenty minutes. This alters focus and exercises the eye muscles. (As you get older it takes longer to re-adjust your focus)

Remind yourself to blink regularly when looking at the screen – we tend to shut off this natural response and can consequently suffer with dry, irritated eyes.

Even when working don’t sit for too long! Get up every half hour at least. Walk around the room. Stand up to talk on the phone. Go for a walk at lunch time if you can. Fetch a glass of water every so often.

If walking around listening to music on your headphones – turn the volume down a notch or two. Your ears will thank you in the future!

Don’t forget the sunscreen and the sunglasses if the sun is out!

‘Solvitur Ambulando’ – ‘It is solved by walking’.

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64th Springtime….

I had to write about the passing of time today. I have returned from the town where I was born in Cornwall, after spending a long weekend there at a family reunion. I spent quite a lot of time in the house that belonged to my grandparents and where my Aunt and Uncle now live. I stood in front of the same window where I stood over sixty years ago wearing a bridesmaids dress and clutching a posy of wild flowers; a shy child then, uncomfortably striking a pose for the camera. I walked around the garden where I have walked so many times long ago, safe in the care of my grandparents. I looked at the old granite trough where chubby goldfish still swim, and the little avenue of apple trees I used to run through. I had a curiously strange, yet comforting feeling that my long departed grandparents were somehow there with me.

Nostalgia continued as we gathered with my father and various relatives to celebrate his cousin’s 90th birthday. Aunts, godparents and old friends each had a story to tell me, and a memory of the past to share. As we stood in the garden in the lovely Spring sunshine we looked at old photographs of the family and marvelled at the likenesses of our own children to their little known ancestors. We talked about those long gone as though they had only just stepped out of the room. It made me think that those we love and who loved us remain a part of our lives and in some ways have made us who we are.

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                                                  Poppies in my Grandparent’s garden.

Next day, at the beach, I meandered across the sand as I have done so many times in the past. I thought about the time I was punished at school by a bossy headmistress, when I handed in a note from my grandmother asking for permission for me to leave early one day. The headmistress knew that we were keen to get to the sea-side before tea-time! I guess she feared my leaving a little early would have had a detrimental effect on my education. I’m not really sure it would have made a big difference and who can doubt the benefit of a dose of fresh sea air? Deep in thought, I still got caught out by the stream that runs the length of the sand to the sea and offers no bridge to cross from one side of the sand to the other. Ah well, the shoes had to come off. There was nothing for it but to wade across to get to the crystal clear rock pools.

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Returning home to Dove Lane it was time to settle back in to routine. And yet, as always, family was uppermost in my mind. Our two sons were able to spend time together yesterday, an occasion that doesn’t happen as often as they like, as the eldest one lives in America, and the younger one was visiting him from England. They ‘Facetimed’ me and I watched their nine, (yes, they have nine children between them!) children playing together for the first time. There is something beyond heartwarming seeing your grandchildren naturally bonding together.

I am getting older now. I will soon have completed 64 Springtimes. Maybe I hanker  occasionally for my youth, for the odd bit of fame even, but I desire no money except insofar as I should like to be able to have enough to spend on my children and grandchildren… Can I still be helpful? I hope I can be in a useful, personal and direct way. I hope I have acquired some wisdom; I know one thing – I am well equipped to love.

I remember staring at my grandmother’s hands, they were a bit wrinkly and covered with veins and some brown splotches; they looked rather old to me, but it didn’t matter, they were there to hold on to me. That doesn’t seem long ago, yet now, here I am with my grandmother’s hands.

Blessings.

In Praise of a Quieter Life….

I read an article recently where the subject was about settling for a mediocre life. At first, I thought ‘hmm, this is going to be negative,’ but as I read on I realised what the person was trying to say. Sometimes in this tumultuous and changing world we just want to settle for a quiet life. We don’t want to strive and put ourselves out there and scrabble around on the ever rotating ‘hamster wheel’. We may not want to rush around trying to improve our minds even though we seem to be instructed to do this on a regular basis. Sometimes we may yearn NOT to have to strive to meet targets, not to keep up with the latest fashion or the latest upgrade in technology. Maybe we even want to escape the ‘health police’.

There seems to be a lot of judgement about, whether it be fiercely or kindly meant it can still unsettle us. Today I listened to a professor talking about diabetes. His theory was that diabetes 2 was largely brought on by neglect and leading a sedentary life, and that it should be renamed   ‘the non-walkers complaint’, or something similar. In other words, he was saying most people brought this ‘complaint’ on themselves by following an unhealthy lifestyle. He may be right in certain circumstances, but I feel this is a dangerous sort of judgement to pass on a person who may have reached a distressing state of health by all sorts of circumstances. Who knows what leads any of us to a state of ‘dis-ease’? Do we start banishing patients from the hospital waiting room if they don’t meet certain criteria or if they have put on a few stones in weight? Most of us like to eat a healthy diet when we can, and take some excercise, but do we need to become so engrossed in studying the latest health craze that we forget to enjoy our food? The media bombards us with information about what we should and shouldn’t eat, what vitamins/shakes/woo-woo berries we should consume, the mantras we should chant and the mindfulness we should embrace. Most of the time I find it interesting but sometimes I want to run away crying ‘show me the chocolate cake’!

Some days I long for calm. More and more I think about peace and ‘going with the flow’. I imagine a new sort of shop that plays gentle soothing music as I buy my groceries or my new jeans, instead of playing mindless, loud music that grates on the nerves. I think about walking in the woods instead of driving on the M25. I think about putting my feet up instead of going to sit in a draughty hall where I am shown how to contort my body and put my leg behind my right ear. Ok, not quite behind my ear but you know what I mean.

There seems to be too much going on around us for us to spend time worrying about how we should be living our lives; whether we should conform, expect our children/grandchildren to excel in every walk of life, live in the most stylish house, travel the world; whether we should be swinging from the chandeliers every night, (great if you have the energy!) and generally  leading an exemplary life.

It’s interesting too, to notice that one can be too religious for some, and not spiritual enough for others. I find this crops up quite often in my life. I have come to the conclusion that everyone forms their own opinion of me and will stick to it whatever I do. So I just have to be myself. And do my best. Besides, sometimes I feel very spiritual, other times I want to question every belief I hold dear. But mostly I get by. I want to change my mind sometimes too. I want to be able to be objective, see all points of view. Not always easy but worth aiming for.

I used to be a nurse, and I count myself lucky that I was one once. I learned that everyone in life has a story, a past, but not always a future. It is easy to forget this in this busy world. And it is sometimes easier to forget than think of it. But when we weigh up everything, if searching for the quieter life sometimes, following the calm and slower path sometimes, and taking time out sometimes, leads us to appear mediocre, then I am all for it. Besides, we will have more time to spend loving our family, and what could be better than that?

Blessing to you.

A few wise words from William Makepeace Thackeray:

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Winspiration Day – Uniting Globally for Positive Change.

This week I would like to talk about a very special day which is coming up on the 7th of May. A day which gives each and everyone of us the chance to make a difference in our volatile and changing world. Welcome to Winspiration Day.

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Winspiration Day-  was founded in 2003, and since then it has been celebrated every year on May 7th. It is day created especially for you, me and every person around the world. From all four corners of the Earth we can unite joyfully in contemplation and be of one accord.

So many times we are bombarded with disturbing news from the media. We wonder how the dreadful events we see before us on our television screens can really be happening. Perhaps we try to apportion blame, or divert our attention elsewhere. But deep down, I think a lot of us wish we could help to make the world a better place. And we are not alone. So many people wish for a better future where opportunity and vision combine with positive belief and action, to strengthen both their own lives and those of others. Winspiration  gives us the chance to do that. Between us, we have the enormous potential to bring about change, both in businesses, our own lives, and all over the world.

What is the 7th May Celebration?

Winspiration Day is a day of celebration, sharing and contemplation. Each year the main event is held in a different part of the world, with other celebrations taking place in other cities and towns around the globe. It is about inspiration and action and joining together with like minded people and a time when we focus our energies on bringing about an exciting and positive future. You could call it a ‘party with a purpose’. We share the results of the actions and Winspiration projects which have taken place throughout the year too. It is exciting to learn about the achievements of others and we can also join in the awards ceremony, where a special person or association is rewarded for their efforts in making a difference to their community and the world. They may have overcome personal challenges, or used their initiative to help the planet. You can see wonderful examples of the Winspiration projects on the website, including Origami for Peace, and Perla’s Story.

                                                                  http://www.winspiration.global

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The Guinness award being presented to some of the team who created the largest online worldwide discussion on the topic ‘I Can’…Children and adults participated on this project.

This year, the Winspiration Day main event is being held in the city of Los Angeles, California, and a wonderful day is planned. There will be guest speakers, including the founder of Winspiration, Wolfgang Sonnenburg, the renowned personal development coach Bob Proctor and best selling author and keynote speaker Blaine Bartlett to name but a few. The day will culminate in a candle ceremony which will be truly magical. But don’t panic! The event will be live-streamed and you will be able to watch it from wherever you are. There will also be other events around the world, including one at the Holiday Inn in Mayfair, London. You may even like to hold an event yourself. Just imagine holding a special ‘get together’ or a walk, even an afternoon tea, for charity. Some families make their own vision boards, or have a ‘vision party’ where they share conscious ideas about the future. All thing are possible.

             You can learn much more about Winspiration at http://www.winspiration.global

Winspiration Day is a unique and special day and we look forward to it with great anticipation, but this is just a part of what Winspiration is about. The Winspiration movement is there for us all throughout the year and continues to reach out to us all wherever we are in this world and supports us in our creativity, and in our positive actions. Together we can share a vision to create and accomplish great things for our wonderful planet Earth. Now, more than ever, we need to look to the future with love. The world is what WE make it. Rather than fighting AGAINST what we feel is wrong with the world we place the emphasis on being and acting FOR the common good.

In the words of the initiator of Winspiration, Wolfgang Sonnenburg:

                The Best is Yet to Come.

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Wolfgang Sonnenburg and Bob Proctor.

If you would like to become a member of Winspiration there are details on the website. You will be very welcome!

With blessings to you.

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Looking for signs, and the beauty of rainbows….

They say there is no such thing as coincidence. I am a firm believer in everything happening for a reason. Last week I was certainly pointed in a positive direction. Two articles I read highlighted the importance of noticing the signs around us – signs that tell us all is well and someone is looking out for us. If we look around us they are there. We may see a haphazard feather, hear a cheerful robin or see a penny laying on the ground. Ok. I hear what you may be saying. These little messengers could have got there by simple means. A stray bird’s feather may have drifted in on the breeze, but I prefer to think my guardian angel is nearby…a robin could be sizing up the branch above my head as a possible new home..but I like to think he could also be a messenger from a loved one, sent for reassurance.

I wonder if it actually matters what we believe. These little signs make a difference, wherever they originate, at least to me. They bring cheer, lift the spirits and put a spring in my step.

I have seen some beautiful rainbows lately; maybe the March winds and rains have encouraged them to stretch their beautiful arcs across the changing skies.

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A MONTH of SUNDAYS

When the monsters crept in from the shadows

I just couldn’t push them away,

Filling my head with their chatter

They stayed until night turned to day.

I felt I should dismiss them

With one impatient stoke,

But their presence lingered with me

Like a dark and heavy cloak.

Through weary eyes I viewed the clouds

As they shed their watery tears

Blotting out the cheerful sun,

As it dimmed and disappeared.

But imagine a month of Sundays

Each one dull and grey,

Suddenly brightened by sunlight

That illuminated the day.

And the sound of children’s laughter

Arriving like a gift,

Causing my heavy heart to stir

Making my spirits lift.

And imagine the sight of a rainbow

Shimmering in the rain,

Like a painting stretched across the sky

Colouring the world again.

(C) Lyn Halvorsen

These days, when I see a stray penny on the ground I always stop and pick it up. I look at the date and think about its significance. Then I take it home a drop it into a little jar. It is amazing how soon I accumulate a good amount for charity. In many parts of the world, every single penny makes a difference.

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Maybe today you will see some friendly signs put there just for you!

Robin

‘There’s a reason why he’s always there, He’s singing just for me.’

‘Where sweet honeysuckle winds around my door, With golden scented flowers, I hear the robin sing nearby, As I while away the hours.’

Blessings to you.

Four Garden Centres and a bamboo tree…

In our new spot in Dove Lane we now have a bit of outside space. We had previously downsized to an apartment which was very pleasant and practical, but as time went on we missed having a garden more and more.

It would be pushing it a bit to call our outside space a garden, but believe me, we value the small decked area at the back of the house, and the tiny grassed area at the front, more than the acres we may have had in the past. And don’t let me forget the path at the side of the house which is lined with shrubs and bushes. Oh and the patch by the parking space. As my dad sometimes says..’we don’t know ourselves’.

The only thing that has bothered us since moving in, is that the walled, decked area at the back of the house looks decidedly bare. One solitary shed, a bit of slippery decking and a brick wall, does not a garden make.  So today we took some time off from painting and decorating and spent some time planning our new oasis. I visualised greenery covering all the walls; creeping tendrils of ivy tenderly clinging in all the right places, flowers spilling out over newly placed troughs and perhaps an artfully placed wrought iron bench.

I was excited to make a start and himself was quite keen too, so we set off after breakfast and hit the first garden centre. Cue the first downpour of the day. Undaunted I put up my hood and walked around the area set aside for small trees and bushes. I was quite taken with a eucalyptus tree; the leaves had a lovely way of catching the light as they fluttered in the breeze/howling wind/horizontal rain. Himself was lost in a maze of fruit bushes which he was eying up for the allotment. He did quite like my suggestion of the eucalyptus but we both stared at tree wondering how we would get it in the mini. Also, was it exactly what we needed?

We returned to the warmth of the car. ‘Let’s move on,’ said himself. I nodded.

At the next garden centre we averted our eyes from the coffee shop and pressed on; hoods up again. Peering through the droplets of rain on my spectacles, I looked at the pretty hellebores (suitable for our shady side area) and searched for the new variety which, I had learned from a talk recently at a flower club, would not be prone to drooping. I couldn’t really tell if they were drooping or not, so went and found himself who was wondering if he preferred variegated holly or bay trees. Not sure if we had found what we wanted, we moved on.

After a slight diversion for lunch and a trip to the jewellers to pick up himself’s watch that had been repaired, we moved on. Again.

This time we were pleased. The rain had stopped. We were able to peruse at out leisure. More than that, I walked down a row of bamboo trees and stopped and listened to them rustling contentedly in the breeze and felt right at home. Himself agreed bamboo would work well so we set about choosing the tree we wanted. It reminded me of choosing a Christmas tree. We whittled it down to six possibles and lined them up for inspection. Lots of hmm’s and intakes of breaths ensued. It took a while to agree on which one we should take home, just like at Christmas. Big discussions took place regarding bushiness and balance and whether there were enough new shoots and did it lean too much to one side? Eventually a decision was made. Then we needed a pot. Forward another half hour and we had paid and loaded the car.

The suggestion of one more stop before home went down surprisingly well with himself who was rapidly turning into a gardening expert and coming out with quite technical gardening terms and muttering about soil quality.

This time our thoughts turned to troughs to place either side of our newly acquired tree. Up and down we walked, weighing up sizes and styles, wood versus stone. After an hour we decided garden centre fatigue had set in. The toughs would have to wait for another day.

At home in the fancifully named ‘walled garden’ we placed our bamboo tree, now in its smart new pot, in pride of place. We both sighed. With delight. It was meant to be there, and was soon happily settled, spreading its slender branches against the shelter of the wall.

We went inside and drank tea but couldn’t resist looking out now and again. We haven’t quite reached the total look we yearn for yet; it will take a while to fill the space, but we have made a start.

I read that in China, bamboo is regarded as one of the ‘four gentlemen’ (bamboo, orchid, plum blossom and chrysanthemum) and plays an important role in Chinese culture. Countless poems praising bamboo and its gentlemanly traits, featuring uprightness, integrity and elegance have been written apparently. I rather like that.

Blessings to you and happy gardening.

Climing the Hill to Enlightenment…

Or if at first you don’t succeed ……

Have you ever had times when you get disillusioned or feel that you can’t get where you want to be? You aren’t alone – I know there are times when I think I’ve ‘cracked it’, and have found my way – but then – wham, down I come to earth. But I guess if we had life all fathomed out we could become complacent or even a little smug. There is a reason why there are so many self help books out there. People are always searching to find a new way of dealing with life; a new angle that might just make everything become clear. It’s a big industry, but I’m not knocking it. I have found several books and audio tapes over the years that have helped me through rough times, and are still helpful today. I’ve followed some inspiring gurus too. ( I loved to listen to the motivational speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer, who always sounded warm and friendly and came across as a lovely man when I attended some of his seminars.) Sometimes just reading or hearing one illuminating line can offer up a ‘light bulb ‘ moment that gives us the answer we have been looking for.

Here is a story of one man’s quest for enlightenment…..

There was once a man who wanted to find the meaning of life. He spent many years listening to all sorts of gurus, and read many ‘self help’ books. He tried yoga classes and quite enjoyed them and soon learned how to ‘Salute the Sun’. He learned how to meditate, and once he had stopped his busy mind wandering off and thinking about what to eat for his supper, he more or less got the hang of it. He ate an amazingly healthy diet with only a few slips-ups (he had rather a liking for donuts). He took plenty of exercise and breathed in the invigorating fresh air in the woods behind his cottage. He gave up his stressful job and decided to live simply and he put on sandals.

But with all this to help him there were still times when he felt he hadn’t quite ‘got it’.

So the man went up to the top of a mountain, made himself a simple camp, and stayed there for five years. He contemplated his life. He relaxed and completely ‘chilled out’. He prayed for peace in the world. He felt at one with the universe. Occasionally, the odd climber or two came up the mountain and he smiled at them most benignly, bestowing calmness upon them. That felt good.

One day he woke up and thought ‘I’m ready to go back and face the world and nothing will phase me now.’ Gleefully, he set off down the mountain. But he had forgotten how steep it was and by the time he got to the bottom, his feet were a bit sore and he was thirsty and tired. He walked into the café at the bottom of the mountain and asked for a bottle of water. No one heard him. He asked again but the staff were busy and ignored him. After five more minutes he felt the anger boil up inside him and banged his fist on the counter, and demanded to be served. A waitress rushed over and nervously placed a bottle of water in front of him mumbling an apology. He grabbed the water and drank it down without a word. From a table in the corner and old friend spotted the man and walked over to him. He asked him how he was getting on with his quest for enlightenment. Without a word the man turned and walked out of the café. He headed back up the mountain.

This is just a reminder that we can all fail from time to time no matter how far we think we have come. But it is okay. It happens to us all and it is never too late to try again. The man was just human like we all are. And remember – nothing good is ever lost.

Blessings to you and keep going!