Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A guide to stronger relationships

Relationships inevitably have their ups and downs. If your relationship felt the strain over the festive period and things are still a little frosty, here are some tips that could help put your relationship back on track.

  • Relationships take work – successful relationships don’t just happen on their own and require both parties to take a risk and share their thoughts, ideas and feelings.
  • You cannot change your partner – if you are hoping in time your partner's behaviour will change then think again. All you can do is inform your partner of your needs. 
  • Arguments hide your own fear or pain – when you get upset it might not be for the reason you think. You should work out what's going before you go laying the blame at your partner's door. 
  • Men and women are different – by acknowledging these differences and revelling in them you can live together in a more fun and harmonious fashion. 
  • Honour your partner every day – respect and cherish your partner to show your commitment to them each day. 
  • Anger is destructive – it makes you inward looking and you won’t be able to see the good in anyone or anything. If you feel annoyed then it is best to take some time to cool down before discussing your problem with your partner. 
  • Be best friends – it may seem unromantic but this can be the best part of enjoying time together. 
  • No-one else can make you happy – you have to take responsibility for your own happiness. If you think your partner is making you unhappy then examine your own life and try to work out what is missing. 
  • Give and you shall receive – e.g. if you'd like your partner to be more loving then try being more loving yourself. 
Relationships can be hard and there are no guarantees, but by being proactive you have a greater chance of making it work.

If you need to speak to a trained professional about your relationship problems, please contact your local centre:

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk 
Aberdeen: 0845-872-1780, www.aberdeenpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk

Friday, 27 January 2012

The new year brings a new marital status for some

January is usually a cold month, and it seems it is a chilly time for marriages too. It is reportedly the most popular time of year to file for divorce - so much so that in legal circles it has been nicknamed 'divorce month'.

According to statistics published by eDivorcePapers.com, January does indeed have the most legal breakups. Some people even go as far as to specify ‘divorce day’ claiming the first Monday after children go back to school -  or the start of the first full working week - is the most popular.

However although January is when people take the plunge, it seems people start gathering information much earlier. Meyer, who founded DivorcedWomenOnline.com, reports an increase in the number of page views of the website on Boxing Day.

But why is January such a popular month to instigate divorce?

  • At the end of each year it is common to look back and reflect on the year gone by. By doing so, people who are not happy in their relationship may assess their situation and make a resolution to change it come the New Year.
  • The holidays are an emotionally charged time of year and for a spouse, who is already feeling unhappy or angry, this may push them to breaking point. 
  • Couples who have children and who are struggling with their marriages before Christmas often hold off until January because they want to give the kids one last happy Christmas together before they go their own way. 
If things are not going well in your relationship and you would like to talk to someone, then please contact one of our experienced couples counsellors at your local First Psychology centre below: 

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Does national pride impact on our wellbeing?

Burns Night could be described as the second national day in Scotland particularly as it is more widely celebrated than the official day itself, St Andrew’s day. In honour of this occasion, we are going to consider national pride and the effect it has on our well-being.

Indeed, it has been shown that feeling good about our country also makes us feel good about our own lives. However, a political scientist at American University and a sociologist from Catholic University in Belgium have gone further to consider different types of pride.

They define two types of national pride. ‘Ethnic’ nationalism which describes ancestry and the boundaries of society in terms of race or religion and ‘civic’ nationalism which only requires respect for a country’s laws and institutions. The latter, therefore, is more inclusive incorporating immigrants as well as minorities.

The researchers analysed responses from 40,677 individuals in 31 different countries, assessing subjective well-being and national pride and controlling for such factors as gender, work status, urban or rural residence, and the country’s per capita GDP.

Like others before them, they discovered that more national pride correlated with greater personal well-being but found that, on the whole, civic nationalists were happier than even the proudest ethnic nationalists.

These findings could have massive implications economically, socially and politically. It might mean that ethnic nationalists, who are already relatively less happy to begin with, will grow more discontent as immigration increases and their nation diversifies around them which could cause political unrest.

Some argue that national identity is needed for social cohesion and there’s no denying it does have a positive impact on our well-being, but perhaps what is more important is how people define their national pride. Interestingly, it seems that pride and respect for the country in which you live regardless of your nationality is more beneficial to your well-being than national pride based solely on race or religion alone.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Be grateful for the most depressing day of the year

We know that this time of of year can be depressing - low levels of light, cold weather, less money than usual after Christmas...

Instead of focusing on this low mood however, an alternative approach taken from positive psychology is to focus on gratitude. This concept has long been embraced by religions and philosophies who view gratitude as a manifestation of virtue, and an important part of health and well-being.

More recently psychology has realised the potential of gratitude. Indeed, Michael McCullough a psychology professor at the University of Miami believes when you stop and count your blessings, you hijack your emotional system. In other words, you direct your attention to good things.

Practising gratitude on a regular basis can change the way our brain neurons fire into more positive automatic patterns. These positive emotions can ease distress and broaden our thinking. Gratitude can help us feel connected and remind us that we are part of something bigger.

Here are some quotes about gratitude to help you to think about gratitude in your own life:

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom"  Marcel Proust.

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures" Thornton Wilder

"As we express of gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them"  John F Kennedy

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has a cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us" Albert Schweitzer

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has" Epictetus

What do you have to be grateful for? Write down at least one thing each day (no matter how small) and feel your mood lift as the days go by.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Smokers who quit are happier and more satisfied with their health

You may now be into your third week of abstaining from cigarettes and doing really well. However, for those of you who are struggling to stick to that New Year’s resolution to give up, there is some encouraging news. According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, successful quitters are more satisfied with their lives and feel healthier - both one year and three years afterwards - than those who continue to smoke.

There is a wealth of information on how giving up smoking can save lives and improve health, but not so much on how quitting can affect your quality of life. Indeed, smokers often believe stopping smoking will reduce their quality of life in terms of disrupting their routine, effecting relationships, interfering with their ability to cope and losing the pleasure they derive from smoking itself.

In this study, 1,504 smokers taking part in a smoking cessation trial were assessed on their overall quality of life which included measures of health, self-regard, philosophy of life, standard of living, work recreation, learning, creativity, relationships (both romantic and with children and relatives), friendships, home and community. 

Researchers found successful, long-term quitters experienced noticeable improvements in these aspects, particularly compared with those who continued to smoke. Quitters scored higher on measures of overall quality of life, health-related quality of life and positive emotions after both one, and three years and also believed they had fewer stressors by the third year.

It would seem resisting those cigarettes does not only have positive benefits for our physical health, but also our overall well-being - a fact we hope will help motivate those who are trying to quit!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Beat those January blues

Christmas and New Year are done and dusted and you’re back to your normal routine. There are no more parties to look forward to, loved ones visiting, or gifts to receive and what’s more, you’ve got to wait another year for it to come around again. It’s no wonder you feel down.

This sadness or ‘glass half empty feeling’ might be due to the end of the holiday season, but it could also be that the environment is affecting your mood. At this time of year, days are longer and lack of sunshine can lead some people to feel depressed. This phenomenon is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), because people who suffer from it only experience symptoms at a particular time of year. It affects people in different ways - from difficulty waking in the morning, to oversleeping and over-eating, especially carbohydrates, which leads to weight gain. Other symptoms include a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks, and withdrawal from loved ones and social activities - all of which lead to depression and feelings of pessimism.

So how can you treat Seasonal Affective Disorder? Structure and routine are important and can help you better fight the winter blues. Therefore, whether you feel like it or not, you must make yourself do those things you don’t want to, such as going to the gym.

Another way to combat these feelings is to make your environment brighter. This might involve formal treatment such as light therapy with bright lights or sunlight. By opening blinds, trimming trees that block out sunlight, taking long walks and simply being outside more you can make yourself feel better even when it’s cloudy.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can also be helped using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. If you would like more information, or to book an initial session with one of our experienced practitioners then please contact your local First Psychology centre at the details below: 

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

How to keep your New Year’s resolutions - part 3

Following on from our last blog on how to stick your New Year’s resolutions, here are five more tips on how to achieve your goals.

6. Change is a process Many of our bad habits have developed over months and years, so understandably it might take just as long to change them. Although it might take a while to achieve your goals, the important thing is, not how long it takes, but, that your behaviour changes in the long run.

7. Don't be put off If you revert back to an old habit, don’t view this as a setback, but rather a learning opportunity. There are always going to be challenges along the way, but it is how you deal with these that matters. You might want to keep a resolution journal to write down important information such as when the relapse occurred and what might have triggered it. By understanding these challenges, you will be better able to cope with them in the future.

8. Get support from loved ones Explain your resolution to loved ones or even join a group of likeminded people that share your goal - they may be able to help you achieve your objective. Having support from others can help you stay motivated.

9. Remind yourself of your motivation For the first few days of January, you may feel energised and motivated to accomplish your New Year's resolution. However, as time goes on and the temptation to skip your gym session or have another cigarette increase, your motivation may start to diminish. At this point you need to remind yourself of why you are trying to change and what you hope to gain by achieving your goal.

10. Don’t give up It is important to keep working on your goals despite setbacks and waining motivation. You may need to modify your current strategy if you feel it is not working and develop a new plan. It might be worth keeping a resolution journal to write about your successes and struggles. Write down the reasons for your goal and use this to motivate and inspire you when times are tough. By working on your goal throughout the year, you can be one of few to say tyou kept your New Year's resolution.

If there is a change you would like to make to your life and this is something we can help with, then please contact us at your local First Psychology centre:

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk

Friday, 6 January 2012

How to keep your New Year’s resolutions - part 2

The new year is a great time to focus on what we would like to change in our lives to better ourselves physically, intellectually, socially, emotionally and psychologically. However, as we have already mentioned in our last blog post, sometimes it is difficult to stick to these resolutions. Here are some tips on how to increase your chances of achieving your goals.

1. Be specific and realistic In setting your goals be as specific as you can. Instead of saying you want to lose weight, state how much weight you want to lose and be realistic about what you can achieve. For example, ten pounds not five stone. By being concrete about your goal, you can plan exactly what you need to do to achieve it over the coming year.

2. One resolution only You might have a whole list of things you would like to change, but if you focus on all of them at once you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin. Instead, just pick one goal and focus your energy on that.

3. Don't leave it until the last minute It is best not to wait until New Year’s Eve to think about your resolution as planning is the key to achieving any goal. If you spend time writing down your goal, thinking about how you might achieve it and considering the obstacles you may encounter then this should help you tackle any goal.

4. One small step at a time It is easy to get overwhelmed with New Year’s resolutions and taking on too much is often the reason why we fail. Dramatically trying to change old habits such as smoking twenty a day to none at all is a guaranteed way to destroy your plans. The key is to take small steps that will ultimately help you achieve your goal. If you are trying to give up smoking, start by reducing the amount of cigarettes you smoke rather than stopping altogether. While this process may seem laborious, these small changes will make it easier for you to stick to your new habits in the long run.

5. Make new resolutions It’s best not to make the same resolution year after year because if you’ve already tried and failed, your belief in your ability to achieve this goal is likely to be low. If you must choose the same resolution then consider what worked last time and what prevented you from achieving this goal in the past. Unless you modify your approach, you are likely to see the same results as last year.

Look out for our next blog for more tips on how to accomplish your resolutions for the New Year.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Why we make New Year’s resolutions?

On 1 January many of us pledge, with enthusiasm and determination, that we are going to quit smoking or lose weight, yet by February most of us have discarded these goals altogether. Four out of ten people make New Year’s resolutions but with such a low success rate, why do we continue to make them every year?

Perhaps it’s because the new year marks a new beginning. In our minds, it initiates a change, offers us a fresh start and the possibility to wipe the slate clean. We think back over the past year and consider what we could have done better and this feeds our desire to change.

You might think New Year is like any other day of the year, but this fixed date in the calendar allows us to prepare, and make plans for change.

Another reason for resolutions might simply be tradition. It is understood that Julius Caesar started the tradition to honour the Roman mythical God Janus, who had two faces – one to look back into the past and one to look to the new year. The Babylonians however believed whatever a person did on the first day of the year had an effect all year long.

The mere fact that people keep making resolutions, regardless of whether they are achieved or not, shows hope and a certain belief in their ability to be able to change. Indeed, one study showed that 46% of people who made resolutions were successful compared to 4% who had a goal but did not set a resolution, which suggests that making resolutions can get you closer to your goals.

If you would like to make a change and you feel you need some help to do this then please contact your local First Psychology centre:

Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
Glasgow: 0141-404-5411, www.glasgowpsychology.co.uk
Borders: 01896-800-400, www.borderspsychology.co.uk