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.
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.
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.
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.
Now the summer holidays are over and we’re all back at our desks, now might be a good time to address an issue that affects many people, both at work and at home: time management.
If you’re feeling snowed under with work or overwhelmed with responsibilities and are struggling to cope on a regular basis, productivity can take a nosedive. The result? Nothing gets done, you feel guilty, you start doubting your own abilities and the cycle can easily spiral downwards.
The Pomodoro Technique is one of many time management tools that can be really useful to help you break down your tasks into small ‘bite sized’ chunks. Whether your in-tray always seems to be overflowing, you’re suffering from work stress or are a self-confessed procrastinator, give this technique a try and see if you can use it to improve your productivity.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
This time management method was developed in the late 1980s by Italian entrepreneur and software developer Francesco Cirillo. The aim is to work with the time you have rather than against it. Using a ‘Pomodoro Timer’, break your workday into 25-minute chunks – each interval unit is 1 pomodoro – punctuated by 5-minute breaks. After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-20 minutes.
The timer can be a smartphone app, an alarm clock or any accurate timer device. Cirillo originally used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato, hence the name – pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. There are plenty of Pomodoro Timer Apps available.
Alternatively, YouTube has a number of interesting videos you can use including silent ones:
Some with ocean waves as background ‘white noise’:
Or soothing classical music:
How does this help you?
The idea behind the technique is to instill a sense of urgency into your workday, setting yourself goals and targets to be met within the natural rhythm of the human attention span which is about 20-25 minutes. Rather than feeling that you have endless time to get things done during the day, but then squandering precious hours working ineffectively or being distracted, working within a pomodoro focuses the mind to help you make progress on the task in hand.
No more scrolling through Facebook or a quick look on Amazon, reading clickbait or replying to non-urgent emails. Instead, your mind will be fully zoned in on whatever project you’re working on, knowing you only have to concentrate for 25 minutes before you can have a break.
What’s more, the pre-planned rest times really help to eliminate that frazzled, burnt out feeling many people experience at the end of the working day. Using the Pomodoro technique stops you from spending hours in front of the computer without moving, since the timer reminds you to get up and take regular breaks from the desk.
At KlearMinds, we have a team of highly qualified and experienced counsellors, psychotherapists and life coaches ready to help you with any concerns that may be troubling you including stress management, career advice and self-confidence issues. If you feel that it would help to talk to someone who may be able to help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You’ve heard of mindfulness at work, but what about mindful eating? While our relationship with food is not always straightforward, it’s good to see that people are generally becoming more conscious about the food they eat.
Whether this translates into trying to lose weight or choosing organic produce, cooking from scratch or cutting down on processed ingredients, it’s an active engagement with what we put into our bodies – and that must surely be a good thing. However, when we put this much care into choosing what we eat, it makes sense to put the same amount of love into the actual eating of it.
Do you often hurry or even skip your meals? Stress, for example, can be a powerful appetite suppressant that isn’t healthy at all. Do you multitask while eating? Do you make family mealtimes a priority? By respecting mealtimes and paying attention to the ritual of eating food, we prepare our bodies to receive the full benefit of the food. And eating mindfully not only helps your digestion (that’s a scientific fact) and therefore your physical health, it has mental health benefits too. Mindful eating helps you to feel calmer, happier and more satisfied.
Here are 7 tips to help you to eat more mindfully:
1 – Eat proper meals every day
If you’ve got into the habit of snacking all day, skipping breakfast or eating at irregular hours, try switching back to 3 regular meals per day. Eating balanced meals at regular intervals helps maintain steady blood sugar levels, keeping energy slumps at bay. What’s more, it takes our bodies around 3 hours to process meals after which it needs to rest. If you ‘graze’ throughout the day, you put more strain on the digestive system, making it sluggish and less efficient.
2 – Take your time over meals
In addition to taking regular mealtimes, it’s important not to rush our food. We spend such a small proportion of our day actually eating, and yet it’s an important time and process to nourish our bodies. Surely, even with stressful jobs and hectic lifestyles, everyone should be able to spare half an hour to sit down and eat properly?! Not only does eating more slowly, calmly and relaxed help us digest our food better, it’s an opportunity to really savour and relish each mouthful and enjoy the sensory pleasure of eating delicious food.
3 – Sit down while you eat
Grabbing a sandwich on the go or having a quick bite while you’re waiting for the train is a bad habit to get into. When we sit down, our bodies are at rest, meaning our energy can move inwards to the stomach and digestive system. Ever heard of ‘rest and digest’? That’s the state our nervous system should be in at mealtimes. Conversely, when we are standing up or moving around, the circulation is actively bringing blood to our arms and legs, while action hormones such as adrenaline are being released that are not helpful to the digestive process.
4 – Chew your food well
Digestion starts in the mouth – with chewing. If you rush your food and wolf down large mouthfuls, you are not getting the most from your meals. Good chewing allows you to assimilate the nutrients well – your teeth break down fibre and the saliva mixes with the food allowing the enzymes to break down the carbohydrates. Carb rich foods such as grains, beans and vegetables benefit particularly well from thorough chewing – and you will feel fuller more quickly. Try putting your cutlery down and chew each mouthful at least ten times.
5 – Make your meals screen free
Mindful eating means focusing on the process of nourishing your body. You can’t do that while you’re multitasking. However tempting it may be to eat in front of the TV, check your emails while having lunch or keep your phone next to you on the table just in case a message comes in, break the habit! Let mealtimes be just for eating and you’ll soon find that these times become small islands of rest and relaxation during a busy day.
6 – Make it look beautiful
Don’t underestimate the importance of the visual appeal of your dining area and the food itself. Wouldn’t you rather have your meals in attractive surroundings? And wouldn’t you prefer food that looked truly appetising to eat? Make the food look good with colour and garnish, served in pretty bowls and in an uplifting space, and feel the energy nourish you inside you as you’re having your mealtime break. Best of all, share the experience with family and friends and nourish your spirit too!
7 – Appreciate your meals
Rather than taking your meals for granted and viewing food as nothing more than fuel to get the body through the day, take a few moments to really think about where it has come from. It’s a humbling experience to truly appreciate the abundance of nature that makes it possible for all of us to be alive, part of the natural world that we live in. You don’t need to be especially spiritual to feel the interconnection between yourself and all other living things.
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