Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy families

Growing up in a relaxed and happy environment can reduce anxiety levels in children. However, perhaps family life is not as perfect as we’d like it to be. Psychologists have long argued that our relationships with family members have an enormous impact on our well-being. It is therefore crucial to put both time and effort into them in order to make them as strong as they can be. Here are some tips to help create happy families.

  • Fun. Have fun together. It can be easy to dismiss activities as 'something for the kids' while you just sit and watch, but having fun and laughing together is a crucial bonding experience. Get involved with the kids and don’t be afraid to be silly. 
  • Allow free communication. This does not include talking about mundane daily topics, but discussing real issues that matter to your family. If you provide an open environment where your children are encouraged to communicate freely about their opinions and lives, they will be more likely to come to you if they have any problems. 
  • Partner. Don’t be afraid to put your partner first. Arrange a babysitter and spend time with your partner. A loving relationship is the backbone of a family and teaches your children crucial lessons about relationships. 
  • Individuals. Each member of your family is an individual but because we spend so much time around them we can easily 'habituate', this means we stop noticing their individual qualities. Take a step back and appreciate your family member’s unique abilities and personality, this will help you to value you them more. 
  • Love and respect one another. In school, children are taught to respect others, but this message is often ignored at home. If your children see you and your partner respecting one another, this will set an example and they will be more likely to respect their siblings and others. 
  • Interact with each family member. If you have more than one child, spend time with each child individually each day. This will make the child feel special and strengthen bonds between you. 
  • Eat together. Humans have turned the basic need for food into an important time to socialise so turn off the TV and use this time to connect with one another. 
  • Spend time together. As your children grow older and become more independent, it can be difficult to set aside time together as a family. Schedule time and plan activities that you can all enjoy.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Conquering the weight loss demons

It’s almost been three months since we set our New Years resolutions and many of us may have already slipped. One resolution that is particularly hard to keep is weight loss - especially with all the tempting Easter eggs filling the shelves! However, don’t give up, it is not too late to lose weight. Here are our top tips to conquer your weight demons and accomplish your goals:

  • Many of us eat because we have a deep emotional attachment to food. If you're feeling stressed or sad don’t be tempted to grab the ice cream, instead go for a walk or call a friend. 
  • Studies have shown that couples tend to have similar BMIs and eating habits. This does mean that losing weight as a couple is much more effective than going it alone so encourage your partner to join you. However, be careful not to force or guilt them into it because this will only lead to resentment. 
  • Keeping a food diary helps you realise how much you actually eat. You’ll be surprised how the little snacks add up. 
  • It has been shown that people eat more when they aren’t concentrating on their food. Stay away from the television and you’ll pay more attention to your body’s natural satiety signals. 
  • Don’t be too rigid with your diet. There’s no point in losing weight and being miserable, so if you feel like chocolate have one square! They key is moderation and you’ll be less likely to completely fall off the wagon. 
  • Don’t make exercise a chore. Make it fun by going for a jog with a friend or do a salsa class. 
  • Don’t be critical of your own body. Look at yourself in the mirror every day and point out something you like. This will help you become happier with yourself. 
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others. There are some people who can just eat more than others without piling on the pounds. Making comparisons will just make you feel bad. 
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has proven to help with weight loss. Together, you and the therapist can get to the root cause of your eating habits and identify and modify your thinking habits. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

After the affair

Infidelity is when a partner breaks the expectations of exclusivity upheld by the relationship. However, what constitutes 'cheating' varies between cultures and types of relationships and is not necessarily physical. Figures suggest that roughly 30-40% of those in a marriage or a long-term relationship break these expectations at some point, and so is a something many of us will deal with.

Immediately after the affair you are likely to feel hurt, angry and betrayed. It may seem like you'll never get past it, and many may not want to try. However, if you want to continue with the relationship here are some tips that may help get you through.

  • Be prepared! Deciding to stay with your partner is only the first step. Make sure you are both prepared to work hard and fight for the relationship. 
  • Take some time off or get away for a few days. This time and space can give you clarity to figure out what you truly want. 
  • Understand the cause of the affair. Although, there is no excuse for such betrayal, most affairs do have underlying causes such as lack of communication, boredom or lack of intimacy. Understanding what led to the affair can provide a helpful insight into your relationship and where it went wrong. 
  • Do not blame yourself. 
  • Express your anger in positive ways. Seeking revenge on your partner or the person they cheated with is not going to help. Choose healthier ways to express your anger such as exercise. Not only will something like kickboxing help you through your aggression but it will also give your self-esteem a much needed boost. 
  • Spend time together. Use the affair as a wake up call that marriage is a challenge and unless you both work at it, it will fall apart. 
  • Be transparent. The unfaithful partner must be prepared to be transparent about their whereabouts and actions for a while while you rebuild your trust. 
  • Try to put the past behind you. If you have chosen to forgive your partner, then you have to forgive them. Don’t hold it over their head or keep bringing it up during arguments. If you want to move past it, you have to put it behind you. 
  • Seek the help of a relationship counsellor. They are trained to spot problems that may have led to an affair and to help you move past them. 
Surviving an affair is not going to be easy or quick. Following these tips and devoting the time and work required will give your relationship the best chance possible and you may even emerge as a stronger couple.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Quit smoking for the last time!

Friday 13th March is approaching and as well as the usual superstitions, it is also 'No Smoking Day'  - a fantastic opportunity to finally kick the habit once and for all! 

Overall, tobacco smoking is estimated to be responsible for more than a quarter of cancer related deaths in the UK, that’s over 100, 000 deaths a year. Furthermore, the average smoker will spend more than £2700 a year on cigarettes. The dangers and costs of smoking are well publicised, but despite the facts, it can still be a huge struggle to quit. However, other people have successfully quit before you - follow these tips to get one step closer to completing the challenge.

  • Don’t keep putting it off. Plan to quit on the 13th March and do it! 
  • Studies have shown combining medicine with social support is the most successful method for quitting. So, get prepared before the big day. Talk to your pharmacist or GP about possible nicotine replacement therapies and let your friends and family know you're quitting so they can support you through it. 
  • If you're highly dependent on cigarettes, (e.g. smoke more than 30 a day and need one as soon as you wake up), you will need nicotine replacement therapies such strong patches, gum, or nasal spray. 
  • If you are moderately dependent, medium strength patches or gum should help. Perhaps you could try electronic cigarettes to help with the habitual aspects of smoking, such as having one with a coffee, etc. 
  • If you believe you're only slightly addicted to smoking, do not underestimate the challenge. You may be able to quit through willpower alone but nicotine patches/ gum can make it easier. 
  • Everyone has their own personal reasons for quitting, but make sure you want it. If you are trying to quit simply because you feel you should, you will be unlikely to succeed, and it may deter you from future quitting attempts. 
  • Write it down. Putting your goals on paper has been proven to increase success, you could even hang a 'days since last cigarette' poster in the house to remind you of your achievement. 
  • Have a plan for how you're going to deal with tempting situations such as going to the pub or a stressful day at work. Exercise is a better way to handle stress but it may be necessary to avoid going to the pub with smoking friends for the first few days. 
  • If you're worried about weight gain, stock your cupboards with tasty and healthy snacks. Smoking clogs your taste buds, so when you quit it is tempting to eat more and it gives your hands something to do. However, once you have quit you will be amazed how much more active you are able to be so the extra couple of pounds you may have gained can quickly be lost. 
  • The most crucial component to quitting is believing in yourself. Choose a role model that has quit and keep remembering that if they can do it, you can do it too. 
  • There are dozens of online resources to help you quit. Joining chat forums to talk to others who are going through the same process can give you that much needed support. 

If you want to know more about 'No Smoking Day' or for extra tips on quitting visit:

Friday, 1 March 2013

Self-injury awareness day

Today is 'self-injury awareness day' which aims to bring attention to the issue of self-harm. Tackling the issue today could be the first step in stopping someone, or yourself, self-harming for good.

Self-harming is when somebody deliberately hurts themselves (through cutting, bruising, burning or other methods) in order to help deal with any emotional pain they might be experiencing. We often associate it with teenage girls, but it occurs in men and women of all ages and the UK has the one of the highest self-harm rates in Europe. For many, it is a way to release emotions when they are feeling numb and can be an immense relief, but the behaviour can quickly become addictive and in the long term causes a great deal of psychological trauma.

Many people wrongly believe those who self-harm are trying to get attention, but in fact most people desperately try to hide their behaviour. However there are crucial signs to look out for if you suspect a loved one may be self-harming, although just because somebody exhibits the signs it does not necessarily mean they self-harm.

  • Frequent unexplained wounds or scars. May attempt to explain them by claiming they are clumsy or that 'the cat did it'. 
  • Covering up. Changes in clothes such as suddenly wearing long sleeves or wristbands and refusing to remove them, even in hot weather. 
  • Signs of depression such as low mood, lack of interest and low self-esteem. 
  • May need to be alone for long periods of time. 
  • You may also find objects such as razors or of knifes amongst their belongings. 
Discovering a loved one self-harms can be traumatic, but it does not mean they are suicidal. You may feel helpless, but there are steps you can take to aid their recovery.

  • Talk calmly to them and listen to their troubles. This can provide an alternative outlet to release their pain 
  • Make sure they realise you are there to listen and are not going to judge them. 
  • Try and learn about the problem and what triggers it so you know when to be ready with support. 
  • Be careful not to give them ultimatums to try and stop their behaviour. Threats or punishments will just drive them further away. 
  • Communication is key but if they are unwilling to talk to you, ask them to write a letter, keep a diary or speak to an experienced counsellor. 
Self-harming is treatable given time and patience and thankfully there is support out there. For more information about self-awareness day, and for more information and support visit