Are you busy today, and every day? Too busy to ‘stop and stare’? Our world continues to whizz around at ever increasing speeds, thanks to mobile communications technology and the 24/7 availability of information. The result is that our brains are expected to process information at an unprecedented rate, with the expectation that we’re constantly ‘on call’.
Where’s the downtime?
Research has shown that downtime is hugely important to our wellbeing. It helps to alleviate anxiety and depression and is a valuable tool for stress management. ‘Switching off’ for just a short time is important for recharging and replenishing our depleted mental resources, providing our minds with the necessary rest and space to increase our attention span, improve memory function, process information and learning, inspire creativity and make better decisions.
The trick is to take time out to intentionally and mindfully slow down, creating a bit of extra space every day. Just 10-15 minutes a day can be a sufficient window for our minds to experience downtime.
Here are 7 easy strategies you could try:
1 – Get up 15 minutes earlier. Find a bit of peace and quiet before the madness of the day consumes you. Whether you try a short morning meditation, take a longer shower or simply have a cup of tea in bed, it helps to set you up for the day.
2 – Reassess your commute. If you must commute to work, make the time as stress free and relaxing as you can. Try sitting in silence, creating space for the mind, rather than cluttering it up with news and information before you even get to the office.
3 – Take a ‘power nap’. A 10-minute nap in the middle of the day, sitting in a chair, is all it takes to recharge and enhance your performance straight away.
4 – Take a short walk every day. The fresh air and the change in environment are enough to switch off from ‘work mode’ for a few minutes, leaving you refreshed and in a better mood.
5 – Turn off the TV. Did you know that we watch on average 34 hours of TV a week? Rather than taking in more information (ostensibly as entertainment), why not value our downtime by switching off artificial stimulants?
6 – Limit distracting internet activities. Rather than spending hours idly surfing the web, use the time to engage with the real world – you will feel better for it.
7 – Turn off notifications. Did you know that we now check our phones an average of 150 times a day? Don’t be a slave to your smartphone. Incoming emails, messages and notifications – nothing is so important that it can’t wait a while.
Everyone is afraid of something, but when your fear is so specific that it triggers excessive levels of anxiety or panic, you could be suffering from a phobia. Phobias are distressing emotions that are initiated by fears, both real and imagined, that are simply out of proportion. Irrational fears about a place or situation, an object or an animal can make it difficult to live a normal life.
Around 10 million people in the UK suffer from some type of phobia. But what exactly are people so afraid of? The 5 most common phobias in the world are:
1 – Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
An excessive fear of spiders and other arachnids such as scorpions is the most common animal phobia in the world. Often, the cause is the perception that some species of spider are deadly dangerous and the human survival instinct kicks in. Arachnophobes often go to extreme lengths to make sure their surroundings are spider free.
2 – Ophidiophobia – fear of snakes
Affecting nearly a third of the adult human population, a fear of snakes also has evolutionary roots, since venomous snakes can kill. In extreme cases, ophidiophobia can stop a person from going camping or hiking, or take part in any activity where snakes or other reptiles have a chance of appearing.
3 – Acrophobia – fear of heights
An irrational fear of heights or falling from height is a phobia whereby the sufferer gets highly agitated or panics – which could affect their ability to climb down to safety. Extreme acrophobics can’t even tolerate stepping on or off a chair without suffering symptoms.
4 – Agoraphobia – fear of open or crowded spaces
A fear of open spaces, or of crowded spaces, can be a debilitating condition that prevents the sufferer from going out in public – from shopping centres to concerts or theatres and many other social situations. There’s intense panic even at the thought or sight of such a space, and the feeling that it will be impossible to escape from. Agoraphobics often display avoidance behaviour and limit their range of activities, suffering from depression.
5 – Cynophobia – fear of dogs
Another common animal phobia, the fear of dogs (and often also of cats) can lead to even more limiting social behaviour since domestic animals are a common sight in residential areas. The condition typically develops in childhood and, interestingly, nearly ¾ of cynophobics are women.
Other types of phobia can involve the fear of flying (pteromerhanophobia), fear of germs (mysophobia), fear of injections (trypanophobia), fear of failure (atychiphobia), fear of abandonment (autophobia), fear of social situations and many others.
If you suffer from any type of phobia, you don’t have to live the rest of your life in fear. There are many therapy options available to effectively deal with a phobia, allowing you to face and overcome your fears once and for all. They include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy and an approach based in Integrative Psychotherapy.
The first step to a lasting change is to make contact with an experienced and sympathetic therapist. Why not call the friendly team at KlearMinds today on 0333 7720256 to book an appointment?
Did you know that spending time outdoors can benefit your physical and mental health? You don’t even have to be exercising energetically to reap the benefits. Simple everyday activities such walking to work, taking the dog out or having an after dinner stroll can really improve the way you feel.
We all know that a good walk in the fresh air can help you collect your thoughts, let off steam or simply relax, particularly when you’re experiencing high levels of stress. But it’s more than that. Walking can positively affect your overall wellbeing, and even help fight depression.
Here are just a few good reasons why it pays huge dividends to get outside more.
Walking, just like any other physical activity, releases endorphins. These are the ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain that are responsible for improving your mood and reducing anxiety and stress.
Regular walking can help improve your sleep patterns, leading to better quality and more refreshing sleep.
It is a well known scientific fact that people with active lifestyles have a lower risk of suffering from clinical depression.
It is a recognised benefit that spending time in contact with the natural environment – perhaps by walking in local parks, green spaces or woodland – can boost your mental health.
Regular physical exercise has been shown to be at least as effective a treatment for mild to moderate depression compared to taking antidepressant medication. What’s more, all the side effects of exercise are positive!
According to a recent clinical study, being surrounded by nature gives your brain a break from overstimulation, which can have a restorative effect – increasing your vitality, boosting energy levels and heightening your concentration.
Discovering your local area on foot is a great way to make you feel more at home. It gives you a greater sense of belonging, and makes you more likely to make contact and establish friendships with people who live close by.
A welcome by-product of regular walking is that you will feel fitter and may lose some weight. This can enhance your body image and improve confidence.
Group walking is a sociable activity that can make you feel more connected and overcome social isolation – all helpful in boosting your mental health.
Even if you don’t go for a walk but simply spend time outdoors, this will still improve your wellbeing. Why not take your lunch break on a park bench, or watch the children play in the playground on a sunny day?
You’ve no doubt heard the term ‘Life Coaching’ being bandied about, but do you really understand what it is, and how it can help you? Let’s take a closer look at Life Coaching and the 4 key questions you should be asking.
1 – What is a Life Coach?
In a nutshell, a Life Coach is someone who can help you build confidence, overcome blocks to success and help you achieve your personal and/or professional goals and improve the quality of your life. This can include being more successful at work, becoming happier and more fulfilled at home, exploring your ‘self’ and achieving ambitions.
Just as a sports coach can help an athlete to develop into the strongest, fastest or most tactical competitor in his chosen field, a Life Coach can do the same for people from all walks of life to help them be the best they can be.
The Life Coach will do this with the help of specialist techniques that are based on psychological principles and personal intuition, giving you the tools to face tricky situations, overcome emotional barriers and see the world with new eyes.
Rather than simply giving advice, a Life Coach will adhere to the fundamental principles of life coaching:
Subjectivity – No one’s view is right or wrong, but some perspectives can restrict the person to be who they want to be.
Empowerment – With the help of Life Coaching, the individual can learn to open his mind and adjust his own perspective.
Guidance – Rather than giving instruction, a Life Coach provides the tools and support for personal development.
2 – What is the difference between Life Coaching and Counselling?
Essentially, counselling therapies involve some form of investigation into the roots and causes of potential or actual mental issues or health problems, in order to define a way forward.
Life Coaching, on the other hand, tends to look forward, not back. Its approach chiefly focuses on the future to encourage personal improvement and development.
Life Coaches are not usually qualified to diagnose, advise or deal with any health related problems. If a health issues arises, you may be asked to see your GP.
3 – What issues can Life Coaching help with?
A Life Coach can use effective techniques to help you in all aspects of life, including your performance, your business life or personal life. Whatever you may be struggling with, working with a Life Coach can help you get there. Issues include
Life Coaching sessions are typically for a set duration, usually 45-60 minutes, and may be given face to face, over the phone, email or via Skype. During the session, you will be working with the Life Coach to talk about the areas in your life that you are unhappy with or that you would like to change.
Life Coaching should be a partnership between you and your coach. It is up to him/her to gently encourage you to explore and challenge your previously held perceptions, so that you can move forward with your life.
While a Life Coach should offer support and feedback to help you stay focused on your goals and move forward towards positive changes in your life, you will never be forced to make any decisions that you don’t feel happy with.
It should go without saying that all sessions, and the relationship between you and your Life Coach, is based on confidentiality, so that you have a safe space within which to explore your new direction.
At KlearMinds, we take an integrated approach towards Life Coaching in order to help you achieve positive changes that can be sustained for life. By combining Life Coaching with additional therapies, we can offer you the best possible guidance towards a happier you.
It’s a type of talking treatment that combines cognitive therapy (examining your beliefs, attitudes and thoughts) with behavioural therapy (examining your feelings and actions). By focusing on how the way you think about situations and experiences affects your feelings and behaviours, CBT can teach you coping skills to break the cycle.
Negative thinking patterns may have developed a long time ago and, if allowed to continue, may influence how you feel about yourself many years later. The continuous cycle can look like this:
Diagram from www.mind.org.uk. Click here to read more.
Working with an experienced CBT therapist can help you identify and address your particular negative thinking patterns so that they cease to dictate your behaviour in the future. CBT can be a very effective treatment to help with a wide range of mental health issues including:
CBT is typically a short term treatment of, say, 12 weekly sessions that can take place one-to-one, in a group setting or online. Within the setting of a supportive, non-judgmental relationship between yourself and the therapist, you may feel comfortable to open up to talk about difficult personal issues. As your therapy progresses, CBT will teach you new and more successful ways of coping with different situations, feelings, thoughts and behaviours that put you on a much healthier path.
Going to work is a daily fact for most of us – but what do you do if it leaves you stressed day in, day out? Obviously, if you really don’t like your job, then consulting a career coach or looking for alternative employment is an obvious way out. But sometimes, even if you love your job, work stress can get to you. Whether it’s the commute, the workload, the niggly backache, eye strain or headache, or even your co-workers, it can feel like the proverbial daily grind.
The good news is that there are many strategies you can employ to make yourself feel better at work, both mentally and physically. Whether you work 40 hours or 20 hours a week, here are 7 little tricks you should try.
1 – Get more sleep
Sleep is the magic ingredient to having positive energy to face the day. We know that sleep helps the body to recover from the day and repair and recharge, which in turn helps us to be more productive the following day.
Good quality sleep also puts you in a more positive frame of mind. In terms of neuroscience, the brain processes negative stimuli in the amygdala while neutral/positive memories are processed by the hippocampus. Bad sleep affects the hippocampus more than the amygdala, meaning that if you haven’t had enough sleep, your positive emotions are likely to be weaker than your negative ones.
2 – Eat breakfast
Yes, it’s true, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many studies have linked eating a proper breakfast to good health. Think about it: you need to put some fuel into your body to stimulate your metabolism, up your energy levels, improve your concentration and memory. Even if you’re not hungry first thing in the morning or don’t have time to sit down for breakfast, it’s never a good idea to work on an empty stomach.
However, just as important as having breakfast is the quality of what you eat. Whether you go for a wholesome porridge, an egg or fruit and yogurt, make sure your breakfast food is fresh, unprocessed and nutritious. A croissant on the way to work, or sugary cereals are really don’t doing anything for your energy levels.
3 – Arrive on time
Get to work late and the scene is set for a stressy day. Personal organisation is key for a smooth working day where you are in control the moment you walk into the office. From planning your wardrobe to sorting out your lunchbox, to setting your alarm on time, to sorting out the kids/partner etc, to leaving ample time to get to work (including unforeseen delays) – it will be worth the effort.
The office commute can have a surprising effect on your overall happiness. If you really live too far from work, you may want to consider making a change in the longer term – either to your job or your home.
4 – Beware the sedentary job
You may feel hardworking and productive sitting at your desk for hours, but it’s actually really bad for your body. Studies have shown that regularly sitting for long periods of time puts you at greater risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, depression, cancer and many more serious health conditions.
Make sure you take a break from sitting every half an hour or so, maybe do some desk yoga to stretch out, or try a standing desk to avoid sedentary posture problems altogether. You should also ensure that your work chair is ergonomically optimised to support your body’s correct posture and minimise back pain.
5 – Personalise your desk
Feeling ‘at home’ in the office can be achieved easily with the addition of a few carefully chosen items such as a framed photo of your loved ones, a house plant, or even a subtle scent diffuser. Your physical environment at work has a big influence on how you feel, so investing a bit of thought into how to make the office more homely is well worth the effort.
6 – Get out more
The temptation to stay at your desk all day long, particularly when you’re super busy, can be overwhelming. But there are actually very good health reasons for taking a lunch break and stepping outside the office during the working day.
Taking a break gives your brain the opportunity to recharge, making you more productive when you return. Spending time outside in the fresh air alleviates eye strain, boosts your positive mood, refreshes your thinking and improves your working memory. A recent study showed that natural environments had a more positive impact on happiness than urban environments.
7 – Practise smiling
Strange but true, smiling can make you feel better. While most people think we smile because we feel happy, it can actually work the other way round too: we feel happy because we are smiling. It’s called the facial feedback hypothesis.
Obviously, it’s most natural to smile because you’re having positive thoughts – a smile has been shown to improve attention and performance on cognitive tasks. But even forcing a smile when you don’t feel like is sufficient to lift your mood and lessen the pain or distress of an upsetting situation.
There may be many reasons why your love is on the rocks. However, if things between you and your spouse or partner are not going well, it’s not always obvious to see what the underlying problems are. How serious are the issues? Is it just a temporary blip or is it terminal? Should you stay and make it work or cut your losses and leave?
It’s important to understand that most serious relationship problems occur around the same themes. So if you recognise any of these in your marriage or partnership, it’s high time to take action to improve your relationship.
In any relationship, it’s completely normal to have arguments and disagreements. However, when a person is criticised for the person s/he is and a relationship problem is staged as a character flaw in a partner, it’s hard to move past that. If one or both of you provoke arguments and then look for reasons not to forgive the other person, that is a big problem you need to work on.
Contempt is the number one predictor of breakups. If left unchecked, negative behaviour such as finger pointing, insults, sarcasm and talking down to your partner will chip away at the very foundation of your relationship over time. If one or both partners are unwilling to soften the conversation and inject some positive emotions into the relationship, there’s little point in being together.
Lack of sexual desire
For most people, having a mutually fulfilling sex life is an essential part of any good long-term relationship. If one partner has a much lower sex drive or shows little interest in wanting to be intimated, this needs to be addressed urgently. A marriage or partnership without sex could be a deal breaker.
Commitment and exclusivity are the foundation stones of a long-term partnership. Being in a relationship with someone who cheats on you is tough. It is possible for both of you to work through the infidelity with honesty and forgiveness and a promise to put it behind you. However, chronic infidelity and broken promises are much harder to fix.
Lack of communication
Sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings about each other is what gives each partner reassurance. But if one partner shuts down emotionally or is unable to open up, it’s much harder to connect. How can you deal with relationship problems if one of you keeps it all bottled up? Communications skills can be learnt; it’s essential to keep talking to each other so you don’t drift apart.
There’s been a lot of talk about gratitude in recent years. As a concept, gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what a person receives – it’s a way to acknowledge goodness in your life. Practising gratitude helps you connect to something beyond yourself as an individual, be it other people, nature or even a higher power.
The field of positive psychology makes a strong link between gratitude and greater happiness. Numerous scientific research studies have been carried out to show that practising gratitude regularly helps you feel more positive emotions, acknowledge and relish the good experiences that you have, improve your physical and mental health, deal with adversity and build stronger relationships. Other benefits include better sleep, increased self-esteem and a more empathetic (and less aggressive) attitude. It’s a positive mental state that grows stronger with use.
Gratitude can be expressed in many ways. Applied to the past, it’s about retrieving positive memories and being thankful for the good things that have happened. In the present, practising gratitude means not taking one’s good fortune for granted, while keeping a hopeful and optimistic attitude for the future. It’s a quality that can be practised and cultivated further.
Practising gratitude on a regular basis will help you refocus attention on what you have, instead of what you think you need to achieve before you can feel happy. Here are some easy ways we can all cultivate gratitude in our everyday lives:
Keep a daily ‘gratitude journal’
Create a daily calendar that you update every day. Make it a habit to write down at least one positive thing that happened during the day. At the end of the year, read through your journal and be proud of all the good things in the past year.
Write a ‘thank you’ note
Nurture your relationship with someone special by writing them a letter that expresses your appreciation and gratitude for the positive impact they’ve had on your life. Deliver it in person if you can and read it out loud. Why not make a habit of writing a gratitude letter every month, and don’t forget to send one to yourself now and again.
Enjoy nature in the moment
When you’re outside, take a moment to stop and stare in wonder at the world around you. Lift your head to the sky and simply give thanks to the universe for having created the sky and clouds, the sun and rain, the trees and flowers, the season you’re currently in etc. Feel nature’s incredible presence all around you. If you are religious, you could incorporate an element of prayer.
Appreciate the little things
It’s all too easy to go through life unaware of the little things. Make a point of noticing the shop assistant, the waitress, the postman, the petrol station attendant etc. Thank them individually for what they do for you – it will make their day, and leave you with a smile on your face. Don’t forget your nearest and dearest: small gestures such as feeding the cat or making a cup of tea should not be taken for granted.
Find a place to sit quietly and undisturbed and focus on the present moment without judgment or agenda. Observe nothing but your breath and simply let yourself ‘be’. Even a few minutes at a time will have a big impact on your mental wellbeing.
Christmas can be the highlight of the year, a chance to relax with friends and family and celebrate love and happiness. However, that isn’t always the case. Your loved ones may live far away, you may not have any close family or have experienced a recent bereavement.
According to Saga, about half a million elderly people in the UK spend every Christmas on their own. And according to Age Concern, 1.2 million people in the UK are chronically lonely. If you’re staring another lonely festive period in the face and are wondering how to cope, here are some ideas that may help.
1 – Volunteering
Why not shift the focus away from your negative feelings at Christmas and make it all about giving to others? Many charities and voluntary organisations are dedicated to helping those in need, especially at such a vulnerable time of year, and extra help is always welcome. Check for local events and activities and perhaps offer to help out at a community Christmas Dinner, visiting lonely residents at a Care Home or taking gifts to a children’s hospital.
2 – Going to work
Keep yourself busy over Christmas by going to work. With plenty of people needing time off work over the holidays, your offer to keep the wheels of business going may be very welcome. Develop a sense of yuletide camaraderie with other working colleagues and share some mince pies at the desk. And who knows, maybe you’ll be paid Christmas overtime rates too.
3 – Joining in with the community
You’ll be amazed how many other people locally have no-one to celebrate Christmas with. Why not find them and get together? Whether through your local church or community groups, see whether you can join a community dinner or carol singing or drinks meet-up? You never know, it could be the beginning of some beautiful new friendships.
4 – Online Christmas
If you have access to a computer or smartphone and internet, why not hook up with far flung friends and family online? From texting to social media, email and video calling, there are many ways you can keep in touch and exchange Christmas wishes. Why not set up virtual get-togethers via Skype or Facetime?
With the Christmas season now upon us, what better time to remind ourselves that Christmas is a time for giving? Regardless of your financial situation – it’s not about the money! – now is your opportunity to think about those around you and show them you care.
But that’s not all. Charity begins at home, and in the often frantic weeks of preparation for the annual festivities, it’s all too easy to forget about your own needs. Be kind to yourself too.
Why not use this handy Christmas Calendar to prompt yourself to perform acts of kindness every day? From donating essential foodstuffs to a local foodbank (3 December) to writing a positive message of affirmation to yourself (9th December), to smiling and thanking the checkout staff at your local supermarket (17th December), to buying a lottery ticket for a stranger (23rd December), there must be a million ways to make a positive contribution to your own and other people’s happiness.
This month is the perfect chance to make a difference.
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