From Acts of Kindness from your Armchair’, by Anita Neilson.
My story began in 2008 when I was struck down by what, years later, was diagnosed as M.E. (chronic fatigue syndrome). I was swamped by a tsunami of mysterious symptoms ranging from a twitching eyelid, loss of spatial awareness, and an overwhelming fatigue after the least bit of activity.This was no ordinary fatigue, but more like a temporary paralysis which only waned after hours of sleep or rest. Then in 2010, Fibromyalgia (F.M.) came along bearing the ‘gifts’ of chronic pain and yet more fatigue. By this time, I was virtually bed-bound, wracked with pain and needing to sleep around 20 hours out of 24! Fast-forward 7 years and I have gradually accepted the presence of these conditions in my life, adopted new ways of living with them and indeed, acknowledged the gifts which came along with them. For me, chronic illness has been a grieving process for the person I once was, and I recognise with hindsight that I have gone through the stages of grief as part of this process: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression and 5. Acceptance.
This acceptance of M.E. and F.M. as being part of the new me doesn’t mean that I have resigned myself to a life of negativity and pain. Far from it! The years of struggling were like carrying two heavy suitcases with me wherever I went. Renouncing this struggle, the suitcases have been dropped and left where they fell, leaving a lighter, brighter, happier me. The space within, long darkened by frustration, anger, spite, self-pity and selfishness has gradually been re-illumined with patience, love, understanding, selflessness and compassion for others. This in turn has also given rise to an unexpected desire to help others. So, instead of ‘inward-looking’ I’ve now become more ‘outward acting’ and this has been the biggest catalyst for change in my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.
Finding my purpose:
Spending most of my time at home led me to feel socially and emotionally isolated and unable to help others as I would like. I have been virtually housebound for eight years because of Fibromyalgia and M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I have run the emotional gamut in that time, trying to be the person I once was and to fit in with the rest of society and yet at the same time feeling bereft of purpose once I stopped working.
This absence of purpose spurred me on to find out how I could make a meaningful contribution to the world despite my limitations of health and social contact. And so, I began to write—first a blog, then spiritual poetry, then a book, noting down all the ways in which I could show kindness from home. Writing has given me back my sense of purpose and helped me to become a kinder person who is more understanding of others, and I can now see ill-health as a blessing in my life. My book, ‘Acts of Kindness from your Armchair’ guides you to try out small, simple ways of showing kindness in four broad areas: to yourself, others, the animal kingdom and the environment. Here are some of the tips and techniques from the book to get you started on the road to a new, positive life bursting full of thoughts, words and acts of kindness, all of which you can do from the comfort of your own home and all of which come from my own experience. And they can work for you too!
Notice your thoughts and the number of negative, unkind, judgemental thoughts which you have about yourself during a day. You may be surprised by how many there are. I always used to (unknowingly) talk myself down, saying things like “I can’t do that…..I’m no good at this…I feel like I’m a burden…You’d be better off without me.” It’s natural to feel like this sometimes. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just commit to changing these thoughts to positive ones as soon as you become aware of them. Why? The Mayo Clinic has reported that positive thinking is a powerful force which allows us to see more possibilities in life, have greater coping skills, an increased life span and lower rates of depression. It’s true that if we continually say to ourselves that we can’t do something, we’re not able to go somewhere or we wish we could still do all the things we used to be able to do etc., we embed these negative trains of thought into our mind-set, forming unhelpful habits. Once I changed my focus and beliefs about myself it opened the door to what I was able todo, and be, and that was so much more than I had realised.
Be kind to those closest to you:
Often it can come easily to be kind to friends and colleagues but can be more difficult to show kindness to our closest loved ones. Yet they are the people who give us the most support (I hope this is true for you! Sometimes, sadly, it’s not always the case.) I can take my husband and sisters for granted. I am aware of this and I work especially hard to be kind to them. How? By thanking them for each little thing they do for me; by smiling at them; giving them (gentle!) hugs; buying little gifts for them; giving them my full attention; by choosing not to talk/complain about my pain or fatigue; by asking about their day, and so on. All these acts of kindness benefit you and them in equal measure.
Become a nature lover:
The restorative powers of the natural world have been the subject of many scientific studies over the years with participants regularly indicating lower stress levels, a reduction in pain levels and improved cognitive and decision-making abilities after being in contact with the natural world. That’s amazing, isn’t it! So, bring nature into your home if you can’t get out into it. For example, set up a beautiful natural screen saver on your mobile devices and home computer; set up a bird feeder near to a window so that you can sit and enjoy the dramas which enfold there daily; sow some vegetable or flower seeds indoors and nurture them. Not only are these acts of kindness to nature but also to you as you will gain a simple joy and peace from these things alone. I am a deeply spiritual person and I believe that God’s light is in everything and everyone. So when you immerse yourself in nature, you draw closer to God.
Be inspired by these examples. Realise that you too can make the shift from ‘house-bound’ to ‘home free’ through simple acts of kindness. Remember also this quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “We must become the change we wish to see in the world.” It all begins with us. # Ucan2! □
About the Author:
Anita Neilson is an author, spiritual poet and kindness blogger. A former high school teacher, she contributes to many mind body spirit publications, such as Thrive Global, Kindred Spirit, Finer Minds, and Fibromyalgia Magazine among others. Anita has had Fibromyalgia and M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) for 9 years and aims to teach others that anyone can make a meaningful and positive contribution to the world by reconnecting with their inner compassion and love. She lives in Scotland. Her book Acts of Kindness from your Armchair, is out November 24th, 2017 (available from your preferred online book retailer). Connect with Anita on her blog http://anitaneilson.com on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/AnitaNeilsonAuthor and on Instagram http://www.instagram.com/anitaneilson61.