Signs of Improvement

When I last wrote on this blog, I’d just dropped one bad habit…

Cutting out cigarettes, an addiction that had ruled my day-to-day existence for half a century, was one of the biggest challenges that I have had to face – and this is coming from a man who’s met his fair share of troubled characters and addicts.

I wouldn’t dream of comparing my cravings for nicotine with the withdrawal symptoms that a serious drug abuser goes through on a daily basis, but I would say that I perhaps have had a glimpse into this world at the very least.

Now that it’s been nearly nine months since I smoked my last cigarette, I can start talking about the positive impacts that going nicotine-free has had on my life and how cutting out smoking might be just the thing to improve your overall health and happiness.

Although I was advised to keep writing this blog throughout the quitting process, there was a part of me that felt like it would be tempting fate to spending time every day focusing on the act of smoking. When friends and relatives ask me for advice and some enlightenment as to ‘how I did it’, I struggle to pick out one particular thing that got me through the ordeal. One thing I would say is that I’m fortunate enough to live in one of the most relaxing places in the UK: Glastonbury.

Aside from when the annual music festival is on at Pilton, blasting out music until the early hours of the morning, this is an incredibly peaceful part of the world to call home.

Despite the town being quite the tourist hot spot throughout the year, Glastonbury has managed to retain the country charm that has typified Somerset life for the majority of the 20th Century and it’s this idyllic setting that has helped me stay smoke-free for well over eight months now.

Out here, with the proud Tor looking down onto us like a genial Grandfather, the nights are crisp and cool in the winter, but the greenness of the land is never fully sapped away, even when the days are at their shortest. There were some times when the going got tough though. As I’m sure many other ex-smokers will confirm, the times when your resolve are tested the most are usually social situations. For me, it meant that I had to say goodbye to my weekly trips down to the local pub. I’d spent years of my life ending my working week with a trip down The King Arthur, it was almost like a second home to me and the patrons there were like my second family.

The first time I attempted to go in there, after my inaugural week of quitting, I only lasted about 10 minutes.

The smell of freshly poured pints, pub grub and, worst of all, cigarettes, proved to be maddeningly tempting – I left in a cold sweat with my bemused friends looking on. I saw it as a significant sign of progress when I spent a good hour there last weekend. Where once just the mere smell of the pub would have me crawling out of my skin, I can now happily sit in The King Arthur with a pint and catch-up with all my friends that I’ve sorely missed for the last few months.

Other than missing my fair share of pub quizzes, it looks like I didn’t miss out on too much since my time away and at least I can breathe a little easier now! 

Nestor Says Good Bye To Cigarettes!

I’ve finally quit smoking.

For those of you readers who have struggled with quitting smoking for some time, you’ll understand the dilemma that faces most addicts looking to quit.

Each time we take that vital step forward in the quitting process, we feel a huge swelling of pride and excitement. Soon, we think, our bodies will be free of those dreaded toxins and substances that poison our bloodstream on a daily basis. We are so overwhelmed with our new found freedom, that we feel compelled to tell every single one of our friends and family about our bold new step in the right direction.

The first time this happens, we’re greeted by a chorus of relieved voices and even a few rounds of applause, politely congratulating our sensible decision. Inevitably though, the first attempt is rarely the last. Soon, we cave in and are forced to reveal to our colleagues and family members that, after only a handful of days, we’re back puffing again. A few months pass, maybe even a year, until you can work up the courage and conviction to have another quitting attempt. After telling your friends about your second try – you’ll notice that the reception you receive is a little more on the lukewarm side.

After the second relapse – your friends will only shrug with indifference when you inform them of your failure.

Their interest in your battle with addiction will usually be indifferent, especially if they’ve never smoked regularly themselves.

I’d been a smoker for over 50 years before I finally had the will power to quit. I’m now in the rather novel position of being able to say that I’ve not smoked for two months. I achieved this without the support of my friends and family, they’d long ago assumed that I would be a smoker to the grave (despite my numerous attempts to quit) but I did have help from a pocket-sized friend, in the form of this little guy:

vape-stick

Although this may sound like your Granddad asking you if you want an ‘iPod’ for Christmas, I can’t stress how instrumental this Vaping Pen was in helping me quit a 50 year long habit. The jury may still be out on whether Vaping carries any harmful toxins (beyond the small amount of nicotine that is contained in each phial of ‘e-juice’), but I can tell you one thing is for sure, I’ve never breathed easier in my whole adult life.

I’ll be honest, I never thought that I’d give up cigarettes.

After my 10th or 15th attempt at quitting, I felt like I was never going to stop – it was demoralising and that’s coming from a man who’s been working in self-realisation and motivation almost his entire life! This little gadget was the key to my success. Those looking to get one themselves needn’t be put off by all the complicated buzzwords or technical terms, there are plenty of great websites out there which can clue you up. In no time you’ll know your EGO 3200 mAh batteries from your Nautilus X Clearomisers.

tommy-chong

Once you’ve got to grips with all the variable components in your E-Cigarette, the next step will be to buy one! Although there are plenty of vendors selling these online at sites like Amazon and Ebay, I would recommend either buying from a retail shop; so you can talk to someone face-to-face about your choice, or going to a company like XO Vape, who can supply you with everything you need (along with a returns guarantee, if it turns out that it’s not for you after all).

Many of my class members are surprised that I ever smoked cigarettes to start with (they’d suspected other substances though, I should think!) and now I can proudly tell them that I’m a successful quitter. I’m hoping to cut down on the vaping, until I’m not taking in any nicotine at all.

I may be a little late to the party, but I’m sure glad I got here now.

Harnessing Music Into Positive Energy

There’s great potential to encourage happiness using Music…

Despite always having a deep love for music, especially the Rock’n’Roll of the 60s, I’ve never had too much skill with emulating the heroes of my youth.

 

kid-guitarThe 1960s were a wonderful time for creativity and burgeoning ambition, a time when the American Dream was truly alive and well.

With the rise of blues music, young boys and girls all across the US (and indeed the rest of the world) were beginning to pick up instruments.

They started out playing simple ditties and rhymes that had been developed and popularised by the subjugated African American population, unwittingly passing on the torch for thousands of tortured souls.

I was no different to any of these kids. Although I had little time to hone my musical skills, in between playing Football, studying and hanging out with my friends – I always felt a strong emotional bond to those that played Music.

I cherished the feeling of well being that listening and playing the music encouraged in me. Although my parents didn’t quite understand the intense fascination that I had with bands such as the Animals and the 13th Floor Elevators – they understood the positive effect that music could have on the psyche and never discouraged my exploration of other musical genres.

Although an argument could be made that all Art, in it’s own way, provides us humans with a sense of cathartic relief – I believe there is no more immediate medium that music to achieve this goal.

Literature may well enlighten the mind, but it takes an intense amount of concentration and hours of study. Film is a wonderful distraction, whose lights and sounds can elevate the viewer almost to the state of an out of body experience – but cinematic representations of life can often misconstrue and confuse, rather than provide clarification in times of need. An appreciation for music, however, is hardwired into our very sense of being. The rhythm of even the most simple tune can easily be traced by any person – even a child with no music experience whatsoever.

The effect of music on a single mind is almost hypnotic.

music-meditation

Played in a quiet, slightly darkened room, with little space for distraction – the mind can become one with the notes and rhythm. Given time, all doubt, fear and negativity can slowly be eradicated from the mind, as the tune and beat becomes the only thing that occupies the listener’s conscious thoughts. This is the effect of simply listening to the music, when the listener becomes an active participant in the aural space – that’s when the magic really starts to happen.

It can be as simple as tapping one’s feet or clapping one’s hand – the pure joy that fills the body with becoming one with the music (even in the most minor way) can foster not only a sense of community within groups of people, but help lift sadness and boost self-esteem. I would never claim to be the next Jimi Hendrix (although I’ve probably been playing guitar longer than he ever got the chance to!) however, I’m always happy to offer basic guitar lessons to anyone who may think that they could benefit from it.

learning-to-play-bass-guitar

Learning to play a musical instrument is an accomplishment that sits on many people’s Bucket List – many feel that it’s simply an unreachable goal – something that they could never really achieve, due to their inherent lack of ‘musical ability’.

The sense of satisfaction and joy that emanates from someone eclipsing their own expectations has to be seen (or felt) to be believed.

Why not give it a try?