What I’ve learned since my previous birthday… - Expat Nest e-counselling

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What I’ve learned since my previous birthday…

A birthday is a milestone… an anniversary date with yourself! So today I look back on the year and share ten things I’ve learned about myself, about taking things one day at a time, about celebrating even the smallest moments of joy. And as you read, I wish you great joy and beauty in the year to follow!

I’ve learned…

  1. A good day is not something to be taken for granted. This may sound clichéd, but this year I’ve experienced the truth of it. I’ve learned when I have a good day to celebrate by hosting my own “party” (ie. by going to my favourite restaurant or having a luxurious bath with salts) and to simply relax and enjoy the moment without feeling guilty for taking time off.
  1. Self-compassion. There is only love, even if something unpleasant happens that changes your life. If you’re going through a time of pain (physical or emotional), treat yourself gently. At the end of the day, what’s important is you and your needs.
  1. Self-healing is the way to go – and it’s also the biggest challenge. It’s been a year of becoming aware of when and where I feel healthy and happy and how I define these. (What works for you?) No matter how many specialists you visit, the belief that you can heal your pain is key to the healing process. (I’m still working on this!)
  1. Doubting yourself is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. I’m talking specifically about doubting what your inner voice is telling you. It’s when we don’t cut though the noise to feel what we want and need that we begin to feel confused; then we begin to ask questions that, deep down, we already know the answers to.
  1. The importance of friends. Let’s not underestimate the value of having people around who love you! This is fuel for all the joy you want to bring into your life and, I believe, one of the greatest weapons against loneliness and depression.
  1. To wake up in the morning without rushing. I used to wake up and immediately check emails, wolf down my breakfast, and fixate on my appointments for the day. Recently I’ve chosen to give myself enough time in the mornings to feel calm, focused and inspired (I wrote this piece first thing in the morning – just because I felt like it).
  1. Eating five meals a day is a must for me. Eating what your body needs is crucial to your health and to being present in the day. I’ve added almonds, fruits and vegetables to my diet as in-between meals and wow, I feel the difference. I’m more in control and feel more confident now that I’m following the right, balanced eating plan for me. Find what works for you – it can help to consult a specialist if you’re not sure.
  1. Focus, no matter what is happening around you! This can be challenging if you’re surrounded by noise or mental “sirens”. Focusing on the big picture helps me to be calmer and more in control of a situation.
  1. To be grateful for what I have (and not moaning for what I don’t have). Yes, so simple and yet so deep!
  1. Respect your heart’s desires – an idea that’s beautifully summed up in these words by Iain Thomas (quoted in the book/online course Thrive by Arianna Huffington):

“And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, ‘This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!’ And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, ‘No. This is what’s important.’”


What is the one thing you’ve learnt since your last birthday? I’d love to hear from you, simply add to the list!


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© Vivian Chiona

FEEL FREE TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR BLOG OR NEWSLETTER. We ask only that you attribute Expat Nest and include the following: Expat Nest (www.expatnest.com) is a professional online counselling service for expats.




  1. Shweta Vetmeulen says:

    Nice article Vivian ! And happy b’day ! Hope you have a great day ?

    1. Vivian Chiona says:

      Thank you for your comment and wishes, Shweta!I am delighted we keep in touch!

      All the best,


  2. Maria Sfetkou says:

    Hi Vivian!

    Happy birthday!

    I wish you all the best for applying in everyday life all the points that you have learnt during the past year. It is said that the longest destination is from mind to heart. So I wish you to shorten it and drive directly to actions.

    1. Vivian Chiona says:

      Thank you so much for your wishes Maria! Your wishes are to the point and true wisdom nuggets! Simply love them and intend to apply them ?

      Best regards,


  3. Helen says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve learnt not to take some matters so seriously!

    Best wishes,


    1. Vivian Chiona says:

      Thanks for your comment Helen! Great insight!

  4. Regina says:

    Dear all

    Inspired by your article Vivian and my own celebration day I was refelecting on my last year’s changes, adaptations and learnings. A new one I admit since I usually think about my next years topics I want to work on. So this year more time needed for both – flashback & resolutions


    – taking time to cook and eat in the morning

    – choosing the right food – instead of good or tasty one

    – being hungry and enjoying the food more than every again

    – listening to my body asking for a breaks/sleep

    – doing what is good for my mind and body: eating sleeping excercise (Yoga, swimm) time outs

    – communicating/respecting my special skill when it comes to sensing energy – I’m a HSP (High Sensitive Person)

    – some ‘first times’ eg uphill mountain 5k in Hydra

    – going to a new place and experience culture shock. Yes a cultural trainer/coach like me experiences it as well. In my case mostly due to expectations I had set… and of course they weren’t met. This experience made me again realise what my clients are going through raising my level of empathy

    – travel with my sun – once a year we choose a place where the two of us go. Such a nice tradition I feel so very grateful to be doing. Thank you for this extra time my dear son.

    – travel with some family members I had not traveled before – family for me is the master lesson to understanding and seeing what behaviour I still want to improve and train

    – being with inspiring people and staying loyal to myself at the same time.


    – do more of what works already

    – continue to doing the above

    – less doing, more being

    Thank you Vivian for offering this fantastic flash back opportunity. Very precious.

    May you all be happy, may you all be well, bowing


    1. Vivian Chiona says:

      Wow Regina your comment is such a powerful source of inspiration! Thank you so much for sharing this nugget of wisdom with all of us in the Expat Nest community.

      I couldn’t agree with your points more!

      Happy birthday! Wishing you a wonderful year ahead, filled with love, joy, health, inspiration!

      Best wishes,


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