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Gemma Sandwell, Bsc.Hons.

Mindfulness Teacher & Chief Happiness Officer

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The One where I made 100 metres of Bunting!

This blog today is about how happiness and mindfulness and using your strengths can help brides (and grooms) to be! But actually it can help any situation doesn’t have to be a wedding, perhaps you have a home renovation project or a project at work or maybe you could just do with some more calm and happiness in your life!


So today I did a talk at a wedding fair, a lovely surprise to be asked and I was thinking I wonder how what I do relates to brides, I know I can help people in general with happiness and mindfulness but how can I specifically help brides?


Then I remembered hang on I was a bride almost 5 years ago and this was when I was starting to use mindfulness and positive psychology to help me! And I remembered that I used my skills to help with my own wedding and it all came flooding back! In particular finding out my strengths helped me to be happier and more productive and Mindfulness helped me more calm and present both before and during the wedding.


So my story..rewind back about 4 to 4 and a half years ago, I was stressed and anxious and I was doing a job I didn’t enjoy and was very stressful. I was planning the wedding which was on a budget and quite of the few things we had to do we’re ourselves. We had a barn and a marquee to decorate and had no idea what I was going to do to fill the space. Then my friend Karen said to me ‘why don’t you make some bunting?’ My instant reaction was ‘don’t be silly I can’t sew! I’m too busy to make bunting!’... but then I reflected on it and thought actually maybe I’ll give it a go? Maybe sewing will chill me out a bit? So I got a sewing machine and armed with you tube tutorials started to make bunting!


Then after a few days something unusual happened, I became totally obsessed with the bunting! I would be looking in charity shops and looking at the clothes thinking ‘hmmm I wonder how many triangles I could cut out of that pair of trousers!’ and I’m the sort of person who usually goes to bed early and my husband (then fiancée) Benj would be saying ‘ Are you going to come to bed’ and my reply was always a ‘One more triangle, just one more!!’ I was totally obsessed with the bunting and I started to feel a lot less stressed when I was making it and would totally lose track of time. Around the same time as the obsessive bunting making I had started to study for my positive psychology course and I had the opportunity to get a strengths profile and do some coaching around my strengths. I got to find out my unrealised strengths, an unrealised strength is something that you love doing but you might not necessarily know you’re good at it, it might be something you did as a child or do outside of work but this is the area you really want to leverage to get the best out of yourself. For me one of mine that came up was ‘creativity’ and when I first saw this I thought…I’m not creative at all, what is it talking about?! I remembered trying to be creative in GSCE Art and ending up gluing myself to the table and it was a disaster!!


But then I realised what I’d done with the bunting, how I was in flow and how stress relieving it was and I realised this was a strength for me and I started to use it more, making not only bunting but decorating jam jars for tealights and flowers and Mr and Mrs sign for the top table which I actually managed to sell afterwards as it was so popular! I also found out through the profile what my learned behaviours were. So a learned behaviour is something you might be really good at but it’s a learned thing rather than a natural strength so it may drain your energy and for me this was where ‘planning’ and ‘detail’ came out and I had been stressing over the budget spreadsheet and the dates and getting everything sorted as well as managing IT releases in my day job…plan overload. Benj had ‘’planning and ‘detail’ as strengths and he still to this day loves doing these things. So I managed to let go of control and let him be responsible for the budget spreadsheet and detail and I focused on the creative parts of the wedding, so not only did we then become much less stressed but we enjoyed it along the way! I’ve also been able to use my strengths recently for a house renovation project, and have helped a husband and wife with how they use their strengths in their relationship. They really work!


So why do they work?

So you’ve heard/seen me talk about happiness many times and why its important if you follow me and its because when we use a strength dopamine and other great feel good chemicals get released in the brain so not only does this feel good and we feel happier but these chemicals are fuelling the logical part of our brain helping us to be more productive along the way.


Then secondly something else that helped me massively (and still continues to help with stress and anxiety) is Mindfulness. So Mindfulness works because its helping our brain switch between alert and relaxed states so when we want to be productive and alert we can and when we want to relax our brain is more likely to switch off. It also helps to grow areas responsible for emotion regulation, problem solving and learning and shrink areas responsible for stress and anxiety. I practiced Mindfulness in the lead up to the wedding to help me have more calm as well as be more focused. I think I managed to only have one bridezilla moment about my hen do (I’m sure my bridesmaids can confirm if otherwise?!).

I also built on the useful learning from my strengths and in our Mindfulness course we focus in on this and think about what activities nourish and deplete you. Self kindness is really important especially in the lead up to a wedding or stressful event and building in those nourishing and energising activities is really key. Using Mindfulness to tune into the present moment during the wedding day was also really key for me as everyone says the day will go really quickly and it did! Although there is one part I didn’t particularly want to be present for which was when my dress was actually too tight after I had eaten…I spent a good couple of hours feeling really unwell and almost missing our first dance. Thankfully Karen (the same friend who got me thinking about bunting funnily enough!) and my friend Claire went into action mode to help me out and we found that Karen’s ivory cardigan just so happened to match my dress so we were able to unzip it a bit and cover it with the cardigan….thank goodness for friends! I was very grateful for them in this present moment.


But in all seriousness I can laugh about that now and laughter is really important as it helps create that positive emotion and take things lightly and with acceptance which is what Mindfulness really is all about. So in summary to help you remain calm and productive in the lead up and during your wedding or project (or just in life in general!) find out your strengths and use them and practice Mindfulness as and when you can.


I can help you with both of these things as an accredited strengths coach and mindfulness teacher, just get in touch if you have any questions at all and I would be happy to help. How will you use your strengths?




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