Happy Body, Happy Mind!

“Here we go again” – it is detox time.  

At the change of the seasons it is my custom to detox. At both spring and autumn are the times for a clean out.  Many people get into the idea of ‘spring cleaning’, well I like an autumn clean as well.  I have been doing it since I lived the ashram when I was a young man. Often as a yoga/meditation teacher students would join for the clean out. These days each year I invite all those around me to have a go.  So, if you are game for a laugh go to liveinthepresent.co.uk and download the thirteen day detox.

The first question people tend to ask me is “why do you want to detox?” For many the idea of spending a couple of weeks on a restricted diet can be scary and even seem impossible. The first time it is a bit strange as we are learning but after that it is easy. And, you will feel so much better for it.

Using the thirteen day detox program you sequentially exclude food over a week leaving you with three magic days when you can really flush you system.  These three days will vary in intensity depending on your experience, needs and commitment.  It might just be three days on fruit.  It could be three days on fruit juice.  Or, you might go for a day on fruit juice, and day on honey, water and lemon, then another day on fruit juice as you work your way back up again onto you full diet. With a spring detox she it is warm I might stay of just the water for a few days. In the autumn it is harder as we need to keep warm and our diet helps us with that.

Across the world people use fasting for both physical and spiritual reasons. In Ramadan Muslims fast throughout the ideas of day light. For Hindu and Sheik communities it is common. In Buddhist and mindfulness communities it is seen as a strong discipline just like meditation. For Christians the fasting or limitations on the Lent period the same. However, in the modern age there is a lot of evidence that that fasting or calorie limiting is good for the body and is a part of our hunter gatherer heritage. Michael Mosley developed the five two diet which is similar.

Even so, for many people, in the west at least, the idea of going without food is scary, and potentially undoable.  Yet many people in the world will go without food for several days a week or be living on a severely limited diet.  A detox is much more than a physical thing.  It is also a time when we can clear our mind and make decisions about, life or lifestyle, that enable us to grow and develop as people.

I will be starting my Autumn detox on the week beginning in the week of September 27th.  Many people use the detox when they are seeking changing their relationship with food, alcohol, nicotine and other substances or behaviours.  A detox is the perfect opportunity to get your life back on track, to set new goals and to consider what it is that you really do want from life. It also gives us time to consider what it is that need to do to make it happen. I find it is like drawing a line on what has gone before and creating a new beginning.

You can download the detox from the liveinthepresent.co.uk website. If you have questions about it drop me an email.

I do say in the program that you need to be aware of your own health situation and I always suggest that if you are unsure then you should run the program by your doctor before you are it on to get the go ahead.

Take care and happy autumn cleaning 

Sean x   

The Amazing Benefits of Community Living

Last week Ed organised a family/community gathering based around his loved subject of cycling. People rallied around and helped and many people turned up to enjoy the day. There has been a real sense of community. Ed is becoming a community nut in his drive to make our roads safe and encourage people to take to their bikes. He has a strong sense of community.

Ed shared a lovely picture of his Grandmother Beryl at 92 sitting on the back of his bike.

It made me think about the documentary series on Channel four that showed the interaction between a home for older people and a group of four year old children. It shows the huge benefits and gain made by both the old and the young through communication, caring and creating of community. Why do we put older people in homes rather than maintain the extended families that allowed for the interaction and support of all ages. 

Events like Ed’s give us the opportunity to meet together and get to know more people who are actually our community the people that we live around. I guess that in any community there will sometimes be conflict. However in a true and supportive community any stresses will be minimised and the more that we meet and talk the easier it is to resolve problems. 

We all have a choice to invest in and create our own communities. Community has no cost it does not require wealth it is all an attitude of mind.

So what is community other than a group of like minded people?

1: Safety

A community that is safe allows for trust between neighbours where you feel safe to be out at night alone. We can leave our child sleeping in their pram outside the front door in the sun and fresh air without fear. We need not worry if the house door or the car is left unlocked or the windows open. We know that those around us will look out for us.

2: Community

Community is big a family and a big family is a community. The warm social experience of groups and friends socialising and simple parties and gatherings are community. It might be a group of mums meeting for a coffee after dropping the kids at school. It might be the gathering of a group of line dancers, or even the camaraderie of the gym.

In years gone by communities gathered to celebrate christenings, engagements, weddings, birthdays, national holidays and every other excuse to gather and celebrate the fact that we are all one community. 

3: Exercise 

In a community, as Ed would confirm, a walk or a bike ride is good. But, if you are going to do it why not doing with friends, do it as a group. We know that exercise is good for us. Many people now seek to hit the ten thousand steps a day to keep fit and at a moderate weight. We also know that when you move your body your brain secretes endorphins that are the happy hormones. When we do things together as a community those endorphins are bending, they bind us together,

4: Environment

How many times do we see a town or village with the streets full of litter, or the phantom pile of fly tipped rubbish? Looking after our environment is looking after our community. Clean and tidy spaces leaves us with a calmness that allows us to live in a harmonious place. And, harmonious place equals harmonious mind, equals harmonious community.

5: Reduce the stress

When we live in complex communities they require us to make decisions all the time. Our larger societies are complex communities. Indeed, we could describe the entire human race as one large community and planet earth as our village. But, do we look after it and keep it clean? We have a choice and yet choice is both liberating and disabling. 

Choice can be overwhelming. If the choice is do you want brown bread or white bread the decision is simple. If we walk into the supermarket and are faced with fifty different loaves of bread the decision can become very stressful. Community, local shops are smaller and require less choice. Shopping malls and supermarkets often break up communities and also create stress.

6: Give your community value

This might be your local community, school community or work community. Do we see them as important and give them the value that they deserve? Often we will give more value to he people that we identify as within our community and give less value to strangers. In the Mitch Albom’s book ‘The Five People That You Meet in Heaven’ he describes strangers as ‘family that you have yet to get to know’. I really like that concept. In my life I have found so many people who have been and are my family. 

What value do you give your community?

This is one of those topics where I can climb aboard my hobby horse and stride off into the distance. The important things about all community, and the community of all the human race is simply this…

If we all took the time to look after each other we would all be okay

That is community.

The work that Ed is doing is  actively bringing community together. I wonder how many people thought they were just going for a cycle ride but actually met new friends?

Be happy and look after each other and nurture our community

Sean x

Food and mood – Is there happiness in what you eat?

As we move towards winter our diets tend to change and the level of carbs that we will be eating almost certainly will increase. We call this comfort eating.

Food and mood is a fascinating subject. In current times the drive for our diet to become plant based or vegan seems to be everywhere. Many people, that I know, consume animal flesh without making to connection between what is on their plate and what is running a round in a field. For there is the need, often verging on agitation, to not damage another living soul in any way. It leaves me wondering why we each decide to each what we do?

It has been known throughout time that food and mood go together. Foods have been used to enhance energy, intelligence, healing and for aphrodisiac properties. The thing that is never clear is, when food is associated with mood, are the moods the result of the food eaten, or if it is the mood that leads us to be attracted to certain foods in the first place!

When I was a child my parents told me that “fat people were always happy and jolly”, and I could see the truth of that, Mrs Pye, a very large lady who ,live across the road, was indeed always laughing. Then at other times I was also told that people who were always happy were stupid because, according to my parents, life was supposed to be hard, and life was supposed to be earnest. As a good Christian, of Irish decent, my mother taught me that “every one has their cross to bear”, that everyone had their difficulties to face and overcome. I grew up with believing that, in life, we were not supposed to have a good time and that it was supposed to be difficult, and that in some strange way, living with difficulty was the sign of the pure life. So, in many ways the more miserable that you were then the better person you must be. Mad or what?

This created confusion in me. In my mind it followed that if big people were happy they must also be stupid. It also followed that they had no reason to be unhappy because they were not carrying any crosses in life. On the contrary, it seemed to me that big people had every reason to be happy, while skinny people had every reason to be unhappy because of all their crosses that were weighing them down.

To top it all I was very skinny, therefore, in my mind, I was supposed to be unhappy, and I was. I accepted it as the natural order of my life. My dilemma was, if I ate too much I would be fat and stupid or else I would be thin and miserable. As I was thin I accepted that I would always be miserable, and I was.

Obviously with age and experience I now know that this was all nonsense, though at the time it seemed all very real. I say nonsense but well, it is, but not quite. We now know that food and mood do go together. When we eat carbohydrates our brain secretes serotonin, the happy hormone. Comfort foods are exactly that. Eating carbohydrates for comfort is really self medication.

In psychotherapy we now identify the ‘carbohydrate cycle’. This means that as a response to feeling depressed and down, many people will go and eat lots of carbohydrates to get the feeling of comfort. The result of this is that they put on weight. They then go to the mirror and feel bad at the weight they have put on leading them to eat more carbohydrates to make them self feel better.

The self medication with carbohydrates is only one way to increase serotonin. The most obvious route is through medication is antidepressants. However the best way to increase serotonin and feel better is through exercise or by simply having fun. If your heart beats faster for twenty minutes your brain will secrete more serotonin that will make you feel so much better. It makes me realise how much our life-style works against us feeling good. Our, hunter gatherer, ancestors would jog a few mile everyday collecting food and going about their business, and in the process maintain good levels of endorphins, happy hormones. We, on the other hand, live sedentary life styles that create very little of the hormones that we really need.

The question remains, are we the result of what we eat or are we attracted to certain foods because of who we are? There’s certainly a relationship between what we eat and how we feel. If you eat light easy to digest foods you will a light and have an easy mind, the food reflects your mood. If you eat reheated meat pie and chips you will have a mind that reflects heavy stodgy fat food.

It strikes me that in a normal situation we would naturally east what our body needed. However, many people exact with their mind not their body. They are eating what they think they should eat and not what their body is asking for. When I was young I lived in many communities that we solid vegetarian. Well, they were until a visitor would coma and start cooking bacon. Suddenly people began to appear in the kitchen attracted by the smell.

Some people are naturally in touch with their body and eat what is appropriate for them. Some are more in touch with their mind and eat what they thing they should eat. While others have to eat whatever they can get and do not have a choice. I tend toward the Mediterranean diet and I love olives, tomatoes and pasta which is a powerful carb and certainly does make me feel good. A glass of red wine with the pasta goes down a treat.

So what are you having for tea? Does it make you feel happy? If not perhaps you might need to change your diet, or go for a run. Is your diet based around what you think you should eat or what you really enjoy eating?

Take care and enjoy your food.

Sean x

Are you allowed to attend?

Okay, so as we are trying to return society to normal, take our masks off and get back to work how do you feel about it. Of the people that I work with there are those that will never be vaccinated come what may and don’t care about wearing masks or who they mix with right through to those that will be wearing a mask in any public setting for years to come. I decided to get vaccinated and as I have had the virus as well I assume that I am pretty well protected. However, I do still wear a mask and feel a bit avoidant of those that have chosen not to be vaccinated. Is it okay to treat the vaccinated and unvaccinated in the same way? 

Should us, the vaccinated, allow those that refuse to have the Covid vaccine to access the same events as us? Does this create a two tier society of exclusions? Or is it reasonable to expect people to comply? If you are not vaccinated do you feel safe and secure attending events with vaccinated or unvaccinated people? Or do you see the vaccine as unnecessary?

The current wisdom seems to be that those who are vaccinated can still get the virus but with much reduced symptoms. Those that are not vaccinated who do get the virus are at far greater risk of serious illness and even of death. Considering the currently known and the likely unknown future variants the risk gets ever greater.

Talking with people moving back to the workplace the vaccination issue is, in many cases, having an effect there. I hear some people insisting that they will not share an office, attend meetings or go for lunch or dinner with someone who has not been vaccinated. I have also spoken with people that will not allow anyone who has not been double jabbed to come to their house even if they are family. I did point out that a vaccinated person was at more risk of passing the virus on to the unvaccinated than the other way around.

It seems that in this one where we are dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t. I hear it repeated many times that those who refuse the vaccine are just being selfish in that they put others at risk. Should we be taking the vaccine to protect our self or to protect others?

Take a look at how many people on public transport or in shops are no longer wearing masks. There is still a strong recommendation that we wear a mask on public transport, in a shop or when we enter or leave a cafe/restaurant/pub to minimise the risk of passing the virus on to the unvaccinated people! 

So should we wear a mask? Just looking around it seems that a high proportion of people are choosing not to. It seems that many of these non mask wearers have also chosen not to be vaccinated. Yet it is these people that are at the highest risk from the virus not the vaccinated.

It is easy, after all this time of Covid restriction, to become Covid blind and just give up on all the protections and procedures. I am as fed up with it all as everyone else though for me it is important that we not minimise the current and future risks and effects of Covid. It will be with us for sometime yet and we do need to continue to protect ourselves and others. 

A part from recovering medically we need to recover socially. We need to get back to being the group animals that we truly are. The sad thing is that if we were to exclude all of the unvaccinated from social events we will only extend the social recovery time for the whole of community. We might all be in danger of losing contact with friends and family perhaps forever.

It is important to recognise that the many people who have an annual flu vaccine are still happy to mix with people who are not vaccinated. I do not see people considering and worrying about the consequences of this. We simply see it as a choice, flu jab or not? Perhaps we now need to see Covid in the same way. Covid jab or not? In the end who is at the most risk?

It has to be that those at most risk of Covid are the non vaccinated or those that are choosing not to take the second jab. Those that are vaccinated may become infected with the virus though they will probably only have mild symptoms. It is the unvaccinated who remain at the highest risk.

I suspect that this will an ongoing issue that may last for years. Will the vaccinated allow the unvaccinated to attend events? This might include all social and family events from weddings to funeral services. The effects on travel will remain for a long time to come. Should we have a covid passport to allow us to travel or attend concerts and sports events? We have some serious decisions to make to avoid a divided society.

For me I choose to be vaccinated to protect my family and the client group that I work with. I had the virus before I was vaccinated and apart from some long term lung issues I have survived it okay. However, I do know of many people who did not. For me the choice is yours and hopefully if you choose not to be vaccinated and do contract Covid your symptoms will be mild. 

Take care and be happy

Sean x

Who are you performing for?

Performative wellness and performative success occur when someone becomes more concerned with presenting an idealised version of themselves rather than being honest about who they really are. 

Ref: https://www.rhodescollege.ca/3-tips-helping-clients-avoid-performative-wellness-become-wellness-counsellor/ 

The concept of wellness, living well and achieving success has, in someways, become a fashion that was started by books like “The Secrete”. We only have to look at social media to see people that we know who are not having a good time presenting themselves and their lives like everything is wonderful.

Are you being the real you or a performative you?

The perceived benefits of a wellness, success or a business routine can leave people being embarrassed to simply be themselves. As in, it is not who you are but how you look that counts. It seems that being who we are is no longer good enough. The Botox, fillers and cosmetic surgery are a testament to that. If we get to the point where we no longer look like who we really are or act like who we really are how do we even know who we are? If the way we present ourself or our clothes or our house in the way that we believe other people will value us, do they ever know who are we really?

Over lock down I have been really surprised at how many people, when using Zoom etc, use filters to improve their complexion rather than just being who they are. People tell me that it is the problem of continually looking at their own face on a screen that makes them feel as though they are not good enough. In everyday face to face conversations we are focussed on the other persons face not on our own.

I have also be surprised at how many people now use video back grounds to make their home setting look better than it is. They tell me the same thing that after looking at their old furniture or worn out kitchen they want to present a better looking home when on video. So with the filters and the backgrounds people are not really being themselves. It come as a real shock when we finally meet people face to face. In Psycho-speak these performative issues often come down to what is described as ‘performance anxiety’. This is often simply concerned with the fear of ‘am I good enough?’ 

Social media has a lot to answer for in this regard. It can take a toll on anyone’s resolve.  Many people have used social media for support and connection. Over the pandemic people’s reliance of social media has increased. Sadly at the same time so have levels of anxiety as people try to look and act like everything is wonderful and okay. 

Perhaps, for many, this would be a good time to take a break from social media.

I was thinking a lot about how we compare ourselves to others. As a people watcher I am fascinated by people’s need to mimic and copy others behaviours. Even as a yoga teacher I have watched many students doing their postures with one eye on the person next to them to check if they were doing it as well as them or if they could stretch further. I have even had to say to some classes that yoga is not a competition, there are no winners, this is about you, your body, mind and soul.

As you get dressed in the morning, do your make up or your hair ask yourself ‘who am I doing this for?’ Is this you being you or are you doing it to effect they way that people see you? Everything in life can be a performance from walking and dancing to making love, to ordering and eating a meal to the way that we drink our wine. 

When you stop performing you start being. 

In mindfulness we learn the ‘be’ in the moment and to ‘be’ in the moment with ourself. 

Be here now, be you and be happy.

Take care

Sean x

Is setting goals worth it?

After the last two podcasts I have had a few people tell me that after getting into meditation and also doing the Dr Dolittle talking to animals exercise that they had had some insights about there need to change there work roles and in one case their entire life. This then turned into conversations about goal setting and decisions about setting the goals. Normally the traditional time for making life altering decisions is New Year. I guess that for many coming out of the Covid restrictions is like a New Year of maybe a new life.

  • Do you have a goal in life?
  • If you do has it changed or altered because of Covid?
  • If you do have a goal how did you decide on it or discover it?
  • If you don’t have a goal would you like to have one?

For many people their new life goal seems to be about being able to leave a legacy to the next generation. That might be because they want a lasting memorial and don’t want to be forgotten. While some want to ensure that their kids get the best that they can give them. I guess that all goals are worthy as long as they don’t hurt others. Through, it helps to make the game of life and your goals fun.

My goal is that I want to arrive at the end of my life with a smile on my face, I think that is  a good goal. I recon that if I am smiling at the end it would suggest that the journey has been pretty good, and that is the point. Goals are all ok but if we only focus on the end point we can so easily miss the enjoyment of the journey.

A goal is, by definition, the end of a journey. It could be that from that ending  could be other new beginnings and new goals to aim at.  But, any goal that we are aiming at is an end point, a conclusion. And yet the goal itself may represent only the smallest part of the journey. It is the journey that is the bulk of the experience that is what really counts.

So why have a goal at all?

For me a goals are good. They give purpose to the experience of being alive. So I will have a goal for the day. It may that my goal is to do nothing, but then to actively do nothing is actually doing something, if you see what I mean. Goal setting does not mean that we have to engage in endless activity. It may be that we are aiming at doing and working less and chilling out more and learning to relax better.

Often I will see every day as this blank cheque of time. We each have 1440 minutes in the next 24 hours all to be spent however we wish – wonderful. I try to split my day into segments there is the small pre breakfast segment that is a good time to go running, do yoga or meditate. The morning segment takes me through to lunch time, the afternoon segment through to tea time, the evening segment and then the night at bed time. I often set myself mini goals to achieve in the different segments of the day. It can be good to have an agenda or a list.

Goals can be bigger events. I have week goals, month goals, year goals and so on. These are not things that are written in stone they are things I would like to achieve or get done. If I miss the deadlines or decide to dump or change a goal that is fine by me. It is all a part of the game of life and, for me, it has to be fun.

Often a goal, once set, happens in a time line. The time line defines the process and the sequence of achievements that lead to the ultimate goal. If you think of a goal as a chain that is spread from the present moment to the point that you wish to get to, then the chain is composed of links. Each link is a step in the journey to the goal. If the goal is the top of the mountain then the journey is the chain. Each step that we take is a link in the chain. If we achieve all the links the we complete the chain.

Why set goals?

Human beings are energised and motivated by having something to achieve. There is enough evidence in medicine and neuropsychology to confirm that those of us that carryon learning throughout life, however old we get, stay younger and fitter for longer. Those that do not have goals and become static with no motivation go into decline and they get older quicker. Goals create purpose direction and meaning in life, without goals life can become meaningless. 

A goal can be big or small

Be happy, set goals. Remember that New Year will soon be here. Now, there’s a good time to set some new goals.

Take care

Sean x

 

 

The Answer Lies Within

Frustration is a debilitating emotion. In the last few blogs we have looked at the emotions of anxiety, anger and depression. All three of these can either be the result of or the cause of frustration. This may be frustration with your self, other people, the situation in general or the ongoing saga of covid. Working with people in various states of frustration I was reminded of the cow.

One day, many years ago, as a young man, I was frustrated and angry. My teacher, whose patience was wearing thin, told me ‘It is time to be with the cow’. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about but with some food and water I was left in a field of cows and told to talk to them and that he would be back later. At the time I had taken a vow of obedience and did what was asked of me.

It was a long and a hot day that increased my feelings of frustration. I looked at the cows, they looked at me. What I supposed to do? I started having many one sided conversations with the cows. I spoke in animated ways with one cow who gazed at me with lovely doe eyes and simply chewed the cud with the resigned patience of someone who has been given charge of a mad human to look after. 

The cow and I sort of clicked. It was as though she knew what was going on in me and in her eyes was a stillness that also stilled my frustrated mind. You will think that I am really mad now but it was as though we were talking together at a deeper intuitive level. She was saying to me, ‘what’s the problem’. She was saying that life would go on day after day. She would come here chew cud and produce milk. ‘What was all the fuss?’ My teacher had told me that to the open mind everything and every being was a guru. When your mind is open you can learn so much everyday all the time.

The bottom line was that when my teacher returned he required me to explain what the cow had taught me. My learning from the day was that while I was rushing around the field in my frustration attempting to understanding something, anything, the cow, on the other hand, was happy to simply just ‘be’. To simply be a cow. The cow had a contentment in the moment and was not expecting or demanding anything else. My teacher simply nodded.

Later as I studied and practised meditation it occurred to me more and more that the cow had it right. To be content in the moment in the now with no concern what had been or what would be was now one of my own goals in my  meditation. Learning to be, rather than needing to do, is now my guiding principle. My daily meditation is now my oasis of simply just being in the busy world of my doing. I have to thank the cow for her wisdom.

In my life and my work I am privileged to enter other people’s inner worlds, discover who they are and, where possible help them find who it is that they would really like to be and, where possible, change their lives. I love all that I do, though there is one downside. It can be easy, however skilled therapists become at avoiding it, to load up with other peoples stuff, their stories, feelings and pictures. In short, if I spend the day working with people that have been abused I can feel like I am back in the grips of abuse. The same is true when working with depressions or anxiety, OCD or bereavement.

In the confused sea of other people’s emotions the sane place to go is the still place deep within, and for me that means meditation. This is at least once a day through often it is more. This is a time when I do not need to rush around worrying about who I am. Then I have become the cow. I have learned to sit and become the observer of my own thoughts and feelings and not get carried away by frustration, worries or concerns. I can enjoy the time when no body wants anything and when I have nothing what so ever to do but spend sometime simply relax and being.

Then I empty my internal cupboard and do what I love best, work with other people.

How do you clear your emotional cupboard when it is full?

Take care

Sean x 

Happy Holiday Covid Style

Wow!, it is the summer. We generally are hoping that it is hot, but not too hot and we can fly away and enjoy it. Emmm, well maybe. I guess some will chance it in the hope that the country they are visiting stays on the Green List. 

Normally in the colder climates of Northern Europe people would now be heading south to the sun. Topping up their vitamin D and replenishing their energy before the darkness and the cold of the winter to come. In the other direction in the hotter humid climates of the Middle East people would be heading north to cool down a bit. Turning their back on the sun and the humidity. 

I only realised when I was working in Qatar that people from the Middle East suffer similar vitamin D deficiency to those people in Europe. In europe their is either not enough sun or people are smothering themselves in suntan lotion to avoid getting burned or developing skin cancer. In the Middle East in can be so hot and humid that people stay indoors in the pleasurable cool of the air conditioning and avoid going out in the open and the vicious sun. The result is that the vitamin D loss is the same.

The adaptability of human beings is truly amazing. We have been able to make a life in the frozen wastes of the north and the sun scorched deserts of the equator. Yet, wherever we live we crave the difference of being somewhere else, to get away to take a holiday. To change the normal status quo for something totally different.

Holiday makers come in two main types. There are those that need to simply get away from something, taking a break or chilling. Then there are those who need to be doing something and take the activity holiday. Whether your holiday is a ‘stop and chill’ or a ‘start and do’ event what is it that makes a holiday happy for you? Covid favours the chilling on the beach holiday, as long as there are not too many people. The action holiday involve greater close contact.

Covid can add an extra layer of stress to this years holiday. I have known so many people who are having a tough time, living a tough life. They spend their entire year saving for the break or they just get their holiday on their plastic. Then they have to struggle through the airport with the kids screaming onto a three or four hour flight to the sun and the all inclusive break. The next ten days is spent by the pool semi piddled on the all inclusive booze, telling the kids off for disturbing them and arguing with their partners. What happens if you then have to self isolate for ten days once you get back? The pressure on the family and relationships can become intense.

Well, maybe that sounds a little extreme but, do you realise that, the divorce season begins in September just after the holidays. For many, the pressure of being together for that long proves to be too much and the split follows. The same thing happens just after Christmas in the New Year. But, I digress.

What is your ideal holiday?

If you could go anywhere this year, forgetting Covid, where would you go? For me it is the Italian art of doing nothing and, the place that I prefer to do nothing is, of course, in Italy, “La Dolce Far Niente”. My life is intense and sometimes extreme when I travel for work the reality of being on the plane for a few hours is a welcome oasis of stillness in the everyday madness of life it is my dolce far niente. When I go on holiday that sense of nobody needs anything and nobody wants anything is magical. If I am honest I do not need to leave my house to do that. A chill day in the house can, for me, be a holiday. But such stopping is not easy for everyone.

There are many people who do not know where their off button is so that everyday becomes a list of things to be achieved. Even the act of exercising becomes another task on the list to be ticked off. The art of being able to simple sit and be, “La Dolce Far Niente”, perhaps with a meal, as a couple, as a family, as a group of friends and to genuinely do nothing and genuinely feel that you allowed to do nothing is becoming a lost art. I see so many people in various organisation who have forgotten how to stop. Perhaps we should change the concept of ‘work hard play hard’ to…

Work hard, but know when to stop

This has been tough for people stuck in their house during lockdown unable to stop and continually need to be doing. If people are forced into staycations this year will they really get the break that they so desperately need? 

Is your ideal holiday active or relaxing? Or a mixture of the two? We say that one person’s meat is another person’s poison. We could say that one person’s holiday is another person’s nightmare.

The one thing we do know is that this year when we do take a break that is good for us and feeds our individual needs it will have a positive effect on our system right down to the cellular level, reducing stress hormones, blood pressure, anxiety and so on. It is important that you take a break that will work well for you. But the most important is that you do take a break, that you give yourself the value of being important enough to look after. Whatever happens with Covid, if you manage to get away or have a staycation make sure you enjoy it.

Wherever you go and whatever you do this year be happy 

Take care

Sean x

 

Depression Could Be A Key To Happiness

Do you or does anyone that you know ever suffer from depression or anxiety? If you so do you know what it is that is underlying the symptoms?

The use of medication, to reduce anxiety and to lift depression, has become common place to the point where many of them are in our supply of drinking water. These comes from either people flushing unwanted medication down the toilet or the natural excretion of the medications in our urine.

In the UK in we currently write over 46 million prescription a year for antidepressants and in Covid these figures have greatly increased.

With both anxiety and depression we need to take into account the ‘clinical’ aspects and the psychological aspects. To be clinically depressed or anxious means that the body chemistry is mis-functioning. Just as when the pancreas is not working properly and we would take insulin to balance the system or with the thyroid when we correct the imbalance with thyroxin. The same is also true with depressions so that in the brain, at the pituitary end of things, we may need to regulate levels of serotonin chemically. When depression is not clinical it is described as ‘reactive’.

Reactive symptoms

Having made that distinction, the levels of clinical depression are relatively low. The vast majority of depressions are reactive. This means that an experience or an event has created a chain of reactions that have led to the development of symptoms that can, if not treated by psychotherapy, become the learned habits that eventually are described as our behaviour. In this case depression. We actually learn both anxiety and depressions as a habit, a habitual way of thinking or feeling. People say to me “that is just the way I am” and I say “no, that is how you have learned to be”.

Reactive anxiety

In anxiety we are projecting forward into images and ideas of a negative future that may never happen and living those idea in the present as though they are happening right now.  That means that we imagine a negative scenario and our body systems act out the images as though they are happening in the present.  Our body chemistry, fight and flight endorphins, are firing off into our blood stream to face a foe, or situation that does not and may never exist.

Reactive depression

Unlike anxiety, that looks forwards, depression looks backwards, replaying past events in the presents as though they are still happening now.  Where as anxiety powers up our chemical system, depression, as the name implies, depresses our chemical system and we become flat and inert.  In depression our energy levels drop and we do less and less.  Often we find the need to withdraw from the world and we can easily become agoraphobic and even stay in bed as a safe place to be.

What is depression telling us?

Needless to say happiness and depression do not generally go together.  And yet, it could be that, depression may just be something that we should celebrate!  If we look behind the depression what is depression telling us?

In the eastern approaches to psychotherapy depression is not always seen as something to be avoided or masked with medication. Rather it is seen as a sign that something in our life is wrong or out of balance. If used creatively depression can be a time of review and re-evaluation when are able to take stock of things get our lives back on track.

It is ok to take medication

Accepting that clinical depression concerns chemical imbalance that can only really be treated with medication. It seems strange that we are often embarrassed by the need for taking medication to regulate our mood. Yet at least one in four of us will. However, as well as using medication the symptoms of clinical depression can be diminished and often controlled using psychotherapy particularly using mindfulness techniques.  

Causes of reactive depression

In most cases of depression the sufferer feels a victim to circumstance and subsequently feels helpless and unable to deal with or change their situation. Depression strikes us most easily when we experience that something or someone else is writing our life script. It might be that have experience loss, divorce, redundancy, or an accident. Perhaps we have a bullying manager or partner. The economy has collapsed and we are about to lose the house. Maybe we have been diagnosed with an illness or perhaps our partner has. Whatever the issue the one sure thing is that we have lost control and with it our self determination, we have become a victim.

The magic of depression

This is where the eastern approach comes into it own. The person who is able to engage in therapy and, begins to understand and resolve the issues that are underpinning their symptoms, becomes very powerful indeed. Through the therapeutic process the person learns how to rewrite their own life script so that it can become the life that they really want. They can stop living the scripts that other people written for then so that they are no longer a bit part player in other peoples stories and become the star in the script of their own life.

When people engage with their depression, rather than burying it with medication, it becomes a truly life altering event. Human beings were designed with the creativity to solve problems, any problems. Collectively, sometimes in therapy, we can learn to see the wood and not the just the trees.

Act in the present

The warning sign is when you are waking in the mornings not wanting to get out of bed and engage in the world. When this happens for too many days together, don’t delay, get into therapy as soon as you can. If you need some medication to hold you up while you do the therapeutic work that is fine, and is how the medication was designed to be used.

Most importantly learn to pick up the pen of life and write your own script. In your life story you should be the hero/heroine. All good stories have happy endings.

Take care, be happy and live in the present

Sean x

TSHP424: Anger can be a useful emotion

What’s Coming This Episode?

We often see anger as a negative force. Though it can be a very creative and useful force. When our anger is stuck out the front of us it is in the way. It becomes a battering ram that bashes into other people and becomes destructive. When it is behind us it can be used as a power pack that positively can be a dynamic force that drives us forward and gets things done.

Enjoy the show, it’s The Self Help Podcast!

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