Embracing the joy
Last Spring, I wrote about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of protecting our mental health during a period of uncertainty. The drastic change to our lifestyles brought multiple challenges to us all, whatever stage of life we are at. Twelve months on, however, we have also had time to reflect on what it has taught us about life and what is most important to us. For me, the unexpected chance to spend a year taking longer walks with my dog, spending more time with my usually busy family and grabbing the opportunity to enjoy my home more completely has had a big impact on how I embrace my joy, now that life seems to be returning once more to something closer to normality.
Not having to think about what to wear and how to do my make-up every single day during lockdown gave me space to appreciate the body I live in without any artificial embellishments, while the extra time I had on my hands, away from my work commute and the school and sports clubs runs allowed me the space to truly listen to what my spirit and soul needed not only to survive my busy daily routine, but to create a destiny worth living. In other words, being forced to slow down and stay closer to home has helped me to develop a deeper understanding of what it is that truly brings me joy, on a day-to-day basis.
Home, sweet home
As things start to really open up again in the UK and we look towards the day when everything officially returns to pre-COVID access and availability, many of us are excitedly planning outings, holidays and activities. Yet, I know that I am doing so with a heightened awareness of the joy I will find when I return home again after my fun day out or time away. A safe and welcoming home can become a real refuge, away from the noises and demands of the outside world. Yet, fill it with disorder, clutter, stress and worry, and it becomes an added burden on an already troubled mind. A large part of learning how to love yourself is learning how to create inspiring, comforting places for yourself to rest and recharge.
The expression ‘home is where the heart is’ is more than a trite greetings card insert. It links your safe refuge to your own values, emotions and feelings and connects your sense of comfort and security with the experiences you have in your home. So, it is all the more important to make your home as nurturing as possible. While this isn’t an interior design blog, I do want to give a few suggestions to help you align your home with your most cherished values. First of all make a list (I love a good list) of what you value most in life. Then, think about how each of these things can be represented in your home. Photographs of friends and family, souvenirs from travel, awards from work… you can be as imaginative or as predictable as you wish. It’s your home, after all. Think about creating a special, quiet space for prayer or meditation. What are your favourite colours? Styles? What turns a house into a home for you?
From a practical point of view, keep your home safe and secure with good locks, alarms and fire safety devices. Ensure you have sufficient home insurance and keep your home and the things you choose to keep in it in good working condition, arranging repairs, upgrades and cleaning routines promptly. Finally, remember that your home is all about you (and anyone you live with), so don’t be swayed by any else’s idea of domestic bliss if it doesn’t match your own.
Sense and sensuality
One of the reasons why we set so much store in having our homes double up as our safe refuge is the fact that we use all of our senses to tell our brains to relax when we feel safe and nurtured there. So, we want our home to inspire and awaken each of our senses so we can truly feel happy in it. Our eyes take in the carefully chosen colours and design trends we have picked out, while our ears relay familiar sounds. Our noses and taste buds anticipate the delicious food cooked in our kitchens and we run our hands across velvety cushions, cosy blankets, polished surfaces and luxurious rugs when we want to take in their softness.
Learning to indulge our senses without feeling guilty is a key lesson to learn in our quest to love ourselves more freely. Too many people feel like it is frivolous to treat our senses and somehow selfish to enjoy the link between sensuality and pleasure. Surely, we think, life is there to be taken seriously and nothing must distract us from facing our challenges. Yet feeling satisfaction without guilt helps us to feel alive and inspired to carry on. It can help us rise above feelings of anxiety and, as discussed above, help us work out what is truly important to us and what we can actually live without. Sensuality (which is distinguished from sexuality, although the two can be strongly linked) reminds us to take pleasure from things that bring joy and lifts our lives up from the pedestrian and closer to beauty and bliss.
So, listen to your favourite music, light candles in your favourite scent and invest in art that speaks to you and makes you smile every time you look at it. Treating our senses like that is the key to finding the happiness that is inherent in our own, real nature and understanding and enjoying our senses helps us find the meaning our life without having to depend on anyone else to work it out for us. Which is pretty cool!
Discovering our destiny
So, we have created a nurturing home and filled it and our lives with sensual experiences to enjoy some guilt-free pleasure. The only thing left to sort out is the soul. No pressure there, then… Whatever your religious belief may be – or even if you don’t have any, you are likely to agree with me that your life is (or should be) about more than counting the days off of a calendar until you die. Sure, we need to eat, drink and sleep to keep our bodies alive, but what about caring for the soul – or whatever you choose to call that unique spirit, essence or personality matrix that makes you, you? What about our purpose for living and our ultimate ‘destiny’? So many books and stories focus on the hero undergoing a journey to discover his or her destiny. It’s a compelling narrative, and one that is essential in our own lives too, if we want our soul to thrive and ourselves to enjoy our own happy ending.
Our purpose and destiny are aspects of our lives that are unique to us. No-one will live an identical life to another person and we all have our own values, priorities, experiences and connections. The more fully we understand the need to explore our purpose by nurturing our soul along with our body and senses, the deeper our life’s meaning will become.
In ‘mBraining’ terms, this means living from our ‘Highest Expression’, i.e. listening to the brains in our head, heart and gut to combine compassion, creativity and courage in everything that we do in order to help us find and embrace joy. In practical terms, this means identifying causes and ideas that you care about and working towards contributing to them; reflecting on what matters most to you and recognising what you are good at and what makes you happy. Combining these three areas is a good place to start and there are plenty of resources online to help you further.
So, we reach the conclusion of this set of ten blogs based on Grant Soosalu’s book, Loving your life! Fittingly, we end on the life-affirming topics of indulging the senses and nurturing the soul. I hope you have taken away lots of useful ideas and intriguing insights, and I look forward to returning with a brand new series of articles in the Autumn. In the meantime, I hope you spend a wonderful summer discovering your destiny, embracing your joy – and above all, loving your life!
 Source: ‘Loving Your Life’, by Grant Soosalu, 2015, p211
 Source: https://whatworkswellbeing.org/blog/how-home-design-can-impact-our-mental-health/. Accessed 21 June 2021
 Source: ‘Loving Your Life’, by Grant Soosalu, 2015, p91
 Source: https://philosophyofenjoyment.wordpress.com. Accessed 21 June 2021
 Source: http://www.mbraining.com. Accessed 21 June 2021
 Source: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/seven_ways_to_find_your_purpose_in_life. Accessed 21 June 2021