Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Reasons for practising compassion

In a society where blame culture is rife, it can be difficult at times to empathise with others, particularly if we don’t want to be in the firing line. But in many cases, showing compassion to others not only breaks down blame culture, but it also frees us from negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and animosity.

People can be very quick to judge another person’s actions or intentions without giving any consideration to why they acted in a such a way. Not only can this create negative thoughts in our own minds, but our reactions can also be damaging to the other person. 

To develop relationships with people, whether at work or in our personal lives, we need to form a connection based on trust and respect. By showing empathy and compassion, we also begin to care for others, and this can have a huge effect on our own actions and thoughts. 

Feelings of resentment and anger can have serious effects on our health and can create negative self-talk, insecurity, and a lack of self-confidence. These kinds of behaviours can ultimately lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression. Without compassion, our thoughts might be imagined, misunderstood, and totally unnecessary. When we choose to only view the world through our own beliefs and prejudge before we have any facts, this can lead to prejudice and stereotyping.  

Researchers in positive psychology, Ed Diener and Martin Seligman, believe that showing compassion and connecting with others in a positive way can improve our mental and physical wellbeing. Compassion doesn’t only help those needing care, it makes us healthier and happier too!

What is compassion?

Compassion is the ability to understand and show empathy for another person’s feelings and experiences and wanting to demonstrate that you care. This care should be given selflessly. 

How to be compassionate

Being compassionate not only helps us to connect with people but it also helps us to live in harmony, meaning we are less likely to become stressed or agitated. And it’s this that allows us to face difficult situations with a more positive outlook, and get things done in the most amicable way.

  1. Before you react to a person’s words or actions, ask yourself if you could have the wrong end of the stick. Sometimes we can misinterpret things depending on our mood, and any form of written communication such as emails or text messages, can very easily be misconstrued.  
  2. Question the other person’s current situation or past experiences. Perhaps they are going through something traumatic in their lives, and although their words may seem abrasive, they might be feeling stressed and don’t intend to offend anyone. Similarly, if you haven’t heard from a close friend or family member for a while, you shouldn’t automatically assume it’s because they are ignoring you, rather, they may be busy with work, or are struggling with a personal problem. 
  3. Before you prejudge someone, give them the benefit of the doubt. 
  4. Also remember self-compassion and don’t beat yourself up over making a mistake or feeling as though you’re not good enough.
  5. Practise acts of kindness that show people you care.
  6. Ask people how they are feeling and take the time to listen to them.

Monday, 1 November 2021

Embracing the midlife crisis

When realisation sets in that we have limited time left on earth, what we once took for granted we suddenly want to grasp with both hands. Some people might want the fast car, the big house and fancy holidays perhaps to demonstrate their life's material successes, while for others it's their experiences, physical wellbeing and state of mind that really matter.

This sudden awareness that time is passing by can start to stir negative emotions and thoughts of worry and fear as you begin to questions your current situation and your achievements in life. You might find yourself asking:

  • "Am I where I want to be in my career?"
  • "Will I ever travel to my dream destinations?"
  • "Have I made a positive impact on the world?"
  • "Will I finish my book that I started writing?"

Questions such as these might trigger the sudden urge to make a wish list of everything you want to achieve by the time you've reached a certain age. All the things you've thought about doing but never got round to, could start to occupy your mind more often. It's this sense of urgency to get things done that is often recognised as a midlife crisis. Also, as the physical signs of ageing start to show, it can be quite a traumatic time for some people who are afraid of their health deteriorating or losing their looks.

With all these worries suddenly being at the forefront of the mind, it's not a surprise that getting older can have an impact on both physical and mental health, so it's essential to put things into place that will ease the anxiety and stress.

How to embrace your midlife crisis

It's important to recognise the difference between the things we can and can't change and to make sure that we let go of any unnecessary worry for the latter. Write down everything that is a concern to you then decide whether you can do anything about them. If not, then try to let go of any negative feelings and only focus on what you can change. As you focus on what you do want to achieve, you'll start to worry less. 

  • By practising gratitude, you'll focus less on the negatives
  • Taking up a new hobby can introduce you to like-minded people of a similar age.
  • Mindful meditation is a great way to reduce symptoms of stress and depression and increase concentration. Harvard Health published an article which stated that: "depression continues to be a major health issue for older adults. It affects about 20% of adults ages 65 and older, and regular depression can lead to higher risks for heart disease and death from illnesses. It also affects people's daily lives by making them more socially isolated and affecting cognitive function, especially memory. "
  • Enjoying some form of regular exercise, such as walking, swimming or aerobics is a great boost for both mental and physical health and can slow down the affects of aging. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

How to be yourself when you don't fit in

Regardless of whether you always made the school sports teams or had an endless string of party invitations, there may still be certain situations in your life in which you feel like you don’t fit in. Maybe you dress differently from others, have a shy personality or you’re even too chatty. Sometimes having to socialise or make conversation about topics you don’t have much knowledge or interest in can be nerve wracking and put you outside your comfort zone.

Other people might not even be aware of how anxious or stressed you feel among a particular group, because they don’t really know you. It’s not uncommon for many of us to feel out of place, and the uneasy feelings this causes can have a detrimental effect on our mental wellbeing.

Recognising the signs

There might be times when you start to feel uncomfortable in a situation but you’re not entirely sure why, however, there are signs that you can look out for.

  • You start to question what everyone is thinking about you
  • You try to act like others in order to fit in. Perhaps you start to dress differently or take up different social activities or hobbies to impress people
  • You make excuses to get out of social events.

Although sometimes it can be good to try new things, when you try to force something that you really don’t enjoy, it can leave you feeling even more anxious. In the long term, this can be damaging to your self-confidence as you start to lose your self-identity and a lack of self-worth creeps in. Ongoing negative self-talk could lead to depression which can also be the cause of more serious physical illness if left untreated. Some of the signs of depression include:

  • Insomnia or disturbed sleep problems
  • Intense feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Fatigue
  • Thoughts of death
  • Headaches

Many of us, especially when we’re younger, need to feel a sense of belonging and often we think that by being able to fit in, we will achieve that. Author and social scientist, Brene Brown undertook extensive research when writing her book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Brown believes that if we try to fit in, rather than belong, we will never be our authentic selves.

So how can we start accepting that we don’t fit in and stand strong as who we are?

  1. Do more of what you love such as a hobby or a sport and join a group. Meeting like-minded people who share your interests and passions can make you feel more of a sense of belonging and less concerned with fitting in with a different crowd.
  2. Don’t pretend to be someone else and accept who you are. Recognise your positive traits and focus on them by using daily positive affirmations. Speak to people who you are close to and ask them what they see as your positive attributes. There might be some that you hadn’t even recognised in yourself.
  3. Shape reality to suit who you are. Take some time to think about your future. What does it look like in 10 or 20 years’ time? Begin to imagine and carve out a life for your true self and see how much happier it makes you feel rather than trying to fit into someone else’s mould. When you start to imagine a future that you want, it will feel liberating and make you more confident in who you really are.

Monday, 4 October 2021

Coping with ageing and its effects on mental and physical health

For many of us, hopefully, we will live until a ripe old age and get to enjoy a long and happy retirement. However, there may be some setbacks along the way that can make ageing for some people a greater struggle. As the body and mind age, it’s inevitable that there are going to be changes but there are ways that we can help keep our mental and physical wellbeing in optimum health. 

In a publication posted on Frontiers it states that “multiple social, psychological and biological factors are determinant of mental health, as well as life stressors. Among these, the lack of independence, limited mobility, chronic diseases, pain, frailty or other mental and physical problems, require long-term care.”

So, how can we come to terms with the ageing process and how can it affect our mental and physical health? There are five main issues that can impact our mental health as we get older:

  • Discrimination
  • Relationships
  • Participation in activities
  • Physical health
  • Poverty 

Although there will be some issues that are out of our control, we can take certain steps that will help us cope better with the effects of ageing.

Maintaining optimal health

As mentioned above, there are several reasons why our mental health might deteriorate as we get older, in particular, changes in lifestyle. It’s vital that we keep our minds and bodies as active as possible. Being retired doesn’t mean that you can’t stay busy, and by keeping yourself occupied, you’ll retain a sense of purpose.

  • Maintain an active social life. Age UK provides lots of information about activities in your area including social events, exercise classes and IT training. If you’re retired and feeling lonely, you might also find taking on some voluntary work will give you a boost and an opportunity to meet new people. 
  • If you’re able to, try and stay as active as possible even if it’s just walking to the shops or around your local park. Regular exercise has many benefits that can boost your physical and mental wellbeing. It can also promote good sleeping patterns that can help prevent anxiety, stress and depression.
  • It’s really important to exercise your brain too as you get older. You can keep your brain active by doing puzzles, reading, playing games such as chess or bridge, or learning a new skill. 
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet. A good diet is vital for keeping our minds and bodies in tip top condition at any age. Eating the right foods can help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers. It can also keep our minds focused and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Do things that make you happy. Whether you love to paint, play an instrument, or go dancing, by participating in an activity that you enjoy, your brain releases the chemical dopamine which will lift your mood and keep you feeling motivated.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends. Sometimes as we get older, we lose touch with those that are close to us, for whatever reason. Having a network of friends or family members that we can talk to or ask for help occasionally gives us a sense of belonging and security.

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Adopting morning habits to make your day brighter

If your morning routine has gone out of the window or if you’ve never had a morning routine, there are many reasons why it will be one of the most important parts of your day. Although it might seem like a huge effort when you first start to put certain practices into place, you’ll soon get into the swing of things.

Reasons why a morning routine is good for your health

Having a consistent morning routine is great for both your mental and physical health and by adopting some of these positive habits, you’ll soon start to see the benefits, which can include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Stress reduction
  • Increase in energy levels and brain function
  • An overall feeling of happiness and positivity

Many people who lack some form of routine or structure in their lives suffer from various forms of ill health and poor mental wellbeing such as stress, anxiety, depression, disturbed sleep, and lethargy. Putting in place a morning routine, can help improve overall wellbeing.

Planning your morning routine

You are in total control of what your routine will look like, so spend some time thinking about how you’re going to manage it.

  • What time do you want to get up in the morning?
  • How much time would you like to spend on your routine?
  • How will you ensure you stick to your routine?

What to include in your morning routine

If you’ve never had a morning routine, you might not be sure what you’re supposed to include. Although there are no strict rules on this, we’ve put together some ideas to get your started.

  1. On waking, drink a glass of water. Hydrating your body and mind is a great way to start the day as it helps to flush toxins out of the system and rehydrates the body after a night’s fasting.
  2. Spend at least ten minutes enjoying the peace and tranquility of the morning before you turn the radio or TV on. Maybe sit out in the garden and listen to the birds, take a walk around your local park, or do some meditation. This is a great way to start your day feeling calm and relaxed.
  3. Either do a few stretches or some form of exercise to kick-start your metabolism. This can also get the blood moving around your body and it will release endorphins that help reduce stress and make you feel more positive. 
  4. Take a cold shower. This also releases endorphins and can lower blood pressure. Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine undertook a study to determine the effects of taking a cold shower. They found that the participants, who were suffering from depression, saw a positive change in mood and chronic fatigue after taking a cold shower twice a day for two months. 
  5. Eat a healthy breakfast. Time and again we hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and there’s a reason for this. Countless studies have demonstrated that eating breakfast not only boosts your energy and concentration levels, but it can also assist with weight management, lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. 

Monday, 30 August 2021

Healing childhood wounds

Childhood wounds aren’t necessarily just caused by one major trauma in our lives, they may have arisen due to ongoing upset from a family member or classmate. Perhaps you were bullied physically or mentally, you suffered from emotional neglect, or had a serious medical condition. Whatever trauma you experienced, it's imperative to heal young wounds in order to live a happy and healthy adult life.

Research published on Jama Network says that: "Childhood trauma exposure is a normative experience, statistically speaking, that affects the majority of children at some point and subsequently has the potential to influence many aspects of functioning.  This study suggests that these effects are longstanding – lasting 20 or more years..."

Ways that childhood wounds can affect adulthood

Depending on how long you have lived with the scars of a traumatic childhood, you might not be aware of the full impact it has had on your behaviour and overall mental wellbeing. As the years pass by, it’s not unusual to push painful thoughts or feelings into the background so they become trapped inside, never being confronted or dealt with.

Intense negative emotions such as fear, anger, shame and sadness will gradually begin to shape your future as an adult. Because we are often told that we shouldn’t express our negative emotions and we feel pressured to keep our problems to ourselves, we suppress thoughts and feelings which then rear their heads in other ways. Some examples include:

  • Lack of body confidence
  • Lack of social confidence
  • Unable to maintain healthy relationships
  • Unable to hold down a job or career
  • Develop unhealthy habits to cope with stress or anxiety

However your childhood wounds have affected you as an adult, there are still ways in which you can deal with the hurt and begin to heal. Here are some ways which may help get you started. 

1. Facing the memories and recognising your emotions

Possibly the hardest part of healing old wounds is revisiting what scarred you as a child, but this can be essential to progress positively. By making a list of what hurt you at the time, you can start to recognise and understand how it made you feel at the time.

2. Accepting your emotions

It’s important that you learn to accept your emotions before you can move on from them. As you start to remember the past, it’s likely that you’ll begin to experience some of those emotions again, but this time allow yourself to feel them knowing that it’s okay to do so. Whether you feel angry or feel the urge to cry, try to release whatever is inside you. Also write down how you are feeling as this can become a powerful part of the process of letting go.

3. Letting go

Once you’ve completed the most difficult steps above, you now need to let go of all those negative emotions and memories. There are several ways you can do this.
  • Try meditation and imagine all of that negative energy leaving your body and mind.
  • Either share your feelings that you previously wrote down with a friend or someone close to you, or safely burn the piece of paper. 
  • Use your experiences or emotions to do something creative and positive such as writing a book or painting.
  • Take up a hobby or a passion that you’ve always wanted to do but you’ve been too afraid to do previously because of fear or a lack of confidence.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Be more body confident and hit the beach

For many of us, summer is a favourite time of year as we dream of sunny skies and days spent on the beach watching the waves crash onto the shore. But it can also summon up feelings of fear and anxiety as we dread the moment when we’re stripping down to a bikini or high-cut shorts in public. In recent years, the term 'beach body' has become hot on everyone’s lips but its unrealistic expectations have brought with it unhealthy crash diets and excessive pressure to strive for a 'perfect' figure.

In reality, we are all unique and very often no amount of dieting and exercise will give us the false body image we aspire to. But this doesn’t have to mean we can’t achieve body confidence and feel comfortable in our own skin.

Lack of self-esteem and confidence can have a serious effect on your mental wellbeing and can be a risk factor for mental health issues such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders

A body image report published by the Mental Health Foundation showed that “Higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy behaviours and eating disorders.”

Ways to achieve body confidence

Admittedly, we do generally feel much better in ourselves when we love our body but there are more ways to gain confidence than just eating a healthy diet and keeping fit – although this is also recommended not just to maintain physical health but also a healthy and positive mind.

Be realistic

When you look back at photos of yourself from several years ago and compare yourself to how you look now, it’s likely you think you looked great but at the time you probably had as many insecurities about your body as you do now. Try to live in the moment, appreciate the positives and remember that in years to come, you’ll look back and wish you’d embraced how you looked.

Also, remember there is no such thing as 'perfect' and we come in different shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, with so many social media platforms and online beauty magazines, it’s easy to compare yourself to others. But don’t forget, much of the time the images we see online have been airbrushed or manipulated to iron out what people believe to be imperfections. It’s a sure thing that when you do hit the beach, you won’t find tons of supermodels parading around!

Focus on the positives

Make a list of all the parts of yourself that you DO love, whether its your hair, legs or eyes and remember there is only one you. Try practising daily affirmations to remind yourself of all your amazing qualities, and you will soon start to believe them. One of the things that people will notice first about you is your confidence and there’s nothing more noticeable than wearing a huge smile!