Team Calm

DULLEST MOVIE EVER? WE HOPE SO: BAA BAA LAND IS "ULTIMATE INSOMNIA CURE” 

We’re delighted to unveil the poster and trailer for Calm’s first feature film – an eight-hour, slow-motion epic entirely starring sheep and called ... Baa Baa Land

 

 
 
 
 

An eight-hour slow-motion film with no plot, dialogue or actors will have its red-carpet premiere and global webcast this September.

Baa Baa Land is a contemplative epic, entirely starring sheep. It is also our first movie, making Calm, as far as we know, the first app ever to produce a feature film.

The American-financed, British-made film will premiere at the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s West End this September, on the same date [to be announced] that we premiere it online for our global audience of Calm users. 

The film is itself a meditation, a dream, an enchantment ... a tonic for the soul.

It is also an example of “Slow Cinema”, a genre of art films known for long takes, slow pace and lack of action or narrative.

“It’s better than any sleeping pill – the ultimate insomnia cure”, says Alex Tew, Baa Baa Land’s executive producer and co-founder of Calm.

Is it also the dullest movie ever made? “We think so”, says Peter Freedman, its producer. “We hope that audiences will too.”

Like the Star Wars, Harry Potter and Indiana Jones movies before it, Baa Baa Land is financed with American money but made in the UK by mainly British talent. It was shot entirely on location in Essex, a few miles from London. 

“We’re in discussion about U.S. and wider distribution and in talks with an American TV channel”, says Michael Acton Smith, its other executive producer and Calm’s other co-founder..  “We don’t expect it to break box-office records but believe there is at least a niche audience for it.”

“In a world of constant stress and information overload, of anxious days and restless nights ... comes the chance at last ... to pause ... to breathe ... to calm our racing minds and fretful souls... to sit and stare ... at sheep."

 
 

“Baa Baa Land is the first screen epic entirely starring sheep. A cast of hundreds... all of them sheep. Count them if you can – but don’t stress if you can’t. Sit back, wind down, drift off ... to sheep.”

Baa Baa Land has no car-chases, explosions or star names. All it has is sheep and fields.   

Long, loving takes – some up to an hour long – show the sheep in question, standing around in fields, doing very little.  

“Nothing happens ... for eight hours”, says Acton Smith. “Glorious!”

While the average camera shot in Hollywood action movies like The Bourne Supremacy lasts two seconds, the average shot in Baa Baa Land last over 30 minutes.

Apart from some music over the film’s credits, the only soundtrack is the sound of sheep making ... the sort of noises that lend the film its name. 

Baa Baa Land is no relation to La La Land, the recent Hollywood hit with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Its poster, however, does pay an affectionate tribute to La La Land’s and to a line associated with the latter, declaring, “Here’s to the ones who dream ... of sheep”.

It is, if anything, more of a hommage to the films of Andy Warhol, the late American avant-garde artist and film-maker. “Many laughed at Empire, Warhol’s eight hour, slow-motion movie of The Empire State Building on its first showing in 1964”, says Acton Smith. “But it’s now considered a classic.”

 
 

Baa Baa Land was conceived by its producer, Peter Freedman and directed, shot and edited on a “modest budget” by Garth Thomas, a British director of arts films.

Baa Baa Land features the Welsh Half-Breed sheep of Layer Marney Lamb near Tiptree in Essex. The farm’s sheep graze on local parklands and water meadows at the low density of three ewes per acre.

“No sheep were harmed – or consulted – in the making of this film.” 

Baa Baa Land’s length of eight hours may put off some but it makes the film only the nineteenth longest film of all time – five minutes shorter than Empire, Warhol’s 1964 film, and the same length as his 1967 work, The Imitation of Christ.

The longest movie ever made is Logistics, a Swedish experiential art film made in 2012, and lasting 857 hours or 35 days and 17 hours.

Baa Baa Land’s rivals for the title of the dullest film ever made include Paint Drying, a 10.5 hour movie about drying paint, classified last year by the British Board of Film Censors as “suitable for all”.

 
 

Stephen Fry's Exclusive Sleep Story

Photo credit: Claire Newman Williams

Photo credit: Claire Newman Williams

 
 

We challenge anyone to stay awake for all 24 minutes of this sleep inducing masterpiece by Stephen Fry. Sleep Stories have been a huge hit in the Calm app but we think that Blue Gold, narrated by Stephen Fry, is the best one yet. Listen to the two minute audio trailer above or enjoy the full Sleep Story in the Calm app

Stephen Fry is a national treasure in Britain, an Emmy winner, and the narrator of all 7 Harry Potter books. If you've yet to hear his soothing and distinctive voice, you're in for a treat.

Close your eyes and let Fry take you on a mellifluous journey through the lavender fields and the sleepy villages of Provence.

"Lifting your hand towards your face, once more that spellbinding scent fills your nose, slowing your breathing, relaxing every single muscle in your body. You long to stay, but know you cannot. But no matter. For, from now on, every time you smell the reassuring scent of France’s blue gold, you will be instantly transported back to this site. Back to the sunset where the fields truly do glow in an almost impossibly deep tone of purple haze, in these the rolling foothills of ever-peaceful Provence" — Phoebe Smith

Access the Calm app from your phone or your computer to develop a meditation practice, breathe deeper, invite a moment of relaxation into your busy day, and soothe your way into dreamland when you're ready for bed. You can download it here.  

 
 
 

Jerome Flynn Chooses Mindfulness over the Sword

 
 

@@Game of Thrones star, Jerome Flynn, chooses mindfulness over the sword.@@

We sat down with Jerome Flynn to discuss his recent Sleep Story and to learn about his mindfulness journey.

Jerome Flynn is a British actor and singer, famous on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond for roles including most recently Bronn, the mercenary swordsman in the HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones, and Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake in Ripper Street, the Amazon Prime thriller series set in the Victorian London of Jack the Ripper.

The seventh series of Game of Thrones premieres next month, in mid-July, while the fifth season of Ripper Street did so recently.

Less known is that Flynn, 54, is a serious practitioner and advocate of meditation, which he has been practicing for over a quarter of a century, since first discovering it in his late 20s.

With a kind and calming voice and his mindfulness background we knew he'd be perfect to read one of our bedtime stories for grown-ups. Sleep Stories are sleep-inducing tales that mix soothing words, music, sound-effects and mindfulness techniques to help adult listeners wind down and drift off to sleep. We're so happy he said yes!

Flynn read an original story called A Magical Winter Night. It is set in a mythical land and has the feel and style of some folktale from long ago.

 
 

When did you first get interested in meditation?

JF: I discovered meditation in my late twenties when I was seeking answers to my own condition and trying to better understand who I really was.

So, I started reading books on meditation and enlightenment. I then found a meditation teacher and went on an intense retreat with him to India.

The whole experience really turned my life on its head, opening the door to a completely fresh and much more authentic understanding of myself and of what you might call the nature of being.

I’ve been practicing [meditation] in one way or another ever since. Initially for about 10 years, I was doing it two or three hours a day. The early intensity felt important to really help burn through all the old mental and emotional habits of a lifetime.

In the last few years, I’ve eased off the hours and hopefully integrated the meditation into my everyday life.

Daily meditation is still very important to me. I sit for half hour in the morning and definitely feel the difference in the flow of my day if I miss it.

I was lucky that I discovered meditation just when my first wave of fame hit.

It was a crazy time [because] just as I was discovering more depth and meaning in my life through meditation and contemplation, my pop music career and the culture of fame surrounding it brought in the potential for a whole load of shallowness and self-importance.

I was definitely already searching for answers before then – but the ‘fame thing’ probably just sped up the process as I sensed the danger and stifling feeling of getting lost in that shallowness and froth. I’m grateful for it all but I’m so glad I had a meditation practice.

How did and does meditation help you?

JF: Well professionally, meditation definitely helped me to deal with that first experience of fame. In the midst of all the craziness of that pop froth, being number one in the charts and so on ... there’s a cultural fascination with fame, which can translate into a mixture of being put on a strange kind of pedestal one minute to being slagged off and brought down the next, which, of course, is unhealthy either way if it’s taken seriously by the ego.

It’s all too easy to end up on some kind of self-created island where you’re actually less connected to the real flow of life and the people and places that matter to you most. Actually, with today’s social media explosion, you might easily say that many of the pitfalls and dangers of fame have become available to us all.

Meditation really helped ground and center me beyond the identification with success, and the praise and criticism that go with it.

I would occasionally fall prey to panic attacks in those stressful, highly exposed situations, such as before a big TV performance or interview.

If I felt the panic coming on, then meditation and mindfulness often helped me to breathe deeply and connect to the present moment, allowing feelings of paranoia and fear to fall into the background.

I find mindfulness techniques a useful way to help bring the practice into my waking, walking, and talking day ... and especially the use of breath for returning to a present, heart-centered space.

Jerome Flynn reads a Sleep Story

Did Robson Green – your co-star and singing partner – also meditate?

JF: I don’t think Rob was meditating but sometimes on big occasions, we would both get nervous and he would say to me, “Come on Romy, tell me some of that stuff”.

Do you ever have trouble sleeping yourself?

JF: I always get off to sleep okay, but then I’ll often wake up in the middle of the night, maybe for an hour or so.

It definitely feels like there are cycles to my sleep pattern, and once awake, the worrisome mind can kick in; so, instead of just letting it worry or wander, I like to listen to stories or podcasts myself, or do some mindfulness exercises.  And now, Calm has become a really cool addition to my nighttime options.

You once said, “Mindfulness changed my life”. What did you mean by that? 

JF: Meditation introduced to me a deeper truth of who I am at the core of my being, to a self that is intimately connected to everything.

It showed me a place of wholeness in myself that is free from fear and self-judgment, truly present and available for life’s magical flow, rather than distracted by self-concern, of the past and future.

The symptoms of that, in turn, are a deeper relaxation, creativity, and awareness of the beauty in all things.

It showed me that true creativity and love come from a place beyond the patterns of the mind. It comes from a deeper, timeless place in ourselves.

What was your impression of the Sleep Story, A Magical Winter Night, that you’ve just read for Calm?

JF: It felt like a sort of Eastern European folk tale from a couple of centuries ago. 

What was it like reading the Sleep Story for Calm? Did you feel like falling asleep yourself? 

JF: Often in performance, you’re wanting to maintain a certain energy. Reading this story for Calm, I still needed to sustain this sort of energy but at a much lower level.

I had to be careful not to relax too much because while reading it, I was deliberately getting slower and softer as the story continued.

It was such a pleasure to do and a rare feeling to work on something that I’m so behind and that's helping to bring healing and sanity to a world that so desperately needs it.

 
 

You’ve said that you would like more schools to teach the techniques of mindfulness and meditation to their students. Why?

JF: That started when a good friend of mine, Elizabeth Daniels, had a passion and vision to bring mindfulness and mindful breathing to young people.  Tragically, two local teenagers had recently taken their lives and Elizabeth wanted to do something.

Through her, I was invited to visit our local school in St. Davids, Pembrokeshire [in Wales], where the children had started learning mindfulness and meditation.

Once they had been learning it for a few weeks, I was invited in to speak about my own experience and hear about theirs. It was truly heartening and inspiring to hear how quickly they had started to appreciate the tools of mindfulness and how much it had affected them after only a few weeks.

I would definitely like to be part of the movement to bring mindfulness into schools; in fact, in terms of education, I don’t think there’s anything more important. In these desperately volatile, fast-changing times, it is crucial we help our young people in the school of self-understanding, emotional maturity and mental wellbeing. How much we invest in that area could well be the difference between us making it through the next millennia on a healthy, life-supporting planet, or not. 

 

Sunday Night Sleep Troubles

 
sleep-troubles
 

Sunday is by far the cruelest night of the week for those who have trouble sleeping, according to a new study.

Three times as many of us sleep badly on Sunday as on any other single night, according to a survey of 4,279 Americans and Britons conducted by pollsters YouGov, on behalf of us at Calm.

Monday is the next worst night for sleep trouble, named by 8% of all poll respondents, compared to three times as many (23%) identifying Sunday, while Thursday night is when fewest (2%) struggle to sleep.

@@“Sunday may be the day of rest but it seems the night of restlessness”@@, says Michael Acton Smith, co-founder of Calm, which many users rely on to help them sleep. “Thursday, in contrast, seems the true night of rest.” 

To help our users fall asleep on Sunday nights, We've launched a new “Sleep Story” or bedtime story for grown-ups called Sleepy Sunday. It comprises a soothing essay of reflections on what still makes Sundays a day apart and the perfect chance to relax, wind down, recharge. 

 
 

The biggest reason that so many people sleep badly on Sundays is that the weekend is when they throw off their normal sleep routine, says Dr Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist, who himself delivers a talk on sleep science as part of our Sleep Stories collection.

“Many people go to bed later on Friday and Saturday nights and then sleep in later on Saturday and Sunday mornings,” says Dr Orma. “So, when they go to bed on Sunday night, they’re often just not tired. And then when they can’t sleep, they start to think about why they’re not sleeping, which only makes things worse.”

By Thursday night, in contrast, most of us have got fully back into our routine and therefore sleep better on average than on any other night.

Another factor making Sunday a bad sleep night is alcohol, says Dr Orma. “On weekends, people drink more alcohol, which definitely disturbs sleep.”

Anxiety about returning to work on Monday might sometimes be a third factor, says Dr Orma. “But that’s not the main reason in most cases.”

“Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week, according to the old Frank Sinatra song”, says Alex Tew, co-founder of Calm. “But Sunday night turns out to be the most restless.”  

Difficulty sleeping is a modern epidemic, adds Tew. “It’s also one of the main reasons that people use Calm.” Our sleep stories have now been listened to over 10 million times since their launch at the end of last year.

“I sometimes have trouble sleeping on Sundays myself”, says Calm’s Michael Acton Smith. “But now I have the perfect cure – listening to our latest new Sleep Story, Sleepy Sunday. 

 
 

Top Tips For Overcoming Sunday Night Sleep Problems

by psychologist and insomnia expert, Dr Steve Orma 

1. Have a regular wake-up time

The biggest single tip is to have a consistent wake-up time – and try not to diverge too far from it on weekends. Avoid sleeping in more than, say, an hour later on weekends than during the week. So, you might get up at 8am instead of your normal 7am.

2. Cut down on alcohol

On Sundays, try to abstain from alcohol; or, at least, consume far less, like just a glass of wine.

3. Find a way to relax, wind down, drift off

If you’re worried that you might have trouble falling asleep find a way to relax, wind down and drift off. Try, indeed, listening of one of Calm’s 30+ Sleep Stories – or, best of all, its latest new Sleep Story, created for precisely this occasion – Sleepy Sunday.

 
 

AND NOW TO SOOTHE YOU INTO DREAMLAND ... THE SHIPPING FORECAST

 

The late-night Shipping Forecast on the BBC is a maritime weather report, a British institution, a national treasure and … an accidental natural sleep aid of rare potency.

Now Britain’s strange “national lullaby” is becoming a bedtime story for grown-ups… in the form of a new Sleep Story

shipping forecast illustration.png
 

@@The late-night Shipping Forecast on the BBC has been sending Britons gently to sleep for nearly a century.@@ This inspired us to turn it into a Sleep Story with hopes that people across the world could benefit from this tried, tested and true natural sleep aid. 

The Shipping Forecast is a broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the British Isles – and is delivered four times a day on BBC Radio 4. 

Peter Jefferson, the former BBC continuity announcer – and a distant relation of Thomas Jefferson – who became known as “the voice of the Shipping Forecast” after four decades of reading it on the BBC, has recorded a special new version for us, complete with unusually calm maritime conditions.  

He also delivers his own introduction, which explains for the benefit of beginners the forecast’s history, background and special place in the UK’s national life. 

 
 

First issued in 1861, as a forecast of maritime conditions for those at sea, it has been broadcast by the BBC since 1924. Down the years, it has seeped into Britain's national consciousness and become a symbol of the country and a treasured part of national life, while continuing to play a crucial role providing gale warnings and maritime forecasts. 

“The version of it broadcast last thing at night”, says Jefferson, 71, “has been likened to a meditation, a mantra and a kind of lullaby since for many people it is not just rhythmic, familiar and soothing but also the last thing they listen to at night before falling asleep.” 

Many faithful listeners today may find The Shipping Forecast the perfect cure for insomnia but it was and is designed for seafarers rather than landlubbers, and always starts like this:

“And now the Shipping Forecast, issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency...” 

The remote, outlying parts of the British Isles and surrounding seas that the Shipping Forecast refers to are places that most listeners have never visited and could not point to on a map but which, thanks to The Shipping Forecast, form a nightly litany of strange yet familiar names that has become part of their lives.  

 
shipping news for insomnia

The Shipping Forecast has inspired poetry – as well as literature, theatre, comedy and music – and been called poetry itself. @@“Can there be anything in any language to match the poetry of the Shipping Forecast?”@@ asked The Guardian, when Jefferson finally parted company with the BBC. “I doubt it.” 

 

The version of The Shipping Forecast that is read at the end of the day, when most people are tucked up in bed, is preceded by an extract from a short piece of light music called Sailing By, and is broadcast just before one o’clock in the morning. 

Sailing By is a slow, swooning, Mantovani-style waltz, with a repetitive tune that helps sailors tuning in to identify the right radio station. It was written by the British composer, Ronald Binge in 1963, but first played before the late-night Shipping Forecast in 1967 – 50 years ago this year. It has by now become an integral, if not iconic part of the late-night Shipping Forecast. 

 
shipping news for sleep
 

Peter Jefferson first joined the BBC in 1964. He began his four decades of broadcasting the Shipping Forecast barely a couple of years after the introduction of Sailing By and ended it in 2009. 

In the intervening years, he was not the only BBC announcer to present the Shipping Forecast but he became the doyen of the art. “For this daily dose of the beautiful to work, nothing is more important than the god who administers it”, wrote The Guardian. “None has been more perfect in the last few years than Peter Jefferson, the voice of perfect modulation.” 

 

He is also perhaps the world’s leading authority on the Shipping Forecast, having not just broadcast it for 40 years but also written a praised book on it, which was published in 2011 with the title, And Now The Shipping Forecast

“People used to write to me saying how soothing they found it after a long day to hear this familiar mantra and say, ‘I love it when you send me to sleep at night reading the ships’. @@‘I love it when you send me to sleep at night reading the ships’@@

“Well, I hope I haven’t lost my knack, and that our new recording will now have the same effect on many new listeners across the world.” 

To listen to this unique Sleep Story visit the Calm app or website.

 
 
 

What is ASMR?

 
 

For the unacquainted, autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, refers to the experience of a pleasurable tingling sensation that is triggered by particular stimuli.

A sort of euphoria is possible for some people while listening to quiet ambient noise or the sound of a whisper.

Many people report that ASMR offers relief from insomnia, depression, and anxiety. The evidence just might be in the millions of youtube views. Over the past few years, the video sharing platform has become a popular way to seek out an ASMR experience. 

Given that part of our mission at Calm is to help you sleep better, we decided to explore this phenomenon. We reached out to self-identified ASMRtist, Emma Whispers Red, to see if she could enchant us into slumber.

Check out Emma's ASMR version of The Velveteen Rabbit in our Sleep Stories collection. Let us know if you get the tingles

Also, learn more about ASMR in the following interview with Emma and Calm Co-founder, Michael Acton Smith. 

 
 

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you discovered ASMR?

My name is Emma, and I'm an ASMR content creator on YouTube. As long as I can remember, a calming 'tingly sensation' has been a part of my normal sensory experience. I loved the sense of contentment that I felt drifting off during story time or while my brother and sister drew letters on my back. When I tried to talk about it with others, I realized that not everyone shared my experience. Over time, I shied away from speaking about it, but still savoured the feeling whenever it arose. After a road accident which resulted in numerous operations, almost a year where I was unable to walk, and trouble falling asleep, I searched for relaxation videos on YouTube. That's when I discovered ASMR videos and that others also experience the same sensation that I'd been feeling since I was young. 

What exactly is ASMR?

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It's a tingly/sparkly sensation that usually begins in the crown of the head and works its way down the back and through the limbs. The feeling is extremely relaxing and is often triggered by soft sounds, soft voices, whispering and light touching. Many people have an ASMR experience during a head massage or a facial, having their hair played with or while someone strokes their arm. Most individuals who experience ASMR, have strong memories of when this feeling was triggered as a child. For me, I always remember enjoying eye tests, having my hair played with and quiet time in class as the other students read books and slowly turned the pages. I create videos with the intention of inducing this feeling in the viewer. 

 
 

How does ASMR relate to calm?

I've heard many people in the ASMR community talk about the Calm app. We understand the use of sound for relaxation and sleep. Personally, I know how important it is to have tools that I can turn to when I am struggling to sleep or relax. As a content creator, I receive emails regularly from viewers telling me how my videos have helped them through tough times. ASMR videos are said to put us into a meditative state and bring about presence. The ability to share ASMR digitally means that people can get the support they need when they need it. ASMR videos and Calm both offer accessible relief from day-to-day stress.

Does everybody have the same response to ASMR?

Not everyone experiences the sensation of ASMR. Even for those who experience it, the videos made to induce it are not always appealing. Each person has a unique set of triggers, in the same way, that people prefer different food or music. That's why there is a huge variety of content available. 

Some people who have never heard of ASMR videos or who have different sensitivities find it hard to understand the intention behind them or why others might enjoy them. At first glance, some videos seem quite intimate, so I can understand the confusion. There is also a phenomenon, known as Misophonia, which is an aversion to some sounds. So crunching paper or mouth sounds can produce a kind of opposite ASMR effect! 

 
 

How big is the global ASMR community?

The first 'Whisper Video' was made in 2009. The term ASMR came later. Since then, the community of "experiencers" which includes both viewers and content creators has grown rapidly. One video alone can accrue millions of views as individuals will use it on several occasions to drift off to sleep. In addition to those who feel the tingly sensation, those who simply enjoy sounds and voices as a means of relaxation have joined the ASMR community. Millions of kind and sensitive people find a common connection in sound. It's a global phenomenon that continues to gain momentum every month. ASMR has become so popular, that we're finding the techniques used in advertising and even famous actors have tried their hand at making videos. It's a lot of fun and wonderful to see, but for me being able to reach out to others with love, kindness, acceptance, and courage is everything. Sensitive people of the world unite! We're taking over!

 
Listen to Emma Whisper Red's ASMR version of The Velveteen Rabbit in our Sleep Stories collection tonight.

Listen to Emma Whisper Red's ASMR version of The Velveteen Rabbit in our Sleep Stories collection tonight.

 

About Emma 

I am an ASMR content creator on YouTube and film videos in a little shed in my garden. This lovely feeling has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child I was sensitive, introverted and definitely a daydreamer. Over time, the tingles became a soothing tool, something dear to me and a form of escapism. From daydreaming in class to falling asleep listening to sounds from downstairs, it was a personal experience and I felt very lucky to have it. It kept me calm when the whole world around me wasn’t. I did over time try to explain it to others in my life but was often met with blank looks even halfway through the first sentence. It was always very hard to explain and after time, I stopped. Later though, I found that my younger Brother experiences it. He named it ‘The Golden Feeling’ a perfect description.

When saying no is the nicest thing you can do

The younger me wanted to be friends with eeeeveryone. She wanted everyone to like her, or at least ‘be okay’ with her. She hated to disappoint, or upset, or anger anyone. In the end though, this meant that the only person who was disappointed, upset or angered was myself. This was exhausting. 

Then one day – one of those days when I was thoroughly exhausted and fed up – a friend asked me this hard question: “Are you your best self when you’re with these people and doing these things?”

That question fired up something bright, a single flicker in a dark room and the answer came immediately: of course I wasn’t at my best; I was too depleted to be. It was revolutionary to me to realize that so much of what I was doing was actually stopping me from fully being me. I’d spent so much time and energy worrying about how to keep everyone else happy that I didn’t have anything left for me. I wasn’t expanding, I wasn’t developing the things I was passionate about or broadening any of the good qualities I was fortunate enough to have. I was just… there, hovering at the flattest, broadest, most stagnant plateau there was just so I could get through each day ensuring that everyone around me was pleased with me (or at least not displeased). 

The same friend went on to point out a second hard truth (she wasn’t mincing her words that afternoon): that although I was ‘being nice’ to everyone by answering their calls for help, volunteering to do everything and never saying no to requests, I was actually being quite dishonest about it all. And that’s not very nice. 

Back up. Dishonest? But I only wanted everyone to be happy. How could that be dishonest? 

She was right though. I was agreeing to all these things and nodding along to requests, but then going away and feeling resentful, tired and reluctant. Because these weren’t necessarily things that I personally wanted to do, and these people weren’t all people that I was particularly close to and loved, a lot of what I was doing was half-hearted, even slightly angry. I went into things – tasks, offers of help, friendships – with plenty of zeal to please but at heart, I felt mostly dread, annoyance or sheer indifference. The truth to hit me hardest was realizing that I didn’t actually care about what I was doing anymore. 

For all I was doing to try to be nice, I wasn’t of any real service to anyone, not least myself. As much as I felt like a champion of doing so many things and being so many people’s friend, none of it was making me more of me. Actually, it was diminishing who I was; I had become a miserable, downtrodden shadow of the person I was. 

I had to change what I was doing because it was too exhausting to continue that way. Since then – and it’s been a long, hard road – I’ve learnt to very carefully and gently say no to things, situations and people as soon as I start to feel like something is making me back down on myself. By that, I mean I feel less able to be myself, or that something is pulling me directions I don’t actually enjoy or am uncomfortable with. 

This could be something as simple as choosing not to engage in a difficult conversation, to something more complex like stopping contact altogether with people who I feel are being too demanding or on very different paths to my own. It could mean literally saying no to a request; or more subtly, being discerning about who I choose to spend my time and energy with. 

Sometimes, I decline all social invitations and stay in the whole weekend with nobody but myself and mugs of tea – and know that this is totally okay and kind and honest to everyone, even the people I’ve said no to. It is okay because these are the days I build myself back up to my fullest potential and charge my spiritual, emotional and mental batteries. It is okay because I know that when I do start interacting again, I’m clear-headed enough to choose to surround myself with situations and people that are going to uplift me and enable me to give my best to whomever I’m with.  

People-pleasing has become a scourge of our modern day sensibilities. Of course it’s important to be sensitive, mindful and as kind as possible to the people around us, but if trying to fulfill all these demands on our time and energy restricts our own growth, dampens our spirits and tires us out, we’re not giving of ourselves fully anyway. We give only partially, perhaps begrudgingly and distractedly – so how helpful is that going to be to anyone anyway? How much can we really give or do – for ourselves or anyone else – when we’re running on empty? 

Sometimes, I’ve learnt, the kindest thing we can do is to say no, to step back, to unashamedly enjoy the rest and quiet we need for ourselves, recharge and recalibrate. Then, when we do say yes, it’s an emphatic one – yes! We make the deliberate choice to engage with what energizes us, what supports us to contribute the best we have to bring with us, what makes us fuller, more joyful, more excited and curious. 

Then we know that when we finally say yes, it is truly a good thing for our own growth, clarity, happiness and peace of mind. And if that’s making us the fullest, brightest beings we can be, we are offering the best of ourselves to the people we choose to spend our time with.

Now that’s really nice. 


Jamie Khoo is currently doing a PhD in Women’s Studies at the University of York, UK, where she is researching contemporary constructions of feminine beauty and body image. She has also written for Elle MalaysiaHuffington Post UK Blogs, Time Out Kuala Lumpur, elephant journal and the be you media group. Sick of being told by mass media and society what “beautiful” is or isn't, Jamie founded the website a beauty full mind to challenge conventional beauty ideals and create new conversations around what beauty can mean today. Say hello to her on Facebook or email hello@abeautyfullmind.com

Are affirmations wearing you down?

My mother worries constantly about not being able to find parking, working herself into such a great frenzy that she often chooses not to go out at all. While it’s true that my hometown is notorious for its messy traffic and terrible drivers, no one else I know has nearly as much difficulty finding a parking spot as she does. 

She is also proof that affirmations work – parking causes her an inordinate amount of stress because she actively reminds and reinforces to herself how stressful it is. 

A lot has been written about the power and potential of positive affirmations for directing us towards goals and aspirations. I’ll admit I’ve found it difficult to do the whole thing of standing in front of a mirror reciting uplifting mantras to myself – it has often felt inauthentic. Telling myself ‘I’m a beautiful, strong, confident woman’ doesn’t only feel untrue; it feels a bit silly. 

But seeing my mother manifest her own stress around parking got me reconsidering how affirmations work, whether or not we really believe in them, and whether they’re corny bumper sticker sayings, or beliefs we hold in the quieter spaces of our minds. 

My mother’s daily traffic stress might seem a little trivial – not finding parking isn’t cause for a great deal of anxiety – but the affirmations add up. All the little things become big things if you think about them enough and before you know it, you’re a testy, edgy ball of misery. 

Because of all the political upheaval around the world this year, a lot of us can’t help but be sucked into thinking and talking frequently about what are often incredibly agitating issues. I’ve started noticing how people around me are winding themselves up far more than they actually need to.

Whether it’s looking for things that are ‘wrong’, or reading negativity into situations, or just talking incessantly about the things that upset us, I’ve recently noticed how we repeatedly invite negativity into our lives. 

Once we’re weighed down by this negativity, our actions and reactions to things around us inevitably become colored by what we’re feeling and the energy, mood and beliefs we surround ourselves with. What we’re doing is affirming how miserable things are, which does nothing but reinforce the misery, create more of it and shroud us in a shadow of gloom. We probably all know a Debbie Downer like this who’s always moaning about how awful she feels, how bad everything and everyone is to her, who always has some big drama happening in her life that seems to physically grow every time she talks about it (which is often). 

It goes back to that old saying that we get what we put out into the world. Clichéd maybe, but also very true. It’s like the universe saying to us, ‘Hey, so you want misery? Here’s more!’ 

We can’t expect to put out one vibration and get something else in return. It’s like a radio – we can’t tune into a channel full of white noise on 55.5FM and expect to receive the top ten hits playing on 100.1FM. This seems obvious, but this is also what we do every time we repeat those negative affirmations, whether in action or in word. We can’t keep tuning to a frequency of self-pity, for example, and expecting to get confidence in return. If we’re focused on failure, then even when success does come our way, we won’t be able to identify and appreciate it or see it as anything other than something bad. 

So how do we stop this vicious cycle? The important thing isn’t to deny our feelings completely, to shut off a bad day and sweep our anxieties under the carpet. I’ve found that it starts with simply acknowledging these worries or feelings, but not to allow them to take centre stage and define our day, our decisions and actions we take. It is not to allow these fears to form a whole new reality for ourselves that we believe, become invested in and act from. 

I have found that in every dark situation, there is still something positive we can focus on instead that serves as a focal point for directing our energy and attention outwards. There is the option to tune into a different channel. If negative affirmations are wearing us down, the surely the opposite of more positive thinking can work to uplift us. We might not win the lottery the very next day, immediately get the job we desire or land a perfect relationship, our hearts and minds can expand and react in gentler, kinder, more joyful ways to ourselves. 

To use the example of my mother again, she could reframe her parking anxiety to a gentler, simpler, open thought: The parking will be fine. She may not get a spot straight away, but she’ll get a space eventually, it just might take a few rounds. A positive affirmation and focus will allow her to remain calm and unruffled in that time that she’s circling the parking lot, rather than spiraling into panic, impatience, irritation and stress. 

Changing our affirmations may not completely solve our problems nor fulfill our wishes like a magic genie. But it will allow us to move into a space that is peaceful rather than agitated, open to receive rather than closed to opportunities, relaxed enough to respond thoughtfully rather than tense and reactive. 

When we’re in this space, then whatever does come about, we are more able to handle it in ways that are more mindful, effective, beneficial, peaceful and even joyful. We see a different perspective, feel a different vibe, find a different way of thinking. 

And then we act. 


Jamie Khoo is currently doing a PhD in Women’s Studies at the University of York, UK, where she is researching contemporary constructions of feminine beauty and body image. She has also written for Elle Malaysia, Huffington Post UK Blogs, Time Out Kuala Lumpur, elephant journal and the be you media group. Sick of being told by mass media and society what “beautiful” is or isn't, Jamie founded the website a beauty full mind to challenge conventional beauty ideals and create new conversations around what beauty can mean today. Say hello to her on Facebook or email hello@abeautyfullmind.com