Did you know that being friendly can make a profound difference to the well-being of others and ourselves? One of the most fundamental human needs is connection. Being friendly supports this and more, making people feel appreciated and respected. Acts of kindness actually have a positive physiological effect on the body.
As the late poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, once said, “People forget what you said and what you did. But they never forget how you made them feel.”
What is Be friendly in February?
Be friendly in February is a calendar of suggestions set out by Action for Happiness (see more about this organisation below). The February calendar offers a suggestion for each day of the month to encourage us to take action and be friendlier to others in our everyday lives.
So, what is the point exactly? Let’s take a look at what Action for Happiness represents.
What is Action for Happiness?
Action for Happiness are a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society. They believe there is a need to prioritise the things that cause happiness, including building positive relationships and looking after our mental health (both important contributors to happiness).
Every month Action for Happiness publish an action calendar based on a theme to encourage people to make a greater contribution to bringing about better, more caring communities. This month’s calendar is a humble reminder that it doesn’t take much to be friendlier towards family, friends, colleagues and even strangers.
Why be friendly?
There are so many benefits to being friendly, and such kindness doesn’t have to be limited to the people we know. Treating everyone you meet in the same way as you would like to be treated will add meaning and significance to your life.
There are many people experiencing relationship problems, feeling despair, and some who are lonely and/or suffering from anxiety or depression. Being friendly to someone, whether you are aware of any problems or not, can make such a difference to their day. A small act of kindness could do much more than you think.
Being friendly makes you feel good and boosts your own happiness, as well as others. Generosity is hard-wired to the reward mechanism in our brain. Being kind to others is actually good for our own well-being. Altruistic behaviour releases endorphins (chemicals in the body that heal wounds, calm you down and make you feel good).
One study by the Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley, found half of participants felt stronger and more energetic after helping others, and many felt calmer and less depressed.
A report by Random Acts of Kindness states that perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population! Being friendly isn’t just good for those on the receiving end, it’s good for the instigator too.
Action for Happiness believe that helping others is the route to stronger communities and a happier society. Friendliness and kindness can have a domino effect. Why not take up the challenge and see what benefits being friendly in February can bring to you and those around you? It costs nothing, it could bring you the happiness you are searching for and it will have a positive impact on your physical and mental well-being.
Talking to someone when you feel overwhelmed can be really helpful. If you’d like to speak to one of our experienced counsellors about any problems you are experiencing, get in touch today.
The New Year has begun! Whether you’ve planned your resolutions for 2019, or don’t have anything in mind, the start of the year is a great time to start thinking about the year ahead. Finding something new to try in the New Year can not only help you relax, but can also help to improve your mental health. Learn a new skill, or find a new way to relax – focusing on something new can help make positive changes that can help make 2019 a happy New Year. Take a look at these five tips below:
1 – Write down all the positive things that happen
Making a note of the good things that happen to you each day can help to create a positive mindset, which will also benefit your overall mental wellbeing. Start a gratitude diary, or keep a note of positive things that have happened so you can look back on them. Try and write a few things each day. These don’t have to be huge, life changing events, they can just be simple things that happened in your day. Maybe you had a nice time with friends or family, got some good feedback at work, or went for a nice walk. Writing these moments down will not only help you to remember them, but can reinforce a positive mental attitude.
2 – Try something new
The New Year is a perfect chance to try out something new and exciting. Maybe there’s something fun that you’ve always wanted to try, or even an old hobby that you’ve been meaning to revisit. You could try and learn a new skill, or maybe you’ve been wanting to learn a new language. No matter what you decide, learning something new can be a great way to build confidence, boost your mood and maybe meet new people. Remember to have fun and enjoy the experience of learning. If you find that you’re not enjoying it anymore or feeling stressed, its fine to take a break and come back to it another time, or maybe try something else that interests you more.
3 – Try out mindfulness and meditation
Practicing mindfulness and trying out meditation can help you relax and give your mind some much needed downtime, as well as helping you in your day to day life. It is easy to learn, and there are many simple guides online to help you practise. A lot of the apps and guides available online also offer short sessions, so it doesn’t have to take up much of your time. Find a guide that works for you, then try and fit in a couple of meditation sessions each day.
Not sure where to start? Fortunately, there are some great mindfulness and meditation tools available for free. Here are just some of the apps that you could try:
4 – Take some time for yourself
Looking after yourself is important, and taking some “Me time” to relax and enjoy some time alone can help reduce stress and improve your mental wellbeing. It can also help you recharge and to prepare for the next day, helping you perform to your best ability. Remember that “Me time” doesn’t have to be something big, even taking a little time for yourself can help. Do something that you enjoy, or maybe take some time to try out some meditation. The important thing is that you get some time to relax.
5 – Get professional support if needed
If it seems like everything is getting on top of you and you’re struggling to cope, you may benefit from professional support. Our friendly and professional team at KlearMinds is made up of experienced counsellors trained to offer a range of therapies including counselling, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and life coaching and can provide advice on a range of issues. If you would like to get in touch with us, you can do so by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call us on 0333 772 0256. All information you provide is handled confidentially.
With Christmas in the air, December can be the most magical time. But rather than getting caught up in wish lists and the annual Christmas shopping frenzy, how about making this year a truly meaningful Christmas? Gifts don’t have to come wrapped and lying under the tree – it’s not about the money, it’s the thought that counts. We posted a heartfelt blog about this last year here.
And who says you have to wait until Christmas Day to give a present? Advent Calendars are a great way to celebrate every single day leading up to the main event, and they’re not just for children or come filled with chocolates.
Look at the Kindness Advent Calendar above and use it to perform an act of kindness every day in December. Did you know that 4th December is National Sock Day? What better way than to give new socks to a homeless person or shelter. On 13th December, cook an extra meal for someone who would appreciate it, and on 19th December give compliments to as many people as you can. You get the idea.
Obviously, you can make up your own gifts of kindness; there’s no need to rigidly stick to what it says on the calendar. The important thing is that you can use Christmas as a great opportunity to make someone, including yourself, happy.
Do you have trouble controlling your negative thoughts? Are you feeling anxious or depressed and wish you could switch off those thoughts? Sometimes, it’s those thoughts rather than a particular situation or incident that can be causing anxiety or depression.
Thinking errors happen when your thoughts and reality don’t match up, often without you even realising. Also called ‘cognitive distortions’ by professionals, they’re faulty patterns of thinking that are self-defeating, meaning it’s possible to get caught in a loop of negative thinking that can end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Here’s an example of someone who thinks he is unpopular, and might have physical symptoms, such as sweating profusely at the idea of being in a social situation. The individual might avoid parties and social gatherings altogether based on the feeling that ‘something must be wrong with me’.
If the initial thinking error is dealt with appropriately, the negative cycle (see diagram below) and any resulting depression or anxiety could be avoided.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you recognise your distorted thoughts and learn to question them. With practice, you can learn to break the cycle of negativity that could be triggered by negative thinking, and replace it with a healthier, more balanced way of thinking.
Here are 7 common thinking errors that can be helped by CBT.
1 – ‘All or nothing’ thinking
If you are routinely thinking of things in terms of ‘never’ or ‘always’, you may be tempted to view anything less than perfect as a failure. Try to find the ‘in between’ and learn to accept that there is a wide range of possible outcomes between complete disaster and total perfection.
2 – Mental Filter
Are you typically dwelling on the negative aspects of any given situation, disregarding the positive side? If so, you may need to shift your mindset to acknowledge the good things that exist and learn not to let your negative thinking dominate.
3 – Fortune Telling
Do you tend to jump to conclusions based on your negative thinking, convinced that a certain situation or opportunity is bound to turn out badly? Rather than letting foregone conclusions limit your thinking, learn that you do have control over the outcome.
4 – Mind Reading
Similarly, you may be making negative assumptions about a person’s intentions or thoughts. While you engage in a thinking error known as ‘mind reading’, you are assuming people focus on your flaws through their responses, even though that may not be the case at all.
5 – Overgeneralising
Another type of negative of thinking error is the habit of creating a broad generalisation out of a single isolated incident. But an unpleasant situation that occurred once doesn’t mean that the same thing will happen every time
6 – Disqualifying the positive
Are you constantly dismissing good things, compliments you receive or positive things people say? With this thinking error, you are discounting the good, while looking for a negative message or ulterior motive.
7 – Personalisation
Are you in danger of seeing yourself as the cause of everything negative that happens, even though you are not responsible? You may be feeling guilt or shame as a result of something that is not your fault.
If you are suffering from thinking errors, you’ll be pleased to hear that recognising cognitive distortions is the first step towards correcting them. Your negative thought patterns can be changed.
At KlearMinds, we have experienced cognitive behavioural therapists that can help you address your individual issues and give you the tools to change your thoughts for the better. Please feel free to contact us.
Beck, J. S. 2010. Cognitive Therapy. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.
Burns, David D., MD. (1989). The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
15 Common Cognitive Distortions
How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Can Help With Depression
How CBT Can Help with Anxiety
Do you suffer from flight anxiety? Or are you generally nervous when travelling? Fear of travelling can be a type of phobia, which may stop you exploring new places or having fun with friends and family on holiday. Catchily termed by psychologists as pteromerhanophobia, aviophobia or aerophobia, fear of flying is thought to affect 10% of the population though some studies suggest that the figures may be much higher.
If your fears trigger excessive levels of panic or anxiety, it might be worth seeking counselling to help you overcome your phobia. Here at KlearMinds, we offer effective phobia treatment counselling, using CBT and integrative psychology to help people overcome their phobia. Why not give our team a call on 0333 772 0256 or contact us here to find out more?
In the meantime, we’ve put together some useful tips that you might like to try out – perhaps on a small journey first – to see which techniques work best for you.
1 – Travel with a companion
If you’re worried about flying on your own, try to arrange for someone to come with you. Having a travel companion, especially if they’re a seasoned traveller, can make a huge difference to give you that sense of security and calm, whether you’re navigating the terminal building and pass through airport security all the way until you board the plane. Make sure you talk to your companion about your fears, so they can be prepared to help you, provide emotional support, encouragement or distraction as necessary.
2 – Practise relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques can be very effective for calming nerves and the mind. Rather than focusing on what the plane, pilot or air hostess are doing, close your eyes and take long, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus your attention on something calm, perhaps by visualising a favourite place, person or event. Starting with the tip of your toes and working your way up, tense and relax each part of your body for about 10 seconds. Some people find that listening to soothing music is helpful. There are even apps to help you conquer your fear of flying!
3 – Have healthy foods and drinks
While junk food can worsen your anxieties, healthy foods that are low in sugar can have the opposite effect. Complete meals and complex carbs will not only fill you up for longer, they’ll give you the energy to keep going all day. Stock up with high quality snacks like protein bars, granola, nuts and fresh fruit so you’re not tempted by the airport snack bars. For drinks, stay away from alcohol since this can potentially worsen your travel anxiety. Water is the best option on a flight. Offering plenty of hydration, there’s no alcohol, no sugar and no caffeine to cause energy highs/lows.
4 – Exercise before you travel
Sitting around and doing nothing while you wait for your flight is likely to increase your nervous energy and raise anxiety levels when it’s time to go. If possible, make time to slot in some exercise before travelling. From walking around the block to hitting the gym for a full workout, exercise will relax your muscles and mind so you’re distracted from the pre-flight jitters. If you’re waiting for a flight connection, why not take the opportunity to stretch your legs? Your body will love the activity and your relaxation techniques will work even better when you really need them.
5 – Remind yourself of the reason for the trip
Remember that travelling is merely a means to an end. It’s the method by which you get from A to B. While you may not be looking forward to the journey, try to use the powers of positive thinking to help you keep your mind firmly focused on the good bit: getting to the destination and seeing friends and family, or having a nice time on holiday. Ask yourself what activity you want to do most when you get there and who are you looking forward to seeing the most. Most importantly, are you going to get one lousy flight get in the way of having a great time?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that thoughts, feelings and behaviours are interconnected and that by changing one you can change the others. It’s an effective ‘talking therapy’ technique that’s been known to help people deal with a variety of mental health issues, from anxiety and depression to self-esteem and substance misuse.
Put simply, the goal is to learn skills that you can take home and use to address real-life problems as they arise. The more you become comfortable using these techniques, the more of a habit CBT will become. We wrote a detailed blog about CBT here.
Here are 3 self-help techniques you can practise at home:
1 – Practice mindfulness and meditation
It is well known that practising mindfulness can have a wide range of positive impacts on mental health. Put briefly, mindfulness means intentionally and consciously paying attention to being in the present moment without letting judgement get in the way. It can help people suffering from harmful automatic thoughts to disengage from obsessive rumination and stay firmly grounded in the present.
For instance, if you’re constantly worrying about work problems when you’re trying to fall asleep, or you can’t concentrate on an important assignment because your mind keeps darting to an argument with a friend, you’re not focused on what is happening in the present moment.
Use your breath and your senses to bring yourself back to the here and now. Here are some short meditation practices that will help to train your mind.
2 – Take little baby steps
Ask yourself the old question: How do you eat an elephant? And the answer is always: One bite at a time. Whether you’re working to overcome depression or breaking an unhealthy habit, change won’t be happening overnight. The trick is to break the big goal down into lots of little easy-to-score goals. Psychologists call this ‘successive approximation’.
Map out the path to victory by setting yourself up for lots of little progressive ‘wins’ and celebrate each of your key achievement. Be proud of any positive change, however small, and recognise the fact that progress isn’t linear. Not only will this make the long journey to better mental health seem much less daunting, progress will happen slowly but surely.
3 – Reframe your negative thoughts
When you feel negative or depressed, it can be difficult to recognise that there are good things in life too. This can be particularly pronounced during autumn or winter, especially if you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Try to rebalance your mind by a simple exercise of writing down three positive things in your day. Continue your gratitude journal every day; it’s a powerful tool to help forge new associations in your mind that make it easier to see the positives.
You can intensify the process by consciously countering negative thoughts straight away. For example, if your first thought upon entering a room is that you hate the colour of the wall, push yourself to notice 5 things you like in the room (e.g. nice view from the window, lovely lampshade etc).
Research has shown that a mere 7% of human communication is based on what we actually say. The remaining 93% is non-verbal, of which 38% comes from tone of voice and 55% from body language. Learning how to read other people’s body language can yield an astonishing amount of information about them, as many counsellors and psychotherapists know only too well.
However, interpreting body language is a lot more complex than just looking up someone’s body shape on a definitive list such as this one. How do you know whether a person who has their arms crossed is feeling defensive or superior? Or are they feeling relaxed and putting their arms into a comfortable position?
This is where the 5 C’s come in. It’s a set of additional clues that can help us read body language and other non-verbal communication in a more coherent and accurate way.
Behaviour and communication are two-way processes, with external events acting as triggers that stimulate our responses. Ask yourself: What might have just happened for the person to take that body stance? There may be more than one answer.
A cue can also be triggered internally, so ask yourself: Looking at the person’s body language, what might they be thinking or feeling? The cue-response sequence can even be instinctive, such as the fear-and-recoil response to seeing a spider or a rat.
Body language may suddenly change, say from open to closed formation, or the person suddenly scratching their nose – both of which may indicate discomfort. When you notice a transition, think back for clues that may have triggered their change in behaviour.
Sales people, for instance, use body language signals all the time. A customer leaning forward displaying positive non-verbal responses is subtly sending buying signals that the sales rep will use to help him close the deal.
More often than not, body language is more than a single event – in fact, it very rarely is. Instead, a cluster of different movements take place together. A person may shift position, cross their arms, lean backwards and purse their lips. They’re clearly in disagreement with whatever just happened or was said.
However, sometimes these cluster movements contradict each other, sending mixed messages. When this happens, be extra vigilant and trust your instinct, then back it up with reasons why you might be feeling this way.
Next, look at the general character of the person. What are they like and what body language is normal for them? For instance, extroverts may naturally display frequent and large body movements, unlike introverts who prefer to take up less space.
Trying to decipher people’s non-verbal communication in an effort to interpret their thoughts and actions is notoriously difficult, particularly if you apply the ‘wrong’ filter. What’s more, temperament, mood and short-term emotional state can modify a person’s normal character and behaviour, making their body language even more complex.
Finally, take account of the broader context that may influence how the other person feels, thinks and acts. In terms of the immediate physical surroundings, for instance, young men in the presence of attractive women will alter their behaviour to include more mate-attracting moves.
This also goes for the wider context of a person’s life. Past experiences good and bad can have a significant effect on their body language. Unless you know about these modifiers, your ability to interpret the person’s non-verbal communications may remain superficial.
When it comes to your physical health, you wouldn’t think twice to see a doctor. But what about your mental health and emotional wellbeing? Many people feel nervous, embarrassed or even ashamed about seeing a counsellor. Why?
Well, not only is there a stigma attached to admitting that you may need help taking care of your mental health, there’s also a lot of misinformation out there about the kinds of people who seeking counselling, and what a counsellor does and doesn’t do. Here are 5 myths that we’re going to lay to rest right now.
1 – Counselling is only for people with serious mental health issues.
Many people believe that in order to see a counsellor, you need to have a psychological disorder or be seriously mentally ill. The reality is entirely different. Counselling can be beneficial for everyone. Whether you seek support for everyday matters such as stress management or relationship issues, mental health challenges like depression, or life events such as a bereavement, counsellors and psychotherapists are expertly trained to help people with a wide range of concerns.
2 – It’s easier to talk to friends and family about my problems.
There is a common belief that seeking the support of your friends and family is just as good as getting professional counselling. But while being able to share your problems with your friends and family is obviously helpful, it is very different from the relationship with a trained counsellor who has specialist skills in diagnosing and treating a range of cognitive, behavioural and emotional issues. What’s more, counselling is entirely private and confidential, meaning you don’t have to take the feelings of your loved ones into account when you speak.
3 – Counselling is nothing but endless talk about my childhood.
Another common misconception is that counselling sessions are spent endlessly rehashing the past, your childhood and the relationship with your parents. The truth is that counselling is tailored to meet your unique personal situation. While some people will benefits from exploring their various previous relationships that are impacting their current reality, others may wish to focus on the present time to inform their future pathways. Counselling draws on a range of approaches to resolve concerns and achieve desired outcomes.
4 – Counselling takes ages; it’s like writing a blank cheque.
Many people mistakenly believe that if you go to counselling, you’re committing to endless sessions that will, over time, cost you an arm and a leg. However, modern counselling is outcome focused and affordable. Private health insurance can also significantly reduce the cost of mental health treatment, while many counsellors keep their fees moderate to ensure maximum access to quality care and support for all. While the goal of counselling is to help people manage their individual challenges, most patients will get there with effective short-term counselling, while others may need several months or more intensive support.
5 – I tried it once and it didn’t work, so counselling is not for me.
Just because you may have had one bad experience with counselling, this doesn’t mean the treatment isn’t for you. If you’re not happy with one counsellor, get a second opinion elsewhere. There are literally thousands of counsellors and psychotherapists in practice. Each one is different and it’s important to find one that you can build a positive rapport with. In fact, the ‘therapeutic alliance’ is at the core of every successful counselling treatment. Trust, respect and working towards a common goal together is probably one of the most reliable indicators of positive counselling outcomes.
At KlearMinds, we have a team of professionals trained in a range of counselling, life coaching and psychotherapy approaches. This means we can tailor our therapy choices to suit your individual learning style and give you the best opportunity to achieve positive results. For more information about the KlearMinds team and how we can support you, please get in touch on 0333 772 0256 or email email@example.com.
Like it or not, stress seems to be part of our daily lives. Whether it’s worrying about money, job, family or relationships, too much anxiety can have a detrimental effect on your health and wellbeing. But when your body and mind is running on adrenaline, it makes it difficult to slow down at the end of the day – and harder to get started in the morning.
To help them cope with their daily lives, many people self-medicate, consuming coffee or energy drinks as a repeated energy booster during the day, while using alcohol to relax in the evening. While this can bring short term relief, it doesn’t address the underlying problems and long-term use of artificial stimulants and relaxants can takes its toll on your health.
Rather than relying on caffeinated drinks to keep your energy levels from crashing during the day, how about trying healthier alternatives that help you rebalance the body and soothe the mind? In addition to paying attention to your diet and eating mindfully, here are 3 hot, calming beverages that might just do the trick.
If you’re feeling frazzled and anxious, try a glass of warm milk. It’s not a new idea but it works. In scientific terms, milk packs tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin aka the ‘feelgood’ chemical in the body. Higher levels of serotonin in the blood will calm you down and improve your mood, while calcium and magnesium help lower blood pressure. If you’re not keen on the taste of heated up milk, add some good old Ovaltine – it’s high magnesium content is perfect to help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. Or try a Vegan variation called Golden Milk, made with coconut or almond milk, turmeric, pepper, coconut oil, cinnamon and honey.
Valerian Root Tea
Research shows that Valerian helps to boost the amount of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) in the brain, whose job it is to regulate nerve cells and calm anxiety. Valerian root tea has a strong sedative effect and it can also act as a pain killer. It’s best to have a cup just before bedtime – not everyone feels sleepy after drinking Valerian Root Tea but if you’re affected, don’t drink and drive or operate machinery! Beware that Valerian has an interesting aroma that not everyone likes, which is why you’ll often find it in bedtime tea mixes together with other soothing herbs such as Chamomile, Lavender, Fennel, Lime Flower, Passion Flower or Liquorice.
Decaffeinated Green Tea
Green tea is one of the oldest teas in the world. Made from the unfermented leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, it’s arguably one of the healthiest beverages you can consume. Its health giving benefits come from phytochemicals, natural chemical compounds found in plants, including flavanols that give green tea its rich antioxidant content. Decaf green tea contains theanine, which will reduce stress and improve sleep. Make sure you don’t choose regular green tea, since the caffeine it contains may well keep you from sleeping.
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