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!

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Stop letting social media control your life

From Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Snapchat, social media seems to have taken a firm grip on our lives, regardless of our age. Not only are these platforms a huge distraction in our day-to-day lives, but they can also play a negative role in our mental and physical wellbeing. 

In a survey published by Cureus in June 2020, it was reported that “the prolonged use of social media platforms such as Facebook may be related to negative signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress”.

While we indulge in hours of endless scrolling, trying to snap the perfect selfie, or striving to get as many likes and followers as possible, we are neglecting all of life’s good stuff that is so important to our health. But not only does social media steal our precious time, it has even more detrimental effects:

  • We become less productive – It’s easy to lose track of time when scrolling through social media, which ultimately results in using our time less productively, whether at home or at work. It can also cause a lack of concentration when we’re trying to focus on something else.
  • We compare ourselves to everyone else’s seemingly perfect and exciting lives – Although it’s often quite obvious that the lives and images people present on social media aren’t always an honest reflection, this can put a huge amount of pressure on users to live up to unrealistic expectations. Over time, this can cause low self-esteem as feelings of insecurity make us believe that we’re not good enough. As well as knocking our confidence, these false perceptions may lead to body dysmorphia or eating disorders in some instances.
  • We lose physical human contact – Human connections and interactions, both emotionally and physically, are extremely important to our wellbeing as they strengthen communication and boost our self-confidence.
  • It can affect our quality of sleep – Good quality sleep is paramount for keeping a healthy mind and body. Not only does the content we see on social media keep our minds alert or even anxious, but the light from the screens can reduce the production of melatonin in our bodies - a chemical which makes us feel tired and able to sleep well.

Ways to wean yourself off social media

If you’ve found yourself feeling anxious, stressed or less productive, and you want to try and kick the social media habit, here are a few tips to help you:

  • Set up a sleep schedule on your phone or device. This will remind you when you need to wind down before bedtime so you can relax with a book or a warm bath to help you sleep.
  • Make plans to see or speak with friends on a regular basis, because the more time you’re chatting, the less time you’ll spend scrolling. You can even agree to a phone ban during your time together to help you resist temptation.
  • Spend some time every day doing relaxing activities that will help you clear the clutter from your mind, such as meditation or mindfulness exercises.
  • Make time for sports or outdoor activities that will not only engage your brain so that you forget about social media, but they’ll help to keep your body and mind fit and healthy.
  • Switch off your phone notifications so that you become more in control of when you go online. You can even set aside certain times for accessing your accounts.
  • Delete your accounts! One of the best ways to stop letting social media control your life is by removing yourself from unhelpful accounts completely. By deactivating your accounts, you are freeing yourself from the distractions and more likely to find much healthier ways to spend your time.

If you're interested in finding out more about how to manage your social media usage for your wellbeing, watch the recording of our free webinar and download our free booklet here >

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Reasons why honesty is the best policy

On the surface honesty is simply telling the truth, but in actual fact it goes much deeper than that. There are many reasons why people are dishonest: to avoid hurting others, to protect themselves, or to gain some kind of advantage. For whatever reasons, dishonesty can have detrimental effects on everyone involved, but particularly ourselves. 

The effects of dishonesty

When we lie to others, we are also lying to ourselves and this can have a negative impact on our mental wellbeing. When we lie, we are not being true to ourselves, and not only can this cause problems with our relationships but it can weigh heavy on our mind. Perhaps you’ve lied because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, but in turn you’ve sacrificed your own happiness. This kind of dishonesty might make you feel like you are doing the right thing at the time, but in the long-term it can make you feel anxious or stressed. 

Much of positive mental health is centred around how we perceive and feel about ourselves, so self-confidence is a key component to our overall wellbeing. When we choose to act dishonestly, understandably, it’s more likely that our self-worth will decrease as we begin to experience feelings of guilt or self-hatred. Over time, these negative thoughts can alter our perceptions of ourselves and we may doubt the person we are. On the other hand, lying about our abilities or achievements can leave us with a false sense of security. 

Anita E. Kelly, who is a professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, conducted a study that looked at the effects of honesty and dishonesty on mental and physical health. She found that those who had lied reported more complaints such as headaches, nausea, and feeling tense. The outcome: telling fewer lies is linked to better health.

Often one lie leads to another because we don’t want our lies to be found out so it becomes a vicious circle or a habit that can be difficult to escape from. However, there are ways in which we can learn to be more honest without hurting others whilst remaining true to ourselves.

How to become more honest

  • Recognise the situations when you are most likely to be dishonest. Make a list of what you would gain from both telling the truth and lying and how it would make you feel afterwards. Chances are, when you gain a clear perspective, you would feel better in yourself if you had been honest.
  • Speak to someone close to you and ask them how they would feel if you had lied to them and whether they would prefer if you had been honest, regardless of whether or not it was painful for them. It’s likely they would rather you be honest.
  • Often, we lie because we are embarrassed that we aren’t good enough at something or we fear what others think of us. Sometimes it’s good to take criticism on board so that we can understand how we need to improve ourselves and become better in the future. 
  • Acknowledge and accept your flaws. None of us are perfect, and no one expects us to be. People are much more likely to accept your flaws than if you lie to them. Trust is so important to people and the moment you lose someone’s trust it’s very difficult to get back.