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,