Thursday, 30 April 2020

Stop second guessing people and thinking the worst

How many times have you second guessed someone’s intentions only to find that you were way off the mark? This is something many of us do on a regular basis without considering the consequences beforehand.

Usually when we’re second guessing, it’s because we’re not aware of all the facts – and the negative chatter in our heads instantly assumes the worst. For example, a work colleague may have told you that she liked what you were wearing. To most people, this would be taken as a compliment, but you might think they were being sarcastic and making fun of you. Not only can this cause an unnecessary argument with the person if you were to verbalise your suspicion, but if you didn’t express your thoughts, negative feelings such as hurt or anger could start to affect your mental wellbeing over time.

One of the main problems with thinking negative thoughts is that we don’t question them. When these kinds of thoughts go unresolved, it can affect our mood and lead to issues such as anxiety and stress. Often when we choose not to confront our thoughts, it’s because we subconsciously know that we could be jumping to the wrong conclusions. We don’t want to appear paranoid or unreasonable, so we keep the thoughts to ourselves.

In order to stop second guessing people and making assumptions, we need to rewire how we think.

Imagine the following scenario… (not uncommon prior to social distancing)

You invite friends and family over for a dinner party. After the meal, who offers to help you clear everything away? You’ll likely find that each guest acts differently. Someone might offer to help you; someone might disappear to the bathroom; and someone else might remain seated and carry on chatting.

Everyone has a different response because everyone is different and has their own individual personalities. Just because people don’t act or react in the same way that you would, it doesn’t mean that they are intentionally wanting to hurt or upset you.

Perhaps your friend who rushed off to the bathroom had been wanting to go for some time, but didn’t want to appear rude so waited until everyone had finished their meal to leave the table. Perhaps your friend who continued chatting didn’t want to walk off during a conversation and felt uncomfortable because they wanted to help you.

What is catastrophising?

Remember that we aren’t mind readers and often when we assume the worst it’s down to unrealistic thinking. This is called catastrophising, often caused by anxiety, and it is a destructive way of thinking where we assume the worst. This Guardian article features a three-step plan by a psychologist on how to deal with anxiety and reduce catastrophising.

However, there are also several other ways you can stop second guessing.

How to stop second guessing people

  • Recognise your emotions and try to understand what has caused you to feel a certain way.
  • Practise mindfulness by observing your thoughts. Try to be aware of your thoughts as they enter your head and accept that they are not always speaking the truth. Question your thought process and ask yourself if they are based on fact, if not, let them go.
  • Reason with your initial thoughts and consider an alternative, more rational explanation. It’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt. 
  • Remember that most people have good intentions and aren’t out to upset you.
  • If you have questioned your emotions and thoughts and still feel that they are right, speak to the person involved in a calm and non-judgemental way. Ask what they meant by their comments without accusing them of something you’re not 100% sure about. Communication is key and by holding back on angry or emotional accusations, it will hopefully put your mind at rest.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Walk your way to good health

Because it’s something that we do on a daily basis without giving it much thought, and let's face it, we don’t always break into a sweat, many people often overlook walking as a form of aerobic exercise. But walking has many health benefits and is an excellent way to keep both our mind and body in shape.

For most of us, walking is a simple form of aerobic exercise that we can incorporate into our daily routine. Unlike more rigorous exercise such as running, gym sessions or competitive sports, walking rarely poses a risk of injury and it can be much more enjoyable than an intense workout.

Walking is in the news at the moment because it is one of the UK Government's suggested methods of taking some daily exercise and it's easy to do alone or in family groups, with little equipment, and direct from our front door.

Health benefits of walking

There are many health benefits of walking that not only improve our physical fitness, but also our mental wellbeing.
  • Walking reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Walking lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Walking reduces the risk of diabetes.
  • Walking helps protect us against dementia.
  • Walking helps fight obesity.
  • The release of endorphins during aerobic exercise can lift our mood (especially when we walk among nature), which helps to combat stress, anxiety and depression. These benefits are outlined in an article published in the Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
  • Walking improves our memory. In this article by The Guardian, Amy Fleming talks to neuroscientist, Shane O’Mara, about how walking benefits the cognitive functions of the brain.

Just 30 minutes of moderate walking every day can make a huge difference to our overall wellbeing and health. You might think that is a lot of time to squeeze into a normal busy day, but when everything is back to normal, the corona virus lockdown has ended, and your busy schedule resumes, you can break it down into small chunks, say ten minutes three times a day, you’ll be surprised at how easily you can keep walking and increase your step count. By making small changes in your routine, the time spent walking will soon increase, and it will become a habit that you won’t want to live without.

There are lots of ways you can introduce walking into your day-to-day life and, before you know it, it will have become second nature.

Ways to increase your step count

Please note that many of these options assume a normal level of freedom and we are not suggesting that anyone goes against the current lockdown situation, we are simply listing the options for when things return to normal.

  • Walk to work, or if it is too far, get off the bus a stop earlier or park the car further away and walk the rest of the way. 
  • Walk to the shops if you’re only buying a few items.
  • Choose the stairs instead of the lift.
  • Take a lunchtime stroll. The fresh air will make you feel great, too!
  • Go and explore local parks, nature trails, canal paths and woodlands. You’ll be surprised at what small adventures you can enjoy so close to home when you go on foot.
  • Visit new cities and towns and walk around the local area as well as the shops. 
  • Invest in a treadmill or use one at the local gym 
  • Join a walking group and climb hills or ramble through national parks. 

Walk4Life is a fantastic resource that encourages you to walk more. On the website you’ll find places to walk, maps, walking challenges and walking groups. Not only will you be improving your mental and physical health, you could make lots of new friends, too!