Monday, 29 October 2018

Building lasting friendships

We find as we get older that friends will come and go throughout the various stages of our lives. Friendships are important for many reasons, not least the fact that they help us define our priorities and steer our thoughts and behaviours in a positive direction. Strong friendships can be formed in many different situations - we've completed a list that will help you build friendships that will last the course of time. 

Be yourself 

It can be easy to take on a more outgoing personality in order to try to make friends but people can see through this facade. The best way to make true friends is to be yourself so that the friends you make will like you for the right reasons. The easiest way to achieve this can be to meet over a shared activity as the pressure is off and your shared interest will make it easier to forge a friendship without trying too hard.

Give and take

Giving and taking is the key to friendships that stand the test of time. The best friendships will allow you to ask for help when you need it and feel able to offer support when your friend is in need. Try to look at things through your friend's eyes from time to time. If they're struggling - ask if you can lend a hand. They may not take you up on your offer, but that doesn't mean they won't appreciate it. We all look for similar traits in friends - kindness, dependability, loyalty. Be the kind of friend you seek!

Make time for your friendship

Depending on your stage of life, it can be hard to find time to nurture your friendships. Don't take your friends for granted. Make the effort with each of your friends so they know you're still there.

Nobody likes to feel used, so don't ignore your friends until you want something from them. There are so many ways to keep in touch with people - social media, texting, emails, phone calls. There really is no excuse for radio silence. Keeping the lines of communication open lets your friends know that you are thinking about them. It's ok to ask for favours, but not all the time!

Stay positive 

Our friends are there for us when we're feeling down - they help us get back up and carry on. Try not to moan to your friends but rather look at problems together and how you can overcome them. Friends can be great sounding boards and can help guide us in the right direction -  let them lift you up!

Be honest 

Sometimes friendships can waver due to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Be upfront with your friends and try to sort out disagreements before they hurt your friendship. Don't try and second guess what is going on or what they may be thinking. Ask them and remember to be kind! If your friend is hurt, try to understand why. Sorting things out straight away can save things getting out of control.

Have fun with your friends! 

Lasting friendships are built on shared interests and experiences. Spend time together, share experiences and have a laugh together! This is what will stand the test of time.

For some tips on how to find new friends in a digital world, read our previous blog post.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Embracing your vulnerability as a strength

Why is it that we all strive to be seen as strong? We hear it all the time: ‘He’s a strong man’; ‘She’s a strong woman’ – but just what is it about the human psyche that makes us regard our vulnerabilities as weaknesses?

More generally, vulnerability is usually associated with uncertainty, which other people see as risky, and this leaves us feeling emotionally exposed. That’s why very often we mask our true feelings, or soldier on without seeking the support or guidance that we need to develop to our full potential.

But perhaps now is the time to break the fa├žade and show others our more vulnerable side? The more we talk about the issues we face, the more it becomes socially acceptable to show our authentic, vulnerable self. This will make it much easier for us to get the support we need.

This has certainly been the case in the world of sport. A number of top sports people have spoken out recently about the struggles they have faced in the sporting world. While just as vulnerable as everyone else, we wrongly assume our sporting heroes to be invincible. And this can lead people to feel shameful about how they are feeling and prevent them from seeking help. However things are starting to change as more people speak out. 

Whatever walk of life we're in - whether it be sport or something else, when we can't admit how we're feeling to others, we isolate ourselves and make it harder for ourselves to get the help we need. 

As more people speak about the struggles they face, the more we understand that nobody is without their struggles and the easier it is for them and others to seek help. 

So, where do we start? Here’s our advice for dealing with some social situations where we shouldn’t be afraid to let our guard down:

When you are wrong

We get it, it’s super hard to admit you've messed up. However, we’re all human and mistakes are inevitable from time to time – you can’t bake a cake without breaking a few eggs, after all. We may strive for perfection but in getting there we need to take advantage of the many opportunities we’ll have to improve – and how do we learn if not through mistakes? By admitting we’re wrong from time to time, we leave ourselves open to the learning opportunities that go hand in hand with mistakes.

When you don’t know all the facts

Why is it that we would rather make assumptions or gloss over our lack of knowledge than admit we don’t know it all? Admitting to others that we don’t know it all is uncomfortable – but it’s also liberating. Now’s the time to admit when our knowledge is lacking and let others fill the gap.

When you’ve hurt someone

No-one likes to upset others – and it’s certainly not something the vast majority of us would do intentionally – but admitting to ourselves and to others when our actions have caused upset is one of the hardest things we can do. The good news is that a well-placed ‘sorry’ goes a long way to not only mend broken bridges, but also strengthen relationships. Saying sorry for your actions is a strong thing to do!

When you are thankful

For one reason or another, we use our gratitude sparingly. It’s as if by thanking others we are demonstrating a ‘need’ for their guidance and support – we’re admitting that we are unable to do it by ourselves. The reality is that gratitude actually improves our psychological health – it’s scientifically proven – as well as making us more aware of our interdependence on others and our place within the universe. You can read more about the benefits of gratitude in this Psychology Today article.

There’s no denying that allowing our vulnerabilities to be on show takes courage. This other Psychology Today article looks at how we can – and should - embrace the power of vulnerability and use it to help us build more meaningful connections with others. Maybe it’s time that we all started to acknowledge our vulnerability as the agent of empowerment it could – and should – be.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The benefits of keeping a journal

With so much reliance on social media these days, it’s easy to lose sight of the benefits of the written word. And while blogging is growing in popularity – enabling people to share their deepest thoughts and ideas with the public at large – the self-awareness benefits of journaling could be in danger of being lost.

Keeping a journal has long been recognised as a way of building a greater self-awareness and provides an excellent tool to help us practise gratitude, both of which contribute to us leading happy, fulfilling lives.

The daily ritual of keeping a journal helps us maintain a mindful focus on the things we experience every day and encourages us to see our own lives through a different lens – enabling us to gain perspective in our otherwise hectic, busy lives.

Daily writing in a journal – even just for a few minutes – really helps us concentrate on what’s important to us. It’s therapeutic, enabling us to appreciate the positives in the everyday and supporting us as we analyse and make sense of the negative issues and events that we all encounter from time to time.

In much the same way that blogging has been shown to have positive benefits for teenagers, journaling has been found to be a great tool for improving our self-esteem and easing social anxiety. They key is to use your journal as a way of gaining a deeper understanding of your emotions and to develop a greater self-awareness. You can find out more about how negative thought patterns can cause us to feel ‘stuck’ – and what journaling can do to help us in this Psychology Today article.

When it comes to keeping a journal, there really is no right or wrong way or a one size fits all, but you may find the following guidelines helpful:

Keep your journal for yourself – just like your secret diary when you were a teenager!

If you suspect that you will be sharing what you write with others somewhere down the line, your writing won’t reflect your true self, just those aspects that you feel able to share with others. Feel free to discuss the topics that you write about with your family and friends, as you wish, but keep the written journal for your eyes only

Place some value on your journal

Set regular time aside for your writing and find yourself a private space, away from everyday distractions, so you can give it your full attention. Lots of people choose to write at the start or end of the day, but whatever works best for you, so long as it’s regular enough to become part of your daily routine.

Set some time aside to reflect on what you have written

Look beyond the words to identify your thought patterns – especially where you have a tendency to be overly negative – as this will help you put things into perspective in future. Only by reflecting on what we have written, can we shift our negative mindsets to a more positive outlook.

Friday, 5 October 2018

How to overcome loneliness

A recent study found that young people (age 16-24) feel loneliness more intensely and more often than any other age group. This might be surprising to many, as we often think of loneliness happening to us in old age. However, it has been suggested that the reason why this age group feels loneliness so intensely is because they are still finding out who they are.

More generally loneliness can come about for a number of reasons – the death of somebody significant; moving to a new location and being separated from friends and family; divorce; or it can be a symptom of an underlying issue such as depression or low self-esteem. 

Loneliness is a feeling of being alone in the world, irrespective of who’s around you. You may feel sad, misunderstood, out of the loop, and disconnected from the world. It is a state of mind which often leads people to crave company. The problem is that the mindset of loneliness often makes it harder to engage with others.

Loneliness has been linked to a number of negative mental effects including depression, increased stress levels, poor decision making, alcohol and drug use, and antisocial behaviour as well as a range of physical health issues.

However there are some things you can do to prevent loneliness.

The feeling of loneliness can be seen as an important indicator that we need to change something. Look at your life and think about what doesn’t work. Are you spending too much time indoors, do you belong to any groups, do you have a regular routine, do you make time for friends and family, do you spend too much time working, etc.

The next step is to make some changes. Often getting involved in a group with a common goal can be a great way to bond with others without being too daunting. It’s important to create some meaningful relationships in your life because ultimately, sharing meaningful experiences with others helps us feel more connected to the world, less lonely, happier and more positive about life.

How to ‘re-find’ yourself once your children leave home

It’s October. The frivolity of Fresher’s week is over and college students all across Scotland are knuckling down to their studies. If you’re the parent of a young person who has just set off on their university adventure you may well be feeling a range of emotions, as the reality of their departure sets in.

It’s common to feel at a bit of a loss when you eventually get the house back to yourself. Your home – once a noisy hub of activity – can seem very quiet and still once your children have moved on; and the relief and excitement of getting your space back can soon be replaced with boredom, loneliness and sadness if you don’t find meaningful ways of occupying your time.

Empty nest syndrome is often described as a feeling of grief that people experience once their children have left home. Parents who have spent every waking hour thinking about the needs of others can feel very vulnerable and worthless after that role is taken away from them and this can sometimes lead to relationship problems and confusion about what to do next – and who to do it with!

If you are in a relationship, the top priority once the kids have left home is to reconnect with your partner. It’s easy for our interests and goals to have shifted during the time it takes to raise a family, and relationship support organisation Relate suggests you start with a light-hearted quiz to confirm that you still have a good understanding of each other’s needs and to check if your hopes and dreams for the future remain aligned. Read more.

For more tips of how to keep the spark alive in your relationship, have a look at our previous blog post.

The next priority is to find something worthwhile to do with the time that you had previously dedicated to looking after your kids. It’s a great opportunity to embark on a journey of rediscovery and to seek new pastimes that speak to your soul and make you feel fulfilled.

Finding new things to occupy your time and energy is something you can do with or without your partner. Together, it’s about finding a new, shared interest; but new individual hobbies and activities will also have a positive effect on your home life and relationships. Learning new skills for yourself and uncovering new passions and interests will make you happier and give you a fresh topic of conversation within your relationship.

The good news is there is no shortage to the range of opportunities and activities that are out there for you can embark on, without it taking too much effort (or money). Here are just a few suggestions to get you thinking:

Give time

Volunteering your time to help others is a good way of recreating a sense of purpose and usefulness when your home circumstanes change. As well as sharing the experience you already have, volunteering also offers opportunities to learn new skills, many offer training too.

Health matters

Now is your time – and that means it’s the perfect opportunity to start that healthy eating plan you’ve been talking about for years, and look at an exercise plan to complement your current regime and living habits too.

Get out and about

If you've always dreamed of travelling the world – now is the time to do it. Take that trip. Visiting new places broadens the mind and gives you a sense of the wider universe which is great for your mental well-being. It's also great for re-bonding experiences with your partner.

Cook and eat

When you really think about it, cooking for a family – and kids in particular – is a great lesson in restraint. Picking meals that everyone likes and choosing the ingredients that everyone likes. Now is the time to expand your cooking skills and try new things.


When your kids are away at college or university, there’s a temptation to keep the house just as it was when they left it. This doesn’t help you to move forward though. Use this time to declutter your home – and your life. We’ve got some great tips on decluttering in our previous blog posts.

As with any new phase in life, it can take time to adjust when your kids leave home. Remember, after so long looking after other people, it’s time to focus on you and give yourself what you need to nourish your body and soul. That can only benefit the rest of your family too…