There’s been a wonderful surge in messaging around mental health over the last few years. More than ever, people are encouraged to be vulnerable and speak up.
But what happens when you bravely open up, only to find that no one is listening properly? That when you venture out of your shell, you are lectured, given unsolicited advice or simply ignored? What happens when you bare your soul and end up feeling worse than you did before – judged, pitied or misunderstood?
I believe that the call for people to speak up and share their mental health challenges must be matched by a conversation around what effective support and skillful listening looks, sounds and feels like through the eyes of those who are suffering (read: most of us).
Listening fully and deeply can be really hard. But it is such a gift when you do.
People are yearning to be seen, heard and accepted. We are hungry for real connection that comes with vulnerability, not another plastic toy from Kmart. Something magical happens when we are given permission to speak of all our brokenness: we discover that, underneath the surface chop of our crappy habits, patterns and beliefs, we are not broken at all.
Slowly, with time, we are pieced back together, able to walk in the world with a sparkle in our eyes, laden with the gifts that come from facing darkness and returning to the light, ready to pass the gift of genuine presence on to others.
Christmas is a season that amplifies mental health challenges for so many. It is a time when the sting of divorce, dysfunctional family dynamics, depression and anxiety come to the forefront, bought on by the pressure for everything to be picture perfect.
This year (possibly the weirdest, wildest year ever), let’s focus on what matters – connecting with and supporting ourselves and those we love.
Here’s how to hone your listening skills so you can be fully present to your loved ones this Christmas:
– Set an intention to listen more than you speak. Notice how this feels in your body.
– Adopt a curious mindset. Instead of judging according to your model of the world, why not grow curious about someone else’s?
– Ask better questions about things that matter. Forget external achievements, awards and the usual and focus on other people’s passions. I promise you that your conversations will be way more interesting!
– Instead of thinking about what people might be thinking of you, lean into being present with someone else and giving them the gift of eye contact and warmth.
– Connect with your own body when you’re interacting with others. Be aware of your breathing, thoughts and sensations. This is a practice of presence.
– If you’re unable to be fully present with someone who is asking for your support, be honest about it and make a time with them where you can commit to listening deeply.
– Help others to articulate their hopes and dreams. Be a vision holder for those you love.
– Ask to be properly listened to yourself. If you have something important to say, let those you love know how they can support you.
– Most importantly, listen to yourself. Hear the whispers of your wild soul, the longing for rest, creative expression, connection and nourishment. When you can listen to yourself skilfully and without judgement, you bring that gift to the world.
Let’s reclaim Christmas and make it something that truly serves us x