I watched the Jesy Nelson documentary ‘Odd One Out’ the other day. I was lying in bed for the second day in a row, cradling my Chronic Lyme Disease, feeling horrible and utterly sorry for myself. But by the end of the documentary (which is definitely worth watching on iPlayer) something had shifted. I found my mind, which does not function like my normal Happy Kate self when I’m having an episode, suddenly focused on something I needed to do. I had to write a blog about bullying.

Imagine winning the X-Factor as part of a four-teenage-girl group, put together for the show. And the day you win, waking up to find hundreds of horrible comments all over social media, calling you “the ugly one”, “the fat whale”. Cyber bullies almost broke Jesy but this brave girl, despite admitting to changing her appearance to try to please the haters, hung on in there and has found both success and happiness.

I grew up hearing ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ but that is bollocks. That’s just a mantra we teach to kids who are being bullied in the hope that it will protect them from damage. Because words are weapons that can break something much more serious than your body. Words can break your spirit and severely affect your mental health. So instead of teaching kids lame sayings that aren’t even true, we should be teaching them about the devastating power of words and how to use them.

When my children were small, I wanted to be a really good role model for them – my best me, if you like. So I started becoming aware of every word that came out of my mouth. Now, I like a good laugh and found that I would often say unkind things about myself or others to raise a giggle. I may even have made a ‘funny’ comment about Jesy Nelson. So I started a new practice. First, I noticed every time I said something negative. And stopped. Then, I started to notice every time I thought something negative. And stopped.

It didn’t happen overnight – in fact, it probably took around seven years all told – but gradually I trained my brain out of negative thinking. Now, I can see an unkind thought coming from a mile away and automatically send in the peacekeepers before it takes hold. Lyme disease can cause neurological problems and depression and although I did feel really down last weekend, I am absolutely sure that this practice is helping me cope with the constant pain, fatigue and mental instability. So what’s the magic ingredient? Kindness.

For me, kindness is the most important thing in the world and words have a big part to play. I often hear how people don’t like Facebook because of all the negativity. Well, I love Facebook. I do see negative posts pop up every now and then but I have a choice and I choose not to engage, as where attention goes, energy flows. The ridiculous comments about Greta Thunberg are just that and they don’t deserve any attention at all. It’s not that I ignore the difficult shit happening in the world but focusing on it and spreading it around isn’t going to help.

Negativity and criticism often come from feeling helpless but this is something that everyone can do. Start your own kindness practice, first becoming aware of everything you say or write, then what you think. And teach others to do the same. It could be the new pandemic.

Filed under: Happy Coulson

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