Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Being happy by yourself

Winter is well and truly here… It’s the time of year when the nights get darker and we all – introvert and extraverts alike - tend to lock ourselves away much earlier than we would during the summer months. Spending time by ourselves is something many of us will need to be more comfortable with over the winter, so we’ve developed some top tips to help you embrace the solitude and be your own BFF!

Learn how to talk to yourself – and listen

It doesn’t have to be out loud, it’s about getting used to the voices in your head. In the absence of other people and their opinions, we have only our inner voice. We should listen to it, more. It is only by searching within ourselves that we can truly establish what we want and need. Yours is the only advice you need follow. The key is to keep it positive. Everyone has their inner demons, it’s time to nurture positivity and negate your own negative vibes. You count, your opinion matters. You are enough.

Celebrate your solitude

Place value on the time you spend by yourself. Plan out how you will spend the time, just as you would when spending it with others. Rather than see the evening as sprawling out before you, chunk out the time into activities – have a bath, read a book, get creative. If you ever feel bored or lonely, pay more attention to your surroundings. Practice mindfulness and gratitude and cherish the time you have alone.

Change your surroundings

Over the winter there’s a tendency to hibernate – this can quickly fall into stagnation as when we’re alone, it’s easy to fall into routines and patterns. The truth is, when you’re by yourself things will never change unless you instigate it! Why not use the dark nights as the time to breathe new life into your indoor space. We’re not talking decorating and new furnishings, just the simple act of moving your existing furniture around will be enough to spark a new interest in your surroundings and make your time alone feel fresh and exciting.

Avoid mindless consumption

Can you hear that? Silence… In a world that never switches off, alone-time is a gift you’ve been given to switch off and take in the peace and quiet. Now, silence isn’t for everyone - some people simply can’t bear a life without background noise, but time alone is a valuable opportunity to think and reflect and it would be time wasted if we didn’t take advantage of this – at least some of the time. TV, radio and technology are distractions from the important questions we should all address from time to time – are you happy? Are you satisfied? Is your life on the right track / do certain elements need to change? These searching questions can only be truly tackled in the quiet – not an environment filled with noise.

Plan for the future

Do you have a plan for the future? Do you know which path you’d like to follow and have any idea how you will get there? The purpose for your life needn’t be big or grand. It just needs to be acknowledged. The only person who can decide if you’re heading in the right direction, is you! Alone time helps you focus and there’s no better time for you to make plans. Be brave and go beyond dreaming – write your plans down, give them legs, make them real. And then set out a timescale within which you will achieve them.

Time spent alone can be beautiful – and it’s certainly something to cherish. This is the time to build confidence in the fact that you are responsible for your own happiness and that you have everything at your disposal to live your life, your way. Relationships with others are valuable – but the one you have with yourself should always come first.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Psychological First Aid: be prepared

Every year on the 10th October, the World Health Organisation asks us all to turn our attention to mental health - to learn more about it and the ways we can support those who are suffering.

Mental health is a term used to describe a person’s psychological and emotional well-being. It impacts how we think and feel, as well as the way we interact and engage with those around us.

There are many reasons why a person’s mental health may become imbalanced and many factors that contribute to mental health problems, including biological factors, life experiences and even family history. Mental health problems are more common than we think and that’s why World Mental Health Day is so important – to raise awareness and make sure people know where to get support.

This year’s World Mental Health Day centres on the topic of psychological first aid. It’s a complex area, designed to support people who have experienced a tragedy or trauma. On a global scale, this is about assisting children and adults following a disaster or terrorism. But closer to home, there are things we can all do to help our friends, neighbours and colleagues when terrible things happen, be it a sudden death of a loved one or the loss of a job or home, for example.

Often the terms emergency or disaster are used to describe disruptive and destructive events that cause loss of life, property and livelihoods. When this happens, people often lose confidence in the networks that are there to protect them. By learning the basic principles of psychological first aid, we can all be better prepared and able to support people in distress.

The concept of first aid is based on the fact that any of us may need to step in to assist when someone needs it. It’s a massive responsibility and can have a profound impact on those needing help.

The main aims of psychological first aid are to help people:

  • feel less distressed
  • understand the situation and its context
  • identify their own abilities to cope

Psychological first aid is delivered by trained professionals and we would not recommend attempting to deliver it yourself. However, there are a few general principles of psychological first aid that we can keep in mind when communicating with people who have been through a traumatic event, so that they know that support it available and people are listening to them.

Keep calm

  • People who are overwhelmed or disoriented respond best to people who themselves are stable, calm and composed.
  • Be friendly and compassionate even if people are being difficult, upset or demanding.
  • When people express fear or worry, remind them that more help and services are available and, if possible, how they can find them.

Encourage connections

  • Offer people, who wish to share their stories and emotions, the chance to talk without being forced and without too many questions.
  • Encourage people to contact their friends, loved ones and community leaders (as appropriate).
  • Offer practical help to people to address immediate needs and concerns, linking them with available services if you can.

Provide hope

  • Convey the expectancy that people will recover from what they have experienced.
  • Be there/be willing to help in the future if you feel able.
  • Reassure people that their feelings are normal.

More information on psychological first aid and World Mental Health Day >