Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Using music to lift your mood

Have you ever noticed how your mood can change depending on what you’re listening to on the radio? The impact that music has on our mental wellbeing shouldn’t be underestimated.

Think about it! Soothing music helps us calm down, while upbeat music energises us, helps us to perform, and can distract us from over thinking. Not to mention what music can do for our memory. Hearing a song from way back when can quickly help us recover memories and relive happier times.

When we listen to music we enjoy, feel-good hormones are released into the brain that generate emotions such as happiness, excitement and pure joy. So what exactly does music do to us that’s so beneficial?

Music helps us relax

Soothing and classical music slows our pulse and heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and decreases the levels of stress hormones. That’s why it’s used in doctors’ surgeries or hospital waiting rooms. It’s also a tried and tested way of preparing our bodies for a restful night’s sleep – you can read more about that in one of our previous blog posts.

Music helps us perform

Have you ever wondered why gyms play loud music? It’s to make us work harder! Our body gets in-tune with the rhythm which makes us work harder and for longer. It makes us feel in control and more optimistic about achieving our goals.

Music reduces our perception of pain

There’s a reason why women are offered music while in labour. Music can significantly increase our tolerance to pain and gives us perceived control over it. It also reduces anxiety, which helps people manage their own pain threshold better.

The great news is that is it really easy to incorporate more music into our lives – and to use it to benefit our mental wellness and general outlook. As a starter, we suggest the following simple tips:

  • Download a music or radio app onto your phone or tablet so that you can listen to music at work (if allowed), during your breaks or while commuting, especially if you have a stressful or a particularly busy day ahead.
  • Incorporate music into your daily regime – build up different playlists for the activities you do, such as one for walking, one for cooking, one for tidying. You get the idea! Music is especially good for heightening productivity during those jobs you’d rather not face, such as the ironing.
  • Turn off the TV an hour earlier each evening and listen to some music instead. Not only will it help lift your mood – it’ll leave you more receptive to sleep.

For more tips about how to manage your mental wellbeing, you can read this blog.

Monday, 26 February 2018

How to be sleep wise

Getting enough sleep is vital not only to our physical wellbeing, but to our mental wellness also. Yet, according to research carried out by the Sleep Health Foundation close to half of all adults claims they’re not getting enough sleep – are you one of them?

When we sleep, our body continues to work, hard. It resets and balances our brain function and fights off anything that threatens our physical health. Sleep is the way our mind and body’ refreshes and restores itself, so it’s easy to see why getting enough sleep is a big concern for many of us – and a major cause of anxiety and stress if we’re not getting enough.

We’ve taken this little quiz from the Guardian – you can see the original article here – to give you some indication of whether or not you are getting the sleep you need.

It’s not a sophisticated test by any means, but it will give you an idea about whether your sleep routines could be improved to give you the rest your body and mind needs.

In the last month have you had sleep trouble because of:

(a) taking more than half an hour to get to sleep

(b) waking up in the middle of the night, or too early in the morning

(c) not feeling well rested when you wake up

(d) feeling tired throughout the day

Score each of the following statements:

1 = not at all; 2 = once a week; 3 = twice a week; 4 = three or more times a week.

Take the average of your scores to find your total score. If you scored around the 2.5 mark, you are sleeping about as well as the average person.

But don’t despair if you find yourself getting less sleep than you’d like and that’s less than is optimal for physical and mental wellbeing, here are some simple tips to get you sleeping like a baby in no time…

Sleep at regular times

Your internal body clock gets used to a set routine, once it knows that 11pm is bedtime,  your body will be more receptive to sleep at that time. Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep – so the best way to set your bedtime is to work backwards from the time you need to rise every morning.

Prepare to sleep

It’s unrealistic to think you can hop straight into bed and fall asleep. Your body needs to wind down first. Take a warm bath or shower; do some gentle breathing exercises; listen to some music – all great ways to help your body understand that it will soon be time to sleep.

Clear your mind

A busy mind is not conducive to sleep. Take a few minutes to write down your 'to do' lists for the next day so that your mind can be free of distractions. Some people find that writing a journal at night helps for the same reason.

And if these tried and tested method don’t work for you, have a read of this article from Psychology Today – written by an insomniac - and see if that helps.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Love is for life – not just for Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many of us are thinking of ways to demonstrate our love and dedication to those closest to us. But what happens after Valentine’s Day? Will your loved ones have to wait another twelve months before your next declaration of affection and appreciation?

Don’t worry, help is at hand! We’ve come up with some simple guidance to help you show people you love them all year round – not just on 14 February. Relationships are important, they help us grow and contribute to our confidence and feelings of self-worth – so let’s take the time to nurture them.

Every little helps

Valentine’s Day may be the time for grand gestures, but throughout the year most couples find it’s the little things that matter. With busy schedules and lots of people juggling home and work life, couples can soon fall into bad habits and start to take each other for granted. As this article shows, it’s those small, thoughtful acts of love that will help you avoid this. Taking the time to remind your partner that you love them is often all your relationship will need to keep on track. An unexpected text message; a note in a workbag; a little something left under your partner’s pillow are simple acts that take very little time or effort, but that will makes your partner feel great.


As we get older – and particularly when we have been in a relationship for some time – we all fall into patterns and routines that take away the spontaneity that we once enjoyed when we were younger. In a long term relationship or marriage, we often have specific roles to play and jobs to do which define our relationships. One easy way to show someone you love them is by consciously shaking up the status quo and surprising them! Again, the smallest of gestures will go a long way – taking the bins out when it’s not ‘your job’ or getting the shopping in for tea are great ways of surprising your partner, while also acknowledging and appreciating the role that they play in the relationship.

Take time out, together

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that when you’re in a relationship every ounce of free time has to be spent doing something fabulous – meals out, theatre, cinema... These are all fun pastimes and you’re right, doing things together can only strengthen the relationship you’ve got. However, sometimes all it takes to show someone you love them is the gift of time. We’re all busy people, so the act of making time to spend together is incredibly powerful. It shows your partner they matter more than anything else in your life. It doesn’t matter if it’s just half an hour or a whole day – carving time out of your schedule really shows you’re serious about someone and value what you have together.

Remember, the main reason people leave a relationship is because they feel undervalued and unappreciated. So, whatever else is going on in your life, take the time to tell those closest to you that you love them - a little bit of effort goes a long, long way.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Why unhelpful habits come about and how to make the 'giving up' process easier on yourself

Several weeks into the new year and old habits don’t seem to be budging? According to the US News, around 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February, which means a whole lot of wasted gym memberships. But how did these bad habits come about in the first place?

According to psychologists, we are all ‘cognitive misers’, so our brains are trained to take shortcuts, rendering as many behaviours (helpful or unhelpful) as automatic. Essentially, habits are meant to be difficult to change. Put simply, habits are responses to our needs. For example, we might eat lots of unhealthy snacks to make ourselves feel comforted or relaxed. By simply switching to a healthier option, although it’s better for us in a nutritional sense, it wont necessarily meet our needs in the same way and we are likely to slip back into our more appealing routine. To avoid this, we need to find an alternative way to meet this need, allowing us to break free from these unhelpful habits so strongly bound to us. There are various ways in which we can make this process easier for ourselves…

1. Plan for change

Make a list of things you’d like to change and why. Be as dramatic as you like with this part, just get it down there.

2. Make realistic goals (one habit at a time!)

If you plan to give up five things at once, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself which could result in failure. Choose one habit you want to give up and write it down. If you don’t want to write it, say it out loud…"I am choosing to give up…" and stick with it. Repeat this in your head or out loud throughout the day to really drive home your passion to see this through.

3. Take a gradual approach to breaking your habit

Going cold turkey isn’t always the best approach, so go with what works for you. Giving up something completely from the outset can set up the negative feeling of, ‘one mistake = FAILURE’. Leave yourself some wiggle room and remember nobody’s perfect!

4. Tell somebody about your plan

Share your plan with someone and keep them updated with how you’re doing. If you’re not one to bring it up in conversation, choose someone who you know will make the effort to ask how it’s going, and will provide you with support.

5. Be patient

Realistically, life changes are unlikely to happen overnight. This is OK. Always remember the progress you've made (no matter how small)  and don’t beat yourself up!

6. Practise Mindfulness

Giving up old habits is difficult. Despite how hard we try, our minds can often wander back to that familiar cigarette smell or the taste of a cold glass wine on a Tuesday night. Try bringing yourself into the here and now through the practice of mindfulness. Find out more here >

7. Reward yourself

Even small victories should be rewarded. Giving up an unhelpful habit is a challenge, so remember to regularly congratulate yourself with a small gift for getting so far in the process. Good Luck!

If you're still struggling with goal setting and achieving, why not book a session with one of our experienced life coaches to help you on your way? Find out more on our website.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Benefits of keeping a journal

If you, like many of us, received a shiny new journal for Christmas you may well be wondering what to write in it, that’s if you haven’t started scribbling already. Diary and journal keeping was once restricted to high-school students, but now it’s seen by many as a useful tool to help solidify your observations and feelings for the day, as well as capturing your dreams and aspirations for the future.

Not convinced? Here are just some of the reasons to grab a pen and paper and jot your thoughts down in a journal.

More open to mindfulness

There’s a strong link between happiness and mindfulness and as keeping a journal focuses your mind very much on the present, it can make you happier. When you write things down, past frustrations and future anxieties lose their edge and cease to occupy precious mind-space.

Programmed to achieve

We’ve said a number of times about the importance of writing things down if you want to actually achieve them. Keeping a journal encourages you to crystalise your hopes, dreams and ambitions. Once articulated, they become real – and once real, they, in turn, become easier to achieve. In your head, dreams may seem fanciful and unattainable; once in black and white you're more likely to believe in your own ability to achieve them.

Emotionally aware

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Keeping a journal provides us with an outlet for exploring our emotions, which increases self-awareness. Once we're more aware of our own emotions and how to manage them, we are more likely to better understand others, which enables us to be more empathetic and build stronger relationships with others.


Setting time aside to write every day is an act of discipline. Plus the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Once the writing habit is formed, you’ll find it easier to stick to routines elsewhere in your daily routine too. If you write in the morning it will set you up for the afternoon; if you prefer to write in the afternoon, you’ll be keener to keep to your morning schedule so that your writing time isn’t interrupted.

Keener to communicate

You'll be amazed at how your journal keeping will help you to better communicate with others on a verbal level too. As your ability to write down what you're thinking becomes easier, so does your ability to speak with confidence. You’ll also find that your desire to communicate with others increases as you have more to talk about – even if it’s only to glean content to write about in your journal!


There are many who believe that writing down our troubles is the first step on the journey towards healing. Stress and sadness often come from an inability to process our feelings or through over-thinking hypothetical events and situations. Being able to articulate our emotions, provides us with a release and frees our mind. From this clarity comes calm and this is when the healing can start.

This blog post on PsychCentral suggests that writing for around 20 minutes a day is all it takes to release the health benefits. So, what are you waiting for?

Monday, 1 January 2018

Embracing the New Year as an introvert

It’s the most celebrated time of the year - an occasion when it’s perfectly OK to hug your neighbour and hold hands with strangers as we sing Auld Lang Syne together. However, for the introverts amongst us, New Year’s Eve may have been a painfully awkward affair.

Fear not, we have some tips to help you embrace your introvert nature and use this brand New Year to set resolutions that will help you to live the life you want – rather than conform to what others expect you to do.

Step out of your comfort zone – just the once

If we always do what we’ve always done, we deny ourselves the opportunity to grow. Yes, we know that socialising and partying can be uncomfortable, especially if you find small talk painful, but try and commit to going out at least once a month – or even, once a quarter. And it starts now. After that, it’s up to you to decide where you go and what you do with your time, but by pushing yourself to do something you wouldn’t normally do, it will heighten your senses and give you a great sense of achievement afterwards.

Do something with your alone time

Just because you don’t want to spend your time with other people, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fill your time doing something stimulating and constructive. Make 2018 the time for taking up a new hobby or craft that will make you feel as though you are accomplishing something.

Practise your small talk

For many introverts, unplanned social interactions with others can leave us feeling awkward. The way to avoid this is not to dodge others, but to prepare for it. Start the year as you mean to go on – read the papers, scan the internet for topical news and pre-plan a couple of areas of conversation that you can pull out of you find yourself in a situation that requires small talk. If you practice these conversations in your head, it will help to desensitise you when you have to make small talk for real!

Digitally sociable

The world of digital and social media has made it much easier for introverts to connect with other people – without having to interact with them at all. Make 2018, your year to be more sociable - digitally. Set up an Instagram account, start up a blog, make a commitment to share all that you are and all that you are passionate about with others, through a medium that you feel comfortable with.

Keep moving forwards

Introverts have tend to have a self-destructive habit of pondering on things that happened, or were said, weeks ago. Introverts like to dwell. However, this isn’t constructive and can sometimes lead to anxiety or even depression. One of the biggest lessons we can take from our extrovert friends is to draw a line under events, and move on. There is little to be gained from over-analysing situations. Sometimes we just have to accept things at their imperfect best. Give yourself a break and resolve not to be so hard on yourself.

So in summary, our advice to all the introverts out there – enjoy making resolutions that will not only be within your capabilities to achieve, but also challenge you enough to spark self-growth. For some more ideas, read this Forbes article <> or our previous blog post <> .

Friday, 15 December 2017

Take a minute to mull over your wine this Christmas

With the darker nights coming earlier accompanied by colder temperatures, treating yourself to a glass of alcohol in the evening to heat yourself up and unwind might be the obvious choice. However, daily tipples combined with those wild Christmas nights on the town could cause more problems than a bad hangover...

Despite it being a popular way to de-stress around family, relax around awkward moments with colleagues, and experiment with that new dance move, alcohol can become a more serious issue when we fail to recognise that we're drinking much more than we should. This can result in bad decisions being made, jobs being threatened, relationships tested, or even a dependence on alcohol developing that will be hard to kick come the new year.

Write it down

The best way to work out if you're exceeding your limit this year, is to take pen to paper and jot down some facts. What have you had to drink this week and how much of it? Is there a pattern in who you're drinking with? How would the past week have panned out differently had you been sober? These are important questions to ask if you're drinking more than usual and you may notice things you might not have picked up on otherwise.

Have a little less and feel a whole lot better

Sometimes we end up drinking more simply because we want something to hold. Try ordering half measures or top up your small wine with some soda water, lemonade or ginger ale. That way you save some money, make it last longer and still have something pretty to hold.

Alternative de-stressors

If you're still finding yourself overindulging in the alcohol department, why not try finding something else to indulge in? You may find yourself sinking into old habits, but before you crack open that second crate of beer to unwind after a hectic shopping trip, replace this activity with something more forgiving – maybe a warm bath with a good book or a family card game followed by a hot chocolate.

Anxiety and depression can develop in those who are dependent on alcohol as well as other health problems, If you are still struggling to get on top of drinking habits and would like to speak to a professional, contact your GP or book a session with First Psychology on 0845 872 1780.