Wednesday, 21 August 2019

How to attract positive relationships

For some, building relationships isn’t always as easy as it may seem. We sometimes find ourselves surrounded by people who have a negative impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Without even realising it, through negative comments, gossip or exclusion, we are made to feel inadequate.

If you have started to recognise that some people in your life are draining your energy and happiness, it could be time to attract new and more positive relationships into your life.

Don’t let others dull your sparkle

When you're continually being criticised, it’s easy to start believing the negative comments. But it’s so important to remember who you are and all the great things about yourself. Unfortunately, we can’t always avoid negative people but by attracting positive relationships into our lives, we can outweigh the bad with the good. By reminding ourselves daily of our positive traits, we become less affected by comments aimed to put us down.

Project your best qualities

Do you ever feel that some people attract similar types of people as themselves? Perhaps this is because we 'reap what we sow', so to speak. If we're constantly complaining or criticising others, it’s most likely the types of people who are willing to listen are the ones who do the same themselves. If we want to attract positive relationships, we must first project positivity ourselves.

Let people hear about the things you love. By focusing your attention on what is going well in your life and by showing gratitude, not only will this rub off on others, it will rewire your own thought processes and improve your sense of wellbeing.

Avoid negativity

Although it can be difficult to walk away from negative talk, try to assess the situation and exit the conversation. For example, if you hear someone gossiping or name calling, don’t get involved and make your excuse to leave.

Bring out the best in others

Most people respond positively to compliments, which don’t always have to be based on appearances. When you admire a particular quality in someone, such as their humour, confidence or intelligence, let them know. Making someone feel good about themselves can have a positive, indirect consequence as they might, in turn, look for the positives in others too.

Learn to say 'no'

Breaking the habit of saying 'yes' can be more beneficial than you’d imagine. Although it can feel nice to be needed and, in some cases, you might think that people will like you more, it can often have the opposite effect. People pleasing can come at a price: not only can it make you unhappy because you’re doing something that you don’t really want to do, it can attract the kind of person who will only use you for their own benefit. Sometimes by saying 'no', we gain more respect from others.

Judith Orloff MD is a New York Times best-selling author and provides powerful tools that can help improve emotional and mental wellbeing. Visit her website to discover more ways of attracting positive people into your life.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Ways to move forwards when you fail your exams

For many students, summer can be one of the most exciting times of the year, but for others it can also be the most daunting. Waiting for exam results can seem like an eternity because we tend to believe that the rest of our life depends on our grades. But what you must always remember is that failing your exams doesn’t have to be the end of your dreams.

With constant pressure from teachers, family members and society to gain qualifications, it’s understandable that there is a certain amount of fear connected to exams, whatever your age.

Try not to panic

If you don’t achieve the grades you were expecting in your exams, all is not lost so take some deep breaths and try not to panic. You won’t be the first or the last to fail your exams and there are always other options available.

Talk about how you’re feeling

If you have failed your exams, you'll probably experience lots of different emotions such as shame, anger, embarrassment and fear but remember there is nothing to feel embarrassed about. Don’t bottle up your feelings by hiding your results from the rest of the world, speak to someone you're close to who can comfort and reassure you. There is nothing worse than feeling hopeless and alone in this kind of situation. Hopefully your friend or family member will also be able to help you refocus your mind and guide you in taking the next steps.

Speak to your tutor

In this situation, it can be useful to discuss where you went wrong in your exams. By identifying your weaker areas, you’ll know where you need to spend more time studying. It might be that you just missed a pass grade by a couple of marks, which could give you reassurance that you are capable of passing next time around. Also, if you feel like you struggled on a particular section of the exam, request some extra guidance or tuition.

Explore your options

There will be several options available to you once you have received your exam results. Enquire about resitting the exam/s or even retaking the year again, depending on which exams you sat. If you've missed out on a university place, you could enter clearing to see if the college or university is willing to accept you onto the course with your current grades.

If you really can’t face the thought of resitting your exams, there are still alternative options on offer. Have you considered taking a gap year? Not only can this give you much-needed time for reflection, you’ll have the opportunity to do some relevant work experience to improve your knowledge and skills. You might want to take a different route altogether and apply for an apprenticeship in a different field.

Whichever direction you choose, try no to let your exam results hold you back mentally, and look forward to an exciting future.

BBC Bitesize is a fantastic online community where you can read articles and watch informational videos about a whole range of topics, including how to get into university, how to reduce anxiety and stress during exams, and which career path to take.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

How to reconnect with yourself using mindfulness exercises

Do you spend too much time worrying, planning or criticising yourself? It’s easy to become so wrapped up in our daily lives that negative thoughts take over our minds and leave little room for positivity. Negative thoughts can lead to negative emotions and this can also affect our physical wellbeing. Our bodies react to our emotions and this can create chemical imbalances resulting in stress, anxiety, fear and depression, which in turn can cause tiredness, headaches and stomach problems.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that can help us change our thoughts and think more positively. When we are kinder to ourselves and the world around us, we become more grateful and focus less on the negatives.

Mindfulness exercises help us to refocus our minds and become more aware of what’s happening in the moment so that we can connect on a greater level with the world around us.

Studies have shown that meditation can help with insomnia, high blood pressure, stress, pain, anxiety and depression, and the University of Oxford Mindfulness Research Centre aims to prevent depression through mindfulness.

Mindfulness exercises

There are lots of mindfulness exercises you can practise. Here are a few to get you started.

Mindful breathing

Begin by observing your breathing. Breathe in slowly through your nose for three seconds then breathe out slowly for another three seconds. Repeat this several times and focus your attention on each breath, letting go of any unwanted thoughts. You’ll soon notice that you begin to feel much calmer and less distracted by negative thinking.

Mindful observation

This is a great way to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty that is around you. Focus your thoughts on something that you can see, such as an insect, the rain on a window or the clouds. Observe these things in more detail and imagine that you are seeing them for the first time. You can also pay attention to the sounds around you, sensations and feelings within your body and the thoughts that come and go in your mind.

Mindful eating

Often we eat out of habit, stress or depression and we forget to enjoy the process. Eating too little or too much for the wrong reasons can lead to eating disorders, so it’s important to remember why we eat. Mindful eating reminds us to slow down with every mouthful, to taste and smell the food. Ask yourself how you feel when you eat. How is it affecting your emotions? Do you feel happy, guilty, hungry or full?

Mindful awareness

This exercise is a great way to slow down your actions and release negative thoughts from your mind. Throughout the day, pay attention to the everyday tasks that you would usually take for granted, for example, driving to work. Observe how the car door opens, feel the steering wheel in your hands and listen to the sound of the engine as you turn the key in the ignition. Rather than just going through the motions, mindful awareness lets you appreciate even the smallest of actions. Question how things work, how you would live without these things and imagine how different your life would be without them.


With practice, mindfulness exercises can help you minimise negative thoughts and you'll start to feel grateful for the little things in life. The above techniques will allow you to clear your mind, become calmer and more understanding with a positive outlook on life.

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled is a book written by Ruby Wax, which explores how mindfulness can help us lead happier lives and improve our mental wellbeing. It offers a wonderful insight into mindfulness and is well worth a read.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Eating your way to sound health

Although it’s well known that our diet can greatly affect our physical health by strengthening our immune system and reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, it’s equally as important for keeping our mental health, wellbeing and mood in good shape too.

Studies have shown that a poor diet can increase our risk of depression and anxiety. The Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine looked at trials that were undertaken to discover the effects of dietary improvement on symptoms of depression and anxiety and found evidence that mood disorders and depression may be impacted by diet.

Without a nutritious, balanced diet, the body is not only prone to disease, it can also lead to fatigue, lethargy and low mood. What we eat can also determine our weight and if we find ourselves either underweight or overweight, this can in turn affect our self-worth, confidence and social interactions - thus increasing our chances of becoming anxious or depressed.

Foods that can help improve our mental wellbeing

'Five-a-day' has become a much-used phrase in the modern world and encourages us to eat the correct portions of fruit and vegetables every day. But there’s also a wide range of other foods that can be beneficial to our physical and mental health.

Berries

All types of berries are full of fibre and antioxidants that can improve our memory and reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Dark chocolate

Although it should be eaten in moderation, dark chocolate has antioxidants and stimulants that are extremely powerful and help focus our minds, raise concentration levels and lift our mood.

Fish

There’s a reason why fish is known as 'brain food'; it's rich in the fatty acid omega 3, EPA and DHA, which all play an important part in our diet and are fantastic for the brain. DHA produces serotonin in the brain and can help us cope with stress but if our levels of DHA are too low, it can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia and memory loss.

Wholegrains

These wonderful little grains are packed with complex carbohydrates that slowly release glucose into the blood, keeping the brain alert and helping us to concentrate and focus.

Eggs

Not only are eggs high in protein, which helps repair the tissue in our body, they contain choline and B vitamins, which are great for brain development and improving our memory.

Water

By drinking adequate amounts of water daily, we can prevent fatigue, regulate our moods and improve our cognitive skills.

Pumpkin seeds

Rich in zinc, magnesium and vitamin B, pumpkin seeds are great stress busters and can also improve our memory.


When our brains and bodies are in shape, we find that we sleep better and have more energy, our overall mood is lifted and we feel more alert, so it’s vital that we try to enjoy a healthy, balanced diet that will assist both our physical health and mental wellbeing.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Using creativity to help fight depression

When we lead hectic lives and feel the need to live up to the increasing demands of society, it can be easy to neglect our mental wellbeing. Daily pressures and responsibilities can be a major cause for stress, anxiety and depression - but what can we do to step off the metaphorical hamster wheel, re-evaluate and put ourselves first?

We should try and listen to what our inner voice is telling us and recognise the signs that our spirit and mind is longing for enrichment. Often, we put ourselves last and forget that we too need care and attention.

The effects of creativity

Research suggests that creative activities not only improve brain function, but they can reduce anxiety, boost our mood, slow our heart rate and, ultimately, make us feel happier too. When we immerse ourselves in creative exercises, the feel-good chemical, dopamine, is released into the brain, which can greatly improve our sense of wellbeing. Back in 2001, researcher Eric Jensen wrote a book called “Arts with Brain in Mind” which examined the effects of the creative arts on our brain.

As well as helping to improve our wellbeing, creativity can also be used as an outlet to release repressed feelings and thoughts. It can give us the strength to break down personal barriers and take us on a wonderful journey of self-discovery.

Creative activities

There are lots of creative activities that allow us the freedom to express ourselves, taking our mind off our present troubles and building us back up as individuals so that we can re-balance and refocus our mind.

Music

There are several aspects of music that can act as a powerful tool in improving our wellbeing. Not only can the melodies and rhythms alter or compliment our mood, very often the lyrics resonate with us on a level that makes us feel less alone in the world. Sometimes, just knowing that other people have similar feelings or thoughts to us can make us feel more connected.

Be Brain Fit has some interesting information on how music can affect the brain, reduce stress and improve your mood.

Writing

Whether it’s writing poetry, a story or song lyrics, this creative exercise can be extremely therapeutic. By putting our inner thoughts down on paper, we can express ourselves with less vulnerability. We don’t have to create a masterpiece or even show anyone what we have created, but writing can help us feel more liberated and at peace with ourselves.

Drama

Drama is a great way to release and express our emotions. By pretending to be someone else, we can step outside of ourselves and escape niggling thoughts that can lead to us feeling lonely, frustrated or depressed. Through using acting techniques, we can rid ourselves of negative emotions that we might not otherwise release.

Art

There are many forms of art such as painting, drawing, photography or sculpture and each can be restorative on our mental wellbeing. As well as giving us the opportunity to express our creative side and delve into our subconscious minds, art can be a calming pastime that can help us to relax.

The BBC runs an annual event called The Get Creative Festival which encourages wellbeing through creative activities. The nine-day event is a wonderful celebration of the arts, crafts and creativity.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

How to keep the spark alive in your relationship

It’s almost inevitable in long-term relationships that the elusive spark you once had will start to flicker at some point. That initial excitement, feeling of butterflies and insatiable passion you felt in the beginning will begin to fade, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

In order to keep the spark alive in your relationship, it takes a conscious effort from both sides. The pressures of work, money and children can all be contributing factors and we may have fallen into familiar habits that can lead to a lack of romance and intimacy in a relationship.

The good news is, there are many ways we can re-ignite that spark and fall in love all over again. And what better day than National Kissing Day to explore them.

Communication is key


Talking with your partner on a regular basis creates a strong bond and emotional connection. It’s important to express our thoughts and feelings to break down barriers and prevent any resentment from building up over time. Communication also encourages a level of trust that is vital to make a successful relationship.

Personal space


Before we can give all of ourselves emotionally and physically, we must feel confident in ourselves. By allowing each other personal space to enjoy individual activities and social time with friends, we feel more fulfilled and able to give more of ourselves to our partner. When enjoying time apart, it’s important to not check up on each other every five minutes as this can cause feelings of mistrust.

Dress to impress


Living hectic lives can sometimes lead to neglecting our appearance and especially when we’ve been in a long-term relationship, we tend not make as much of an effort as we might have done at the start. Not only will you feel great about yourself when you put on your favourite clothes and pay a visit to the hairdressers or beauty salon, it will likely remind your partner why they were attracted to you in the first place.

Plan surprises


Part of the reason you could find the spark in your relationship fizzling out is because you’ve forgotten how to have fun together. An element of surprise not only shows that your partner is thinking about you and wants to do something special for you, it also opens up an opportunity to enjoy some excitement together. Perhaps book a surprise trip to the theatre or a picnic on the beach – it doesn’t have to be expensive but the time you spend together should be fun and enjoyable.

Appreciate the positives


Over time, especially when we live with our partner, it’s easy to fall into the trap of criticising their bad habits and focusing on their negative traits. Try to be mindful of all the positive traits they have too and those small gestures that often get overlooked. More importantly, remember to compliment them when they’ve achieved something good, tell them you love them regularly and appreciate even the smallest of kind deeds.

Make time for romance


Without romance and love, there is less likely to be much sexual activity between the sheets. Most of us need to feel loved before we jump into bed. Simple acts such as holding hands, kissing, cuddling and just telling your partner that you love them can all help to keep the spark alive.

Share your fantasies


Sex in a long-term relationship can become like everything else: routine and lacking in passion. One way to spice up your sex life is by talking about your fantasies and perhaps trying new things in the bedroom.

Switch off the media


Make sure when you’re spending quality time with your partner, you hide the mobile phones and turn off the computer. You’ll never be able to enjoy your time together if one or both of you are constantly checking your messages and emails. It can also seem disrespectful to the other person and you should want to make them feel that they have your undivided attention.

John Hopkins Medicine looks at various factors that can lead to a stagnant relationship and offers more ways to keep the spark alive.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Fathers feel too

While the mental health problems experienced by mothers tend to be widely recognised and documented, in comparison, little attention has been shown to new fathers. However, since a recent 'radical initiative' introduced at the end of last year by NHS England, men are now being offered support with their mental health if their partners are struggling with their own wellbeing.

When it comes to young fathers, research has shown that they are sometimes more prone to issues with their mental health than older fathers, They are also exposed to negative assumptions and judgements, which can also exist around the idea of the 'young father' with depictions of them in the media as absent or irresponsible. In fact only 10% of non-resident fathers will lose contact with their children over time.

The stress and anxieties that come with being a new parent are not gender specific and it has been estimated that 25% of new fathers will experience depression in the first year. This is not to say that mothers' struggles with mental health are not important, but the level of support that is readily given to men is significantly less, despite an increase in men moving into the role of primary care-giver.

Scientifically speaking, bodily changes such as a decrease in testosterone and an increase in other hormones like prolactin, occur in men a few months before childbirth. These changes are intended to help equip the father with the skills crucial for caring for a newborn, but they can also lead to higher chances of developing clinical depression or mood disorders.

New research has shown that a fathers mental health has a powerful impact on child development, with evidence showing that sensitive and supportive men have children who will develop better social skills and language, regardless of socioeconomic status and other factors. Despite this, research has shown that even though a father's mental health is closely correlated with that of a mother's, only 16% of fathers in Scotland have been asked about it by NHS maternity staff.

Most of us will be aware, through evidence or education, of what biological, psychological, and relationship changes might look like for a new mother. However, less of us will feel knowledgable about what might be going on for new fathers.

This fathers Day, we encourage you to help us bridge this gap and to open your mind to a better understanding of mental health in men, to improve the wellbeing of the whole family by supporting every member.