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



We often have so many thoughts swimming around our heads that it can be hard to work out what is actually going on up there. Journal keeping is now 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.

Self-disciplined

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!

Healing

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 <https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinapark/2014/12/29/go-for-it-5-new-years-resolutions-for-introverts/#6d7a37613803> or our previous blog post <http://firstpsychology.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/being-happy-by-yourself.html> .