Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Tell-tale signs that you’re not in a healthy relationship

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. It’s a day for romance and for spending time with those we love. Often though, Valentine’s Day pushes us to reflect on our romantic relationships to assess how we’re ‘measuring up’ to the other couples we see.

Unfortunately, social media gives us some unrealistic expectations about what relationships should be like. No relationship is perfect. That said, there are a number of signs to look out for that could indicate your relationship is really not healthy. We’ve picked out some of the main indicators:

Passive aggressive behaviour

The best relationships are based on honesty and openness. You should never be afraid to say what you think – and you should afford your partner the freedom to do the same. If you can sense that all is not well with your partner – or you’re being given the silent treatment – but are met with responses such as “I’m fine” or “Nothing” when you probe, that’s passive aggression. How can we make things right, if we don’t know what the issue is? If this is you, try not to get dragged into the drama. Don’t feed the need for attention and wait until your partner is ready to talk. The more often this happens, the more concerning it would be. Watch this short clip from the Daily Positive for more information on how to spot this kind of behaviour and tips for dealing with it.


Life is full of ups and downs. Healthy relationships provide us with the grounding and support we need to cope with the bad times and rejoice in the good times. Your relationship shouldn’t add to the stress and drama of everyday life, so if you and your partner thrive on extreme highs and lows it may be useful to ask yourselves why. All healthy relationships include some conflict, of course, but not all the time — and not to extremes. If you find it hard to predict when your partner will be upset or how they will react to certain events, that’s a red flag or an indication of a deeper issue.

Jokes and ridicule

The strongest couples are the ones that laugh together – they laugh with each other, but never at each other. If your partner ever makes you feel small with ‘funny’ comments about you or your behaviour, that’s a sure sign that problems are afoot. That’s not to say that your partner can’t make a joke. If the jokes make you feel included that’s healthy humour – if the comments or jokes make you feel stupid, small or vulnerable, that’s not good. As a general rule, if someone has to add the words “only joking” after speaking, there may be an unhealthy undercurrent running through their comments. This Guardian article gives an interesting perspective on what constitutes ‘banter’ and what doesn’t.

You feel like you have to ask permission

Newsflash: adults don’t need permission to do things. Sometimes, we may seek support from our partner to take a certain course of action – a discussion around chores or childcare associated with a business trip, perhaps, but we’re not seeking permission. Yes, relationships require compromise and big life decisions that could impact on your partner should be discussed together, but if you find yourself asking permission to make plans with friends, or to make simple lifestyle choices, you should ask yourself why. That’s not necessary and definitely not healthy.

If you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship, this article from Psych Alive may help you think about what's going wrong.

If you feel you need support to work out what's best for your relationship, check out our page on relationship problems.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Simple solutions for helping to beat the winter blues

There are not many of us that look forward to the winter. Let’s face it, it’s just not as much fun as the summer!

It’s dark when we wake up and dark again by teatime. This lack of sunshine can be quite draining. People often report a heightened desire to stay indoors during the winter months, especially after the excitement and activity of the Christmas season is well and truly behind us.

For most of us, winter is an inconvenience – a season that must pass in order for spring and summer to return. However, for a small number of us the winter blues actually manifest themselves as a seasonal depression: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is a depressive illness caused by a lack of natural sunlight. Approximately 20% of people in the UK experience some SAD symptoms, while another 8% suffer more seriously to the point that it affects their daily lives.

Not everyone who experiences SAD will present with the same symptoms – you can have a look at this Psychology Today article to see what the symptoms may be. Many people feel less energetic and more lethargic, needing more sleep than usual. They may also find it hard to get enjoyment out of everyday tasks and activities in that way that they would during the summer months.

There are a number of things that everyone can try in order to lift the blues and make the winter months more bearable. Put simply, it’s about spending time outside whenever you can and maximising the amount of natural light you are exposed to on a daily basis.

However awful the weather outside, a short daily walk will really help put a spring in your step. Exercise and activity get the endorphins flowing which help you to feel good. Getting out and about maximises the amount of natural sunlight our bodies are exposed to as well, which really helps to minimise the SAD symptoms you’ll experience.

If getting outside proves difficult, then it’s advisable to do whatever you can to keep work and home environments clutter free, light and airy. Sit next to windows whenever possible and – if it’s not too cold – try and get some fresh air through an open window.

Diet also has a role to play in keeping our mood on an even keel over the winter. While stodgy foods, like pies and stews might seem like a good idea to keep up warm and nourished, in truth they can sometimes add to our lethargy and lack of energy. What your body really needs to keep the SAD symptoms at bay, is food that is rich in vitamins C and D and zinc (such as spinach, citrus fruit and fish).

For more tips on how to improve your mood over the winter, why not read one of our previous blog posts. 

Monday, 21 January 2019

How to reconnect as a couple

Relationships are be hard work. They’re something we have to work on every day if they're to survive the highs and lows that life will undoubtedly throw our way.

In a previous post, we took a look at some common relationship difficulties and it is unsurprising that many of us will have experienced at least one of these over the Christmas holiday break.

It a full-on season, with lots of socialising and present buying, not to mention the expectation that everyone should be happy and jolly all the time. However, for many couples these holiday rituals bring money and time pressures that we don’t experience the rest of the year. This can put a strain on relationships that we often need to repair during January.

We’ve come up with a few quick and simple relationship tips, designed to help you reconnect with each other after the Christmas break and enrich the time you spend together as a couple.

Make it a habit

Relationships thrive on routines. After all the extra-curricular and unplanned activities of Christmas it’s time to carve some time aside for couple rituals that you can both look forward to. We’re not talking hours of time either, even something as simple as a ten-minute planned morning tea break together where you share your plans for the day is enough to rebuild and repair the bond you have together. Whatever you do, make it a regular occurrence and give it the attention it deserves.

Date night

Most couples swear by date night. It’s the one time in the week when it’s OK to focus solely on each other. Date night is usually high-jacked during December in favour of the need to socialise with a wider group of friends, family and work colleagues. Make it a priority to reinstate it as soon as you can in January. Don’t forget, date night needn’t be expensive or lavish – we're often cash strapped in January after all. It can be as simple as watching a movie together with a bag of popcorn, taking a walk together, or spending time reminiscing over old photo albums. What’s important is that you are together.

A problem shared

January is a time for making resolutions. You’re both more likely to stick to a shared resolution, than an individual resolution and it’s also the perfect excuse to work together as a team. Whether it’s become fitter, eating more healthily or learning a new hobby / skill, why not set yourselves a shared resolution? It will not only bring your closer together as a couple, but also give you a shared interest and goal.

This article from Psychology Today has some interesting ideas to get your started. Why not have a look and see which of these thirty-second activities you could try too?

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Why you need to look back before looking forwards

This time of year - a few days into a fresh new year - is a time when our attention often focuses on our resolutions for the next twelve months. They usually centre on the things we’d like to change in our lives – eat less, exercise more, or stop smoking… This year, we’re challenging you to think a bit differently.

Rather than empty resolutions that bear no resemblance to where you have been, how far you have come, or where you want to go, we want you to spend some quality time reviewing what has happened to you over the course of the past twelve months – and use the insight you uncover to develop a meaningful plan for the year that lies ahead.

Ask yourself questions such as:

What parts of the year did I particularly enjoy?
When did I feel challenged?
When did I feel overwhelmed?

By looking constructively, you can plan yourself a year that fulfils you and gives you the stretch you need to grow. We wouldn’t think twice about taking the time to reflect after we’d completed a big project at work – yet we seldom give our own personal reflection the same attention.

Reflection helps us to assess how we’ve done things, what the result was, and whether we should carry on as-is or if there’s a need to change direction in order to achieve what we really want.

You can choose which areas of your life you want to reflect on – it could be time for a general stock take, or a time to look at a particular aspect of your life that you have already identified deserves more attention in the coming year. Family, relationships, work, learning are all good starting points for your reflective practice. There will be some areas of overlap – it can be difficult to get more family time, if your job is particularly demanding, for example, but always start by thinking about the year that has passed.

Be honest in your assessment and evaluation of what went well and the areas that you would like to address going forward. Don’t just think about what was good – delve deeper to examine what it was that made it good. How did it make you feel? How can you recreate that feeling?

Once we have identified the high points – and the low points - this gives us a basis from which to develop a specific and focussed action plan. You can still call these resolutions if you want to!

Sunday, 23 December 2018

The gift of relaxation - quiz and competition

Learning ways to relax your mind and body is vital to good mental and physical health and wellbeing. While short-term stress is a natural process designed to protect us from harm, longer-term stress can have a negative impact on our mental and physical wellbeing and lead to conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as physical conditions too.

Why not have a go at our relaxation quiz and see if you know how to relax. All the answers to these questions can be found in the advice and resources section of our website >

Relaxation quiz and competition

1. Which of the following is an example of immobile relaxation?

  • A  Sleeping  
  • B  Meditation

2. How do physical relaxation methods work?

  • A  They occupy the mind so that it is temporarily relieved from stressors.
  • B  They tire us out so that we're too tired to think about our worries.

3.  Which of the following is an example of physical relaxation?

  • A  Tai chi  
  • B  Competitive sport

4. Which of following statements is based on mindfulness practices?

  • A  Happiness lies in the present.
  • B  It is is important to reflect on past experiences to become more mindful.

5. Mindfulness is a practice that can help you feel less stressed. Where does mindfulness stem from?

  • A  It was developed by psychologists a decade ago as an antidote to modern day life.
  • B  It stems from ancient Budhist practices.

Enter our competition!

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of 'Calm - The Journal' by Fearne Cotton, visit and like our First Psychology Scotland Facebook page and comment with your answers, e.g. A, A, B, B, B.  Good luck!

The winner will be chosen at random from all the correct entries received before 1 January 2019. A copy of the book will be posted out to the lucky winner at a UK address provided by them during week commencing 7 January 2019. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Learning lessons from top sports people

Those of the less sporty among us, may have distant memories of being made to run four laps around the school sports field as a warm up before embarking on the sport for the day. It's not surprising then that these memories may have been pushed to the backs of our minds - sport isn't for us and we are glad we no longer have to do it. But wait, are we throwing the baby out with the bath water? Can we learn lessons from sport that are useful in our lives more generally, and if so what are they?

While many people struggle to manage pressure in their everyday lives and perhaps fail to achieve their goals as a result of this, elite sports people manage to achieve their goals despite the pressure. So what can we 'steal' from the way top athletes do things that we can use in our own lives?

Five lessons we can learn from top sports people

1. Keep motivated

if you have one specific goal to achieve, set yourself a range of related goals to keep you motivated along the way and reward yourself when you achieve each goal.

2. Follow a routine

Work out what steps you need to follow to achieve your goal. Plan a routine and follow it. Being successful takes a great deal of commitment so be prepared to work hard.

3. Believe in your ability

To succeed in something, you need to believe you are capable of doing it. Think about whether you truly believe in what you are trying to achieve. If not, think why not and challenge your thought processes. Replace your unhelpful thoughts "I can't do this" with helpful and realistic ones "I am going to find this very hard, but there is nothing suggesting I can't do this".

4. Manage your anxiety and adopt helpful behaviours

When you challenge yourself, you are likely to feel anxious and fearful. Learn to manage these feelings and you will be able to achieve more.

5. Look after yourself

Look after yourself physically and mentally to ensure you are in the best frame of mind to achieve your goals. Don't overload your schedule and plan in time to relax.

And don't forget that keeping fit and healthy is vital for a happy, healthy life. Your body is designed to move. There are so many things you can do to keep mentally and physically fit. Find something that works for you and stick to it!

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Quick ways to keep your family connected over the festive period

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but for many of us, it’s also the time when we do lots of things for other people and can easily lose sight of what is good for us and our closest friends and family. As we are pulled in different directions and have many things to do, what is meant to be valuable family time can get railroaded, leaving us feeling stressed and short tempered.

So what can we do to avoid Christmas burnout and ensure that we spend quality time with our nearest and dearest over the festive period?

Set time aside to share

At no other point in the year is a calendar more important than December. There are places to be, things to do and the demands on our time are all encompassing. Make sure that you schedule in quality time with your family. We don’t mean sat in front of the TV (though you can schedule time in for that too!). We really mean being mindful about how you spend your time together. Even in very close families, Christmas will mean different things for each individual, especially when we often have different interests and priorities. Set time aside to sit down together and share your thoughts and opinions. Opening up to others is the way to create a deeper connection.

Focus on presence – not presents

We all know what it’s like to be somewhere though our mind is actually a million miles away. There are so many things to fit in and only a short window of time. In an ideal world, we’d be focused at every single event, but the reality is that we can't do it all. Give yourself a break and choose one or two events during the season when you will be truly present. Turn off your phone, soak up the atmosphere, and take in the joy on your family’s faces. Laugh. Sing. Breathe. Take the opportunity to step off the treadmill and find the true meaning of Christmas in just a couple of Christmas events. Your family will thank you for it.

Make memories

It won’t take long for your family to forget what you have bought them for Christmas, but they won’t forget how you make them feel. The time you spend with people and the thought that you put into your gifts is not measured in money – or at least it shouldn’t be. Christmas is a time for making memories that will last for years to come. Often our Christmas as adults is shaped by what we ourselves have experienced as a child – and the same will be true of your family. Time and time again, research has shown that experiences bring more happiness to people than things do, so spend time thinking about what you can do for – and with – your family, rather than what you can buy them. Share some of your old family traditions with your own children and don’t be afraid to start some new ones too. Sharing experiences are key to keeping connected.

All families thrive on routine – they’re the patterns we all fall into during our usual day to day life. It doesn’t take much for these patterns to become compromised – especially over the holidays, so it’s important that we focus as much on the things we need to do to make sure our loved ones continue to feel loved and respected as we do on the need for everyone to have a ‘perfect Christmas’.

You can read more about family dynamics and how to create a positive environment in this Psychology Today article.