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|Posted on December 21, 2014 at 8:19 AM||comments (16)|
In 2015 are there some things worth giving up?
Here are twenty possibilities (which one will you choose?) ...
Well, there are quite a few suggestions.
What will you change in the New year (although there is no reason you have to wait until then)?
For myself, I don't have New Year resolutions, but I do take time over Christmas to reflect on what I want to change or move towards in the next year. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don't, and that too is OK.
Next year, I would like to spend more time exploring, meeting new people, being less assertive and more gentle, building up my faith, and a few other things.
What will you change?
|Posted on September 17, 2014 at 8:30 AM||comments (11)|
Whether it is:
How do you know when enough is too much ... how do you know when you are addicted?
Eight Signs of Substance Abuse or Alcohol Addiction:
1. Memory, Fuzzy Thinking and Headaches.
2. Using substances to help you cheer up and get through the day.
3. You've tried to quit but haven't been able to.
4. You feel that you need to drink or take drugs to fit in socially.
5. Are you ignoring health issues so you can keep on doing what you are doing?
6. Problems with family members directly related to your drinking or drug use.
7. Secrecy and Lies.
8. Withdrawal Symptoms.
So What Do I Do Next?
As a person and as a counsellor, I really hope you manage to make a way forward and find ways of dealing with your problems. I do genuinely believe it is a beautiful world and a life worth living. Please find ways of enjoying your journey and defeating the things that are holding you back.
And if you want counselling, you know where I am.
Gateway Counselling Leicester.
|Posted on May 6, 2014 at 5:55 AM||comments (23)|
The following is my version of a post my brother sent to me recently about Mindfulness, originally posted on The Huffington Post and adapted by me:
Here are things mindful people actually do every day to stay calm, centered and attentive to the present moment.
They take walks.
"In our culture of overwork, burnout, and exhaustion, in which we're connected and distracted 24/7 from most things that are truly important in our lives, how do we tap into our creativity, our wisdom, our capacity for wonder, our well-being and our ability to connect with what we really value?" Arianna Huffington asked in a 2013 HuffPost blog post.
Her answer: Solvitur ambulando, which is Latin for "it is solved by walking." Mindful people know that simply going for a walk can be excellent way to calm the mind, gain new perspective and facilitate greater awareness. And it's Free!
They turn daily tasks into mindful moments.
Mindfulness isn't just something you practice during a 10-minute morning meditation session. It can be incorporated throughout your everyday life by simply paying a little more attention to your daily activities as you're performing them.
As the meditation app Headspace puts it:
Mindfulness and creativity go hand-in-hand: Mindfulness practice boosts creative thinking, while engaging, challenging creative work can get you into a flow state of heightened awareness and consciousness.
Many great artists, thinkers, writers and other creative workers -- from David Lynch to Mario Batali to Sandra Oh -- have said that meditation helps them to access their most creative state of mind.
If you want to become more mindful but are struggling with a silent meditation practice, try engaging in your favorite creative practice, whether it's baking, doodling, or singing in the shower, and see how your thoughts quiet down as you get into a state of flow.
They pay attention to their breathing.
Our breath is a barometer for our overall physical and mental state -- and it's also the foundation of mindfulness. As mindful people know, calming the breath is the key to calming the mind.
Meditation master Thich Nhat Hahn describes the most foundational and most effective mindfulness practice, mindful breathing, in Shambhala Sun:
Multitasking is the enemy of focus -- many of us spend our days in a state of divided attention and near-constant multitasking, and it keeps us from truly living in the present.
Studies have found that when people are interrupted and dividing their attention, it takes them 50 percent longer to accomplish a task and they're 50 percent more likely to make errors.
"Rather than divide our attention, it is far more effective to take frequent breaks between intervals of sustained, one-pointed attention,"
Real Happiness at Work author Sharon Salzberg writes in a Huffington Post blog. "Debunking the myth of multitasking, we become much better at what we do and increase the chance of being able to remember the details of work we have done in the past."
The mindful way, Salzberg suggests, is to focus on one task completely for a given period of time, and then take a break before continuing or moving on to another task.
They know when NOT to check their phones (or play on Ipad's, computers, etc).
Mindful people have a healthy relationship with their mobile devices and know when to use them and when to turn them off or leave them alone.
This might mean making a point never to start or end the day checking email or maybe even keeping their smartphones in a separate room while they're sleeping, or choosing to unplug on Saturdays or every time they go on vacation. Especially important, not using phones, checking texts or playing games when you really should be listening and chatting to the other people in the room who came to see you!
One unfortunate by-product of tech addition and too much screen time is that it keeps us from truly connecting with others -- as HopeLab CEO Pat Christen described her own aha moment, "I realized several years ago that I had stopped looking in my children's eyes. And it was shocking to me."
Those who mindfully interact with others look up from their screens and into the eyes of whomever they're interacting with, and in doing so, develop and maintain stronger connections in all their relationships.
They seek out and embrace new experiences.
Openness to experience is a by-product of living mindfully, as those who prioritize presence and peace of mind tend to enjoy taking in and savoring moments of wonder and simple joy. New experiences, in turn, can help us to become more mindful.
"Adventure can naturally teach us to be here now. Really, really here," adventurer Renee Sharp writes in Mindful Magazine. "To awaken to our senses. To embrace both our pleasant and our difficult emotions. To step into the unknown. To find the balance between holding on and letting go. And learn how to smile even when the currents of fear are churning within."
They get outside.
Spending time in nature is one of the most powerful ways of giving yourself a mental reboot and reinstating a sense of ease and wonder. Research has found that being outdoors can relieve stress, while also improving energy levels, memory and attention.
“We need the tonic of wildness," Thoreau wrote in Walden. "At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
They feel what they're feeling.
Mindfulness isn't about being happy all the time. It's about acceptance of the moment we're in and feeling whatever we feel without trying to resist or control it.
Excessive preoccupation with happiness can actually be counterproductive, leading to an unhealthy attitude towards negative emotions and experiences.
Mindful people don't try to avoid negative emotions or always look on the bright side -- rather, accepting both positive and negative emotions and letting different feelings coexist is a key component of remaining even-keeled and coping with life's challenges in a mindful way.
As Mother Teresa put it, “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
We have a natural tendency to avoid sadness and crying, for example. This stops us from getting past grief. When we see someone else crying our natural tendency is to want them to stop crying and tell them everything is going to be ok. Mindful people know that it is ok to feel what we feel and to stay with others as they feel what they feel.
(Interestingly, I think we often stop others from crying, not to make them feel better, but to make ourselves feel less uncomfortable. Good friends cry with those who cry).
They're conscious of what they put in their bodies -- and their minds.
So often, we shovel food into our mouths without paying any attention to what we're eating and whether we feel full. We ignore discomfort, hoping it will go away, even when it clearly won't. Some use alcohol, drugs, even porn, to numb what they feel.
Mindful people make a practice of listening to their bodies -- and they consciously nourish themselves with healthy foods, prepared and eaten with care. But mindfulness is all about taking your time, paying attention to the moment, focus fully on what is happening and how they physically feel.
Mindful people also pay attention to their media diets, are equally careful not to feed their minds with "junk food" like excess television, social media, mindless gaming and other psychological empty calories. (Too much time on the Internet has been linked with fewer hours of sleep per night and an increased risk of depression.
I believe that each of us know exactly what we do that is unhealthy and we do it anyway. Maybe it is time to embrace a more mindful and healthy way of living.
They remember not to take themselves so seriously.
As Arianna Huffington writes in Thrive, "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly."
A critical factor in cultivating a mindful personality is refusing to get wrapped up and carried away by the constant tug of the emotions. If you can remember to laugh and keep an even keep through the ups and downs, then you've come a long way already in mastering the art of mindfulness.
Much of our distraction is internal -- we ruminate, worry and dwell on our problems. But those who are able to maintain a sense of humor about their own troubles are able to better cope with them. Research from the University of California Berkeley and University of Zurich found that the ability to laugh at oneself is associated with elevated mood, cheerful personality, and a sense of humor.
Laughing also brings us into the present moment in a mindful way. Joyful laughter and meditation even look similar in the brain, according to a new study from Loma Linda University.
They let their minds wander.
While mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment, mind-wandering also serves an important psychological function, and conscientious people are able to find the happy medium between these two ways of thinking.
It’s smart to question whether we should always be living in the moment. The latest research on imagination and creativity shows that if we're always in the moment, we're going to miss out on important connections between our own inner mind-wandering thoughts and the outside world.
Engaging in imaginative thinking and fantasizing may even make us more mindful. Research has found that those whose daydreams are most positive and most specific also score high in mindfulness.
|Posted on February 6, 2014 at 9:54 AM||comments (20)|
I am not a huge Michael Jackson fan, but please don't hold that against me, because I think that the following is one of the most amazing videos and songs ever written, especially from a 'personal change' point of view. Enjoy ...
|Posted on February 6, 2014 at 9:44 AM||comments (22)|
I friend gave me an article in The Metro this week about Life Coach, Michael Serwa, and the following impressed me so much I thought it was worth sharing (edited and expanded slightly) :
Ten Things That Stop You From Being Amazing:
1. You worry too much about what other people will think.
Other people are too busy worrying about what you think of them to be thinking about what you are doing. Or to use Will Smith's words: 'stop letting people who put you down control so much of your life.'
2. You are in a career you don't really like:
Seriously, change it. Do you really want to look back from your deathbed and see yourself in a career you didn't really like? Take small positive steps towards what you really enjoy doing.
3. You try to do everything yourself:
Don't. Learn to delegate or prioritise as much as you can so that you can free up time to do things that you really enjoy doing (and then do them)
4. You wait for something or someone to motivate you:
Stop waiting for someone else. Find something that excites you, something you enjoy doing. That is what really motivates you. (if you are stuck, work out what it is that you do instead of the things you should be doing but don't want to). The reality is, no-one else can motivate you to do something you don't want to do.
5. People around you bring you down:
On average we have five people we spend most of our time with. Choose those people wisely. No-one needs negative nellies in our life. Challenge them about it or spend less time with them. Also, perhaps, work out why you gravitate towards people who are bringing you down.
6. You put other people's happiness before your own:
Work out what makes you happy, what makes you smile, and do more of that. Your happiness will be contagious and other people will be attracted to it. You can still help others, but not at the expense of your own happiness.
7. You don't know where you are going:
You have no sense of direction, no purpose, no reason to get out of bed in the morning. What is it that you want to do. Where is it that you want to go. Set goals. Take actions.
8. You blame other people and circumstances for where you are:
The truth is, life can be very unfair. But this is your life. Take responsibility for it and, basically, bluntly, stop moaning about it. You will feel better if you do something about the parts of your life that you are not happy about. Then you wont need to moan about it.
9. You are living with regret about the past or unrealistic expectations about the future:
You cannot change the past, so grieve for it, cry if you need to and then move on. You don't need to forget it, but don't let it keep you in the past. And be realistic about the future. Especially, there is no Santa Claus, no magical solution to your problems. Don't wait for a lottery win before you decide to do something with your future. Act Now.
10. You are your own worst critic
How many reasons do you have in your own head for why you can't do something. Stop criticising yourself (why do that to yourself?). Stop comparing yourself to others (they may appear confidant, but they struggle just as you do). Most of all, Be Kind To Yourself.
I hope this helps. I found it very useful. But please, I beg you, don't use this list to put yourself down. Use it to motivate yourself. and I stand on the last words of point ten:
Most of all, Be Kind To Yourself.
|Posted on January 24, 2014 at 12:36 PM||comments (14)|
What does it take to let go in our lives? To allow for loss – of a loved one, a cherished object, a known and familiar feeling or experience. How do we go about surrendering and letting go?
My experience is that most of us will cling to that someone or something, refusing to let it go completely. We make excuses, rationalize and bargain with ourselves. Confronted with the event of loss we tend to grip, to cling, to wrap ourselves around the very thing we need to let go of.
It is human nature to fear surrendering what we most love, what we have grown accustomed to. It is human nature to fear surrendering and letting go, period. It frightens us, it makes us feel vulnerable, makes us feel alone, existentially doomed to loss.
What will we have once we let go?
Once we surrender? It takes a leap of faith, a belief that once we release our grip we will be able to continue our life in a different, and perhaps even fuller way. We build our lives around loved ones, family, things, objects, habits, beliefs, you name it. And letting go of “it” whatever “it” is, threatens our very sense of being.
Talking with a patient about her struggle letting go of her persistent binging, and of her tendency to isolate and sleep, to wrap herself in familiar patterns, her fear that she will always have a black hole inside, she tells me a Buddhist story:
To let go is counter intuitive to us, and yet, we cannot advance without doing so. The very act of clinging keeps us immobile, tightly wound around the thing we cling to. Even when we want to let go, we fear… the precipice. I think this must be akin to what Sartre had on his mind when he described existential angst.
Very unlike the next example, which celebrates letting go as part of the natural order of life.Around Christmas time of 2009, I heard a beautiful sermon on WQXR radio (by Reverend Bruce from the Unitarian Church in NYC) on this very topic. He was speaking on the need to let go with gratitude and an open heart. He shared an experience, which was recorded by an observer in the Metro section of the New York Times newspaper. It went something like this:
A woman steps out of a subway car and starts to put her gloves back on when she realizes that she is missing one. She turns to look at the subway car and sees one lonely glove on the seat, the companion to the one she is holding in her hand. It is now too late to retrieve the glove from the train, so with a shrug of the shoulders she throws the glove that is in her hand back into the train as the doors close. She smiles and walks away.
Surrendering with gratitude and open heart.
My colleague, Dr. Mark Epstein (Open to Desire) talks about the difference between holding and clinging.
Holding is done with an open hand, so that whatever we hold near and dear to us is free to move and be.
Clinging is more akin to gripping- tightening our hand around something so that it lies prisoner within our grasp.
Surrendering with gratitude and open heart requires an open hand. It requires a lightness of touch, a lightness of being. Openness rather than tightness. Think about what we do when we are afraid: we tense up, tighten up every muscle we have; we crouch, cross our arms, we close up. We grip and hold onto ourselves. We do this to try and protect ourselves. The question is: from what? Some fears, perhaps most fears, come from within, even if they are triggered by external events.
In the case of letting go, it is our fear of not having, of looking into our own precipice, of losing our (known) sense of self, that makes us grip and hold on.Once we think of surrendering with an open heart we are immediately confronted with the fact that to do so requires an act of faith on our parts.
I do not mean of the religious or spiritual kind, I mean of the personal kind. A personal leap of faith. The woman on the train platform did exactly that when she threw her remaining glove into the train: she released her grip with a smile. Her act of faith exemplified in her release of the glove – in her belief that she could let go, and that she was better off throwing it back into the train to join its companion, rather than bemoaning her loss, or worse – attempting to retrieve it.
The act of letting go creating new possibilities of ownership (anyone need gloves?) as well as freedom. Can any of us disagree with that?
Surrendering has to do with acceptance. Acceptance of who we are, of all of those parts of ourselves that we spend much our lives not wanting to know, but nevertheless know of. Acceptance of what we do, how we think, what we say, and of course, of what has happened to us in our lives. Acceptance of our limitations and our not so nice parts.
Years ago, a patient described what it took for her to stop smoking. “I finally surrendered” she said, “finally gave up in acceptance that I could no longer fill myself with smoke, while telling myself I was soothing myself”. She surrendered to the idea that she wanted to live despite the inevitable suffering that might come as part of really living. This took accepting the fact that her addiction was not to nicotine, but to the way smoking filled her loneliness and cradled her agitation. Twenty years later, she tells me that she still believes that smoking is the best anti-depressant, and that when she gave it up, she had to deal with not being able to instantly fill that space up. She had to accept her loneliness and even her depression, and do something to address those. She had to let go.
Like the man hanging on a limb in the precipice, most of us will do “anything” not to let go. We will bargain, get angry, deny, all part of the cycle that leads us to acceptance and surrendering. We all have much to learn from the woman on the train.
And one more, just because I think it's a cool list ...
|Posted on January 7, 2014 at 10:25 AM||comments (8)|
Christmas and New year are over, probably a busy stressful time for many and, whether we like it or not, a time to look back and look forward.
My first post of the year, just a light hearted glance at some of my favourite posts from Facebook and |tumblr over the past month ...
My personal Favourite is the one about the wolves: which one will you feed this year?
If you are struggling with the New Year, or any aspect of your life and feel you need help, support or counselling, maybe now is the time and this year is the year to find that support.
Gateway Counselling provides counselling and support, specialising in depression, anxiety and stress (which covers a huge amount of other things as well).
I also provide sessions using a variety of tools and chats to build life skills, maybe become more confident or talk through options.
Please do take a look at my Home Page and consider finding the support you need.
And as always, look after yourself and take care.
|Posted on November 29, 2013 at 5:16 AM||comments (15)|