What horses can teach us about breathing mindfully

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We have recently added a new coping strategy to our Connect with Horses personal empowerment workshops.  As with equine-assisted experiential learning, equine-guided meditation and equine-led walking meditation, it is an activity that participants practice in the presence of our horses.

A lot has been written about how horses use breathing to connect and to communicate. Horses tend to breathe slower and deeper when they need to either calm themselves or another herd member. The question arose: “Could we possibly connect and communicate with horses by regulating our breathing?”

In my opinion, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Not only can we calm a distressed horse by breathing slowly and deeply, but we can also be calmed ourselves by paying attention to a horse’s breathing pattern and speed when the horse is at ease and at rest. The effect is most powerful in the presence of our herd.

Before we can benefit from such an experience, we must first become aware of our own breathing, an automatic process most of us pay very little attention to on a day-to-day basis. Take a minute or two now and observe how quickly or slowly you are breathing. Is your breathing low (you are breathing from your belly), or high (you are breathing from your chest)? Is there a pause between your in-breath and your out-breath? Do you breathe through your mouth or through your nose? It will be easier to determine your breathing speed and pattern if you put one hand on your chest and the other hand under your bellybutton. This way you can feel which part of your body mostly moves up and down every time you inhale and exhale. Become aware of your breathing in a non-judgemental way – there is no right or wrong way to do this exercise, it is merely about observing what is happening naturally.

This is probably one of the best mindfulness exercises I know, while doing it you are 100% present in the current moment.

This is how our workshop participants start each mindfully breathing exercise with our horses. I first ask them to become aware of their own breathing, without trying to regulate it in any way. They may be breathing slightly faster than normal – if they have never been in the presence of a herd, it is perfectly normal to feel somewhat anxious.

When we are anxious, we change the way we breathe, without realising. Both our breathing rate and pattern change. Instead of taking deep breaths, into our lower lungs, we start to breathe superficially. We take quick, shallow breaths, into our upper lungs only. It feels as if we cannot breathe and we say that we cannot “catch our breath.” This expression is not entirely accurate, because we manage perfectly well to breathe in, even if only in short, sharp breaths. The problem is that we do not breathe out properly, we also breathe out in short gasps. This can lead to a condition called hyperventilation.

When we breathe, we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Fast, shallow breathing can cause the carbon dioxide levels in your bloodstream to drop too low. This, in turn, can cause quite a few uncomfortable and alarming symptoms. You may

  • Have palpitations – your heart feels as if it is racing – and tightness in your chest or chest pain. This is why panic attacks are often confused with heart attacks.
  • Feel lightheaded, weak, faint, dizzy and unable to think straight
  • Have tingling or numbness in your fingertips or around your mouth
  • Experience a sense of terror, or impending doom or death
  • Have a dry mouth and feel sweaty, hot and bothered or you may have chills
  • Feel nauseous and have abdominal pain or bloating
  • Feel as if you are losing control

If this should happen, you can avoid a full-blown panic attack by mindfully doing breathing exercises. Below are some breathing exercises which will help you avoid hyperventilation. It is important that you breathe in and out at a steady rate.

Exercise 1: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Imagine your lungs are divided into three parts. Breathe in gently through your nose. First, imagine the lowest part of your lungs filling with air. Next, imagine the middle part of your lungs filling with air and then your lungs filling with air right to the top. Relax your shoulders. Gently and slowly exhale fully and completely. Repeat the exercise three or four times.

Exercise 2: Take a deep, full breath. Exhale slowly, fully and completely. Inhale again and count from 1 to 4 (or for as long as feels comfortable). Pause for 4 seconds. Exhale slowly while counting from 1 to 4 (or for as long as feels comfortable). Pause for 4 seconds. Repeat the exercise three or four times. This is also called square breathing.

Exercise 3: Resting the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your top front teeth. Keep your tongue in place throughout the practice. Start by exhaling completely through your mouth. Next, close your mouth, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head. Then, for seven seconds, hold your breath. Exhale from your mouth for eight seconds. This is called 4-7-8 breathing. Repeat at least 4 times. The held breath (for seven seconds) is the most critical part of this practice.

Once our workshop participants are fully conscious of their own breathing rhythm and depth, I ask them to pay attention to the horses’ breathing speeds and patterns. This accomplished, I encourage them again to notice their own breathing, to find out if there has been a change. They often report that their own breathing slows and becomes deeper as they concentrate on the horses’ breathing. They also say that they gradually start to feel more and more relaxed. Many report a profound feeling of connection, with the horses and with each other.

Whenever you feel anxious, I recommend you do one of the breathing exercises above. My personal favourite is square breathing. It will help you to relax and can also help you fall asleep. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, do the exercise of your choice at least twice a day. If you would like to experience the profoundly calming effect breathing with horses can have, join us for a personal empowerment workshop here in the south of France!

For more information, send an e-mail to welcome2 gascony[at]gmail.com.

Finding Your Way

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I have long been convinced of the impact a well-constructed vision board can have on our ability to realise our objectives and ambitions. I included the concept is the first book I wrote, nearly 10 years ago now, Horse Riding Confidence Secrets, helping horse riders to regain their horse riding confidence after, for example, a fall. Vision boards have played a pivotal role in my own life as well as in the lives of many of my workshop participants. I would go as far as to say that a carefully constructed vision board can dramatically increase our chances of succeeding in attaining our objectives.

For those who may not know, a vision board is a collage of images, pictures and affirmations of one’s dreams and desires, designed to serve as a source of inspiration and motivation. One of my favourite authors, Jack Canfield, writes about it extensively, both in his books and on his website. He says, “Your brain will work tirelessly to achieve the statements you give your subconscious mind. And when those statements are the affirmations and images of your goals, you are destined to achieve them!”

One of the simplest ways to make a vision board is to collect a good number of images that represent your ideal life, stick them together on a board, add emotionally moving affirmations and spend a few moments every day looking at your vision board and visualising your ideal life. I will not go into further details here. There are many articles on- and off-line that explain how to make a vision board and I have also covered the process comprehensively in my book “You ARE good enough,” with links to the best articles and websites that will enable you to make a powerful vision board yourself.

What I do want to mention here is why it is beneficial to make a vision board:

  • Vision boards help us to focus and think about where we want our lives to go from here. If you are looking for a new calling, if you have an empty nest, if you have just retired or if you have lost your spouse, a vision board can help you chart a new path.
  • A vision board can inspire you on days that you feel a bit low and it can help you overcome obstacles and stay motivated to make the changes needed to stay on course and advance on the path you have chosen.
  • A vision board enables you to share your vision for your life with others in a practical and easy-to-understand way. Sharing your vision for your future with others can engage support from friends and family.
  • As a vision board dramatically increases your chances of success, it can make you feel good about yourself and increase your self-confidence.
  • Reviewing your vision board and visualising your ideal life can reduce stress. The simple act of quieting your mind and visualising your chosen future reduces the amount of stress you are constantly bombarded with.
  • A vision board can also make you feel happier. Visualising events and situations that give you joy is a very powerful mood enhancer.
  • A vision board and visualisation can have health benefits. If you encounter a health-related obstruction to realising your dream life, you can visualise yourself getting better and ending up fit and healthy. You can add pictures of fit and healthy people, or pictures of yourself when you were healthy, to your vision board. As the act of visualising reduces stress and lifts your mood, it can enable your body to heal itself and function more effectively.

As I mentioned, creating and reviewing a vision board is a visualisation exercise. Psychology Today reported that the brain patterns activated when a weightlifter lifts weights are also activated when the lifter only visualises the process of lifting weights. Your mind cannot differentiate between what is real and what is imagined. When you visualize yourself doing something, your ability to do it improves as if you are really doing it. Many athletes such as Michael Jordan, Tiger Wood, and Usain Bolt visualised and mentally rehearsed winning many times before they actually won.

Over the last 10 years, I have learned a thing or two about vision boards. These days, I encourage my workshop participants not only to make a vision board about their desired outcomes but also to journal their journey until they reach their goals and beyond. There are so many different ways we can make vision boards and journal now, it is easier than ever before. We all have mobile phones, so a photographic or even a video journal is within easy reach of all of us. There is a myriad of websites where you can make a vision board online and either download it or leave it on the website and adjust it as you go along. There are as many websites offering the possibility of journalling online.

I have learned, from personal experience, that making a vision board is not enough, even if we mindfully review it daily. Further action is needed. Journalling mindfully, especially if it includes expressing gratitude for what you already have, substantially increase the power of your vision board to realise your dreams.

I have also discovered that a vision board should focus on how you want to feel once you reach your goals. Vision boards that evoke positive feelings are many times more powerful than vision boards that do not involve your feelings.

One of my blogging buddies, Jennifer Rochette Koshak, who has a great sense of humour, is a vision board expert and vision board coach. She also presents vision board workshops. She blogs at Unfold and Begin. When time permits, my Connect with Horses personal empowerment workshops include a discussion about the benefits of making a vision board. There rarely is time to go into the process in depth, as most of our time is taken up with equine-guided meditation and equine-assisted experiential learning.

While reading Jennifer’s work, I had an idea. I could present a stand-alone vision board workshop myself, at home here on the farm or wherever there is a demand, lasting a half-a-day or even a full day. As I said, there are already many websites offering this service, so how can I make my vision board workshop unique? The answer is obvious. Most of the people who come to my workshop are attracted by the presence of the horses, it is the horses’ contribution that makes these personal empowerment workshops unique. Many people find horses inspiring, even if they are a little scared of coming face to face with one in the flesh! A vision board workshop incorporating horses’ inspiring and motivating influence could be, I should think, not only very effective but also great fun and hugely entertaining.

At the moment this is still only an idea, a lot more work will have to go into making it happen. Maybe I should create a vision board about it! If you are interested in attending a vision board workshop inspired by horses, please write to me on welcome2gascony[at]gmail.com. If you have any ideas or advice on how I can make these workshops more worthwhile, please share them with me!

Have a vision. It is the ability to see the invisible. If you can see the invisible, you can achieve the impossible.
Shiv Khera

 

You can be happy too

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One of the most coveted items on my bucket list has always been a visit to the annual Feira Nacional do Cavalo in Golegà, in central Portugal. A couple of months ago, I developed a condition that put the limited sight I have left in my one good eye at risk. I decided that I wanted to go to Golegà while I could still see. Since then, the danger has been averted or has at least been postponed, but we had already booked our trip. So here we are in Minde, less than 20 minutes’ drive from Golegà, the Portuguese “Capital of the Horse.”

Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Golegà

It is still too early for breakfast, so I have time to write a few words. I originally started writing as a daily exercise in mindfulness. Initially, I wrote morning pages, but I needed a bit of motivation to do so daily, so I started a gratitude diary. Little did I realise how much happier this simple (and often very short) exercise would make me.

Whenever I now start to work with a client, this is the very first exercise we do. I have found this exercise of enormous use with every client I have worked with. It continues to enrich my life in ways I never expected when I started. It has evolved over time, nearly beyond recognition. It is no longer just a question of listing 10 things I am grateful for every morning and evening, as is recommended in most self-help books about gratitude.

It has become a full mindfulness meditation, often only lasting 5 minutes. Sometimes longer, it all depends on what I have to cope with at the time.

Nearly every self-respecting self-help author I know has written about the benefits of making time in our busy schedules to feel grateful for our many blessings. Even in difficult times. There exists an abundance of literature on the subject so I won’t go into detail about it here. In summary, being grateful attracts more to be grateful about. The more you have to be grateful about, the happier you are. It’s no secret that mindfully being aware of what you have to be grateful for promotes health and healing. Being grateful causes biochemical changes in your body that increase your energy levels, enhance your immune system, balance your hormones and reduce stress. I have found this to be true in my own life, it is one of the most powerful stress management strategies I know. I can not recommend it highly enough, even if you just start by listing 10 things you are grateful for every morning, without writing anything down.

Writing down what you are grateful for does make the exercise substantially more powerful. Some days are so challenging that I can barely manage to list 10 things in my diary, but most days I manage to write a paragraph or two as a mindfulness meditation. It moves my focus from what is troubling me to what makes me happy.

Turning a simple gratitude list into an exercise in writing mindfully is easy. I will explain what I do during my morning (and evening) mindfulness practice below. I don’t do it every morning and every evening, life sometimes gets in the way. Occasionally I have skipped a few days. Soon I feel off-kilter, I start catastrophising and life generally becomes unbearable. So back to my gratitude diary I go, now the tangible proof of what I have survived over the last few years and proof of how much better I cope when I stick to this practice.

This is what I do:

Anchoring

First, I use my 5 senses to anchor myself in the moment.
What do I see? Four black cats in strategic positions on the bed, fast asleep on top of the duvet, making it impossible for me to move without causing serious discontent.
What do I hear? The horses calling to each other: “Is it time for breakfast yet? No? Bass, could you give us a shout when she appears? Service here leaves a lot to be desired…”
What do I smell? Freshly brewed coffee, the aroma of pure bliss.
What do I taste? As above.
What do I feel? Wide awake, no doubt due to my excessive caffeine consumption.

My new hat, my 4th cup of Portuguese coffee yesterday and my sunglasses. “There is a place where friendships start with a great cup of coffee.”

Breathing

Next, I do some “square breathing.” I breathe in, to the count of 8, hold my breath for 8 counts, breathe out for 8 counts and then wait for 8 counts before I breathe in again. This very effective breathing exercise calms my body as it calms my mind, allowing me to concentrate fully on the task at hand.

Short Listing

I usually start the exercise by making a quick list: I dot down 10 things that I am grateful for this morning/evening:

Portuguese coffee. The thoughtfulness of our Portuguese hostess, supplying us with coffee making facilities. The book I read till way past midnight last night. A warm comfortable bed in a warm, comfortable room. The extensive Portuguese breakfast I have to look forward to, flavoured by tales of local folklore and accompanied by more (absolutely excellent) coffee. Yesterday at Golegà, my dream of attending this exceptional event finally coming true. My mobile phone, allowing me to stay in contact with my friends and family (and adopted family, you know who you are.) Our much-appreciated friend who is looking after the cats and horses at home – I really must buy her some of this remarkable coffee. Today at Golegà, the opportunity to see the presentation of the Escola Portuguesa de Arte Equestre this evening at 22h. Sharing this experience with my husband, who agrees that the coffee here is outstanding.

Adding a Paragraph

I then choose one item and I write a couple of paragraphs about why it makes me feel grateful. The easiest way to do this is to write a little story about it. Everyone loves stories, it is a great way to keep a diary. I often write about a friendship that I am especially thankful for. I usually start like this: ” I am so grateful to have a friend like X. He/she makes my life much easier. Just the other day, he/she helped me by…” More often than not, I am inspired to do something later to show my appreciation, thus putting gratefulness into action, further enhancing its power. I might buy a small gift: some dark chocolate, liquorice or shortbread biscuits. Or I might just send a quick email or text a short message.

Coping with Difficulties

If you have difficulty finding something to be thankful for, try focusing on the present moment. What are you grateful about right now? As you have probably gathered, I love the aroma and taste of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, so if I can not think of anything else, this is the first thing that goes on my list. In the evening I have a cup of soup, mushroom, courgette, tomato and seasonally, power pumpkin. One of my dearest friends makes this soup, so the soup and her generosity go on the list. On my list, the things that I can still see often feature prominently. The horses meditating in the morning mist. Autumn colours. The buttons on the espresso machine.

Why don’t you give it a try? Writing about gratitude as an exercise in mindfulness meditation might change your life too. It might make you happier too.

I am going to get up now. Golegà awaits and in any case, I need another cup of coffee.

Golegà, a great place to make new friends.

True Blue Space Benefits

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Are you as tired of “grey space” as I am? Grey trees, grey grass, grey skies, mud-grey horses…everywhere I look, I see shades of grey (sadly not the EL James variety.) I don’t know what winter has been like in your part of the world, but here in the south of France, we have had one of the wettest winters in decades. It is supposed to be spring now, le printemps devrait etre là! We should be seeing fresh green buds and bright yellow daffodils. No such luck, not this year. All this “grey space” is getting me down. It’s downright depressing.

I long for “green space.”
I need mud-free horses, mud-free fields, mud-free boots, mud-free clothes, mud-free hair.

A lot of research has been done about the potential health benefits of spending time in “green space.” Green space is defined as the “green lungs” of towns and cities which contribute to improving people’s physical and mental health by providing places for recreation – walking, running, cycling, sitting and socialising – away from the stresses of modern life. All good and well, except that these “green spaces” are currently “grey spaces” and not of tremendous use to anyone.

I recently read an article about the healing power of blue space, as opposed to green space.

The benefits of blue spaces have not been studied in detail yet, but one or two studies have revealed that blue spaces may be even more beneficial to us than green spaces. Blue spaces are characterised by the presence of water: a lake, a waterfall, a pond, a river, a stream or my personal favourite, the sea.  “Increased views of blue space is significantly associated with lower levels of psychological distress,” said Amber Pearson, assistant professor of health geography and a member of MSU’s Water Science Network. “However, we did not find that with green space.”

Mireia Gascon, an ISGlobal researcher said, “Findings suggest that outdoor blue spaces have potential benefits for health, particularly in terms of mental health, general wellbeing and physical activity.”

I lived for a large part of my working life either on an island (Jersey, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of France) or by the sea. For the last 9 years we have lived inland, admittedly only 2 hours from the sea and the last 3 years with a 1 Ha (2 acres) lake on our land. Somehow I am just not getting my “blue space fix” from looking at our lake. It may well be because the water in our lake, this time of the year, is the same grey-mud colour as the rest of the paysage.

After having looked at this depressing landscape for several months, in February, I had the opportunity to put the “blue space theory” into practice. We travelled to South Africa where we were privileged to spend most of our time within sight or within short walking distance from the beach. Whenever we drove somewhere, the sea was at our side. The weather was varied, some days were bright summer sunshine, others were windy and wet, but always the sea hogged our steps, wherever we went.

It made me blissfully happy. While we were there, due to a complication I developed after the operation I had in December, I was told that I would need another big eye operation when I got back to France. Scared me witless. We went for a long walk on Noordhoek beach and my fears subsided. It is impossible to remain upset when you are surrounded by such infinite beauty. The sort of beauty that overwhelms your senses, freezes you on the spot and makes you forget who you are. I could be easily convinced that this sort of “blue space beauty” could heal a wounded spirit.

Now, a month later, it is time for the operation and the South African sea is 11 000 km away. Luckily for me, and possibly also for you, researchers have found that a substantial amount of benefit can be gained from looking at pictures of “blue space.” Now that I can no longer go to the sea, I look at the pictures I took while we were there and I thought I would share them here with you, so that you too can benefit from the soothing and healing effect of these blue space pictures.

Looking at these pictures again makes me feel immensely grateful that I could spend a couple of weeks in such uplifting surroundings. I find blue spaces more powerfully restorative than green spaces. In your opinion?

Pin for review.

Vintage Gratitude

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When I had to give up medicine, after many years of training and as many working as a doctor, because of an ever-worsening eye condition, I thought my world had ended. It did not. Instead, I discovered a whole new world to inhabit as a writer. I was especially grateful that I would be able to continue writing even if my sight fails completely. This last year, however, taught me a new lesson. I might be able to continue writing even if I cannot see, but I cannot write when I am in pain.

Eleven months later, I find that I have to start writing again, pain or no pain, to keep the depression that invariably accompanies chronic illness at bay. Maybe not a book as such, but I think I could manage a couple of blog posts. So I have decided to start a new series on my blog called “I am grateful for…” Listing everything in my life that I am grateful for twice a day and thanking God for every item on my list has helped me cope with not only the pain but also the uncertainty of not knowing whether the next treatment will work, whether the next operation will get rid of the pain…or make it worse.

Being grateful is one of the most empowering activities that I have ever encountered.

Sharing what I am grateful for today will also help me to figure out who I am now, since I most certainly am no longer the same person as I was a year ago.

In this first post in the series, I want to share with you my passion for all things vintage and antique. I love old things, things with a history: old houses, old cars, old jewellery, old paintings, old porcelain, old linen and especially vintage clothes.

I would much prefer to wear an ancient piece of jewellery, especially if I am lucky enough to know who the previous owners were, than a brand new designer piece. I am lucky enough to own a couple of such pieces, but my most favourite is a bracelet with two sapphires that was created during the reign of Queen Victoria. I know exactly who it belonged before it belonged to me: three powerful women whom I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for. I always wear it, it makes me infinitely happy to see the sun flashing blue on the stones, to feel the solid weight of it on my arm, to know that the three strong women who wore it before me survived and even thrived in situations much more challenging than I have to do.

Just so that there is no misunderstanding (and in case my husband reads this,) I have no objection to new things as presents. Admittedly, I am not willing to sacrifice quality for age, that is no doubt why I only have a small number of treasured pieces.

I also love vintage clothes and because I am vain, I prefer designer vintage wear – from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s. During the daytime, I have spent many happy hours in vintage shops this year. My favourite vintage shops in Toulouse has got to be Le Grenier d’Anais,  Groucho Vintage and The Vintage Family. In Bordeaux I frequent Jolie Mome, Arsenic et Vielles Dentelles, Blue Madone and Marcelle. At night time, I visited similar shops online. In the early hours of the morning, pain management often consisted of reading vintage blogs, joining vintage Facebook Groups, visiting online auction sites and browsing Amazon for books on how to create or improve a vintage wardrobe. This has resulted, for the first time in my life, in a very distinct personal style – I now even buy vintage horse riding trousers and boots, when I can find them!

I am profoundly grateful that I also have access to some irresistible places in cyberspace. My nights would have been much lonelier if I did not.

For my 25th birthday, I was given a red Fiat Bertone X1/9, from 1975. Not an exceptionally expensive car, but I loved that car, passionately and eternally. I owned it for 12 years and during that time, became intimately acquainted with all its working parts as it was a temperamental beastie, liable to come down in a fit of the vapours at just about any time and just about anywhere and for absolutely no reason at all. I loved it anyway, devotedly, because when it ran smoothly, driving it was pure bliss. One day, I hope to find a suitable and worthy replacement, but not too soon, because searching for it is so much fun.

During all my adult life, I have lived in old houses. I could never live in a new house, nor in a house that has been restored to within an inch of its existence and surely resulting in the total loss of its soul. My soul would suffocate. I don’t think I could even be friends with someone who lives in a such a house. I am very grateful that the house I live in now nourishes my creativity, even though it still needs a fair bit of renovation. I sometimes run my hands along the 400-year old beams, now black with age, and I wonder about the original owners. Hundreds of year ago, some brave young man must have built this house for his precious bride, with the help of the whole village. He must have loved her very much, the evidence of his love still visible today in the thoughtful additions he added to make her life easier: somewhere for her store the salt, safe and dry, in the inglenook fireplace, bringing water from a nearby spring into the house, a state-of-the-art bread oven accessible from the kitchen, but outside the house to reduce the fire-risk, small windows to the south so that she will not be too hot in summer and a solid wall to the north so that she will not be cold in the winter…sentimentally-afflicted, I know.

Sometimes I walk through the house and marvel at how easily our furniture has settled into this essentially foreign environment. Unavoidably, each piece of furniture in this house has a history. Some pieces have travelled extensively: old trustworthies dating from the end of the 19th century, created originally to grace the interior of an elegant Cape Dutch farmhouse, nearly as old as this one. Other pieces once adorned the interiors of English castles and have now nestled in under rough but solid oak beams, their fine woodwork made even more exquisite by the contrast. For the grand piano, we had to clear one whole room, just because it deserves it. Pictures of our families jostle for space with my husband’s ancient book collection, dating from the Edwardian era. More than once, I thought I saw my husband’s great-grandmother standing at his side, a hand on his shoulder, while he plays. Must have been mistaken, can’t always trust my eyes.

I also have a thing for vintage porcelain and linen. In the summer, I while away many a Sunday afternoon at an annual flea market or at a local brocante or antique shop. I love the indestructible feel of heavily-starched table linen just as much as I love the lavender smell of pure cotton embroidered bed linen. Don’t even get me started on old porcelain (preferably Limoges) and embossed silver cutlery. How many times have I stood, fixated on the spot in the merciless summer sun, with a gorgeous silver cake slicer in my hand and wondered who “DT” or “VHK” or “MvdA” might have been?

Furthermore, collecting vintage words makes me absurdly happy – any all the languages I am privileged to speak. Take the word “scurryfunge,” which means to quickly tidy your house between the time you see a neighbour and the time she knocks on the door. Isn’t it absolutely adorable? And ” condiddle,” which means to convey away secretly. “Callipygian” means having a well-shaped or finely developed backside and “chatillionte” which means delightful. It comes from the French chatouiller – to tickle. I have an extensive collection of these and nowhere to use them! but reading them and pronouncing them does make me smile, so I am always adding some more to my old word-file.

I do not collect old books, but I never buy new books anymore either. I always buy secondhand and I return the books to be resold once I have read them. Buying books from charity and thrift shops satisfies my need to pay it forward. It is so much easier to spend money in a charity shop because I know my money is going towards a good cause. As I said in my last blog post, gratitude is not enough. It needs to be accompanied by generosity to reach its full potential and expressed as creativity, which is the reason why I am writing this blog post.

Is there something that you love as much as I love old houses, cars, clothes, porcelain, linen and words? Something that could help you through difficult times and make challenging situations easier to bear? Focussing on the happiness that my vintage treasures bring me makes me grateful, and being grateful empowers me. Defining what makes you happy, what you have to be grateful for, can empower you too.