Sunday, 12 December 2021

Mindfulness in everyday life

Mindfulness is about bringing our attention to the immediate present and focusing on something specific, such as breathing, sounds, the way something looks, or tastes. While there are many mindfulness exercises that we can practise, we can also become more mindful in our everyday lives. Here are some ways:

Shower mindfully

Take notice of the texture of your clothes as you remove them. Consider the cleansing process. Feel the water on your skin and note the sensations that this brings you. Note the temperature of the water, the smells around you, the sensations of your hands on your body, and the sounds of the shower. Be grateful for the cleansing process, the hot water and the time to yourself. Indulge in every bit of the process.

Eat mindfully

Take a small piece of a food that you enjoy. Look at it, notice it's colour and texture. Take a sniff. How does it smell? Put it in your mouth. What does it feel like on your tongue? What flavours can you taste? 

Start to chew and notice what this feels like. As you swallow, imagine the food nourishing your body and give thanks for being able to enjoy it.

Mindful waiting

This is a good exercise to use when you're waiting in line at the shops. Connect with your breathing and take in your surroundings. How does your body feel right this minute? Try not to think about your frustration. Be at peace with the waiting process and if your mind wanders, gently guide it back to focus on your breathing and your surroundings. Be grateful for the time with yourself. 

There are many other ways to practise mindfulness every day. Try mindful washing up, mindful learning or mindful dressing. Follow the same principles as above and notice how you feel after your mindful moment. 

Friday, 10 December 2021

Mindful listening

We're all different and that's why it's important to find the methods of mindful practice that work best for us. 

Yesterday we looked at Mindful Observation. Today we're exploring mindful listening. 

The exercises below will help you notice the sounds around you and help you develop the skills to listen more mindfully and without judgement or preconception. As you practise more, you will find it easier to listen without your mind wandering off and you will find it easier to gently guide your wandering focus back to listening. 

A wandering mind creates thoughts. These thoughts are not reality, but we often treat them as such and they affect our emotions. Negative feelings result from negative thoughts. Learning to let your thoughts come and go, gives your mind a rest from its wanderings and it is these rests that can help reset the stress mechanism.

Exercise 1 - Mindful listening - Open your ears

Try this exercise, developed by Alfred James at Pocket Mindfulness

  • Select a piece of music you have never heard before. You may have something in your own collection that you have never listened to, or you might choose to turn the radio dial until something catches your ear.
  • Close your eyes and put on your headphones. Try not to get drawn into judging the music by its genre, title, or artist name before it has begun playing. Instead, ignore any labels and neutrally allow yourself to get lost in the journey of sound for the duration of the song.
  • Allow yourself to explore every aspect of the track. Even if the music isn't to your liking at first, let go of your dislike and give your awareness full permission to climb inside the track and dance among the sound waves.
  • The idea is to just listen, to become fully entwined with the composition without preconception or judgement of the genre, artist, lyrics, or instrumentation.

Exercise 2 - Listening and thoughts

Listen to this mindfulness meditation by Professor Mark Williams of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. It's a great introduction to listening mindfully.

Thursday, 9 December 2021

Mindful observation

Yesterday we started a week of posts on Twitter #fourweeksofwellbeing about mindfulness. Mindfulness is an ancient practice that is all about focusing the mind on the immediate present. If practised regularly, mindfulness is a great tool for calming your mind and reducing feelings of stress. 

There are many different ways to practise mindfulness and the method you choose really depends on what works best for you. It's good to try a few different things to see which ones you like best. 

Today we're looking at mindful observation and we have included a few options to try. 

Mindful observation enables you to really observe the world around you and to connect with it in a way that you perhaps have never done before. We often rush through life with our minds preoccupied with our thoughts and actually miss a lot as a result. Mindful meditations are great because they are simple, short, and require no equipment. It's best to find somewhere comfortable where you won't be disturbed and get practising. 

Exercise 1 - Mindful observation - Observe an object

Try this exercise, developed by Alfred James at Pocket Mindfulness.

  • Choose a natural object from within your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two. This could be a flower, a plant, or an insect, or even the clouds or the moon.
  • Don't do anything except notice the thing that you are looking at. Simply relax into a harmony for as long as your concentration allows.
  • Look at it as if you are seeing it for the first time. Visually explore every aspect of its formation. Allow yourself to be consumed by its presence. Allow yourself to connect with its energy and its role and purposes in the natural world.
TIP The good news is that while it is best to do these exercises from real life, if you can't get outside, images of nature have been shown to be effective for relaxation too. Why not take some photos when you're out and use them when your access to outdoors is limited. 

Exercise 2 - Observe your thoughts

This practice is from Fablefly, Mindfulness for teens and adults. The purpose of it is to show you that your mind is able to be still. It's a simple meditation in which you allow your thoughts to come and go and observe them in a passive way without judgement. 

With practice, you will find that you are able to immerse yourself in the experience and will be able to gently observe your thoughts coming and going but bring your mind back to your focus. It's not easy at first, but if you persevere, you will notice that these short breaks for your mind will really help you reset and manage stress.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

What causes stress?

Stress is something that most of us are familiar with but while we may know how it feels to be stressed, we may not know why we get stressed.

When we talk about stress we are really referring to the emotional and physical reactions that take place in our body when we feel under pressure or threatened in some way. 

There are a whole host of reasons why somebody may feel stressed. We may feel threatened physically or we may experience stress as a result of anxious thoughts and worries. The first step to managing stress is understanding what is causing it. 

There are two main kinds of stress: internal and external stress 

Internal stress

Internal stress comes about due to our own internal thought processes. We may worry about things that we can't control, impose unrealistic expectations on ourselves, or have low self-esteem and treat ourselves unkindly. All of these things create unhelpful thoughts that can lead to internal stress.

External stress

External stress comes from the world around us rather than our own minds and can be caused by things like noise, relationship issues, money problems, life transitions, pressure from work or family, problems with neighbours, etc. 

The stress mechanism

Of course, not all stress is bad and although stress gets a bad press, we actually sometimes need a bit of stress to protect us from harm. Stress brings about rapid physical changes, which help us to deal with an imminent threat:

  • Our vision sharpens
  • Our body fluids are diverted to our bloodstream
  • Our airways widen to allow more oxygen into our lungs
  • Our heart pumps harder to send oxygen and energy to our muscles
  • Our liver releases glucose into our body to energise our muscles
  • Our digestion slows down or stops to enable more blood to be diverted to our muscles
  • We sweat to help cool our working muscles and blood from our skin is diverted to our muscles.
  • Our muscles tense to enable us to react faster and we release calcium into tense muscles.

This process, known as the 'fight or flight' response, was really helpful for protecting our ancestors from wild animals but it is not quite so helpful in modern day life as it can trigger due to perceived threats. If this happens often, our bodies don't have time to flush out the stress hormones that allow all of the above amazing changes to take place. This can lead to longer term physical and mental health problems, so it's important to find ways to take a break from stress. 

Join us on Twitter tomorrow when we'll be looking at common symptoms of stress. #fourweeksofwellbeing

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Reasons for practising compassion

In a society where blame culture is rife, it can be difficult at times to empathise with others, particularly if we don’t want to be in the firing line. But in many cases, showing compassion to others not only breaks down blame culture, but it also frees us from negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and animosity.

People can be very quick to judge another person’s actions or intentions without giving any consideration to why they acted in a such a way. Not only can this create negative thoughts in our own minds, but our reactions can also be damaging to the other person. 

To develop relationships with people, whether at work or in our personal lives, we need to form a connection based on trust and respect. By showing empathy and compassion, we also begin to care for others, and this can have a huge effect on our own actions and thoughts. 

Feelings of resentment and anger can have serious effects on our health and can create negative self-talk, insecurity, and a lack of self-confidence. These kinds of behaviours can ultimately lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression. Without compassion, our thoughts might be imagined, misunderstood, and totally unnecessary. When we choose to only view the world through our own beliefs and prejudge before we have any facts, this can lead to prejudice and stereotyping.  

Researchers in positive psychology, Ed Diener and Martin Seligman, believe that showing compassion and connecting with others in a positive way can improve our mental and physical wellbeing. Compassion doesn’t only help those needing care, it makes us healthier and happier too!

What is compassion?

Compassion is the ability to understand and show empathy for another person’s feelings and experiences and wanting to demonstrate that you care. This care should be given selflessly. 

How to be compassionate

Being compassionate not only helps us to connect with people but it also helps us to live in harmony, meaning we are less likely to become stressed or agitated. And it’s this that allows us to face difficult situations with a more positive outlook, and get things done in the most amicable way.

  1. Before you react to a person’s words or actions, ask yourself if you could have the wrong end of the stick. Sometimes we can misinterpret things depending on our mood, and any form of written communication such as emails or text messages, can very easily be misconstrued.  
  2. Question the other person’s current situation or past experiences. Perhaps they are going through something traumatic in their lives, and although their words may seem abrasive, they might be feeling stressed and don’t intend to offend anyone. Similarly, if you haven’t heard from a close friend or family member for a while, you shouldn’t automatically assume it’s because they are ignoring you, rather, they may be busy with work, or are struggling with a personal problem. 
  3. Before you prejudge someone, give them the benefit of the doubt. 
  4. Also remember self-compassion and don’t beat yourself up over making a mistake or feeling as though you’re not good enough.
  5. Practise acts of kindness that show people you care.
  6. Ask people how they are feeling and take the time to listen to them.

Monday, 1 November 2021

Embracing the midlife crisis

When realisation sets in that we have limited time left on earth, what we once took for granted we suddenly want to grasp with both hands. Some people might want the fast car, the big house and fancy holidays perhaps to demonstrate their life's material successes, while for others it's their experiences, physical wellbeing and state of mind that really matter.

This sudden awareness that time is passing by can start to stir negative emotions and thoughts of worry and fear as you begin to questions your current situation and your achievements in life. You might find yourself asking:

  • "Am I where I want to be in my career?"
  • "Will I ever travel to my dream destinations?"
  • "Have I made a positive impact on the world?"
  • "Will I finish my book that I started writing?"

Questions such as these might trigger the sudden urge to make a wish list of everything you want to achieve by the time you've reached a certain age. All the things you've thought about doing but never got round to, could start to occupy your mind more often. It's this sense of urgency to get things done that is often recognised as a midlife crisis. Also, as the physical signs of ageing start to show, it can be quite a traumatic time for some people who are afraid of their health deteriorating or losing their looks.

With all these worries suddenly being at the forefront of the mind, it's not a surprise that getting older can have an impact on both physical and mental health, so it's essential to put things into place that will ease the anxiety and stress.

How to embrace your midlife crisis

It's important to recognise the difference between the things we can and can't change and to make sure that we let go of any unnecessary worry for the latter. Write down everything that is a concern to you then decide whether you can do anything about them. If not, then try to let go of any negative feelings and only focus on what you can change. As you focus on what you do want to achieve, you'll start to worry less. 

  • By practising gratitude, you'll focus less on the negatives
  • Taking up a new hobby can introduce you to like-minded people of a similar age.
  • Mindful meditation is a great way to reduce symptoms of stress and depression and increase concentration. Harvard Health published an article which stated that: "depression continues to be a major health issue for older adults. It affects about 20% of adults ages 65 and older, and regular depression can lead to higher risks for heart disease and death from illnesses. It also affects people's daily lives by making them more socially isolated and affecting cognitive function, especially memory. "
  • Enjoying some form of regular exercise, such as walking, swimming or aerobics is a great boost for both mental and physical health and can slow down the affects of aging. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

How to be yourself when you don't fit in

Regardless of whether you always made the school sports teams or had an endless string of party invitations, there may still be certain situations in your life in which you feel like you don’t fit in. Maybe you dress differently from others, have a shy personality or you’re even too chatty. Sometimes having to socialise or make conversation about topics you don’t have much knowledge or interest in can be nerve wracking and put you outside your comfort zone.

Other people might not even be aware of how anxious or stressed you feel among a particular group, because they don’t really know you. It’s not uncommon for many of us to feel out of place, and the uneasy feelings this causes can have a detrimental effect on our mental wellbeing.

Recognising the signs

There might be times when you start to feel uncomfortable in a situation but you’re not entirely sure why, however, there are signs that you can look out for.

  • You start to question what everyone is thinking about you
  • You try to act like others in order to fit in. Perhaps you start to dress differently or take up different social activities or hobbies to impress people
  • You make excuses to get out of social events.

Although sometimes it can be good to try new things, when you try to force something that you really don’t enjoy, it can leave you feeling even more anxious. In the long term, this can be damaging to your self-confidence as you start to lose your self-identity and a lack of self-worth creeps in. Ongoing negative self-talk could lead to depression which can also be the cause of more serious physical illness if left untreated. Some of the signs of depression include:

  • Insomnia or disturbed sleep problems
  • Intense feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Fatigue
  • Thoughts of death
  • Headaches

Many of us, especially when we’re younger, need to feel a sense of belonging and often we think that by being able to fit in, we will achieve that. Author and social scientist, Brene Brown undertook extensive research when writing her book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Brown believes that if we try to fit in, rather than belong, we will never be our authentic selves.

So how can we start accepting that we don’t fit in and stand strong as who we are?

  1. Do more of what you love such as a hobby or a sport and join a group. Meeting like-minded people who share your interests and passions can make you feel more of a sense of belonging and less concerned with fitting in with a different crowd.
  2. Don’t pretend to be someone else and accept who you are. Recognise your positive traits and focus on them by using daily positive affirmations. Speak to people who you are close to and ask them what they see as your positive attributes. There might be some that you hadn’t even recognised in yourself.
  3. Shape reality to suit who you are. Take some time to think about your future. What does it look like in 10 or 20 years’ time? Begin to imagine and carve out a life for your true self and see how much happier it makes you feel rather than trying to fit into someone else’s mould. When you start to imagine a future that you want, it will feel liberating and make you more confident in who you really are.

Monday, 4 October 2021

Coping with ageing and its effects on mental and physical health

For many of us, hopefully, we will live until a ripe old age and get to enjoy a long and happy retirement. However, there may be some setbacks along the way that can make ageing for some people a greater struggle. As the body and mind age, it’s inevitable that there are going to be changes but there are ways that we can help keep our mental and physical wellbeing in optimum health. 

In a publication posted on Frontiers it states that “multiple social, psychological and biological factors are determinant of mental health, as well as life stressors. Among these, the lack of independence, limited mobility, chronic diseases, pain, frailty or other mental and physical problems, require long-term care.”

So, how can we come to terms with the ageing process and how can it affect our mental and physical health? There are five main issues that can impact our mental health as we get older:

  • Discrimination
  • Relationships
  • Participation in activities
  • Physical health
  • Poverty 

Although there will be some issues that are out of our control, we can take certain steps that will help us cope better with the effects of ageing.

Maintaining optimal health

As mentioned above, there are several reasons why our mental health might deteriorate as we get older, in particular, changes in lifestyle. It’s vital that we keep our minds and bodies as active as possible. Being retired doesn’t mean that you can’t stay busy, and by keeping yourself occupied, you’ll retain a sense of purpose.

  • Maintain an active social life. Age UK provides lots of information about activities in your area including social events, exercise classes and IT training. If you’re retired and feeling lonely, you might also find taking on some voluntary work will give you a boost and an opportunity to meet new people. 
  • If you’re able to, try and stay as active as possible even if it’s just walking to the shops or around your local park. Regular exercise has many benefits that can boost your physical and mental wellbeing. It can also promote good sleeping patterns that can help prevent anxiety, stress and depression.
  • It’s really important to exercise your brain too as you get older. You can keep your brain active by doing puzzles, reading, playing games such as chess or bridge, or learning a new skill. 
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet. A good diet is vital for keeping our minds and bodies in tip top condition at any age. Eating the right foods can help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers. It can also keep our minds focused and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Do things that make you happy. Whether you love to paint, play an instrument, or go dancing, by participating in an activity that you enjoy, your brain releases the chemical dopamine which will lift your mood and keep you feeling motivated.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends. Sometimes as we get older, we lose touch with those that are close to us, for whatever reason. Having a network of friends or family members that we can talk to or ask for help occasionally gives us a sense of belonging and security.

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Adopting morning habits to make your day brighter

If your morning routine has gone out of the window or if you’ve never had a morning routine, there are many reasons why it will be one of the most important parts of your day. Although it might seem like a huge effort when you first start to put certain practices into place, you’ll soon get into the swing of things.

Reasons why a morning routine is good for your health

Having a consistent morning routine is great for both your mental and physical health and by adopting some of these positive habits, you’ll soon start to see the benefits, which can include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Stress reduction
  • Increase in energy levels and brain function
  • An overall feeling of happiness and positivity

Many people who lack some form of routine or structure in their lives suffer from various forms of ill health and poor mental wellbeing such as stress, anxiety, depression, disturbed sleep, and lethargy. Putting in place a morning routine, can help improve overall wellbeing.

Planning your morning routine

You are in total control of what your routine will look like, so spend some time thinking about how you’re going to manage it.

  • What time do you want to get up in the morning?
  • How much time would you like to spend on your routine?
  • How will you ensure you stick to your routine?

What to include in your morning routine

If you’ve never had a morning routine, you might not be sure what you’re supposed to include. Although there are no strict rules on this, we’ve put together some ideas to get your started.

  1. On waking, drink a glass of water. Hydrating your body and mind is a great way to start the day as it helps to flush toxins out of the system and rehydrates the body after a night’s fasting.
  2. Spend at least ten minutes enjoying the peace and tranquility of the morning before you turn the radio or TV on. Maybe sit out in the garden and listen to the birds, take a walk around your local park, or do some meditation. This is a great way to start your day feeling calm and relaxed.
  3. Either do a few stretches or some form of exercise to kick-start your metabolism. This can also get the blood moving around your body and it will release endorphins that help reduce stress and make you feel more positive. 
  4. Take a cold shower. This also releases endorphins and can lower blood pressure. Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine undertook a study to determine the effects of taking a cold shower. They found that the participants, who were suffering from depression, saw a positive change in mood and chronic fatigue after taking a cold shower twice a day for two months. 
  5. Eat a healthy breakfast. Time and again we hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and there’s a reason for this. Countless studies have demonstrated that eating breakfast not only boosts your energy and concentration levels, but it can also assist with weight management, lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. 

Monday, 30 August 2021

Healing childhood wounds

Childhood wounds aren’t necessarily just caused by one major trauma in our lives, they may have arisen due to ongoing upset from a family member or classmate. Perhaps you were bullied physically or mentally, you suffered from emotional neglect, or had a serious medical condition. Whatever trauma you experienced, it's imperative to heal young wounds in order to live a happy and healthy adult life.

Research published on Jama Network says that: "Childhood trauma exposure is a normative experience, statistically speaking, that affects the majority of children at some point and subsequently has the potential to influence many aspects of functioning.  This study suggests that these effects are longstanding – lasting 20 or more years..."

Ways that childhood wounds can affect adulthood

Depending on how long you have lived with the scars of a traumatic childhood, you might not be aware of the full impact it has had on your behaviour and overall mental wellbeing. As the years pass by, it’s not unusual to push painful thoughts or feelings into the background so they become trapped inside, never being confronted or dealt with.

Intense negative emotions such as fear, anger, shame and sadness will gradually begin to shape your future as an adult. Because we are often told that we shouldn’t express our negative emotions and we feel pressured to keep our problems to ourselves, we suppress thoughts and feelings which then rear their heads in other ways. Some examples include:

  • Lack of body confidence
  • Lack of social confidence
  • Unable to maintain healthy relationships
  • Unable to hold down a job or career
  • Develop unhealthy habits to cope with stress or anxiety

However your childhood wounds have affected you as an adult, there are still ways in which you can deal with the hurt and begin to heal. Here are some ways which may help get you started. 

1. Facing the memories and recognising your emotions

Possibly the hardest part of healing old wounds is revisiting what scarred you as a child, but this can be essential to progress positively. By making a list of what hurt you at the time, you can start to recognise and understand how it made you feel at the time.

2. Accepting your emotions

It’s important that you learn to accept your emotions before you can move on from them. As you start to remember the past, it’s likely that you’ll begin to experience some of those emotions again, but this time allow yourself to feel them knowing that it’s okay to do so. Whether you feel angry or feel the urge to cry, try to release whatever is inside you. Also write down how you are feeling as this can become a powerful part of the process of letting go.

3. Letting go

Once you’ve completed the most difficult steps above, you now need to let go of all those negative emotions and memories. There are several ways you can do this.
  • Try meditation and imagine all of that negative energy leaving your body and mind.
  • Either share your feelings that you previously wrote down with a friend or someone close to you, or safely burn the piece of paper. 
  • Use your experiences or emotions to do something creative and positive such as writing a book or painting.
  • Take up a hobby or a passion that you’ve always wanted to do but you’ve been too afraid to do previously because of fear or a lack of confidence.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Be more body confident and hit the beach

For many of us, summer is a favourite time of year as we dream of sunny skies and days spent on the beach watching the waves crash onto the shore. But it can also summon up feelings of fear and anxiety as we dread the moment when we’re stripping down to a bikini or high-cut shorts in public. In recent years, the term 'beach body' has become hot on everyone’s lips but its unrealistic expectations have brought with it unhealthy crash diets and excessive pressure to strive for a 'perfect' figure.

In reality, we are all unique and very often no amount of dieting and exercise will give us the false body image we aspire to. But this doesn’t have to mean we can’t achieve body confidence and feel comfortable in our own skin.

Lack of self-esteem and confidence can have a serious effect on your mental wellbeing and can be a risk factor for mental health issues such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders

A body image report published by the Mental Health Foundation showed that “Higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy behaviours and eating disorders.”

Ways to achieve body confidence

Admittedly, we do generally feel much better in ourselves when we love our body but there are more ways to gain confidence than just eating a healthy diet and keeping fit – although this is also recommended not just to maintain physical health but also a healthy and positive mind.

Be realistic

When you look back at photos of yourself from several years ago and compare yourself to how you look now, it’s likely you think you looked great but at the time you probably had as many insecurities about your body as you do now. Try to live in the moment, appreciate the positives and remember that in years to come, you’ll look back and wish you’d embraced how you looked.

Also, remember there is no such thing as 'perfect' and we come in different shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, with so many social media platforms and online beauty magazines, it’s easy to compare yourself to others. But don’t forget, much of the time the images we see online have been airbrushed or manipulated to iron out what people believe to be imperfections. It’s a sure thing that when you do hit the beach, you won’t find tons of supermodels parading around!

Focus on the positives

Make a list of all the parts of yourself that you DO love, whether its your hair, legs or eyes and remember there is only one you. Try practising daily affirmations to remind yourself of all your amazing qualities, and you will soon start to believe them. One of the things that people will notice first about you is your confidence and there’s nothing more noticeable than wearing a huge smile!

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Stop letting social media control your life

From Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Snapchat, social media seems to have taken a firm grip on our lives, regardless of our age. Not only are these platforms a huge distraction in our day-to-day lives, but they can also play a negative role in our mental and physical wellbeing. 

In a survey published by Cureus in June 2020, it was reported that “the prolonged use of social media platforms such as Facebook may be related to negative signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress”.

While we indulge in hours of endless scrolling, trying to snap the perfect selfie, or striving to get as many likes and followers as possible, we are neglecting all of life’s good stuff that is so important to our health. But not only does social media steal our precious time, it has even more detrimental effects:

  • We become less productive – It’s easy to lose track of time when scrolling through social media, which ultimately results in using our time less productively, whether at home or at work. It can also cause a lack of concentration when we’re trying to focus on something else.
  • We compare ourselves to everyone else’s seemingly perfect and exciting lives – Although it’s often quite obvious that the lives and images people present on social media aren’t always an honest reflection, this can put a huge amount of pressure on users to live up to unrealistic expectations. Over time, this can cause low self-esteem as feelings of insecurity make us believe that we’re not good enough. As well as knocking our confidence, these false perceptions may lead to body dysmorphia or eating disorders in some instances.
  • We lose physical human contact – Human connections and interactions, both emotionally and physically, are extremely important to our wellbeing as they strengthen communication and boost our self-confidence.
  • It can affect our quality of sleep – Good quality sleep is paramount for keeping a healthy mind and body. Not only does the content we see on social media keep our minds alert or even anxious, but the light from the screens can reduce the production of melatonin in our bodies - a chemical which makes us feel tired and able to sleep well.

Ways to wean yourself off social media

If you’ve found yourself feeling anxious, stressed or less productive, and you want to try and kick the social media habit, here are a few tips to help you:

  • Set up a sleep schedule on your phone or device. This will remind you when you need to wind down before bedtime so you can relax with a book or a warm bath to help you sleep.
  • Make plans to see or speak with friends on a regular basis, because the more time you’re chatting, the less time you’ll spend scrolling. You can even agree to a phone ban during your time together to help you resist temptation.
  • Spend some time every day doing relaxing activities that will help you clear the clutter from your mind, such as meditation or mindfulness exercises.
  • Make time for sports or outdoor activities that will not only engage your brain so that you forget about social media, but they’ll help to keep your body and mind fit and healthy.
  • Switch off your phone notifications so that you become more in control of when you go online. You can even set aside certain times for accessing your accounts.
  • Delete your accounts! One of the best ways to stop letting social media control your life is by removing yourself from unhelpful accounts completely. By deactivating your accounts, you are freeing yourself from the distractions and more likely to find much healthier ways to spend your time.

If you're interested in finding out more about how to manage your social media usage for your wellbeing, watch the recording of our free webinar and download our free booklet here >

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Reasons why honesty is the best policy

On the surface honesty is simply telling the truth, but in actual fact it goes much deeper than that. There are many reasons why people are dishonest: to avoid hurting others, to protect themselves, or to gain some kind of advantage. For whatever reasons, dishonesty can have detrimental effects on everyone involved, but particularly ourselves. 

The effects of dishonesty

When we lie to others, we are also lying to ourselves and this can have a negative impact on our mental wellbeing. When we lie, we are not being true to ourselves, and not only can this cause problems with our relationships but it can weigh heavy on our mind. Perhaps you’ve lied because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, but in turn you’ve sacrificed your own happiness. This kind of dishonesty might make you feel like you are doing the right thing at the time, but in the long-term it can make you feel anxious or stressed. 

Much of positive mental health is centred around how we perceive and feel about ourselves, so self-confidence is a key component to our overall wellbeing. When we choose to act dishonestly, understandably, it’s more likely that our self-worth will decrease as we begin to experience feelings of guilt or self-hatred. Over time, these negative thoughts can alter our perceptions of ourselves and we may doubt the person we are. On the other hand, lying about our abilities or achievements can leave us with a false sense of security. 

Anita E. Kelly, who is a professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, conducted a study that looked at the effects of honesty and dishonesty on mental and physical health. She found that those who had lied reported more complaints such as headaches, nausea, and feeling tense. The outcome: telling fewer lies is linked to better health.

Often one lie leads to another because we don’t want our lies to be found out so it becomes a vicious circle or a habit that can be difficult to escape from. However, there are ways in which we can learn to be more honest without hurting others whilst remaining true to ourselves.

How to become more honest

  • Recognise the situations when you are most likely to be dishonest. Make a list of what you would gain from both telling the truth and lying and how it would make you feel afterwards. Chances are, when you gain a clear perspective, you would feel better in yourself if you had been honest.
  • Speak to someone close to you and ask them how they would feel if you had lied to them and whether they would prefer if you had been honest, regardless of whether or not it was painful for them. It’s likely they would rather you be honest.
  • Often, we lie because we are embarrassed that we aren’t good enough at something or we fear what others think of us. Sometimes it’s good to take criticism on board so that we can understand how we need to improve ourselves and become better in the future. 
  • Acknowledge and accept your flaws. None of us are perfect, and no one expects us to be. People are much more likely to accept your flaws than if you lie to them. Trust is so important to people and the moment you lose someone’s trust it’s very difficult to get back.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Finding yourself again when your relationship is stuck

While relationships can bring a lot of happiness and have many positive aspects, sometimes we become so consumed in love that we lose a part of ourselves. The moment we feel like our personality is being compromised, it can make us fear that we're losing our identity.

Often we devote so much of our time and energy into one person, we start to neglect things/people that have always been important to us – things that make us who we are. For example, have you stopped a hobby or sport that you loved, or do you spend less time with close friends?

It's natural for relationships to evolve and change over time, and sometimes the parts of the relationship that we enjoyed suddenly dissolve. You might find there are fewer date nights and more nights spent in front of the TV arguing over household chores. All of these factors can make us feel stressed, angry or resentful, which can put an enormous strain on our emotional wellbeing not to mention our relationship.

One of the main problems that occurs in longer-term relationships is that we stop talking and communicating positively. We find ourselves bottling up negative emotions and replaying made-up conversations in our head. Over long periods of time, internalising problems or worries can cause anxiety or even depression, which causes us to become self-critical. If we feel that we aren't being true to ourselves or don't like the person we've become, it could in the long run jeopardise our relationship.

How to find yourself and start enjoying your relationship again

You shouldn't have to neglect your own interests or what makes you happy to be in a relationship, and there are ways to fix things if you really want the relationship to work.

Communication is key!

We often avoid communication with our other half for fear of an argument but talking doesn't have to be confrontational. Perhaps suggest to your partner that you both make a list of what you feel is good and what you would like to improve about your relationship and how you feel you can fix it. This way you'll take the time to 'listen' to what the other is saying (you don’t have to do this when you’re together), digest it and come to an amicable solution.

Spend time apart

Make it a priority to spend some time each week doing something apart that you love or that is important to you. This might be a session at the gym, lunch with a friend, or an hour reading before bed. Whatever you choose to do, enjoy every moment of being you!

Make a rota

Many relationships end up in arguments over whose turn it is to cook dinner or clean the house, but this can be easily resolved as long as you both have respect for each other and agree that household chores shouldn’t just be the responsibility of one person. Drafting up a rota may seem petty but it’s a good way of sharing the responsibilities. It's important that you both agree and are willing to commit to the rota - don't just spring it on your partner! But it can help lift the burden of chores and hopefully you can have more time to yourself again. 

Spend quality time together

Believe it or not, spending quality time together can actually make you remember who you are. By arranging a time when you can solely focus on each other, you'll find that you begin to make more of an effort such as dressing nicely and making each other smile and laugh. Even just having a night in listening to your favourite music together can remind you of why you fell in love in the first place. Remember to focus on each other's positive qualities and you'll find the compliments will start to flow, making both of you feel good about yourselves. Director of Research for the Gottman Institute, Carrie Cole, says: "find ways to compliment your partner every day, whether it’s expressing your appreciation for something they've done or telling them, specifically, what you love about them".