Friday, 30 December 2011

Coaching for weight management

With New Year almost upon us, we often think about what we would like to change or improve about ourselves in the coming year, and one of the most common goals is to lose weight. Despite wanting to lose weight and knowing that we would benefit from doing so, it can seem that how ever hard we try we simply can't get started. When we do, we often fall at the first hurdle.

Choosing a new diet or joining the gym might be the answer, but equally, there is an alternative approach that can produce amazing results - coaching for weight management.

Our First Psychology centres in Glasgow and Edinburgh currently offer a course of six individual coaching sessions which can help clients identify what is preventing them from successfully losing weight and offer ways to break down these barriers. We tailor our approach to each individual’s personal circumstances and establish a plan of action to give clients a sense of control and direction over the process.

Through coaching, we help establish realistic goals for personal health and weight and support clients in working towards these. We aim to identify unhealthy patterns and habits, using a variety of tools and techniques, to enable clients to identify and remove triggers to behaviours that prevent weight loss.

Coaching, in general, can help clients achieve the healthy lifestyle they want, improve self-esteem and also provide a sense of purpose.

Lifestyle and performance coach, Dr Lindsey Burns, offers a range of coaching courses at our Edinburgh and Glasgow centres. For more information, please contact your local First Psychology centre who wish you all a very Happy New Year:

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411,

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Exercise is good for you in more ways than one

Having over-indulged on mince pies and turkey over Christmas and with New Year just around the corner, you may be having thoughts that it’s about time you battled that bulge and got back into shape.

The benefits of exercise on our physical condition are well known, but those for our mental health are often overlooked. Exercise releases endorphins which generally make us feel happier and less anxious. Engaging in a moderate amount of physical activity not only improves our mood but also our energy levels, our confidence, body image, and self-esteem which in turn, all lead to an improved quality of life.

However, there is now another reason to exercise that might help to motivate you. New research conducted by scientists in Ireland has reported that physical activity can improve cognitive function by demonstrating that participants performed significantly better on a memory recall task following strenuous exercise. This benefit is thought to be the result of surges in a brain protein after physical activity.

So it would seem that the benefits of exercise are threefold – it improves our physical and psychological health as well as our cognitive functioning. There are now more reasons than ever to join the gym or take up that new exercise class!

If you would like to gain a healthy lifestyle and lose weight then look out for our next blog on coaching for weight management or you can call your local First Psychology centre to find out more about coaching for weight loss.

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, 
Borders: 01896-800-400,

Friday, 23 December 2011

The gift of giving

For some, Christmas is not about religion, but more about the presents they receive. It's true, Christmas is a time of giving and even the Christian story mentioned the three wise men presenting gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But should it be more about the ‘the art of giving’ rather than giving in the material sense of the word?

A study conducted by Carter & Gilovich (2010) found that purchases made with the intention of acquiring a life experience rather than material goods made people happier. This might be because experiences improve with time, take on new meanings and live longer in our minds. Experiences can also resist unfavourable comparisons and can be mentally revisited unlike material posessions.

Giving in other ways also has its benefits. When we talk about social support and how it is good for our health we assume the benefits come from receiving support from others. However, scientists, using sophisticated brain imaging techniques at the UCLA, have found we gain benefits from providing support to others. In fact, participants showed increased neural activity in reward-related regions of the brain when providing support which may have stress reducing effects for the support-giver as well.

So, when you’re getting stressed from all that last minute Christmas shopping, remember that giving, in any form, is a gift - giving time and effort to your loved ones to create lasting memories may actually be more appreciated than the latest must-have gadget.

Seasons Greetings from all here at First Psychology and best wishes for the New Year!

Contact details of our centresEdinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411,
Borders: 01896-800-400,

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Top holiday stresses and how to manage them

The holidays are nearly upon us and it may sound ironic but the holiday season can be very stressful or even totally overwhelming for some people - particularly those who are prone to anxiety. Here are some tips on how to manage your anxiety during the festive season.

Too much to do 
You may be feeling pulled in many different directions with work, family as well as shopping and entertaining. If this is the case, take a moment to slow down. Make lists, plan menus and give yourself plenty of time. By organising your time and prioritising tasks you can minimise stress and anxiety.

Too little money 
As early as October we may see adverts for Christmas which show gifts piled up under the tree and tables full of tempting food. With expectations such as these, it is no wonder we may feel the need to overspend. In order to avoid temptation, set yourself a budget and make a list of how much you can spend on each person and stick to it. Consider buying joint gifts or making them.

Too many people 
Crowds at Christmas are inevitable so instead of being frustrated and angry, try to be kind and mindful. While waiting in line, strike up a conversation with your neighbour. If the crowds are annoying you, take deep breaths and try to notice the sights and sounds around you. At the end of the day, it is only a temporary inconvenience.

If you feel compelled to spend Christmas with your family, despite not getting on with them, this may add to this feeling of having too many people around. If they are unhealthy for you, you don't have to spend time with them. However, if they just annoy you, try to put personal differences aside for another time, accept them as they are and try not to criticise.

Too few people 
At this time of year you may feel far from family and friends. Try to connect with them using email, Skype or videos. Consider spending time with someone who may also be alone, i.e. a work colleague or volunteer to help others in need. This can make you (and them) feel better and also widen your social contacts.

Expectations too high 
This time of year comes with high expectations. Not only do we expect Christmas to be perfect but we also start to take stock of what goals we didn't meet over the preceding year such as losing weight or gaining a promotion. Now is a great time to re-evaluate your goals and focus on the future rather than the past. By keeping expectations realistic you can also focus on what's important to you.

All too much?
Holidays can be a difficult time for some. If you find that you just can't cope then talk to your GP or contact your local First Psychology centre.

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411,
Borders: 01896-800-400,

Friday, 16 December 2011

Social anxiety - part 2

Good conversation is one of life’s pleasures, but many people can find conversing with people they don't know, perhaps at a seasonal party or a work function, very daunting.

Following on from our blog post earlier this week, here are some tips on how to strike up a conversation upon entering a room. We hope these tips will help you through the party season and beyond:

  • Assess the room, eavesdrop on conversations and choose which discussion you want to engage in. There is no point joining a conversation you're not interested in or do not understand. 
  • Look for people who have open body language. These signals are invitations to join the conversation, e.g. those who return eye contact and stand with their body at an open angle. 
  • Mimic the body language of people in the conversation as this will establish rapport with them. Nod when they nod and lean forwards or backwards when they do. 
  • If you dry up in conversation, don’t panic. It’s probably not that you’ve got nothing to say rather that your internal voice is interfering with the other person’s words. It may seem obvious but try to concentrate on what is being said that way you will be more engaged in the conversation and your words should flow more easily. 
  • If it’s difficult to get a word in edgeways, identify the dominant speaker in the group, which may not be the person who speaks loudest or the most, but who drives the conversation. Respond to their words as it’s easier than trying to keep up with six conversations at once. 
  • Having a few questions prepared for any awkward moments can help steer the rest of the conversation.
  • If someone is being difficult then you may need to change your approach. If, for example, they are confrontational stand side by side instead of directly opposite them and use shorter sentences to try and get the conversation going.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Dealing with social anxiety - part 1

The party season opens up a whole host of opportunities to enjoy conversations and build connections with other people, whom you may never have met, if you‘d stayed at home. However, for some it takes courage to join in, have fun and strike up a conversation.

Entering a room where you know few people well and where everyone looks deep in conversation can be very daunting. You may feel the added pressure of being seen to be enjoying yourself while not knowing exactly how to behave because usual business etiquette has gone out the window.

Here are some tips on how to make joining in a little easier:

  • Before the party try to relieve tension by going for a walk, shake out your arms or touch your toes. The more tension you can release beforehand, the more relaxed you will feel at the party. 
  • In the run up to the event, try to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Make conversation with strangers on the way - perhaps make small talk about the weather with the person sitting next to you on the bus. 
  • Before entering the room, remind yourself of the reason you are there as this will not only validate why you are there, but also provide encouragement. 
  • Arrive at the party early so you can strike up conversations with other people on their own before the crowds build up. 

For more tips on what you can do upon entering the room, look out for our next blog. If you would like more information about social anxiety or to book an initial session with one of our experienced practitioners then please contact us at your local First Psychology centre.

Edinburgh centre: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow centre: 0141-404-5411,
Borders centre: 01896-800-400,

Friday, 9 December 2011

Alcohol is not just for Christmas

As the Christmas party season really starts to gather pace, there is often a real pressure to drink alcohol. However this pressure isn't just a Christmas thing, it's there at every social occasion nowadays. 

Clever advertising has led us to believe alcohol relaxes us, makes us feel better and makes us more confident. In reality, the more we drink, the more tolerant of alcohol we become and the greater amounts we need therefore to achieve the same feeling we once got from it. So when do we know we’ve got a problem with alcohol? 

The best way to work this out is to observe how and what you drink. Keeping a drinking diary for 2-3 weeks can be a really helpful tool.

Each day make a note of what you’ve drunk. By doing this, you can see how many days of the week you drink and whether your consumption is above the recommended guidelines.

It may be worthwhile to jot down where you are and who you’re with when you drink so that you can monitor this behaviour and take control of it if needs be. You could also imagine what it would be like not to drink for two weeks, consider how quickly you drink and whether you make excuses to drink.

If you would like more information, see or alternatively, to book an initial session with one of our experienced practitioners please contact your local First Psychology centre.

Edinburgh centre: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow centre: 0141-404-5411,
Borders centre: 01896-800-400,

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Five steps towards taking control of your anger

Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Anger Awareness Week was developed to raise awareness of the causes of anger and highlight healthier ways in which individuals can control their behaviour and express their anger. See our five steps towardds controlling your anger below.

1. Recognise your anger Anger can have an enormous effect on your body. Your heart may start thumping, you may feel a sense of tension and as if somebody has pushed a button and you are no longer in control. Physical activity can provide an outlet for these emotions and can actually stimulate chemicals in the brain which make you feel happier and more relaxed.

2. Accept responsibility for your anger It is important to realise the anger you feel is your own emotion and not something someone else has inflicted upon you. It is easy to criticise or place the blame at someone else’s door, which might only serve to increase tension, so it is best to use ‘I’ statements when describing the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, "I'm upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes," instead of, "You never do any housework".

3. Think rationally Think about why you feel angry, what your vulnerabilities are and how you can resolve the issue at hand. If your partner is always late for dinner every night then perhaps scheduling meals later in the evening might help. Remind yourself that anger won't fix anything, and might only make it worse.

4. Take time out In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. So when you are feeling angry, take a few moments to collect your thoughts, breathe deeply, practise relaxation or count to ten, and allow others in the situation to do the same. Slowing down can defuse your temper and will enable you to think more rationally. If you remain in the situation which is causing you to be angry then it is more likely to escalate out of control.

5. Express yourself Once you are calm and thinking clearly, express your feelings verbally in an assertive but non-confrontational way. If you state your concerns and needs clearly and directly without hurting or controlling others, you can inform them of precisely what upset you. This will help them to understand and also give them the opportunity to address these issues. Another person’s view can often give a new perspective on the problem and prevent feelings of resentment or anger towards them in the future.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Anger Awareness Week starts today

Christmas, for some, is a joyous time of year but for others it can be stressful and fraught with arguments. From small things such as everyone wanting to watch something different on the TV, to being overworked, the kids playing up, the in-laws staying, and relationships in general being put under strain. Everyone feels angry at some time, not just at christmas, but the key is how you express this anger.

The aim of National Anger Awareness Week, which starts today until 7 December, is to increase understanding of the underlying causes of anger and equip people with strategies to reduce their own and others' anger in an effective way.

Anger is not always a bad thing - it has in the past, driven people to make changes for the better. For instance, had women not responded with anger to their treatment then there would have been no Suffragette movement or women’s vote. In general however, anger can be very destructive and while some believe this emotion is genetic, others feel it is learned.

It is difficult to say what the causes of anger are because we all lead such different lives, but anger results from being hurt emotionally, whether this be embarrassment, a feeling of defensiveness, or rage which has pent up when we're dissatisfied with a particular situation.

Anger and depression can go hand in hand too. If a family member/friend is being unusually aggressive for no apparent reason, they may be suffering from depression or finding it difficult to express or deal with their tension and irritability in a constructive way. Learning to deal with anger and related feelings is the answer.

For tips on how to control your anger, look out for our next blog. In the meantime, if you think you might benefit from talking to one of our experienced practitioners or you would like to book an initial session, please contact your local First Psychology centre. 

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440,
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411,
Borders: 01896-800-400,

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

National Psychology - the limits of stereotypes

Happy St Andrew's Day! St Andrew's Day is, of course, Scotland's national day so we thought it fitting to take a look at national psychology, which dates back to the mid-19th century.

The Scots are tight, the French are romantic and the Germans are serious, or so they say. We've all heard these stereotypes and, whether or not they are true, stereotypes exist for a reason – to help us form opinions about people we don't have time to get to know. 

The psychological makeup of particular nations, ethnic groups or peoples is believed to be characterised by a combination of human attitudes, values, emotions, motivations and abilities. These are culturally reinforced by our education, upbringing, the state and media.

Closely related is national character which refers to the values, norms and customs which people of a nation typically hold, and in particular, how they habitually respond to situations. Indeed, reference is sometimes made to a 'national psyche' to explain why certain events trigger such strong reactions or why countries are enthused by a particular sport or cultural practice. In this respect, National psychology can be useful in explaining why political or economic events occurred as they did.

Although stereotypes seem unfair, scientists believe it is possible to observe and measure average national characteristics. This doesn't mean all individuals share all the characteristics, but the number who do are sufficiently large to be 'typical' in the country.

However, the concept of national psychology has been criticised on both political and scientific grounds.

Some argue it encourages racist generalisations and stereotypes which can lead to certain nations regarding themselves as superior.

In addition, psychologists have found subjects cannot accurately recognise or identify the ethnicity or nationality of individuals when observing a line-up of different people. 

People can, however, often recognise a representative stereotype of a certain ethnic group or certain national characteristics. So it seems stereotypes do have a purpose, but, of course, we need to look much deeper before we can truly understand others.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Positive psychology for improved wellbeing

It is a common human trait to dwell on things that go wrong rather than those that go right and  traditional psychology tends to focus on specific issues and problems too. However, since the late 1990s, a new branch of psychology which finds its roots in the humanistic approach has been gaining in popularity.

Positive psychology, as it is known, aims to help individuals and even organisations identify effective strategies which allow them to thrive, find and nurture genius and talent and make life more fulfilling. Coaches, therapists, counsellors, and even HR professionals, are using this new method to increase and sustain the well-being of individuals who are not necessarily suffering from mental ill health.

Below are some positive psychology coaching techniques, which can help to improve wellbeing:
  1. Three good things - at the end of each day, write down three good things that happened during the day. These do not have to be hugely significant events. They could be anything from a work colleague making you a cup of tea to a stranger holding open a door for you. 
  2. Gratitude visit - write a letter of thanks to a person in your life to whom you feel grateful but have never had the opportunity to express this gratitude. Once the letter is written, arrange to meet the person and read them your letter. 
  3. Savouring - this involves noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of life. Savouring encompasses different timeframes. If you enjoy anticipating future events then start planning early. If you enjoy reminiscing about the past then keep photos to remind you of past pleasures. However, if you enjoy experiencing the present then mindfulness is a good technique to keep your attention focused on the here and now.
If you would like more details about our coaching services for yourself or your organisation or you would like to book an initial coaching session with us, please contact your local first psychology centre:

Monday, 21 November 2011

New CPD course for counselling and psychotherapy practitioners

We are delighted to be working with The University of Edinburgh to deliver the course 'Cognitive-behavioural therapy: an introduction for counselling and psychotherapy practitioners'  next spring.

The course, which will be tutored by Chris Denmark, cognitive-behaviour therapist and couples counsellor at our Edinburgh centre, will offer participants the opportunity to explore current debates about the use of concepts and practices originating in cognitive behaviour therapy.

Sessions for this continuing professional development course will be delivered over a six week period from 20 April to 25 May 2012 at the Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh. For more details about this course, see page 13 of the prospectus at:!fileManager/client-copy-V11_web.pdf

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Dealing with workplace bullying

In honour of anti-bullying week this week from 14-18 November, we are focusing on a potentially common problem in every organisation - workplace bullying. Indeed, surveys by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggest between 3 and 14 million employees in the UK are subjected to bullying.

Bullying can occur face-to-face or remotely via email and other media and may take the form of abuse, physical or verbal violence, humiliation or simply trying to undermine someone’s confidence.

Employers have a ‘duty of care’ to their employees which includes dealing with bullying at work.

It can be difficult if you are being bullied, but here are a few steps you could take to help improve the situation.

  • Talk to your line manager as they have a responsibility to resolve the issue. If the bully is your manager, then speak to your union/workplace representative or someone in Human Resources as they can accompany you to meetings with your manager. Alternatively, you could contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
  • Talk to the bully as the bullying may not be deliberate and they may not realise their behaviour is affecting you. Let them know their behaviour is unacceptable. If you don’t want to talk to them yourself then you could always ask someone to do this on your behalf. 
  • Record everything in writing - keep a diary and write down details (e.g. times and dates) of every incidence that occurs and keep copies of emails, memos and letters as evidence. 
  • If you can’t resolve the matter informally then you must make a formal complaint and follow your employer’s grievance procedure. 
Remember do not allow the bully to make you feel ashamed or embarrassed. There is no excuse for bullying - you have the right to work in a safe and comfortable environment.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Dealing with 'debtpression'

With Christmas just around the corner and the chancellor due to announce his November budget in just a few weeks, many of us may be worrying about how we can afford all those parties, presents and festive trimmings,  particularly if our bank balance isn't looking too healthy.

Debt can make us feel depressed and when we are low in mood we are likely to spend money to make ourselves feel better which unfortunately leads us further into debt. So it seems there is a close link between debt and depression and this concept has been referred to as ‘debtpression’.

We've put together five tips on how to deal with debtpression.

  1. Understand your spending  You may think you spend money randomly but often your spending follows a pattern. Some people buy things to make themselves feel or look better. Identifying the triggers that make us want to spend money, by perhaps keeping a diary of thoughts, feelings and the situations, can help us feel more in control and better able to change our spending behaviour. If, for example, low mood triggers your spending you might want to avoid shops. 
  2. Identify your beliefs about money  Money is often linked to strong emotions and often debt can come from the unconscious beliefs we have about money. In order to change our spending habits we may need to examine our emotions and be more sensitive to our unconscious beliefs and assumptions about money. By placing a value on the money we earn we put a value on ourselves instead of thinking ‘it’s only money’. 
  3. Think positively about money  Some people believe they are no good with money and will always be in debt while others actually feel anxious about being wealthy. In order to free yourself from the hold of money, you must substitute your negative thoughts about money with positive statements and not feel afraid about attracting money. 
  4. It’s all in the words  Instead of using the word ‘debt’ to describe your situation, it is better to use phrases such as ‘working towards being financially free’ and set yourself goals with specific achievement dates. Sayings such as ‘cutting back’ and ‘going without’ do little but make you feel like you are depriving yourself of something rather than improving your future. 
  5. Create new spending habits  Habits can be hard to break. Many of our money habits have formed over years and are therefore not easy to replace with good ones. The best way to create a new habit is to link a desired new action with something you do regularly in your routine. For example, every time you check your email you could also check your bank statement online to track your spending. 
Feeling unable to spend can be a miserable experience, particularly at this time of year, but acknowledging when we are in debt and taking action to improve things is vital for making things better.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

FREE 'Stress Factor' event in Glasgow

Today is National Stress Awareness Day - a day aimed at raising awareness of stress and the impact it can have on our lives.

As an independent provider of counselling, psychology and coaching services we see many many people who are suffering the ill effects of stress in their lives. So what can we do about it?

We are running a FREE 'Stress Factor' event in Glasgow this autumn to help you manage stress and we will be giving away a free 'stress guide' to all attendees too.

For more details see

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Stress awareness is vital to improving health and wellbeing

Given the recent statistic that stress levels have doubled in the last four years (insurance company AXA), National Stress Awareness day on 2 November 2011, seems particularly pertinent. 

The aim of this day is to raise awareness of the stress in our lives so we can tackle it before it becomes a major problem and negatively impacts on our well-being.

Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or demands placed on them and it can come from many sources. However, not all stress is bad. Some stress can motivate us, prepare us to take action and alert us to danger. The problem comes when we remain in this heightened state of awareness continually for a long period of time. This can then lead to ill health in both body and mind.

Stress is difficult to measure in real terms, but one of the best ways to measure it is to consider its impact on our working lives.

According to a survey carried out this year by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, stress has become the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for both manual and non-manual employees. 

In 2009/2010, The Health and Safety Executive found that 9.8 million working days were lost due to work-related stress and health charity Mind recently estimated that £26 billion was lost by British businesses each year in sickness absence and lost productivity. They believe that with greater awareness and mental health support, one third of these costs could be saved, equating to £8 billion a year.

Evidently stress has a major impact on our work which in turn, has enormous implications for other parts of our lives. So it would seem that knowledge of stress management has become essential and more relevant today than ever. 

For resources on stress or to find out how to get involved in Stress Awareness day visit

Monday, 24 October 2011

How to get a better night's sleep

31 October - just one week away - is National Sleep-In Day. This is the day when the clocks go back and we get an extra hour in bed. The aim of National Sleep-In Day is to increase awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep on our well-being.

Not getting enough sleep or having poor quality sleep over a prolonged period of time has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, obesity and depression. A good night’s sleep has been found to make us more alert, bolster our memory and reduce stress.

A study has revealed the position yourself and your partner adopt while sleeping could affect the level of quality shuteye you get. Even more so in the winter months when we catch more coughs and colds which further worsens the statistic that already 50% of British men snore at night. Indeed, it would seem that 84% of couples attribute ‘bedroom rage’ with snoring.

So, what is the perfect sleeping position? According to sleep specialist, Dr Elizabeth Scott, it is best to sleep on your side with your head at a five-degree angle to the bed. If your spine is straight this should elevate your head around 15 centimetres from the mattress. She has also suggested trying not to sleep on your back as this can lead to increased snoring.

But how else can we improve our sleep? Read our five tips to an improved night's sleep below.

  1. Maintain a regular sleep and wake cycle even at weekends so that your circadian clock in the brain can help sleep onset at night. 
  2. Establish a calming ritual before bed such as reading a book, listening to some relaxing music or soaking in the tub. 
  3. Create an environment conducive to sleep which is dark, comfortable and not too warm. 
  4. Cut back on caffeine and nicotine (which are stimulants) and alcohol which can all disrupt sleep. Make sure you eat and exercise a few hours before bedtime as well. 
  5. Remove any distractions such as televisions and laptops from the bedroom. This space should be used for sleep or sex only and by doing this, it will strengthen the association between your bed and sleep.

Monday, 10 October 2011

World Mental Health Day - 5 tips to good mental health

Five points to better mental health below:

1. Balance is the key 
Doing too much of any one thing (e.g. work) can be unhealthy. It is important to have some leisure time because when a person does something they enjoy it balances their emotional and mental health. A balanced diet and regular exercise can help you keep fit. Taking time to relax (using formal techniques) and to pamper yourself (e.g. a massage or a warm bath) can also reduce stress.

2. A problem shared, is a problem halved 
We all lead busy lives, but it is important to take quality time out for family and friends. Being surrounded by those whom we can trust, gives us support when we need it and connecting with others improves our emotional intelligence, which is good in resolving conflicts.

3. Focus on the bigger picture 
We all lose perspective at times and let small annoyances in life drag us down, but we should try to push these aside so we can focus on what really matters. Take a moment and remove yourself from the stress, even just for a short time. However, if you feel overwhelmed by just how much needs to be done, do not focus on each task's deadline but take things one step at a time.

4. Be creative 
Taking a break from the old routine to challenge your creativity or be inspired, may not only teach you new skills and keep your brain active, but can also be a temporary diversion from your troubles and improve how you feel.

5. Be nice to yourself 
Writing down, and saying positive statements about yourself can lift your spirits and are proven to better your outlook on life and your behaviour. By doing this, it may help you limit negative thoughts, which can waste your time and drain your energy, and in turn, improve your mental health.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Next Monday is World Mental Health Day

As much as 12% of the world’s population is affected by mental illness and of the 12% one in every four people could benefit from some form of diagnosis and treatment.

Statistics like these highlight the very reason why World Mental Health Day was born in 1992 and continues to take place on 10 October each year. This event, which is supported by the United Nations through the World Health Organisation (WHO), aims to raise awareness of mental health issues around the globe by promoting open discussion about mental illness. It also seeks to encourage investment in prevention and treatment, particularly since resources offered in many mental health services around the world are severely lacking.

Over 100 countries participate in World Mental Health Day holding their own local, regional and national programme of activities and events which include lectures on mental health issues and the presentation of awards to individuals or organisations who have made significant contributions in the mental health arena.

One organisation in the UK which is actively involved in World Mental Health Day is The Mental Health Foundation. This year they are marking the day with a Tea and Talk Fundraising Event. They are hoping you will join them in putting your own kettle on and inviting your friends and family round to make a donation, as they realise the benefit that a cuppa and a good natter can have on your own mental health and wellbeing.

For more information or to find out how to organise your own Tea and Talk Event, visit

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Anti-depressants are like pain killers - they don't treat the cause

It is shocking to hear the latest statistics on the number of anti-depressants being prescribed in some parts of Scotland, (see 

The fact that around 1 in 10 adults take these medicines says a lot about the pressures of the world we live in, and the number of people struggling with low mood and anxiety (the two often go together).

Of course it is easy to leap into a polarised view, seeing anti-depressants as either a panacea for all problems or alternatively a way of avoiding the underlying difficulties we are grappling with. Neither perspective in its extreme is helpful. Anti-depressant medicines are a form of pain relief, and as such have to be used with care and thought. Like any form of pain relief, it is not always sensible to avoid addressing the underlying cause of what is hurting. Yet to ignore the fact that things can sometimes be too painful or difficult to address without anaesthetic, is equally unhelpful.

Sometimes, of course, things heal over time (often as the situations or circumstances that invoked our painful feelings change or we adapt and adjust). However often they don’t. Then a different approach is needed – one involving understanding the problem and finding ways to address it. This approach isn’t necessarily easy or pain-free. It involves talking, and working at it, with someone else who can help. However, if this has the outcome of resolving things once and for all, it may well be a choice that is worth making.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Coaching for career management package just launched

Did you know the average person spends 100,000 hours of their life at work and the job or career that suits you will depend very much on who you are and your strengths and weaknesses?

That's a lot of hours and some very good reasons to think about which job or career is right for you.

Whether you are already in a career and wish to improve your job satisfaction or are unemployed and looking for work, our qualified coach, Lindsey Burns can help with her new 'coaching for career management package'.

Lindsey is offering the package of five specially tailored coaching sessions for career management at our Glasgow and Edinburgh centres. It is priced at a very reasonable £299, which is a saving on the cost of five separate coaching sessions with Lindsey.

Special offer
Book and pay for the 'coaching for careers management package' before the end of October you will only have to pay £250, giving you an additional saving of £49 on the full package price. Quote BLOG220911 at time of booking.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Happiness - growing gardens

We've reached our final thought on happiness - growing gardens.

Some people love gardening, some people don't see the point, but gardening can bring a sense of happiness to those who persevere. 

There is a lot to learn about gardening - which plants are weeds, which plants are suited to your garden, which plants need wrapping up or moving inside over winter, the list goes on.

You can’t make gardens grow, but you can optimise the conditions in which plants can flourish. Although not all conditions are in your control (the weather for example!) you can pick the plants that are best suited to the conditions available. So by a judicious mix of planning, tending and patient waiting, you can cultivate a natural wonder but, most importantly, you can enjoy the process.

We hope you have enjoyed reading our thoughts on happiness. We will be posting a resource containing our thoughts on happiness on our Borders website very soon.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Happiness - making sense

Do you tell stories - about your past, present and future? How do you think about what has happened to you and how it all fits together? Do you have a faith or religion or spiritual perspective that helps you make sense of life?

Our happiness is affected not simply by external events but how we weave what happens into our life stories and understanding of ourselves. There is power and protection in a coherent and meaningful life story that includes suffering and trauma as well as positive experiences.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Happiness - practising peace

“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It is meditation.” (Haidt) 
Meditation and gaining inner peace really can help to reduce anxiety and increase happiness, but for some, often those who need it most, it can seem like hard work with a concept that is far removed from the realities of daily life.

For those embarking upon the journey of meditation, help is on hand. Courses on mindfulness, yoga classes, meditation retreats, manuals and inspirational literature are all readily available.

Start practising peace and your relationship with the world will change for the better.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Happiness - hopeful thinking

We often focus on the negative without even noticing: replaying what has gone wrong, predicting what will go wrong and paying attention to what is going wrong. Below is an exercise in thinking about what could possibly go right and it has been shown to promote happiness (Lyubomirsky).

Take 20 to 30 minutes to think about your best possible self. This means that you imagine yourself in the future after everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realisation of your life dreams and your own best potentials. Now describe in writing what you imagine. Repeat this at least four times.

To read more about Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky's work on happiness see

Listen to a happiness song based on Sonja Lyubormirsky's book 'The how of happiness' . See

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Happiness - maximising flow

“With climbing you have to get up at two or three in the morning and walk for a few hours in the cold until you get to the rock face. But once you get involved, it's a different world. You can keep it up for hours - with no sense of time passing.”
(Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, one of the pioneers of the Positive Psychology movement)

”I was already on pole, [...] and I just kept going. Suddenly I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my team mate with the same car. And suddenly I realised that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel.”
(Ayrton Senna, Grand Prix Driver)

Do these quotes ring any bells? Can you identify with the state they describe? If so you have experienced 'flow' otherwise known as being 'in the zone', 'on top of your game', 'on the ball', 'riding the wave' among many other phrases. These are moments when we are completely immersed in an activity to the extent that we are taken out of ourselves. The more, the better!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Happiness - working towards happiness

"Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing" (Shakespeare  Troilus and Cressida I.ii.287)

Much of our sense of identity and self-worth comes from what we do - from cooking lunch to being Prime Minister.

It can be easy, in our busy lives, to get caught up trying to get things done and as a result  we often don't notice or enjoy the journey. Remember to take pleasure in the journey as well as reaching the final destination.

And remember to come back tomorrow for thought 6.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Happiness - nurturing love, loving nurture

"All you need is love" (the Beatles)

You only have to do an internet search for happiness and love to discover they are the bread and butter of song lyrics. From the Beatles to Lady GaGa, love is the stuff good songs are made of.

That's probably because love and happiness are so important to us all on a daily basis.

Love is the key not only to happiness right now in our relationships, but also in building our children's capacity for love and happiness as they develop.

If we want more love and happiness, we have to make time for those we love in our lives, despite being busy and tired.

Love needs time to flourish and it needs to be nurtured if it is to grow.

Come back tomorrow for happiness thought 5.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Happiness - giving and taking

When did you last help someone else?

How often do you go out of your way to say thank you?

What is the kindest thing you have done this week?

Helping others, expressing gratitude and practising kindness regularly, but in a felt and meaningful way, all increase our own (and others') happiness.

See for more on this subject.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Happiness - give us a smile

You may not feel happy, but smiling (even false) can actually increase your feelings of wellbeing. Yes it's true, acting happy can actually make you feel happier, more positive and more resilient in yourself. Not only that, but other people respond to happiness by smiling back, which in turn increases feeling of happiness.

So how does this work? Psychologists have long believed feedback from facial expressions to the brain can actually change our emotions. Using botox, which effectively freezes muscles, has given scientists Joshua Davis and Ann Senghas at Barnard College in New York the opportunity to test this theory.

The research involved giving either botox injections or Restylane injections to participants and then showing them video clips. Those who'd been given botox injections showed less strong emotions than those who were injected with the filler Restylane, which does not inhibit muscle movement. For more about this research see

So it does seem the simple act of smiling really can make you feel happier!

Come back tomorrow for happiness thought 3.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Happiness - the rules

Those of you in the Borders, may know that we recently held a free launch event about happiness and how to become happier. Those who were lucky enough to secure a place at that event will know the rules to happiness, but for anyone else, here are our ten thoughts on happiness.

It may surprise you to know that happiness is not a fixed entity, but can be affected by how we perceive ourselves and our lives. This can be demonstrated by looking at the bold text below.


What did you read?


This exercise was devised by Robert Holden to illustrate how the way you choose to look at life affects what you see in it. Seeing the positive in everything really can make you happier.

Come back tomorrow for happiness thought 2.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Borders launch event on happiness - book your free place

We all strive for happiness in our busy lives. Some claim to have found the secret to being happy, while others enjoy glimpses of happiness.

Greater happiness has been linked to improved health and wellbeing, but is there really an easy way to become more happy?

To launch our recently opened Borders centre, we will be holding a FREE event from 6.30-8.30pm on Thursday 19 May on the topic of happiness.

The event will consist of a talk about 'happiness', which will look at the ten principles research has shown can improve wellbeing and contentment, followed by an opportunity to discuss what happiness means and how we can apply the principles to our lives on a daily basis.

This is great way to find out more about being happy while also meeting our Borders practitioners. They are looking forward to meeting you and to answering any questions you may have about our counselling, CBT, couples / relationship counselling and coaching services at our new Borders centre.

Come and join us for a great evening and a glass of wine. 

To find out more and to reserve your free place call us on 01896-600-400 or email You can also visit our website at

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Scots hard man image and its impact on domestic violence

Ewan Gillon is to give a talk on the Scots hard man image and its contribution to domestic violence at a Domestic Abuse Conference tomorrow. The conference is being run by the Scottish Police Violence Reduction Unit.

For an article about the lecture see:

Monday, 21 March 2011

Take action this spring to live the life you want

Ewan Gillon was recently interviewed for an article about decluttering your world and living life to the full.

In the article Ewan says spring is an ideal time to make small changes which can make a huge difference, so what better time to get started.

To read the full article and get hints and tips on spring cleaning your life see

Monday, 14 March 2011

Making friends as we get older

Professor Ewan Gillon, Director of First Psychology Scotland discussed the topic of friendship on BBC Radio Scotland today (see  On this morning's Fred MacAulay show he talked about the challenges of making friends when we get older or move to a new city.

Making friends gets harder as we get older. Friendships develop over time, with repeated contact allowing for shared experiences and increasing intimacy. When we see people a lot and spend time with them we are more likely to become friends with them. This can become harder to manage when people have partners, families and busy jobs.

Research shows we tend to make friends with people who support what psychologists term as our 'social identity' (how we see ourselves in the world). People we befriend often share our values, interests, sense of humour, etc.

To make friends when you are a bit older, it is important to bear these facts in mind and use your time carefully. Focus on activities/hobbies that are social and require lots of interaction (like team sport or language classes) and ensure you meet up with the same people on a regular basis. This experience of a shared activity/interest, repeated contact and sharing of an an experience will maximise your chances of meeting people you get on with. As time goes by these interactions can grow into friendships.

It is important to be realistic though. Friendships from childhood and college days are based around lots of contact, time, close emotional bonds from shared transitions, challenges and experiences. New adult friendships will invariably feel lighter and less meaningful than these.

Give friendships time to grow and they will reward you in the end.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Eating disorders awareness week

This week (21- 28 February) is eating disorders awareness week. To raise awareness of eating issues this week, Beat, a UK charity that helps people with eating disorders and their families, is campaigning and organising events throughout the UK.

To find out more about Beat's work and this week's events visit

For more about eating issues including Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa visit

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Valentine's Day - overcoming social anxiety and shyness

It cannot have escaped your attention that Valentine's Day (14 February) is looming ever closer!

Valentine's day is when we traditionally exchange cards, gifts and romantic gestures with our intimate companions to tell them how we feel about them. For this reason, at this time of year, the shops are awash with hearts, flowers and chocolates. For more about Valentine's Day and the history and traditions surrounding it visit's_Day

Some people, of course, will not have an intimate companion, or may choose not to take part in Valentine's Day this year for their own reasons. Others, however, may lack the confidence,  dread meeting people, or feel socially anxious. It is not unusual to feel anxious when meeting new people, but when the levels of anxiety make meeting an intimate companion difficult, extreme shyness or social anxiety may be the cause.

If this sounds like you, you will be pleased to hear there are things you can do to make things better. To find out more about shyness and social anxiety and what you can do to improve things visit

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Chinese New Year - a clean sweep!

Tomorrow, 3 February,  is Chinese New Year the most important event in the Chinese calendar. The incoming year is the year of the rabbit.

Each year Chinese families will prepare for the coming of the new year. People will spend their money buying presents, decorations, food and new clothes. Traditionally, families will also clean their houses to clear away bad fortune and make way for good luck - happiness, wealth and a long life.

Chinese New Year is considered to be a spring event and the concept of brushing away the cobwebs of the old has much in common with the UK tradition of spring cleaning.

While this tradition of spring cleaning focuses on our homes, there is much we can do to spring clean our lives in more general ways. To read our article with tips for spring cleaning your life, visit

Friday, 21 January 2011

Men, therapy and mental well-being

Dr Ewan Gillon gave a talk on men's mental health and wellbeing at a Men's Health Forum conference earlier this week. For more about the Men's Health Forum see

Men are often taught to keep things to themselves - to be 'big and strong' and not to admit any weaknesses. When it comes to health, it can take a lot for a man to seek help.

Therapy can appear very daunting to men - over the years it has been associated with women, but men need help just as much as women.

Many men just don't ask for help when they need it - they try and cope with things themselves. So it is vital when men do take that leap of faith and come for help, that they are treated in a way that doesn't put them off.

Everyone is different, of course, and we can't speak for everyone, but we have found many of the men who seek help at our centres feel re-assured by the availability of male therapists.

We have also found that goal-oriented therapy, such as Cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT), can work very well, although it is also important to address and work on difficult feelings that a man may be experiencing, such as low mood, anxiety, anger, etc.

For more about what we can offer male clients at our centres, see for Edinburgh, for Glasgow, or for Borders

Monday, 17 January 2011

Five tips to a healthy relationship

It's common knowledge that relationship problems can reach an all time high in January.

This is often attributed to the intensity of the holiday period making people feel they've had enough, but also because January is the traditional time for taking action to make things better for the rest of the year!

So here are five tips to a more healthy relationship.
  1. Make time each day to talk - communication is the key to a healthy relationship. 
  2. Be realistic about what you expect of each other - try to put yourself in your partners shoes.
  3. Be yourself, but that doesn't mean being stubborn and only doing things your own way. Try to be flexible and compromise with your partner too.
  4. Share your feelings with your partner on a regular basis and talk about the things you love about him/her.
  5. Keep a balanced life - make room for yourself and your interests as well as room for each other. Everyone needs time and space to grow!
If you think you need help to save your relationship,  a relationship counsellor or couples counsellor might be able to help. To read a case study about how this type of counselling helped Joanne and Paul with their relationship difficulties see

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Learning to set realistic goals

Yesterday an article was published by The Herald newspaper about ways to boost mental well-being. See for the full article.

One of the key suggestions was to set realistic goals for yourself so you don't get downhearted when you feel you have failed to achieve your targets.

Although goal setting is something people focus on at New Year, it is equally relevant to everything we do at all times of the year. Because of this, the skill of setting realistic goals is of great benefit to us in our home and working lives and can help us achieve greater work/life balance too.

So how do we set realistic goals?

Often when setting goals it helps to split a larger goal into individual tasks - that way there is a strong sense of progress and it avoids seeing the exact same thing on your list for weeks (or longer) on end, which can be demoralising.

A simplified example of the goals involved in organising a party might look something like this:

  1. Look into event venues suitable for a party
  2. Phone up/email favourite venues: ask about catering, music, number of guests, available dates and times
  3. Decide on venue and book date
  4. Put together a  guest list in consultation with interested parties
  5. Write out/design invitations and deliver
  6. Chase up invitees to get final numbers

Rather than:

  1. Organise party!

Despite being for the same task, the latter example wouldn't change throughout the process, whereas the former example shows the task broken into bite sized chunks. Splitting larger tasks like this means each mini task can be ticked off as it is done, leading to a sense of achievement.

This technique translates very well into much larger tasks too and even delegated tasks involving others and helps if you are prone to procrastination too! Give it a try!